Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The England Captaincy

In light of England's first game after the forgettable era of Fabio Capello tomorrow, and the heavily discussed issue of who the new England captain will be, I am going to give my verdict on who it should be, as well as my verdict on what the England side should be for Euro 2012.

Steven Gerrard is the favourite and the most popular verdict amongst fans and the media, but I wouldn't give the captaincy to Gerrard. The only thing I would give to Steven Gerrard would be a sarcastic thank you note for being such a failure for England during his career, as well as for being such an absentee over the last couple of years, often disappearing during international friendlies with 'injuries', only to appear for Liverpool the following weekend after a miracle recovery.

He shouldn't even be playing for England. It's time to move on from the likes of Gerrard, Lampard and Ferdinand, who have continuously disappointed for England over the last ten years. It was time for this before the last World Cup, nevermind now.

Germany set a great blueprint for this during the 2010 World Cup when they didn't play the likes of Ballack and instead put in players like Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Thomas Mueller, while promoting Bastian Schweinsteiger to a more senior role in the side. Yes, they didn't win it, but they showed big signs of improvement and have made themselves better candidates for winning trophies over the next few years by doing what they did during that World Cup. So I definately wouldn't give it to Gerrard.

The other candidates are Joe Hart, Scott Parker, Ashley Cole and James Milner. I wouldn't give to Ashley Cole for the same reason as Gerrard. I'm not a big fan of goalkeepers being captains as they can't speak to the strikers or midfielders much, so I wouldn't give it to Joe Hart, but I would give him the vice- captaincy because he is a regular in the England side. My captain would ironically be a Tottenham player, Scott Parker.

He's a natural leader, experienced and has the respect of the other England players. He captained West Ham inspirationally and would be a regular in the side if it was up to me. The only thing I'd do with Parker would be calming him down a bit, because he does run around like a mad man at times, which risks him getting frequently booked and sent off, like he did on Sunday. He also won the English player of the year award the other day so that shows he has the respect of the fans in this country, as well as the ability.

My ideal England side for the Euro's would be:


Richards Smalling Terry Baines

Cleverly Parker Wilshere

Sturridge Rooney A. Young

Obviously, this is dependant on injuries, fitness and form between now and the end of the season. I would include Terry for his experience and to help guide the younger players like Smalling, but would look to get him out of the side by the 2014 World Cup. I would only include Walcott if he can maintain a good level of consistent form between now and the end of the season, and Cleverly and Wilshere are dependant on their fitness going into the competition. Milner could come in for Wilshere if he isn't fit, and if neither of them are fit, I'd probably change formation so that there would only be two centre midfielders. Squad players would include: Stockdale, Gary Cahill, Kieran Gibbs (if fit), Rodwell, Adam Johnson and Alex- Oxlade Chamberlain. So, yes, I would go with youth. This will prepare the squad for the next World Cup, as well as being a good enough side to challenge for the European Championships this year.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Spuds mashed by magnificent Arsenal

Ar5enal 5- 2 5pur2

Isn't that what we all needed? Us Arsenal fans have been crying out for something to shout and cheer about this season, a season that has included disenchantment amongst some of us, a sense of pessimism and also a sense of worry at our North London neighbours over- taking us.

But yesterday we recieved a great tonic for all that, as well as having our doubt raised about whether or not Tottenham are actually better than us. Yesterday's game is evidence to the contrary. Yes, Arsenal started off sloppily and the defending for their first goal wouldn't look out of place in an under 12's Sunday junior league match. But Arsenal were such a force going forward. The crowd were roaring the team on, the team attacked with such style, directness and pace, and it was too much for Tottenham. They couldn't live with the passing, the movement, the counter- attacking and the deadly finishing. And, to be fair, Arsenal did tighten up more and more as the game went on. We looked shaky at the back in the first half as we were gambling too many players forward and getting caught on the counter attack. But that stopped after we got our first goal. Thomas Vermaelen was immense at the back alongside Laurent Koscielny, who was also a rock.

What impressed me most about Arsenal was the way we harassed Tottenham when they were on the ball. Every time Modric got on the ball, at least one of Arteta, Song and Rosicky were on him like a flash, and often won the ball off him. It wasn't just Modric, we did it to every player, even the defenders. Pushing them up high and closing them down with such aggression and spirit. It was fantastic to see and the only question left to ask is: why don't we see this more often? It was very Barcelona- like, as they like to push the opposition as far back as they can by closing them down high up the pitch and Arsenal did that yesterday to a huge effect.

This attitude to defending should be implemented every game, whether we're playing Tottenham, Liverpool or anyone else. It was brilliant and it suits the way we play.

So, does the win mean we're better than Tottenham? Maybe. It's probably too soon to answer that for sure, but I think the two teams are very close, a lot closer than most people thought before Sunday's game. Let's not forget that Arsenal have had Jack Wilshere missing all season through injury. He is to Arsenal what Modric is to Tottenham. I think the fact that they are above us in the table probably suggests they just edge it, but I'm not so sure. Don't forget, we've had Sagna out for four months, Gibbs and Santos (both our left backs) have missed large chunks of the season, Vermaelen's missed a decent amount of games and hasn't played with Koscielny anywhere near as much as we'd have liked. So our defence has been torn all over the place by injuries all season, and I think this has contributed largely to Arsenal being below Tottenham in the table. As has our uncertain start to the season when we lost Fabregas and Nasri and hardly had any players when facing Liverpool and Man Utd. So the kings of North London remains a complex subject, but yesterday's win was good evidence that that title is still ours.

On a personal note, I cut my finger yesterday celebrating one of the goals, I think it was the fourth. I managed to jump so high that I punched the ceiling, and yes, the ceiling's OK. I also kissed my sister on the nose (ewww!) when she walked in as I was celebrating one of the goals. It' funny what sheer elation can do!

What a win, what a day. And this is the first time in a while that we've won the last North London derby of the season, so we have bragging rights until next season. 3 points down, 7 to go. We're coming Tottenham!

Match Ratings:

Szczesny 7
Sagna 8
Koscielny 8
Vermaelen 9
Gibbs 7 (Would have been an 8, but he was mainly at fault for their 1st goal)
Rosicky 9 (MOTM- his best game for Arsenal in a long time)
Arteta 9
Song 9 (A class act after a dodgy first 10 minutes. A rock, as well as such a creative force)
Walcott 8
Van Persie 9
Benayoun 8

Jenkinson 7
Chamberlain 6
Gervinho 6

Saturday, 18 February 2012

End Of An Era

What can I say that I haven't said already in the last few weeks?

First of all, let me just say, Arsene Wenger is an Arsenal legend. He has done fantastically at Arsenal, winning several trophies, making world class players and supplying great philosophies and ways at Arsenal, including beautiful football and proud principals.

But his era is over. It's come to an end. Arsenal are now receeding and declining under him, and we are seeing rival teams over- take us in the league now, most recently the most dreaded team of all. But we're also suffering the same old things season after season, caused and not solved by Wenger. We still suffer with defensive vulnerabilities, both tactically and in terms of personel, as we have done for years. We still haven't won anything for seven years now, which has been a period where our once great manager has gradually shown that it is time to move on.

Today's showing at Sunderland was even worse than the AC Milan performance on Wednesday night in my opinion. Atleast there, the team seemed to have a better attitude and had the excuse of coming up against a top team. Today there was very little fight and the fact that we'd just played this team a week ago at the same venue made our performance and game plan all the more embarassing.

I did an article on Friday saying how we needed to keep it tight, not get caught on the counter- attack and make sure we didn't lose. But we didn't. We didn't adapt our game to cope with their pitch or their defensive tactics where they flood the midfield and force us out wide.

This links to how we play like a Spanish side. We play out from the back EVERY goal kick now. Why? Do we think we're Barcelona? You can't afford to play all tippy- tappy all the time in this country, especially away from home. That's been proved over recent seasons, teams are too physical and 'in your face'.  It doesn't work, we haven't got the players for it with the techincal quality for it like teams like Barcelona do. We get a goal kick and play it short to players like Mertesacker and Djourou, even under pressure from players marking them! Near their own goal! It's footballing suicide! That's where Milan's first goal came from on Wednesday and we just invite pressure by doing it, especially on a dodgy pitch. That's just one of many tactics that Wenger is costing us with. The rest are more a case of lack of tactics and adapting our fluid game for different situations like Milan away and Sunderland away. That's something I talked more about in my last post, so I don't want to repeat myself too much. But it's mainly the lack of caution, the lack of defensive solidity and the limited and increasingly poor approach to transfers that he's costing the club with nowadays.

Another issue is the lack of quality players. We were clammering for signings in the summer, nevermind in January, when we were practically at Wenger's knees for new signings . We lost Clichy, Fabregas and Nasri in the summer. We replaced them with Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. It just wasn't good enough. We needed to add anyway, but what he's really done with replacing Fabregas is replace him from within the club in Ramsey. Arteta's playing a different role to Fabregas, it's Ramsey who's taken over the 'Fabregas' role. Ramsey isn't fit to lace Fabregas' boots to be honest. He's a good player with the potential to get better, but he's not good enough to be the focal point and the main creator in the Arsenal midfield. He's just a 'good' player, not good enough for Arsenal if they have any ambitions of getting back to the summit of the league.

It infuriates me that all we did in January was sign Henry for 6 weeks on loan. Henry did a good job, but he needed to be joined by other players that were going to be able to be around for longer than 5 minutes. It's been blindingly obvious that we need a striker to help out Van Persie, especially incase he gets injured, because as we've said so many times, we're stuffed if he gets injured. We need another centre half, because you need four to be successful, espceially with our injury record. We also need a left back who can stay fit for longer than the time it takes to eat a Creme Egg, because we haven't replaced Clichy properly. We haven't replaced any of the big players that left last summer, and that is, quite frankly, scandalous. We need to replace Wenger with a manager that will do this and put the other wrongs right at the club, finally. I will do another article in the coming days about what I think we need, because we have too many average players in our squad and it's needs to improve if our decline isn't going to increase over the coming months and years.

It's time to move on from this disjointed sonnet that is Arsene Wenger and Arsenal football club.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Arsenal need to keep it tight at Sunderland

I'm not often one to promote cautious football, but being an Arsenal supporter does ingrane a certain urge for it, having watched them suffer from their open style of play for so many years. Arsenal don't need to win here. A draw would be fine and I'd take that now.

If we draw, we will get a replay and play them at home, where I think we'll have a much better chance of winning. Also, if we do lose, it could send us further into another negative spell where we find it hard to pick ourselves up, and not only would be out of the FA Cup and Champions League, but our league form could suffer from this too.

Therefore the paramount aim of tomorrow's fixture has got to be 'don't lose'. I remember us going to Braga last season in the Champions League group stages where we'd just lost to Shakhtar Donetsk and our place in the next round had started to look less certain. We'd just had that humilating 3-2 defeat at home to Tottenham in the league and all we needed was a point to have a really comfortable position in the group. Braga sat back and defended, looking to catch us out on the break and Arsenal went gung- ho in the second half, piled players forward when they didn't need to and ended up conceding on the break and going on to lose 2-0 late on. It was trademark Wenger at his worst. We didn't NEED to win and it put us in a diffuclt position for the last game of the group that we wouldn't have been in if we'd have accepted the draw rather than being so silly. It's one of the areas of the game where teams like Man Utd seem to do better than us. They'd have played that game smarter. And tomorrow's fixture is similar to that scenario.

So, yes, go for the win, but don't go all out attack in search of it. We need to make sure we don't lose. We don't HAVE to win. Also, I'd get Chamakh in the team, which is not soemthing I say too often. The reason I say this is because Sunderland will play the same way they did last week, probably, which is them playing defensively and trying to catch us out on the break, as well as flooding the midfield and making it hard to carve them open. Therefore we will get forced out wide a lot and it would be nice if we had an aerial threat in the box to aim for when throwing crosses into the box. Another tactic that needs to be used here is getting other people in th box to help him out. Say to Gervinho: 'Look, when Chamberlain or Sagna get the ball on the right, get yourself in the box' and vice versa, same with Ramsey, or whoever else is playing in the attacking central midfield role, because we should get more players in the box. That's only 3, not too many so we don't get caught out on the break.

We played Sunderland a week ago, we know what they're about, what tactics they'll use, how they'll try to hurt us and stifle us, let's use that to our advantage.

This would be my team (assuming Koscielny's out):


Sagna Song Vermaelen Gibbs

Benayoun Coquelin Arteta

Chamberlain Chamakh Gervinho

I would usually say go 4-4-2, but given as we don't have to win and Sunderland will flood the midfield, this is one of the rare occasions where I would actually play 4-5-1. I'd rest Van Persie and bring him off the bench if needed, because he had little joy at Sunderland last week, due to them marking him tightly and in numbers, and they'll do that again. Additionally, we need to do all we can to prevent him getting injured, and playing too many games could cause this. The manager needs to get into Chamakh before the game and say 'Look, you need to improve your game and try harder. Put yourself about more, be less casual, be brave and do your best to show me why should be in the team more.'

If we do this, we should get a positive result tomorrow and still be in the hat for the FA Cup draw on Sunday.

Come on Arsenal!!!!!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


I think anyone who reads my articles on the Internet and anyone who follows me on Twitter (@TLGooner) knows my feelings about Arsene Wenger. The man has to go.

He's shown again tonight why he is no longer a good manager for Arsenal to have, he has, again, refused to adapt to a tough game away from home against a good team and deployed no tactics whatsoever. His tactics tonight left the team wide open on counter attacks, balls over the top, simple passing moves in midfield and other situations. How often did Ibrahimovic drift into the hole tonight? Him, Robinho and Boateng had a field day. And it's mainly because of our ridiculous game plan. Or non- game plan if you like.

Seriously, what was the plan? We were playing away from home to AC Milan in the first leg of the Champions League first knock out round, did we keep it tight? Did we play with defensive discipline? Did we adapt our usually open game to give us more chance of a result tonight? Wouldn't it have been better to be cautious and look to keep the ball and catch them on the break? Our manager has held us back again. It seems obvious what we should have done tonight.

Yes a lot of Wenger supporters (rather than Arsenal supporters) would respond to this and say 'how can you criticise him? Look at what he has done for Arsenal.' But he has done NOTHING for 7 years. It's ridiculous. Yes he was great between 1996 and 2005, but not anymore. It's time to move on. He's holding us back by not spending any money on players or sorting out our weaknesses and problems, on or off the pitch. You can't live on past glories otherwise nothing would ever change. We'd still have Bergkamp, Vieira and Pires in the team if nothing changed. Why should it be different with the manager?

It's just clear to me that we need to change. And tonight is more evidence of that. We had too many average players on the pitch, not enough class, creativity or spark and getting in a new manager would be the first step to getting back to where we were. That means challenging for the big trophies again and not getting humiliated every few weeks.

We need someone who will get rid of players that are clearly not good enough for Arsenal, and haven't been for a while, like Djourou, Diaby, Chamakh, Arshavin, Almunia and demoting players like Walcott and Ramsey so they're not playing as often, and getting in more exciting, creative players that do more than just pass it sideways. We also need to sort out our the medical side of the club, which may mean a new physio team, as we get too many injuries season in, season out and this is holding us back year after year. We've lost another today in Koscielny.

It just needs to change. The team were appauling tonight. Don't get me wrong, the players deserve a lot of criticism as well, they showed little fight and caved easily. They embarassed the club. All apart from the fans embarassed the club tonight. It was nowhere near good enough, and it has 95% likely to have cost us our place in this year's Champions League.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Everton v Chelsea Preview

I'm looking forward to this game. I've been to Everton games a lot this season but still not seen a really good game. I've seen good games, decent games, but not a 'great' game.

Myself, my Dad and my sister will head off to Merseyside tomorrow for a lovely afternoon all round. My sister will enjoy the company of our Grandparents and vice- versa, whereas my Dad and I will enjoy the festivities at Goodison Park. Hopefully, it will be a good game. I actually expect it to be as well. I do fancy a few goals here what wih Everton's increased amount of fire- power now and Chelsea's dodgy defence. Not only that, Everton rarely keep a clean sheet at Goodison Park and Chelsea have quite a few dangerous players and certainly have goals in them. I think, with Everton being at home, both teams will have a fair few chances and both teams will score. The game would be less antagonising if it were at Stamford Bridge, but with it being at Goodison, it's got more chance of going either way really.

I'm looking forward to seeing the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Steven Pienaar, Fernando Torres (no, I'm not joking), Juan Mata and Nikica Jelavic, if he plays, which I'm sure he will at some point. I think this will be another 3-3 draw for Chelsea, although I can see them winning it too. I can also see Everton winning it, which I think is what makes a game so exciting, that and the prospect of entertainment such as goals and controversial incidents on the pitch. Though at the last home game versus Man City, we saw a man handcuff himself to a goalpost. So football really is an unpredictable game!

I additionally think we are 'due' a great Everton v Chelsea game, as they are ususally games without a lot of goals, usually a 1-1, 2-1 or 1-0. So hopefully we don't get a 0-0 this time! While Chelsea beat Everton 3-1 at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season, it's usually a fixture at Goodison Park where the final result doesn't have a '3' or '4' in it, or more for that matter.

As I said, I'm prediciting a 3-3! I'm being optimistic to say the least, but I'm hopeful of a great game.

Here's to plenty of goals, twists and chances at Goodison Park tomorrow.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Is there actually a really good English candidate for the England job?

The big news in football land tonight is that Fabio Capello has resigned from his job as England manager. I can only imagine he's walked before being pushed, otherwsie he's a bit of a plonker. Who wouldn't want to manage a national team as big as England at the European Championships in a few months?

I'm sure a lot of managers would be cueing up for the job, one being Guus Hiddink as Sky Sports News have informed us tonight. But, haven't the FA said that the next England manager WILL be English? In that case we can all but rule out the likes of Jose Mourinho, Hiddink, Arsene Wenger and Roberto Mancini, who is unbelievably being pipped as a candidate, but I can't see that happening at all.

So that leaves the likes of Harry Redknapp, Stuart Pearce, Alan Pardew, Roy Hodgson and Tony Pulis. No, don't worry, I'm only kidding about Tony Pulis! Can you imagine that though? That would be terrible, but quite funny!

The favourite is 'Arry. The general consensus seems to be that he'd be in charge of England 'part- time' for the rest of the season and still be in charge of the Scum as well. I am an Arsenal fan, so I'm quite reluctant to admit this, but I think Redknapp is a good manager. He's probably the best English candidate there is. He's not as good as foreign managers such as Mourinho or Hiddink in my opinion, but he's better than Alan blooming Pardew or 'Woy' Hodgson, who'd have us playing with 11 men behind the ball every game. And don't even get me started on Stuart Pearce. Good grief.

So that seems to leave Redknapp as the best candidate. There isn't really anybody else. The problem with 'Arry is that he has very little experience of managing 'big' teams, in that he's usually been in charge of teams lower down in the league with lower expectations, such as West Ham, Portsmouth and Southampton. He's done a good job at Tottenham but, again, there aren't particular expectations to win trophies there. Qualifying for the Champions League would merit an open top bus parade through London for Tottenham. They haven't been a team that have been expecting to challenege for the title or win trophies year in, year out, like England are whenever entering a competition. So the question is, will he be able to cope with and manage a team of international players to European glory, given his lack of experience in managing at this level? After all, he has never managed a national team before.

The benefit of him is that he's done a good job on the pitch at most of the clubs he's managed. Most importantly, Tottenham, as that's the most recent job he's had, got. He's also a very experienced manager, all be it at clubs with lower expectations. So he'd know how to man manage the players, something that has been a big problem for recent England managers, with the Engalnd ego's bossing the camp.

So, in conclusion, I'd say (with reluctance) that Harry Redknapp would be the right choice for England. There's not really anyone better that's English...is there?

Monday, 6 February 2012

Arsenal can win the Champions League

No, this is not a joke. Nor is it a knee- jerk reaction to beating Blackburn 7-1. I have my reasons for genuinely believing our beloved Gunners can win the Champions League.

It would be a phenonemal achievement, as I think there are a few better teams than us left in the Champions League. But Man Utd and Man City have gone out, the Italian sides aren't as good as they used to be and I think we're more suited to winning cup ties than we have been in recent seasons, because we are more solid and have the players more suited to going away from home in Europe and nicking results.

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are really good sides, probably better than us. There's Inter Milan, Chelsea and our 2nd round opponents, AC Milan. But I don't dramatically fear those sides. I think with a bit of luck on our side, in terms of the draws (as in avoiding Barcelona) and in terms of luck in games, we can go all the way.

Would you fear Chelsea? Would you fear Inter Milan? Neither side is what they were. Real Madrid are very good, as are Bayern, but I think we're capable of knocking them out on our day, aslong as we haven't got too many injuries when we play them.

This isn't me saying 'We're going to win the Champions League'. It's me saying we CAN. It's a great opportunity to achieve a massive slice, nay a whole cake, of history. And what a turning point it would be for the club.

I think the likes of Mikel Arteta make us more suited to the Champions League latter stages than we have been in previous seasons. He is a solid player, who is a very good footballer and adds more balance and solidity to the centre of our midfeld. As I said in my last piece, Laurent Koscielny is a much better player now, and he's another player who's style is very well suited to the Champions League. We would also have Vermaelen and Mertesacker this season, compared to last, so we should be more solid. We additionally have one of the best players in the world in Robin Van Persie, who is capable of making the difference in ANY game.

Our win at Marsielle earlier in the season is a good example of what I'm talking about with us being more suited to the compeptiton this season. OK, they aren't one of the best teams in it, but we were really solid that day in defence, but also midfield. Arteta and Rosicky worked really hard and stayed sensible in terms of when they went forward and when they stayed back. Then there was Song, who is a very good defensive player especially. We also have wingers who work back very well, and pace, which is a priceless asset, especially in Europe when we may have less possession and are playing on the counter attack more, especially away from home.

If we avoid Barcelona I think we can win it because I believe we can beat anyone on our day, especially over two legs and, in particular, because we have a more experienced squad now than we have in years.

That is why I think we have a good shout of winning the Champions League this season.

(References- Images: Henry image- http://freshbread.blogs.com/fresh_bread/images/henry_1.jpg. Arteta image- http://u.goal.com/144900/144953hp2.jpg.)