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!