Posts Tagged ‘Arsene Wenger’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Blackburn

10/08/2010

Blackburn

Last Season: 10th

New Signings: Fernandez, Diouf

Key Player: David Dunn

One To Watch: Phil Jones

Needs A Big Year: Morten Gamst Pedersen

Would Quite Like: More entertainment and maybe a cup run somewhere along the way. Another six points from Bolton.

Slap me.

Prediction: 11th

Thoughts: Love him or loathe him (and I’m most certainly in the latter camp) you can’t deny that Fat Big Sam Allardyce is quite good at getting decent results on a smallish budget. After doing it for years at Bolton he was pretty rubbish at Newcastle but is now making Blackburn into a hard to beat side who consistently can aim for top half finishes. To be honest at the moment that makes them quite a dull team to preview. There’s not much chance of them being relegated but they’re not going to be pushing for a Europa league spot either.

Firmly in the 9th to 14th section you can take your pick of where in those positions they’ll finish. A few wins at home against the good sides, the bottom end of the fair play league and a bust up with Arsene Wenger is the sum of what you can expect at Ewood Park this year. Continued progress from young centre back Phil Jones and Swedish midfielder Martin Olsson coupled with a fit David Dunn (30 games+) should see something like a 11th place finish. Next.

T.

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Bon Anniversaire Arsene Wenger (several days late…)

28/10/2009

This has been in my drafts folder for ages. It was originally meant to be posted for Wenger’s 13th anniversary at Arsenal a few weeks ago. It was then meant to be put up on his birthday last week. As you can see neither happened but better late than never. It was Wenger’s 60th birthday and what better reason for a few lists? 15 great signings, 15 poor signings, 15 memorable games and 15 great goals (plus a few extra chucked in). Enjoy!

arsene-wenger-1996

Arsene Who?

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15 Great Signings:

1. Patrick VieiraA relatively unknown player before he joined from AC Milan, Wenger got Arsenal to sign him before he joined himself. A decade of midfield dominance, spats with Roy Keane and the Neviller and countless trophies followed. Managed to get £14 million from Juve once his knees were knackered too.

2. Thierry Henry369 games, 226 goals. Best player in the Premier League for about five years.

3. Freddie LjungbergHis red hair, his run of form in the 2001/02 season after Pires got injured, his debut goal against Man Utd, those underwear ads. A great player until his hip injury.

ljungberg-red-hair

It gave him his power.

4. Nicolas AnelkaHe left on bad terms but the money received bought Henry and Pires. The first example of Wenger buying cheap and making ridiculous profit. £22.5million profit in this case.

5. Marc Overmars He was almost too good for Arsenal while he was there and it was no surprise to see Barcelona snap him up for £25million. Scored the winner at Old Trafford in 1998 that helped overcome a 12 point deficit and was generally very, very quick.

6. Robert PiresHis form in 2001/02 earnt him Footballer of the Year honours and he was arguably just as good in 2003/04. Scored a silly amount of goals from the wing, ran oddly, had a cool goatee strip thing  and apparently knew the French for va va voom. Always felt he left too early as Wenger wouldn’t give him a two year deal. Still doing the business at Villarreal.

7. Cesc FabregasPinched from Barcelona, and will probably head back there one day but for now has developed into one of the best midfielders in the world. Perhaps the prime example of Wenger buying a young player and making him world class. Club captain at 22, the best is yet to come.

8. Andrey ArshavinProbably the first current world class player Wenger has bought. Has already made a significant impact in his short time at the Emirates, even if he can be a right lazy bugger sometimes.

9. Jens LehmannHe was immense in 2005/06 when battling to be ahead of Kahn for Germany. Also provided much hilarity as well as the odd moment of madness in his five years at the club.

10. Emmanuel Petit‘He’s blond, he’s quick, his name’s a porno flick. Emmanuel, Emmanuel.’ Had one of the funnier chants of recent times. Signed as a centre back, made a midfielder – he formed a fearsome partnership with Patrick Vieira for three short seasons.

11. Sol Campbell You can’t beat signing your local rival’s captain on a free transfer.

12. LaurenHard. As. Nails. An ice cool penalty taker too.

13. Kolo Toure Bought for £150K. Sold after seven years for £16million. Was fantastic at centre back until he got malaria and developed a fat arse.

14. KanuRidiculous skills. Could do things with a ball you never thought possible.

15. Robin van PersieAbsolutely loves to blast it. As a result has scored some brilliant goals in his time at Arsenal.

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15 Not So Great Signings:

1. Alberto MendezBought from the mighty FC Feucht. I remember reading Wenger could have bought the whole club for the £250K he paid for Mendez. Made no impact.

2. Nelson VivasCost Arsenal the title in 1999 with his mistake for Hasselbaink’s  winner vs Leeds late on in the season. Always got booked too.

3. Igors StepanovsMan Utd 6-1 Arsenal is all you need to know.

4. Francis JeffersThe supposed fox in the box managed four league goals from 2001-04, a time when Arsenal scored by the bucketload. It would have helped if he’d played more than 22 times. £8million he cost!

5. Pascal CyganWasn’t that bad but I remember how I used to shudder every time I saw his name on the team sheet. If you though Vidic had a slow turning circle…

6. Mickael SilvestreWhy? What purpose does he serve? He won’t even get a link.

silvestre

Just retire already...

7. Tomas DanileviciusA headbutt in a pre-season seems to ring a bell but that might have been after he left for Dunfermline. Played twice, didn’t score. The kind of random Wenger gamble where you wish we’d just saved the £1m.

8. Jeremie Aliadiere Still only 26, he pissed about at Arsenal for eight long years, never learning from any of the amazing strikers at the club and scoring one league goal in his time. You always knew Wenger was basically giving away a game when Aliadiere started up front.

9. Jose ReyesA bit dim, which meant he was the victim of many a prank. Involved in the Aragones ‘black shit’ saga too which meant his Arsenal career was over before it began given that Henry hated him. Scored a great debut goal against Chelsea though.

10. Amaury BischoffNormally Arsenal sign midfielders and then injure them. They tried the opposite and bought someone already injured. Needless to say he left after a year. He did play a game apparently.

11. Christopher WrehGeorge Weah’s cousin. The family talent had obviously been diluted. Did score a couple of important goals in the 1997/98 season to be fair.

12. Kaba DiawaraAll I remember was that he never scored, hit the post several times and was then still sold back to France for half a million profit.

13. Richard WrightBig ears, crap goalkeeper.

14. Abou DiabyThere has to be someone current. Possibly the most frustrating player I’ve seen. could be excellent. Isn’t.

15. Rami ShaabanJust where does he find these keepers from?!

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15 Memorable Games (not all good):

1. Arsenal 1-2 Man Utd 14/04/99The one with everything, but especially the Arsenal missed penalty that would give Man Utd the momentum for the treble.

giggs-fa-cup-arsenal

A good but overrated goal. Also, I didn't want to inflict the Giggs rug on you.

2. Man Utd 0-0 Arsenal 21/09/03 The one where Ruud missed a penalty and Arsenal started their 49 game unbeaten run.

keown-van-nistelrooy

Rarrrrr.

3. Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal 17/05/06The one where they were 14 minutes from being Champions of Europe.

4. Arsenal 2-1 Leicester 15/05/04The one where they went the season undefeated.

5. Real Madrid 0-1 Arsenal 21/02/06The one were they beat Real Madrid on their own patch.

6. Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal 08/04/08The one where they were robbed in the Champions League.

7. Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea 06/04/04The one where they dominated three of the four halves but still got knocked out.

8. Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea 04/05/02The one where they won their second double in four years.

9. Man Utd 0-1 Arsenal 08/05/02The one where they won the league in Manchester.

10. Inter 1-5 Arsenal 25/11/03The one where they produced the most unexpected scoreline I’d seen in years.

11. Leicester 3-3 Arsenal 27/08/97The one with the Bergkamp hat-trick.

12. Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal 13/11/04The one where we’ll score one more than you.

13. Arsenal 1-2 Liverpool 12/05/01 The one where Michael Owen stole the FA Cup.

14. Arsenal 7-0 Everton 11/05/05 – The one with the biggest league win under Wenger.

15. Arsenal 0-0 Man Utd 21/05/05 – The one where Arsenal stole the FA Cup.

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15 Memorable Goals (in no particular order):

1. Thierry Henry vs Man Utd 30/09/00. Probably the first classic Henry Arsenal goal. He was just on the cusp of dominating the Premier League when he scored this.

2. Tony Adams vs Everton 03/05/98. Conclusive proof that Arsenal had shed their boring tag. Steve Bould chipped, yes chipped a through ball to Tony Adams who chested it before smashing a left foot volley home. The goal that sealed Wenger’s first title.

3. Dennis Bergkamp vs Newcastle 02/03/02. I remember people at the time saying he didn’t mean this. Fools.

4. Robert Pires vs Southampton 07/05/03. I think this gets underrated as it was a meaningless game before the 2003 Cup Final but few players could have done such a lob with three touches let alone one.

5. Ray Parlour vs Chelsea 04/05/02. Romford Pele scored few but when he did they were usually special. Tim Lovejoy gets slated to this day for saying ‘Oh, it’s only Ray Parlour’ just before he scored.

6. Dennis Bergkamp vs Sunderland 15/01/97. The non-flying Dutchman scored many an amazing goal for Arsenal but his trademark was opening up his body and curling one round the keeper into the top corner from about 25 yards. Like this.

7. Robert Pires vs Aston Villa 17/03/02. Any goal that makes Peter Schmeichel look silly gets the thumbs up from me. Pires was quite possibly the best player in Europe in the spring of 2002.

8. Freddie Ljungberg vs Juventus 04/12/01. I remember being at work during this match and trying to check my phone for text updates. Little did I know what a special goal I’d see when I got home. Just watch Bergkamp’s skill again and again and again…

9. Eduardo vs Burnley 08/03/09. Out for a year and he comes back with this. Quite recent but no less special for it.

10. Thierry Henry vs Spurs 16/11/02. Hmm how to wind up your rivals? I know, run 75 yards, dribbling past half the team before scoring, and then run all the way back and celebrate in front of the Spurs fans. Nice.

11. Dennis Bergkamp vs Leicester 27/08/97. One third of the greatest hat-trick in Premier League history.

12. Robin Van Persie vs Charlton 30/09/06. Trust me, he didn’t shin it. Well not on purpose anyway.

13. Ray Parlour vs Valencia 04/04/01. Back when Valencia and John Carew used to screw Arsenal over every couple of years there were many a disappointing night in Europe. This special from Ray Parlour however resulted in one of the most mental celebrations I’ve ever witnessed in pub.

14. Emmanuel Adebayor vs Villarreal 07/04/09. Yes he’s a prick but there’s no denying this was a great goal. The last good thing he did in an Arsenal shirt.

15. Thierry Henry vs Liverpool 09/04/04. Dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League in consecutive games to Man Utd and Chelsea of all teams, Arsenal were 2-1 down at half-time at home to Liverpool with an unbeaten record to protect. Pires quickly equalised, before Henry gave Carragher the runaround for an amazing third. He’d complete his hat-trick later on and Arsenal went on to win the league unbeaten.

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Want a few more? Ok then. Pires vs Liverpool, Henry vs Inter, Fabregas vs Spurs, Henry vs Real MadridKanu vs Chelsea & Henry vs Charlton.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Leads let slip, beached whales & more…

27/10/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Liverpool deserved to beat Man Utd yesterday but I think Fergie was right to have another moan at the ref. For me Carragher should definitely have been sent off for the tug on Owen in the second half. It can be argued that it wasn’t a clear opportunity but I think he would have got a shot away before the other defenders closed him down, they were quite far away.

His hatchet job on Carrick in the first half was a penalty – Carrick just got to the ball before Carragher and you just can’t go lunging in like that in that area of the pitch. He somehow got away with both but once more looked like the weak link in the Liverpool defence. The Vidic and Mascherano reds were both justified I reckon – I can’t believe the Serb has been sent off in three straight games against Liverpool!

It was clear that both managers had gambled with their unfit strikers and from what we saw it was clear that Torres had recovered more than Rooney. The Spaniard took his goal magnificently, both out-pacing and out-muscling Rio Ferdinand. He didn’t do much else during the game but it was enough. It’s a tough call between him and Drogba for title of best striker in the league but I’d possibly veer on the side of Torres right now. A good result for Liverpool but lets see if they can do the same away at Fulham next week.

torres-liverpool-man-utd

Eats Vidic and Rio for breakfast.

Man Utd meanwhile have a few areas of concern. Both centre backs seem currently susceptible to pace (not something you’d previously say for Rio) so what chance Jonny Evans coming in for a bit? In midfield Fletcher was once more missed – the one bright note being that he and the soon to return Hargreaves will be a fearsome partnership. Up front, Rooney can be forgiven for being unfit but he has been out of form regardless. Berbatov on the other hand did his usual thing of nice flicks and passes but no real cutting edge. He doesn’t really do it in the big games does he?

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2. For the third time in a week Arsenal completely switched off in a game where they went ahead and for the second time in a week it proved costly. After getting away with against Birmingham, they conceded a last minute equaliser against AZ Alkmaar in midweek Champions League action. They’ve learnt their lesson said the players. So what should happen yesterday against West Ham? A comfortable 2-0 lead with 16 minute left and one poorly dealt with free kick and one silly challenge in the box later and they find themselves going back to north London with one point instead of three.

The free kick for West Ham’s first was soft but Mannone made the cardinal sin of palming the ball back into the danger area instead of out wide. Cole pokes it home, game on. Then with ten minutes to go Alex Song decides to clip the back of Cole’s heels in the box with no real danger. Cole went down, penalty given, penalty scored. Wenger was rightly furious with his team after the game and it is these kind of games which results in Arsenal not properly challenging for titles. For 75 minutes Arsenal dominated but once again couldn’t close it out. They won’t win anything until they learn how to.

wenger-annoyed

They just never learn...

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3. Man City ensured Arsenal weren’t the only title pretenders to blow a two goal lead. Mark Hughes will be concerned at how his £24m centre back Joleon Lescott is a bit rubbish at the moment – Man City have a definite vulnerability in the air. Their form isn’t particularly good either with three successive draws and one win in five.

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4. Spurs surprisingly lost to Stoke at home and it was particularly annoying for me as I had Abdoulaye Faye’s nine fantasy football points marooned on the bench (I didn’t think Stoke would do anything). My point is that given Spurs have lost just twice at home since Redknapp took over and Stoke were winless away in their first four games, it shows just how good (and unexpected and fortuitous) a result it was for Pulis’ team. I certainly wasn’t expecting it and it confirms Stoke should be pushing for a top half finish this season.

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5. Congrats to Bobby Zamora, who I don’t think anyone will beat for miss of the season award. Wow. I know there are strikers who are lauded for their hard work rather than goals (see Heskey, Emile Ivanhoe) but that was ridiculous. To be fair he has already equalled his goal tally for last season but I reckon it’s a long time since the chant “When the balls hits the goal, it’s not Shearer or Cole it’s Zamora” was heard (not least because Shearer and Cole are retired but you know what I mean). Isn’t it now “When the ball hits your head and you’re sat in row Z, that’s Zamora”?

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6. Chelsea gave Blackburn a spanking and from a fantasy perspective it was good to see Frank Lampard return to goalscoring form with a double. I picked him as captain so was pleased with the 28 points he scored. It’s a little early to say for sure but based on that game it appeared that the return of Joe Cole helped as it allowed Lampard to play deeper and make his undetected runs.

Cole himself was excellent too and should stay in the hole behind Drogba and Anelka rather than on the left. He’s not quite at full fitness yet but I reckon Deco should be fearing for his place. I agree with what the Football Guy says – Paul Robinson is just shocking on long shots. I know he’s fat but it be that hard to shift all that body mass. On second thoughts…

paul-robinson-blackburn-beached-whale

Try as he might, Paul 'the beached whale' Robinson just couldn't shift himself to save the shot...

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – European Super League

27/08/2009

Last week, Arsene Wenger predicted that the Champions League would not exist in ten years time, instead being replaced by a European Super League. It wouldn’t be a surprise to be honest, I’m sure most of the major European clubs want a competition where they have more control and income than from the current UEFA format. Anyway, this formed the theme for this week’s Guardian photoshop gallery comepetition, the entry for which is below.

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It's Come Dine With Me as Wenger predicts a European Supper League...

It's Come Dine With Me as Wenger predicts a European Supper League...

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The rest can be found here (lots of superhero entries).

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T.

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Archive

Champions League Semi Final Preview – Manchester United vs. Arsenal

28/04/2009
Sitting comfortably gentlemen

Sitting comfortably gentlemen?

Wednesday night’s meeting between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford will be the first time the two sides have faced each other in European competition. The all English match-up of the past few years – Liverpool vs Chelsea – ,failed to inspire the European audience until the cracker of a game two weeks ago. This time around we have the two teams that have been playing the creme-de-la-creme of Premier League football for the past 10 years. In Wenger and Fergie you couldn’t have two different managers, yet both respected as the best in the business by pundits, fans, players and peers across the world. This is the all Premier League fixture the world has been waiting to watch.

As a Gooner, I must say I feel both the excitement and sickness that comes whenever we are about to face Man U in a big match. I nearly forgot how much I dislike Rooney & co. following the past few seasons of playing second fiddle to a top class Man U team that were superseded in my distaste by those bunch of shit bags over in West London. But then I remember Van Nistelrooy cheating us, Giggs showing his carpet chest, Yorke embarrassing us and the brute rubbing salt in the wounds. The satisfaction of  beating a team that has caused me such pain (1999) and is arguably the best in the world has reminded me how much we must beat them and make sure Cristiano Ronaldo cries. Amy Lawrence over at the Guardian has a decent article looking back on the hate-filled meetings of the past between these two. I doubt we will see anything like the Vieira versus Keano or Keown versus Ruud anytime soon.

Both clubs’ familiarity with each other’s players, style and tactics will make the home and away nature of the tie less important. Arsenal have recently won at Old Trafford and United have got good results at Highbury, then the Emirates, over the past few years. It is always better having the second leg at home because at least you know what you have to do in front of your own fans, but if I am honest, I will not be confident of qualifying for the final even if the Gooners take a one-nil lead from the first leg.

Tactical Analysis – Arshavin-less Arsenal

Regular readers of this blog will know how much we rate Andrei Arshavin. He has made a much bigger impact than even we could have hoped, defying Arsene Wenger’s belief that it takes foreign players at least half a year to adapt to the Premier League. Arshavin has brought much needed creativity, hunger, experience and as we saw against Liverpool – top class finishes. But come Wednesday, Arsene will have to alter the side to compensate for Shava’s cup-tied status. Here are some of the main tactical considerations for Arsene:

 

Angry Cesc

Angry Cesc (on a sidenote doesn't the guy behind look like a white Rio Ferdinand?)

Fabregas

Since the Spanish general has come back from injury, Arsene has for some reason been determined to play him in an advanced position just behind the lone striker. In his first game back Cesc assisted two Adebayor goals in this position but since then he really hasn’t convinced me. He had a pretty anonymous game against Villareal in Spain and spent huge periods of the Liverpool game being anonymous. Cesc’s two goals against Boro at the weekend will probably confound Wenger’s belief that he should remain playing there but for me that is a waste of his talents. Fabregas is at his devastating best when collecting the ball from deep utilising his full range of passing. Further upfield he can be dangerous playing in that crucial through-ball but is also more likely to see the game pass by him should Arsenal struggle to dominate possession. However, with Van Persie missing out and Arshavin cup-tied, Arsenal don’t have any better options to put in the ‘hole’ of a 4-5-1.

 

But mum, I am so excited!

But mum, I am so excited!

Ronaldo versus Gibbs

Kieran Gibbs has done fantastically well for the Gunners since coming in for the injured Gael Clichy. He managed to get a few Carling Cup and FA Cup games under his belt before being called on to replace Clichy and I am sure that has benefited him. Gibbs, like Ashley Cole, has moved to full back from a more advanced position (formerly a left winger) and his strengths going forward are obvious to see. His crossing is certainly better than Clichy’s, although that isn’t saying much. Defensively he hasn’t done too badly but I fear that Fergie will do the obvious and deploy Ronaldo down the right hand side. That will be a big ask of Gibbs, especially in a Champions League semi final. If he takes note from Cole’s good performances against Ronaldo, he will keep his nerve and avoid doing anything rash.

The key for Arsenal keeping Ronaldo at bay should be to attack United down the left hand side as often as possible. It looks likely that Rafael will play, who like Gibbs has an abundance of talent, yet also suffers from a lack of experience at this level. Nasri, who will start on the left, loves to come inside so Gibbs will be the threat going forward. This might leave Arsenal exposed but may force Fergie to deploy Rooney on the right to give more defensive cover.

Walcott versus Evra

Pat Rice Evra is a very good player and probably someone the likes of Gibbs would look up to. Neverthless, I think Evra is someone that can be exposed if you take him on. Walcott (Theo, Theo) is coming of age and has looked extremely confident and decisive since returning from injury. My theory is that Theo charges up like a Duracell Bunny every time he is injured and then comes back at least two times  better than he was before. Anyhow, Theo has the opportunity to a) provide Arsenal with a real threat down the flanks; b) make Evra look like a chump; and c) become such a legend that we will even consider let him grow that bum fluff beard that he likes to connect up with his sideburns to look like a proper rudeboy.

 

Will Nemanja be able to handle the kids?

Will Nemanja be able to handle the kids?

A test of defensive resolve

Arsenal have a defensive injury crisis that sees Gallas, Sagna, Clichy and Fish Face all sidelined. However, the last time Arsenal got to the Champions League final they were playing a midfielder at left back (Flamini), Eboue at right back, Toure and the liability formerly known as Philip Senderos. Maybe, just maybe, Arsene can replicate a similar kind of lineup with the current crop. Although Djorou’s timely return is a boost in place of Fish Face, the biggest boost is the recovery of Manuel Almunia from injury. Fabianski has had a torrid few weeks and clearly can’t handle the pressure. This has reinforced my belief that sub keepers should be experienced ageing keepers. Fabianski should be out on loan and Arsenal’s sub keeper should be someone like Cudicini.

Regardless, United are back to scoring ways and Wednesday night will be a big ask for Arsenal defensively. Song will provide much needed protection and I expect him to excel in his role as he has over the past couple of months. If the Gunners can restrict United to just a goal at Old Trafford, they can build on that defensive solifity for the second leg.

As for United, despite seeing the formidable duo of Vidic and Ferdinand return, they looked anything but solid against Spurs at the weekend. Adebayor will stretch the centre backs with his runs and Ferdinand has remarked before that Togonator is one of the trickiest players he has come up against. United’s best bet will be to snuff the Arsenal midfield out by deploying the highly charged duo of Fletcher and Park while allowing Carrick to marshal Fabregas and provide distribution. Chelsea put this tactic to great effect in the recent FA cup semi final, drawing Arsenal into their own game.

The Call

United haven’t been playing well, Arsenal have. Does that really matter? Who knows? Arsenal have a good record against the top teams this season but these two sides won’t fear each other. I hate making predictions for my own team but I reckon this will be a score draw or could be edged by United, 1-0 or 2-1. Regardless, I think it will still be all to play for in the second leg at the Emirates. The less I say the better.

What’s left to ponder?

Will Wenger and Fergie share a glass of wine after the game?

What will be Arsenal-player-that-shall-remain-unknown’s food of choice when confronting Fergie?

Will Ryan Giggs be a proper gentleman and give back his undeserved PFA Player of the Year award?

Will Fish Face Silvestre come back to haunt his former employers by coming on as last minute sub and scoring with his eight inch gills?

Will Wayne Rooney be identified as the carrier of the swine virus and be promptly put down at the half time interval?

rooney-fitness-doubt-for-world-cup-2

P.

Mine’s Bigger Than Yours – Super Squads

29/03/2009

There was quite a big feature in the Observer today focusing on squad sizes (read it, it’s a very good article), with particular focus on Liverpool who have a massive 62 professionals on their books. Closely following are Arsenal with 59, Man Utd with 51 and Sunderland, Chelsea and Spurs all in the mid-forties. Now big clubs have always had big squads and to be fair a lot of those Liverpool 62 are youth players and reserves but it can’t be a good situation long term. Snapping up young players is nothing new but it seems to have reached the stage of just stockpiling players so other teams can’t have them. The clubs can’t lose – if the players develop to be world/international/Premier League class then they profit from playing them and then selling them on whereas if they don’t make the grade then all they’ve lost is the cost of wages which won’t be high at young age. It’s worth gambling £30K a year on a promising teenager just if it means he’ll be on your books rather than your rivals’.

Those sticker albums are only going to get harder to fill...

Those sticker albums are only going to get harder to fill...

One of the ways Man Utd became so rich was through selling players who didn’t make the grade at Old Trafford but were good enough for lesser teams. The number of guys Fergie would get a million or two for just because they had played once or twice for the United first team was huge. The likes of Chris Casper, Terry Cooke and John Curtis had never done anything whilst at Old Trafford, but Fergie would use his wily ways to persuade some lower league manager that they were worth having. I remember in the 90s when Milan in particular used to buy top players just so no one else could have them. This was back in the days of the three foreigner rule, yet they would buy guys like Papin, Savicevic, Boban (one of my favourite ever players) and Desailly even though they still had Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. Since then, the loosening of European borders has only made it easier for clubs to buy whoever they want from wherever they want.

 

Gullit, Rijkaard, Savicevic, Baresi, Van Basten, Papin, Boban - Awesome

Gullit, Rijkaard, Savicevic, Baresi, Van Basten, Papin, Boban - Awesome

 

Could there be some kind of squad limit introduced? Countries are forced to take just 23 to a World Cup or European Championship so why can’t there be a limit for clubs as well? The big four will know about the 25 man limit for the Champions League (though that doesn’t have to include home grown players who automatically get entered on the B list) so why can’t it be extended to the Premier League? How about using the US roster system? NBA teams are limited to 15 players (3 sets of starting line up), baseball teams have 40 while American football has 53 as a limit. With the latter two it gets a bit complicated as you have pitching/batting and offense/defence specialities but the basketball level seems about right.

You’d have to have the worst injury crisis known to man to get through three different starting line ups in a season.  A cursory glance show Man City have used the most players in the league this season with 32 followed by West Ham with 31 and Chelsea and Sunderland with 30. Villa have used the fewest with just 21. As if to prove our point, Liverpool have used only 24 of their 62 players in the league – not even half. Even accounting for the 14 out on loan, that’s still a lot of unsatisfied guys.

When you factor in the fact that most sides tend to be settled, with at least seven or eight players starting the majority of games, the argument for huge squads doesn’t really stand up. Even factoring in cup competitions doesn’t really change things. Man City haven’t used anyone in three cup competitions who hasn’t played in the league. Even Arsenal, notorious for young, understrength teams in Carling Cup and dead rubber European ties have still used just 33 in total.

The bigger the squad the further the camera.

The bigger the squad the further the camera.

Football is big business now so you don’t imagine the clubs doing anything to make themselves weaker but it would be great if some kind of limit was put in place. A bit more competition between clubs is always healthy and it would mean less young players on the scrapheap too. Somehow I doubt this will happen though and what are the odds that Liverpool increase their squad size this summer instead?

 

T.

The Six Pointer – Van Persie’s Rep, Villa’s Routine & more…

02/03/2009

That was the weekend that was.

 

1. Martin O’Neill must be sick of Stoke’s last minute antics this season. Following their stoppage time winner in the August game at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke remarkably came from two goals down at Villa Park with four minutes to go to draw a match they had no right to get anything from. O’Neill must be a touch concerned at Villa’s relative lack of form at a key time of the season. They are now without a win in five in all competitions and this run has coincided with the injury to Martin Laursen, a key figure in the side. I doubt Arsenal would have been able to make up an eight point deficit, but now have a chance to cut it to three by the time Villa play next if they manage to beat bottom side West Brom. Whilst Wenger will be delighted at Villa dropping points, he of all people will know what it’s like to be in that situation having conspired to do the same against Spurs in October.

Damnit, not again!

Damnit, not again!

 

2. The Spurs and Villa results over the weekend got me thinking about the importance of having a settled team and not worrying about resting players too much. Of course certain games are a priority and players get tired at this stage of the season but at the same time matches are also about confidence and routine. Both sides could have played a few more first teamers in the UEFA Cup whilst still ensuring not too much effort was made to prevent elimination. Sometimes going seven to ten days without a match isn’t actually all that good as you can lose your touch and match practice. There’s a reason why winning teams are rarely changed and I think both Villa and Spurs might have had better results at the weekend had they played a few more of their first teamers midweek. 

 

3. Rafa now thinks Liverpool would have been closer to Man Utd had Torres been fit for more of the season. That may be so but Man Utd have also had their fair share of injuries with Ronaldo, Rooney and several midfielders all out for good portions. The whole point is that you’re not meant to rely on one player and if Robbie Keane wasn’t the answer/alternative, Rafa should have ensured that someone else was. Fergie’s Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez compared to Rafa’s Torres, El Zhar and N’Gog? I know what I’d choose.

A regular sight

A regular sight

 

4. A week after writing off Gareth Southgate, he oversees one of Middlesbrough’s best results of the season. Boro’s next six games are all against teams around them in the table. They will hope to have pulled a little clear by the end of this run as the two matches that follow are Arsenal and Man Utd. 

 

5. Reputations count for a lot. Robin Van Persie is having a good season but has been guilty of some quite poor misses over the past few games. Had those chances been missed by Bendtner or even Adebayor for that matter we would be highly critical. RVP has escaped (thus far) on account of him producing in big games. However, great player though he is, Van Persie is certainly not prolific. The less said about Arsenal’s 4th consecutive goalless draw the better. Luck would have it that they face West Brom next but then they were meant to beat Sunderland, and Fulham, and… 

 

6. Man City lost yet again away from home and yet again Robinho failed to do anything of note. He hasn’t scored since November and there has been many a muttering about his lack of effort away from the City of Manchester Stadium (he’s only scored twice away). Mark Hughes has built his success on hard working sides and while the Brazilian is a major talent, you feel that he is not one for a relegation battle. City are only six points clear and a lot could still change at the bottom of the table. He’s doubtful with an ankle injury for the next game and it may well be a blessing in disguise.

I hope you didn't expect me to run for that.

I hope you didn't expect me to run for that.

 

T.

 

Edit: Forgot to mention, if you want to hear us on the Football Guy’s podcast discussing the Champions League results from midweek then just download here.


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