Pep dropping Hart not a big deal

guardiola

Manchester City kicked off their season officially last weekend and Joe Hart has been on the bench for their opening matches with Pep deciding to go with Willy in goal. There has been so much hullabaloo (my need to sound English) about Pep’s decision to drop Joe that in some quarters like those belonging to Joey Barton  it’s seen as disrespectful and disgusting.

Pep dropping Joe is not an indictment on him being a less than capable hand when compared to Willy it’s just that he doesn’t fit into the ethos of his kind of football presently. Pep has gotten rid of more accomplished and successful players in favour of less celebrated players that fit into the vision of his team. If we cast our minds back to Barcelona he got rid of Ronaldinho and Deco and promoted little known players at the time Pedro and Busquets from the Barcelona B team into the first team and the rest  they say is history. At the time nobody in their right minds would have brought in these inexperienced guys and sacrificing the likes of Deco and Ronaldinho. This same Pep who invested so much in buying Ibrahimovic, then sold him when he figured he didn’t suit his style of play or team ethos so I don’t get why dropping Joe is such a big deal.

He is England number one and has won the title with Manchester City yes, but the new man at the helm has a very clear picture of what he wants and has decided to go with Willy. If you ask me I am not convinced the Willy dude is such a great passer of the ball from what I have seen but if he is keeping Joe Hart out because of that passing ability then I would like to believe Pep who observes them everyday in training is in a better position to judge and is not being anti-English with some sort of agenda against Joe. I doubt very much there would have been so much noise had the roles been reversed as in Joe being the understudy being picked ahead of Willy if he had been number 1.

Pep has decided to start how he intends to go on and it is a bold statement to drop the England number 1 in favour of Willy, time will tell if it is the right decision.

Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4, we all saw that coming except Arsene!

Arseneee

This post is going to be a bit long so grab a cup of tea or something a bit stronger.
I got up yesterday with some optimism about yesterday’s game I don’t know why… so I messaged my brother an Arsenal fan who lives in the middle east saying  “Arsenal would win today with a clean sheet too” his response was “have you been drinking port?”, because of my new found love of port he assumed I had to be drunk with such Arsenal proclamations. You see I tend to be one of those that err on the side of optimism when Arsenal is concerned maybe too much at times. So when Theo scored I was tempted to send him a message saying I told you so but wanted Arsenal to hold the lead to halftime before I engaged in some boasting although I did send him a message along the lines of “you can see Arsene is not mad he knows what he’s doing” . Shortly after that message left my phone Arsenal conceded that brilliant goal from Coutinho’s free kick then I got his message back saying watch and see them collapse and boy was he right with that second half performance from Arsenal. Then he threw my statement back at me asking if I was standing by my Arsene is not mad proclamation. Of course I am standing by it but ermm let’s see..

For the past 9 seasons I can’t remember a season where It hasn’t been a case of Arsenal need just 2 or three signings and they will be challenging for the title, that has been the talk since the Emirates move and the dismantling of the Invincibles. 10 years on we are still saying the same thing! Graeme Souness said yesterday you move to a big ground like the Emirates to compete in the league of the big boys, but seems to me Arsene wants to eat his cake and have it, earn revenues of the boys in the big league and bleat poverty like he’s still at a small ground like Highbury. As a Tottenham (pretend you didn’t see that Arsenal fans) fan pointed out to me  yesterday Arsenal’s matchday gate takings of 3 million pounds is the highest in any ground in the world, add to that the largest cash reserve anywhere in club football it just doesn’t make sense how they have gone about the transfer business in a season that’s looking to be the most competitive. The problems from last season were evident and a proactive club that meant business would have gone out and resolved these issues at the earliest, but it seems to me that since the xhaka purchase which is a good buy but not the highest in the scale of our priorities Arsene and Ivan are waiting for sales and bargains in the closing days of the transfer season. To me that’s just indicative of profits being prioritised over a genuine desire to be competitive in the league.

Yesterday’s result was expected by many Arsenal fans and they were waiting to give Arsene a piece of their mind. I have always backed him to the hilt and a part of me thinks he deserved what he got yesterday from the fans even if I feel sad saying it. He set himself up for that and he is playing an active part in turning the fans on the players so early in the season, those guys don’t buy themselves or pick themselves for the team he does. Considering he was backed by a majority of the fans in that protest game last season, I think he is taking that grace for granted. Arsenal fans are not asking Arsene to make Pogba like signings but to invest in the squad and make it competitive. A defender and a striker was a priority going into this season, with 16 days to go in the transfer window a club with Arsenal’s resources is still yet to secure either of the two positions. There is nothing wrong with trust in your players but there is something like misplaced trust. At times I wonder what has happened to Arsene. This is the same guy that got rid of Ian Wright and Patrick Viera because he had his own vision of what he wanted for his team and was ruthless enough to make the changes when he deemed it fit. Now the same man bought an old decommissioned  Sylvestre from  Manchester United when Arsenal needed a proper centre back, endorses mediocrity by letting players who have performed below par in the team ahead of players who have performed better when they have been called upon, I am talking of Campbell being on the bench for Walcott and the Ox.

Holding and Chambers should never have been at the heart of the defence yesterday it was all due to indecision and lack of planning. I have always said solving those problem positions is not enough either. The mentality at Arsenal needs to be fixed and the team needs leaders. Why was a team so compact in the first half disintegrate when Liverpool exerted pressure for 20 minutes? I am still wondering if it were Arsenal leading at 4 1 and it came back to 4 3 , would they have held on to still win? The 3 3 result at Anfield last season says no!

I end with this big players who want to win things and not just after a big pay packet will ask themselves several questions when approached by Arsene. Sanchez and Ozil are entering into the final two years at Arsenal and with the knowledge of how rich the club is and a reluctance to invest in the team I am not sure they will be itching to renew their contracts. It’s 16 days to the end of this transfer window and the summer bargains Arsene and Ivan were looking for is certainly not going to materialise now that the whole world is privy to their needs, whoever they approach they will have to cough up an extra 10 to 15 million pounds above what is already an inflated price tag. If you keep doing the same things and expect different result is the definition of what?…

Arsene is not crazy he is just stubborn, like the Tottenham fan said to me yesterday (sorry guys yes it has gotten that bad putting a spurs fans comments twice in my post) Arsene came to England and changed English football, the game has then moved forward since his coming and Arsene has refused to adapt or evolve with it too.

 

Leicester start their title defence with a loss

HullVLeicester
Photo courtesy vavel.com

Leicester lost their opening game against less favoured Hull to kick off the Premier League campaign and from the few minutes into the first half with the way Hull set up it is obvious Leicester are going to find it a lot harder this season. They come with a reputation now, I could say they are in the category of the “chased” and no longer in the “chasing” camp, teams are now going to set up defensively against them .
It looked like Leicester were playing against the Leicester of last season in Hull with the way Hull chased down everything and worked hard as a team. Well done to Hull and they deserved the win in my opinion they took their chances when it came and Vardy didn’t take Leicester’s when presented with two great opportunities. Hull eventually ran out 2 1 winners on the day.

Robert Huth’s hair pulling antics at Old Trafford last season came back to hunt leicester today with how unbalanced and shaky Morgan looked on the left side of the defence to accommodate Hernandez on the right side of defence, the intensity and coverage that Kante brings in the middle of that park was also missed.
It’s only the first game of the season though so I won’t be getting carried away with those observations I still expect Leicester to have a good season but I don’t see them defending the title successively, next up for Leicester is Arsenal at home.

Premier League 2016/17 Season

PRemier League is here again!
Premier League is here again!

Hard to believe we are at the beginning of yet another season in the Premier League, feels like only yesterday when Spurs were busy making sure St Totteringham day was not missed with their performance on the last day of the season at Newcastle. This season has all the ingredients of being the most keenly contested title yet with the acquisitions of some of  the “super” managers in world football. I am hoping the action is more on the pitch rather than off it, as already the media are hell bent on creating an Arsene vs Jose thing with all the misleading captions relating to Pogba and Ibrahimovic.  There are blockbusters wherever you look; Jose returning to Stamford Bridge at some point in the away dugout, Jose against his Crush Arsene at the Emirates stadium, Jose Vs Klopp and Pep Vs Jose. Ronald Koeman in his new role at Everton is bound to make the Merseyside derby even more exciting if you ask me and Leicester will try to show us all they belong with the big boys. I can hardly wait for the kick off, I am lying though I can as I wish Arsenal were more together going into Sunday’s game, they will probably surprise me and smash Liverpool with Holding and Chambers keeping a clean sheet!
My predictions for top 4 are as follows; Arsenal. Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea oh you mean my real predictions . Well if I am using my head I pick Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, yep that’s my top four.  What are your top four predictions and why? I am off to bed and I am going to try and catch a bit of sleep it’s 2.45am here. Adios for now and remember guys it’s only a game, so enjoy the season!

 

Arsenal failing to plan and planning to fail?

Gabriel injured

Arsenal yesterday won their last preseason game against Pep’s Manchester City 3 2 but at some cost with the injury suffered by Gabriel late in the game. I actually suspected a leg break on watching the whole thing unfold and Gabriel’s immediate reaction but Arsene say’s it’s ligament damage, with a scan scheduled for later today we will find out the real extent of the damage done.

With this injury to Gabriel and Koscielny just back from his extended break the team has no experienced centre back going into the first few games of the season, a situation the team should not be in considering Mertesacker has been injured for a few weeks now and Arsene having admitted the team is short at the back has refused to do anything about it but talk. This situation is reminiscent of Chambers first season at Arsenal in the 2014/15 season when Koscielny resumed the season managing an achilles  problem. Arsene didn’t sign a centre back in the summer transfer window therefore forcing the young Chambers to play more games than he was supposed to at centre back as it had become a necessity when Koscielny’s achilles injury flared up again. Chambers featured regularly in the first half of the season and his effectiveness faded as the season wore on. I remember the torrid time he endured in the loss against stoke in the centre of defence where he was also sent off. As at December 2014 Chambers had played 24 matches for Arsenal in all competitions and for a 19 year old who hadn’t played at that level consistently that’s asking a lot. Wenger admitted overplaying him after Arsenal’s 2 2 draw away to Liverpool  in December 2014 electing to play  Debuchy at the centre of defence with Mertesacker instead of Chambers.
In January 2015 of the same season Arsene forked out for a central defender buying Gabriel Paulista from Villareal in the winter transfer window. What exactly was different from the summer transfer window that he didn’t make the transfer then? He gambled on Koscielny overcoming his achilles in time and Chambers being able to play at centre back for short stints. An extra body in the form of an experienced defender in the summer transfer window would have prevented Chambers being overplayed resulting in him being mismanaged. A similar scenario is being played out with Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Krystian Bielik the only fit central defenders for the first team after injuries to Gabriel and Per.

Central defence is very different from playing as a full back it controls and manages the entire defensive line in front of the keeper requiring for great mental fortitude and manoeuvring than just physical ability, the reason why it’s easier to get burned there than anywhere else in the backline. I remember a young Senderos giving a recently arrived Drogba in the premier league a good game in the centre of the Arsenal defence (believe me I am not making it up hahah), fast forward a few games the same Senderos had become Drogba’s donkey that he could ride at will.

Now Arsene and Ivan are in a position where whichever defender they were hoping to get on a bargain has just gone up a few million pounds with the selling party knowing there is a desperation for an experienced defender, a need that should have been addressed earlier. I am a big Arsene fan but in the past few weeks it’s coming across that the club have failed to effectively plan for the most competitive season in view. I hope I am wrong and they are privy to things that we all don’t know which will in the end manifest into a great season.

 

Mourinho’s leash at United can’t last

jose-mourinho-manchester-united-old-trafford

 

Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri answered questions from the press yesterday as their respective teams prepare to face off in the community shield and listening to Jose, one thing is clear the guy just can’t help himself, it always has to be all about him.

Jose talking about previous automations in his United players and how they have to unlearn what they were taught under Van Gaal made him sound like he was the first manager taking over at United in about a century. I mean Sir Alex was at United for almost 30 years! If indeed it’s all about automation as Jose will have us believe then David Moyes must be some sort of wrecking genius to have erased all those decades of winning automations in his short time at Old Trafford. The reality is Jose feels the need to discredit his colleagues to make himself look amazing it’s some sort of complex . If there are habits that don’t align with your own philosophy then by all means change it, managers come and go at every club and I am sure they all have different approaches to how they will like to manage I don’t see the need publicising it and making it sound like some sort of insurmountable obstacle only overcome by the best .

Then the Swipe at Arsene and Klopp calling them unethical I just don’t understand, maybe with English not being his first language he is misunderstood at times with his use of phrases, words or terms.
Below is Arsene’s response taken from ESPN when he was asked about Pogba’s impending transfer to United;

When asked about the cost for the France midfielder, Wenger said: “It is completely crazy if you cannot afford to pay it. If you can afford to pay it you can justify it.

“It is completely crazy if you compare it to normal life. That is for sure. But we live in a world where every activity that is worldwide makes a lot of money.

“Football has become a worldwide competition and that is why clubs can afford to do it. Does it make sense in the way the player can give you that investment back? Nobody ever could calculate.

What exactly is unethical about responding to questions you are being asked by journalists? Coming from Jose it’s hypocritical knowing he has hit out at other managers even when questions concerning those managers haven’t been directed at him. He is just looking to pick fights what the media will call “mind games”.

Jose is not under pressure and he is taking swipes here and there already. I wonder how long United can keep him on that leash when things don’t go his way on the pitch.

Smart dealing or just Complacency at Arsenal

arsene-wenger spend

It’s nine days to the start of the Premier league season and 27 days before the transfer window closes and I still can’t say I am clued up on what Arsene’s plan is for the season. There is a pressing need for an experienced central defender and a forward but the fans are none the wiser on who the club intends to sign. As I have said in previous posts I have attained the state of zen when it comes to Arsenal transfers but it just doesn’t make sense to me that with the most competitive season in view Arsene and the club are gambling on playing catch up. Arsenal’s first three fixtures of the season are tricky with a home game against Liverpool and two away games against Leicester and Watford. It will be foolish to risk Arsenal fans getting on the backs of the team and the manager so soon because of poor results which will be linked to lack of team investment.
I am a fan of not paying over the odds for players;  I would never pay 30million pounds for John Stones let alone 50 million pounds neither would I endorse splashing out 100 million pounds on Paul Pogba and most fans aren’t expecting Arsene to do that. The reality is good players are expensive these days and you have to pay the going rate especially when the whole world knows you have the highest cash reserves in addition to playing in the richest league in the world.
It’s not a secret that the Premier League is awash with cash and clubs outside the Premier League doing business with Premier League clubs will want a piece of the action, so Arsee and Ivan should stop going to bid for players with change in a clutch bag under their arms.
It’s getting boring now  with Arsenal and transfers, please find a target and get the job done. I feel buying an experienced defender and a centre forward makes the team competitive but I don’t think it makes Arsenal title contenders as there is still  a fragility that permeates this team a discussion for another post.

Rob Holding

Rob Holding signs for Arsenal. Credit Arsenal.com
Rob Holding signs for Arsenal. Credit Arsenal.com

It’s way past my bedtime because I stayed up to watch the Arsenal pre-season friendly against the MLS all stars which ended in a 2 1 Arsenal victory. Joel Campbell with a goal from the penalty spot and Chuba Akpom with a tap in from a Monreal assist the winner with just 4 minutes to go.

It was an opportunity to check out the new boy Holding and I will say I was very pleased. I had a good feeling about his signing and he didn’t disappoint in  this friendly, he almost scored a header which would have been the icing on the cake of a very accomplished debut.  He played the whole 90 minutes where he was strong on the ball, composed in possession, a good reading of the game, a good header and showed good  ball playing skills with how he went about his business.  There is just something about him that fills me with confidence even though I know it was just a preseason friendly, but all I can say is the omens are good for this lad. At just 20 and straight from Bolton after his debut season there is perception that he is raw and might find this level a bit too much, but as long as he is not over played like Arsene did with Chambers in his first season I am a believer that Rob Holding will blossom into a very good central defender. If you are good enough you are old enough they say and I think Holding will fall into that category, I can feel myself getting too excited I should calm down.. I blame all the chocolate and sprite I had an hour ago.  I look forward to seeing more of him as the season progresses, In my mind I have this idea that Arsene is hoping that someday in the not too distant future Chambers and Holding will the first choice centre backs at Arsenal, time will tell.

Before I go to bed I will also mention Walcott’s uninspiring showing. I am not a Walcott basher and I know it’s only preseason but he needs to get the finger out and start engaging his football brain. His passing and decision making were all over the place and  I sense he knows within himself that he is on borrowed time and very replaceable. A section of Arsenal fans also seem to be fed up with him judging by the amount of interaction my post about Walcott during the game got on the Arsenal facebook page. For his sake and the club I really do hope things pick up for him, because a consistent and firing Walcott makes us more difficult to play against.

Granit Xhaka when he came on showed his good passing range with accuracy and let’s not forget that mean left foot, I hope his superpower of taking shots outside the penalty box is not curbed by playing for Arsenal.

It’s bedtime now, need to get some snooze before I am woken by the kids…

 

Arsenal title chances

Arsenal Squad

Going into last season I was confident Arsenal would win the title, I know I am a glutton for punishment for harboring such optimism with Arsenal at the centre and they definitely didn’t disappoint in the manner the punishment was meted out to fans like myself . I don’t even know what to make of Arsenal’s top 4 prospects this season considering how the other clubs are strengthening left, right, centre and upfront.

Regarding transfers, Granit Xhaka is an encouraging buy and brings the necessary aggression needed in the team with great passing abilities to add to his defensive qualities in the middle of the park. The Japanese striker is one for the future, probably would be loaned out and Rob Holding in my opinion will pleasantly surprise people, I like the buy.  Arsene though is yet to address the reason why Arsenal finished second to Leicester last season, the lack of a finisher upfront. I am not a Giroud Basher as the media and fans try to make him into what he is not. I could add all the exhaust pipes  and alloy wheels to a Peugeot I still couldn’t call it a Ferrari right… Giroud does alright for the class of striker that he is but needs help or a serious upgrade and I wouldn’t call Alvaro Morata an upgrade, he has scored less than Giroud in the Italian League in the last 2 seasons combined and Higuain is not worth that crazy release clause at 29, I also remember him missing clutch chances for Argentina at the world cup final in 2014 and the Copa America final in 2016, he wouldn’t be my go to guy for that price. There are not many available “world class ” strikers in the market but with the cash reserves Arsenal have they should for once go crazy and bid to buy players like Aubameyang or Greizman, if I was consulted they would be my targets.

If Arsene didn’t buy another midfielder I wouldn’t be too worried, but a player like Mahrez or Reus with goals in them and proper wide play will definitely improve the midfield in addition to creating more selection headaches for the manager.

The defence is sorted to a degree but I worry in the event that Bellerin is injured and Debuchy rumored to be heading out of the club who replaces Bellerin? Chambers and Holding  can play in that position but are primarily central defenders who are very different to Bellerin. Gabriel hasn’t filled me with confidence and with Per Mertesacker also rumoured to be out for 5 months after injuring his knee against Lens, Koscielny not back in the team till later in the season because of the Euro exertions  could cause problems in the opening weeks of the season.

The goalkeeping position happens to be most secure, a weird thing to say when Arsenal is concerned, Cech and Ospina are very capable hands.

Verdict

With this present squad and no further additions, the best predictable outcome is 5th but if Arsene went into the market and  bought a good striker to assist Giroud, a wide playing forward/midfielder in the Reus, Mahrez mould and a proper no-nonsense defender, Arsenal could actually go on and win the title. There I go again, I can’t seem to help myself it seems!!!

 

T – 19 days to the Premier League season

 

T-19 days to the new season
 T-19 days to the new season

Yes that’s right the new Premier League season is just 19 days away, It’s crazy how football time flies, didn’t Leicester just win the Premier League title? If you ask me I think these footballers don’t get enough rest regardless of how much they get paid, fingers crossed it’s not an injury plagued season for a number of them especially those that played the European Championships and the Copa America. To start the season I will be doing a preview of all the  20 clubs and their projected positions for the season.
After Leicester’s heroics last season I am inspired to venture into my gambling side,  will need to find a loose 100 pounds somewhere first and place 5 pounds on all 20 clubs! Yep anything worth doing at all is worth doing well my mum used to say.

One could say all the “super” managers are presently in the premier league and with the league awash with cash it’s going to be one interesting season! West Ham have been going all over Europe with their suitcase of money flashing the cash in their bid to sign a striker and are currently in negotiations to sign Carlos Bacca from Milan.  Then Manchester United have been put into a spot by the media who have helped Value Pogba at 100 million pounds! How is Pogba worth that much? The likes of Ronaldo and Bale when they went for world record fees could single handedly win games time and time again, I don’t see that with Pogba, Oh well I am not the one spending the money, it’s the cash money man Jose at the helm there and we all know how he likes to spend the cash. Jose’s boyfriend at Arsenal on the other hand is carrying his bag of change about Europe and the rest of the world trying to find a bargain. As an Arsenal fan it has taking me years to attain the Zen state when it comes to Arsenal transfers and I don’t plan to leave that state ever! My fellow Arsenal fans should consider this state too it helps with sanity at this time in the football season!

I will be previewing Arsenal tomorrow and their title hopes for the season, it’s sunny in my side of the world so it’s best to take advantage of it while it last, which is not very long in these parts, so off to the park I go.