Friday, 28 June 2013

Four players Everton should sign if they lose Fellaini

If Everton lose Marouane Fellaini it'll supposedly be for around £23 million. So I have come up with a collection of four players I believe would not only cover the loss of Fellaini, but actually improve the team as a whole in the long run. Those four are:

1) Victor Wanyama- The Celtic midfielder is only 22 and yet has experience of winning trophies and playing in the Champions League against European heavyweights such as Barcelona and Juventus. On the occasions I've watched him play for Celtic I've been very impressed. Technically skilled, disciplined and very good in the tackle. A good shield in front of the back four and would replace the midfield muscle of Fellaini as well as any other attainable options at least. He would cost around £10 million.

2) Keisuke Honda- an attacking midfielder or forward who scores goals and is vey technical and creative, as he has shown at the Confederations Cup playing for Japan, most notably against Italy in the 4-3 thriller. With his good balance, creative vision and technical ability, the experienced Japan international would complete a very good looking central midfield area for Everton alongside Gibson and Wanyama. The attacking threat of Fellaini would be replaced by Honda and the defensive midfield muscle and protection of the Belgian would be replaced by Wanyama. Honda would cost very little as his contract runs out in December.

3) Nathan Redmond. A young winger at Birmingham at the age of 19 and would be available for around £2m as Birmingham are in desperate need of cash. Very skillful, tricky and quite two-footed. He has an eye for goal from all sorts of ranges- poaching in the box or more long distance strikes from outside the area. He has received raved reviews including Birmingham's fans and has plenty of time to improve on his already impressive abilities. In case he decided to leave he also has the potential for a high re-sale value. He also has better technique and end product than Callum McManaman in my opinion so along with the cheaper price, is a more attractive proposition.

4) Andre-Pierre Gignac. The Marseille striker is 27, has experience of playing the Champions League and has been linked with Arsenal and Man Utd before. He is strong, good in the air, technically able and has made 13 appearances for France and could be available for around £10-12 million. The main position Everton need to strengthen as it stands is centre forward and Gignac could fit the bill. Him being supported by Honda could be a great partnership that could give Everton that extra edge in and around the opposition's penalty area. Too many times last season the Blues failed to kill off teams but if they signed these two they'd be more ruthless in front of goal than last season.

I believe these 4 signings, costing around £25- 28 million, would be a fantastic foursome that would make Everton genuine contenders for the top four. They were only 10 points away last season, largely thanks to failing to kill off teams in the bottom half and I think these signings would help prevent them from repeating that fault this coming season, as well as covering the loss of Fellaini. At he very least they'd be well placed the get a Europa League place.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Sky and the league have to be more considerate to travelling football fans

Sky have generally been very good for top flight football. It has made high level football a lot more accessible to more people by airing many football games in various competitions on a regular basis. I think most blokes' Sunday's have improved on what they were like 25 years ago, the addition of a live double bill of Premier League games brightening it up significantly one can assume. However where Sky Sports still have work to do is how they select Monday night games, and indeed all night games.

There are generally a few midweek programmes of league fixtures a season and there are now more games being picked for live Monday night coverage on Sky. And there any many examples every season of how inconsiderate the league and Sky are to the travelling fans. Say you're a Fulham fan and follow the club home and away but when the fixtures come out at the start of the season the league have chosen to have Fulham playing away at Newcastle on one of their few midweek programmes. Or say you're a Sunderland fan planning on going to see the team play away at Southampton on a Saturday but then Sky move the fixture to a Monday night and you work from 9 'til 5 on Monday's. It poses a big dilemma.

So what I propose is that the league and Sky come together and pledge that every midweek programme of fixtures will, like Boxing Day, involve playing teams of a reasonably close location. And the same applies for Monday night games. For example: Arsenal v West Ham, Everton v Man City, Southampton v Chelsea etc. There would still be decent travelling, the likes of Newcastle and Sunderland are a decent distance away from virtually every club but the travelling would still be as limited as possible. You'd never get a scenario occurring where you have fans of a northern team having to travel down to Swansea or Tottenham to see them play and vice versa.

This of course wouldn't just apply for Premier League matches, it would be the same for the lower leagues as well. For instance, Sky have already negatively interfered with the travelling fan by bringing forward Accrington v Portsmouth to show it live at 12:15pm on August 10th. Whereas the next day they have Leicester v Leeds on at 4pm. Why not just swap them around? Have the earlier kick off being Leicester v Leeds where most travelling fans are just a straight forward 2 or 3 hour journey away, compared to the travelling Pompey fans who'll probably have to either go the night before and spend money on a hotel or set off at about 3am in order to get there in time. The point is, even though this isn't a night game problem, Sky have got to be more considerate to football fans who travel to watch their team play away from home.

It's very insensitive and inconsiderate behavior. It's bang out of order in my opinion. Just looking at Arsenal's midweek fixtures this coming season I can see that we play Hull at home on one of them. That's nicely timed for Hull's away fans isn't it? We played Newcastle on a Monday night game a year and a bit ago, Crystal Palace play Everton away on a night match this season. Chelsea go to Sunderland midweek, Newcastle to Swansea, Norwich to Liverpool. Newcastle to Norwich, Hull to Crystal Palace, Man City to Tottenham.

It is so inconsiderate to regular fans and travelling fans. I love night matches and being able to watch games on Monday nights and Wednesday nights etc., but there's got to be some sacrifice. Instead of (hypothetically) choosing Crystal Palace v Everton as a live Monday night match, Sky should bare in mind travelling fans (who are the most important part of football- without them Sky would have nothing) and choose games like Man City v Liverpool, West Ham v Arsenal, Aston Villa v Fulham- in other words games where the two teams aren't too far away from each other. Otherwise they're making it impossible for a lot of fans to travel from work to an evening away game.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

It's Football Christmas

One of the biggest events in the football calendar at this time of year is fixture release day. The evening before you start seeing all the rumours on the internet; supposedly 'leaked fixtures'. It's like a young boy sneaking downstairs on Christmas Eve to have a peak at his presents, but peaking at the wrong ones.

You get an awful lot of baloney in terms of 'in the knows' coming up with total boo-hockey opening day fixtures. I saw Arsenal v Hull, Hull v Arsenal, Arsenal v Southampton and Fulham v Arsenal. And who are we playing opening day? Oh yeah, Aston Villa at home. The boy has sneaked downstairs to peak at presents under the tree but found out they're the wrong ones. They're not for him.

Finally 'Christmas' morning arrived and boy found the right presents. This morning and I looked at the overwhelming amount of fixtures, looking in particular for derby day dates, big games, potential away days and what games I'll miss while I'm away on holiday in September. Unfortunately I'll miss an Everton home game against Newcastle. Not only does that mean missing a game but missing one where there's a bit more a competitive bite and rivalry between two of England's traditional top flight clubs. It's a shame I'll miss that because it's usually a good game and Newcastle might take the upper tier (which always makes for a better atmosphere for me). Fingers crossed for some massive floods to postpone the game. Still, it could be worse. It could be one of the biggies... like Liverpool or Arsenal, or Man Utd. That'd be a true nightmare.

The big positives are a nicely sparse distribution of big games at Goodison- three in each half of the season and the last 3 home games of the season being Arsenal, Man Utd and Man City with a few away days like Sunderland, Newcastle and Hull around them. Liverpool and Tottenham earlier on in the season close together, Chelsea early on and most of the mid-table teams far away from the end of the season unlike the last couple of seasons.

Arsenal-wise, it's not ideal to have Tottenham so early but I'm not too bothered. It would be great to start the season by beating them. It's also not ideal we play Tottenham and Chelsea away, Man City at home and Everton away all in a row in March/ April but overall we've got a good set of fixtures. We've got a good start and a good run-in. We don't play any teams apart from Stoke at home with new managers early on, nor any newly promoted teams which I think is ideal.

It's so exciting to have the fixtures out and on the same day I passed the theory part of my driving test!

Friday, 7 June 2013

A Dedication to my Best Ever Friend

The clock has just struck midnight. It's now officially the 8th June 2013 and the 21st birthday of the late, great Danny Ward. The lad was genuinely the best friend I've ever had in my life. I've had some good friends but none were as loyal, as friendly or as brilliant as Danny.

He was the sort of guy you could go to about anything. He had the sensitivity and the personality to enable you to feel comfortable talking to him about anything really. I actually remember before we were friends I used to sit next to him in year 5 and wind him up big time. I've got no idea why, but it worked out well; not so long after I'd gone from some annoying git next to him to being one of his closest friends at school.

Soon after we were going to high school together. We had loads of great and funny times together which are some of the finest and best memories of my life so far. I'll never forget our first day at Brigshaw when he came over to a group of us and said 'hey duuuudes' in a really corny way. It might not sound like comedy gold but it was very funny, at least to us group of 11 year olds. He was just a naturally funny lad, sometimes I think he was making everyone laugh when he wasn't even trying to. We had our best 'goof around' year in year 8 which is when we were closest- about year 8 and 9. We used to go around to each other's houses (where he had a lovely family by the way) and go out to Xscape and the cricket field a lot and I don't think we ever had a bad time, it was always great. We always had a laugh and bonded like best friends should.

Reading this back so far I'm probably not doing justice to Danny's academic skills. We often had a laugh and caused mischief in class but he could afford to to be fair. He was one of the most intelligent people I've met, he always did his work and did it much better than me! He let me copy him when I needed to. That's the kind of classy guy he was. I might sound like I'm exaggerating at times here but again, he was the best cricketer I've known. We used to pair up together in PE cricket and he'd help me out and give me advice. We were two best friends and a really good team- and he was the leader, the captain. He never tried to just get the spotlight on him, which he could have easily done being as good as he was. He just went about his game whilst helping others and that's the sign of a classy guy. A mature head on young shoulders.

We had some great times together in particular in year 8 as I say. We were given a great chance to bond that year because we were in a lot of classes together away from the other lads in our group of friends. So it was just us two bonding. Even in lessons where a seating plan was in place we'd sneak away from our seats to sit next to each other. Science was always a laugh, sneaking out of the back door at the end of lessons, constantly yapping and laughing at the back of the classrooms (my school reports from the time show that I was 'too often distracted and talk too much during lessons'). You couldn't not be distracted by Danny. Why wouldn't you talk to and have a laugh with him? He was funny, witty, mischievous and smart. Maths was probably the best though, I could tell stories for hours about what we got up to.

A stand out memory in Maths was us being kept behind as a class by Ms. Rand (who we both regularly pissed off) and I think it was period 5 so we had to catch our bus home. We were sat in the second row from the front so a decent distance away from the door and he just legged it down the classroom to get out and I swear Ms. Rand tried to kick him to stop him. Not a powerful kick but she did poke her leg out with a slight kick. We laughed about that a lot afterwards. It sounds like some teacher cruelty case but believe it or not at the time we all found it absolutely hilarious, including him. It brings such a smile to my face thinking back to all this. My eyes are welling up as I write.

I don't think I've ever had such a laugh and such good times with anyone else as I did with Danny. I often think back to our times together, I don't think I've ever enjoyed the company of anyone as much as I did him.

He seemed to use the term 'legend' quite a lot and that's quite ironic as that's exactly what he was. An absolutely top class, utter legend. A great friend, a great person and someone with so many fantastic qualities.

I think about him a lot and will never forget him. I hope you're having a ball up in heaven mate, I miss you so much (EWL)*.

*See I don't forget mate. (Exclusive code.)

Why Fellaini would be the perfect signing for Arsenal

OK, not ‘perfect’ perfect, like signing Lionel Messi would be, but pretty darn great. I’m actually a season ticket holder at Everton so I have watched Fellaini play regularly now for almost 5 years and seen him in attacking midfield and defensive midfield a lot. Having seen this I can come to the conclusion that he is best, as he himself says, as a defensive midfielder.

And this is why he’s the ideal signing for Arsenal. Arsenal have been screaming from the rooftops for years now for a commanding, strong, defensive aware midfield player to truly replace Patrick Vieira. Gilberto held the fort for a brief time but his time was shortly up, Flamini did it successfully for a year but unfortunately made a smart career move and since then it hasn’t really been filled. Alex Song has occasionally looked the part but wasn’t in Vieira’s league and lacked the discipline to be the chosen one.

Fellaini is strong, dominating, technically good and a good passer, goal scorer and breaker up of play. He has experience in the Premier League and in Europe. As I said, I’ve watched him regularly for a few years and basically when he plays in centre midfield in a holding role, he bosses the midfield. ‘Thou shall not pass’ seems to be his motto when he plays in that position. His physical strength and reading off the game is top quality and it’s very rare he’s beaten or overshadowed in midfield.

He gets forward well as well so you could argue it’d be somewhat of a waste to play him in a defensive midfield position with very little license to get forward. He isn’t just some big tackling lump; he distributes the ball well, makes effective runs and has a real eye for a goal. I imagine him alongside Jack Wilshere in Arsenal’s centre midfield, being the primary ‘sitter’ but also having a license to get forward every now and then. I think that’d be his best position.

Where I am critical of him is his lack of discipline at times. He does get overly aggressive and tends to throw the occasional head-butt and elbow. A great game to sum him up was when we played Everton at home in April. For the first 15 minutes he looked like his head wasn’t screwed on, he was overly aggressive and lacking in calmness. But after that he got his head on and had a great game, he bossed the midfield and was a strong candidate for man of the match. Perhaps all he needs a bit of discipline drilled into him.

Overall I’d say Fellaini would be the ideal signing for Arsenal. He’d be a great fit on our midfield alongside the likes of Cazorla, Wilshere and Arteta. He’d give our midfield the necessary dose of ‘beefing up’ it needs and would be the sort of signing that would make us bigger candidates for the title. Certainly worth the £22 million being reported.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Is Koscielny in the right?

Laurent Koscielny has said that if Arsenal don't show ambition in the transfer market, he'll leave in order to join a club more determined to win trophies. So, is he right to say this? Is he even right to have this attitude?

On the one hand, yes he is. He's 27 years of age so at the peak of his career and is likely to no get a better chance to move to another top club. So it's a case of now or never for him in terms of trophy winning. Either show trust in Arsenal to win trophies over the next few years or move now before it's too late to a club that is more likely to win them. Also, it's human to want success. He's a very good player and capable of being in a team that wins trophies. So there's nothing wrong with wanting that. Plus, for too long Arsenal have shown the same lack of ambition in the trophy department by constantly selling key players and not investing significantly enough to win trophies. We seem to timidly shy away every year and surrender our challenge for trophies. Arsenal used to win the FA Cup regularly under Wenger before the stadium move. Yet the stadium move has since been an excuse for us not winning trophies. You don't need a bucket load of cash to win the FA Cup. It's not like we've really tried to either- we always mess around with the team and rest players in the FA Cup. Since the stadium switch Arsenal have become too obsessed with Champions League qualification and nowhere near enough obsessed about winning trophies. This overly obsessive striving for Champions League football has become too prominent. They should be aiming for that- but why haven't they been trying to win the FA Cup as well? We used to go for the league title and FA Cup at the same time under him- why can't we now go for Champions League qualification and the FA Cup at the same time? Baffling.

However he isn't right to come out and say what he's said in public (I'm back on Koscielny by the way). If he's planning on leaving if Arsenal don't show the ambition to win titles, fine. But go and tell Arsene Wenger that, not the media. That does nothing good.

Plus, I'm of the view that when you join a club at professional level, you're making an investment. You're joining a 'team'. You're part of a 'team'. There is a shared responsibility to succeed. I don't think foreign players (especially French players) get this, I don't think they see it this way. It is called a 'team' for a reason. A 'team' sticks together and looks to succeed together. He also has a duty to be loyal to the club that has improved him as a player so significantly. When he came he was a nobody and frankly disaster-prone. Now he's a top quality centre half who has improved lots and would get into most teams. Therefore he has a duty to return the favour of that loyalty and belief by believing in Arsenal and repaying them for what they've done for his ability and career.

They've given him a chance to play in the best league in the world, the Champions League, a cup final (which he was largely responsible for us losing by the way) and play alongside top quality players. He should repay them for that by not shooting off to another club at the first opportunity.