Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football

Usmanov buys more Arsenal shares. Is he a planning a January coup?

By Stefano on December 21st, 2012

There’s plenty of Arsenal news this morning with more speculation about the possible arrival of Demba Ba, the fight for Stoppila Sunzu and the latest twists in Theo Walcott’s contract saga but this biggest story might just be this one which has been highlighted by the always superb Angry Of Islington.

The blogger reports that Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov has been buying more shares in the club and may soon be in a position to challenge the majority shareholder Stan Kroenke for ownership. This has been confirmed by The Guardian, which quotes a CNBC interview that says that he already has 30% of Arsenal’s shares.

Angry says

Arsenal.com yesterday updated the published share position for the two major shareholders to show that Alisher Usmanov’s Red & White Holdings now have a total of 18,637 shares. This is ten more than they had last time the figure was updated on 5 December, and leaves them exactly 29 short of the 18,666 needed for 30 per cent of Arsenal.

So it seems that Usmanov has been quietly buying shares in a bid to continue his takeover of the club.

The implications of this are potentially huge for Arsenal. At most clubs 30% ownership would trigger a compulsory full takeover bid which it did for Stan Kroenke with Arsenal in 2011. However as Angry points out this would not be the case at Arsenal.

The buying of shares would largely be symbolic and Kroenke’s position unaffected, but they would mean concerted pressure would be put on the existing board, and by dint of his association with them, the manager Arsene Wenger.

Usmanov has been very active around Arsenal of late, building relationships with Thierry Henry while criticising Wenger for selling Van Persie. He also told CNBC that he dreams of owning the club. If Arsenal’s poor form continues and they don’t make any significant purchases in the winter (and Wenger told the BBC yesterday that this was a possibility) Usmanov could attempt a coup at the club, even though Kroenke could in theory easily ignore it.

What might change everything is if the fans get behind Usmanov, who also has a strong relationship with former supporters favourite David Dein, and we start to see ‘Kroenke out’ and ‘sack the board’ banners at The Emirates.

You get the feeling that this one is going to run and run.

Arsenal special: Is Wenger right to build the new Arsenal around British players?



Football

Robert Lewandowski is interesting Sir Alex Ferguson – summer move on the cards?

By Stefano on December 21st, 2012

Some interesting news this morning on Goal which is reporting that Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been reasonably quiet about Manchester United’s transfer plans of late, has lined up the highly regarded Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski for a summer move.

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc recently admitted “the departure of Robert Lewandowski end of the season is a done deal.”

If true, the 24 year old Polish striker, who has already banged in 15 goals this season, will join an embarrassment of attacking riches at the club including Rooney, Hernandez, Wellbeck and one Robin Van Persie.

Apparently Lewandowski, who will cost between £12-14million, is keen to link up with former colleague Shinji Kagawa at Old Trafford.

Lewandowski’s arrival could however mean that Ferguson may cash in on one of his other striker. So United fans who would you be prepared to lose – Wellbeck or Hernandez?



Football

Is Arsene Wenger right to build his team round young British players?

By Stefano on December 20th, 2012

Yesterday Arsene Wenger confirmed what was a pretty badly kept secret that five of his young British charges including Jack Wilshere, had signed long term contracts at the club. The move surprised very few people. Were Wilshere to follow his ex-colleagues on the road to The Etihad or the Camp Nou, then any talk of Arsenal being among Europe’s elite would surely be over for good.

Of the other four, Jenkinson, Oxlade Chamberlain and Gibbs clearly have big futures at the club while Wenger seems to believe more in the potential of Aaron Ramsey than many of the fans.

Wenger has also gone on record as saying how important a British base is to his team

He said

“I believe that we have a good core of young English players. We couldn’t keep the good core of young foreign players but I hope we will be capable of building the team around these English players and for them to achieve something together.

“I believe as well that when a club gives a chance to young players the players must say ‘let’s do it together’ because if you educate players at some stage their fate is in their own hands.”

This of course is a tad ironic from the first manager to ever field a whole team of foreigners in the Premiership in February 2005.

Also if Wenger believes that English players are more loyal to the club than those mercenary foreigners he would do well to remember that the among the first players who were at their peak who left the club was Ashley Cole in 2006.

Both of those dates are actually very interesting. Arsenal haven’t won a trophy since 2005 and I think one of the reasons (money is obviously the main one) Cole left in 2006 was because he felt more of an affinity with the English players who he had met on international duties at Chelsea than he did with all the foreigners at Arsenal.

British football has changed irrevocably since Wenger first took the reins at Arsenal in the late nineties. Then, his team of scouts who delivered some of the best players in France and beyond, were almost unique in the Premiership. These days everyone has teams all over the world searching for the stars of the future.

There does however seem a logic to building a team round British players. I guess Wenger wants to re-create the tightness and loyalty of the famous five defenders from the Graham era and hark back to the consistency of the pre-2005 days where the bed rock of the team was home grown.

The big question though is – are those players good enough to provide the foundations of the future for Arsenal?

Well here’s a quick verdict on all five

Jack Wilshere – For the first two or three games after his return every time Jack went near a challenge you could hear all The Emirates cringe. It does however appear that he is as robust as he can be at this stage and he just gets better in each game. Surely Wenger will make him captain soon. He is not only the most talented footballer that Arsenal’s youth team has bequeathed Wenger but he is articulate, smart and, for most of the time, level headed. I think he is the future of Arsenal.

Aaron Ramsey – I think most Arsenal fans would agree that Aaron simply hasn’t been the same since that tackle. Sure there have been flashes of brilliance but until his altercation with Ryan Shawcross he not only had confidence, he had swagger. These days he tends to disappear from games at times. And his goal scoring record isn’t what it ought to be for an attack minded midfielder. However, there have been moments this year (against City and Olympiakos) when the old Ramsey shone through. Also Wenger has played him out of position on the wing which hasn’t really been a success. He might not be the player that Wenger builds the team around, but he is a good long term bet for the future.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Another player who has had a rather mixed season. Again there have been flashes of genius, and the moments when he takes on defenders raises the temperature at The Emirates. Then there have been the games where he has failed to make any impact at all. It’ll be fascinating to see how pivotal he becomes to the team if Walcott does leave, even more so if Zaha is his replacement.

Carl Jenkinson – What a difference a year makes! The young defender, who looked like a rabbit in the headlights a year or so ago, has matured to the point where some Gunners are imagining a day where he takes over at right back from Bacary Sagna. Apart from some obvious mistakes (coughs Swansea) he has been very reliable this year and his crossing and attack player is constantly improving. I think the England right back berth is his for the taking.

Kieran Gibbs – If only he could shake off those injuries Gibbs would be one of the best left backs in England. With Baines unlikely to venture south and Wenger’s last experiment in finding a left back delivering a slightly bonkers Brazilian Gibbs really ought to be a feature in the Arsenal team for a very long time.

I think most Arsenal fans would answer the question about whether Arsene was right to tie up the players with a stroke of the chin. There is clearly a huge amount of potential there, but then there was with Denillson, Bendtner and Vela too. At the moment it seems as if Wenger has made a fairly safe bet. But only time will tell.



Football

Champions League draw; Arsenal face Bayern Munich and Man United tackle Real Madrid

By Stefano on December 20th, 2012

So here it is. Arsenal have been drawn against Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the Champions League while Man United will face Real Madrid in the plum tie of the round.

The draw means that Ronaldo will be returning to the stadium that made him famous. In 2000 and 2003 the two sides played with Real winning both ties.

At least Arsene Wenger will be cheered that he has managed to avoid Barcelona who have put the Gunners out twice in the last three years.  The last time Arsenal played the Germans, Bayern put them out of the Champions League in 2005 winning 3-2 on aggregate. Bayern are currently an ominous nine points clear in the Bundesliga.

The first legs of the Champions League last-16 ties will played on 12-13 and 19-20 February and the second legs are on 5-6 and 12-13 March.

The full draw is

Galatasaray v Schalke

Celtic v Juventus

Arsenal v Bayern Munich

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund

AC Milan v Barcelona

Real Madrid v Manchester United

Valencia v Paris St Germain

Porto v Malaga

 



Football

Arsene Wenger tells BBC he is confident that Theo Walcott will sign a new contract

By Stefano on December 20th, 2012

Breaking news – the Theo Walcott transfer saga looks like it is about to take another turn. After agreeing contracts with five of his British players yesterday, including Jack Wilshere, Arsene Wenger has now told the BBC that he is ‘convinced’ that Theo Walcott will be staying at The Emirates.

Wenger said ‘I am convinced Walcott will stay and hope that the other players signing contracts will encourage Walcott to sign as soon as possible’

‘My gut feeling is that he belongs to this club. Once he has made up his mind up it will be very quick.’

Of course we have been here before. Wenger has been confident that other Arsenal players from Sami Nasri through to Robin Van Persie would stay too. But it does sound a little bit more optimistic for Arsenal fans.

Wenger also said that the club might buy one or two exceptional players in January and acknowledged that he was under pressure to strengthen the squad. Wenger insisted though that ‘exceptional players are hard to come by at this time.’



Football

Question marks over Liverpool targets – Ince, Huntelaar and Sturridge

By Stefano on December 20th, 2012

It does seem as if things are never straightforward for Brendan Rodgers in his bid to strengthen the Liverpool squad, for three players who he has been targeting all now appear to have other options than joining the Reds.

One of the Red’s top striking targets Klass Jan Huntelaar, who was yesterday apparently in talks with Arsenal, now might be staying at Schalke after all. Two German papers DerWesten and kicker said the the striker, who has an incredible track record in the Bundesliga, would be staying with the club and that a new deal would be announced this week.

Meanwhile the journey to sign Liverpol’s other main striking target Daniel Sturridge appears to have hit a bit of a hurdle. The Daily Mail reports that there is a sticking point in the amount of money that the club would have to pay to the player’s agent. Liverpool spent £31.3million on agents fees since 2008 – only Chelsea (£31.8m) and Manchester City (£39.02m) have paid more in the same period

Finally Goal are suggesting that the done deal to sign Thomas Ince might not be so concrete after all and that Manchester United might try and scupper the deal with a bid of their own. The club needs a box to box midfielder to reppace the well, irreplaceable Paul Scholes.



Celeb style, features, Football, Heroes and Celebrities, Sports

Brandish’s fifteen men to watch in 2013 – who is going to be influential in tech, style, sport and politics?

By Stefano on December 19th, 2012

So 2012, a year that promised much, and in the case of the odd sporting event at least delivered in spades, is heading for the exit door.

What then will 2013 bring? Who are going to be the key people that we will be talking about in tech, sport and style?

Our rather small panel of Brandish writers got together then to name the 15 people we think are going to have a very good year in 2013. Some have achieved incredible things already, others will become much higher profile next year. We may of course be way off the mark, but at this point if we were betting men these are the 15 we’d be slapping the cash on.

So here’s the list. Who have we missed?

Pics from various sources – some are PA. The Martin Brighty pic was originally from the excellent Modcast.

Carl Jenkinson

Picture 1 of 15
Picture 1 of 15

Arsenal's young English right back looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights at the beginning of last season. But since that shaky start he has arguably become the Gunners' most improved player and a long stay at The Emirates, as well as an England career seems certain. Jenkinson is also intelligent, articulate and passionate about the club. Like his fellow countryman Jack Wilshere, his commitment to charitable causes hasn't gone un-noticed too. Along with fellow Gunner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, he personifies much of what a model young professional should be.



Football

Arsenal begin talks to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

By Stefano on December 19th, 2012

We have already had one Arsenal signing (well in the minds of the Zambian FA) yesterday and now it appears that Arsene Wenger is now going after another one – the big one.

Schalke’s potent Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is, according to The Times (no link because it is a subscription only paper), beginning formal talks with the Gunners who are mulling over his demands for a £100,000-a-week salary along with a three-year contract. Huntelaar has just six months left on his contract with Schalke.

Huntelaar would in many ways be a perfect buy for Arsenal. He is a proven, consistent goalscorer with poaching instincts that mark him out as one of the best in Europe. The player’s aggressive and powerful approach also marks him out as ideal for The Premiership and in many ways it is a surprise that it has taken him so long to consider the English league.

Huntelaar scored goals for fun at Ajax before having had a torrid time in both Milan and Madrid. His record at Schalke however, averaging more than a goal every two games, has once again made him a target for top European clubs. He also played a key role for Schalke in their victory over Arsenal in the Champions League.

If Huntelaar does sign one key question is how does this impact on the future of Theo Walcott? The England player is adamant that he wants to be considered as a striker and performed well in that role on Monday night’s win over Reading. Then again Arsenal have been perilously short of firepower upfront, and with Huntelaar, Walcott and Giroud all able to lead the line they would boast some serious attacking options.

Interestingly Huntelaar has scored more goals for Holland than his rival Robin Van Persie even though they have made roughly the same number of starts.

Arsenal have lost many of their transfer targets recently with Chelsea in particular snatching Hazard, Cahill and Mata – three of Wenger’s key prospects. So might Chelsea, or another Premierhsip club, scupper the deal? Only time will tell.



Football

Arsenal’s first winter signing? Stoppila Sunzu apparently on his way

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

It has not been officially confirmed yet, but it seems that Arsenal are on the verge of making their first signing of the winter transfer window. With a view to adding a bit of steel to his midfield Arsene Wenger has apparently targeted Zambian Stoppila Sunzu and there are suggestions from his home country that the signing is imminent.

Sunzu is on his way to London and he told the FA Zambia website

“I will be travelling to England to sign a deal with Arsenal after the friendly game against Tanzania. As we speak, Mr Katumbi’s personal consultant Salomon Eskadela is here in Zambia waiting to travel with me to England.

“I don’t know the details of the deal yet because I have not discussed with both Arsenal and TP Mazembe. However I spoke to both Mr Katumbi and Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger who assured me that I would not be going to London for trials but to discuss personal terms and possibly sign a contract.”

The player is 23 and yet has been a staple in the Zambian team for several years. He is best known for scoring the winning penalty against Ivory Coast in the 2012 African Cup of Nations. He also has a goal or two to his name scoring 21 goals from his 53 appearances for his team TP Mazembe.

There are likely to be work permit issues to be sorted before he can join his new team.

If he does sign it casts a very real doubt on the future of Emmanuel Frimpong. So is Wenger about to replace Alex Song? Maybe.

Pic from PA



Football

Gareth Bale – is he going to Real Madrid/Barcelona? And why Spurs might not miss him

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

As Arsene Wenger has found to his cost, sell your best players and it becomes very hard to stay a top team. And that’s a dilemma that must be uppermost in the mind of one André Villas-Boas as he ponders the future of Gareth Bale.

There’s no denying the huge talent of the Welsh full back/winger/striker and there are no shortage of clubs keen to secure his services.

A few weeks ago Spain was being talked of as the most likely destination for Bale, if he does choose to move this summer, with Jose Mourinho apparently keen enough to fork out the £50 million or so it would take to reunite Bale with his old mucker Luka Modric. Though it should be added that Mourinho’s future at Real seems to be in some doubt.

For AVB then the decision is a tricky one. Sell Bale, and he’ll need the board to back him, and he has a huge war chest with which to build a new team. But if he does sell him he will run the risk of seriously alienating some of the fans.

The interesting bit though is the question – how useful has Bale been to Tottenham this season? This chart from our mates at Bantr illustrates that not only do Spurs not miss Bale, they have actually performed slightly better without him. Obviously there would be a huge hole were AVB to cash in on Bale but if the figures are similar at the end of the season surely the temptation to sell Bale to a Spanish club would be overwhelming.

So why have Spurs not played so well when Bale has been in the team. Any theories Spurs fans?

Infographic courtesy of our mates at Bantr. Bantr makes live football interactive by allowing fans to follow and vote on live football matches in real time, set manager and player approval and much more.

Our website is a hotbed of sparky football debate and offers exclusive statistics about the mood from the terraces. Whether you want to keep an eye on all the scores, vote on whether Rooney dived for that penalty or comment on the unique data that our website produces, Bantr is the interactive future of following the beautiful game.



Football

Are Chelsea now favourites to land Theo Walcott?

By Stefano on December 18th, 2012

So the Theo Walcott  transfer saga rumbles on in many ways over shadowing everything else that is going on at The Emirates at the moment.

Last night the youngster got his wish and was started by Arsene Wenger as a central striker. Walcott scored one and looked a constant threat trying to latch on to balls from Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta. It is clear that Reading gave Arsenal way too much room to play their free flowing football and that naivety cost them dearly. Still, Waclott seems a better bet in the striker position than Wenger’s other winger turned poacher Gervinho.

Wenger has once again called for Theo to sign a new contract and BBC Radio Five Live were reporting that insiders think that the issue of signing a contract is about to come to ahead this week.

If Walcott doesn’t sign then Goal is reporting that the club in prime position to secure the signature of the England player is Chelsea. In an article this morning here’s what they had to say.

Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs and Juventus are all on Walcott’s trail but they all fall short in one notable area.

“Location is key for Theo,” said one source well acquainted with the 23-year-old’s situation. “He is settled in the South East and would prefer to stay there.”

The article suggests that Walcott will stay at The Emirates until the summer and then sign for The Blues.

The sticking point for Walcott could be his insistence that he wants to play as a striker. Were Benitez to sanction the deal Walcott would run the risk of being frozen out of his preferred position if Benitez’s successor has other plans.  It would make a lot more sense to wait until the Chelsea choose a new manager before signing. Choosing to play as a striker will also scupper moves to the Manchester clubs who both arguably need wide men as they are well stocked with front men.

So where do you think Theo will be next season?

 

 



Accessories, Football

Houllier tells French TV Thierry Henry might not be going to Arsenal – no contact between the clubs

By Stefano on December 17th, 2012

More problems for Arsene Wenger this morning. It seemed as if Arsenal’s greatest ever striker, Thierry Henry, was destined to return to the club for a third spell this winter. Many papers have suggested that this is a done deal and that Henry would be at the club for several weeks and could even play for The Gunners in the Champions league.

However if Arsene Wenger does want the 35 year old in his squad he needs to get a bit of a move on.

For Gerald Houllier who is New York Red Bull’s Head of Global Soccer, told French TV network Canal+ that there has been no contact between the two clubs.

“I find it strange what we hear in the media. If Arsene needed him, he would have called me or (sporting director) Andy Roxburgh, but this is not the case. I do not think both parties need to have this second comeback. Moreover he has become a dad again. I think he will appreciate this truce. ”

So is Henry coming. Do Arsenal need him? Might this be a cameo too far?

Image – PA



Accessories, Football

Arsenal planning double raid on Liverpool – goalkeeper and winger on Wenger’s radar

By Stefano on December 15th, 2012

There has been a lot of Arsenal-related transfer news in the last few hours. Though today it isn’t all about where Theo Walcott will spend the next part of his career, but about the list of players that Arsene Wenger is after in a bid to add steel to his rather brittle squad.

The Mirror has a run down of those targets and the likelihood of them arriving at The Emirates. It lists the usual suspects;  Huntelaar, Zaha and Southampton’s Luke Shaw, but suggests that Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa is likely to end up in Italy.

The Mirror’s big story is that keeper Pepe Reina’s move to Arsenal is gaining momentum. It does point out though that there may be sticking points.

It says

Wenger tried to sign Reina two summers ago and Arsenal believe there’s a chance Liverpool will be willing to cash in and go for Birmingham’s England prospect Jack Butland as a replacement.

Spain international Reina, who has had an indifferent season, is on £110,000-a-week wages, which is likely to be a major issue for Arsenal.

Arsenal are also been strongly linked with another Liverpool player who apparently has an exit on his mind.

The Sun says that the Gunners are reported to be lining up a bid for want-away winger Raheem Sterling. The youngster has 18 months left on his contract but is allegedly not keen on signing a new deal. The article suggests that Arsenal will offer Theo Walcott in a swap deal for the talented winger. Manchester United are also keen on Sterling, but then they have also be linked with Walcott and Arsenal’s other key target Wilfried Zaha.

Meanwhile The Mail suggests that the Gunners are still very keen on West Ham’s midfielder Momo Diame, and that Arsenal are trying to use a loan move deal for out of sorts striker Marouane Chamakh as bait. The Morrocan striker was superb in his last season at Bordeaux and showed flashes of genius in his first couple of months at The Emirates. However his form for Arsenal since then has been woeful. The Mail also reports  that Arsenal are chasing Toulouse right back Serge Aurier as a potential long term replacement for Bacary Sagna.

Finally The Metro suggests that Arsenal are about to announce new long contracts with its quartet of young British stars. Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey are all about to pen to paper and Carl Jenkinson apparently signed a new contract a few weeks back.

 

 



Football, Gifts, pick of the blogs

Top stories – Who should Arsenal sell? Air Stewardesses behaving badly, great cheap gadgets

By Stefano on December 14th, 2012

Top stories from Brandish and our pals

The Arsenal squad – who do you keep and who do you sell?

Magnificent vintage football stickers

How Carrots won World War Two

Air Stewardesses behaving badly

Great CCTV footage of people doing stupid things in stations

Eight Christmas gifts for music lovers

The phone of the future tested – we spend a month going 4G

Your ultimate tech Christmas guide

Five aspirational cars from the 90s now going cheap-ish

The most under rated British indie bands of the 90s

Stocking fillers – 21 ace gadgets for under £200



Football

Why Liverpool can still qualify for The Champions League

By Stefano on December 14th, 2012

After the recent win against West Ham, Steven Gerard emphasised that he is certain that Liverpool can qualify for The Champions League this season. He told The Liverpool Echo…

“We’re building slowly towards where we want to be. We’ve got two home games now against Aston Villa and Fulham. If we can capitalise and make it 12 points out of 12 then we will find ourselves a lot closer to fourth.”

“It’s a platform to build on. We just have to focus on Villa now. Come the end of December we’re really looking to be close to that fourth position.”

I don’t think this is blind optimism on his part, there are quite a few reasons why Liverpool will finish top four and maybe even press Chelsea for third place.

1 They are now on the cusp of a putting a run together. Remember the Reds’ start to the season and games against Arsenal and the two Manchester clubs? Things are going to get a bit easier for them now with the next five opponents being Villa, Fulham, Stoke, QPR and Sunderland all of which are very winnable games. Three or four wins on the spin should get confidence levels up. Rodgers told The Indie

“If we can arrive in January in and around that top four then we can really put our foot to the floor, when the confidence will be improved even more and players will be aligned with what we’re trying to achieve. I believe we can have a good second half of the season.”

2 Their rivals are still not consistent enough – Arsenal are all over the place at the moment, Everton and Spurs keep tripping up and none one, apart from maybe Steve Clarke, believes that West Brom will be in the mix come the end of the season. Fourth place is Liverpool’s for the taking.

3 The team seems more comfortable playing Brendan Rodgers way. It has taken some time for the team to adapt but the Reds are starting to suit the manager’s preference for a quick, pressing game. Key players like Johnson, Shelvey and Allen are hitting form and Gerard finding the net again is great news for the Reds.

4 They will strengthen in the Winter break. Not replacing Andy Carroll was borderline calamitous. Liverpool need at least two forward players, one to play along side Luis Suarez and another for cover. Daniel Sturridge looks like a great buy and Tom Ince could be a very useful squad player.

Pic PA




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