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On the big stage, Thierry Henry failed to handle the high standards his career demanded

He’s always presented himself as the gentleman of world football, despite a couple of previously unsavoury episodes. But after manhandling Ireland out of the World Cup, will Thierry Henry ever again be able to match up to the standards demanded of great players?

Villain of the piece: Henry (c) will forever be remembered for events at Stade de France

It wasn’t the way to win a place at the World Cup, never mind lose one.

Nevertheless, Thierry Henry’s illegal intervention during a closely-fought World Cup play-off between France and Ireland was the decisive act in a tie that deserved much better.

From the player to the referee and even the sport, few came away from the night with any credit.

The valiant Irish players can hold their heads high—but that will be scant consolation considering the devastating manner of their defeat.

It was worse that the pivotal moment came in extra-time, after Robbie Keane had clawed Ireland back onto level terms after an admirable team performance.

With questions of offside in the build up to a free-kick being delivered into the box, Henry looked to have misjudged the ball’s flight—before his hands came to the rescue.

The first contact looked instinctive, with the French No. 12 arguably knowing little about it on a conscious level.

But the second touch with his still-outstretched left arm was clearly deliberate, and set the ball perfectly for him to then slip the ball past the onrushing Shay Given with the outside of his right boot.

William Gallas, barely a yard out, had the simplest of jobs in nodding the ball into the open net.

For some, the fact Henry wheeled away and celebrated the goal was the most distasteful aspect of the whole scenario.

If the incident itself suggested the Barcelona forward was a cheat, then the public way he enjoyed the moment certainly confirmed it.

With referee Martin Hansson turning down Irish players’ prolonged appeals for hand-ball, the goal stood and France held on to book their place in South Africa next summer.

After the game, unsurprisingly all discussion was focused on Henry. Continue reading

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November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

David Beckham deserves 1000 caps if brings the World Cup back to England

Ever since he relinquished the captain’s armband  — and arguably even before then — David Beckham has been a divisive figure for observers of the England national team. Yet as his playing days draw to close, the current Los Angeles Galaxy star has the chance to achieve something no English footballer has ever managed…

Still the main man: Beckham's influence extends far beyond the football pitch

As happens without fail every four years, World Cup talk is dominating English football.

For the players in and around manager Fabio Capello’s national squad, the focus is on making the plane for South Africa next summer.

For those lucky enough to be all but guaranteed their seat — and there are a few — the focus is on launching a bid to win the big prize on the horizon.

For the Football Association, the situation is slightly different.

While the directors of English football’s governing body are still devoting considerable resources to give  Capello everything he needs to launch a strong challenge next summer, they are also focusing equal attention on launching a successful World Cup bid of their own.

Instead of 2010, the FA is looking to 2018, when they hope they can bring the World Cup back to England for the first time in 52 years.

When England hosted that last tournament, in 1966, Bobby Moore famously lead the Three Lions to their solitary triumph in the game’s biggest tournament.

And hopes are high that, after so many years of hurt, a return of the final to a new Wembley might yield the same famous old result.

That long wait to host, as well as England’s self-proclaimed status as the ‘home of football’ (something that has been deliberately underplayed during campaigning so as not to offend) would seem to give the bid more weight than that of its rivals.

Couple that with the fact it has an unrivalled collection of world-class stadiums and infrastructure to call upon, and, on paper at least, any bid from the sceptred isle would appear to be a winner.

But in many respects, England and the wider United Kingdom is not currently in the best of health. While many other European and world nations are slowly steering their ship clear of recession, the United Kingdom is still waging a seemingly losing battle with high unemployment and floundering industry. Continue reading

November 23, 2009 Posted by | Comment, Sport, World Football | , , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)

After Atletico goalkeeper David de Gea, we move across Spain to cast an eye (or even two) over the burgeoning buzz surrounding Athletic Bilbao’s slippery attacker Iker Muniain…

Feet of fury: Muniain has burst onto the scene in Spain

Feet of fury: Muniain (right) has burst onto the scene in Spain

Age: 16

Position: Left or right winger, second striker

Clubs: Athletic Club Bilbao

Bursting on to the scene to become the youngest goalscorer in La Liga history, diminutive Athletic Bilbao prodigy Iker Muniain immediately earned himself the moniker “the Spanish Messi”.

Such comparisions seem to be de rigueur for talented young footballers these days, even if Muniain’s record-breaking goal and ability to play on either wing might more accurately make him “the Spanish James Milner”.

Either way, the boy has some serious talent.

Just 16 and standing barely 5’5” tall, Muniain has nonetheless exploded on to the scene this season in a way that has major clubs across the globe sitting up and taking notice.

The well respected football website, IMScouting, said of Muniain, “it is clear that this young player is a true gem, a genius who is destined for stardom in the near future.” Such praise does not come lightly. Continue reading

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Scout Report: David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)

The focus shifts from attacking midfielder Javier Pastore to one of the most hotly tipped young goalkeepers in the world, Atletico Madrid prodigy (and Football Manager starlet) David de Gea.

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Full stretch: De Gea's physical attributes make him an imposing presence in goal

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 18

Clubs: Atletico Madrid

Life is never boring at Atletico Madrid. As Sid Lowe will undoubtedly tell you, there is almost no end to the drama the club is involved in — and usually of its own making.

After the departure of former No. 1 Leo Franco in the summer, Atletico were keen to find a suitable replacement to shore up their defence. With youngster David de Gea considered a huge talent by his coaches, many thought the club would opt for a short-term solution between the sticks.

But after signing Valladolid’s impressive stopper Sergio Asenjo, who many in Spain see as the heir to Iker Casillas, the club now finds itself with two outstanding young keepers who are set to fight over the No. 1 jersey for years to come.

Asenjo cost the club €5 million in the summer, and so unsurprisingly the 20-year-old quickly grabbed the starting role under then-coach Abel Resino. He is likely to keep his place under new main man Quique Flores, but already in his germinating Vicente Calderon career has been challenged by his emerging understudy.

After all, the 19-year-old, nearly 6’3” De Gea has all the physical attributes required of a top goalkeeper. He showed his shot-stopping skills on his debut, where he saved a penalty (that, admittedly, he gave away) in his side’s 2-1 win over Real Zaragoza.

“I made my debut in the Vicente Calderon, and I stopped a penalty,” De Gea said.

“This is a dream for me. We must continue improving from here. This win will allow us to enjoy a peaceful week.” Continue reading

October 28, 2009 Posted by | Sport, Uncategorized, World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Scout Report: Javier Pastore (Palermo)

Last week it was Miralem Pjanic, who might well tear Liverpool apart in the Champions League. Now the focus falls on Javier Pastore, a South American arrival in Italy who looks set for big things…

Ready for lift-off: Pastore announced his arrival with Huracan last season

Ready for lift-off: Pastore (c) announced his arrival with Huracan last season

Position: Attacking midfielder

Age: 20

Clubs: Talleres de Colombia, Huracan, Palermo

Young attacking midfielder Javier Pastore is another in a long line of creative Argentinians to travel to Europe and ply their trade in Italy.

Pastore joined Palermo, capital city of Sicily, in the summer for a reported fee of $8 million, after a scintillating season in domestic football with surprise package Huracan. The 20-year-old was a vital cog as ‘el Globo’ made a valiant challenge for their first title in 35 years.

They eventually finished second behind Velez Sarsfield, but Pastore was nevertheless voted player of the season by the Argentinian sports daily Ole in what was an impressive individual campaign.

Courted by some of the giants of European football over the summer, including Manchester United and FC Porto, Pastore eventually decided to sign with Palermo, who had long been interested in the player. The move was complicated by the midfielder’s contract status — Huracan orchestrated their original move of Pastore from junior club Talleres de Colombia by selling 55% of the player’s economic rights to an investment group and leaving Talleres with the remaining 45% (the move was technically a long-term loan).

Many of the big clubs were put off by this situation, on that is becoming increasingly prevalent in South American football. But not Palermo, who believed the 6’2” attacker’s combination of agility, technical proficiency and creativity was worth spending a sizeable amount of to tie down to a five-year contract, one that should see him remain at the club until 2014. Continue reading

October 20, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Scout Report: Miralem Pjanic (Olympique Lyonnais / Bosnia & Herzegovina)

So, I haven’t written anything for a while — sue me. But in an attempt to spur me to write more regularly, here is a new series I intend to update every week on the young players seemingly set to make a major splash in world football…

Things looking up: Pjanic has a bright future ahead of him

Things looking up: Pjanic has a bright future ahead of him

Position: Attacking midfielder

Age: 19

Clubs: FC Metz, Olympique Lyonnais

FC Metz might not have the best record on or off the pitch in recent years — in 2007-08 they finished well adrift at the bottom of Ligue 1, and suffered a one point deduction for instances of racist abuse from their fans — but they enjoy widespread respect in the footballing world for their youth system and scouting network.

After all, this is a club that has given untried talents such as Robert Pires, Louis Saha, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Sebastien Bassong their opportunity to break through in professional football, and a club that relies on the recruitment of young players to maintain their league standing.

Unfortunately, all the aforementioned players — as is the accepted way for a provincial club like Metz — moved on to bigger and better clubs in order to continue to fulfil their potential and ambitions.

Miralem Pjanic is just the latest example of such a player. Continue reading

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | 1 Comment

Time for Chelsea’s academy to step up to counter effect of transfer embargo

Earlier in the week it was UEFA stealing the headlines with their punishment of Eduardo, now FIFA have got in on the act. Chelsea might appeal the ruling with all the might they can muster, but if the worst comes to the worst then perhaps the answer to their problems might lie in the very place that got them in trouble…

Gael Kakuta might have a bright future, but his club's immediate outlook just got a whole lot bleaker...

Head up: Gael Kakuta might have a bright future, but his club's immediate outlook just got a whole lot bleaker...

It may not be an exaggeration to say that the football world has been rocked by the news of Chelsea’s year-long transfer embargo, imposed on the club by FIFA after the Blues were found guilty of acting improperly in their acquisition of young French midfielder Gael Kakuta.
On top of the ban, which will last for two transfer windows and mean the next opportunity for the club to sign new players will be in January 2011, the club have been ordered to pay compensation to Kakuta’s former club, RC Lens, totalling around $186,000.
Understandably, the Stamford Bridge club are not going to willingly comply with what is an unprecedented, if not unpopular, decision from the game’s governing body.
“Chelsea will mount the strongest appeal possible following the decision of FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber over Gaël Kakuta,” a statement on the club’s website read.
“The sanctions are without precedent to this level and totally disproportionate to the alleged offence and the financial penalty imposed.”
On this, it is arguable Chelsea have a point. The club might well come away from the inevitable hearing with CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport) with a reduced embargo, or even just a sizeable fine.
If not, as they have already found out with the recent Adrian Mutu saga, there is always an even higher court to continue their appeal in.
However, no one should be under the illusion that a successful appeal is inevitable. FIFA will not have come to such a decision, especially knowing how much attention it would bring, without a determination to see it enforced.
If little else, it can be taken as read that the organisation will do everything it can to ensure the London club comply to ever aspect of the ‘sentence’ they have passed down.
As such, the Chelsea hierarchy must start making contingency plans (as limited as they may be) in case the punishment imposed on them remains in place, especially as it has such widespread implications on their prospects.
With an already ageing squad (the average age of the first XI this year is over 29), the prospect of not being able to sign fresh blood until January 2011 is something that could well prove detrimental to short-term fortunes.
In that time, they are likely to miss out on long-rumoured targets Sergio Aguero and Franck Ribery, among others. With both players likely to move next summer, Chelsea will have to watch on mournfully as rival clubs fight over players they have long coveted.
Not only that, but they will have little opportunity to respond as key squad members (Drogba, Kalou, Essien) head to the African Cup of Nations in January of this season, or make arrangements next summer to counter the potential impact of certain important players (Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho) hitting an age where their talents will reasonably be expected to diminish rapidly.
Lastly, the club faces the prospect of being held to ransom by its squad players, many of whom might take advantage of the transfer embargo and their own expiring contracts to negotiate inflated wages for themselves that the club will have little option but to pay.
All in all, FIFA’s ruling could destabilise a squad that could arguably be considered the most settled in England just a few days ago.
Many have already taken this as reason enough to right off Chelsea’s chances, if not this season then certainly in 2010-11.
This doesn’t have to be the case, however, as there is some scope for Chelsea to turn FIFA’s decision into something of a positive—by focusing on the one thing that got them into trouble in the first place.
Youth development.
Chelsea’s academy, so expensively maintained and overseen by coaches of international repute since Roman Abramovich’s take-over, has so far failed to produce a notable first-team contributor since John Terry—a player who hit the first-team long before the Russian billionaire ever even flew his helicopter over Fulham Road.
Michael Mancienne might be a player considered worthy of note—indeed, the on-loan Wolves defender will undoubtedly be called upon frequently next season—but beyond him few academy graduates have made the grade in recent teams.
This state of affairs exposes the club’s current youth setup as an abject failure. For all the bluster, Frank Arnesen (now the club’s sporting director, but originally appointed as head of the youth team) has achieved very little in his time at the club.
Now more than ever is the time to refocus on making the academy effective.
Just last week, club chief executive Peter Kenyon called on his club’s youth system to provide the first team with the quality of players it requires, while bemoaning the costs involved.
“Every club is spending more time, more money and more resources on the academy. But the standard which we’re demanding of the players is just going up all the time,” Kenyon said.
“I think we’re all producing more good players but it’s hard to get them to breakthrough at the level we need them and that will take time. The infrastructure is certainly there at our club, it is as good as anyone’s and I’m sure the next John Terry will be coming through.”
Now, more than ever, Kenyon will be hoping his words are prophetic.
And, with no other players to spend money on, resources invested in the club’s youth infrastructure might suddenly be even more plentiful.
Youth development has not just been a problem for Chelsea in recent years; it has been a problem for almost all clubs in England.
While Barcelona started last season’s Champions League final with seven players from their own youth team, the ‘Big Four’ combined would only realistically be able to contribute four—Terry, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, and Ryan Giggs.
Perhaps that is due to a widespread problem with how English youngsters are introduced to football. Perhaps it is just a cause of poor coaching. Whatever the cause, Chelsea find themselves in an enforced position where they can attempt to do something about it—and gain an unlikely advantage on their rivals in the process.
If they can, then youngsters like Kakuta (the club’s scholar of the year last year), Miroslav Stoch, and Ryan Bertrand might develop enough to reinforce what will become a stale first team squad.
With other junior players like Daniel Sturridge and Nemanja Matic already in the first-team squad and showing great potential, the club might surprise many and be hold things together until the embargo is lifted.
And, as an added bonus, the club might be even stronger in the long run.
No one can reasonably suggest that Chelsea did not have this sort of scenario coming, even if many of their rivals have no doubt indulged in similarly murky practices.
In their pursuit of Ashley Cole and John Obi Mikel, Chelsea were shown to be more than willing to bend the rules, so it can easily be inferred that similar tactics were being employed with the 15 and 16-year-old youngsters the club wanted to attract.
Make no mistake; FIFA’s ruling is a body blow for a club that has become accustomed to life at Europe’s top table. But maybe, even if an appeal fails them, the club can salvage something from the wreckage.
They might not develop an exact substitute for a multi-million pound signing, but perhaps with the right steps a silver lining can be found from what looks an especially dark cloud.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that the football world has been rocked by the news of Chelsea’s year-long transfer embargo, imposed on the club by FIFA after the Blues were found guilty of acting improperly in their acquisition of young French midfielder Gael Kakuta.

On top of the ban, which will last for two transfer windows and mean the next opportunity for the club to sign new players will be in January 2011, the club have been ordered to pay compensation to Kakuta’s former club, RC Lens, totalling around $186,000.

Understandably, the Stamford Bridge club are not going to willingly comply with what is an unprecedented, if not unpopular, decision from the game’s governing body.

“Chelsea will mount the strongest appeal possible following the decision of FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber over Gaël Kakuta,” a statement on the club’s website read.

“The sanctions are without precedent to this level and totally disproportionate to the alleged offence and the financial penalty imposed.”

On this, it is arguable Chelsea have a point. The club might well come away from the inevitable hearing with CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport) with a reduced embargo, or even just a sizeable fine.

If not, as they have already found out with the recent Adrian Mutu saga, there is always an even higher court to continue their appeal in.

However, no one should be under the illusion that a successful appeal is inevitable. FIFA will not have come to such a decision, especially knowing how much attention it would bring, without a determination to see it enforced. If little else, it can be taken as read that the organisation will do everything it can to ensure the London club comply to ever aspect of the ‘sentence’ they have passed down.

As such, the Chelsea hierarchy must start making contingency plans (as limited as they may be) in case the punishment imposed on them remains in place, especially as it has such widespread implications on their prospects.

Continue reading

September 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Everton feud indicates fifth is the immediate target for Mark Hughes and Manchester City

They’ve made a lot of signings this summer, but only managed to enrage Everton in the process. For Mark Hughes and Manchester City, surely that is no coincidence?

Lescott: Could his immediate future decide who finishes fifth come May?

Lescott: Could his immediate future decide who finishes fifth come May?

Ask Alex Ferguson, and he’ll surely tell you (no doubt with a certain amount of glee) that stirring up trouble with rivals in the media can often have more of an effect on their fortunes than anything you do to them on the pitch.

Last season, Ferguson’s subtle baiting of Rafa Benitez lead to the Spaniard’s infamous “these are the facts” rant, a rant that preceded a noticeable drop in form — one that ultimately cost the Reds the title.

Some might not believe in the effect of Rafa’s rant, but to fans at Old Trafford the meltdown certainly didn’t hurt their march to the title. Taking that on board, rivals Manchester City are now trying their hand at unsettling their own league rivals.

The fact that it is Everton being unsettled gives the clearest indication yet that fifth is the position Mark Hughes is targeting this season.

After John Terry ended his silent summer flirtation with the club, Everton’s Joleon Lescott has become the subject of Hughes’ affection. But manager David Moyes has been left outraged by the way the Eastlands club has handled the deal:

“The dialogue has not taken place with Manchester City and Everton in the way that it is said to be. If it was, the dialogue would come to me,” he said. “There has been no contact with me. I’m the person here who makes the decisions. I’m in control of Everton Football Club.” Continue reading

August 15, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Arsene Wenger Right to Remain Confident Despite Puzzling Summer for Arsenal?

Few clubs divide opinion like Arsenal. This summer has done little to unite opinion, and a consensus on where the club are heading seems unlikely to be reached. Arsene Wenger remains sure of his project — is he right to be?

Wenger and Adebayor didn't always see eye-to-eye, and the striker's departure might be a positive for Arsenal

Wenger and Adebayor didn't always see eye-to-eye, and the striker's departure might be a positive for Arsenal

Few clubs, and perhaps even fewer managers, provoke such conflicting opinions as Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. To some, the club plays beautiful football but its playing staff lack the resilience and mental strength to win the game’s big prizes.
To others, their brand of football is just a bit of experience and a dose of good fortune away from winning every trophy they compete for.
As for the manager, even Arsenal’s fans sometimes seem divided about the direction Wenger is leading the club. Some are unquestioning in their faith to his vision. Others are less impressed—frustrated by his apparent refusal to pursue expensive signings and outright angered by the misguided faith he appears to have in his young charges.
Deliciously, it often seems the 59-year-old’s comments only serve to provide ammunition for both sides of the argument. This summer has proved no different.
“This team has improved a lot as compared to last season. They played 21 games unbeaten from November until the end of the season. We reached the semi-final of the Champions League, FA Cup,” Wenger has been quick to point out.
“We have a squad which is very ambitious. We have the basic quality, they have international quality and are under 23, so their best time is now.”
Certainly Arsenal impressed during periods of last season, and got better after an abysmal start that saw some shocking defeats (most notably, and embarrassingly, at home to Hull City). But while they may have managed all the feats Wenger mentions, they also finished a full 18 points adrift of eventual champions Manchester United.
For a club that believes it is a full member of the “Big Four” that is simply not good enough.
Wenger may believe this season is the one for his team, but the summer sale of two high-profile assets has led many to question whether he is correct in that assertion. After all, it is one he has seemingly made for the better part of four, ultimately trophy-less, seasons.
With the sale of Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure, Arsenal have undoubtedly lost two important players and diminished the squad’s strength. But on the other hand, the club seem to have profited in at least three important ways.
Firstly, and most obviously, the have added £40 million of much needed finance to their bank balance. Whether Arsene Wenger chooses to reinvest all or any of that remains unclear, but one way or another those funds will help the club’s future.
Secondly, Wenger has sold two players who would otherwise have probably missed a key period of the season to play in the African Cup of Nations. With Emmanuel Eboue also likely to be offloaded, Wenger is ensuring that his team is minimally disrupted (Alex Song should be involved) by the competition, unlike two seasons ago.
Thirdly, Wenger has managed to offload two players who threatened the dressing room harmony. Adebayor’s poor attitude was becoming increasingly apparent, and left a sour taste in the mouth whenever he made his not-so-subtle comments to the media.
Toure might have seemed the archetypal loyal servant, but his recent comments about his “six-month” relationship with Manchester City indicate that was not necessarily the case.
Now, however, those issues will be Mark Hughes’s—a privilege for which he has also played handsomely.
Wenger might lose some sleep over the loss of Adebayor, who was capable of moments of magic when the occasion most demanded it. But the Togolese international was also lackadaisical and disinterested when his team desperately needed more.
With the Robin van Persie leading the line, Nicklas Bendtner in the squad, and a litany of attacking midfielders to provide from midfield, Adebayor had become expendable.
As for Toure, the Ivorian was a defender of limited ability whose athleticism often made him look significantly better than he deserved. Statistically poor last season, he was nevertheless an integral part of an Arsenal defence which conceded 37 goals in the league last season (Manchester United, by contrast, conceded just 24).
Clearly, the 28-year-old should prove eminently replaceable.
Whether Thomas Vermaelen, the £10 million summer signing, will prove that replacement remains to be seen. But the Belgian brings with him a decent reputation from his time with Ajax and as long as he settles well, should prove a competent performer.
Nevertheless, Wenger might well be scouting for an established Premiership central defender to provide further steel to a sometimes soft Arsenal defence. The club have been strongly linked to Fulham’s Brede Hangeland, and at the right price the 6’5” Norwegian would be a great capture.
If St. Etienne’s Blaise Matuidi is also brought in to address the club’s glaring deficiency at defensive midfield, perhaps alongside former talisman Patrick Vieira, then it would not be unreasonable to suggest the club have had a successful summer.
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BARCELONA, SPAIN – AUGUST 02: Xabi Alonso of Liverpool smiles during his warm up reacting to shouts from fans regarding his possible move to Real Madrid during the pre-season friendly match between Espanyol and Liverpool at the Nuevo Estadio de Cornella-El Prat on August 2, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. Espanyol won the match 3-0. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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LONDON – SEPTEMBER 15: Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor of Arsenal celebrate a goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on September 15, 2007 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
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WIGAN, ENGLAND – APRIL 11: Mikael Silvestre of Arsenal is congratulated by Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor after scoring the second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Arsenal at The JJB Stadium on April 11, 2009 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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14 comments Last one added about 3 hours ago — Leave a Comment
   1.
      …
      dennis berry about 18 hours ago
      Flag as Offensive
      Despite the continual speculation about the big four, I think it is Liverpool who have come off the worst this summer.
      You have done a very good job in pointing out casues for optimism for Arsenal fans, I personally despise Wenger but he is, after all, a football genius and I don’t doubt that he believes he is doing well and if that’s what he thinks he is in a better position than us to judge.
      I am also tiring of the remarks about United being ‘weak’ now that Ronaldo has left.
      Yes, they have lost the best player in the world. But that is surprisingly insignificant when you consider that the other big three have hardly strengthened. It could even be a good thing – Berbatov and Rooney are set to shine now that they can both concentrate on playing striker roles instead of the wide/playmaker positions they had to fill to accomodate Ronaldo, as is Owen, who has looked better than he has for years in the preseason. Valencia has looked good on the right wing in the glimpses I have seen in pre-season.
      Liverpool, on the other hand…
      Well, yes they’ve signed the best right back in the Premierleague, but they seem to have a squad of want away players. Torres and Gerrard are the two most committed (and… well, simply the best) players they have, but Alonso seems desparate to leave and I’m not certain about Mascherano but there seems to be a lot of speculation about him, too. This could really hamper their performances if they are forced to stay.
      But enoguh of my ranting, this was a good article.
      Despite the continual speculation about the big four, I think it is Liverpool who have come off the worst this summer. You have done a very good job in pointing out casues for optimism for Arsenal fans, I personally despise Wenger but he is, after all, a football genius and I don’t doubt that he believes he is doing well and if that’s what he thinks he is in a better position than us to judge. I am also tiring of the remarks about United being ‘weak’ now that Ronaldo has left. Yes, they have lost the best player in the world. But that is surprisingly insignificant when you consider that the other big three have hardly strengthened. It could even be a good thing – Berbatov and Rooney are set to shine now that they can both concentrate on playing striker roles instead of the wide/playmaker positions they had to fill to accomodate Ronaldo, as is Owen, who has looked better than he has for years in the preseason. Valencia has looked good on the right wing in the glimpses I have seen in pre-season. Liverpool, on the other hand… Well, yes they’ve signed the best right back in the Premierleague, but they seem to have a squad of want away players. Torres and Gerrard are the two most committed (and… well, simply the best) players they have, but Alonso seems desparate to leave and I’m not certain about Mascherano but there seems to be a lot of speculation about him, too. This could really hamper their performances if they are forced to stay. But enoguh of my ranting, this was a good article. Edit Comment Cancel
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      Ismail Ayub about 17 hours ago
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      Well… Attacking Wise the squad looks AMAZING, nothing else I can really say… We don’t really need anyone but I can understand why KJH would be good…
      Defensively… Well, The goal we conceded to Atletico madrid shows why we need a DMF and another CB… No1 tracked Pacheco…
      Well… Attacking Wise the squad looks AMAZING, nothing else I can really say… We don’t really need anyone but I can understand why KJH would be good… Defensively… Well, The goal we conceded to Atletico madrid shows why we need a DMF and another CB… No1 tracked Pacheco… Edit Comment Cancel
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      Jack Morton about 15 hours ago
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      I think apart from clichy you need a whole new defence..vermaelen is meant to be good so he fills the hole toure left but i wudnt want senderos back in there with him..Wenger needs to dip into the money he got form the africans before its to late..again
      I think apart from clichy you need a whole new defence..vermaelen is meant to be good so he fills the hole toure left but i wudnt want senderos back in there with him..Wenger needs to dip into the money he got form the africans before its to late..again Edit Comment Cancel
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      steve CindyCrosby about 13 hours ago
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      Jesus H Freaking Christ!!. Not a day goes by without someone writing an article about Arsenal on this site. Geez people enough is enough. If people buy their merchandizes as much as they write about them, the club would have enough money to buy any player they want. I’m an Arsenal fan people and i want to see them do well, but the constant articles about who/what/when/how about Wenger and the team is reaching ridiculous levels. At end of every season, only one team is satisfied and the journey begins all over again. Just enjoy the journey and stop with the constant second-guessing.
      Jesus H Freaking Christ!!. Not a day goes by without someone writing an article about Arsenal on this site. Geez people enough is enough. If people buy their merchandizes as much as they write about them, the club would have enough money to buy any player they want. I’m an Arsenal fan people and i want to see them do well, but the constant articles about who/what/when/how about Wenger and the team is reaching ridiculous levels. At end of every season, only one team is satisfied and the journey begins all over again. Just enjoy the journey and stop with the constant second-guessing. Edit Comment Cancel
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            Brian Son about 11 hours ago
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            Isn’t that a good thing? At least the community cares enough to be active and willing to throw up their thoughts and opinions. I’d rather have this than a community that sits back and sleeps during the off-season.
            Isn’t that a good thing? At least the community cares enough to be active and willing to throw up their thoughts and opinions. I’d rather have this than a community that sits back and sleeps during the off-season. Edit Comment Cancel
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            Mac Mohan about 10 hours ago
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            Ha ha this is a pre-season euphoria.It will dry up soon.
            Ha ha this is a pre-season euphoria.It will dry up soon. Edit Comment Cancel
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            tumang bokaba about 8 hours ago
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            try writting one on people (ie. yoursel) being fed up with Arsenal articles and see how far you go on that.
            try writting one on people (ie. yoursel) being fed up with Arsenal articles and see how far you go on that. Edit Comment Cancel
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            Mustapha Phag about 6 hours ago
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            Steve Cindy Crosby why dont you read something else if you are not happy with Arsenal fans debating whats going on.
            There are some good knitting or dressmaking websites on the net, and as a self proclaimed admirer of yourself you should be able to knit a nice tight scarf to wrap around your neck
            Steve Cindy Crosby why dont you read something else if you are not happy with Arsenal fans debating whats going on. There are some good knitting or dressmaking websites on the net, and as a self proclaimed admirer of yourself you should be able to knit a nice tight scarf to wrap around your neck Edit Comment Cancel
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            Alex Dimond about 4 hours ago
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            Crikey steve, you must be a barrel of laughs when you discuss football with your mates!
            Crikey steve, you must be a barrel of laughs when you discuss football with your mates! Edit Comment Cancel
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      Joe G about 12 hours ago
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      According to several good sources (not The Sun), Wenger has plans to buy some defensive reinforcements before the season begins. It’s entirely likely that he’s just waited because he wanted to see where he needed reinforcements most after preseason friendlies. Arsenal are still linked with Hangeland, and now Matuidi and Vieira as well. It seems like a safe bet that Arsenal will shore up the defense in the summer, and perhaps again in January if they don’t do enough now.
      According to several good sources (not The Sun), Wenger has plans to buy some defensive reinforcements before the season begins. It’s entirely likely that he’s just waited because he wanted to see where he needed reinforcements most after preseason friendlies. Arsenal are still linked with Hangeland, and now Matuidi and Vieira as well. It seems like a safe bet that Arsenal will shore up the defense in the summer, and perhaps again in January if they don’t do enough now. Edit Comment Cancel
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            Alex Dimond about 4 hours ago
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            Matuidi is a great player, although I’m a bit worried he is slightly undersized for the Premier League. Nevertheless, I think signing him alongside Vieira would be a great long term move for the club.
            Matuidi is a great player, although I’m a bit worried he is slightly undersized for the Premier League. Nevertheless, I think signing him alongside Vieira would be a great long term move for the club. Edit Comment Cancel
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      Maire Ofeire about 4 hours ago
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      I liked this article Alex – good balanced review.
      And unlike most of the rubbish I’ve read especially in the crap that is the tabloids, you highlighted the fact that Adebayor and Toure were causing trouble in the dressing room. I can’t find the article now but apparently Wenger has admitted that the African contingent were causing too much upset in the dressing room so he broke them up. I actually don’t think Eboue is a trouble maker off the pitch so he is been sold for football reasons.
      I do think we will see another experienced CB come in because Wenger is still trying to offload Senderos. I expect to see Matuidi as well and wouldn’t at all be adverse to see Vieira coming back.
      I’m not too pushed about another forward coming in as I think we can get goals but we certainly need to shore up big time at the back.
      I liked this article Alex – good balanced review. And unlike most of the rubbish I’ve read especially in the crap that is the tabloids, you highlighted the fact that Adebayor and Toure were causing trouble in the dressing room. I can’t find the article now but apparently Wenger has admitted that the African contingent were causing too much upset in the dressing room so he broke them up. I actually don’t think Eboue is a trouble maker off the pitch so he is been sold for football reasons. I do think we will see another experienced CB come in because Wenger is still trying to offload Senderos. I expect to see Matuidi as well and wouldn’t at all be adverse to see Vieira coming back. I’m not too pushed about another forward coming in as I think we can get goals but we certainly need to shore up big time at the back. Edit Comment Cancel
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            Alex Dimond about 2 hours ago
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            Thanks Maire. Totally agree, I think Wenger is still waiting to see who he manages to offload before he makes his own purchases. Knowing him, he already has all his targets identified, it’s just a case of waiting to see what he is working with before he starts negotiations.
            Arsenal clearly need a DM and CB. Matuidi would be a great buy (always admired him whenever I’ve watched St. Etienne) although his height does concern me slightly. He is a bit of Lass Diarra Mk II, and we know how that ended for Wenger…
            Hangeland seems the obvious CB buy, mainly because of his height and Prem experience, but Wenger rarely seems to make the obvious move. I wonder if he’ll move for another European (Santacroce?) or even hijack City’s Lescott pursuit instead?
            Thanks Maire. Totally agree, I think Wenger is still waiting to see who he manages to offload before he makes his own purchases. Knowing him, he already has all his targets identified, it’s just a case of waiting to see what he is working with before he starts negotiations. Arsenal clearly need a DM and CB. Matuidi would be a great buy (always admired him whenever I’ve watched St. Etienne) although his height does concern me slightly. He is a bit of Lass Diarra Mk II, and we know how that ended for Wenger… Hangeland seems the obvious CB buy, mainly because of his height and Prem experience, but Wenger rarely seems to make the obvious move. I wonder if he’ll move for another European (Santacroce?) or even hijack City’s Lescott pursuit instead? Edit Comment Cancel
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                  Maire Ofeire about 2 hours ago
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                  I honestly though Matuidi would be signed by now, thought it was a done deal considering the link with Comolli.
                  I don’t think Arsenal would hijack Lescott’s move, one because we can’t compete money wise with City and secondly it seems that Everton don’t want to lose Lescott and its not really Wenger’s style to overly unsettle players.
                  I think this week could see a lot of movement at Arsenal because Wenger will want to get the squad altogether for the game against Valencia.
                  I honestly though Matuidi would be signed by now, thought it was a done deal considering the link with Comolli. I don’t think Arsenal would hijack Lescott’s move, one because we can’t compete money wise with City and secondly it seems that Everton don’t want to lose Lescott and its not really Wenger’s style to overly unsettle players. I think this week could see a lot of movement at Arsenal because Wenger will want to get the squad altogether for the game against Valencia. Edit Comment Cancel
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Written on August 02, 2009
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Few clubs, and perhaps even fewer managers, provoke such conflicting opinions as Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. To some, the club plays beautiful football but its playing staff lack the resilience and mental strength to win the game’s big prizes. To others, their brand of football is just a bit of experience and a dose of good fortune away from winning every trophy they compete for.

As for the manager, even Arsenal’s fans sometimes seem divided about the direction Wenger is leading the club. Some are unquestioning in their faith to his vision. Others are less impressed — frustrated by his apparent refusal to pursue expensive signings and outright angered by the misguided faith he appears to have in his young charges.

Deliciously, it often seems the 59-year-old’s comments only serve to provide ammunition for both sides of the argument. This summer has proved no different.

“This team has improved a lot as compared to last season. They played 21 games unbeaten from November until the end of the season. We reached the semi-final of the Champions League, FA Cup,” Wenger has been quick to point out. “We have a squad which is very ambitious. We have the basic quality, they have international quality and are under 23, so their best time is now.”

Certainly Arsenal impressed during periods of last season, and got better after an abysmal start that saw some shocking defeats (most notably, and embarrassingly, at home to Hull City). But while they may have managed all the feats Wenger mentions, they also finished a full 18 points adrift of eventual champions Manchester United.

For a club that believes it is a full member of the “Big Four” that is simply not good enough. Continue reading

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , | Leave a comment

Ancelotti Right to Dump Chelsea’s 4-3-3 for Diamond Formation that Could Bring Richer Rewards

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: (Crikey, that sounds a bit pretentious, doesn’t it?) Ancelotti has arrived at Chelsea to quite a fanfare, and has wasted no time in stamping his authority on the club. The 4-3-3 tactic is out, replaced by Ancelotti’s preferred diamond formation. Will this be the change Chelsea need to get back to football’s summit?

Ancelotti: Comfortable enough in his own ability to make big decisions, even early in his Chelsea career...

Ancelotti: Comfortable enough in his own ability to make big decisions, even early in his Chelsea career...

Chelsea’s friendly with Inter Milan last Wednesday, in the unfamiliar surroundings of California’s Rose Bowl stadium, represented the second opportunity for new manager Carlo Ancelotti to assess the quality of the squad at his disposal. For the interested onlookers, it was also a second opportunity to see how the Italian might chance things tactically for the Blues.

While Ancelotti’s four predecessors have all tended to stick with variations on a 4-3-3 formation that took Chelsea to the semi-finals of the Champions League five times in the last six years, the signs so far suggest the former AC Milan boss will buck the trend and introduce the 4-4-2 ‘diamond’ formation that lead the Italian to two Champions League titles at the San Siro.

Ancelotti first unveiled his ‘Blue diamond’ formation as Chelsea took on the Seattle Sounders the previous Saturday, and saw his side grab a fairly comfortable 2-0 win, one that was repeated four days later against the slighter sterner test of Inter.

Even at this early stage of the season, it seems the new formation might be agreeable to the type of players at Chelsea’s disposal, and could just enable Chelsea to become even more successful than they have managed in recent years.

Ancelotti’s diamond sees one midfielder in a deep-lying role, tasked with winning and distributing possession. With Milan, this role was generally filled by Andrea Pirlo. Against Seattle, Ancelotti employed Deco in the position — an intriguing prospect ahead of the new season. Against Inter, it was John Obi Mikel who performed the role, a player Ancelotti has already praised for his all-round abilities. The Nigerian looks likely to start the new season in the role, but many fans will want to see how Deco’s vision and skill might impact on the position. Continue reading

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , | 1 Comment