Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football

The other side of the Balotelli bust up – the problem it presents Roberto Mancini

By Stefano on January 4th, 2013

Mario Balotelli has a habit of doing the most absurd things at precisely the most brilliant time. If he’d planned to get into a training ground scrap with his own manager, picking this week was a wonderful way to provide Roberto Mancini with the possibility to react instantly, with the transfer window offering the possibility for a quick-fire sale.

But that’s not the only fantastic thing about Balotelli’s timing. The other concerns matters on the pitch: Sergio Aguero, who has established himself as Manchester City’s most valuable centre-forward, is out for a fortnight with a hamstring injury. Samir Nasri, meanwhile, is suspended for the next two matches, and although Balotelli is generally considered a striker, he’s started as a wide player more frequently than a forward this season. City’s fixture this weekend is a comfortable-looking home FA Cup tie against Watford, allowing Mancini to rest his regulars after gruelling Christmas period, and give a run-out to some reserves. Balotelli, who hasn’t played a minute since the 3-2 defeat to Manchester United on December 9, currently qualifies as a back-up.

For all Balotelli’s off-pitch dramas and his on-pitch flashes of genius, it’s never been immediately obvious what he offers to City on a regular basis, at least on a tactical level. His attributes are blatant: tremendous pace in behind, an ability to run with the ball, impressive strength and, at times, wonderfully cool finishing ability. Yet how that translates into a well-rounded player perfect for a particular place in City’s side is unclear. Playing as an ‘on the shoulder’ striker probably suits him best, and his key contributions have generally come from that position: his opener in the 6-1 against Manchester United, for example, the ‘Why always me?’ moment.

Yet his chances of playing that role have been, in a slightly convoluted fashion, compromised by Carlos Tevez’s return. Although Tevez has generally been fielded as the deeper of Mancini’s two centre-forwards, it has pushed Sergio Aguero forward. Aguero has played the two separate forward roles a roughly equal number of times since his arrival in English football, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he’s more effective high up the pitch.

There’s more to his game than simply goalscoring, but his incredible acceleration and ability to create space for a shot when surrounded by opponents makes him one of the most dangerous finishers in the league.

On paper, Balotelli might be more suited to a wide position. David Silva starts in one of the wide roles and inevitably drifts inside into the centre, and Nasri’s tendency to do something similar has been problematic on occasion, making City’s play too congested and allowing the opposition to defend narrow.

Balotelli offers directness and a goalscoring threat from wide, but in addition to his lack of defensive work, he simply never appears determined or motivated when fielded there. He’s a powerful runner with the ball, but his ability to beat a man is less assured.

It’s unlikely yesterday’s incident will have a serious impact upon Mancini’s desire to keep him at the club: this is a manager who once told a press conference that he’d said to Balotelli: “If you played with me 10 years ago, I give to you every day maybe one punch in your head!”

Mancini will continue to give him opportunities through rotation. Aguero’s injury only makes that concept seem more appealing. But it’s difficult to see how, why or when Balotelli will become a key part of City’s starting XI, and therefore it will become increasingly difficult for Mancini to justify retaining such an undisciplined player, regardless of his talent.

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.



Football

Is Micah Richards going to be Brendan Rodgers’ next big signing for Liverpool?

By Stefano on January 4th, 2013

Liverpool have already made one of the key signings of the window in snapping up Daniel Sturridge, but it seems that Brendan Rodgers’ spree isn’t going to end there.

A few papers are reporting that the Liverpool manager is back on the case renegotiating the return of Thomas Ince from Blackpool with a fee of around £5 million.

But Italian source TuttoMercato (reported here by Goal) also says that the Reds are keeping close tabs on Man City defender Micah Richards.

The England defender has only had a few opportunities at Man City this season, after injuring his knee in October, and seems to have fallen off manager Roberto Mancini’s radar. Even when he was fit, like at the end of last season, his chances were limited. Mancini has an embarrassment of riches at the back and some papers are even linking Joleon Lescott with a move away from the club possibly to Aston Villa.

Liverpool already have an England player at right back in Glenn Johnson, but Richards would be a very useful centre back for Rodgers.



Football

Arsenal update – no news on M’Vila or Villa, but Abou Diaby is back

By Stefano on January 3rd, 2013

So a fairly quiet day for Arsenal on the transfer front. Yann M’Vila has been making noises about moving to The Premiership and there are strong rumours that Arsenal could be about to sign the Rennes player – but nothing concrete yet.

Barcelona also seed to have decide that they will let David Villa go after all, but if Arsenal want him they will have to fork out £16 million. They might also end up competing with Spurs also. £16 million for a 31 year old? Doesn’t sound like Arsene Wenger. I do think a load deal would be great, but it isn’t going to happen, is it?

With the Lopez deal stalling, Zaha apparently staying at Palace it doesn’t look like Arsenal will be making too many purchases in this window.

But hey that won’t matter because look who is back. Yep Abou Diaby started training with the Arsenal team today and is fit enough to be included in the squad for the weekend’s FA Cup tie at Swansea.

According to Arsenal.com

“Overall the [fitness] situation is very satisfying. Even when you start the season, usually you have an injury. We had Tomas Rosicky coming back injured from the European Championships. [Having everybody fit] is something we really enjoy.

“We are doing more work on [injury prevention] and it certainly plays a part. It’s difficult to say how much, but the prevention has become a bigger part of our training methods.”

As much as I’d love for Diaby to come back and set the Premiership alight in the way he did at the start of the season, it just isn’t going to happen. I’d so love to be proved wrong but I think he has proved a gamble too far for Wenger.

Anyway there’s some lovely pics here

I know he has issues, but the sooner we bulk out our midfield with M’Villa the better.

Btw check out the ten most popular Premiership players here.



features, Football

The ten most popular Premiership players – the ones you admire and respect

By Stefano on January 3rd, 2013

If you were to do a poll to find out who is the most popular player in the Premiership Robin Van Persie would probably win at canter given the billions of United fans across the globe who would vote for him.

But is he really the most popular player in the Premiership? Thought not. So I asked a highly cultured group of footy fans to name who their favourite Premiership players are, the catch being  that they couldn’t nominate anyone from their own team – and naming a player from their rivals was positively encouraged.

So which players do you admire? Who do you like watching? Who do you respect? And who would you think would be top value if you went for a drink with them?

Here are the ten players we came up with. Tell us who we missed in the comments.

Images from PA

10 Paul Scholes

Picture 1 of 10
Picture 1 of 10

Ok, so I know some fans don't like him because he can be a bit un-necessary when tackling, but you have to admire the United midfielder for his talent, loyalty to the Reds and down to earth approach to life. How many other Premiership players would take the bus? The only other United players to get nods were Rooney and Michael Carrick. If Carrick could repeat his United form for England this year he'd probably get a few more.



Football

Arsenal rumours; M’Villa in, three heading for the exit

By Stefano on January 3rd, 2013

It seems like Arsene Wenger is homing in on one of his long term transfer targets. Caught Offside is reporting that the Gunners are close to signing Rennes combative midfielder Yann M’Vila.

The website says

Wenger is confident he can lure M’Vila to North London this month and will look to make the midfielder the first signing of the window.

The 22 year old battler came close to securing a deal to move to the Emirates Stadium last summer but the deal collapsed at the last moment. Now Rennes are reportedly ready to accept offers of around €15m (£12m), a price-tag that Wenger is willing to meet in order to add some much needed steel to his Arsenal midfield.

Arsenal have not really replace Alex Song who left to join Barcelona in the summer and Wenger believes that by buying a defensive minded midfielder he will be able to give more rein to the attacking instincts of creative players like Wilshere and Cazorla. The key issue that the Arsenal boss is having to consider is whether he can manage an undeniably talented but tempestuous player who has at times had a difficult relationship with the Rennes fans.

Wenger clearly believes in the player who in spite of his 22 caps for France has been dropped by Rennes several times this season. In spite of this the club’s manager Frédéric Antonetti is a huge fan of the player and said that M’Vila “reads the game like Makélélé, has the presence of Vieira and can pass the ball like Yaya Touré.”

Although Arsenal appear to have back tracked on several of their potential signings since the window opened, this one feels like a real prospect. For all their midfield talent the club clearly have an issue with carrying the ball from midfield to their strikers Walcott and Giroud and a tough tacking box to box player with great vision sounds like the missing link in the chain, especially if he can release the other midfielders to take more attacking roles.

Meanwhile three Arsenal players are apparently a step closer to leaving the club this morning. According to an Italian paper out of sorts striker Marouane Chamakh is being tracked by Inter Milan and Johan Djourou is on the radar of German club Hanover. Sebastien Squillaci has apparently been talking to French clubs Marseille, Nice, Monaco, Bastia or Ajaccio about a possible move.

Image PA



Football

Transfer update – Liverpool sign Sturridge which means Ba move to Chelsea back on

By Stefano on January 2nd, 2013

Big news in the last hour. Liverpool FC have confirmed that they have signed Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge. There is no news yet on the terms of the deal but Sturridge has said

“I am humbled and happy to be here. Brendan Rodgers said he sees me here for a long time – and I also see myself here for a long time. I’ve not signed here to play for a couple of years and then move on.

“I’ve signed to be here for as long as possible. It’s a humongous club – for me, one of the biggest in the world – and to have the fans and world-class players we have here is amazing.”

Sturridge scored 13 times for Chelsea last season, including 11 in the Premier League, but an injury has limited his role this year.

Sturridge’s transfer means that the Demba Ba move to Chelsea is apparently back on. Newcastle United issues this on their website an hour or so ago.

The club have given the player permission to speak to Chelsea FC and therefore he will not be included in the squad for tonight’s (Wednesday) game against Everton.

Chelsea are thought to have made an offer in excess of £7 million which triggers Ba’s release clause. Infostrada recently tweeted “Demba Ba (36) has scored 2x as many PL goals since arriving in PL in Jan 2011 than Fernando Torres (18) since his move to #CFC in Jan 2011.”

So Chelsea fans – is this the striker you have been waiting for?

 



Football

Theo Walcott to sign new Arsenal contract. Wenger ends interest in Zaha, says Talksport

By Stefano on January 2nd, 2013

Talksport has an exclusive, which if proved true, could be one of the hottest transfer stories in January. They believe that Arsene Wenger is about to make his first signing of the window - Theo Walcott.

They say

“Reports have emerged from the Emirates that the former Southampton winger is ready to agree a new deal, having had various requirements met.”

Sky Sports is also reporting that Walcott is in news talks with the club today and that they expect a clear position on his future by the end of the day.

The down side for Arsenal fans is that Talksport also believes that Walcott signing will mean the Gunners cool their interest in Crystal Palace’s precocious star Wilfried Zaha.

The article also suggests that Arsenal remain in the market for other players with David Villa and Arda Turan on Arsene Wenger’s radar.

There have been positive noises coming out of The Emirates about Theo Walcott, so I don’t think many people will be too surprised if he re-signs. Arsenal are also not short of wide players, though they will lose one of them, Gervinho to the Africa Cup Of Nations, so cooling interest in Zaha isn’t too much of a shock. Not buying a winger thought would also rule out Turan. I do wonder if Arsenal’s main deal this winter will turn out to be Adrian Lopez who can play anywhere across the front three.

United are known to be very keen on Zaha, as are Spurs. Ferguson could even let him stay at palace on loan for the rest of the season. Zaha recently stated that he was ready to play Premiership football.

Here’s who else Arsene Wenger is considering signing this winter.



Football

Arsenal say no to Henry and Sneijder, but new signings on their way

By Stefano on January 2nd, 2013

In today’s least surprising news Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed that Thierry Henry won’t be returning for a third spell at the club. Arsenal have also ruled themselves out of the race to sign Dutch front man Wesley Sneijder, but Wenger insists that the club will make signings in the window.

Henry has been training with the club in the last month and there was possibility that he would repeat his loan spell of last year which saw him score twice for the club. However when quizzed about a deal Arsene Wenger told the press.

“He is not ready, he has just come back from holiday anyway. At the moment we are not on that case.”

Meanwhile The Sun is reporting that Arsenal (and Chelsea) have passed up on the chance to sign Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder even though he is being offered as a free transfer. Both teams are scared off by his wage demands. He currently earns £200k a week in Italy.

Finally Wenger has reiterated that he is looking to buy players in the window.

He said -

“I will be active, yes. Will I be concrete? I hope so. We are looking everywhere, we are open-minded. We want to strengthen the squad if possible if we find the right players.”



Football

Arsenal face tough battle to land the ‘new Gareth Bale’ Luke Shaw

By Stefano on January 1st, 2013

Arsenal are stepping up their bid to secure Southampton’s Luke Shaw, a left back whose ability has inevitability lead to comparisons with another Saints graduate Gareth Bale.

However they may face a tough battle to secure the youngster in the winter transfer window with manager Nigel Adkins adamant that his star 17 year old defender is going nowhere.

Adkins told the Mail

‘I think Luke gets linked every week with Arsenal, doesn’t he?’ said Adkins.

‘Luke is under contract, he is playing football for us in the Premier League, which is important.

‘We are not looking to let him go anywhere if anyone wants to come in for any of our players, by all means speak to the chairman. He does the deals and all the best with that.’

Wenger has apparently been tracking Shaw for several years. He also has swelled Southampton’s coffers in the past with big money signings of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. The latter cost £15 million. The bid for Shaw is apparently a third of that figure and Arsenal will have to increase that offer to stand a chance of luring Shaw to The Emirates.

Shaw might also worry that he is trading regular first team football for a period as under study to Kieran Gibbs. Although one wonders if Wenger has plans to do a Bale with Shaw and turn him into a more attack-minded wide player.

Images PA



Football

Mancini tells BBC that Robin Van Persie could cost City the title

By Stefano on January 1st, 2013

A few weeks ago we ran a story about how had Arsenal kept Robin Van Persie for another season and his goal rate stayed the same they would be top of the Premiership and Man United would have been mid-table stragglers.

Now someone else is declaring that the Dutchman is the difference between the sides competing for the title.

Roberto Mancini told the BBC “Robin van Persie is a very important player for United. He has changed their situation. He is the difference between us.”

Mancini went on to add that he got very close to signing the striker. “We were very close. We were sure he was for us but this did not happen and now we can do nothing. We were very close three or four months before he joined United.”

Here’s the theory on Van Persie’s influence on United as initially outlined by the Mail’s Martin Samuels.

United have gone behind to the first goal of the game in 10 Premier League matches and in seven have come back to win. Of those seven, five have featured crucial goals from Van Persie, including the equaliser against Fulham, a hat-trick against Southampton and the winner against Liverpool.

Now consider Arsenal with Van Persie’s 10 league goals this season added to their total. Supplement a single goal from Van Persie to the draws with Sunderland, Stoke City, Manchester City, Fulham, Aston Villa and Everton; add an equaliser to the one-goal defeats by Chelsea, Norwich City and Manchester United. That is a difference of 15 points, or the current spread between Manchester United (top, 36 points) and Arsenal (10th, 21).



Football

Villa, Sneijder, Zaha and the 10 most wanted players in the transfer window

By Stefano on December 31st, 2012

So, there is just a few hours to go before paper talk can become reality and the winter transfer window opens. This winter expect some serious cash to be flying with Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool desperate to strengthen their squads to keep them in the frame for Champions League qualification, and Man City and Chelsea mulling over big money strikers.

Apparently ‘Arrry has £20 million to spend too.

So here then are the ten most coveted players in the window. I’d be very surprised if at least half of them weren’t wearing new colours come February.

10 Jack Butland

Picture 1 of 10
Picture 1 of 10

Financial problems mean that Birmingham City might be forced to cash in on their England keeper with Liverpool FC apparently at the front of the queue and Southampton circling. Expect the fee to be around £5 million and if it is Liverpool Reina on his way out.



Football

Arsenal bid £10 million for Atletico’s Adrian Lopez

By Stefano on December 31st, 2012

Goal has an interesting exclusive. It is claiming that Arsenal have tabled a £10 million bid for Atletico Madrid’s out of favour striker Adrian Lopez.

The bid is less than the £14.7m release clause in the forward’s contract, but Wenger hopes that the striker, who has only played six times for the Madrid side this season, will put pressure on his club to see the move through.

Arsenal have already been closely linked with a number of Spanish strikers including David Villa, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente. The former would be probably only be available as loan deal and it seems that Wenger is set on strengthening his striking squad permanently in the window.

One of the reasons why Lopez is so attractive is that he a versatile player who can start anywhere in the front three. His striking skills would provide serious competition to Walcott and Giroud at The Emirates. Last season Lopez scored 19 goals in every competition.

He is not the marquee signing that Arsenal fans are calling for, but he might prove to be an excellent addition to the squad.

Pic PA



Football

BBC reports Chelsea offer for Demba Ba ‘not enough’

By Stefano on December 31st, 2012

With Arsenal seemingly out of the race it seemed a dead cert that Newcastle striker Demba Ba would be on his way to Chelsea.  BBC Five Live however are reporting that it is still far from a done deal. Apparently Newcastle are saying that they haven’t received an offer large enough to trigger Ba’s get out clause – which is reported to be £7 million

At the same time the player’s representatives aren’t happy with the offer either. It would appear that the issue of Ba’s dodgy knee means that Chelsea don’t want to to risk too much money on the player.

This one still feels like it is going to happen, but it does provide an opportunity for someone else to start courting the striker.



Football

Is Ronaldo really coming back to Man United? Can they afford him?

By Stefano on December 31st, 2012

The phoney war ends tomorrow and the 2013 transfer window finally opens. One story that is likely to rumble on throughout January though probably won’t reach any conclusion, revolves around the future of one Cristiano Ronaldo.

According to The Sun the Portuguese striker has been making noises recently that he is unhappy with his lot at Real Madrid. He has two years left on his contract and suggested that he would not be renewing it. The Sun also reported that he would consider a move back to United, but could they fund the mega bucks deal needed to sign him?

Today’s Sun thinks they could. It says…

If Ronaldo genuinely wants to leave, then Real’s asking price will tumble and players will come into the negotiations. The fee would be around £60m with David de Gea and possibly Nani joining Real.

So does he want to go? Who knows? After all this might just be a ploy to wrangle a few more million pounds a year to stay. If he does want to go then there are very few clubs in the world that could genuinely afford him. Front runners would be Paris St Germain, but Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala would also be in the frame and possibly a Chinese team or two.

And then there’s United. Fergie is apparently still close to the star and The Sun thinks that funded by shirt sales United could breaking the bank and make him an astronomic wage deal. The Sun thinks they could go as high as £300k a week. So would you break the bank to bring Ronaldo back?



Football

Wenger’s winter shopping list – the six players who could re-ignite Arsenal’s season

By Stefano on December 30th, 2012

On one level that was a pretty impressive display by the Gunners against Newcastle. However before we get carried away and start predicting great things for the club in the new year it is worth noting the following. Firstly, injury-crippled Newcastle aren’t far off relegation fodder at the moment. Secondly Arsenal were poor for much of the first half managing only a couple of meaningful chances in addition to their goals.

There are clear holes in the team which need filling and Wenger, for all his talk of only signing exceptional players, knows this to be the case. No matter how big the new sponsorship deals are, not qualifying for The Champions League will blow a huge chasm in Arsenal’s financial plans and at the moment Arsenal look like a team that could well finish fifth or even sixth.

Also the pressure on the manager (and the board too) from the fans is starting to increase. What was the odd murmuring from disgruntled supporters a year or so ago is now a crescendo of discontent and it is an issue that needs to be met head on this January.

So, to help Arsene out a little, here are the six players who I think could transform Arsenal’s season. Obviously Arsenal would be unlikely to secure all six, but they are clearly missing a striker, a defensive midfielder, a wide player (especially if Arshavin goes) and a left back (if as expected Santos heads to Turkey).

This lot should realistically cost £30-40 million in signing on fees and a significant wad in wages. However that should still leave  plenty of cash for more rebuilding, and in particular that marquee striker signing, in the summer.

So who have I missed?

Pics from PA

4 Wilfried Zaha

Picture 3 of 6
Picture 3 of 6

Zaha is a no brainer. Arsenal are short of wing players, Zaha is hugely talented with buckets of self-belief. He is young, English and an Arsenal fan to boot. If Wenger thinks that the future Arsenal needs a British core he would be a superb addition. He won't be cheap, maybe as much as £12 million, but he will probably cost less than Oxlade Chamberlain. He will also be able to play in the Champions League too, which is a significant bonus. What swings it is the alternative is Nani, a player who completely divides opinion at The Emirates. Zaha has future Gunners hero written all over him.




©2012 Shiny Digital Privacy Policy
-->