Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas everyone!

I would like to wish everyone who reads this blog a merry Christmas and a happy new year! I haven't written an article on here for nearly 3 weeks. It's been a busy 3 weeks, mainly because of work and, boy, it's good to have finished for the Christmas break!

Now I can have plenty of lie-ins, relax and do what I want. I've already been Christmas shopping (again), been to a great work's Christmas party, played and watched some festive footy, visited extended family, had extended family round here and been to a fantastic pantomime. And I've only been off for 4 days!

Christmas is very nice in our house. We wake up early as if we're still 7 years old at about 7:30am and have a look at our stocking fillers, take the dogs out quickly and then go downstairs together as a family to begin opening the mountain of presents under and around the tree.

There's no holding back at Christmas for us, we buy each other loads of stuff and it's all good stuff! I'm still like a big kid at times when it comes to Christmas, I love opening the presents and then eating my favourite meal of the year: Christmas dinner. Roast turkey, sausage meat stuffing, pigs in blankets, cocktail sausages, sprouts, roast potatoes, carrots and gravy- lovely!

Then there's more present opening along with walking the dogs again and eating Christmas pudding (not literally for me, I have a cake or something). Then there's the Strictly Christmas special and having a lovely Christmas night in watching something one us might have got for a Christmas present (last year it was "The Amazing Spider-Man"- still one of my favourite films).

It is a lovely time and I even enjoy the Boxing Day to New Year time when there's plenty of football to watch and go to (including Everton v Sunderland on Boxing Day).

Seasons greetings and best wishes for Christmas!

Love from your favourite blogger,

Tom (@TLGooner)

Friday, 6 December 2013

I want my apple back

Last night was an excellent and very memorable night at Old Trafford. After getting stuck in traffic in Manchester city centre (cheers, Sat Nav) and then desperately hailing a taxi to just about get to the stadium on time I was greeted by the usual search. After informing the steward of what it was he was feeling in my coat pocket was an apple, he confiscated that off me. Proper dangerous weapon that, my devious plan to throw apples around the stadium was thwarted.

We literally got to our seats smack bang in the middle of the very boisterous away section just in time for kick off. I have to say I loved the atmosphere around us. I’m sure most pundits and journalists are there scribbling away as we speak about how ungrateful and disgraceful Everton fans are for having the cheek to give Moyes a negative reception. But those ignorant, out of touch jobsworths can do one for me. I can’t help but admire and respect Everton fans for the reception they gave Moyes.

I had a conversation earlier in the day with a colleague about Moyes and the reception he “should” get. He was of the view that Everton fans should politely applaud him and appreciate what he need at the club. I disagreed somewhat. I’m sure even the most aggressive, pissed Everton fan at the game last night would admit he appreciates the job Moyes did at Everton. He did improve the fortunes of the club by making them a more regular finisher around about the top 6, or at least top half. He also guided them to European qualification a few times.

But things don’t stop there; he didn’t get booed or chanted at for that. Think about it, last May he was applauded and cheered after his final home game by the Everton crowd. A few months later in the first meeting between Everton and Moyes’ new side he was jeered and chanted at by Everton fans. So what changed in that time? The derisory bids for Baines and Fellaini, the classlessness of going for them in the first place added to by the insulting and disrespectful bids in terms of value were enough to stir up Evertonians, who felt betrayed by their former manager. Then his comments in the media afterwards didn’t help. Neville Southall was right when he said:

“If you’ve got a good relationship with the club and you’re supposedly best mates with the chairman – and Moyes was always saying how they were when he was at the club – would you go back to your mate’s business and try to pinch them off him knowing that the business is skint? It’s really despicable behaviour towards Everton and disrespectful towards the fans.”

Moyes did unsettle the players after Everton had said they weren’t selling for any price. So why go in with below-value bids for them when they’re obviously going to be rebuffed? This is a disgraceful comment by Moyes:

“If I’d been Everton manager and Sir Alex had come asking for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, I’d have found it very difficult to keep them because I always felt the right thing to do was what was right for the players.” And he continues “But the transfer window is open and we can make bids and you can say ‘Yes or no’, it’s as simple as that. You are allowed to bid.”

It was just out of order and disrespectful. It was as if he’s never been manager there and if you can’t understand why Everton fans are upset then, well I don’t know what to say. His constant choking when playing against Liverpool or in the latter stages of the cups with negative tactics doesn’t help either.

It made the atmosphere way better, the away end never really shut up and the passion and pride was there for all to see and admire. It was the best Everton away atmosphere I’ve witnessed since the FA Cup quarter final at Sunderland. It helped give the game that extra edge and did make it feel like a really big cup game.

Everton deserved the win, if anybody; the game was quite even in terms of chances but I thought Everton probably dominated the ball more. I said before the game I thought Everton would win and big reason was for that was because I could see their attacking midfielders and Lukaku having the chance to run at Man Utd and cause them problems, and that happened a lot. The wrong decision was made a lot of times on the final ball but Everton certainly attacked them well in that regard.

I don’t know if it came through or not but I was hinting at the fact I thought Everton were now a better side than Man Utd in my preview to this game, and that was backed up last night. Your initial reaction to that will probably be “don’t get carried away mate” but I genuinely believed that before last night. Why aren’t they a better side? A more tactically astute manager, a stronger defence, a much better midfield- defensively and offensively, and with firepower up front now since Moyes left. Yes Rooney and Van Persie are better strikers than what Everton have but overall I think Everton are a better team.

It’s no coincidence Everton won at Old Trafford for the first time last night. It was Martinez’s first game there as manager, and Everton’s first game there without Moyes in charge for 11 years. It wasn’t just because Everton’s players gave it the big ‘un against their old boss either. Moyes recently spoke about how when he went to Old Trafford with Everton his aim was “to get out of there alive”. Which is an awful and despicable attitude quite frankly that makes you question his mentality as a manager.

Whereas, now, Everton have a better manager who didn’t go there with an already beaten attitude and genuinely had a go and attacked Man Utd, whilst also keeping his tactical nouse and remaining solid defensively- a very good balance. He believed in his team to have the ability to win at Old Trafford.

A much deserved and sweet victory for the Toffees. May I additionally point out the irony of the left back scoring the winner?

I’m still waiting for my apple.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Man Utd v Everton preview

I’m really looking forward to Man Utd v Everton tomorrow night. I think it’ll be a cracking game and it’s so well poised. Everton are, all of a sudden, on fire going forward with 7 goals in their last two games, including a 4-0 win over Stoke. Whereas Man Utd are also scoring goals but conceding a fair few too and not getting the required results. So the pressure is on Man Utd to win this game. They have to do so.

Everton, in contrast, are going into this game with much higher confidence than Man Utd- and much less pressure. I think that will benefit the blues, but what is also exciting is that Lukaku, Barkley, Deulofeu, Pienaar and Mirallas are all playing really well and linking up together. It’s a real selection headache. Less than 2 weeks ago I wrote on here about how Everton needed to improve their wide play and that their wingers were underperforming. But not now, since then they’ve all stepped up and had a big impact on Everton’s attacking play. Hence going from two 0-0’s in a row to scoring 3 and then 4 in the next two games.

Man Utd have a lot more pressure on their shoulders and less in-form attacking players. Only Wayne Rooney is on fire for them; none of Kagawa, Valencia, Fellaini or Welbeck strike fear in you at the moment (if ever anyway). Van Persie has a chance of returning so obviously would be a big threat, but even still I think Everton have more creative power in their side and have more in-form attacking players in the team as a whole.

I’m an Arsenal fan and Arsenal of course play Everton on Sunday. In that Everton side I will be fearful of Lukaku, Deulofeu, Barkley, whichever one of Mirallas or Pienaar plays and even Coleman provides a concerning threat. Whereas when we played Man Utd a few weeks ago, it was just Rooney and Van Persie. Yes, two special players and better than any of Everton’s individual players currently, but when you look at who’s getting the ball to them there is no concern there.

Yes Man Utd won but they only had two shots on target the whole game, they won because of their defensive organisation, not through creating chances for Van Persie and Rooney or any great attacking threat. Man Utd won’t have that park the bus mentality against Everton, they’ll open up more. So I think the likes of Barkley, Deulofeu and Lukaku will have more room and more opportunity than Arsenal’s attacking threats to cause danger and create opportunities. The opportunity is there for Everton, I really hope they go for it and attack Man Utd to seize that chance.

Of course it’s not all about attacking but is Man Utd’s defence even better than Everton’s? Smalling, Vidic, Evans and Evra. Really? They can be got at and aren’t as reliable at centre back as Everton’s Jagielka and Distin are. I think what stops teams from getting positive results at Old Trafford more is fear factor and Man Utd’s reputation as winners. It’s not all about player quality of course, there’s tactics to consider as well. But I think Martinez has proved himself to be every bit as tactically astute as David Moyes is, if not more.

Prediction: Man Utd 2-3 Everton

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Rooney shouldn't have been sent off, he should have been given a freekick...

Wayne Rooney, in my opinion, shouldn't have been sent off at Cardiff for his early kick out at the Bluebirds' Jordan Mutch. He was shown the correct action by the referee: a yellow card.

But the incident doesn't stop there for me, yes Rooney should be booked for petulant retaliation but he should have also been awarded a freekick. "You're crazy" I hear you saying, but hear me out...

Jordan Mutch showed no intention of going for the ball, he just "stood his ground" (basically put himself in Rooney's way) and obstructed the forward from having any cat in hell's chance of getting to the ball. What is he supposed to do to get the ball? There's nothing he can do without fouling Mutch.

It's one of the few ridiculous rules of football for me that what Mutch did wasn't a foul. There's shielding the ball in the football, and that's fine but the boundaries of what are legal in this department have just been stretched way out of proportion. You can get away with anything as a defending player. It's basically obstruction when it gets to the extent of what Mutch was doing on Sunday.

He's stopping Rooney from getting to the ball and is not going for the ball whatsoever himself, therefore it's a foul. If that was any other part of his body, ergo his foot- to perhaps trip Rooney up or block him off with his legs and Rooney falls over the flailing leg- a foul is given. And rightly so.

But when it comes to shielding the ball, things just get ridiculous and out of hand. Basically the attacking player is stopped from playing football unfairly; someone has got their body in the way and deliberately stopped the attacking player from getting to the ball without going for the ball himself. He's gone for the player. He's stopped the player moving forward and its a foul.

You get these shielding the ball to a ridiculous extent incidents in every game, but for me it has to be stamped out and finally seen for what it is: a foul. It's stopping a player from playing the game by stopping him from running forward to try to get the ball without the defending player even going for the ball himself.

Everton v Liverpool preview

I can’t wait for Everton v Liverpool. Even as an impartial spectator I absolutely love it. It’s my favourite fixture in the football calendar. The passion, intensity and entertainment that courses through it make it so special and unique.

I do have the utter pleasure of holding a season ticket at Goodison Park and I look forward to going to the game all week, even when it’s not a biggie. Next week Everton play Stoke at home, hardly glamorous but I’ll be excited about it all week. That excitement and child on Christmas morning feeling is magnified and multiplied by 10 when Everton play Liverpool at home (especially when it’s on a Saturday).

I still remember the FA Cup game in 2009 so fondly. It wasn’t actually the most entertaining of games in terms of goal scoring chances if memory serves me correctly, but it was such a great game in a different way. There was such tension, I think it was the most tense derby atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed (I am only 21) and both sets of fans were in great voice even before kick-off. When Steven Gerrard went off injured early on it was like Everton had scored, every Liverpool shot off target was greeted by a big relieved cheer of “waaaay”.

It was dramatic, what with the late extra-time winning goal and the atmosphere- so keen even walking to the ground. It was a cold late January night and it just had a great feel to it. I was excited all day about it at school, jotting down my predicted line-ups in my Geography book, period 3. Then when I listened to the build-up on the radio on the way there and got to the ground there was such a sense of “this is no ordinary derby”. Not that derbies are ordinary by any means, but it was such a dramatic, atmospheric night and it was frankly one of my favourite ever games I’ve been to.

Back to the present day this derby is, like last season’s at Goodison, set up very nicely. Liverpool are, you have to admit, looking improved this season and pose more threat than usual with Suarez AND Sturridge up front and Coutinho in and around there for company. But so are Everton, the blues have Romelu Lukaku up front who would give any defender a run for his money and has been in fantastic form for Everton overall so far. Everton also have the “like a new signing” talent of Ross Barkley who, again, can cause any defence problems and if he copes with the derby atmosphere and intensity, he will be a big threat on Saturday.

Everton need to get back to scoring ways though, I wrote an article earlier in the week about how their wide players need to up their performances. Mirallas has been disappointing and Pienaar has looked rusty since returning from injury (an instant winner against Hull aside!). Baines and Coleman have stuttered a bit and I just think, especially in these big games, Everton thrive on their high intensity style of play and getting the ball out wide and crossing the ball a fair few times. That doesn’t mean “being ugly and long-ball”; it just means having a mixed style, which suits Everton.

The game against Chelsea earlier in the season was a great example. Everton improved a lot in the second half when they went to a higher intensity style and drove at Chelsea more. That also gets the crowd going more and gets Everton’s tails up. So I think the wide players especially would thrive on this.

It’ll be interesting as well to see how Everton deal with Suarez and Sturridge, I think Suarez is the biggest threat but Sturridge and Coutinho are big dangers too. But likewise, how will Liverpool deal with Lukaku, Barkley, Baines and co.?

Everton and Liverpool both have more passing, intricate styles of play nowadays so it should be an interesting derby in terms of how the style of play pans out. Both sides are very close in terms of quality. Also, it has the added spice of Everton having finished above Liverpool for the last 2 seasons so there is a really intriguing battle for the title of kings of Merseyside ahead this season.

It’s tense, it’s loud, it’s passionate, it’s aesthetically pleasing and it should be entertaining. Bring it on!!!!!

My prediction: Everton 2-1 Liverpool

(with Everton going behind.)

Wingers’ return to form crucial for derby

There couldn’t really be a more timely return to form of Kevin Mirallas and Steven Pienaar than this Saturday’s Merseyside derby. The Belgian attacker has been below par so far this season and hasn’t delivered the standards he did last season. Likewise, since returning from injury, Steven Pienaar has looked out of sorts and they need to get their acts together for Everton to have a good chance of beating Liverpool.

The Liverpool defence doesn’t let in too many goals at the moment and with Everton having failed to score in their last 2 games, something needs to change in Everton’s play. They need an added sparkle and an extra threat that they haven’t had during their games against Tottenham and Crystal Palace. Otherwise the Blues may be a bit too easy to predict and nullify.

Mirallas in particular needs to step up to the plate and deliver because so far this season he has failed to do so generally. Last season he tore Liverpool apart in the first half of the Goodison derby before being forced off injured. He played on the left and was fantastic. He needs to find that sort of drive and confidence in himself in time for the derby. Not only will it benefit him, but also the likes of Lukaku who would be on the end of what is hopefully much improved wing play.

Steven Pienaar has a little less pressure on him for me but he has surprised me over the last couple of games I’ve seen him in (Aston Villa and Tottenham). He was pushed off the ball surprisingly easily a fair few times and often wasteful in possession. He struggled to have an impact, particularly at Villa and I think he looks rusty and perhaps not quite ready. He doesn’t seem himself. To his credit, he always keeps going and keeps probing and trying to create but he just looks poor at the moment.

Those wide areas are key for Everton; so often Everton’s best attacks have come from using the ball well out wide and it has been one of their best assets in recent years that they create so much from out wide. I wonder if Roberto Martinez’s new style of play has taken that away a bit, perhaps his passing ethos doesn’t incorporate sticking to one of the team’s main strengths as much- crossing the ball.

I agree with the pass and move philosophy but not it coming at the expense of one of your main strengths. I believe you can have both. The wide players need more license than they seem to be getting to demonstrate good wing play; crossing the ball more regularly (especially when you have a striker like Lukaku in the box as a real aerial threat) and perhaps dribbling at defenders more, which is maybe why we are yet to see the high standards of last season from Mirallas and Coleman.

Whatever the case, Everton must improve out wide if they are to have a good chance of beating Liverpool, especially when you consider how shaky defensively the Liverpool full-backs are. Everton, of course, have the ability to win this game. There isn’t much between the two teams, but the wide play must improve for Everton. The form isn’t there currently but the ability certainly is.


Saturday, 2 November 2013

Arsenal v Liverpool post-match thoughts: Resilience and quality lead to crucial win

This game was of massive importance today. Arsenal could have lost 3 home games in a row to big teams in all competitions and psychologically that could have been a big blow. But we won it, which boosts belief within the players and the supporters and creates a healthy, positive environment for Arsenal. It adds more belief and confidence that we can win the Premier League title and shows everyone else we're genuine contenders who mean business.

Not only does the win have huge psychological positivity but it also puts us 5 points clear at the top of the table above Liverpool and Chelsea. Man City and Man Utd are even further adrift and everything looks very rosy in the league currently.

I thought Arsenal's performance was arguably their best of the season so far. Yes we were very good against Napoli but didn't have much to defend against. This time we were up against the Premier League's most in-form and extremely hyped strikers, Suarez and Sturridge. It was a big test of our defence and team overall, plus I think the team had more pressure on them to win than they did against Napoli.

The defensive aggression and organization was very good, the way Arteta (like he did last season at Anfield) controlled the midfield and protected the back four very well was fantastic; it was one of his best performances in an Arsenal shirt in my view. Bacary Sagna also had one of his best games for Arsenal in a long while. The interplay and creativity of our midfield and how they played as such a team as if they'd all been playing with each other for years was outstanding. Olivier Giroud additionally played well, got in the right places for chances and held the ball up well playing against 3 centre backs. He also seemed to win everything in the air.

I loved the big game attitude, it was like it was in our very good performances against Tottenham and Napoli so far this season and just showed we mean business. It brought back that sight I've mentioned before this season: we looked like winners. A winning team with a winning mentality that means business. Not some team to just play pretty football and finish 4th, a team with determination and fight who have high ambition and belief to win trophies.

Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta were excellent in midfield and just showed their superiority over Gerrard, Lucas and Henderson. Cazorla was lovely, always involved and obviously scored. They played some terrific football (that move conducted mainly by Ozil shortly after the 1st goal comes especially to mind) but not at the expense of making sure they kept Liverpool out at the other end. We created a lot of chances, and against a very good team which makes it even more impressive and highlights our attacking qualities even without Walcott, Wilshere, Podolski and Chamberlain as options. Mertesacker and Koscielny were very hard to get past and were solid, and apart from one careless late blip, Szczesny was excellent again.

I think we still need to work on stopping counter-attacks though. I thought that was the only time when Liverpool looked dangerous in the first half, we don't yet seem to be able to stop counter-attacks well enough. We need to improve there because the big teams will often punish us for that.

But elsewhere everything was positive; a great performance, a great win, confidence and morale boosted and we're 5 points clear at the top of the table. Now to sit back, relax and enjoy going to Everton v The White Shite tomorrow.

(Image sources: http://i3.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article2203119.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/Fenerbache-v-Arsenal-2203119.jpg & http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1501784.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/Mikel%20Arteta-1501784)

What we want to (and don't want to) see at the football

I don't want to see stewards harassing fans. I don't want to see stewards searching fans outside the ground and making them deposit their personal belongings in a tray before retrieving them inside the stadium. I don't want to be stared at by stewards trying to intimidate me and asserting pointless authority and sternness once in my seat. I don't want to see a steward tell a supporter to "keep the noise down" or stop them exchanging in banter with opposition fans as if it is being assumed that any exchange of banter between opposing fans is an declaration of hooliganism or violence.

I want to see stewards acting like they're equal people to us supporters, not high and mighty people frowning upon us and treating us like criminals before we've even set foot inside the stadium. I want to see a friendly greeting from them: "Alright lads, enjoy the game", not "put your arms out Sir, I need to search you". I want to see them stamping out any violent or threatening behavior at the match if there is any of course, but that's a rarity anyway. I want to see them treat us as if we're real, innocent people- not treating us with little respect and as if we're guilty of being mindless, violent hooligans until proven innocent.

I don't want to see fans being addressed as "customers" like is the case at Chelsea. I don't want to see clubs being referred to as "institutions" (Brendan Rodgers) or "organisations" or "businesses". I don't want to see posh boxes and executive areas all around the stadium as if we're at the theatre. I want every seat to be a normal seat that everyone has to pay for equally- not VIPs, special guests and people being told they must keep quiet when sat in corporate areas (I have been before, sickening. I was at the football for Christ sake). I just want fans alongside each other in regular seats or stood up and certainly not corporate areas ruining the atmosphere of the stadium and disenfranchising proper fans from going.

This= NO! (Is this a hotel or a football stadium?!)

I don't want to see ridiculously expensive food served in boxes and trays as if I'm at a Baseball game. I want to see horrible looking coffee and dirty pies. That gives the place that smell of football!

I don't want to see fans dressed as if they're going out for a posh meal. I don't want to see cringey banners around the stadium such as "We're not really here" (Man City), "Holte End, Twelth Man" (Aston Villa), "Shere Wilpower" (Arsenal), "Who needs Batman when we've got Robin" (Old Arsenal one) and there were plenty more at the Etihad Stadium that I can't quite remember. They've probably been wiped from my memory they're that bad. Some flags and banners are great, they should definitely play a part in the whole match day atmosphere. Just not cringey ones!

I don't want to hear goal music after a team scores. Yes, I'm looking at you Reading, and you Burnley, and all you others: Wolves, QPR, Wigan and so on. Stop it. It's cringeworthyness of the highest order. I want to hear loud, passionate cheering and applause which is generally the case; we don't need any music after a goal. That's just not football. As aren't cheesy mascots, or cheerleaders. Or having an eagle fly across the pitch before kick-off (Crystal Palace). That's just bizarre.

I want to see pyrotechnics (flares) being accepted as they add to the atmosphere and cause no-one any harm. Fans being banned for using them is beyond crazy; I heard one fan got a 3 year stadium ban for it. Mad. I don't want to hear drums at the game.

Speaking of crazy, I don't want to see players being booked for celebrating goals and wins with their own fans. What is that all about? Displaying positive, happy emotion and sharing and celebrating it with your own paying supporters, what's wrong with that? Players shouldn't be booked for taking their shirt off either, I don't really get why some players do it but they do and there's nothing wrong with it. Football's an emotional game for goodness sake. I pick this example because I happened to see it earlier today, but just look at the stewards in this video stopping supporters from celebrating with the players after Everton have just got a 92nd minute winning goal:

I'd like to see more player/crowd interaction, not having the two segregated at the football as if the stadium management think the fans are uncontrollable animals that are going to hurl themselves at the players. Let's have a bit of banter and interaction rather than feeling so cut off from them. It relates back to celebrating goals with fans, not being able to do so just adds to this vast separation feeling.

I don't want to hear chants like "your support is fucking shit" and "shall we sing a song for you?" being sung by the likes of Chelsea fans. On your bike lads, you play at the quietest library in the league. Focus on your own atmosphere before criticizing others'.

Overall I want to see fair, friendly treatment of supporters by stewards, stadium management and everyone for that matter. I want to see fans in all corners of the ground as equals, not separated or priced out of going by ridiculous corporate areas, which have no place in sport. What we want is for supporters to have a great day and a laugh at the game, just being treated well and watching the great game in peace, in a good and healthy atmosphere.

(Image sources: http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2009/8/25/1251238724197/Stewards-stand-infront-of-014.jpg) & http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/02/04/article-0-0827DF6D000005DC-988_468x351.jpg)

(Video source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3euzocvhOA)

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Arsenal v Chelsea post-match thoughts

I am sick to the back teeth of seeing us lose to Chelsea in the exact same way every season. We have plenty of possession but are way too predictable and easy to defend against so Chelsea just flood the central areas and counter attack against us and score. It's frankly getting rather embarrassing. Chelsea must be rubbing their hands when they play us.

Also, it's getting really repetitive and annoying how poor our big game mentality is. We approach them so timidly and don't really start having a proper go until we're losing. Why? It's ridiculous. I watch Everton a lot when they play at home to the big teams. Most of the time what they do is start quick, sharp and with a high tempo, and also mix up their style of play. It puts the opposition on the back foot and unsettles them.

We like to give them the initiative by backing off and letting them have the ball unpressurised and then make it all so easy for them to defend against us and counter attack against us. Then we finally show some urgency and authority when we go behind. But then of course we're still too easy to defend against.

I just can't understand why our manager hasn't observed this and thought "you know what lads, we might need to mix it up a bit against Chelsea and change out style a little bit. They catch us on the counter virtually every time we play them so let's watch our for that". But no.

And this leads to us going 1-0 down in virtually every big game. Sometimes even 2-0 down (which we did a few times last season). Here's a list of the big games over the course of this season so far and last season where we went 1-0 and 2-0 down:

  • Man City away
  • Chelsea at home
  • Man Utd away (2-0 down)
  • Tottenham at home
  • Chelsea away (2-0 down)
  • Man City at home (2-0 down)
  • Bayern Munich at home (2-0 down)
  • Liverpool at home (2-0 down)
  • Dortmund at home
  • Chelsea at home (2-0 down)
It's just way too often and it's a problem that needs addressing and sorting out. But we know it probably won't be and that we'll probably be in the same position on Saturday against Liverpool.

On Carl Jenkinson, I really do have doubts about whether he'll ever be good enough for us. The lad has unquestionable spirit and heart but has very little footballing ability. He's pretty inept at crossing, passing, keeping the ball and clearing the ball- his kicking of the ball generally is poor.

Yes he's young and has time to improve but it's worrying when he's been here for 2 and a bit years, played a lot of games and still looks like he hasn't improved technically at all. He still looks so incredibly nervous on the ball and uncomfortable. Defensively he's generally sound but his lack of improvement in those other areas is alarming.

On the plus side, the atmosphere was much better tonight- as it usually is when we ply Chelsea to be fair. The fans sang a lot, loudly, and roared them on a couple of times, loudly.

(Image courtesy of http://www.nononsensefootball.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Carl-Jenkinson.jpg)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Managers like Martinez the way forward for English football

If England want to move forward, they need to deploy the managerial philosophies of the likes of Arsene Wenger, Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers. Managers of this nature just let their flair players do what they want and allow them to make mistakes.

I've been regularly watching and studying Martinez's management of Everton and in particular, Ross Barkley and his other attacking players. It's clear how he has positively influenced them. His management of them is terrific as he gives the likes of Barkley more license to express themselves and be creative without restricting them to playing with inhibition and burdening them with instructions to play simple, and then criticizing them when something exuberant goes wrong.

This added license gives them more freedom to express themselves and their ability because they haven't got the fear of their manager playing hell with them if they lose the ball or make a mistake. This gives them more confidence and adds authority to their game and the result is a better, more effective player.

Look at what Roberto Martinez has done for Ross Barkley in just two months. The lad has the license to drift, be creative and be exuberant with the ball without the fear of an angry reaction if something complex he tries doesn't come off. Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup are the same.

In this country our footballing culture and general philosophy is to berate players who have the courage to try to be skillful and take attacking risks. As a kid you can be playing in a match, try to Maradona move someone, fail and be slaughtered by teammates, your manager and parents on the touchline. "Come on, play the simple ball". There's also too much hoofball and smaller, skillful players are the victims of the British football culture as the game passes them by and they are imprisoned by the critical nature of managers, fellow players and spectators. This inhibits them, makes them less confident and less expressive and, as a result, less effective.

If you compare that to countries like Spain, their footballing culture welcomes skill and exuberance and doesn't give into to the pressure to resort to long ball tactics where the game simply bypasses the gifted footballers.

Gary Lineker recently spoke of this sort of thing and he was totally spot on for me.

“[We need to] allow talented young players to express themselves on the field, to take people on, to try a trick, all without the dreaded, predictable rubbish cascading into their ears.”

I play Sunday league football and there are a lot of people there who are very encouraging and my team doesn’t vocally criticize me, but there are some people at every game who criticize people for “taking too many touches” or “not playing the simple ball”. Our footballing culture needs to welcome creative and courageous players and give them the license to be more complex on the ball, because players like this are very talented and will be very effective when given this freedom, as Barkley is showing at Everton.  

That's not what you want as a player. Of course there's a difference between Premier League football and Sunday league football but I'm sure the likes of Sam Allardyce are very critical of skillful players in this regard too. That's not the way forward. You don't want creative, courageous players like Ross Barkley to feel caged within the confines of a football philosophy that includes a manager and players who lambast him when he makes a mistake. They should be given the freedom to go out and express themselves and this will bring the better out of them.

This is what England need to do with the likes of Wilshere, Barkley, Chamberlain and Ravel Morrison. That's the way forward in all walks of football- to give your creative, attacking players the ball to feet on the floor and let them express themselves and make sure they're not scared to try complex, creative things by encouraging them.

*Images courtesy of the following websites/sources:




Saturday, 12 October 2013

Strictly's Double Standards

I really enjoy watching Strictly Come Dancing, yeah I know, I'm a real party animal. Saturday night's in my life are just wild. But the double standards when it comes to Tess Daly and the judges purring over blokes' chests really irks me.

If Len Goodman said "my God Rachel, that bum is lovely and I couldn't take my eyes off your chest during that dance. Same next week girl!" he'd probably be forced to issue a public apology (at least), the show would have to issue an apology and you'd have loads of people complaining and calling him seedy and he could even lose his job.

Yet when Bruno, Craig, Tess and co. perv over Artem's chest, or Ashley or any of the other attractive male contestants/dancers it seems to be OK. No-one bats an eye lid. It's not just the odd compliment every now and then, it's actually pretty embarrassing behavior. Perving over younger blokes like a group of desperate old ladies and doing it over and over and over again.

I don't mind women complimenting attractive men every now and then, I'd just like there to be equal standards and it not be a case of one rule for one gender and another rule for another.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Is it so bizarre to say only English players should play for England?

I can't believe the fuss that has been kicked up by the media and some fans after Jack Wilshere's comments bout Man Utd's Adnan Januzaj and his opinion that only English players should play for England. His comments after that about "we're English, we tackle hard, that's what we're about" are a lot more concerning for me, they're words that make me shiver to my very core; but that's a topic for another day.

People seem to desperately justify the idea of foreign players playing for England by just saying "well the world's changing". Yeah, so? The world's changing all the time- throughout history different eras have seen constant change in societal values and rules. It's not just a sudden thing you know. It's quite a lazy thing to say anyway, they're not providing justification of a foreign talent playing for England with a concrete reason. They're basically just saying "well this would suit us so screw it, the world's changing so why the hell not?"

It defeats the object of international football for me if you're allowing people who've lived in the country for 5 years to play for that country. If I go to France now and live there for 5 years, am I suddenly French? No.

In my opinion you represent the country where you were born. Because that means that's what your nationality is. Not where your parents were born, not where you've lived and worked for 5 years, where you were born. The more you stretch the boundaries of what qualifies you to play for a specific nation, he more international football becomes like club football- a lottery that benefits the better footballing nations. It is also made rather pointless as the concept of international football is defeated. International football is competition of which country has the best football players and which has PRODUCED the best players. Now if England won that competition with the help of players from other nations, how can we really say our nation has produced the best players?

It's hypocrisy of the highest level as well from our media and the FA. They keep banging on about how clubs need to stop buying so much foreign talent and invest more in young English players to benefit the national team. And then as soon as a foreign player becomes available for England through a questionable hole in the rules, they're desperately trying to get him into the national team.

If England beat Brazil 1-0 in the 2018 World Cup final thanks to a goal for Adnan Januzaj and a wonderful, man of the match performance from him, would it feel totally fine? Would it feel like us English have won it? Even though we wouldn't have been able to without the help of sneaking a Belgian born and raised talent? Someone Belgium clubs and coaches have brought up and trained and given him the talent that has attracted Man Utd to buying him? Wouldn't it feel like we've stolen from Belgium for our own gain in a wrong way?

I think it's desperate and hypocritical for the FA to call upon foreign players like Januzaj (especially after just one good game) to help England ahead of promoting native talent to play for the nation. They should be getting excited about the likes of Ravel Morrison right now, not Adnan Januzaj on the basis he could be eligible to play for England in 5 years. The whole thing reeks of desperation and hypocrisy.

So yes, Jack wilshere is right to say only English players should play for England. Not people who have plied their trade here for a matter of years. Not because I don't want that player, but because it's wrong to steal the talents of a player from another country when that country should be reaping the rewards of schooling and developing that player into the talent he is.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Kefalonian Paradise

Last night I arrived back into the country after a week's holiday in Kefalonia, the Greek island to the west of the mainland. The island was beautiful, I've never seen such a variety of great scenery that was so pleasing on the eye. Having said that, I went to Rhodes (another Greek island) 4 years ago and that at least rivaled Kefalonia in that department.

The Melissani Cave (pictured above) was a wondrous experience; very aesthetically pleasing and exotic. We were given a boat ride tour (as shown above) as well by Jon Voight in Anaconda's voice twin too.

It's hard to beat relaxing all day, seeing the attractive sights and scenes and going to the beach, swimming in the sea and your pool during the day followed by going out to a variety of lovely restaurants in the evening.

Every morning I'd wake up and look out of the window at the view, it was wonderful really. A great overlook of the sea, the hills and the greenery. I had some vey good memories as well; the cave for example, chilling out at the beach, swimming in the sea and the food was terrific. All in all it was a great holiday and apart from the trepidation caused by flying, there was no stress involved, just relaxing.

I watched the second half of Swansea v Arsenal in a bar on Saturday night with a lot of enjoyment of course. It was pretty weird how such a perfect day for Arsenal happened while I was on holiday; two great things happening at once and all that. Arsenal winning away, Tottenham and Chelsea drawing with each other while both Manchester clubs lost. I also watched the last hour of the West Brom on my laptop in the villa as it was very late at night there with the time difference. Arsenal winning twice just made things even better!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

How Can-io Sunderland keep doing this?

I don't get clubs like Sunderland. Paolo Di Canio hasn't done a great job at Sunderland but his arrival resulted in them staying up last season and I just don't understand the logic of sacking a manager 5 games in after letting him create a team of his own by allowing him to sign 14 new players.

Gary Neville seemed adamant on Monday Night Football recently that having Paolo Di Canio as the favourite to be sacked first was "rubbish". But it has proved the case, which just shows how poorly Sunderland have gone about things. You can't let a manager go out and basically buy a new team and then sack him a few weeks later.

Now a new manager is going to come in and be managing players he possibly knows very little about; it's unfamiliar so it takes a while for him to adapt and find out what his best team is. And that leads to Sunderland's poor form continuing. Or perhaps the new manager doesn't rate these new players or they don't suit his style of play. So then he goes out and buys a variety of new players and the whole thing starts again.

There needs to be more patience at football clubs and more stability. You can't change your manager every year and expect to progress. The counter-argument to that would be to tell me to look at Chelsea but they're a lot different to Sunderland, they have massive resources and are already around the top of the league so there isn't as much building of a team involved. Plus, wouldn't Chelsea have achieved more success had they stuck with a manager for longer than it takes a season of Mock The Week to start and finish on TV?

Sunderland need to instill stability now. Whoever they pick as manager, they need to be willing to give him time and stick with him. They keep underachieving and floundering around the bottom 6 area season after season and no wonder. There's no stability, too much change of manager and too much turnover of players so there's never any continuity at the club. The team is in a constant state of getting used to playing with new players or playing under a new manager and trying to gel as a team. Then by the time they have some new manager is in changing things up again.

It's time to pick someone, stick with him and not have such a dramatic turnover of players. That's what clubs like Man Utd, Arsenal and Everton have had over recent years and their long-term prospects look very good. Teams who change managers and players all the time just end up slumping down the leagues, look at Blackburn and Leeds United.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Let's not jump to conclusions

I think we're far too quick to jump to conclusions in this country when it comes to football. It probably extends beyond football as well, but football illustrates the knee-jerk mentality that this country reacts to events with.

We need a calm down and have a more objective perspective and more rational outlook on things. I think it starts from the media and transmits to the general public; in this case, fans and spectators. The newspapers, radio talk shows and football pundits on TV start spreading dramatic talk to sell newspapers, get more listeners and get more viewers. Not to mention helplessly overhype English players, especially in World Cup year.

Recent examples include "Wayne Rooney being back to his best" supposedly. He's had one good game against a disappointing Bayer Leverkusen team at home and scored a free-kick against 10 man Crystal Palace. It's just one very good game and another very good free-kick. He's not gone on a run of excellent form where he's consistently delivering top class performances and scoring a lot of goals on a regular basis and making a consistently big contribution to Manchester United. That's what he did do when at his best; in the 2009/10 season that's what he did, likewise for most of the few seasons previous to that.

We won't be able to consider him as being "back to his best" for at least another month in my opinion. He needs to be showing significantly good performances and high contributions on a regular basis before we can all say he's back to his best form.

There's a similar sense of melodramatic knee-jerk reactions regarding Ross Barkley and Aaron Ramsey. Both players are on excellent form, especially Ramsey but I've seen a lot of people say Ramsey is all of a sudden better than Wilshere. 10 months ago he wasn't good enough for Arsenal, now he's better than the player who was then deemed our best player? He looks much improved since then, don't get me wrong, but all we can say at the moment is that he's on better form than Jack Wilshere. Giroud is in very good form, is he better than Van Persie all of a sudden just because he's in better form?

Ramsey has come on leaps and bounds and is the most in form midfielder, and possibly player, in the Premier League at the moment. He is contributing significantly and scoring a lot of goals but it's not even just that, his general play has improved so much as well; his passing, tackling, authority on the pitch, his command in centre midfield, his protection of the defence, his runs forward.

But this doesn't all of a sudden make him better than Wilshere necessarily. Let's wait and see and judge them both over a prolonged period of time, rather than judging who's better than who on the basis on a handful of games spread over about 5 weeks.


And Wilshere is still playing well by the way, even when not at his best he's playing well in that Arsenal midfield and contributing positively.

Even more bizarre are the suggestions (admittedly from a small minority of people) claiming Ross Barkley has surpassed Jack Wilshere as a player. Those people need to calm down, he's just on impressive form while Wilshere doesn't look at his best at the moment. Barkley is frankly nowhere near him yet, he's only played a handful of Premier League games with Everton. Has he put in a man of the match performance against Barcelona and outplayed Xavi and Iniesta yet? Has he played in the Champions League yet? Contributed significantly to a top four club over 2 seasons? No, he's been very impressive and might reach Wilshere's level one day, soon maybe, but it's way too premature to say he's better now. Wilshere has a better knowledge of when to pass the ball, when to dribble and is more creative at the moment. He has more authority in midfield and is better defensively. I could go on... Barkley looks a bright spark but looks to lack the composure when dribbling and nouse to know when to shoot, dribble or pass (which will come through experience) that Wilshere has already. You might look at Barkley and think I'm wrong about the composure, as he does look composed on the ball. But I've watched him regularly this season and he often stutters when approaching the opposition's box and keeps the ball at his feet for way too long quite frequently, sometimes looking a bit panicky as to whether to shoot or pass or keep on dribbling. That will improve in time, what I'm saying is it's stuff like this which shows he isn't at Wilshere's level yet.

I would like to emphasize that I think Barkley is a very good player and a terrific prospect who has the potential to be around Wilshere's level, it's just the bizarre suggestions of him being better I find irksome and disrespectful to Wilshere's talent. It's like overall talent goes out of the window in this country with the knee-jerk reactions and all that matters is form.

(Image sources: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/09/17/article-2423871-1BE1F65A000005DC-765_634x421.jpg Accessed 21/09/13, http://answers.bettor.com/images/Articles/thumbs/extralarge/Aaron-Ramsey-disappointed-with-Jack-Wilshere-being-ruled-out-for-three-months-of-action-for-Arsenal-95570.jpg Accessed 21/09/13)

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lee in line for Oulton switch

Tonight Thomas Lee declared himself delighted to have been told "we'd love to sign you up" by Dave Beane, the head coach at Oulton Athletic. After just an hour's training where Lee took part in a full match playing up front on his own, more than one of the opposition defenders admitted that they hated defending against Lee. "Stay still you fucker" is what one defender said to Lee during the training match.

Lee is said to be sending his representatives, including his agent Eduardo Savarez to discuss terms in high profile talks at the West Riding County FA headquarters on Fleet Lane on Wednesday. Reports suggest Lee is in line for a lucrative contract to stay with the Woodlesford-based club.

Lee himself was pleased with his debut training session: "Yeah I'm pleased with my first training session. I thought I linked up well with AC Milan shirt guy, he urged the team on well and gold Leeds shirt dude did well on the left. I was happy with my 5 goals and some of my link up play but felt I could have done better with a bit more composure at times, particularly early on when I was finding my feet. But overall I'm happy and especially happy with some of my finishes, especially my second goal".

The goal Lee referred to was a splendid goal whipped into the top corner from the left hand side of the edge of the penalty area which bended wickedly into the top corner, leaving Tony Pulis-lookalike and his teammates helpless to stop it.

Tony Pulis-lookalike had this to say on the game: "well I thought we did well in the first haaaarrrf of the game. We defended well but in the second haaaaaaarrrrrrfffff we didn't take enough long throws or punt the ball into the box enough. We didn't get Rory involved enough. Plus, Ryan's not that sort of lad".

This reporter has no idea who he's referring to there, probably just withdrawal symptoms from his glory days at the Britannia Stadium before his step up to the Leeds Combination Association Football League.

Coach Beane said: "I'm delighted with Tom. I actually wet myself watching him play. He was like Messi, Ronaldo and Ozil rolled into one, with a bit of Sebastien Squillaci there too".

AC Milan shirt guy also stated he would welcome Lee to the club: "As long as he helps us beat those f*****g c***s Churwell Lions. Those b******s are getting way too big for their f*****g boots and we want to climb above them to the top of the p*****g league".

Lee will be delighted to make the move from hoofball specialists Swillington Saints Welfare, where the long ball style of "play" was said to be "doing his head in", a source close to the forward has confirmed to this reporter. That and the "everlasting twatiness" of Swillington's laughably positioned centre midfielder Jamie Scott has helped convince Lee to make the switch across the Leeds region.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Should Arsenal adopt the foreign, "rush out" defenders approach?

Gary Neville talked about the different cultural beliefs of how a defence should defend on Monday Night Football. It opened my mind to a whole new method of defending. And it's got me wondering, with the current style of centre backs we have at Arsenal, should we adopt this approach?

The subject arose when talking about David Luiz. Luiz often comes hurtling out of defence to intercept a pass or close down a player on the edge of the box with effect. This is compared to the typically British way of defending by holding your line and letting the midfielders close down on the edge of the box while the defence maintain their position and stand strong a bit deeper, arguably a more composed way of defending.

However Luiz is an extreme example because he's too erratic. He takes the method too far in my opinion. He rushes out without methodology to an extent, it's too mad and out of control. Sometimes he'll end up trotting back from the opposition's penalty area and leaves his fellow defenders exposed and outnumbered. Steven Naismith's goal on Saturday was as a result of him trotting back to his position with no real urgency instead of sprinting back there to clear the ball. If he was in the typically British position he "should" be in according to us, Naismith wouldn't have scored. But then again his style of defending left Jelavic as ineffective for most of the game; he often rushed out to intercept from Jelavic with effect.

So it begs the question: which is the better style? The British style is habitual for us so it's more in our comfort zone but how often to England or defences filled with English defenders and/or tactics win World Cups and European cups? There have been a few European cup successes but internationally we haven't had much success throughout history. I think you choose it based on your style of players. If you have a defence like Dixon-Adams-Keown-Winterburn (all English) then you go with the British style because that's what we know and what we're best at. If you have foreign defenders (like Arsenal do nowadays) then you go with the style they've been brought up with.

I can't speak for each country or each culture but I can examine our defenders and come to the conclusion which style they're more suited to. Laurent Koscielny for instance has always looked more vulnerable when defending deeper. He was quite error prone in his first season at Arsenal and perhaps a big reason for his significant improvement is him been given license to defend more in "his way". Sometimes he's done it well but virtually all of his noteworthy errors have occurred when deep in his own box, when consigned to the British style of defending. Whereas one of his strengths has always been his reading of the game and intercepting the ball outside the penalty area; coming from deep to clear the ball from further away from the goal. The rushing out, foreign style being talked about. He likes to confront opposition players with the ball, not stand off them, and he does it to much greater effect than David Luiz. He's not too erratic so he shows that this method can work without it being out of control.

I think it'd work best when only one centre half does it other wise you'll leave too bigger gap in behind the defence. So Mertesacker would perhaps be his best partner as he is more suited to the British, hold your line style. Vermaelen is similar to Koscielny. All 3 are very good centre halves so its just a case of finding the right style for them, making sure they know what to do and how to defend in terms of which style to use.

So in my opinion, the best style to use is the one that suits your style of players more. However, despite my arguments for the style I'd choose to play with the British style when in and around your own box. But when the team is pushed further up the pitch, I'd use the foreign style with one defender (Koscielny) coming out to intercept it and clear the ball from higher up the pitch. What would make this style even better would be having a disciplined (so always stays back to protect the defence), tactically astute defensive midfielder who is very good positionally. That way he'd always be able to cover in for the pushing out centre back if he failed to win the ball and was left exposed. This style would also work very well when you're playing with a back three. It's like one defender often acts as a makeshift defensive midfielder and the other as a sweeper.

I think the British style around your own box is more reliable and has more of a team cohesion and understanding, so less confusion would occur. However it's always good to have a centre half like Koscielny who will not always just get into the back of the striker but will intercept it before he can get the ball. He's more a ball winner than a tackler and it suits us to have one and the other.

(Image source: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/04/12/article-2308222-19435C9C000005DC-663_634x444.jpg Accessed 17/9/13)

Thursday, 5 September 2013

What can Arsenal achieve in the Premier League this season?

The signing of Mesut Ozil has sent a sudden surge of excitement shuddering around Arsenal football club. The gloomy, pessimistic nature of the mood previous to last weekend has been lifted quite significantly, with many fans branding it the most exciting signing Arsenal have made since Dennis Bergkamp. So the question is: what does this mean Arsenal can achieve this season?

Are we merely contenders for the top four or are we now title challengers? The January transfer window will be a factor in this, the marquee signing of Ozil will help attract other big name players should be stay in the Champions League until then. Therefore if Arsenal manage to lure a Suarez or a Rooney or even a Bender in winter then that could push Arsenal more into the territory of serious title contenders.

But for now I think we are hovering between the two. I think the side has improved from last season (when we finished 4th) whereas whilst Tottenham have spent big this summer, they have lost their best player and replaced him with unproven players in the Premier League in Lamela and Eriksen. A lot depends on how these signings start off, will Ozil hit the ground running? Will Lamela take a few months to settle? I think both North London clubs have improved this season but Arsenal are still better.

Additionally, the gulf between those 2 clubs and the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea is very small. Jose Mourinho branded Arsenal “title contenders” after we signed Ozil and when you compare his Chelsea side to Arsenal’s there’s very little difference in quality. An attacking midfield trio of Walcott, Ozil and Cazorla would rival any other team in Europe and Olivier Giroud is showing signs of significant improvement and has started the season on form.

However Arsenal’s lack of strengthening in the centre forward position could be what holds us back, if Giroud gets injured we could struggle for goals and a game with a plan B. Man City probably have the strongest squad, Chelsea and Arsenal’s are very similar and close and Man Utd I’d say at the moment are possibly 4th or 5th in the league in terms of quality of squad. Fellaini is a good addition but without Alex Ferguson still around to compensate for one of their weakest squads in 20 years, it’s hard to see them winning the league.

All 5 teams are very close in terms of quality in my opinion. Tottenham lack a bit of experience, Arsenal lack strength in depth in some areas and Chelsea might lack a regular goal scorer. Arsenal however last season showed a new quality in terms of grinding out wins. The team went on a great late season run that involved very few attractive performances but a lot of tight wins grinded out with resilience, know-how and defensive solidity. Not attributes you’d have associated with Arsenal over the last few years.

Therefore with our new found ability to grind out wins and the added world class quality of Ozil will prove Arsenal to be much improved from last season in my opinion. I also think the signing of Flamini is a very good one, he showed on Sunday his leadership, ability to protect the back four and ball winning qualities. He has a lot of experience and will prove to be a good signing this season. I cannot understand why that signing has been mocked more than anything, he was excellent before he moved the AC Milan a few seasons ago for Arsenal and showed on Sunday he doesn’t seem to have lost anything. He’s only 29 so he’s not over the hill and I think if someone like Ferguson or Mourinho had signed him they’d be praised for a “shrewd signing”.

So basically I think we’re still one or two players short of being able to win the league but we are outsiders with the current squad we have. If we are really unfortunate with injuries and key players like Wilshere, Giroud and Walcott suffer long spells on the sidelines, we could fail to finish in the top four. The line is that fine this season. Keep everyone fit and we can win the league, especially if we add well in January. I don’t think anyone has a significantly better first 11 than us, nor really a significantly better squad. Man City probably have the best and then the other 4 are really close.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The signing of the summer: Mesut Ozil

It's been an OK couple of days hasn't it? Beating Tottenham in the home north London derby on Sunday and then signing one of the world's best players on Monday. We've had worse...

I'm still in relative disbelief that Arsenal managed to sign Mesut Ozil yesterday. What a signing that is. As well as a big statement of intent and ambition, it broke the club's transfer record by a massive £27.5 million and really adds a buzz of excitement around the club.

Mesut Ozil could be one of Arsenal's biggest ever signings. I don't want to disrespect the likes of Ted Drake, Liam Brady, Ian Wright, Thierry Henry and the other top players throughout the club' illustrious history by any means. They were all monumental signings and historical legends but Ozil signing is massive for our future as well. It's just massive.

It's hard to put into words how important yesterday was for Arsenal football club. If they hadn't signed Ozil or another big name, Arsenal could have been on a downward spiral; struggling to at least finish in the Champions League places this season and then finding it even harder to tempt the likes of Ozil and Suarez in future transfer windows. But now, this season looks a lot brighter just through that one signing.

It's not just what he brings on the pitch, it's what he brings in terms of excitement to the club, the sense of ambition that'll have sent shockwaves through Europe last night and sent a big message to other teams and, more importantly, other top players: "Arsenal have ambition and are here to push on and win trophies". The signing of Ozil will attract other top players who will all of a sudden be thinking: "Hmm, not only do Arsenal have a lot of money, an attractive location, a great history and a great ground, Arsenal also have Ozil, Wilshere, Cazorla... I want to play in that team". Imagine if we signed someone like Suarez in January or next summer. Just imagine the excitement of other players to come to Arsenal and how capable and attractive we'd be. The future looks bright at Arsenal.

Of course he also brings fantastic talent on the pitch as well. He has created 94 assists in three seasons, the best in Europe. That's 45 more assists in that time than the man we used to worship in that role at Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas. Juan Mata and Frank Ribery have created 66 and 55 respectively, and Messi 80. He also created 7 assists at Euro 2012, the most of the tournament (and they were in the "group of death"). He's not goal-shy either, he boasts a record of 58 goals for club and country so far and he's only 24.

He starred at the 2010 World Cup when he was only 21 and has been one of Germany' most important and best players since then. Basically, he's brilliant. With him in the side along with Wilshere and Cazorla we should create chances galore and, top class or not, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott should have a field day this season in terms of goal-scoring chances. That midfield trio rivals any team in Europe in that position. It's arguably better than what the likes of Bayern and Barcelona have in attacking midfield and should do wonders for our progression.

(Image source: http://twentyfour7football.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Mesut-Ozil-2.jpg)

(All of the above stats were found at http://football-talk.co.uk/82651/mesut-ozil-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-arsenal-record-new-signing/?utm_source=arsenalprss.co.uk&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=arsenalprss.co.uk, not my own)

(Video courtesy of ScoutNationHD at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxK4cIrjsU0)

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Out of Order

I'm infuriated by Arsene Wenger's comments regarding Aaron Ramsey. In the first half of last season, Ramsey was on poor form, mainly due to playing out wide. And who was the one deciding to play him out wide and out of position? Oh yeah, Arsene Wenger.

It's not like he was short of options. He consistently left Theo Walcott on the bench due to him not having signed a new contract yet (although he at the time said that wasn't the reason... so what was then? If it wasn't the reason, all the more reason to play Walcott ahead of Ramsey on the wing). This is as well ignoring his refusal to spend more available money in last summer's transfer window to improve the squad so things like this didn't happen.

So Ramsey continued to play poorly out wide, understandably. He gave the ball away frequently and didn't really make any significant contribution in that position. So naturally, frustrated fans were groaning quite a lot when he gave the ball away. Yes, groaning. Not booing him or signing derogatory songs about Ramsey, like with any other player or like how any other set of fans would react to poor performances from players, the fans were naturally frustrated and groaned, especially in games we were losing.

That's not "getting on Ramsey's back", that's being naturally and understandably frustrated with inept performances and actions on the pitch. The person really at fault for Ramsey's poor form was the man blaming the fans for it, Arsene Wenger. He played him out wide when he had other options (Walcott, Cazorla) at the time. It was terrible judgement to play him there, and especially to play him there so often, and he has the cheek to blame the paying fans (who are largely responsible for him getting the ridiculous wage of £7 million a year) for Ramsey's poor form and low confidence.

It's staggering and yet some moronic fans are actually defending him for these comments. He's not right at all, but even if he was right, he shouldn't be criticizing loyal, paying supporters who happened to be paying the most expensive ticket prices in the country to see such drivel. Fans being naturally frustrated at poor performances are not out of order, the man getting paid £7m a year to make these decisions is the one to blame. Him playing Ramsey out of position was the reason for Ramsey's slump in form and confidence, not the fans, who were basically innocent bystanders to this terrible management.

(Image source: http://www.fm-base.co.uk/forum/attachments/football-manager-2012-stories/221690d1328542163-gunning-glory-my-arsenal-story-birmingham-vs-arsenal-aaron-ramsey.png)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

“The only people at Arsenal who overspend are the supporters”

A quote used very appropriately by Jamie Carragher on Monday Night Football, which describes accurately the ridiculous situation at Arsenal. The fans pay the most expensive ticket prices in the country, remain loyal and supportive to the club and turn out in vast numbers ever week home and away. Yet the club is spending no money on new players and is atrociously unprepared for the new season, and it has already cost us 3 points.

For the ticket prices supporters are paying, they should be seeing an ambitious team containing brilliant players and playing brilliant football. Yet with around £150m sitting in the bank, £70m or so of it available for transfer fees, the fans attended the shambolic opening day defeat to Aston Villa to see no new signings and a lacklustre display riddled with an embarrassing lack of tactics, ideas, organisation or preparation for the game. The club is sending the message at the moment that it doesn’t really care about on-pitch success, as long as their pockets are being lined with plenty of cash.

The supporters deserve better. The club need to either seriously and significantly reduce the ticket prices or buy some great players and conduct themselves with ambition as they keep saying they will. It’s ridiculous that Wenger won’t spend a penny over what he deems is the value of the player. But, as Gary Neville says, the game has changed and to get the best players and move forward, you have to swim with the sharks and overspend a bit at times. Especially at this time of the window as well when clubs are even more desperate to hold on to players due to a limited amount of time to find a replacement. Offering derisory fees for players with 2 weeks left of the transfer window isn’t what I call giving the fans value for money.

We need to overspend a bit sometimes in order to achieve in the current climate of football. We’d have had Higuain now if it wasn’t for Arsene Wenger’s ridiculous cheapness and reluctance to pay an extra few million pounds for the striker. We should have activated Fellaini’s release clause of £23m when we could. £23m isn’t much cost at all to buy us the player we’ve been screaming out for for years now, not in the current transfer market. If not him, we could have had Luiz Gustavo for £17m if we hadn’t dithered and had actually shown ambition by signing this much needed type of player.

We very much need a goalkeeper and Julio Cesar is available for around £2m and we haven’t got him. That’s surely a no brainer for that fee for such a quality, experienced goalkeeper. If not him, there’s Asmir Begovic at Stoke. Simon Mignolet went to Liverpool for £9m. There are so many obvious targets out there that would improve our side and help us progress and possibly win trophies. And after all, isn’t that what the club is supposed to at least seriously attempt to achieve primarily? There are so many players out there who would improve us and yet our manager has the audacity to say there are NO players out there who are good enough for Arsenal.  You can list the players that are and have been out there this summer off the top of your head now:

·         Fellaini

·         Gustavo

·         Rooney

·         Higuain

·         Mignolet

·         Begovic

·         Cesar

·         Ashley Williams

·         Soldado

·         Paulinho

·         Capoue

·         Willian

·         Sakho

·         Schurrle

·         Argubly Suarez

And this is coming from the man who panic bought the likes of Andre Santos and Park Chu Young, thinking they were appropriate signings for Arsenal two years ago. Surely he doesn’t really think there are no players out there good enough for Arsenal. How many of the above players would get into our side? A lot. If he does believe that, he’s quite simply not doing his job at all and is seriously inadequate for the occupation he’s getting paid £7 million a year for.

It’s ridiculous to see Arsenal being so unambitious and conducting themselves like this in the transfer market. The supporters deserve better. They overspend through loyalty to the club and it’s about time the club showed some ambition to succeed on the pitch, rather than just filling their pockets off it, by overspending themselves when they have to. We have £70m to significantly improve the squad and so far we’ve done nothing significant about it. It’s shambolic. Sometimes you have to overspend to succeed, Arsenal need to realize that.