Archive for the ‘Football’ Category


Is Everton’s Nikica Jelavic now the club’s weakest link?

By Stefano on January 26th, 2013

I think it’s time we had a little talk about Nikica Jelavic. In the space of exactly one calendar year he’s gone from single-handedly saving Everton’s attack, to its weakest link.

Now granted, this year’s Everton attack lies much less firmly on his shoulders, and when Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas are healthy, Jelavic becomes the third most important goal scoring threat. But, for most of the year, everybody hasn’t been healthy, and Jelavic, despite showing flashes of his old form, hasn’t stepped up to fill the gap.

It remains unclear why this is the case. Part of it may be trouble adapting to life with Fellaini as the focal point, part of it may be the extended absences of Darron Gibson and his ability to hit diagonal passes into Jelavic’s runs, and part of it may just be the periodic lapses in form that seem to engulf most pure strikers from time to time.

There is, of course, the more dire possibility that last year was the anomaly, that Jelavic is a one trick pony, and that now that the league has figured out his style, Jelavic won’t ever be able to adapt and regain his form.

Still despite all that, most years I would staunchly advocate for running him out there every game. After all, we’re a club with limited resources, and giving a talented out of form striker every opportunity to get his mojo back is a much better use of dollars than relegating him to the bench. But, this is not most years. This is a year where Everton have a legitimate chance at qualifying for Champions League football. In that environment every single point matters, and every point dropped due to Jelavic’s bad form is magnified by the possibility of European dollars lost.

It’s also not like other years because Fellaini’s attacking emergence means that the strikers’ role is much more secondary, a role that chronic under-performer Victor Anichebe is perfect for. It’s no accident that the 24 year old seems to be in the best form of his life in the limited opportunities he’s received. So far this year Big Vic has been reduced to filling in for injured attackers, or being shoe-horned into the right midfield slot that he’s a bad fit for. And under those adverse conditions he’s managed to impress.

I still believe in Jelavic’s talent, but right now that’s not enough. In the modern world of sports there are increasingly few times when the need to win the next game at all costs aligns with the long term strategic goals of a club. This is one of those times.

The fact that Jelavic’s talent might come good again next week or next month or next year might be a good reason to play him in a normal season. But not this year. This year everything must be about the now. And right now Anichebe gives this team a better chance to win.

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.


So just how good is Wilfried Zaha? Here’s an interesting take on what he achieved at Palace

By Stefano on January 25th, 2013

So just how good is Wilfried Zaha. Julius from one Gunner Gooner blog might be an Arsenal fan, but he has also seen a lot of Palace in the last few years. Here is his assessment of Zaha and his take on whether Arsene Wenger should have tried a little harder to sign him.

I like to call Crystal Palace my South London club. My first ever football match was to watch The Eagles at Selhurst Park, and ever since I have kept up the connection. I always keep up with Palace’s results and, if possible, watch them down in SE25.

This deep lying love for the club means that I have been lucky enough to watch Wilfried Zaha turn into the player he is today. Frankly, how he’s gone unsnatched for this long is nothing short of remarkable. Although it seems he shall don the colours of our fierce rivals Manchester United from next season, he is still a wonderfully gifted footballer that should be appreciated by lovers of football in general.

What Sort of Player Is He?

Since Darren Ambrose left for Birmingham in the summer, Zaha has become Palace’s new talisman. And a better one at that. Put simply, he is their only star player. Crystal Palace play with a basic 4-2-3-1 formation, and strong defensive midfielders in Mile Jedinak and Kagisho Dikgacoi give the three attacking midfielders a licence to roam. Yannick Bolasie, Oven Garvan and Andre Moritz all rotate in the AM positions, but Zaha is the only consistent starter.

It speaks volumes about the raw quality he has. He can do anything. He has astonishing pace, a low centre of gravity for someone as moderately tall as 5ft 11 and a brilliant shot. At times, Palace just give him the ball and he’ll do something special. Against Peterborough in November, when desperately needing a winner to remain top, they gave the ball to Zaha. He ran half the length of the field and cut it back for Dikgacoi to score in the final few minutes. He’s that kind of player for Crystal Palace: a talisman but also a leader by example.

If he had moved to Arsenal, he could have slotted in quite nicely. He would most likely have operated down the left flank. As a right footer, he has an unbelievable talent for bamboozling full backs before cutting inside then passing or shooting. Think of him in dribbling form as the Gervinho of the Championship. But before that puts you off, his end product is one of the strongest points of his game, and some of the goals he scores and assists are extremely impressive.

What Is His True Value?

Only now is he starting to blossom. For a while now has he been a consistently good performer for The Eagles, but this season he has suddenly stepped up. He buzzes around more than he used to, and has worked on his strength, which invariably comes with age. Now that his potential is being realised, it allows Palace to drive a hard bargain. And my God to they cling onto their talent. Neil Danns and Nathaniel Clyne, two of Palace’s best players in the 10/11 and 11/12 seasons respectively, were in the final year of their contracts. Even when it became apparent that neither wanted to remain, instead of cashing in (it was reported that there were offers on the table for Clyne as high as £7m), they stuck to their guns and held them to their contracts. Both left on free transfers the following summers. Bear in mind that this is a cash strapped club we’re talking about that, only a season ago, managed to claw their way out of administration. Manchester United have reportedly made a down payment of £10m, with the fee rising to as high as £15m depending on his success at the Red Devils. This seems fairly steep for a 20 year old that has never played at a level higher than the second tier but these days quality costs.

Would He Have Been A Good Signing For Arsenal?

In a nutshell, probably. The jump from taking on Peterborough’s Craig Alcock to Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic is obviously a big one, and many of the Championship’s best players have often struggled to make the step up (David Nugent being a prime example). I would like to see him as another future first teamer as he is unlikely to be the kind of player that will have an instant impact. We wouldn’t have needed him at all given how stocked our wings are. This means that buying him at an inflated price in January would have been a bit silly unless every forward at Arsenal suddenly develops osteoporosis. He still needs time to develop, and the Crystal Palace setup that churned out Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne is not a bad place for Zaha to continue his footballing education.

In conclusion, Zaha has remarkable ability. Without him, Palace would be midtable or worse, and his ability to save the day for The Eagles slightly reminds this Arsenal supporter of he who shall not be named. If he is to wear the picnic shirt of our northern rivals from next season, it will be a shame but also a testament to the raw talent this winger possesses . Eagles fans often call him the Ronaldo of the Championship. Whether he could fall under the same bracket as Cristiano in the Premier League is the big question. He certainly has that little glint in his eye.


Arsene Wenger Arsenal press conference update. Villa; ‘not on the case.’ No new players a possibility?

By Stefano on January 25th, 2013

There might just be a week to go in the transfer window but Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger doesn’t seem in too much of a hurry to buy new players.

Describing signing new players in the winter window as ‘a gamble’ at his press conference Wenger went on to say that he also thinks that the number of deals in the window should be limited.

But the saddest news for Arsenal fans is his dismissal of any activity to sign Barcelona’s David Vila. Wenger said ‘we are not on the case.’

With the future of Mohamed Diame in some doubt and Spurs apparently keen on the player now, there remains a very real possibility that Arsenal will not sign a single player in the window in spite of letting several players go on loan and their mixed league form.

So Gunners fans what do you think? Has Arsene Wenger got his transfer strategy all wrong? Or does he still know?


Arsenal update: good and bad news on the David Villa chase

By Stefano on January 25th, 2013

There some good news and band news for Arsenal fans this morning – well those who covet the signing of one David Villa from Barcelona.

The good news is that the player didn’t get a run out in the Catalan team’s 4-2 victory over Malaga in the Copa del Rey last night. Villa is apparently frustrated at his lack of playing opportunities and The Daily Mail among others thinks that his spot on the bench will further push him towards the exit door.

Barca’s assistant manager Jordi Roura said before the game: ‘We already know everything about David. He has had really bad luck with his injuries. That has interrupted his rhythm. He will know if he starts or not when we take the decision. He has always been an important player for us.’

However The Metro suggests that even if the striker does decide to leave Spain, North London might not be his destination.

Italian giants Juventus are apparently mulling over a bid for the 31 year old.

This is the same Juve that has been on the verge of signing Athletico Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente (coincidentally another Arsenal target) for much of the window.

With the Basques playing a little hard ball over the deal this sounds like a classic case of the Italians spreading news to get the Llorente deal done.

If that’s not the case then Villa comes with a price tag of around £10 million, which may prove prohibitive for The Gunners.

If the player does sign expect it to be hours before the deadline in classic Wenger style.


Spanish paper claims Arsenal are negotiating for £17.6 million German defender Mats Hummels

By Stefano on January 24th, 2013

Spanish football site Fichajes has been stirring things up a bit by suggesting that Arsenal are already in negotiations with Borussia Dortmund for the transfer of the club’s highly rated defender Mats Hummels.

The German has been watched by a number of Premiership clubs, but if Fichajes is right it puts the North London side in pole position to sign the player.

Hummels is a 24 year old who has been a regular fixture in Dortmund’s Bundesliga games this season. He has already played 23 times for the national side and is a graduate of Bayern Munich’s youth academy who was snapped up Dortmund in 2009.

As well as being a very solid central defender Hummels does like to get forward to instigate attacks and has scored 13 times in his tenure at Dortmund. Crucially he is very quick, which might make him an ideal partner for the slightly less mobile Per Mertesacker.

I just wonder if Wenger is considering using him as a defensively minded midfielder, a position he has the attributes to play.

He is likely to be expensive though with the asking price being around £17 million – a huge amount to pay for defensively minded player in the winter window even one this talented.

Pic from Wikipedia


Wilfried Zaha about to undergo medical at Man United. Five and half year deal agreed.

By Stefano on January 24th, 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson’s ongoing campaign to snap up the best young British talent continues with the news that Crystal Palace’s exceptional winger Wilfried Zaha is to join the club.

The player is said to be on his way to Old Trafford to undergo a medical after agreeing a £15 million move and a five and half year contract.

It sounds like great news for United fans. But Palace have done pretty well out of the transfer too. Not only is £15 million a lot of money for Championship player – it is roughly the same amount that Arsenal paid Southampton for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain – but United have agreed to loan the player back to Palace for the rest of the season.

According to the Beeb

United will pay £10m up front, with the fee potentially rising to £15m based on Zaha’s appearances and success. The player has scored 15 goals in 124 appearances for the Eagles since his debut against Cardiff in March 2010.

Zaha’s arrival once casts doubts on the long term future of Nani. In spite of apparent interest from Arsenal the player seems set to stay at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future, but when Zaha arrives in the summer the out of favour Portuguese winger will surely be on his way.


Why Mohamed Diame makes sense for Arsenal and will be the club’s next signing

By Stefano on January 24th, 2013

Only a week to go before the transfer window shuts and Arsenal are still in search of reinforcements. Arsene Wenger has suggested he will add two players to the squad and given the others players he has mentioned it would appear that top of his wants list is a striker and combative central midfielder.

While he is  a long way off on the former, the latter could be an easier process as I think he may have found the ideal player in Mohamed Diame .

Even though he played a very small cameo in last night’s game between Arsenal and West Ham and his team were down to ten men after the injury to Potts, Diame still did enough to catch the eye. He is such a large imposing figure that even without touching a ball he adds presence to a side.

Last night he started on the left side of midfield and undertook a few runs at the Arsenal defence one of which caused Sagna real problems. He then shifted to the right hand side for the last couple of minutes of the game looking to create opportunities for the Hammers on the break.

He is clearly the lynch pin of the West Ham midfield, Allardyce certainly thinks so which explains why he is so keen to keep him, and they sorely missed him during the ten minutes of madness at the start of the second half last night.

So why then I do expect Mohamed Diame to be an Arsenal player in hours rather than days?

1 He is a proven Premiership player – Take a look at Man United. When Fergie wants a player in that he will mould his his team around he always shops in the Premiership. Think about it – Ferdinand, Rooney, Carrick, Young, Van Persie. He is happy to take chances with players and some come off (Ronaldo) while others are less successful (Nani) but on the whole United like players with proven Premiership experience.

It works at Arsenal too, and Wenger clearly knows this. With Arteta there was no time spent letting him finding his feet acclimatising to the rigours of English football. He had been playing in Britain for nearly a decade so he just got on with it and slotted in from the start. Arsenal need reinforcements to help propel them to that Champions League fourth spot not gambles for the future – save those for the summer.

I think Diame would slot in easily and quickly at Arsenal which is an essential attribute of a winter window purchase.

2 He is versatile – Diame is tough in the tackle and solid at the back, yet when given the chance to push forward he can take players on and set up chances. He can do both the defensive midfielder and box to box midfielder too.

As I wrote before

For me Diame is a slightly more defensively minded version of Diaby, minus the dodgy ankle, and his versatility would be a key ingredient for the Gunners. Put it this way opposing teams would never know what type of Arsenal midfield they were dealing with and that unpredictability would cause opposition managers real headaches.

If Jack Wilshere is the future of Arsenal he needs to play alongside a midfilder who will curb their attacking instincts and let the England player express himself. Diame could be the man to play this role.

3 He’ll come cheaply

The player clearly wants to leave West Ham and given his £3.5 million transfer trigger he wouldn’t dent Arsenal’s cash stash too greatly. Of course he will cost more than that amount and probably a lot more if other clubs start sniffing around – but he won’t end up being too expensive.

4 Wenger is running out of options – It still puzzles me a little why Wenger, who was keen on Yann M’Vila for so long, didn’t bid for the Rennes midfielder. It is clear that M’Vila wanted to come and he also would have been add steel to the Arsenal midfield. I guess his bad boy reputation put Arsene off. The sad truth is though that there really aren’t that many option left now for Arsene, especially with Premiership experience. Wigan’s James McCarthy is a possibility, and there’s that fuzzy haired fella from Everton too.

5 Diame could play in the Champions League – Diame could start against Bayern if required. Also if Arsenal, didn’t qualify for the Champions League this year it would be less of an issue for the player than it would be say some bigger money signings from outside the Premiership.

So what is stopping Wenger? Diame’s fitness – he had a heart scare a few years back? The feeling that he is a bit of a mercenary – after all he has only been a West Ham player for a few months. The ongoing search for British talent?

Ultimately I think that none of these are insurmountable and that Mohammed Diame will be an Arsenal player some time this week. It just makes sense.

Pic from Wikipedia


Arsenal update: Brazillian youngster linked, Ashley Williams one for the summer?

By Stefano on January 24th, 2013

Just one week to go before the transfer madness in this window is over. Until then expect lots of players to be linked to Arsenal, who still, in case you had forgotten, have two players to sign.

After Stevan Jovetic yesterday, several papers are reporting that Arsene Wenger is looking at another Italian-based player. Sky Italia is leading the charge suggesting that the club is taking a peek at Hellas Verona’s (they play in Serie B btw) Brazilian Jorginho.

A kind of Italian version of Wilfried Zaha (except that he plays as a central midfielder) Jorginho has got rave reviews this season and has been interesting many of the big Italian sides including AC Milan, Lazio, Napoli and Fiorentina. There’s an interesting clip of him above.

Jorginho would apparently cost around €4milllion.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Wenger is looking at the player, but this one seems a bit unlikely. I suspect that if Arsene is looking to buy a midfielder he will start with one who is playing closer to home.

Another player Arsenal are being linked to is Swansea captain Ashley Williams. Several papers are suggesting that Arsene Wenger will go head to head with AVB for the Welsh player in the summer.


Lopez looking unlikely. Rumours from Italy that Wenger wants Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetić

By Stefano on January 23rd, 2013

So the David Villa deal is in the balance, Adrian Lopez looks like he is staying at Atletico, Edinson Cavani is probably too pricey, so where should Arsene Wenger go next to find a striker?

According to Italian football site Football Italia Arsenal are prepared to offer Fiorentina £20m for the services of Stevan Jovetic.

A number of clubs have apparently asked about the 23 year old shaggy haired Montenegrin including Man City and Juventus, though the official word from Italy is that he is staying at the club.

Jovetic is a technically gifted player with excellent dribbling skills. He typically plays as second striker, so maybe Wenger would play him behind Walcott, or for games against more muscular Premiership games, Olivier Giroud.

He does find the net too and has scored eight times this season.


Arsenal update: Long-term Wenger target Younes Belhanda looks like an option

By Stefano on January 23rd, 2013

Arsene Wenger has already done business with French side Montpelier. In the summer he signed Olivier Giroud from the French Champions and if the gossip it to be believed he also had a word of two about defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa – who is now a Newcastle player.

Might he be picking up the phone to the club to talk about another player? Several sites are running with the news that Montpelier’s Moroccan playmaking midfielder Younes Belhanda could be available after Inter Milan appear to have passed on the player and Turkish club Fenerbahçe’s offer was rejected.

Montpelier chairman Laurent Nicollin told French newspaper Midi Libre…

“I’ve had no firm offer from Inter and we refused Fenerbahçe’s offer to pay in three instalments.”

Arsenal were reportedly interested in the player in the summer and there was a point where it appeared that Belhanda would be following Giroud to The Emirates.

Last summer Wenger wrote about Belhanda in his blog for French Eurosport.

“He plays without any complexities, his real talent is dribbling, passing and he has good technique which can influence any game.

“I love this player.”

He would be available for between £6-8 million, but quite where he would fit into the current Arsenal set up remains to be seen, maybe as a long term replacement for Tomas Rosicky.

This is another transfer that could got to the wire, just the way Arsene likes it.

UPDATE – At least one source says that Inter have agreed a fee for the player

UPDATE 2 – Inter have denied that a deal has been done for the player, saying they haven’t made an offer


Arsenal update: Arsene Wenger to move for Davild Villa next week

By Stefano on January 23rd, 2013

Arsene Wenger has said before that he likes to leave things late in the transfer window in order to get the best deals. Well it seems he is going to go to the wire on the man who could be Arsenal’s number one winter target – David Villa.

Although Barcelona have stated that he is not for sale the player has re-ignited Arsenal’s interest after apparently pushing his club for an exit and favouring a move to London.

In typical Wenger style it appears that the club will wait until the last 48 hours of the window before making their move.

The Sun reports that

The Gunners will not pay £15m for a player of Villa’s age but they are desperate to land a striker and would pay £10m.

I think most Arsenal fans would agree that Villa’s deadly accuracy in front of goal and his ability to turn a half chance into a goal scoring opportunity are exactly what the North Londoners need at the moment.

This one is going to go to the wire.



Liverpool update: Bayern Munich in shock move for Luis Suarez. New bid for Philippe Coutinho

By Stefano on January 22nd, 2013

Luis Suarez’s electric form for Liverpool hasn’t gone unnoticed in Germany. The latest club to be linked to the Uruguayan is Bayern Munich who are apparently, well The Express says, are lining up a £40 million move for the player.

However before Liverpool fans get too concerned the source of the rumour is Spanish newspaper Sport (as reported by The Express) which mentions that Suarez is on Guardiola’s wish list along with Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Edin Dzeko.

Guardiola may have great connections but he is hardly going to sign all those players? The Metro does however suggest that Suarez is his main target.

Suarez has been electric in front of goal this season, netting 20 times in all competitions for the Reds.

The same paper also reports that Inter Milan’s Philippe Coutinho could soon be a Liverpool player with the Italian team apparently ready to accept the club’s £8 million bid.


Arsenal update – Mohamed Diame ‘set to be Arsenal’s first signing?’ and why it is a great move

By Stefano on January 22nd, 2013

There’s a lot of buzz this morning about the possible transfer of West Ham’s central midfielder, Mohamed Diame, to Arsenal. And much of it has been fuelled by Arsene Wenger who told reporters earlier “He has a great presence in the games, I have seen him have a big impact,” reports that Wenger will make one more check on Diame’s fitness on Wednesday – when the two teams meet at The Emirates – before triggering the £3.5 million release clause in his contract. The site suggests that Diame will be Wenger’s first window signing.

Diame’s versatility would make him a good buy for the Gunners – see here to find out why. He would be an ideal Wenger purchase too as he could be picked up cheaply.

Diame joined The Hammers on a free transfer from Wigan Athletic last summer and has been in superb form this season.

he would also be free to play in Arsenal’s upcoming Champion League games against Bayern Munich.


Arsenal ‘never in’ for Wilfried Zaha. Man United hold further talks with the Palace winger

By Stefano on January 22nd, 2013

Man United’s chase of Wilfried Zaha seems finally to be reaching a conclusion with the BBC reporting that the two clubs are going to hold further talks today. The main issue appears to be whether Zaha will be loaned back to Palace for the rest of the season to help the side’s promotion campaign.

Ben Smith of the BBC said earlier.

“United are understood to be willing to pay £12m for Zaha and will would then loan him back to the Championship club for the rest of the seaso. Both clubs have refused to comment on a proposed deal for the 20-year-old. But an agreement could be reached by the end of the week for a player who won his first England cap against Sweden in November.”

Meanwhile Arsenal have completely pulled out of the race for the Gunners supporting player.

Arsene Wenger told a news conference this morning that

” I don’t know if he will go to Man United. If he goes to Man United, good luck to him. We were never in for Zaha.”

I think that had Theo Walcott not signed a new contract Arsenal would have been more interested in the player. Zaha has been one of the best players in the Championship this year and if he can replicate his Palace form in the Premiership he is likely to be a huge star at Old Trafford.


Arsenal update: Wenger considers Celtic’s Victor Wanyama. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in the balance

By Stefano on January 22nd, 2013

In the last couple of days an old rumour has re-surfaced – the one that sees Celtic’s Victor Wanyama joining the club as a holding midfielder. Wanyama has been impressive for Celtic in both the Scottish Premiership and The Champions League and would be a straight replacement for Alex Song who left for Barcelona in the summer.

The Indie says

Having closely monitored the progress of Wanyama in Celtic’s successful progress through the Champions League group stages, Arsenal have made the Kenya international aware that he is a strong option for the position. Though Wanyama’s performances have seen his asking price rise above £10m, the 21-year-old’s wages are comparatively low and he has refused to extend a contract with Celtic that expires in 2015.

Wanyama has another string to his bow in that he can also play in central defence and Arsenal could add depth in this area to cover for Johann Djorou who left on loan earlier in the window.

Wanyama has also scored seven times in 32 appearances this season.

Meanwhile the ongoing saga of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa has taken an interesting turn with the player apparently not making it to Newcastle to complete a medical which would seal the move of the defender from Montpelier to the north east.

According to The Telegraph Newcastle still expect Yanga-Mbiwa to arrive on Tyneside, with the club blaming the weather for the delay.

It says

Arsenal have been in contact with Montpellier after news of Newcastle’s bid was leaked in France to ask about the size of their offer, but they have not made a formal bid.

Whether Yanga-Mbiwa has decided to wait to see if an offer comes from the north London club remains to be seen, although that might explain the delay in his travel to the north east.

Finally a quick reminder of the story that broke yesterday afternoon that David Villa has told the Spanish paper Sport that he wants out of the club during the window.

Villa is of course a major Arsenal target with the player rumoured to be keen on a move to North London and Arsenal had apparently readied a team to jet to Barcelona to secure his signature.

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