Arsenal manager has defended the club’s record signing Mesut Özil after the German World Cup winner has come under a lot of criticism of late.
Quoted by the Guardian, the Gunners boss said:
“I would pay the money [£42m] again. Of course.”
The Mesut Özil debate has dominated the talk ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Villa Park in the Premier League today.
Arsène Wenger did admit he is feeling under pressure to make the playmaker a success at the Emirates Stadium:
“I feel that responsibility exactly the same for a player who cost £1. When I see a talent, for any player, I think how can I get the best out of him. That is not linked with price. It is just a coincidence that the market is like it is.
“He’s a confident boy. This guy has played for the German national team and won the World Cup playing wide and nobody found a word to say. He has been criticised during the World Cup and still played well and he was always in every single team. He can be a top player.”
It’s the wide role that is under question of late with Mesut Özil on the fringes of games when he’s been lined out on the left wing and even switched to the right. You’d be forgiven for not knowing he played in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City last weekend, such was his lack of input.
Wenger went into great debate over after number 10s that have been successfully used out wide:
“[Zinedine] Zidane went to Real Madrid for £82 million and he played on the left. There was never a debate and he had to play there.
“Because in the middle they had Raul and Ronaldo he made room and played on the left. When you have the ball you play where you want and go where you want.”
The Arsenal manager then discussed the Brazil national team from the 1970s:
“It is a debate as old as the world. Since we played football. When you look at the Brazil team in 1970 they had Tostão, Rivelino, Pelé, Jairzinho, Gerson, Clodoaldo, They all played number 10 in their clubs. They put them all together and they won the World Cup in a convincing way.”
What Arsène Wenger is doing could arguably be helping the England national team in the future as it is Jack Wilshere who is playing in one of the central roles instead of where many think Özil should be playing. The Arsenal manager continued:
“What is Wilshere but basically a number 10? He played his whole life at number 10. Somebody had to go out there. Is it Wilshere, Özil, Ramsey? Nobody is really natural out wide. So you keep good players out or you try to get them together.”
Arsenal travel to Aston Villa today after their 2-0 defeat at Borussia Dortmund midweek.
Premier League Gameweek 5: Five Things To Watch Out For - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
The Premier League table is still some way from starting to take shape, but there are some extremely intriguing fixtures this weekend that may set the tone for the season ahead.
Here are five things to watch out for this weekend:
1) Clash of the Titans at the Etihad:
The two firm favourites for the title, Manchester City and Chelsea, go head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium in the last game of the weekend on Sunday. There will be heavyweights on show everywhere one looks in this one, and the winner of this match will hold a huge psychological advantage even at this early stage in the season.
Chelsea, a bit surprisingly, go in as slight favourites in this one. The Blues have a perfect record in the league thus far and sit pretty at the top of the table. This game though, is easily their toughest test yet. City have beaten them in 4 of their last 5 meetings at the Etihad. The 5th game though, the most recent, was a victory for Chelsea, as a Jose Mourinho-masterclass saw his side pick up a 1-0 win against a free-scoring City side in February this year.
There are several interesting aspects to this game, with City manager Manuel Pellegrini confirming that Frank Lampard will be in the squad against his former side. The Englishman joined the Premier League champions this summer on loan from New York City FC, following 13 seasons at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea striker Diego Costa, who is currently top of the league’s scoring charts with 7 goals, will be looking to continue his run, as the Blues look to maintain their perfect start to the campaign.
2) United Look to Continue Winning Run:
Many believe that Manchester United’s season started last week, when a near-perfect performance saw them run out 4-0 winners against Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford.
Their real test though, comes this Sunday as they travel to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City. The Foxes have made a solid start to life in the top flight following promotion from the Championship. They are level on points with United, who are ahead in the table courtesy of a better goal-difference. Last week’s victory away at Stoke City proved that Nigel Pearson’s men are certainly no pushovers.
Louis Van Gaal’s Red Devils looked rejuvenated last week, even though they were playing against a side who look destined for relegation. New signings Daley Blind and Angel Di Maria were both brilliant, and one would feel that the duo will play huge role for United this year.
The fans will hope that United don’t slip up once again following last week’s promising result, after a dismal start had left them fearing the worst.
3) Villa Look To Continue Dream Start Against Arsenal:
Aston Villa’s fans would have been dreading their team’s run of games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. The Villans though, have defied all odds thus far. Last week’s fantastic 1-0 win at Anfield saw Paul Lambert’s men climb to 2nd in the league table. This week, they host an Arsenal side who are extremely short on confidence. The Gunners were convincingly beaten in midweek by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League and are on a run of 3 consecutive draws in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger’s tactics have come under severe criticism of late, and were the winless streak to continue in the Midlands on Saturday, things will get worse for the Frenchman.
4) The Surprise Packages’ Face-Off:
One of the most intriguing fixture of the weekend is also one of the most low-key. But Southampton’s trip to Wales to take on Swansea City promises to be a fantastic game. Both sides play great football, and have reaped the rewards this season. They both find themselves in the top 4, as 4th placed Southampton look to extend their 3-match unbeaten streak against 3rd placed Swansea. Ronald Koeman’s men were predicted to struggle this season, following a mass-exodus in the summer that saw them lose most of their big-name stars. But the Dutchman has made some shrewd signings to revitalise the squad, and the Saints look set for another solid season. Striker Graziano Pelle has found his feet in the Premier League, and will be a major threat up front.
On the other hand, Garry Monk’s Swansea won their first 3 games of the season before succumbing to their first loss against Chelsea last week. They can take immense pride from their performance though, and will be looking to get back to winning ways in front of their home fans this Saturday.
5) Must-Win Game For Alan Pardew:
Alan Pardew is on the brink at Newcastle United. Last week’s 4-0 thumping at the hands of Southampton subjected the Magpies to the bottom of the table, and fans were not shy of voicing their severe disapproval of their manager. A winless start to this season follows a run of 15 losses from 21 towards the end of last campaign, and Pardew knows that unless he turns things around soon, his time at the club will run out.
This week’s home fixture against Hull City, is therefore a must-win game. Any result other than a victory at home, against a team Newcastle are expected to beat, may prove fatal for Pardew. The supporters are already asking for his removal, and failure to get three points in this game may prove to be the final game in his coffin.
Win VIP tickets to see Man United play Crystal Palace at Old Trafford - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
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Luke Shaw set to kick-off his glittering Manchester United career - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Having completed a £30 million transfer from Southampton this summer, in a deal that saw him become the world’s most expensive teenager, Manchester United’s Luke Shaw is yet to feature this season.
After facing early criticism from newly appointed head coach Louis Van Gaal for his poor fitness during pre-season, Shaw picked up an untimely hamstring injury, ruling him out of the opening four weeks of the campaign.
The youngster has since made a full recovery from this set-back, but found himself benched for the club’s last Premier League fixture, a 4-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers. Nonetheless, he looks set to make his first senior appearance this weekend, as Leicester play host to the Red Devils.
He made an underwhelming start to life at Old Trafford on Monday night. Just 1609 fans witnessed the 19-year-old’s bow in the Theatre of Dreams as he started for the Reds under 21 side against Sunderland in a 4-0 win.
The 18-year-old was far from his best, but he impressed nonetheless. He enjoyed plenty of possession out on the left-wing and was involved in a fair share of United’s attacking play. He even managed to grab himself an assist in the second-half.
It was a test of his fitness, if anything, and considering he completed a full 90 minutes, he’ll be raring to go ahead of a potential trip to the King Power Stadium this weekend.
If given the nod on Sunday, he will slot in at left-back, with Marcos Rojo likely to be shifted inside. The Argentine international may have put in a good performance on the flank against QPR. But being a natural central-defender, it makes sense to utilise him in the middle upon Shaw’s return.
The Old Trafford faithful will be hoping Sunday provides a first glimpse of a youngster who possesses phenomenal potential. Just this week, Manchester United team-mate Jonny Evans has been raving about the youngster’s incredible ability.
“I had the chance to work with Luke in pre-season and there is no doubt he is going to be the best left-back in the world,” said the Northern Irishman.
The best left back in the world!? High praise indeed.
Shaw was handed a first-team debut at the Saints aged just 16, but broke into the first-team on a consistent basis during the 2012/13 season before his performances last season saw him make the breakthrough as a senior international.
He now faces a difficult challenge succeeding former fan-favourite Patrice Evra at Old Trafford, but it’s a task he will undertake with vigour. The club hierarchy were prepared to sign a record-breaking £27 million cheque for a very good reason.
His career trajectory has been truly remarkable, thus far, and currently there are no reasons to suggest he can’t occupy the Manchester United left-back position for the next decade, at the very least. Expect Shaw to shine.
Former Tottenham star Gareth Bale on possibility of returning to Premier League - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
The Welshman was the star player for the North London club during Andre Villas-Boas’ penultimate season with the English club. The 25-year-old won the Premier League’s Player of the Year award during the 2012-13 season and last summer, he completed his switch to the Spanish capital club.
Bale had a very poor start to his Real career, with concerns over his injury. However, the former Tottenham star bounced back and played a crucial role in helping Carlo Ancelotti’s side win the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
The forward admitted that he has received widespread appreciation from the White Hart Lane faithful and has kept the door open to rejoin his former club.
“I love all the Tottenham fans and hopefully one day, you never know, I could be back,” Bale said in an exclusive interview to BT Sport.
“The fans have been unbelievable with me. They’ve supported me through the bad times and believed in me and I’ll never forget the great European nights at White Hart Lane. They were amazing.”
“Tottenham will always have a place in my heart. I hope the fans still love me even though I’ve moved on. I hope they understand that obviously Real Madrid is a massive, massive club and that they respect my decision.”
“From the moment Real Madrid put the offer in it was obviously difficult. [Tottenham] was somewhere I felt so comfortable and so happy – it was difficult to leave but when Real Madrid come in it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Real star concluded.
Bale’s comments come just days after his club teammate Cristinao Ronaldo admitted that he would not rule out a possibility of rejoining his former club Manchester United. The rumours of the Portuguese international returning to Old Trafford next summer has already surfaced.
Sky Sport’s Spanish football expert Guillem Balague believes “everything is in place” for Ronaldo to return to United.
The Welsh international has followed Ronaldo’s footsteps even before he signed for Real. He has heaped praise and had publicly admitted that the former United star would be the top dog at Santiago Bernabéu.
Bale has been living in Ronaldo’s shadow at Real and this was proven when the 10-times European champions made the latter the highest paid player after capturing the services of the former Tottenham man.
If Ronaldo leaves his current employers and rejoins United, everything will be set for Bale to be the No 1 player at Real.
However, it should be seen whether the Welshman could be “untouchable” with the La Liga giants after Ronaldo’s possible exit. Should he feel insecure at Real, Bale could also exit the Spanish capital club after a few seasons.
Tottenham are set for a takeover after a newly-formed American investment company confirmed their interest. If the takeover takes place, the White Hart Lane club could be on par with the Premier League giants in competing the top clubs in the transfer market.
This should also allow them to make an approach for Bale in bringing him back to White Hart Lane as the player has publicly expressed his desire to rejoin Tottenham.
Confirmed Host Cities for Euro 2020 – Wembley Hosts Semi-Finals and Final - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
UEFA have today confirmed that England’s national ground, Wembley Stadium will host the Euro 2020 semi-finals and final.
Michel Platini, the president of UEFA, confirmed that Wembley had been awarded the ‘finals package’ after the only rival bidder, the German FA, said they were more interested in hosting Euro 2024 solely.
The UEFA president’s scheme is to stage the European Championship across 13 cities as a one-off celebration of the 60th anniversary of the competition.
In two years, France will host Euro 2016 and it will have as many as 24 nations competing for the first time. The previous five tournaments had 16 participants.
Belgium & the Netherlands became the first co-hosts of the tournament in 2000 and now three of the past four tournaments have been split in two different countries – Austria & Switzerland in 2008 and Poland & Ukraine in 2012.
Wembley Stadium has hosted the UEFA Champions League final twice in the past four seasons and is considered to be one of the biggest and best stadiums in world football and arguably the best for commercial opportunities.
This will be the first tournament England has (co-)hosted since Euro 96 where the England national team reached the semi-finals. They have not reached as far in any tournament since.
Scotland’s Hampden Park and Ireland’s Aviva Stadium will both host three group stage games and a round of 16 fixture. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff missed out completely.
Munich, Baku, St. Petersburg and Rome will each host three group stage matches a quarter-final.
Amsterdam, Bilbao, Bucharest, Budapest, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, and Glasgow will all host three group stage matches and one round of 16 game.
The 13 confirmed cities to host Euro 2020:
Manchester City vs Chelsea: Preview, Possible Lineups & Prediction - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Chelsea have become the odds-on favourite to win the 2014-15 title following their start to the season that has seen José Mourinho’s side take maximum points and score 15 goals in only four games.
The Blues are coming off the back of a surprising and disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday. The West London side had been heavily favoured to thrash the German opposition.
On Wednesday Manchester City were handed a heartbreaking last minute loss to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena thanks to centre-back and former City defender Jérôme Boateng finding the net with a sweetly struck effort just inside the penalty area.
As a result Manchester City are now winless in their last three matches – losing 1-0 at home to Stoke City and drawing 2-2 at Arsenal in their two prior Premier League matches.
Stevan Jovetić could be fit to face Chelsea but Fernando remains sidelined. Everyone else is available to manager Manuel Pellegrini.
José Mourinho has a full squad of players available to him. Diego Costa started on the bench midweek so is relatively fresh.
Pablo Zabaleta should return to right-back after being suspended midweek. With Fernando injured Manuel Pellegrini has no option but to go with Yaya Touré. The Ivorian has looked terrible to start this season and disinterested. Is he really upset at the club for not celebrating his birthday over the summer, or not recovered from the World Cup and a family tragedy? One thing’s for sure, he’s not himself. Sergio Agüero was rested for this game by starting on the bench in Germany. James Milner is an option in midfield and could challenge both Samir Nasri and Jesús Navas on the right side of midfield. After all, Zabaleta will need some help stopping Eden Hazard down that side.
A victory for José Mourinho’s side on Sunday would send a massive statement but the Portuguese manager will surely play it cautious against last season’s top scorers by playing two holding midfielders. Therefore Cesc Fàbregas and Oscar will not both start. A draw works fine for the Blues keeping a distance of five points between themselves and Manchester City with only Aston Villa have a minor miracle in being able to overtake Chelsea over the weekend. André Schürrle offers pace and a threat down the right wing. Perhaps Branislav Ivanović won’t bomb on so much from full-back either in this match.
Diego Costa vs Vincent Kompany
An exciting prospect sees Diego Costa against Vincent Kompany. That’s a striker with an astonishing seven goals in four games versus one of the best centre-backs in the world. Look for the Spanish international to try find some space. At worst, his movement will draw defenders out of positions to potentially free up some teammates. He is supported by a fantastic creative midfield.
Cesc Fàbregas vs Fernandinho
If Yaya Touré isn’t himself Fernandinho will need to step up to the plate to slow down the production of Cesc Fàbregas. The playmaker has created at least one goal in each of his four Premier League games for Chelsea. He also opened the scoring midweek against Schalke. He’s working in sync with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa with the trio tearing open defences to start the season.
Sergio Agüero vs John Terry
Manchester City’s biggest attacking threat is their Argentine striker. Sergio Agüero hasn’t had much luck with fitness to start the season but after only being used as a late substitute midweek you have to believe he was rested for this match. When he’s fit he rips open most defences. Look for Chelsea to keep a man tight on the goalscorer and even foul him quick and frequently when he receives the ball if he’s looking sharp.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea
Chelsea are in flying form and Manchester City are winless in three. That said, I don’t expect José Mourinho to send his team all out blazing from the start but they have the quality and form to pick up the three points after 90 minutes. Defeat would be a massive blow for Manchester City but their manager failed to sure up the gaps in their defence that Bayern Munich were exploiting midweek. Mourinho is capable of setting his team up to exploit the opposition’s weaknesses. Chelsea won both meetings last season.
Leicester City vs Manchester United: Preview, Possible Lineups & Prediction - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Two teams separated only by goal difference heading into the weekend as Leicester City host Manchester United.
Louis van Gaal won his first game in charge of United last weekend in thumping Queens Park Rangers 4-0 at Old Trafford. Ángel Di María got the ball rolling with the opening goal and was the star of the show.
Ander Herrera, Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata were all amongst the scorers on Sunday too. Defensively they weren’t really tested but it is back-to-back clean sheets for the Red Devils now.
Leicester City picked up their first win and first clean sheet of the season last weekend with a 1-0 win at Stoke. Leonardo Ulloa scored his third goal in four games and has now scored all but one of the Foxes’ goals since they returned to the top flight.
Nigel Pearson’s side have earned draws against both Everton and Arsenal at the King Power Stadium whilst they were valiant in defeat at Chelsea where they held out the league leaders for just over an hour before going down 2-0.
Kasper Schmeichel missed last weekend’s trip to Stoke with a knee injury but could be fit enough again to start this weekend. In his place Ben Hamer kept a clean sheet on his Premier League debut.
Matt Upson has been injured all season since signing from Brighton & Hove Albion over the weekend. Nick Powell is ineligible to play against his parent club whilst on loan from Manchester United. Both players are yet to make their Leicester City debuts.
Phil Jones won’t be fit again until October. Chris Smalling could return from injury this weekend but faces competition from Tyler Blackett and Jonny Evans to get back into the starting lineup.
Michael Carrick isn’t ready to return yet and Marouane Fellaini has a foot injury – both may struggle to get back into the starting lineup when they are fit. Jesse Lingard is also out injured.
Nigel Pearson has predominately stuck with the same squad in his 4-4-2 formation for his opening four games with only the odd change. Predicting the most common lineup to play this weekend with the exception of Esteban Cambiasso making his first start. They have pace down both wings and on the right with Riyad Mahrez they have a playmaker. David Nugent is getting into space on the break whilst Leonardo Ulloa knows where the back of the net is. The Argentine will be ready to pounce on any defensive errors which Manchester United have been prone to making in the early days of the Louis van Gaal era.
The diamond formation worked last weekend against Queens Park Rangers but it must be said that the opposition put in the worst performance amongst any team of the 2014-15 Premier League season so far. Marcos Rojo and Ángel Di María linked up well together with the latter running the show from midfield alongside Ander Herrera. Juan Mata continues to score for the Red Devils whilst Radamel Falcao could be ready to replace Robin van Persie up front any time soon.
Ángel Di María vs Dean Hammond
If Dean Hammond is indeed given the responsibility of keeping Ángel Di María quiet then best of luck to him. Esteban Cambiasso may know his fellow countryman’s game quite well and could potentially be given the job. Either way, if Leicester City are to get anything from this game they need to disrupt Manchester United’s record signing because he was involved in three of their four goals last weekend and is one of the best playmakers in the world.
Wayne Rooney vs Wes Morgan
Wayne Rooney got on the scoresheet last weekend to make it two in two at Old Trafford but yet to score away from home. Wes Morgan is playing in the Premier League for the first time in his career and has only kept one clean sheet in four matches. Expect the England international to give the Leicester City defence a torrid time, especially when he drops outside the penalty area to collect the ball in space with an opportunity to shoot from long range.
Robin van Persie vs Paul Konchesky
Robin van Persie has made a poor start to the 2014-15 season. Last weekend was the best he looked physically this season after looking unfit before the international break. If he drifts out to the right, supported by Rafael charging forward from full-back, either player should have success versus the slow Paul Konchesky who looks like being the weak point in the Leicester City defence this season. From there RvP can potentially cut inside for a shot or whip a ball in for teammates – both causing problems for the centre-backs and goalkeeper.
Prediction: Leicester City 0-2 Manchester United
I can see Manchester United picking up maximum points between now and the end of the month. Sure, Leicester aren’t going to be as bad as QPR but Manchester United looked like they clicked last weekend and if they continue to do so at Leicester on Sunday then three points are very likely to be theirs. I correctly predicted Leicester to get a point versus Arsenal so I don’t feel I’m discrediting them here I just don’t expect them to match up to the multi-hundred million pound opposition.
The inaugural Asia Cup of Nations, the second oldest world football competition, was staged in Hong Kong in 1956 with just four participating nations.
The hosts kicked off the competition against Israel and Au Chi Yin had the honour of scoring the very first goal in the Asia Cup when he put Hong Kong ahead after 13 minutes. Israel equalised before the interval through Glazer but Yin netted again to restore the home team`s lead. Stelmach levelled again for Israel before Glazer`s second earned Israel victory. The round robin format saw Hong Kong then hold South Korea, 2-2. Game number three turned out to be the pivotal encounter and South Korea`s 2-1win over Israel established a one point advantage in the table that proved to be the eventual margin by which they became the first Asian Cup winners ahead of Israel. There was some consolation for the runners-up with Nahum Stelach finishing top scorer in the tournament with four goals.
Hosts South Korea retained the cup in 1960 later with a perfect three wins out of three. Israel staged the finals in 1964 and reached their third consecutive Final and it proved a case of third time lucky as they beat India to the title by two points having beaten them 2-0 in the third game of the round robin. Israel also matched the previous winners with three wins out of three.
In 1968 the competition expanded to five finalists and it was once again the hosts, Iran, who emerged winners with four wins out of four to claim their first title in their first Asia Cup tournament.
Iran retained their trophy four years later in a tournament of notable firsts. Six finalists meant two groups of three and in the opening game, in Thailand, Iraq won the first game to be settled by penalties, 4-2 against South Korea. But it was Iran and Thailand who emerged from Group A to the semi-finals. South Korea completed the first semi-final line up in the Asia Cup.
Iran edged the surprise team of the tournament, Khmer Republic, 2-1 to reach the Final where they faced South Korea who needed extra time and penalties to defeat Thailand in the other semi. The Final also required extra-time before a 108th minute goal from Kalani earned Iran their second title. The Asia Cup was dominated by Iran who duly completed a hat trick of successes, on home soil, in 1976.
Kuwait were hosts in 1980 when the finals expanded to ten teams for the first time. Though Iran were hot favourites to make it four successive tournament wins events off the field, namely the Iraqi invasion of Iran, badly affected morale. Even so the team reached the semi-finals where it suffered its first ever Asia Cup defeat to Kuwait. Kuwait beat South Korea in the Final to win the cup for the first time and become the first winners from the Arab region.
The competition continued to expand and in 1984 the eight qualifiers were joined by hosts Singapore and holders Kuwait. The Final between China and Saudi Arabia was won by the latter, 2-0, for a first Asia Cup success.
Qatar hosted the 1988 finals which again comprised ten competing nations. Once again South Korea reached the Final but in the first to be decided by penalties they lost out to Saudi Arabia who retained their crown.
Japan hosted the 1992 finals and rewarded home fans with a 1-0 Final victory over holders Saudi Arabia. Four years later, on UAE soil, the Saudi team returned to winning ways although they needed a penalty shoot-out to defeat the home nation, 4-2, after a 0-0 scoreline at full time.
In 2000 Saudi Arabia reach their fifth consecutive Final but Japan emerged victors with a 1-0 scoreline.
After 2004 it was decided to move the finals competition to a less crowded international cycle and in 2007 it was staged across four nations; Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Australia entered for the first time and to their credit reached the quarter-finals where they lost 4-3 in a penalty shoot-out with Japan. The first time Aussie goalkeeper Mark Scwarzer lost in a shoot out The Iraqi team brought much joy to its war ravaged nation with their first Asia Cup win by defeating six time finalists Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the Final which was watched by an estimated television audience of 650 million.
In 2011 Qatar had the chance of a dry run ahead of the 2022 World Cup when they staged the Asia Cup. Japan reached a fourth Final and as they did in the previous three they triumphed but it was hard going against a dogged Australia team that were only beaten 1-0, after extra time.
Despite the dominance of Japan and Saudi Arabia Australia will be the hottest of favourites when they stage the 2015 finals.
Written by Brian Beard.
With the current debate about the 2022 World Cup hotting up the topic of football technology centres on two aspects of advancement that will take centre stage in Qatar, although the other critical element is whether or not the tournament actually goes ahead in Qatar, as planned, and WHEN!
The recent introduction of GLT, goal line technology, was long overdue and decidedly simple causing even greater wonderment as to why it took so long to introduce. On a bigger scale, literally, is the Qatari solution to 40-50 degree temperatures anticipated when their World Cup comes around, namely air-conditioned stadia. Presumably aimed at the paying punters the hope will surely be that the cold air swirling around the stands will create a peripheral cooler environment for the players on the pitch. I wonder if we will see a lot of players hugging the touchline to get a waft of cool air. Though, in theory, each stadium will be an air-conditioned zone for both spectators and players.
Each stadium will have a retractable roof which will be a bonus for earlier kick offs with the option of opening them if conditions, and FIFA dictate. The hope will be, of course, that should it be necessary to close the roof for kick-offs in the heat of the afternoon, the humidity will not be worse than direct sunlight.
When the games are not taking place the stadiums will export electricity to the national grid. The biggest concern for all involved is that the massive technology for all these proposals is untested.
In the 2010 World Cup England`s Frank Lampard had a goal against Germany ruled out that was so clearly over the line that even FIFA knew it was a goal. Unfortunately the referee did not allow the goal. But despite that negative, as far as England, their fans and the rest of football were concerned it was an incident that finally ushered in goal line technology, hereafter referred to as GLT. That technology is now an established part of the Premier League in England and, when the costs are reduced to affordable levels, no doubt GLT will be just as prevalent at the Keepmoat Stadium and Vale Park as it is at Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
Of course it isn`t only GLT and air-con stadia where football technology has been advancing. From training and playing gear to preventative and rehabilitative medical equipment modern footballers, especially those fortunate enough to be professional, have never been so well equipped.
There are Isokinetic machines that can be used in predicting muscle injuries and, for example, where one leg may be stronger than the other. Force platforms can provide valuable bio-mechanical information on jumping ability and power output while Electromyogrpahy, EMG, is useful in evaluating co-ordination.
We have seen the development of football shirts that allow the right amount of core body heat to escape whilst still permitting enough to be retained to facilitate optimum performance. And then we have the development of the modern football boot.
Thanks to former Liverpool star Craig Johnston and his `invention` the adidas Predator we had the first step along the road that has brought us a kaleidoscope of eye-dazzling boots. Although the predominant improvement in shoe design appears to have been limited to the use of lightweight materials not to much attention has been directed at strength and protection of valuable feet attached to ever more valuable legs and bodies of top stars who earn mega-bucks. One metatarsal injury can have severe consequences for footballers and their employers so it seems strange that in the 21st century when we can photograph a gnat`s whisker at the extreme limits of Alpha Centauri we cannot construct a football boot that can safeguard a foot from injury.
If you read the advertising jargon that goes along with the marketing of the modern football slipper, sorry, boot, you would be forgiven for thinking the boot manufacturers have invented a second skin. Phrases like `getting the players` foot closer to the ball to enhance and unlock their potential` etc etc are to the fore. I just wonder if Messi or Ronaldo would not prefer the protection of their priceless feet to making a fashion statement.
And what about the spherical object at the heart of the beautiful game, the ball. We have come a long way since the rain-soaked balls as recent as the 1950s. Modern polyvinyl, synthetic or whatever the latest composite ball is constructed of comprise similar technology used to put satellites into space. Lighter and more responsive to the velocity and control applied by the foot, enveloped in super lightweight material, it now seems possible to make a football sit up and do tricks, just ask Ronaldo and David Luiz.
All the aforementioned technological advances now part of the game are decidedly space-age but a decidedly low-tech advance, again so simple it is baffling why it never happened sooner is the disappearing foam now utilised as a `magic barrier` to prevent illegal encroachment into the 10 yard zone at free kicks, now an integral part of football. A move which, less than a week into the Premier League season had free-kick takers wiping the ends of the imposed foam line away, presumably in case it put them off their aim!
Whatever technological advances are in the pipeline, near future or far, those advances need to improve the game and not impinge on the subjective nature of football.
Was he offside, laser technology or GPS, let`s not reduce it to millimetre precision and let that subjectivity be the domain of the referee BUT let the advantage, in the case of offside, or not, be in favour of the attacker for is that not what football is all about. Attacker trying to score and the opposition trying to stop them, the foundation of the sport.
You don`t need technology for that.
Written by Brian Beard.
On Thursday Major League Soccer announced, that their clubs will all be able to take part with the new logo, as the symbol colors will adjust to the teams colors. Photo provided by Major League Soccer and USA Today.[/caption]
MLS kisses good bye to their past and introduces a new image for soccer in America.
On Thursday in New York City, NY Major League Soccer publicly unveiled the new logo for MLS going forth.
Since the league began in 1996 the logo was a soccer cleat kicking a ball, over time the colors of that symbol did change but the image itself was never tweaked. Now with the growth of soccer in the U.S. increasing rapidly, MLS felt it was ready for a more mature look. Something that does not scream, “This is where Americans play soccer,” but now in a creative way to capture the attention of an ever expanding pool of new soccer fans.
“The new brand’s design is intended to say “soccer” without the literal ball and cleat,” MLS stated in a press release. “In the end, we decided that the inclusion of a ball and cleat is unnecessary as it dates us very quickly (due to the fast pace of innovation in our game) while many other ways exist to signal we are a soccer league. Our new brand will build meaning over time so that our new crest signifies soccer in North America and has a unique place in global sports.”
The new symbol for Major League Soccer is a shield, which appears to look very similar to the National Football League and National Hockey League symbol. The name is on the top left hand corner, where “MLS” is engraved. Under “MLS” there are three stars which represent: “for country, for club and for community.” The dash coming across the shield is what represents the first and the second half of the beautiful game, according to the press release.
However, there are no set colors for this new logo, as each team in MLS will have the crest on their uniform and the colors of the club will dominate how the shield looks. Though for all the teams that currently playing in Major League Soccer in 2014, they will not change to the new crest till 2015 in March during “jersey week.” As for New York City FC and Orlando City Soccer Club, their uniforms will already have the new crest before the end of the year, according to the press release.
“It means each club will get a version of the league crest, which better reflects their clubs identity and local market,” the Major League Soccer press release states. “This is not a replacement for the club brand; instead the new league brand compliments and allows the club to be the real hero. We want to reinforce the ethos of the new brand, which encourages clubs to “own” and adapt the crest to match the colors they and their fans associate with and support.”
Though the league itself will not drastically erase the old logo by this weekend matches. Instead their goal is to steadily have the new logo come into picture and by the 2015 season the old logo will be history.
“The new MLS brand will begin to appear in 2015-related programs and products this fall and will be fully launched at the MLS Combine and SuperDraft in January 2015,” the MLS press release stated.
Major League Soccer is approaching their 20 birthday, and Commissioner Don Garber and the rest of MLS believe it is the time to change. Whether the new logo is liked, it is clear that there will be more changes to come for Major League Soccer, and soccer fans in America should be excited for what lies ahead.
West Ham vs Liverpool: Preview, Possible Lineups & Prediction - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Liverpool head into the Premier League weekend off the back of a late and dramatic UEFA Champions League victory over Bulgarian champions Ludogorets.
Steven Gerrard converted a stoppage time penalty to win the game for Liverpool moments after the visitors had equalised on the break.
The Reds have been beaten twice already in the Premier League including last weekend’s surprise 1-0 loss at home to Aston Villa.
West Ham have collected all four of their points away from home having lost 1-0 to Tottenham Hotspur and 3-1 to Crystal Palace in London derbies at Upton Park.
Expect the pressure to grow on Sam Allardyce if they lose to last season’s runners-up, on Saturday.
Matt Jarvis could make a return this weekend from a thigh injury that has ruled the winger out of action for the opening four games of the season. Joey O’Brien missed last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Hull City with a knee injury but is expected to be available for Sam Allardyce’s selection.
Kevin Nolan and Andy Carroll are long-term absentees.
Former-West Ham youth product Glen Johnson could return for the Reds after missing their last three games with a thigh injury. Martin Škrtel has also missed the last three games and remains a doubt for this game.
Joe Allen is out whilst Daniel Sturridge and Emre Can won’t be back for a month.
Sam Allardyce lined up with a 4-5-1 formation in both fixtures versus Liverpool last season and I think he’ll do similar again on Saturday. Albeit he consider changing his tactics as the Hammers lost 4-1 and 2-1 in those games. West Ham have done some good deals over the summer so there’s going to be no threat of relegation as long as they keep Allardyce in charge. I’m going to predict Alex Song starts his first game for the club after coming off the bench last weekend. Expecting then home side to pack the midfield to try prevent the Liverpool midfield from dominating the match.
Predicting the same eleven that started on Tuesday to line up again for this one. It is Brendan Rodgers’ preferred defence with the current players that are unavailable. The midfield three are the regular starts. Adam Lallana had a poor showing in the Champions League so could potentially be dropped for Lazar Marković but otherwise it’s as you were.
Raheem Sterling vs Aaron Cresswell
West Ham’s summer signing from Ipswich Town is in for a tough test on Saturday assuming he goes up against the pacey and tricky Raheem Sterling. The England international has made a good start to the season and will look to take on the full-back often as well as cutting inside either to find a shooting opportunity or a team mate. Sterling will also drift inside.
Jordan Henderson vs Cheikhou Kouyaté
Jordan Henderson has set up two of Liverpool’s six goals this season. The central midfield creates chances for his teammates as well as winning back possession for his side. Expecting West Ham to pack the midfield this weekend success for Liverpool may come down the wings, but Henderson will be there to provide the passes out wide to his teammates and also look for space in the middle. West Ham’s tough-tackling Cheikhou Kouyaté gets stuck in several times per match and concedes more than his fair share of free kicks too.
Adam Lallana & Alberto Moreno vs Guy Demel
Assuming Adam Lallana starts down the left wing, he and left-back Alberto Moreno are a good matchup for Liverpool against West Ham. Guy Demel loves to bomb on from right-back and isn’t the greatest at winning the ball back for his team. Alberto Moreno has looked good going forward in his early days at Liverpool so don’t be surprised if he has a significant part to play in any goal. If Joey O’Brien is fit for the Hammers he could potentially start here.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Liverpool
Liverpool have had a few days rest since their home tie in the Champions League and won both matches versus West Ham last season. They look good on paper going forward against West Ham, albeit they have looked very poor going forward against both Aston Villa and Ludogorets over the past week. I feel as though West Ham with their new players and tactics are still settling in, hence the inconsistency and they are there to be beaten right now by a top team like Liverpool.
Aston Villa vs Arsenal: Preview, Possible Lineups & Prediction - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Arsenal return from their defeat in Dortmund to travel to Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Gunners were convincingly beaten by Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night in their opening UEFA Champions League group stage match. More bad news on the injury front for the Gunners as Jack Wilshere picked up a knock on his ankle.
Arsenal have draw three consecutive matches in the Premier League and are yet to keep a clean sheet this season. Including their Champions League playoff matches with Beşiktaş, the Gunners have won only one of their last six matches in all competitions.
Aston Villa have surprised most people with their start to the season, picking up 10 points from four points to put them in second place heading into the weekend.
Paul Lambert’s side were 1-0 winners at Liverpool last weekend with goalkeeper Brad Guzan being called into just a solitary save – such was the great defending by his teammates.
The Villans defence has been rock solid this season with Hull City’s Nikica Jelavić the only player to stick the ball in the back of the net past them in 360 minutes this season.
Ron Vlaar missed last weekend’s victory over Liverpool with a calf injury and is a doubt for this weekend too. Nathan Baker put in a man of the match performance as his replacement at Anfield.
Both Christian Benteke and Libor Kozák have been injured since last season. The Belgium striker is back in training but is not ready to return this weekend.
Theo Walcott is another week or two away from returning. Mathieu Debuchy is out with an ankle injury. Jack Wilshere and Nacho Monreal both have knocks but are expected to be fit if called upon on Saturday.
Oliver Giroud remains a long-term absentee.
This formation is assuming Ron Vlaar doesn’t return to the starting lineup due to injury. Tom Cleverley was victorious on his debut – Fabian Delph is playing better than I sometimes give him credit for. The midfield is protecting the defence very well whilst the pacey wide men and Gabby Agbonlahor look to score on the counter attack.
With Mathieu Debuchy out injured this is Arsène Wenger’s strongest defence. Nacho Monreal is his only other experienced option in defence anyway. Mesut Özil continues to be given chance after chance despite his horrible form for the Gunners. Fans will soon start to call for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace him down the left wing with the young Englishman’s hard-working efforts as a substitute in games this season. But Wenger’s too stubborn to drop the club’s record signing isn’t he?
Gabby Agbonlahor vs Laurent Koscielny
When Aston Villa won at Arsenal on the opening day of last season, Gabby Agbonlahor’s pace caused the Gunners defence all sorts of problems and resulted in Laurent Koscielny being sent off. Alongside the French defender is Per Mertesacker and he’s the slower one of the two. Andreas Weimann is another attacking threat to cause Arsenal’s defence problems, especially on the counter-attack.
Aaron Ramsey vs Fabian Delph
Aaron Ramsey has gone three games without a goal for Arsenal now but his runs into the penalty are always a threat if the box isn’t too crowded. Aston Villa play three central midfielders which should make it tight for the Welsh international to find space. Fabian Delph wins possession back for his team a few times a game but also gives away his fair share of free kicks. The Gunners have a number of good set piece takers if Delph and co give any away around the penalty are on Saturday.
Alexis Sánchez vs Aly Cissokho
Aly Cissokho has made a solid start to his Aston Villa career at left-back but is in for his toughest test so far this season. He was with Valencia when they played at the Emirates Cup in pre-season but the Spanish side did not face Arsenal. Alexis Sánchez works hard and creates chances down the right wing, or the left wing, or up front – wherever Wenger positions him. A goalscoring threat too makes this one of the key matchups in this fixtures.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal
Historically Arsène Wenger’s side don’t do too well after European away days and Aston Villa are undefeated this season. Arsenal’s last three Premier League games have been score draws – how about a fourth in a row?
It is barely four games into the new season but already there’s something of a crisis unfolding at St James’ Park. With just two points from four games and a goal difference already of -6, Newcastle United sit bottom of the Premier League.
Fans are already up in arms with signs wanting manager Alan Pardew ousted from the club, a remnant from last season’s dismal finish to the season which saw protests from large sections of spectators, still prevalent at games.
Assistant manager John Carver remonstrated with a number of Newcastle supporters who unfurled a large “Pardew Out” banner at their recent away trip to Southampton. Hardly ideal preparation before a game and that 4-0 thumping away to Southampton hardly helped change the view of many Newcastle fans that Pardew is simply owner Mike Ashley’s puppet and that the club not only need a change at manager, but perhaps a change in owner.
Add into this the fact that the club has invested heavily in new players over the summer with precious little to show for it (one win from five games and that a 1-0 away win in the Capital One Cup to Gillingham) and that for many the club’s best player, Hatem Ben Arfa, is now out on loan at rivals Hull City and you have a club that is rife with discontent. St James’ Park cannot be a happy place to play or watch games at present.
Of course, while supporters direct their ire at manager Alan Pardew for the run which has seen them lose 16 of their last 24 league games, there is also a feeling of unease with the owner. Mike Ashley made his vast personal fortune from Sports Direct and when the local boy made good took over his hometown club, it looked like a marriage made in heaven.
It certainly hasn’t turned out that way with Ashley seemingly intent on running the club his way, regardless of the feelings of the supporters. Results on the field, bar one season, have not been good enough. The Joe Kinnear situation rankled with fans who felt he brought nothing but outdated ideas to the club and didn’t even seem to know which players were in the team.
In November 2013 Kinnear reportedly remarked (although he denies it) that he went to watch a lower division match involving Birmingham City and was impressed by a player called Shane Ferguson who he felt the club should buy. The only problem for Kinnear being that Ferguson was already a Newcastle United player and was on loan at Birmingham City.
Pardew’s appointment and subsequent seven-contract may have been designed to bring stability to the club. Indeed, Newcastle did well in the 2011-2012 season, qualifying for the Champions League and the future, with Papiss Cisse looking like the striker the club so desperately needed, looked rosy.
Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as hoped. Since then Newcastle have faded and have spent most of the season in mid-table anonymity or fighting the drop. Even a bright start last season gave way to a miserable finish to the season which saw the club lose 14 of their last 20 Premier League matches.
At most Premier League clubs, a manager who undergoes such a run of form is almost a certainty to get the sack. That would be the case at almost every club, but as yet, Ashley shows absolutely no interest in removing Alan Pardew from his post.
Pardew meanwhile battles on but it is an invidious task for the ex-Crystal Palace midfielder. His team are making basic mistakes defensively, they look erratic at best going forward and are seemingly devoid of the creativity and flair needed to score goals regularly at this level. Of all his summer signings, only Remy Cabella looks to have the class Newcastle would need to improve on last season so far.
Pardew and his team’s task is not made any easier by the lack of support for the manager. Indeed, their is almost a case of twisted Schadenfreude every time Newcastle fans witness a defeat as although it means another loss and another miserable weekend, it must surely be one game close to Pardew’s exit.
But is it?
As we have seen in the past, Mike Ashley is not a man to be persuaded by the typical football fan. The larger than life chairman has ignored threats to him and his family and refuses to be bowed by public pressure to sack Pardew.
Some have speculated that Ashley wants out of the club and that he is looking to sell Newcastle United as soon as he can. A report in the Daily Telegraph in September 2014 stated that Ashley wanted to sell Newcastle and buy Glasgow Rangers.
However in response to that Newcastle United banned the Daily Telegraph’s journalists from St James’ Park and issued a forceful denial of the story, calling it “wholly inaccurate” and stating that at least until the end of the 2015-2016 season, “Mike Ashley will not, under any circumstances, sell Newcastle United at any price.”
The crux of the matter is that it is impossible to run a successful football club under such a climate. Even if the chairman and the fans cannot agree, there needs to be a common ground- a shared vision and collective goal. At present, there is a distinct lack of it and it threatens the Premier League future of the club.
Alan Pardew is, I believe, a decent manager but it is impossible to defend a run of results and some of the performances his teams have put in. While many Newcastle fans may want him sack, some of his players have played like they wanted precisely the same thing at times.
For that reason alone, Mike Ashely needs to sack Alan Pardew. His position is untenable. Everyone can see it.
Bar the one person who can do something about it.
Until something gives here, Newcastle will be stuck in a downward spiral and unless proactive action is taken sooner rather than later, either by the chairman or the manager in improving performances radically, then there is only one place that leads to – The Championship.
That would be a great shame as a Newcastle united should be challenging at least in the top half, every season.
A Newcastle divided however, is only likely to head in the opposite direction.
English fans to re-evaluate Champions League expectations as all four struggle - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
It’s hard to tell much after just one group game, but a string of unimpressive results and performances from English sides in the Champions League this week has left me wondering, do fans of the top four sides need to re-evaluate their expectations?
No-one expected Arsenal to travel to Borussia Dortmund and thump them but not even the most cynical of Gooners would have expected such a shambolic display. It’s probably safe to assume that Arsenal fans, perhaps, had the most realistic expectations of all the top four sides when it came to how their team are likely to do in the Champions League – this isn’t their first time around the block in this competition – but unless they get themselves together and learn how to handle this new 4-1-4-1 formation Arsene Wenger has implemented, they could, realistically, struggle to get out of the group stages for the first time since 99/00.
After the group stage draw concluded, most people were content that Chelsea had been handed a favourable draw once again and given their form this season so far, it was expected that they would breeze past Schalke at home. Not so as the German side left London with a draw. Even though Jose Mourinho admits that star-man, Diego Costa, will be unable to play three games in a week, Chelsea still seem to offer England’s best hope of doing well in this competition. It might not, however, be as easy a group as most imagined.
Liverpool were welcomed back in to the Champions League with a kind draw, and with Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets at home in their opening game, they had the perfect opportunity to get their campaign off to a flying start. The only English side to win in the opening round of matches, they needed a penalty in the dying minutes to do so and will have been reminded that even the alleged whipping boys in this competition can provide a tough test. How they juggle European football with their domestic obligations will largely determine how well the Reds do but it won’t be as easy as many thought when they were first seen paired with Ludogorets and FC Basel along with Real Madrid.
Joe Hart believes that City were unlucky to lose 1-0 to Bayern Munich but he must surely be the only person, because for the rest of us watching, they were lucky they only lost by one goal. Despite being Premier League Champions, the current seeding system for the Champions League always meant that City would face a tough group. While CSKA are off to the worst possible start in the group, Roma will be a formidable rival to City in the search for the second qualifying spot in the group. Their demolition of the Russians at the same time City were struggling to compete with Bayern Munich underlined their credentials.
With five matches still to play, all four English sides will be hopeful of being able to progress from their groups. How far they are able to get in the competition, however, is still up for debate.
Liverpool have had a mixed start to their new season. In their four Premier League games played so far, the Reds have won two but suffered two defeats while their performance so far has yet to match the high standards they set last season.
The newcomers at the club are yet to settle down while injuries to several key players haven’t allowed Brendan Rodgers to stick with any particular formation.
Liverpool started the season with a 4-2-3-1 formation against Southampton. Lucas Leiva started in the defensive midfield role alongside Steven Gerrard while Daniel Sturridge operated as a lone striker.
Following an insipid performance from Lucas on the opening day, the Brazilian was dropped in the next match against Manchester City and was replaced by Joe Allen. Rodgers changed his formation to 4-3-3 but Liverpool were thoroughly outplayed as they lost 3-1 at the Etihad.
In the third match, Liverpool started with Balotelli and Sturridge up front in the 4-4-2 diamond formation. The system was highly effective last season as Liverpool got the best out of their two main strikers – Sturridge and Suarez – both contributing over 50 goals combined in the league. It proved effective again as Liverpool convincingly won 3-0 against Spurs at White Hart Lane.
Sturridge got injured whilst on international duty which forced Rodgers to abandon his diamond formation temporarily. He went back to 4-3-3 with Balotelli operating as a lone striker. Liverpool failed to score (lost 1-0) against Aston Villa and struggled to break Ludogorets’ defence in the Champions League. Only after Rodgers introduced Fabio Borini and changed the shape to a diamond, Liverpool looked more comfortable and in the end won the match 2-1.
Contrary to opinion that Liverpool may have signed a wrong striker in Balotelli, the Italian was actually brilliant in the last match. He was excellent in link-up plays with other attacking midfielders while has impressed everyone with his work-rate.
Rodgers has praised for his commitment to Liverpool’s cause and has urged him to replicate the prodigious work-rate of Luis Suarez.
“You saw his workrate against Ludogorets and, OK, the ball has bounced off him a couple of times and we’re trying to improve him in the transitions so that when he makes a mistake he can go after it, but I think you can see what he’s trying to put in for the team. That’s going to be very important,” Rodgers said.
“The crowd demand that, because the players who’ve been here in the past in that position have been non-stop, and he’s coming attuned to that. He’s aware of the demands and it’s going to take time, but if he continues to score goals and work hard like he has done in this game, he will be fine, because he’s obviously got the quality.
“He is a boy who’s really looked into the history of the club. He understands the great strikers of the past. We’ve spoken about Suárez and his time here, but if you’re clever, you’ll remember he’s still young and still learning the game, and he still has this hunger to do well.
“You see his work against Ludogorets, he’s put his body on the line and he needs to do more of that, but I think that will come as he gets fitter.”
Balotelli is a striker of different sort. He is mobile, physically strong and plays the role of a good target man. He won’t bring the same qualities that Suarez used to provide but will offer a different dimension to Liverpool’s attack.
The thing is Liverpool have had to adapt to Balotelli’s style in absence of Sturridge which has taken a toll on their performance level. In their past two matches, Liverpool have produced over 20 crosses from both the flanks from open play that only suggest they were looking to take advantage of Balotelli’s ability as a target man.
Unlike Suarez, who was capable of creating something out of nothing all by himself, Balotelli needs support from other attacking players. Therefore in theory, Balotelli should fit perfectly in Rodgers’ diamond system and would benefit with Sturridge playing alongside him.
Furthermore, the system brings the best out of young Raheem Sterling. Sterling’s game is based on raw pace and his dazzling skills. Although he is capable of playing out wide, he has the potential to wreak havoc when deployed in the #10 role. His performances against Southampton at St Mary’s last season and for England against Italy in the FIFA 2014 World Cup suggest so.
Having said that, the diamond has its own strength and obvious limitations. It narrows down the midfield which helps in dominating the centre of the pitch, but there is also a lack of outright width at the same time.
It shouldn’t be a problem for Liverpool as both Sturridge and Balotelli are mobile forwards who are willing to move wide allowing Sterling or even Henderson (note his run against Spurs from middle in the build up to the first goal) to run through the middle and create problems for opposition defenders.
And whatever little we have seen of Manquillo and Moreno, the two full-backs, is highly encouraging. They like to move forward at every possible opportunity and are good at providing measured crosses. The system allows the full back to make clever runs toward the flanks and have a shot at the goal – Moreno’s goal against Tottenham is a classic example.
A lot depends on how quickly Sturridge gets back into the team from injury. His strike partnership with Balotelli could have a major impact for Liverpool. But, even if his return to action is delayed, Rodgers must continue with the diamond.
Arsene Wenger confirms biggest regret – failing to sign Cristiano Ronaldo - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
The forward was at Sporting Lisbon when the North London club were keen on securing a deal for the talented player in 2003. However, it was Sir Alex Ferguson, who managed to win the race for Ronaldo’s signature as he joined Manchester United the same year.
“My biggest regret, I was so close, to signing Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only did I not get him he signed for Manchester United, so that of course still hurts today,” Wenger said.
Wenger has a strong reason to regret this as Ronaldo enjoyed incredible success with the 20-times English champions. He also helped United to win their third European trophy in the history of their club during the 2007-08 season.
The Portuguese international went on to become one of the legends at United, before leaving Old Trafford to join Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. During his time in England, Ronaldo won three Premier League titles, Champions League, Club World Cup and FA Cup.
During the 30-year-old’s debut season at Old Trafford, Arsenal went on to win the league without a defeat. However, after that, the Emirates club were able to add one FA Cup and One Community Shield to their trophy cabinet till Ronaldo left in 2009.
Arsenal had just three trophies in six years from 2003 to 2009 and they saw them take a dip in their form. At the same time, Chelsea were taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and they became a new face of the Premier League for a short while.
However, United bounced back and regained their dominance in English football in Ronaldo’s last three years at the club. He helped the Red Devils win three consecutive league titles, while Arsenal were struggling to challenge United and Chelsea for the title.
The only thing Wenger and Arsenal could see was Ronaldo shine for United, while the Gunners struggled to win silverware since 2005. They recently ended their nine-year long trophy drought by winning the FA Cup earlier in May.
Early impressions suggest Liverpool signed the wrong striker this summer - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Mario Balotelli scored his first goal in a Liverpool shirt yesterday evening, but his 82nd minute strike versus Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad overshadowed a largely disappointing performance.
It took the £16 million summer signing three appearances to net for the club, with the return of Champions League football at Anfield offering him with the perfect platform to open his account.
However, the 24-year-old’s display consisted of a mere physical battle, during which he enjoyed the occasional half-chance in the 18-yard-box.
He grew increasingly frustrated with his lack of opportunities throughout 90 minutes, and it became abundantly clear that he is experiencing difficulties adapting to Brendan Rodgers’ system and the Liverpool style of play.
Last season the Reds thrived thanks to their fast-paced, counter-attacking style, with Luis Suarez and Sturridge leading the line. We grew used to fierce attacking spells that caused tremendous destruction to even the Premier League’s most adept defences.
Suarez’s departure has of course had an impact, while Daniel Sturridge’s absence has further hindered the intuitive understanding in the Liverpool attack. However, the contrasting styles of players old and new offer the most suitable explanation for the current difficulties the team are facing in break down opposition defences.
There’s no doubt Balotelli produced a fantastic finish, and after all, this is what he has been brought in for. He is a clinical player, if the ball is given to his feet, but unlike Sturridge, he is not prepared to run the channels, or create movement across the box.
The team have struggled in the England international’s absence, simply due Balotelli’s lack of mobility, and this has been reflected in recent scorelines.
The Merseyside outfit came close to securing the services of French international striker Loic Remy, prior to his £10.5 million summer move to Chelsea. However, the club decided to pull plug on the 26-year-old’s transfer late on in the process, citing a problem encountered during his medical.
It took the Frenchman just nine minutes to score his first goal for the Blues, sweeping home a square pass from Brazilian playmaker Oscar, compared to the 214 of Balotelli, and based on early impressions, it’s fair to suggest the former Queens Park Rangers’ forward would have been a more suitable addition to Brendan Rodgers’ side.
He is very fast, and like Sturridge, he poses the intelligence to attack space and run beyond opposition defences. He too, can play in a central role, or on the wings, like he has done for both club and country in previous seasons. Ultimately, he would have far more suitable to the Reds’ high-octane system.
Nonetheless, Rodgers has backed his summer signing to succeed, although he has expressed similar concerns in regard to his work ethic and movement.
“It was a wonderful finish,” the Northern Irishman told ITV. “We’ve said to him to get in the box more, that was important for him.
“He’s got great technique, sometimes when the ball’s in the wide areas he spends a lot of time outside of the box but when he’s in there, his strength and power to take the touch was a world-class finish.”
There’s no doubt Balotelli possesses the quality required to follow in the footsteps of some of the top strikers who have graced Anfield. After all, he has the ability to decide a game with one amazing moment, as he proved on Tuesday. The question is, can he do it on a regular basis?
Unfortunately, I feel the answer is no.
The cold, creeping sensation that lies in the depth of your empty gut, as the floor falls away from beneath you, the blind sense of panic that comes with an unknown tomorrow. We all know that monstrous feeling that accompanies a sacking. Well, almost all of us. As is often the way in a cold and unjust world, those who most deserve to feel that cold, steely dread are the ones who never know it. Embezzlers, tyrants, mass murderers, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew – no matter what they say or do, no matter how many people call for their head, they all seem somehow untouchable, regardless of their crimes against humanity.
Why is it then, that I can face the sack for “not seeming like I want to be” serving coffee to the nearly dead in a deserted coffee shop, but Alan Pardew can call one of the league’s most respected managers an “old c***”, head-butt an opposition player, and turn the 5th best club in England into a perpetual relegation candidate overnight, and still expect to go to work on Monday morning? Money talks. The ties to the club’s owner seem to be all that has kept Pardew in office for the past two seasons, meaning while we, the hoi polloi, may face the axe on a daily basis, ‘Pards’ evades justice by virtue of his rich friend.
The 2011/12 season when he looked so… competent… seems like little more than a pleasant dream now, and Magpie fans instead find themselves living a waking nightmare thanks to the insipid cronyism currently crippling the club. The players that carried the Magpies to the brink of Champions League qualification have either been auctioned off at embarrassingly low prices (Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye) or isolated and bullied into obscurity (Hatem Ben Arfa, Papis Cisse). While the last heir to the Hutt Empire, owner Mike Ashley, might take credit for the former; the latter falls squarely on the shoulders of the hapless Pardew.
The Newcastle boss took two of his most exciting players, and ruined them with a subtle blend of public humiliation (Ben Arfa was relegated to the reserve squad before his acrimonious loan exit to Hull) and religious intolerance (Cisse, a Muslim, was excluded from team training for refusing to wear a strip sponsored by loan-sharks Wonga which conflicted with his beliefs). His tactics are almost as ill-judged as his man-management techniques; but that’s not what is really driving the calls for Pardew’s scalp – it’s his links to the owner. Midway through last season, he dedicated the team’s unexpected victory over title-contenders Chelsea to Newcastle’s despised owner Ashley – as the Toon faithful, who deserve so much better, continued to bay for the Cockney Mafioso’s head on a stick.
The writing would have been on the wall at St James’ Park for a long time now, but for the giant “SPORTS DIRECT” signs that would no doubt have been plastered over it – and as pressure mounts, including stern words from Geordie immortal Alan Shearer, the end would surely be nigh for any of us. But Pardew isn’t any of us. He is Ashley’s man. Both fans and owner seem to see that makes Ashley’s position vulnerable should Pardew be driven out. So the farcical dance continues, as Newcastle languish at the foot of the Premier League – and it’s looking like this time, if it is not resolved quickly, the biggest club in the North-East could be heading for a return to England’s second tier. The club could make no better start to putting that right than the dismissal of Pardew.
Welbeck v Balotelli – who got the better deal, Arsenal or Liverpool? - originally posted on Soccerlens.com
Liverpool and Arsenal shocked everyone by signing Mario Balotelli and Danny Welbeck from AC Milan and Manchester United respectively in the summer, for £16m each.
Arsenal were in dire need of a striker after Olivier Giroud suffered a serious foot injury (broken foot) that would rule him out till January. With Radamel Falcao moving to Manchester United, Edinson Cavani seemingly happy at PSG and Roma unwilling to sell Mattia Destro, Arsenal had been left with limited options in the transfer market. In the end (on the transfer deadline day) they signed Welbeck, who was deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Liverpool on the other hand were looking for an established striker who would add sufficient depth to the squad. When Balotelli was offered for a reasonable price, Brendan Rodgers wasted no time in securing his signature.
Balotelli, 24, is already an international superstar. He was one of the best performers for Italy in the Euro 2012 and led the attacking line for his country in the FIFA 2014 World Cup. He is already a Champions League winner and has won league titles in Italy and England with Inter Milan and Manchester City respectively.
Overall, he is a top talent and getting him for £16m is a bargain. But at the same time he is unpredictable and a dangerous player to have in the team. Therefore his signing is a big gamble but a risk worth taking for. He is a proven match winner and if Rodgers can get the best out of him, Liverpool will soon feel that the void of Luis Suarez had been well replenished.
Having said that, Balotelli is still a raw talent and far from being a complete player. He scored 30 goals in 54 appearances for AC Milan during his two years’ stay at the club, but only 15 of those were from open play. He has never scored 20 goals in a season and that is something he should be aiming to achieve at Liverpool.
Danny Welbeck may not be as talented as Balotelli but he could prove to be a brilliant signing for Arsenal in the coming days. Welbeck is a typical modern-day striker who is adaptable enough to carry out multiple roles. He is strong, quick, energetic and contributes more to the game than by just simply scoring goals.
He is tactically disciplined and puts in valuable defensive shifts when required. However, the only thing missing from his game is his finishing ability. He has a poor goals-per-game ratio which he must improve at Arsenal.
He gets into good goal scoring positions every match but his finishing lets him down more often than not. Against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, he got three brilliant chances to score, but failed to capitalise on the opportunities presented.
Welbeck with his bundles of energy and raw pace is likely to create space for the attacking midfielders to exploit, but the England international needs to improve on his finishing – an aspect of his game which unfortunately cannot be improved overnight.
Balotelli is a good finisher but he needs proper support from other surrounding players. He can make a big impact for Liverpool, if he stays away from off-pitch distractions and instead focus on bettering himself as a player.