Tomorrow night Arsenal and England fans will get a chance to see how Fiorentina striker, Stevan Jovetic, will cope with Premiership defenders as his Montenegrin team faces England in a World Cup qualifying game.
The player, who is apparently Arsenal’s number one striking target, has also been making positive noises about a move from Serie A to the Premiership.
In response to a question about how he is being stalked by a number of English clubs Jovetic reoplied
“It sure is nice when you are interesting big clubs like Arsenal and Manchester City.
“It feels good because the English game currently has probably the strongest league in the world.
“I’m very comfortable in Italy but the Premier League is at the top of the football world – and perhaps the best.
“We will see what happens in the future.”
So that’s cause for optimism, for Arsene Wenger. However the The Express warns that if Arsenal want to land their man they will need to stump up more money that they have ever spent on a player. The paper suggests that Juventus and both Milan clubs are keen on the player and the bidding may start at £25 million and head northwards.
Meanwhile Caught Offside has an update on a player who has been linked with Arsenal for some time. Kevin Strootman of PSV, a defensively minded midfielder who also has a habit of scoring, has said that he is mulling over a transfer.
“Every transfer window there are clubs interested. But a club must speak to me first.”
Carlos Vela was undoubtedly one of the biggest disappointments of the Wenger era. A hugely talented player with bags of potential, he just never seemed to fit in at Arsenal and Gunners fans only witnessed the real Vela in short bursts.
So that makes it all the more intriguing that several papers are speculating that Arsene Wenger is about to activate a buy back clause in the player’s contract and ship him back from Real Sociedad.
Apparently the buy back clause is a mere £4 million – so it wouldn’t make too much of a dent in the club’s £70 million kitty.
Vela is playing well too. So far this season he has scored 12 times in 26 appearances for the club and been pivotal in Sociedad’s campaign this year which sees them in fourth place in La Liga with Champions League football next year a real possibility.
£4 million for a player in this type of form is a real bargain. So could he be Arsenal’s Michu?
I really can’t see this happening. Even if he does return – and it could be almost against his will – will he replicate that form in the Premeirhsip? I am not sure he will. Maybe Remy, who was linked yesterday is a better cut-price striker deal.
The cash rich Parisians know that Wenger has just 13 months left on his current deal and that he has stated that he won’t leave Arsenal until the end of that time.
However PSG are rumoured to be looking to replace Carlo Ancelotti. So is Arsene going home? Well a lot depends on where Arsene thinks home is these days? The manager has been in London for over fifteen years and before that managed in Monaco (who at the time were one of PSG’s biggest rivals) as well as Japan. I am not sure that Paris is ‘home’ for Wenger anyhow.
The manager has stated that he wants his last job in football to be boss of the French national side, and I don’t think the PSG job is going to detract him from pursuing that and finishing with a trophy next year at Arsenal.
Besides is Ancelotti really on his way? With PSG now top of the French league and in the last eight of the Champions League he seems to be keeping his side of the bargain.
In much of the world, we’ve become quite used to the commonly employed calendar system. We know that this is 2013 AD, and at some point in time there was a year 1AD.
Before that, we had the BC era, which goes back to, well, whenever somebody first named the years in decreasing numbers until you got to 1BC, skipping 0, clearly, because that would have meant having 0BD/AD as a year, which would have sounded like a blood group.
Fans of the England football team, however, follow a similar system to the Jewish calendar, ignoring conventional chronology. Orthodox followers of English football believe the modern era began in 1966. And it’s been downhill ever since.
1966 should have heralded a glorious new dawn, but it darkened pretty quickly. By 1972, in fact, when West Germany wrought revenge for the Wembley brouhaha involving a Russian linesman, and ejected England – not for the first time, either – from the European Championships that year. Worse was to come with failure to qualify at all for the 1974 World Cup, and again in 1978 when we all became honorary Scots, And so on, and so on, and so on.
Argentina and all that…
So excuse the miracle-starved among us for thinking there was a new Messiah abroad when, in 1998, a young boy danced through the Argentinian defence at the French-hosted World Cup match to score a wonder goal.
The boy was Michael Owen: born in Chester on December 14, 1979, and who this week announced his intention to retire at the end of this season. At the age of 11, he joined Liverpool as a schoolboy player, turning professional on his 17th birthday. By this stage there was already plenty of buzz about him. Was he The One? On his first-team debut for Liverpool, Owen scored against Wimbledon, setting the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a nation alive with his arrival.
And then came 30 June 1998. In Saint-Étienne (the French town, not the Sarah Cracknell-fronted indy electro darlings). Aged just 18, he pulled off the goal that had us all convinced he was The One. Collecting a pass from David Beckham, Owen set off on a winding run through the Argentina defence, snaking through it like a raging, coursing river, before letting fly just outside the penalty box, with the ball whistling past goalkeeper Carlos Roa.
While Beckham would get sent off just after half-time for his petulant kickout at the odious Gabriel Batistuta, and the game would end ingloriously on penalties (with Argentina progressing to the quarter-finals), that one goal would be burned in our memories as the start of something new.
The following season’s home Chelsea league fixture against Liverpool was a must-attend. We all wanted to see the wunderkind who’d lifted our hopes that summer.
For Liverpool, Owen would deliver 158 goals in 297 appearances (take note, F Torres). However, by the time the-then 26-year-old made a Mr. Big Pants move to Real Madrid, his star – even with such a prodigious goal record at Anfield – had already started to wain. Some say it had faded by the time he turned 21.
The injury years
Today, Michael Owen may be preparing for retirement with a multitude of records to his name, but the one least likely to appear in his private trophy cabinet is the title of “Most Likely To Be Found On A Treatment Table”. Like a footballing meteor lighting up the night sky, Owen’s early promise did, let’s be honest, fizzle somewhat, thanks to injuries which surely couldn’t have been helped by being thrust onto the world stage so young.
Owen’s switch to Madrid produced a solitary season of just 40 appearances with Galacticos like Zidane, Figo, Carlos and Raul, and a return of just 14 goals. But as inevitable as injuries were, part of the problem was the fit: he just missed the Premier League. Who can blame him?
Returning to England, Owen could have gone back to Liverpool: he wanted to, but the record shows that one Rafa Benitez wasn’t interested. I’ll say no more than that. Instead. Newcastle took him on, until a broken metatarsal playing for England at the end of 2005 led to a year out, and Owen was never the same player again, though 30 goals in 79 games for Newcastle is still not that bad.
After Owen parted company with Newcastle in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson took a punt and brought the striker to Manchester United. A 30-year-old striker is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at Didier Drogba. But at 30 Owen was, in Premier League years, and old man. Still, he gave Manchester United 17 strikes in 52 games, and another couple of seasons at a top club, before moving this season to Stoke for just seven appearances so far and a single goal.
No one, however, is that surprised Owen has chosen to retire at the and of this season. Injuries not withstanding, the fire that tore apart the Argentinian defence in 1998 has long since been reduced to a flickering flame.
You could argue that the 15 years since Saint-Étienne have seen diminishing returns. But let’s not quibble too much. Some things aren’t meant to last long: Jimi Hendrix only made three proper albums; The Beatles broke up less than 10 years into their recording career; and it is true that a Big Mac is over with too soon. If only for that one goal in France in 1998, we can be thankful that Michael Owen blazed. It was just a bit early, and didn’t last long.
So will QPR escape relegation this season? My heart says yes, but my head thinks they might be heading for the drop.
And if Rangers return to The Championship there might be some significant plundering for Premiership managers on the hunt for a bargain or two, and Arsene Wenger is likely to be first in the queue.
QPR have three players that he has chased with in the past and they could significantly strengthen the Arsenal squad for not an especially huge outlay. And they would probably all sign for The Gunners even if they don’t have Champions League football next season.
Arsenal’s interest in Christopher Samba is well documented. And I think that he could well be the player the Gunners turn to if, as expected Ashley Williams, arguably the team’s number one target joins his ex-boss at Liverpool. His wages might be an issue, but possibly less of one if as expected Arsenal junk their strict wages policy.
Then today The Daily Express is reporting that French striker Loic Remy has a clause in his contract that will allow him to walk if QPR go down.
The paper says that Remy could be available for as little as £4million. The player has scored three times in his six appearances for Rangers and has a reputation from his days in France for being an energetic and deadly finisher.
Arsenal have a trio of strikers – Park, Bendtner and Chamakh – who will leave in the summer and if Wenger does opt for his number one target Stevan Jovetic, he will still be in the market for an out and out striker. Remu would certainly fit that bill.
Finally there’s Junior Hoilett, a player who has had a chequered career at Rangers but is still young – he is 22 – and Wenger (who has expressed his admiration for the player in the past) may feel that he could do a job for Arsenal.
Push comes to shove my favourite unheralded psych pop album of the 90s is the debut from the Orgone Box. It is a power pop tour de force where every track boasts a stellar tune, soaring harmonies and wonderfully psychedelic guitar.
The great news is that it is going to reissued shortly on vinyl. I know there is a CD version but In am not sure that it was ever released on vinyl which makes the news from SugarBush even more exciting.
The record will be out in May and according to the label the track listing is revised and there is one new track. The band’s main man Rick Corcoran has re-recorded a few of the 4 track numbers with new vocals and backing and there is also a totally new version of what is possibly the band’s signature song, Mirrorball.
The album is limited to 500 copies with the first 100 issued on blue and black vinyl, in homage to the op art sleeve. The further 400 will be on blue vinyl.
The album rounds up many of the best songs that the band produced in their early years which are presented here either as singles or session versions that they performed for the BBC. It includes the nearest thing they had to a hit, Jet Set Junta (kind of what Inspiral Carpets) might have sounded like if they had gone to Eton) their classic early single He’s Frank and the record they put out on the iconic El Records label, Reach for Your Gun.
Well after yesterday’s revelation that Yaya Toure could be about to quit Mnan City the papers today are hinting that Chelsea could be favourites, alongside Real Madrid, to land the 29 year old.
ESPN suggests that Chelsea see Toure as the perfect replacement for England international Frank Lampard, who may or many no be with the club after the summer.
Chelsea are one of only a handful of clubs in the world who could afford to match Toure’s current wages which rank at £220,000 a week.
There doesn’t appear to be too much weight to this story, but it is one to keep an eye on.
Meanwhile the Express suggests that Chelsea are a step nearer signing Atletico Madrid’s sensational striker Radamel Falcao after the club had a secret meeting with the player at the weekend.
According to The Express Spanish TV station Punto Pelota claims a secret meeting between Atletico Madrid and Chelsea took place on Sunday to discuss a proposed move for Falcao. There are however a few sticking points namely that as part of any deal with Chelsea, the club want to keep Chelsea’s on loan goalkeeper Thiabut Courtois another year.
Falcao would be a hugely impressive addition to the Chelsea squad. Were Toure to sign too surely Chelsea would start the season being perceived as potential Premiership winners.
It now seems almost certain that Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna will be leaving the club in the summer window with PSG among the favourites to land the player.
But who will Arsenal line up to replace him? The big decision for Wenger is whether to promote the promising England youngster Carl Jenkinson, or to buy a first choice right back.
Goal.com claims that Wenger is set to buy a right back who can challenge Jenkinson and that Sochaux’s Sebastien Corchia and Swansea’s Angel Rangel are top of the list for now.
Corchia has represented France at Under-21, Under-19, Under-18 and Under-17 level, but ironically is being kept out of the full French team by Sagna. He has had an excellent season and at 22 is slightly older than Jenkinson.
If Wenger wants to plump for experience then 30 year old Rangel would be the better option. He has a contract until 2016.
One Premiership player that has certainly caught the eye this season is Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke. There are ongoing whispers that Benetke is keen to move to the north London club and his form of 22 goals this season in 37 appearances means that he is on many managers shortlists.
So Arsenal fans – tell me what you think about Thomas Vermaelen? It seems pretty clear now that Arsenal’s captain is very much Wenger’s third choice centre back behind Mertesacker and Koscielny. And to make matters worse for Vermaelen both players have been talking recently about how they are committed to the club and see their future in London.
Conversely the Belgian defender hasn’t had the best of seasons and his performances have been dogged by poor positional play, wayward passing and misunderstandings with his partners. In spite of this he has apparently caught the eye of the scouts from Barcelona who, if sources are to be believed, have penciled him in as the next player to move from The Emirates to the Nou Camp.
Here then is a quick snapshot of what Arsenal have been like with and without Vermaelen this year courtesy of WhoScored.Com. In some ways it is a slightly skewed view as he has obviously played many more games than he has missed. Nevertheless there is the emergence of a trend that shows that Arsenal’s defences are meaner without the Belgian. And when he has not started Arsenal have not lost a game.
I do wonder if the Mertesacker and Koscielny pairing will be a standard fixture (unless one of them gets injured) until the end of the season. Vermaelen’s dip in form could mean that he becomes the next player to exit The Emirates.
Of course stats only ever tell apart of the story, but it clearly is a interesting read.
The slightly concerning part for me at at least was that it suggests that Jovetic would operate best as support striker behind the main man – presumably Giroud. Isn’t this where Arsenal get the best value from Cazorla though?
Maybe Wenger has plans to turn Jovetic into a more out and out striker. Anyhow with a return of 12 goals from 24 games he has had a pretty good season so far. The site also says that he has created 48 chances and has a passing accuracy rate of 78% which is a little lower than several Arsenal players.
Here’s the chart that shows where the shots have come from.
Also this afternoon the Express is reporting that Fernando Amorebieta of Athletic Bilbao is keen on a move to The Emirates, the tough tackling Venezuelan central defender has been sidelined a little at Bilbao this season and is keen to look for a new challenge.
Apparently the player has been in contract talks with City for six months now and according to the paper if he doesn’t sign a new deal by the weekend the 29 year old will look for a move.
And depressingly for City fans Toure’s agent has said that the deal isn’t about money.
Dimitri Seluk said
“I do not feel he will stay at City. This is not about money. He wants to leave because of many reasons.
“He is one of the best players at Manchester City but does not feel the respect of the staff. Only Roberto Mancini respects Yaya.”
It could be that City simply have decided that they can’t afford to keep their star player. He is currently on £220,000 a week which makes him the club’s top earner and is one reason why City’s wages bill is astronomical.
The tricky part for City though would be finding a a club willing to pay his gargantuan wages, especially as Toure heads towards the end of this career.
The most obvious destinations would be PSG or a Russian club like Anzhi Makhachkala who are ambitious and could afford to pay him. Though Barca, Chelsea or even Man United might be tempted to stretch their wage bill further to land one of the most talented players on the planet.
To be honest though this feels like agent posturing. My money would be on the player singing a new contract at the club very soon as he angles for a better deal. What do you think?
There’s more buzz about the Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal transfer this morning with several papers suggesting that the Barca winger/striker is one of Arsene Wenger’s top targets for the summer.
Wenger has been helped in his quest by the former sporting director at Udinese, Fabrizio Larini, the club where Sanchze made his name.
Larini thinks that his former protege should join The Gunners because their style of football complements the way that Sanchez plays.
“Sanchez needs to play the ball on the ground, just like Arsenal. That would be his ideal game. I do not know his current situation at the Spanish club. But his fitness problems have definitely limited his performances.The only thing that these teams will have to consider is that he is a player who needs freedom to play his way. In teams that have particularly rigid patterns of play he might have a few problems,” Larini said.
Several papers are also suggesting that one way of bagging Sanchez would be to include him as part of a swap deal for Arsenal centre back Thomas Vermaelen. The Belgian has been out of sorts this season so a new start in Spain might appeal to him.
The Mail also reports that Arsenal are tracking the Dulwich Hamlets striker Daniel Carr. The player, who the paper claims is one of the hottest prospects in non-league football, was apparently on his way to Liverpool but Arsenal are keen to hijack the move.
It suggests that Wenger has his eye on winger Alexis Sanchez, defender Martin Montoya and former Gunners midfielder Alex Song.
Song, we know all about. His Barcelona sojourn has been a disaster and the player is keen to get back to the Premierhsip. Arsenal is the obvious port of call, but both Song and Wenger will have to resolve some of the issues that precipitated the player’s move to Spain last summer. I wonder if there are better, more defensively minded holding midfielders to be considered, but I don’t think too many Arsenal fans will be too disappointed to see Alex return.
As for Sanchez, great things were predicted for the Chilean when when he landed at Barca, but they just haven’t materialised. These days he is marginalised as a squad player which is waste of his undoubted talents. With Arshavin out the door in the summer he would be an obvious replacement.
The article also mentions Barca defender Martin Montoya, but it could also have namechecked keeper Valdes and that man Villa.
I guess that Barca still owe Arsenal a fair chunk of cash for the Song and Fabregas transfers and that offloading a few players would be quick and easy business for them. But then again I thought that might be the case with Villa in the winter window too.
As much as all five are great players and would undoubtedly grace any future Arsenal team I wonder if Arsene Wenger would be better off shopping closer to home. Man City are supposedly on the verge of a huge clear out and there are several players that would be ideal for Arsenal. Unlike the Spaniards they have lots of Premiership experience and unlike a lot of the current Arsenal team they are used to winning trophies.
So Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Edin Djeko and even old boys Kolo Toure and Sami Nasri are worth looking at, especially if Arsenal don’t make the Champions League cut this season.
Ever wanted to watch a live Premiership or Champions League game on Sky bit not got satellite or can’t make it to the pub. Well as from today, if you are a UK resident you will be able to watch Premiership football, Ashes cricket, F1 racing and more no matter where you are via your phone, tablet or PC as long as you have a an internet connection.
For though its SKY NOW offering you will be able to access 24 hours of live sports on the Sky channels for £9.99 a go.
The service will work on anything with a web connection including PCs, tablets, phones and games consoles like the Xbox 360.
It is kind of surprising that it has taken Sky so long to get round to doing this, but it will open up its live games to many more people across the UK.
Arsenal’s search for a keeper in the summer continues and the latest name to be linked with a move to The Emirates is a real surprise.
IB Times says that top of the list is Chelsea’s 30 year old stopper, Peter Cech.
The theory runs like this. Chelsea want to replace Cech with a younger keeper and have just the man in Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is currently on loan at Atletico Madrid.
Cech may then leave in search of regular first team football and may fancy a move across the capital.
To be fair I am not sure that Chelsea would sell Arsenal on of their key players – the only player in recent time to have gone from being a blue to a red was Yossi Benayoun who the Gunners had on loan not long ago.
Also there are plenty of other names on Arsenal’s keeper wants list from Bergovic to Valdes. We’ll have to wait and see.
The Metro says that Arsenal are facing increasing competition in their bid to sign electric Montenegro striker Stevan Jovetic. Wenger is reputed to be willing to pay over £20 million to land the Fiorentina striker, however the player’s form has alerted both Man City and Juventus. Jovetic has scored 12 times in 27 appearances this season.
Interestingly England football fans will, get a chance to see how good the player is as he will start in the Montenegro team that takes on England in the World Cup qualification game next week.
Finally the old rumours about Jack Wilshere injury are back. ESPN are reporting that the club has hit back against those who believe that Wilshere might be out for the rest of the season.
“Nothing has changed in Jack’s recovery, there’s no setback or further damage to his ankle and no concern about any long-term problems.Jack was told to rest and we are still on course for him to resume training and be available for selection for the home game against Reading.”
Then again yesterday we looked at how Santi Cazorla is responding to playing in the middle again and whether playing the two of them together might be a problem.
Ok, so it is just a theory, but it seems to be one that more and more Arsenal fans are discussing and that is the possibility that Arsenal aren’t always at their best with both Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere in the team.
And trying to accommodate them both might not be in the club’s best interests.
So here’s the theory. Cazorla is a wonderfully versatile player. This season Wenger has played him on the left wing, as a conventional central midfield player and in the hole behind the striker. He has also wandered on to the right wing from time to time.
In theory his versatility makes him a manager’s dream. However Cazorla seems to be at his most comfortable when playing in the middle of the park pushing forward, not stuck out on the wing. And that’s a position that suits Jack Wilshere’s game too.
The difference between the two is that Wilshere is excellent at making runs from deep positions carrying the ball with him past midfielders. With Cazorla, his bursts are shorter, but he is better than the Englishman at wiggling his way into goal scoring situations, and at the moment that is something that is sorely lacking in the Arsenal team.
Against Bayern Cazorla was pushed out left again to accommodate Rosicky and ended up having a quiet game. Against Swansea, with a more central position, he was able to make those trademark runs and get into stronger attacking positions.
What Cazorla is genius at is getting close to the box and then taking on defenders or threading balls through to other attackers. He did it many times in the game against Swansea and looked Arsenal’s best player by far.
Without Wilshere it gave Wenger the option of adding a more defensively minded midfielder to work with Arteta. On Saturday it was Diaby, who to be fair had a poor game. Ramsey has played in this position recently and looked very solid.
What potentially is an option for Arsenal going forward is to link Cazorla up to a more mobile striker – Jovetic being the current favourite, but it needs to be a striker with pace and great positional sense (which aren’t really Giroud’s strengths). The pair could be deadly for Arsenal next season.
I should add that Arsenal looked fairly strong until Wilshere’s return, although admittedly they had lost a couple of games just before he came back. Also on several occasions this season Wilshere has been the only Arsenal player worthy of wearing the shirt.
The big question remains though – where does Wilshere fit in? He is surely wasted as a defensive midfielder.
If Wenger can work out to get the best of them playing together Arsenal will boast an incredible midfield.
As for the short term I wonder how often we will see Wilshere again this season. So maybe Wenger needs to play Ramsey alongside Arteta (thereby also offering more protection for the defence) with Cazorla pushed right through the middle?
Who knows? Maybe that Champions League position is attainable after all.