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: Accessed 21/09/13, 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: 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:

(All of the above stats were found at, not my own)

(Video courtesy of ScoutNationHD at