Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football

Where is Robert Lewandowski going? Bayern Munich? Man United?

By Stefano on February 12th, 2013

They have Rooney, Hernandez, Wellbeck and some Dutch fella. You would have thought that the last thing that Man United needed in the summer was a striker. However during the winter transfer window there were plenty of rumours that United had already done a deal to sign Robert Lewandowski from Borussia Dortmund.

The story is back in the news again this week with differing reports from Germany about where the player’s future will be.

On Saturday German legend Lothar Matthaus claimed that the deal had already been done to sell the player to Bayern Munich

As ESPN reports Mattheus told Sky the only question remaining was whether the Poland international, who has also been strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford, joined the champions-elect in the summer or when his deal expires in 2014.

“I have heard that Lewandowski and his management have already reached an agreement with Bayern,” Matthaus said.

“His contract runs out in 2014. Dortmund could cash in on him in 2013. They would get a high fee – I have overheard something like €25 million to €30 million – or he could join Bayern on a free in 2014.”

However Bayern President Uli Hoeness has a different view,

He told German paper Abendzeitung: “If Lothar confirms this, then soon he will be the general manager at Bayern.”

Matthaus then struck back telling Sky

“Uli Hoeness also knows I have been in the business for 30 years now. I have good contacts, not only domestically but also internationally. A reliable source – one who would know – told me that Lewandowski will join Bayern. If you have such information – and in this case I am no coach, but a pundit – I have the duty to pass this information on. If I am wrong, I will apologise to Uli Hoeness.”

In case you have forgotten German newspaper Bild claimed that Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski would join Manchester United this summer.

Bild said that a €22million bid will be enough to land the 24-year-old, and he will pick up £100,000 a week at Old Trafford.

This one could get interesting.

Pic Christopher Neundorf



Football

Arsene Wenger has Spurs in his sights and is ‘ready for a fight’

By Stefano on February 11th, 2013

If Arsenal lose to Spurs when the two teams meet at White Hart Lane on March 3rd it won’t be the end of Arsenal’s campaign to qualify for the Champions league next year, but it will make it very hard for Arsene Wenger’s team to catch their north London rivals.

So not surprisingly Wenger has today been assuring the Arsenal fans that his team know what they are up against and are ready for the fight.

They face a formidable challenge. In spite of their striking issues Tottenham are unbeaten in 10 games and against Newcastle there were signs that they are hitting form at just the right time. Gareth Bale was exceptional, Mousa Dembele was a powerful presence in the midfield and Scott Parker is hinting at the form that made him so effective last season.

However, as every Gunner fan knows, this time last year Spurs were ten points clear of Arsenal when they met their north London neighbours. That catastrophic defeat than sparked off a decline in their form which saw them lose out on a Champions League spot.

Wenger is hoping for a re-run this year.

Asked about the teams attempt to to catch Spurs Wenger said on the club’s website

“There are many games to go. We are in the fight and the game on Saturday showed that we are ready for a fight. Our character was questioned many times. You saw (on Saturday) that we have plenty.”

His words were echoed by keeper Wojceich Szczesny who also told the club website

“I think we proved to a lot of people that we have what it takes to be successful because it wasn’t the best game in terms of quality, but we showed everyone the character and desire we have to get a result.”

Of the three London sides Chelsea arguably have the easiest run in while Spurs, with games against Chelsea, Man City and Everton to come, have the trickiest. Anything less than a draw for both sides could prove a near knock out blow to the loser.

Check out the list of games here.



Football

The March games that will decide Arsenal and Spurs’ season

By Stefano on February 11th, 2013

It should still be an open race for third/fourth place at the end of March. But while Spurs should still be in a strong position, anything less than near perfection for The Gunners could be disastrous.

And why Arsenal’s game against Swansea could prove to be just as important as the one away at Spurs

February is a fairly quiet month for Premiership football with clubs distracted by the Champions league Europa Cup, and FA Cup.

But as for March… Well chances are that many of the key games that will have a massive impact on the Premiership table and especially who qualifies for the Champions league, will be decided in that month.

If we assume that United wining the title is pretty much a done deal and that City will recover and finish second, then third and fourth paces are the key battles. And at the moment it is three London clubs and two Merseysiders who will decide who ends up where.

Arsenal

It could be argued that Arsenal have the easiest run out of all the teams competing for third or fourth place (although Chelsea have some very winnable games too). For starters they have two home bankers – though if this season’s record is is anything to go by they are by no means a done deal – and some winnable games in April and May too.

The three games then that could change Arsenal’s season, though and effectively make April and May an academic exercise, are away at Tottenham, at home to Everton and then away at Swansea.

A defeat against Spurs followed by any points dropped against either Everton or Swansea would effectively kill off their Champions league aspirations. So it is essential that they grab a point at the Lane, I think they might manage this. However their stretched squad could then struggle at Swansea.

I think they will enter April very much in the race for a Champions League slot but still the outsider reliant on their rivals dropping points

Spurs

Let’s face it Spurs fans. That Champions League spot is yours, if you can keep the momentum going. Assuming that Spurs win away at West Ham and bag three points at home to Fulham they then face three very tricky ties in a row – just like Arsenal.

I can’t see Arsenal beating Spurs, or the other way round, so a draw in that game is most likely. If Spurs win that game and then beat Liverpool the week after they will be in a very strong position. I wonder though if the games away at Liverpool and Swansea will end up as draws.

Even so this will leave Spurs in fourth place and ready for a hard month in April that includes against Chelsea, Man City and Everton.

The importance of Swansea

As for Chelsea I think they will still be in third place come the end of March, but with their two London rivals waiting for them to slip up.

Unless they can pull off an impressive away win at Arsenal and beat City at home I think Everton will drop out of the race. As for Liverpool they are probably too far off the pace to make a serious challenge.

So while the Spurs Arsenal game could produce a serious blow to one team’s CL hopes, I wonder if it is the away games at Swansea that will finish one of the London sides off.

Swansea have only lost twice at home this season and have drawn with Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United (as well as Arsenal in the FA Cup).

Arsenal

Arsenal V Aston Villa WIN

Tottenham V Arsenal DRAW

Arsenal V Everton WIN

Swansea V Arsenal DRAW

Arsenal V Reading WIN

11 points – 55 points at end of March

Spurs

West Ham V Tottenham WIN

Tottenham V Arsenal DRAW

Liverpool V Tottenham DRAW

Tottenham V Fulham WIN

Swansea V Tottenham DRAW

9 points 57 points at end of March

Chelsea

Man City V Chelsea LOSE

Chelsea V West Brom WIN

Fulham V Chelsea WIN

Chelsea V West Ham WIN

Southampton V Chelsea DRAW

10 points 59 points at end of March

Everton

Norwich V Everton WIN

Everton V Reading WIN

Arsenal V Everton LOSE

Everton V Man City LOSE

Everton V Stoke WIN

9 points 51 points at end of March

Liverpool

Liverpool Vs West Brom WIN

Liverpool V Swansea WIN

Wigan V Liverpool WIN

Liverpool V Tottenham DRAW

Southampton V Liverpool DRAW

Aston Villa V Liverpool DRAW

12 points 48 points at end of March



Football

Arsenal update: Good and bad news on the injury front

By Stefano on February 11th, 2013

So the nightmare didn’t happen. Rather than calling up Sebastian Squilacci Arsene Wenger chose Bacary Sagna as his makeshift centre half and played Carl Jenkinson at right back against Sunderland. And it kind of worked too. Sagna played well and Jenkinson looked comfortable until his second rather rash tackle that is.

Jenkinson’s misdemeanor means that at least Ignasi Miquel got a bit of a run out. Wenger clearly doesn’t feel that he is ready for first team action yet, which is a shame both for Arsenal and for him.

This weekend Arsenal host Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup in game that the team should feel fairly confident of winning. The good news for Arsenal fans too is that it looks like Laurent Koscielny will be back to partner Per Mertesacker at the back.

Wenger said of his injury

“It’s a calf problem. We think it’s a question of days [until he returns] because he had a positive scan.”

“He [came off for France] at half time [on Wednesday] and we decided to give him a trial in the warm up.

“He was not good enough. I don’t think it’s long-term.”

More of a worry, for The Mail at least, is the status of Thomas Vermaelen. The paper suggests that he will return to training this week, but will struggle to make the squad for the Bayern Munich Champions League a week on Tuesday.

He has had an anti-inflammatory injection in the hope of avoiding ankle surgery. An extended lay off for the captain would be disastrous for Arsenal as they look to close in on at least a fourth place finish in the Premiership.

As for Jack Wilshere, it seems like Arsenal’s talimsanic midfielder will be out for a week or so. Wenger has the choice of whether to play him against Blackburn on Saturday or give him a few more days to recover before starting him against Bayern.

Wenger has plenty of midfield options including Ramsey, who had another good game on Saturday, Diaby, who played for most of the second half, Rosicky and even Oxlade Chamberlain who can all play in the central midfield berth alongside Arteta and Cazorla.



Football

Bye Bye Andre Santos. The worst player ever to wear an Arsenal shirt?

By Stefano on February 10th, 2013

Andre-Santos-Twitter

Piers Morgan certainly thinks so and tweeted this last week.

No matter though for it seems that Arsenal’s likable but error-strewn Brazilian is on his way out of The Emirates. The Metro, among others, are reporting that Santos has been seen getting off the plane in Brazil on his way to new club Gremio.

Also The Gunners’ German striker Lukas Robert Podolski has possibly let the cat out of the bag by tweeting.

‘@Andre-santos27 We will miss you man, I wish u all the very best £Gunner God bless you.’

So is Piers really right? Is Santos the worst player ever to wear an Arsenal shirt?

Well he has some serious competition and that’s even if we don’t include players who only made one or two appearances.

To be fair he probably isn’t even the weakest link in the current Arsenal squad. That accolade goes to Sebastian Squillaci whose performances for the Gunners went rapidly downhill after his first season at the club.

Or don’t forget that The Gunners still have Park Chu-Young on the books, a player that Wenger trusted so little that he only played him four times.

Not that long ago the Arsenal fans were seriously on the back of Emmanuel Eboué, especially after the end of the 2011 season. There were few tears shed when he was sold to Galatasaray.

We shouldn’t also forget the twin towers of Pascale Cygan and Igor Stepanovs, both of whose names bring a very real shudder to Arsenal fans of a certain vintage.

Further back we need to add Francis Jeffers, the fox in the box who never was. He cost the club £8 million and yet only managed to find the net four times in his three year stint.

And then once you hit the 80s there’s a huge selection of Arsenal should have beens to choose from. The much maligned (though he really wasn’t that bad) Gus Caesar is the tip of a very large iceberg.

So Arsenal fans who else would you put in this category? Bischoff? Carter? McGoldrick. Let us know in the comments.

Here, to kick things off, is my worst ever Arsenal team.

Keeper – Rami Shaaban – though you can make a good case for Richard Wright who was both expensive and disappointing.

Defenders – Mikael Silvestre, Sebastain Squillaci, Pascal Cygan, Andre Santos – I know, maybe we could bring Igor on at half time?

Midfielders – Eddie McGoldrick, Denilson – Is there a case for John Jensen? Maybe

Wingers – Glenn Helder, Jimmy Carter -  Personally I liked Carter, but he didn’t achieve a great deal at Arsenal. Helder had about two good games for the club

Strikers – Francis Jeffers, Park Chu-Young – Also there’s Davor Suker? Kaba Diawara? Christopher Wreh?

Even Tottenham would beat that lot.



Football

Chelsea’s Frank Lampard – should he stay or should he go?

By Stefano on February 10th, 2013

Simon Poulter of What Would David Bowie Do? ponders Frank’s future

Plenty in life baffles me. Like, why it is that, at the slightest outbreak of anti-American snippiness, freshly-minted US flags are set alight in market squares througout the West-hating world. What efficient supply chain ensures this? Is it un-advertised inventory of the Mailboxes Etc. chain? Does every branch keep folded, fresh and flammable Stars & Stripes flags under the counter, next to the porn, just in case someone comes for a protest?

Then there’s Frank Lampard. What is it about one of the most successful, prolific and naturally gifted midfielders England has ever produced that draws scorn from opposing fans and blinds his own club management to the value he can still bring to the game, even four months shy of his 35th birthday?

Is it is Lampard, himself? Perhaps each morning, on his 40-minute drive down the A3 from Kensington to Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, he is playing The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go? over and over again on his Ferrari’s 1000-watt JBL sound system.

The vexed truth of the matter is, no one seems to know. In any given week for the last several months, at least one newspaper has claimed, exclusively, that Lampard may sign an extension to his Chelsea contract, while in the same week, at least one newspaper has claimed, exclusively, that there will be no extension and Lampard will be free to take his current superb form elsewhere at the end of the season.

In January, Steve Kutner, Lampard’s agent, made it clear that Chelsea had told him his contract would not be extended under any circumstances. Last week, Kutner was saying that there had been no change in the situation. And still, the claims of an Abramovich U-turn go on.

Depending on who you read or who you believe, it’s either Lampard’s fault for wanting, allegedly, a two-year extension, or Chelsea’s fault for wanting to prune it’s expensive roster of over-30s. Take another view, and he’s been offered a one-year extension, like Ashley Cole (who accepted), but has rejected it wanting the 24 months.

Either way – and who am I? – there should be some grown-upness injected into these proceedings. Lampard’s strike against Brazil on Wednesday was no fluke, but an example of the sublime quality Lampard has been demonstrating for Chelsea in recent weeks, a goal-scoring form that has only been undermined, seriously, by the general malaise surrounding the club under Rafa Benitez.

A couple of months ago, Daniel Finkelstein, The Times’ political leader writer and hobbyist football statman, calculated that Lampard was, de facto, the Premier League Player of the Decade. His methodology, which involved correlating various parameters of in-game performance, calculated a league table of individual players, based on their contributions to the games they figured in. Cutting a long – and, admittedly, mind-boggling story short – Finkelstein’s conclusion was that, ahead of players of positional consistency (led by the base of Chelsea’s spine, Petr Čech), or points generated for each minute they were on the field of play (Cristiano Ronaldo), general excellence (Steven Gerrard) or game-changing impact (yes, Darren Bent), there could be only one ‘Fink Tank’ Premier League Player of the Decade: Frank Lampard.

There is only one Frank Lampard. There is only one player who is just five strikes away from equalling Chelsea’s club record of 202 goals, currently held by Bobby Tambling. And this is a midfielder we’re talking about, not some prolific, hits-’em-in-for-fun show-pony striker.

Equally baffling, and frustratingly so, is the treatment Lampard receives from England fans. It’s to be expected that West Ham fans, in their own little world of bile and steam, still consider it necessary to boo and hiss Lamps 12 years after he moved to Chelsea. But whatever cretinously petty issue exists behind this pantomime animosity, (and it is, sadly, as cretinously petty as the fact that he dared quit the club as it was taking one of its regular exits through the Premier League trap door), Lampard has gone on to be the most consistently effective midfield player in world football for more than a decade.

Yes, some of his England performances – with or without the Gerrard combination conundrum – have been disappointing, but his 94 caps have been totally justified. His goal against Brazil on Wednesday was his 27th in national colours, itself an achievement of prolific endeavour. And he has more to offer: “I understand where I am in my career,” he said after the Brazil game, “but if I can continue playing for Chelsea then I am getting nearer to 100 [England caps]. It’s certainly a target for me and, yes, I will try to keep playing at a good enough level to get there.”

Which raises questions about where he plays next. David Beckham has demonstrated that a move to LA Galaxy, and a move to the US MLS, is the equivalent of dropping a couple of divisions in terms of quality, although it would probably be the equivalent of going up two in terms of wages.

The difference between Beckham and Lampard, however, is that Beckham has been able to build the ‘brand’ to maintain his profile. How else would a 37-year-old whose best years are long behind him manage to sign for Paris Saint-Germain in a blaze of publicity that managed to eclipse PSG’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović not so long ago?

Frank Lampard has built a profile to fit Frank Lampard. He’s an eloquent, intelligent footballer. Never the nightclub jockey, and now with a celebrity girlfriend who appears to have successfully mastered the art of being a glamourous WAG and girl-next-door TV sweetheart at the same time.

Privately educated, thanks to father Frank Sr.’s desire for Frank Jr. to have a good foundation, this has been matched by Lampard’s dedication to the game. While still a West Ham apprentice, Lampard was known to take extra training sessions, largely because of the discipline drummed into him by his father, and largely because he felt that with Frank Sr.’s brother-in-law Harry Redknapp in charge of the club, he had more to prove that he wasn’t there through nepotism.

Even today, Lampard Jr. continues to put the hours in on the training pitch. It’s an effort that kept him off the treatment table for successive seasons, a record that has only really started to unravel in recent years as age has inevitably started to catch up. And it is why I’ve never understood the ‘Fat Frank’ barbs: for a football crowd whose diet consists mostly of pies to call Lampard “Fat” is like Kim Kardashian raising questions about Paris Hilton’s career aspirations.

Lampard insisted that he retains the fitness and drive to play at the highest level for another two or three years, suggesting he is not yet ready to accept a lucrative quiet life in America or the Far East. Publically, he has repeatedly stated his desire to end his career at Stamford Bridge. Privately, he may have accepted that if he can’t have the deal he wants at Chelsea, he’ll get the deal he wants at another club. And there certainly won’t be a shortage of offers, be it LA Galaxy, PSG, China or – swallows something hard and jagged – even Manchester United.

“I’m not the kind of player to see out my time and sit with my bum on the bench too much,” Lampard has said recently. “I want to be involved. That’s my character. I will keep trying to do that, whatever the circumstances.”

Which comes back to the Chelsea question. I get the point that with rules on club finances coming in, you’ve got to tighten the belt accordingly. And a £160k a week for a player in his mid-30s is a lot of money. But then so is spending £50m on Fernando Torres, and how’s that working out?

If Ryan Giggs at 39 is young enough for Manchester United, a relative whippersnapper like Lampard should – and obviously does – have a lot to still give Chelsea. Current form and history combined, it really would be madness to let him go. But, then, when has sanity played any part in the revolving door of managers at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich, let alone players coming and going?

Article originally published here.



Football

Arsenal V Sunderland – five things to watch for

By Stefano on February 9th, 2013

Last year Arsenal’s game against Sunderland at the Stadium Of Light, which was almost a year ago to the day, will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It was on a very sub-standard pitch that Per Mertesacker sustained an injury which meant that he missed the rest of the season. Arsenal went on to win the game 2-1 and today Arsene Wenger kwows that is it three points or busts for this players – or else that fourth place claim will start sounding a bit hollow.

So what should we be looking for?

1 Who is going to play as central defender? - With Vermaelen injured and Koscielny facing a late fitness test Wenger has a tricky decision to make about who will partner Per Mertesacker. The injuries raise the dreaded prospect (for some Arsenal fans) of a return to the Premiership of one Sebastien Squillaci. Alternatively Wenger could opt to play Ignasi Miquel his 20 year old Spaniard. Wenger has also suggested that Carl Jenkinson might get the nod with his pace and ability to read the game complementing Mertesacker’s physical presence.

2 Can Arsenal turn possession into goals?
– So many times this season Arsenal, have enjoyed a large amount of possession in games and not delivered enough goals. With Sunderland I expect that the Black Cats will try and hit Arsenal on the break as well as use ex Gunner Sebastian Larsson to engineer chances from dead ball situations. I wonder if Arteta will play deeper than usual to counter this.

3 Will Wilshere and Walcott have an England hangover? - Both players were exceptional for their country this week, but how will that critical acclaim affect their game today? Walcott might find his opportunities to break at speed limited with Sunderland playing quite deep. As for Wilshere, surely he is the key man for Arsenal this afternoon as he wangles his way through the middle to create chances for the team’s front men.

4 Expect lots of long range shots from The Gunners – Let’s hope that Podolski, Cazorla and Arteta have their shooting boots on. I think that a packed Sunderland defence could mean that Arsenal’s best bet are shots from the edge of the area.

5 Can Giroud continue his rich vein of form? - The French striker has been reminding Arsenal fans this week that he has started his career at the club much better than a Dutchman whose name I don’t care to mention. Away at Sunderland though is exactly the type of game where Giroud will need to get goals. He has at times squandered chances. He better not to do today as I don’t think he will get too many.



Football

Man City fans – Is Tevez Better than Dzeko as Aguero’s Partner?

By Stefano on February 9th, 2013

Edin Dzeko may have opened the scoring against Liverpool last weekend, but his all-round game was disappointing, and it’s still difficult to find evidence of a promising partnership between he and Sergio Aguero.

City were lucky to snatch a point against Brendan Rodgers’ side, and it was frustrating to see Carlos Tevez left on the bench throughout. Another feature of City’s game was their lack of pressing high up: Dzeko sitting down and feigning injury as Liverpool made it 1-1 was a fine example of that. On the other hand, Tevez brings boundless energy.

Tevez also boasts a fine partnership with Aguero, where the roles are more obviously defined. Tevez drifts around in the hole, while Aguero plays upfront and sprints in behind the opposition defence. His acceleration will be crucial against a Southampton side that are pressing heavily and using a high defensive line under Mauricio Pochettino, despite the lack of pace from their central defenders.

Tevez’s commitment to closing down is another key feature. City can’t afford to play another game where the opposition are simply more energetic in the opposition half and force defensive mistakes more readily.

For all Dzeko’s quality, he still seems better suited as a substitute. His height and ability with his back to goals makes him the perfect Plan B, when the opposition no longer press, and are sitting deep to guard against pace in behind, Dzeko provides a different option. All three forwards will have more opportunities following Mario Balotelli’s departure, but Aguero and Tevez together makes sense this weekend.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.

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Football

Where will history place Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher?

By Stefano on February 9th, 2013

He might not be Liverpool’s greatest ever defender, but he might be their most popular player ever says David Owens

It sums him up as a player, a man and his career… no nonsense, no airs and graces, straightforward. Jamie Carragher calmly announced his plan to retire at the end of the season when his Liverpool contract runs out – no big press conference, no massive announcements; just a statement to the point – job done.

So over the next few months, pubs across Liverpool and all over the Liverpool supporting world will be discussing and debating the question that will no doubt split opinion…… Where will history place Jamie Carragher in the pantheon of Liverpool greats?

I’ll say the answer now – that there is no doubting it will be very very highly…… Debating across the eras is one of the delights of the football fan’s life because we all have our opinions, and all base our thoughts on differing values and ideals. Of course you cannot really compare players from the different eras because it is a very different game now – as the 80s were compared to the 50s… and of course we can only base our opinions on what we have seen with our eyes…. Amazing to think we marvel over the Brazilian team of “the 70’s” or the genius of Pele based usually on the odd clip of a quality dummy of a keeper (when he missed the goal), a chip from the halfway line (which he missed), a header against Gordon Banks (which he missed), or a beautifully laid pass for Carlos Alberto (who scored)… all of which took place over 20 odd days in Mexico in 1970.

How different today – now we watch our greats over and over on TV – and you never can tire of watching Lionel Messi – or Ronaldo’s own goal last week!

Back to Jamie Carragher though….. Liverpool’s finest player? No, that in my eyes will always be King Kenny, but Stevie Gerrard is closing fast. Liverpool’s finest defender? Debatable but I think Alan Hansen just had a bit of something that sets him apart. Liverpool’s most popular player? Undoubtedly…. I would wager there are not many true fans of our game who do not admire Jamie Carragher, as a man, as an honest professional, and as a player who every fan can identify with as someone who in the modern era, and compared to any era, gave his all.

In a Liverpool fans eyes it is difficult to compare Carra to the likes of Hansen, Lawrenson and Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith, Rowdy Yeats, because not only are we comparing very different eras as already discussed – but the likes of Hansen, Lawrensen and Hughes et al played in successful championship winning sides who often had little defending to actually do. To be fair, Liverpool have been successful in the Carra era but not in the way the 70s and 80s team were… and it would be very fair to say that Carra and Steven Gerrard have pretty much carried the Liverpool team in the last 10 years or so.

Carra would be the first to admit he has never been as assured and comfortable with the ball as Alan Hansen, his pace has never been his best asset… but where Carra shines is commitment, determination, a never say die attitude, his ability to time a tackle, go in where it hurts, his desire and will to win. You’d want Carra in the trenches with you.

So what next for Jamie Carragher? Well, we’ll have more of an idea at the end of the season he says. My guess is, and it has been mooted, that a place in the BT Vision Premiership pundit panel awaits for the next 3 years… allowing him time to sort all his badges out for coaching which you ridiculously need these days. I cannot imagine Liverpool will let him leave the club totally – unless he wants to. It is fairly well known that Jamie is often at the Academy barking orders at the new generation – not in any official capacity, but because he wants to and he is made that way – he demands effort and commitment whatever the level… In truth, depending on the Liverpool board’s plans you wouldn’t find many fans who would be against the idea of Jamie becoming a future Liverpool manager. That is all for more speculation and the future. The here and now is that Jamie has 4 months of his playing career left, enjoy while you can because his like are rare.

Watch a video of him as a youngster in the 90s. Fascinating stuff

Pic from Wikipedia



Football

Christian Benteke fancies a move to Arsenal

By Stefano on February 8th, 2013

You have to feel sorry for Villa fans. They are in the midst of a desperate relegation battle, weren’t able to strengthen their squad in the window and now see others clubs circling like vultures around their star player.

Yep, The Mirror and The Star are reporting that Christian Benteke is ready to quit Aston Villa and that his preferred destination is Arsenal.

Benteke has been in scintillating form this season scoring 14 goals, and this in a team that’s not just low on confidence but really lacking forward firepower.

Arsenal have been linked with a series of strikers. The current favourite is apparently Stevan Jovetic, but David Villa is almost certainly still on the radar.

You can see why the Benteke rumours make sense in that unlike Stevan Jovetic and David Villa Benteke has already shown he capable of scoring a lot of goals in the Premiership.

He would probably cost less than the other two as well.

It sounds too like Paul Lambert is already thinking about fending off bids from rivals.

He said at the morning’s press conference

“He’s only 22 and he’s got years and years ahead of him. He’s not at his peak, but what he’s done for me and for the club is fantastic. If someone wanted to buy Christian, they’d better have a few quid in their pocket. He’s not just going to walk out of here for the value he came for (£8 million), that’s for sure.



Football

Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp on their way back to Arsenal?

By Stefano on February 8th, 2013

Huge news for Arsenal fans. It seems that a club legend is on their way back to the club possibly to take over the youth development role that will be vacated by Liam Brady in the summer.

However which legend is it? Take your pick.

The Daily Mail has run with the story that seems very plausible that Arsene Wenger has been sounding out Patrick Vieira about a return to the club that made his name.

Vieira has been Manchester City’s football development executive for two years now much to the chagrin of Arsenal fans. The issue for Vieira is whether he fancies a return to a hands on role in developing young talent over than rather more ambassadorial role he has at City.

Meanwhile Goal believes that the youth team job will be an internal promotion but that another Arsenal legend could be back in the fold in a different guise.

It says

The Gunners’ academy No.2 David Court, Under-18s manager Steve Gatting and Under-21s manager Terry Burton are the leading contenders to replace Brady, who has run the academy since 1996.

Club legend Bergkamp has also been considered to take over at the Hale End base but the Ajax assistant manager is being targeted for a senior role in Arsenal’s first-team set-up.

David Court played for the Gunners in the 1960s and has been working closely with Liam Brady since 1996 and in many ways is a sensible promotion.

As for Bergkamp he is assistant manger at Ajax and is looking to manage in the Premiership at some point. His arrival would give more fuel to those who believe that Arsene Wenger will soon be installed in a less hands on role with one of his proteges replacing him as manager.

At Ajax Bergkamp headed the youth system before being promoted to work with the first-team under current manager Frank de Boer in June 2011.

Pic Wikipedia



Football

Chuba Akpom – could he be Arsenal’s long term striking solution?

By Stefano on February 7th, 2013

Over the years the Arsenal academy has delivered some great players. Ashley Cole, Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczęsny, Tony Adams to name but a few.

Oddly though the academy hasn’t delivered many great strikers. If you think of the cream of Arsenal’s forward talent – Ian Wright, Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie – they have all been bought from other clubs in their early to mid twenties.

Might that be about to change though with the massively exciting prospect that is Chuba Akpom. The 17 year old from East London signed professional terms with Arsenal at the end of last year a reward for some superb perfomances for the Gunners’ academy team.

And it isn’t just Arsenal fans who have noticed what potential they player has. Check out the video of Akpom scoring twice for England’s under 19s this week against Denmark. In the first time he was in the right place at the right time to punish a defensive error. For the second, his pace left the defender for dead creating an opportunity that he took superbly.

Arsene Wenger is obviously a massive fan of the player, he told the club’s offcial website in December after putting the striker on the bench for the Champions League trip to Olympiacos.

“He has personality [and] he has quality. I wanted him to be with the first team, taste what it is [to be involved] in a Champions League game, and hopefully he will join us very quickly. It could happen very soon.

“He’s more a guy who likes to participate in the build up, a guy who is brave, a guy who makes good runs and is not a typical goal chaser.

“Where he must improve is to finish things off. But he creates for others, he creates for himself, and just needs to be a bit calmer for the finishing. That’s something he will get easily.”

Akpom is still very much a raw talent, but his power and physical presence along with awareness of those who play upfront with him mark his as a bit special.

What Giroud doesn’t offer at the moment is what RVP had in spades – an awareness of the the right place to be in the box and a foot or two that are clinical when they get the chance.

These are qualities that given time we might come to associate with the youngster. The key though is that he gets his chance. It would be a gamble to push Akpom into the first team squad when he is barely seventeen. But I think he may have the raw talent to succeed and play a role in Arsenal’s push for Champions League Qualification. Who knows maybe current apparent Wenger’s keenness for Villa and older more experienced strikers is also because they can help develop Akpom to become an Arsenal great.



Football

Bad news for Arsenal fans – Sebastian Squillaci could start on Saturday against Sunderland

By Stefano on February 7th, 2013

Some rather worrying news for Arsenal fans. It seems possible that their old friend Sebastian Squillaci could start Saturday’s game against Sunderland partnering Per Mertesacker at the heart of the Arsenal defence.

Sebastian Squillaci hasn’t played for Arsenal in the Premiership this season (he has played just one game in the CL against Olympiacos), but with doubts over both Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen his moment may have arrived again.

Koscielny picked up a calf strain during France’s 2-1 defeat to Germany on Wednesday night, while Vermaelen has an ankle knock.

There still sees to be a reasonable chance that at least one of them will be fit for the games against Sunderland but if not Squillaci is clearly in the frame. Wenger could also choose Ignasi Miquel who played a few times in the Premiership last season, and if memory serves me well did a fair job of marking Andy Carroll against Liverpool. The Spaniard has played well when given the opportunity, but the 20 year old’s slow progress does suggest that Wenger has concerns about playing him.

It underlines how annoying Arsenal’s failure to capture Etienne Capoue, who can play in both central midfield and the centre of the defence, in the transfer window was.

Pic Wikipedia



Football

Etienne Capoue very much on Arsenal’s radar

By Stefano on February 7th, 2013

It appears that Arsene Wenger hasn’t given up on the player who turned out to be his main target during the winter transfer window.

The Telegraph reports that Wenger has had scouts dogging the every move of one Etienne Capoue, the powerful central midfield player who is currently at Toulouse.

The Telegraph says

Capoue has been watched extensively and, as well as offering additional physical strength in central midfield, he would provide extra cover at centre-back. Arsenal did not directly replace Alex Song last summer, with Mikel Arteta being largely relied upon this season to perform the screening role in front of the defence.

The article then goes on to outline the club’s current financial situation reporting that Wenger could have a war chest of around £70 million in the summer.

Capoue was apparently player that Arsenal were chasing on the last day of the transfer window. Wenger acknowledged that a player had slipped through his grasp saying that ultimately the club didn’t want to sell the player and he couldn’t push the deal through.

The 23 year old 6 feet two inch player uses his physical presence to impose himself on games – something Arsenal with their smaller midfielders like Wilshere and Arteta are sorely lacking.

Capoue is also king of the long diagonal ball, a ploy that Arsenal don’t seem to be using much this season.

Here is more on the move for the player.

Pic from Wikipedia



Football

Man City tracking Edinson Cavani – but likely to face stiff competition

By Stefano on February 6th, 2013

Man City will be looking for a striker to replace Mario Balotelli in the summer transfer window and it seems that their number one target is Napoli’s extraordinary Edinson Cavani, a man who has scored 27 goals in 26 appearances this season.

Blues coach Angelo Gregucci recently told a Naples radio station – which was also reported by the Manchester Evening News - that Cavani was a target for the Blues but he acknowledged that they would face a tough battle to sign him.

Gregucci told the station:

“City will definitely have competition for Cavani, who is dominating the Italian league with his goals and sacrifices for the team and whose contract has a £55m buy-out clause.

“Edinson is scoring a huge number of goals this season, and it will be difficult for City to take him. The ten biggest clubs in Europe all have Cavani in their sights.”

The Blues secured at least £20 million for Balotelli, but will may need in the region of £50 million to land Cavani. Many top European sides including both Arsenal and Chelsea are said to be keeping an eye on the player.

In the past City have also been linked to Atletico Madrid’s free-scoring Radamel Falcao, a player who is also interesting Chelsea.




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