Posts Tagged ‘gibbs’

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1 – Na na na na na na…

05/12/2010

Post match thoughts on Arsenal v Fulham.

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Both of Samir Nasri’s goals were wonderfully taken; on each occasion his close control getting him past several players before providing a finish with either foot. I think part of Nasri’s ability to score such goals stems from his comfort shooting off either foot. It doesn’t limit his direction as he knows whichever route he’ll take, there will still be an opportunity to fire a shot on goal. Beyond Andrey Arshavin, there isn’t a player in the Arsenal squad as two footed. This versatility is a big factor in Nasri’s terrific start to the season.

He's run out of fingers to count his goals this season.

Arshavin himself also had a pretty good game, and has also had a pretty good season thus far. Yes he is a luxury and yes he often stands around but he makes things happen and is often a step ahead in terms what he’s trying to pull off. It might be prudent to play someone a bit more defensive in tough away games but at the same time he is more likely to produce something out of nothing.

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Fulham played pretty well on the whole and with a little more ambition could even have won the game. The main tactic of trying to play in Kamara behind the defence didn’t work often (mainly due to Kamara’s tendency to mistime his runs and caught offside) but it did result in Fulham’s goal. I can’t complain that the game wasn’t stopped for Koscielny’s head injury, ultimately he hadn’t fallen to the ground and so it was difficult to know the full extent in the short space of a few seconds.

It was interesting that at 1-1 and with control of the ball in midfield, Fulham would often play it all the way back to Schwarzer in goal. Similarly they would spend an age over every throw and goal kick – it was clear that Mark Hughes considered a draw a good result, but that lack of ambition has seen him become the draw specialist in the Premier League.

Ouch.

I was impressed by Johan Djourou when he came on for Koscielny. He’s been good when he’s played this season but Wenger is obviously being cautious with regards to playing him every game. He was authoritative in the air and seems to have made a conscious change in terms of attacking the ball/player. Clichy and Sagna were also solid, the former having his best game in quite some time. Perhaps the fit again Kieran Gibbs has focussed the Frenchman’s mind somewhat.

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The game was closer than it perhaps should have been but in part this was due to the poor performances of Arsenal’s midfield. Wilshere looked quite tired after playing against Wigan and faded as the game went on. Rosicky was fairly anonymous but neither were as bad as Alex Song who seems to have forgotten what his role is.

There were plenty of misplaced passes from him and his tendency to wander forward unnecessarily remains unabated. This often left the defence exposed both in terms of Fulham attacks but also as an option for them to pass to. He needs a few games where he curbs his attacking instincts, especially if you consider the upcoming games against Man Utd and Chelsea.

Just 72% completed.

The tension made for a better atmosphere in a way. For once Arsenal had got going early in the first half and produced a number of chances (and indeed the goal) which got the crowd going. But as Fulham came back into it, mistakes were made and calls were not received from ref Chris Foy, meaning there was considerable crowd noise generated. The crowd often feeds off the team but I think it works both ways.

I should mention Theo Walcott briefly too. He was only on for 15 minutes but it was one of those horrible games were nothing he did came off. The worst thing was that his job was to play off the last centre back/left back but he seemed unwilling to do that, and simply jogged around not wanting the receive the ball or to make any runs. With Van Persie returning and Nasri and Arshavin in such good form, it’s tricky to see where his starts will come from at the moment.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Arsenal

12/08/2010

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere

Needs  A Big Year: Laurent Koscielny

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts: TThe biggest story at the Emirates this summer was whether Cesc Fabregas would leave Arsenal and join Barcelona. After a fifth year without a trophy and a particularly spineless end to the season, Arsenal’s captain decided he had had enough and was going to rejoin his boyhood team.

Fine you might say, Cesc had given fantastic service and no one could begrudge him wanting to win things. However Barcelona were clearly not well versed in how transfers work, where if one club wants one of the best midfielders in the world, they have to pay what he’s worth, especially if he still has five years left on his contract.

Still an Arsenal player for now.

Instead, there were two derisory bids, and a daily quote from a Barcelona player about how Fabregas was being held prisoner, had Barca DNA, and Arsenal should just let him go. Seeing as Arsenal were very much in the position of power and Barcelona had spent what little money they had on David Villa, it meant Fabregas has to stay another year.

Is this the most important decision of the summer? Well yes and no. Nobody can deny Cesc’s influence and he had his best season for Arsenal, finishing as top scorer having played an advanced role. This will no doubt continue, as whatever his personal ambitions may be he’s professional enough to still do his best for Arsenal.

However the decision not to have a new goalkeeper in place for the opening day game with Liverpool has far greater ramifications. Yes, there’s still over two weeks of the window left, but despite being linked with the likes of Schwarzer and Marchetti, it is not guaranteed that a replacement will come in.

Crap meets crapper.

Manuel Almunia, for all his faults is still better than Lukasz Fabianski. While they are both the proverbial good shot stopper, neither seems able to deal with the mental pressure of big games and the physical pressure of high balls swung into the box. That Wenger views Fabianski as having the attributes of a No.1 keeper is worrying to say the least.

The lack of new keeper and the dearth of cover at centre-back (Campbell, Sylvestre, Gallas and Senderos out – Koscielny and fit again Djourou in) mean the same issues from last season look likely to rear their ugly head. As an Arsenal fan, it’s most frustrating. Knowing we are so close to winning the league but not addressing the clear issues preventing us from doing it is careless to say that least.

If you consider that they lost all four games against United and Chelsea last season, but were still in the running until late throwaway defeats to Wigan and Spurs, suggests that it only needs a player or two to help with that final step – that player or two being the aforementioned goalkeeper and extra centre back.

Needs to quickly adapt.

The talk emanating from the club over the summer suggests that it’s finally got through to the players what’s needed. No more slacking off when two goals up, no more being bullied by the more physical teams in the league, etc.

I think the impact of Sol Campbell’s half season cameo shouldn’t be underestimated. He came into the squad and showed what it takes to achieve something you want; that there’s no escaping hard work if you want to win. Though he’s left, his attitude seems to have rubbed off.

In terms of the squad, things generally look quite good. Marouane Chamakh has finally joined and should be an improvement on the departing Eduardo. The Crozillian never truly recovered from the horrific injury he sustained and coupled with hypocritical reaction to his dive against Celtic meant a change of scene was probably best. Chamakh is by no means prolific but gives a different option, and should prove useful in tough away games.

Vela stays for now and gets an upgraded squad number but the important news is Robin van Persie being fully fit again (albeit a couple of weeks behind in training). His injury really hurt Arsenal last November. Remember all the talk of how Arsenal could score 100 goals after all the big wins early on? The goals per game ratio went right down after RvP was out. They continued to challenge without him but with Bendtner also out at the time, you had the bizarre situation of Andrey Arshavin playing on his own up front, which was no fun for either player or fans.

Arguably Arsenal's most important player.

The Russian had an average season, nearly always played out of position. I think bigger things are expected this season. The midfield is boosted by Fabregas staying and Wilshere being ready for regular first team football. I would expect him to be ahead of Rosicky in the pecking order sooner rather than later.

Two players who failed to make their respective World Cup squads will be particularly determined to shine this year. Samir Nasri looked very sharp in pre-season and has a previously unseen seriousness about him. Similarly, Theo Walcott will want a season where he doesn’t pick up lots of small injuries. A run of 20-25 games in a row would do him a world of good. If he hits his target of 20 assists he’ll have had a great season.

Bounce back seasons ahead.

Once you factor in Song, Diaby, Eboue, the emerging Frimpong, Denilson and the hopefully returning Ramsey and you have more than enough options.

As discussed earlier, it’s defence where there are issues. There are currently just three centre-backs, at least one more is a must. Full backs are covered with Eboue and Gibbs being the reserves for Sagna and Clichy. Gibbs in particular excites me, I think he’ll be the first choice left back by the end of the season.

In terms of tactics I think Wenger will slightly adjust the 433 of last season seeing how overrun it caused the midfield to be. The benefits it brought to Fabregas and van Persie’s game make it worth sticking with but perhaps a slight switch to make it a 4231 instead with Fabregas advanced behind van Persie and two attacking midfielders/forwards playing either side of them will do the trick.

Arsenal don’t really have natural wingers who can play in a 442. You just get central midfielders or wide forwards out of position. It might be case of dropping an extra player (Diaby or Denilson) back to sit alongside Song with Fabregas ahead of them. Van Persie will be the central striker with any two of about eight players filling the wide roles in the 3.

It worked very well when the Dutchman was fit and the added bonus is Chamakh could take up the role were he to get injured. I would like to see more solid set-ups when playing the big teams as last season Chelsea, Man Utd and Barcelona had much fun drawing us out of position and hitting us on the break. In these games a four or even five men in midfield would work; there is enough pace in the side that the lone striker would never be too isolated.

Yes it is five years since we won a trophy but my players have great potential.

In terms of prospects, despite what many writers are saying, I think Arsenal will improve on last season if they sign a keeper before the window shuts. A simplistic theory you might think but if you consider that a top keeper is worth around nine points a season (that’s three match-saving performances – not unrealistic) then Arsenal will be very close indeed.

A slight tactical adjustment and they’ll be pretty close to that elusive trophy. Maybe even close enough to win it. No new goalkeeper or centre-back and it will be the same old problems and the usual 4th place.

T.

Arsenal

Last Season: 3rd

New Signings: Koscielny, Chamakh

Key Player: Robin van Persie

Ones To Watch: Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs

Needs A Big Year: Cesc Fabregas

Would Quite Like: A new goalkeeper and another centre back, but in terms of the season a first trophy since 2005.

Prediction: 2nd

Thoughts:

Live Report – Arsenal vs Fulham 10/05/10

10/05/2010

As I made my way to the Emirates yesterday for the final game of the season, I realised it had been over four full months since I had last seen Arsenal live. After a flurry of games from August till December, a combination of mid-season malaise as we stumbled in and out of the title race coupled with the usual difficulty of red members getting category A tickets meant my last match had been the Fabregas inspired victory over Aston Villa in late December.

As a side note I found it had been generally quite easy getting tickets this season, there’s certainly been more availability than in previous years. Even as a red member I could have gone to pretty much every home league game (bar maybe Man Utd/Chelsea) had funds and being online when they went on sale allowed it. Yet when it came to a match such as Barcelona, all the silver members who couldn’t be bothered for much of the season instantly came out of the woodwork.

walcott van persie

Yay!

Anyway I digress. As with every game, I had bought a month ahead at which stage we had clawed our way back into the title race for a third time. What followed were defeats against Spurs and Wigan which meant this game soon had the look of a meaningless fixture about it. No matter, it would still be a decent game to watch and a win was likely given Fulham’s pressing Europa League final this Wednesday.

I arrived earlier than usual, my timings slightly misjudged and soon found my clothing not adequate enough for the unseasonally low temperature. Given the anticlimactic nature of the game, there were no end of season promos or gimmicks before the game; only Sol Campbell receiving his deserved player of the month award and some man getting a £4,000 watch for predicting the fastest goal at the Emirates this season.

As I settled into my nosebleed seat behind the goal (right in the middle but row 32 of 33 in the upper tier) the line-ups were announced. There was mild booing behind me for Fabianski and Silvestre which wasn’t too much of a surprise but it seemed like booing for booing’s sake. It was pleasing to see the likes of Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou fit again on the bench while our remaining fit first teamers picked themselves.

Arsenal were shooting towards me in the first half and started brightly, immediately setting up camp in Fulham’s half. Nasri was charged with keeping things ticking over and he ensured a good tempo, regularly beating a man before laying it off while Theo was causing problems for Shorey with his pace.

The atmosphere was average, with even the red action singing corner strangely subdued. The smattering of empty seats here and there didn’t help but it felt like what it was – a game which didn’t matter. There was the usual ‘stand up if you hate Tottenham’ before Fulham initiated a united ‘stand up if you hate Chelsea’.

arsenal fulham

We scored. Meh.

On the pitch the first goal soon came after a mistake by Mark Schwarzer. He tried to play it out, mis-controlled it allowing Arshavin to nick the ball. He went past the big Aussie and with Van Persie screaming for the ball to be laid off for an easy tap in decided instead to shoot from a tight angle. It went in off a defender and Arsenal had the lead. I don’t think Robin was best pleased at Arshavin’s greediness there and it seemed like he spent the rest of the half trying not to pass to him.

Van Persie soon got his goal, firing in from close range five minutes later after an initial good save by Schwarzer. Theo proceeded to miss a sitter, before setting up the third by drilling in a right-wing cross which went in off the unfortunate Baird. By this point attention was drifting, the game was won and people were curious to know the Chelsea, Man Utd and Spurs scores.

There was some ironic cheering every time Fabianski made a catch (he had flapped at one early on) while I was entertained by a son quizzically asking his dad why people were cheering the Pole like that. “Because he’s not very good” came the reply.

Half time came and went; the ‘highlight’ being a bizarre race between Gunnersaurus and a giant Lucozade bottle. It was that  kind of day. Gunnersaurus won and I thought he perhaps should have raced Silvestre in the second half to make things interesting. The second period was particularly flat – Fulham weren’t trying and neither were Arsenal.

gunnersaurus lucozade

This would have been more interesting.

Substitutions started to break up the game. Silvestre went off injured and got the warm applause befitting his final appearance. Djourou was equally well received in his place, as much for his return from injury as being the man who takes Silvestre’s place next season.

Despite Gibbs warming up for most of the second half, he failed to get on the pitch. Carlos Vela did however and he added a nice fourth goal, chipping Schwarzer in a style reminiscent of his Carling Cup highs in 2008/09. It was his first league goal this season and it probably says a lot that it was in a match with no pressure. I do wonder what his future holds.

The game petered out and the fans were invited to stay for the players’ lap of ‘appreciation’. Not everyone bothered but there was warm applause as the rather sheepish looking players made their way round (though William Gallas was missing). It seemed to be a mutual feeling of players and fans thinking what might have been. Hopefully next season it will be a lap of honour…

fabregas arsenal

If anyone deserved a lap of honour he did.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Arsenal deficiencies, Arsenal deficiencies & more…

02/02/2010

1. While Man Utd clearly deserved their win against Arsenal on Sunday, they were greatly helped by the non-performances of three Arsenal players in particular; Almunia, Clichy and Denilson.

Almunia has been a liability all season. He appears to have no confidence in his own decision making and no confidence from his two centre backs, Gallas in particular. Perhaps the Nani goal was unfortunate but I’ve seen Almunia do that weird palming thing too many times (e.g. Bentley last season) to think so.

almunia arsenal man utd

Words fail me.

There’s a level of technique which he clearly doesn’t have, and won’t learn at the age of 32. Mentally he looks shot and I struggle to think of which Premier League teams he’d get into right now. Certainly no-one in the top half.

With Fabianski being just as dodgy at the moment, it leaves a big hole to fill. Part of me wishes there had been a cheeky loan move for David James as a six month stop gap. Certainly the position will be one to address in the summer.

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2. Clichy is perhaps still a bit unfit but not for the first time this season he was given a torrid time by so-so right-winger. After Wright-Phillips and Young, Nani joined the list of players who have outwitted him positionally and through a bit of pace.

His form hasn’t been good for a while now and I’d hazard a guess that Kieran Gibbs will be pushing him very hard for a first team spot next season.

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3. Another player who has stagnated is Denilson. If you get beaten fair and square then fine, but if in one of the biggest games of the season you’re half-heartedly jogging back while the opposition are breaking at speed then something’s not right.

denilson arsenal

Jog on jogger.

Denilson has always been someone who divides opinion, on the surface a player who does nothing particularly well but nothing particularly badly. However, two weeks running he has now casually made half hearted attempts to stop breaks which have both resulted in goals.

Aaron Ramsey may give away the ball more but at least he makes things happen and chases after people. I’d play him next week if Diaby isn’t fit.

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4. Playing three tiny players up front doesn’t work. I like the 4-3-3 formation but it only works if you have a variety of players. Van Persie, Arshavin and Bendtner offer different heights, differing skills and differing work rates and it was one reason why Arsenal were playing so well at the start of the year.

A trio of Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky is just too similar. Arshavin to his credit wasn’t that bad and caused a few problems against Wes Brown but it’s just a shame Bendtner wasn’t match fit which would have allowed the Russian to face Rafael instead.

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5. Theo Walcott isn’t going to the World Cup unless he has a dramatic improvement in form. He’s been found out for having one skill (pace) but not the intelligence to do anything with it.

I know he’s been out injured a long time and he was only a sub but you could say the same for any of his (few) games this season. There’s struggling to get into a game and then there’s complete anonymity. The problem with Walcott is he often finds himself in good positions; he just rarely makes the right decision. I know he’s a confidence player but how can he gain confidence if he’s never doing anything worthy of lifting it.

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6. If you count the Champions League and cups the last eight games against Man Utd and Chelsea have resulted in one draw and seven defeats with just five goals scored and 18 conceded (thanks to East Lower). In two home games this season against the top two Arsenal have been crushed 3-0 and now 3-1.

Yet still Wenger believes in his players and refuses to buy anyone new. I wrote last season about how it was misguided to refuse to sign players because they might ‘kill’ a current player.

arsene wenger arsenal man utd

Mr Grumpy, meet Mr Stubborn. Mr Stubborn, meet Mr Grumpy.

I don’t really care if Denilson suddenly has his path to the first team blocked or if Walcott has to work that little bit harder to get a start. What matters is the success of the team and sometimes the feelings of players have to be sacrificed.

An 18 month deal for an experienced player that can do offer an alternative is hardly to going to finish the career of 21 year old Denilson. It may however have helped win a trophy this season, something which now looks unlikely.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 14 Preview

27/11/2009

Gameweek 14 reaches us as we start the middle third of the season. Week 13 saw few surprises though we did get the highest ever individual score. I made the error of having Fabregas as captain which I didn’t especially feel comfortable with but didn’t have many other options with Lampard and Drogba out injured, and Rooney out of form.

I did have David Dunn but didn’t fancy him due to two away games. In the event he proved me wrong. I regret not bringing in Bullard or Dempsey as I was looking at both pre-deadline. Sometimes it’s better to take the four point hit for the rewards it can bring. Don’t even get me started on having Thomas Sorensen’s 14 points left on the bench…

 

Gameweek 13 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

When I was looking back over the top scores from last week, I had a moment of panic when I thought there was a three-way 18 point tie for 1st and I’d have to find another Top Gun character to join Maverick and Goose.

Then I remembered that someone called Jermain Defoe scored five goals against Wigan. Yes, the pint-sized striker scored a full handful of goals and picked up three bonus points. It might just be me but it almost feels like 25 points isn’t enough reward for such a feat. I guess that’s what happens with just four points for a striker’s goal. I’m sure the people who had him as captain weren’t complaining – 50 points was only two off my whole total for the week. Anyway, it’s the highest score ever from one game, even Ronaldo never got that.

As mentioned previously, following Defoe you had Dempsey Hunt and Lennon all with 18 points. The former two took advantage of playing twice while Lennon was the provider of three Defoe goals as well as getting one for himself in that 9-1 victory. A mention too for Michael Essien who scored 16 via two goals and his third man of the match award of the season.

Jermain Defoe five goals Wigan Spurs

Maverick should really be using all five hand digits to approve of Defoe's performance.

 

Three Captain Choices:

1. Adebayor/Man City – Every run has to come to an end and I think Man City might finally stop their run of six consecutive draws and beat Hull at home. Hull have picked up since Bullard’s return with two wins and a draw but they’re still leaky at the back while Adebayor scored his first goal in two months against Liverpool. He tends to feast on weaker defences, get bonus points when City play well and thus is a good shout for captain this weekend.

2. Drogba/Chelsea – The best defence faces the best attack this weekend as Chelsea face Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. Normally I wouldn’t suggest picking someone from this fixture but Drogba loves playing Arsenal and has terrorised them down the years. What scares me even more is that due to Gallas being doubtful, there’s a tiny, tiny chance we might see Big Phil Senderos make an appearance. I’m shuddering at the thought, Drogba owns him.

3. Rooney/Man Utd – Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Slightly trickier now that Pompey have Avram Grant newly installed but Rooney and Man Utd should still have more than enough to beat Portsmouth.

Gets a Captain's tick.

 

Three suggested transfers in:

1. Evra/Man Utd – The French left back has been putting together a good season and in his last few games has picked up and assist and three bonus points. Man Utd should be good for a clean sheet against Portsmouth and after that Man Utd face West Ham, Villa, Wolves and Fulham which should provide a few more opportunities.

2. Johnson or Dann/Birmingham – I’m sure many of you already Joe Hart in your team but why not add Roger Johnson or Scott Dann to your side too? The two centre backs were a newly formed partnership at the start of the season having both been signed from Championship clubs but have adapted to the Premier League well. Johnson is the pricier of the two and more likely to get bonus points but Dann is just £3.9m leaving you plenty of case for elsewhere.

3. Hunt/Hull – Some people’s form rating is skewed by one massive week whereas others are a bit more consistent. If Bullard is out of your price range then Stephen Hunt is a good option having scored five points or more in four of the last five gameweeks.

Evra Man Utd

Might be worth a pick.

 

Three to avoid:

1. Everton players – They were woeful against Hull and have generally struggled this season. There have been bright spots like Baines and Saha but they have a tough three games (Liverpool, Spurs, Chelsea) coming up and then no fixture in week 17. Avoid for now.

2. Gibbs/Arsenal – Just as soon as he was becoming a cheap option while Clichy was out, he breaks a metatarsal and is now out for three months.

3. Owen/Man Utd – Just 24 points so far. The goal against Man City is literally the single good thing he’s done this season. Diouf, N’Gog and Ghilas all have more points. Having said that, what better opponent than Portsmouth to prove me wrong.

Are you taking the mick?

 

T.

England World Cup Squad Predictions – Mark II

18/11/2009

EDIT: Updated version – April 2010

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Way back in March I wrote a post that tried to predict England’s World Cup squad for next summer’s tournament in South Africa. In it around 50 or so players were analysed; everyone from certainties like Wayne Rooney to certainly nots like Curtis Davies. With the friendly against Brazil fresh in the mind and only one more international break before the end of the season, there isn’t much time for players to impress if they haven’t already. As before let’s work our way through who’s on the plane through to who won’t be going at all. .

Key men (if England are to reach their usual quarter final):

First name in the squad is the captain John Terry simply as he’s captain. I personally think he gets found against the very best strikers but there’s no chance of him not going. He’s swiftly followed by Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Rio Ferdinand goes as long as he’s fit, though it’s a concern if he doesn’t make it simply as playing style wise he’s harder to replace than Terry – England don’t have a lot of ball playing centre backs but do have a lot of one paced ones.

Gareth Barry is defensive midfielder of choice though may be usurped by a fit again Owen Hargreaves. They’ll both be on the plane however. Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson are the first choice full backs and are far ahead of their immediate competition.

Fabio Capello

Thinking...

On the plane (extra leg room provided):

David Beckham has sorted another loan spell at AC Milan and I’m positive he’ll be going to his 4th World Cup. He’s very much a bench player these days but still offers great set piece ability as well as experience. Emile Heskey has not been in great form and is no longer in Aston Villa’s starting XI but that said he will still be on the plane. He won’t score but he makes Rooney et al play better so for that reason is picked.

David James is first choice keeper, and despite his age should be able to handle that number of games in a month. Theo Walcott has had a succession of injuries but has done enough in the games he’s played to go as a wide man who can play up front. His pace is a big asset, plus he strikes me as someone who does what he’s told hence Capello likes him.

Matthew Upson and Jermaine Defoe should go as first back-up centre back and striker respectively. Neither are going to win you a World Cup final but they’re the best reserves in their position. Defoe just needs to watch his petulance slightly as there’s no point having a player who is going to miss games after needless red cards..

Looking for their passport (they are going out of Europe after all):

Joe Cole should be a little worried, just as he hasn’t found a way into the Chelsea team after injury, but at the same time he offers dribbling ability and creativity that not many can match. I was quite down on James Milner in my last prediction but did say he had a shot of making it. He seems to be impressing Capello right now and can play in a few positions. I do wonder whether he ultimately misses out due to the competition on the right side, though he has been playing down the left for England so you never know.

Aaron Lennon will be there or thereabouts, possibly in a straight battle with Milner for a spot. Rob Green looks like he’s firmly established as England’s number two while Wes Brown’s versatility of being a right back and centre back should mean he finds his way into the squad.

Fabio Capello training

Still thinking...

On the fringes (which bits are chopped?):

Wayne Bridge is doing his best to play his way out of the squad. You could argue about whether you really need to take a reserve left back, especially when the likes of Gareth Barry could play there if needed. Barring injury, the first choice defence are going to play every game so specialist reserve left back may be an area to gamble on not taking.

Of the other alternatives Capello has picked during his tenure, Leighton Baines and Steven Warnock don’t strike me as being quite good enough. If Joleon Lescott goes he provides left back cover too but he is quite shaky defensively so I don’t think he does. There is dearth of centre backs though. What price Kieran Gibbs continuing his rapid progress and staking a claim? Of all those players, he’ll be the only one playing Champions League football but a lot depends on whether he can keep Gael Clichy out of the Arsenal side once the Frenchman returns from injury. He appears to have just injured himself too.

I reckon Michael Carrick probably only goes if Barry or Hargreaves are injured and even then he’s shown countless times for Man Utd that he’s not a big game player. Gabriel Agbonlahor offers pace and will find himself with Peter Crouch, Carlton Cole and Darren Bent in the queue for the 4th striker spot.

Capello has only ever picked seven strikers so it would be a surprise to see him take five of them, not least when Walcott can play up front. Of the four I would say that the Sunderland man had his chance against Brazil and didn’t take it. I think Agbonlahor doesn’t give enough variety when compare to the others – with a 4th striker you want someone who offers something unique.

In that regard I’d say it will be a close run thing between Crouch and Cole.The former has a good international record (against crap teams at least) and is very tall (though not that good in the air) while the latter is a more complete striker who has pace, power and can play the target man role too. It’s a tough choice to be honest and I think Cole may need to break his international duck in the next round of fixtures if he’s to pip Crouch.

Ashley Young may find himself as number 24 on the list of players though personally I would find a space for him. It does seem like Capello isn’t quite sure of him yet. There aren’t too many options down the left but it does seem like either him or Milner would go but not both.

fabio capello press

Still not quite sure...

Too late to make it? (need good form and injuries to others):

Stewart Downing has upgraded clubs but has six months to shine at Aston Villa following serious injury. The same probably goes for Phil Jagielka at Everton. Tom Huddlestone got his first call up against Brazil and while he’s decent player, he’s not yet international standard. Jimmy Bullard? Unlikely but you never know. I see him being a good pundit though. Scott Parker has a very outside chance of being one of the back-up central midfielders; he’s certainly no worse than Carrick in my opinion.

Ben Foster? Joe Hart? Chris Kirkland? Take your pick for the third goalkeeping spot. I doubt it will be the latter though.Of other players we mentioned last time Jack Wilshere isn’t yet getting regular games at Arsenal while Jonathan Woodgate is permanently injured. Dean Ashton has essentially retired.

However Gary Cahill has played well enough at Bolton to come on to the radar as 4th centre back and has a chance of going if Capello takes eight defenders. Everton’s Jack Rodwell could be a dark horse but I think it is one tournament too soon for him. The same goes for some of the West Ham youngsters like Mark Noble and Jack Collison.

Fabio Capello touchline

Now thinking "Why are they so useless?"

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Providing ITV analysis (or BBC if they’re good):

I had Shaun Wright-Phillips as going six months ago but now I think he misses out as you have Lennon, Walcott and Beckham providing all you need down the right (dribbling/goals/crossing). SWP can do all three but not as well and his poor performance against Brazil has sealed a seat next to Papa Wrighty on the studio sofa.

Jermaine Jenas is another who isn’t particularly defensive or attacking. World Cup squad players need be specialists once you get beyond the first team, there’s no room for these jack of all trades types who provide little. Michael Owen has yet to be picked by Capello and barring injuries to four of the seven strikers we mentioned will not be going to South Africa.

Micah Richards needs to get back in the Man City team before he can think about England – it’s all gone a bit pear shaped for him hasn’t it? He hasn’t been picked in a year; Capello just doesn’t like his terrible positional play. Scott Carson had a shot at being third choice keeper but he won’t be going and neither will Paul Robinson, who you could roll the ball to very slowly from 30 yards and he’d still find a way to let it in.

Sadly, Ledley King can barely handle three games in a month, let alone seven. He would 100% go if he could. David Bentley, Kevin Davies, Anton Ferdinand, Gary Neville – no, no, no and no.

fabio capello michael owen shaun wright phillips

The closest Owen has ever and will ever get to being in Capello's plans.

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Possible squad:

James, Green, Foster.

Terry, Ferdinand, A. Cole, Johnson, Upson, Brown, Lescott.

Gerrard, Lampard, Barry, Hargreaves, Milner, Beckham, Lennon, J. Cole.

Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, C. Cole, Walcott.

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The three keepers speak for themselves as do the first four defenders. Versatility is the name of the game so to complement Upson you have two centre backs in Brown and Lescott that can cover the two full back slots.

In midfield you have the three main men plus a fit again Hargreaves. Beckham goes for his experience while Lennon and Joe Cole provide the skill and trickery on either wing from the bench.Milner offers the most versatility of the remaining midfield options so gets the eighth spot.

Up front Rooney is a given, as is Heskey due to their partnership. Defoe is the main back up and I think Carlton Cole will play his way into the squad, pipping Peter Crouch whose record of scoring against bad teams is of no use when you only have good teams in the World Cup. Theo Walcott rounds off the squad as a foward player who can play right wing or as striker.

At most risk is Lescott I’d say and possibly Milner too. You may want more cover in central midfield and down the left so perhaps Carrick and Bridge or Gibbs (who could also play left wing) end up going instead.

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 12 Preview

06/11/2009

So the first double gameweek came and went and I was not best pleased with Aston Villa’s attempts at getting a clean sheet. I gambled on bringing in Dunne to complement Collins but Villa decided to draw 1-1 with a team who have an injury list big enough to fill a teamsheet (Everton), and then lose to then second bottom team (West Ham).

I guess it was to be expected they weren’t to be relied on with two away games and I’m glad I took my own advice of not going for a Villa or West Ham player as captain. Our suggested choices of Fabregas or Lampard but got double figures and whilst we picked the wrong Burnley player, the thought was correct. Europa League action means half the fixtures are on Sunday/Monday this week and there’s a clash between the top two to look forward too as well.

Gameweek 11 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

 

Graham Alexander Burnley

Maverick approves of the score but not so much of the hair.

Defenders who score are always likely to threaten the top points scorers lists and so it proved as Burnley’s Graham Alexander scored twice, kept a clean sheet and earnt three bonus points for an excellent score of 21 points. I feel a bit sorry for Aruna Dindane of Portsmouth. Useless/unlucky (depending on who you speak to) up until now, he scores a hat-trick plus assist and three bonus for 20 points which would win Top Gun most weeks.

Elsewhere Joey Craddock was another two goal defender but the lack of clean sheet means just 15 for him, while Van Persie notched his biggest score of the season (and sixth goal in five games) with 15 in the destruction of Spurs.

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Three Captain Choices:

With Chelsea facing Man Utd at Stamford Bridge it means you should probably look elsewhere for some easier pickings. That said Drogba is perhaps the only player I’d consider from those two this weekend, and depending on who Utd play at centre back may result in another good score for the Ivorian.

1. Van Persie or Fabregas/Arsenal –  Take your pick from these two, both have been in excellent form recently. RvP has six goals, two assists and seven bonus in his last five while Fabregas has two goals, six assists and 12 bonus in his last five. Indeed the Spaniard has been man of the match for the last four games, and has recaptured the form of 06/07 & 07/08 where if Arsenal won you didn’t even have to check as you knew he’d get three bonus. Arsenal face Wolves away and whilst Mick McCarthy’s side have only let in six goals at Molineux so far, they haven’t faced anyone especially good or free scoring. Arsenal are still averaging over three goals a game and while I don’t think it will be a thrashing, either Cesc or RvP should be good for points in a 2-0 win.

2. Adebayor (or maybe Petrov)/Man City – As sure as night follows day, Burnley win at home and lose away. Man City haven’t been great recently with four straight draws but I don’t see Burnley making it five. Adebayor missed last week and is a slight doubt but by it should be clearer later today whether he’s fit. He’s only failed to score or assist in one game so far so should do well against Burnley. Alternatively Martin Petrov is the form player.

3. Dunn/Blackburn – Pompey are the visitors to Ewood Park this week and while they won 4-0 last week I don’t expect a similar outcome. Blackburn are struggling but have been ok at home. Dunn has been by far their best player this season and I would expect him to do something on Saturday.

 

van-persie

Gets a Captain's tick

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Dempsey/Fulham – A pre-emptive transfer for Gameweek 13 when Fulham play twice but to be fair he isn’t a bad shout this week. Wigan away (masters of inconsistency) following two goals in two games. I like Dempsey as a player, he tends to get forward to support the strikers and takes a lot of shots. Fulham don’t score that many but he’s a better shout than Zamora who could score in five straight games (as if) and I still wouldn’t bring him in. Only masochists would do that!

2. Gibbs/Arsenal – Now that Clichy is out for at least a month (note: you should take this as Arsenal time which is usually half of real time meaning he’s out for two months at least), Kieran Gibbs gets thrust into the left back role. He’s generally impressed when coming into the team and costs just £4.5m. He’s not as good defensively as Clichy but Arsenal don’t really do clean sheets so that’s not a factor. He’s definitely better going forward though so may get an assist or two down the line.

3. Ivanovic/Chelsea – In a similar scenario to Gibbs, he’s replacing an injured full back in Bosingwa. Quite pricey at £5.6m but cheap for a Chelsea defender. They have six clean sheets already this season.

 

Clint Dempsey Fulham

Might be worth a pick.

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Three to avoid:

1. Torres/Liverpool – Yes he’s currently top scorer but I feel it’s only a matter of time before his suspected hernia starts keeping him out of games. Rafa talking about how they have to be careful with him does not fill me with confidence. Cash in and use the money on Drogba, RvP or Rooney.

2. Clichy/Arsenal – Out for ages.

3. Burnley players – Three away games in the next four.

 

torres

Are you taking the mick?

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T.

 

Champions League Quarter Final, Second Leg Preview – Arsenal vs Villarreal

15/04/2009

We meet again

Just as with the 2006 semi final between these clubs, both sides still had all to play for after a tight first leg. Last time out Arsenal took a 1-0 lead to El Madrigal and had Jens Lehmann to thank for a last minute penalty save from Juan Riquelme (just look at the fear in his eyes below) which put Arsenal through to the final by that solitary first leg goal. Three years on, things are are still close even if the teams are rather different. The first leg finished 1-1 but Villarreal will not be overawed by trying to get a result at the Emirates. 

 

A week ago

The first leg was the proverbial game of two halves, with Villarreal dominating Arsenal in the first half before the Gunners gradually took control in the second. Two equally brilliant but quite contrasting goals were scored; a thirty yard rocket into the top corner by Marcos Senna was answered in style by Adebayor in the second half, who chested a long ball in the area before expertly volleying a scissor kick into the corner. Sadly for the neutrals Senna is apparently injured and will miss the match (I’m still not convinced it isn’t Spanish mind games however) while the Gunners have their own worries with Gallas and Djourou being out for weeks, leaving Toure and Silvestre the pussycat as the only fit centre backs. 

As mentioned both teams have had massive player turnover since meeting three years ago. If we take a look at the second leg lineups from that 2006 semi final we can see that only Senna, Venta and striker Franco remain from that Villarreal starting XI. Arsenal meanwhile, only have Toure, Eboue, Fabregas and sub Clichy still on the books at the Emirates. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the second leg is the return of the bald defensive legend Pascal ‘turns like an oil tanker’ Cygan to play against Arsenal for the first time since leaving. Oh and some guy called Robert Pires too.

 

Super, super Bob

Yes, I was jesting slightly earlier, this match is all about the mercurial Frenchman’s first return to Arsenal since leaving them in the summer of 2006. Following all the buildup in the first leg he ended up being on the bench before coming on. This may well be the story this evening as well but I imagine at some point he will be on the pitch.The reception for him when he does come on should be something very special. Should Cygan somehow make the bench and subsequently the pitch, I’m sure he’ll be well received too. He was a legend in his own special way too… Going back to Pires, he spent six glorious seasons at Highbury in which he won two titles, two FA Cups and a Footballer of the Year award. He pretty much single-handedly led Arsenal to the title in 2004 and scored 84 goals in 284 games. One of the best left wingers Arsenal ever had, he was for a while one of the best players in Europe. His Gunners career came to a slightly subdued end after he was the one to make way for Almunia in the Champions League final when Lehmann got sent off. It proved to be his last game for the club and also meant he was never afforded a proper goodbye. That will change tonight. Besides, this bit is a basically an excuse to post this video.

 

Tonight’s game

I think the match will be quite tight again but Villarreal will certainly miss Senna and Cazorla in the middle of the pitch. I imagine they won’t control possession as much as they did in the first leg but they’ll still be a threat through neat play and patience. They’re capable of getting the away goal they need to make things interesting but at home the Gunners should have a bit too much firepower to not score themselves. Walcott’s pace will once again be important down the right hand side, while Fabregas should have a bit more freedom to operate in the middle in the absence of Villarreal’s top men. The key question lies over who Wenger will pick at left back, after Kieran Gibbs had a somewhat rocky game on Saturday. It has been suggested that Sagna could fill in there while Eboue plays right back, but I reckon Wenger will keep faith with the youngster and offer a bit more defensive protection by picking Denilson and Song in midfield. Though a goalless draw is good enough, Arsenal have to be positive and go for goals. I think it may take till the second half to break Villarreal down but as long as Silvestre and Gibbs aren’t too threatened on the left of defence, superior options going forward should see Wenger’s men go through. 

 

T.


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