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Balotelli to Arsenal
I should start with the caveat that I could be mad. This might be a terrible idea, but here goes…
Could Balotelli be the perfect antidote to Arsenal’s striking problems? I got thinking this as the reports came out of Besiktas being interested, plus the Mail hatchet job about how he wasted everything.
I’m breaking this down to two parts:
First: What does Arsenal need?
Arsenal need a couple of things from a striker, which became apparent both when Giroud was playing, when Welbeck provided a better alternative, and then when Walcott ‘played’ striker.
Arsenal need a focal point for both sustained pressure and counter attacking. They need a striker who can work in small spaces, lean into the defender and can finish with power. But most importantly, they need pace and the ability to take a player on, letting players run on/into space. Giroud is very talented at several of those, but is clearly deficient in pace and actually slows down Arsenal attacks. Welbeck has more qualities but his finishing isn’t top class, and he is broken. Walcott offers the pace and finishing, but doesn’t have the movement.
Balotelli actually has all of those qualities, or at least used to. He is an utter powerhouse, but is very quick with solid movement. His finishing is cracking when instinctual, but is prone to overplaying. He needs good service to make the most of his talents as he isn’t a natural grafter in his game. Finally he is selfish enough to end Arsenal’s overblown moves, which even if it means more shots wide is fine. We don’t need another ‘after you’ player, we need flash in the pan inspiration and directness to put defenders on edge.
Second: What does Balotelli need?
Stability in his environment. Service. Patience.
Arsenal have their faults, but in terms of creating a stable, friendly environment for players, they are top notch. Admittedly the mental strength thing comes into play, and we found it difficult when Gallas went off the reservation slightly, but the core of older experience players is much better now than it was then.
Service-wise, playing with passmasters Ozil and Sanchez would be enough for him to build up confidence again, as opposed to functionally broken AC Milan or Brenden ‘Tactics’ Rogers. Arsenal really provides a platform for strikers to play to their true ability which is why our striker’s limitations are so sodding obvious (a step up managerially would be to design a system to mask these limitations, but that isn’t Wenger’s style)
Ultimately, if Balotelli is going to go somewhere at the top level for one last chance, Arsenal makes complete sense. For Arsenal, he’d be relatively cheap price-wise (compared to equivalent talent in this market), we can make his contract incentive-driven and just go from there.
It won’t happen though…
Tom, (Plus Arsenal fans come up with some quality chants, and I’d love to hear a Balotelli one), West Hampstead
Guy <3 Rooney
A few short, salient points for Guy, if I may:
Firstly, not everyone who thinks Rooney just isn’t very good any more has an agenda. I have no footballing reason to dislike him (other than his three international goals at five international tournaments and him being generally offensive on the eye, but that’s by the by), so am generally impartial and objective when assessing his performances. If I see him play well, I will naturally remark that he played well, but he hasn’t played well for ages bar a few games here and there (none of which were at the Euros, incidentally; no one played well there). So please stop taking every negative assessment as a slight on his entire footballing career and a personal insult to you. It makes you look a bit mental.
Secondly, if he was as good as you keep assuring us he has been, he wouldn’t have been played out of position so much; the Man Utd team would be built around him, and United wouldn’t have just spent a significant amount on the far superior Henrikh Mkhitaryan. I will eat someone’s hat if Rooney becomes an undroppable #10 and plays over him.
Thirdly, probably best not to ask for us all to start with a blank slate whilst claiming that you still know you’re not wrong. What you’re saying is “please stop having preconceptions about Rooney being bad and try your best to agree with me”, conveniently ignoring that the fact that probably 95% of people disagree with your biased assessment means that it’s probably you who should be wiping your slate [heart framed picture of Rooney] clean. It suggests astounding levels of arrogance on your part to think otherwise.
If he’s good, people will happily accept it; I really don’t know why you think we wouldn’t. If he’s crap, then fair enough indeed, but he’s been crap for the best part of nearly three seasons and you’ve refused to accept that very same fair enough. So it seems pretty clear it’s you who needs the blank slate for the sake of your own sanity, but please try your best accept the aforementioned fair enough in the meantime for everyone else’s sanity, and accept our blessings to celebrate if he reverses his decline and has a banging season.
Alex G, THFC
The Wayne Rooney debate will never end, it will continue long after he has retired. I believe it will be a long, long time until Rooney gets some form of recognition, but even then it will only be from those that never really saw him play and can only judge him on his record rather than performances. His record will suggest that he has been a great player, and he has, I think the issue is that we all felt that Wayne Rooney was destined for far more than he has achieved.
I wrote in some time ago and I suggested that between 2005-07 Rooney and Ronaldo were both the prodigal talents who were destined to rise to the very top of the game, but both careers turned out remarkably different. Ronaldo has gone on to become arguably one the greatest players to ever grace the game, whilst Rooney has never quite been able to replicate or even push beyond those early years of promise and excitement. Rooney had it all, the desire, drive, determination, technical ability, dribbling skills and finishing ability (see his debut for United), he was the best English talent since Gazza, the best young talent at United since Best, a man that could become one of, if not the clubs greatest ever player. He hasn’t. He’s fallen well short of that. Was it the high expectations? The intrusive English press burdening him with all the pressure? Did Ferguson hammer that ability out of him so that he could become the perfect foil for the harder working Ronaldo? Maybe it was the metatarsal injuries? I don’t know, but he has spectacularly missed the bus to join the elite.
I’ve watched pretty much every United game for the past few years and I can understand the frustration with Rooney. There is the expectation that Rooney will do something magic, that he will drag the team to victory by himself, because we have both seen and been told that this man is one of the most gifted players of his generation. He was, he isn’t any longer. He labours for far too long on the ball, his fitness often seems lacking, his finishing has declined rather than improved and he has lost an awful lot of pace (he was never the quickest anyway). Rooney’s alarming decline is demonstrated by countless manager’s efforts to rehabilitate Rooney by revolutionising him as an attacking midfielder, a false number 9, a number 6, an inside forward, you name a position beyond the back four and he’s played there. This smacks of a man who has evident ability but has been unable to really become a master with any of them. This is why fans have felt that the team carries Rooney in the last few years, because he has been unable to make a single position his own. Recently, he’s a passenger who is accommodated for his captaincy and his brand rather than his ability to contribute to the team.
United fans will back Rooney as they always have, but we all really know that those powers of his are on the wane. He will forever be remembered by me as a nearly man, a young player with immense potential but he just couldn’t quite measure up to the high expectations that were placed upon him. And, finally, his transfer request debacle(s) have meant that he will be forever iconic but not legendary.
Guy S, I have a blank slate on Rooney every time he plays.
It’s not my fault that every time he plays his touch is poor, or he runs back to the halfway line to ping pointless diagonals that make the Rooney
lovers starry eyed. He might score 5 goals in 5 games once a year but even in those games he rarely plays well, and when he isn’t on a goalscoring run he is often shockingly bad. Other than the diagonals his passing is often woeful and he can’t split a defence like Ozil.
Really, I just don’t know what he’s for anymore. But each game is a chance for him to change the opinion of him because it’s not that he’s a mass murderer who is
hated unconditionally – the opinion is formed based on his performances each week.
New slate indeed Wayne – time to finally start looking like a 300k a week footballer who can lead a team to league titles.
Can anyone else see a suspicious looking Coleen sitting Wayne down and asking ‘So who exactly is this Guy Shrimpton?!?’
Settling the Zlatan fight
I read the two arguments put forward by Daniel Storey and Matt Stead this morning and came to the seemingly obvious conclusion that, ultimately, we are not going to know how the Ibrahimovic experiment will work out until it is in full swing or even the end of the season.
However, I agree with a lot of the points put forward by both sides, falling on the Storey side of the fence, just. Ibrahimovic was a signing United needed to make. The superstar the fans wanted. It is also more than likely he will score a few goals as well.
My issue lies with part of the other side of the argument. Yes, Mata created less chances than Di Maria last season. But if you are going to use the dominance of PSG in Ligue Un to try to account for Ibrahimovic’s impressive goal record, should you then not also apply that same logic to Di Maria’s statistics when making comparisons to Mata’s (though I’m not suggesting Mata had a great season by any means). Lest we forget, he hardly enjoyed the best form of his career in England.
Also, commenting on the lack of pace and penetration, and lack of support from the wings and then wilfully ignoring Anthony Martial and Henrik Mkhitaryan (who did quite well in that respect last year in a much better league than Ligue Un) smacks of trying to fit a narrative for the sake of argument. Of course Fellaini, Lingard, Mata and Rooney won’t provide that. That’s why we’ve got Martial, Rashford and Mkhitaryan. That’s why we’re looking to spend an obscene amount of money on Paul Pogba. The flaws of last season are exactly what Mourinho is trying to address.
It really could go either way but I’m just grateful the Premier League finally has a chance to see what the man can do.
EFL Trophy thoughts
As an Albion fan who has spent the majority of my supporting life watching Brighton compete in the bottom two divisions of the football league I’m uneasy about seeing our development squad enter the newly revamped EFL Trophy. It’s undoubtedly going to be a good thing for our youngsters, but I remain to be convinced that it will really breathe life into the competition.
Are Southend, Orient or Stevenage fans are going to be any more excited by the prospect of our kids? We’re a (good) Championship team with Category One Academy, but with the best will in the world it’s not La Masia, and we are not that box office.
More than this though, I reckon that the idea of B teams competing in this way goes further to deepen the divide between the haves and have nots, and will be surprised if the supposed financial benefits to lower division teams actually materialise.
Is Higuain’s fee that mental?
I’ve always wondered, why do people like Danny (Brackets[with brackets]) say it’s mental when older players move for big sums because ‘they have no sell on value’?
When experienced teams win league titles with teams of geriatrics (cough, AC Milan, cough), fans don’t say ‘Oh I wish we’d finished second and had some players with sell on value instead of this aging lot’. Sponsors don’t commit huge sums of money to clubs based on what a players transfer fee might be in future. Success now brings profit, and I guess that’s what Juventus are going for.
In five years time when Gonzalo Higuain goes back to Argentina on a free transfer having scored over 100 Serie A goals, won 5 league titles and a Champions League or two, and ensured Juventus get an official laptop power cable sponsor giving them 10m euros a year (or whatever – I just picked something from my desk, I love lamp), I really don’t think the accounting cost of £15m a season over 5 years is going to look that expensive in hindsight….
Something really stuck out to me in the first mail this morning – “no sell on value”. I just don’t get it. Why does this matter? We all bemoan the way football is becoming increasingly like a business – the same terminology used in the business world is finding its way into football. Gonzalo Higuain is a footballer, first and foremost. I think, in a sense, it’s rather more romantic (despite the incomprehensible amount of money involved) that a club is making a purchase with no financial sense.
Rather than looking at Higuain and thinking, ‘hey, we aren’t going to get a financial return on our investment, let’s just settle on a 21 year old with potential and hope we make a profit on him’, Juventus are going down the romantic route. They believe that they are in a period of time that they can win the Champions League, and, regardless of cost, they are bringing in a footballer that they think will help them achieve this goal. It doesn’t make business sense, but then this isn’t a business decision. If I was a Juventus fan, I wouldn’t give a sh*t what Higuain cost – it isn’t relevant to me, and if the club couldn’t afford the deal, they wouldn’t be doing it. I would just be excited that one of the premier out-and-out strikers in the world, off the back of a record-breaking season, will be turning out for my team every week.
For all the talk about agent’s fees, inflated transfer fees, wages, commercialisation, etc., it’s the action and players on the pitch that are the reason we follow it. The rest is just there to fill gossip pages
I’d be interested to know thoughts of fans of other clubs (I’m a neutral, so can’t offer much myself on this) – do you honestly care about sell on value? My two-cents; a club like Southampton brings back Gareth Bale at 30 for ludicrous price (£200m by that point?), he wins them the league. They don’t sell him, he retires 3 years later. Does that mean he wasn’t worth the money? Is it a sure-fire sign of the apocalypse?
An overrated XI
Following on from the suggestion from this morning’s mailbox, I present to you esteemed readers, my over-rated XI (featuring current and ex-players that I have seen enough times to warrant proper opinion of)
GK: Victor Valdes
While people will point to the countless honours he won with arguably the greatest club side of all time, always had an air of uncertainty surrounding him, and remember some calamitious moments as well. Will be interesting to see how he will adjusts to ‘Boro’s level’.
RB: Dani Alves
A behemoth going forward. A dreadful defender. Typical modern day Brazilian full back I suppose.
CB: Gerard Pique
Like Valdes, his extensive accolades masks his propensity for an occasional brain-fart. Good on the ball I grant you, but not so good when it comes to the bread and butter aspects of his position.
CB: Laurent Koscielny
Literally cannot buy into the hype this fella gets. Is there any coincidence that he has been an ever present in a Gunners defence that has routinely imploded in the second half of the season, particularly since he arrived at the club?
LB: Patrice Evra
Okay. Was probably the best LB going circa 08-11 (well apart from Cashley Cole), but suffered an alarming drop-off thereafter. So many United fans regard him as a club legend for his personality etc., but too often he was caught too far up the pitch and took an age to get back into position, or tried a ridiculous bicycle kick clearance that failed miserably. He is no Dennis Irwin.
RW: Theo Walcott
Surely no explanation needed?
CM: Cesc Fabregas
A controversial one perhaps. But the fact he was publicly and unashamedly courted by Barca as the heir apparent to Xavi, but left after a few meh seasons suggests he hasn’t reached the standards he was touted to. Also, his tendency to drop his performance levels hints at a mental deficiency than anything to do with his stamina/fitness
CM: Steven Gerrard
Best midfielder of the PL era? Not even the best Liverpool midfielder of that era (both Alonso and Mascherano are closer to world class than Gerrard ever was). It is ironic that Rooney’s conversion into a midfielder where he is criticised for attempting too many Hollywood passes and trying to ‘be the man’ are the very same virtues that Gerrard got praised for.
LW: Ryan Giggs
The most decorated player in the history of the British game, but would agree with Roy Keane’s assesment that having a great career doesn’t make you a great player. Can never remember him being linked to big money moves, but do remember a spell towards the end of his tenure as a left winger when his production level dropped off. How come his number 11 jersey hasn’t some kind of iconic status since he has retired?
FW: Wayne Rooney
No explanation needed. But will say that he has never been the central cog in a United title winning season. Played second fiddle to first Ronaldo, and then van Persie. Even the much maligned Berbatov was top scorer in 2011 when Rooney was angling for a move away from the club
FW: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
As a United fan, I desperately hope to be proven wrong on this one. But hos scoring record for PSG has to be taken with a pinch of salt given their monopoly of Ligue Un. Has flattered to decieve on the biggest stage of all more often than not, and surely his brief stint at BArca should be regarded as a failure too given the money spent? Even his titles with Inter came at a time when Juve were relegated and the league was tarnished. I hope a 35 year old striker coming to a physical league for the first time, doesn’t find the going too tough.
Brian (my glass of water is shaking on my table. Outraged Liverpool fans must be coming), Wexford
Wigan Dave laid down the challenge, here is my effort. For bonus marks I’ve stuck to English overrated players (not that hard to do.) I’ve stuck to Wigan Dave’s definition of a hotly touted youngster, who just never made that step up to the level that we hoped they would.
GK – Richard Wright
RB – Micah Richards
CB – Martin Kelly
CB – Steven Caulker
LB – Kieran Gibbs
CM – Jack Rodwell
CM – Jonjo Shelvey
CM – Tom Cleverley
RW – Terry Cooke
LW – Stewart Downing
CF – Francis Jeffers
Manager – Paul Tisdale
Terry Hall, Switzerland (just for the record, Lee Holmes was on fire before Will Grigg was even smouldering.)
I’m getting a little sick and tired of people lamenting what a ‘terrible piece of business’ it would be for Chelsea to buy Lukaku back from Everton for £40m+ when we only sold him last year for £28m. The fact is we paid £17m (including £7m in add-ons, how much of which was paid I’m not sure) for him as an 18 year old, sent him on loan for a few seasons for game time and a Premier League education, then sold him for a £10m profit. If we end up spending £40m to get him back we have essentially paid £30million overall for a 23 year old striker with 60 goals in 139 premier league games since he left us. In today’s market where £50millions are spent on Raheem Sterlings, £34millions exchanged for Sadio Mane’s and £2millions splashed out on Rob Holdings, this would be a ludicrously good piece of business. We’ll also be purchasing a beast of a striker with a point to prove at his former club. Would love for this rumour to become a reality, whatever the price.
Sean, CFC, London
A Villan in need
Genuine question – is there a good place to read about Championship football on the internet? As a Villa fan, I’ve gotten used to feeding off media scraps for, well, ever; and I appreciate most of the players signed at the top end of the league are now trading for higher prices than our entire football club. But now we’re out of the prem I find we’ve actually been relegated to East Germany.
On a similar note: two months of being a Dad, following 30 years of resting my hopes on the shoulders of Ian Olney and the like, means I’m losing motivation to keep forking out huge blobs of cash (NB – £42 in the Champ, Sheff Weds? Are you joking?) to watch our penalty area hosting its weekly Buster Keaton tribute contest.
So for TV highlights, I’m glad I won’t have to stay up for the beeb’s Manish-Claridge-Leroy, 25-games-a-minute, midnight lock-in. But is the Channel 5 effort any better? If I’m only going to see 10 seconds of Ciaran Clark giving away penalties every Saturday, I’ve got plenty of footage in stock thanks.
Neil (they have football clubs in Bristol?!) Raines
There is only one question that needs answering today after checking out Degsy’s Cheeky Punt column: How did Jesus Navas manage to bag himself a seat at the table next to James Bond?!
Bedwell…. James Bedwell
Some Cheeky Punts of your own
So as July draws to an end and the gamblers amongst us start designating funds towards our season-spanning flutters, I thought I’d relay some of my thoughts for the months ahead:
1/ Borussia Dortmund to win the Bundesliga 6/1: I am loving this Dortmund team, I’m a United fan and they dismantled us last week with relative ease. Granted they had a vastly superior match fitness, but with new players like Goetze, Schuerrle, Guerreiro, Rode and the remarkable talent that is Ousmane Dembele, their potential this year is huge. Then on the other hand we have an ageing Bayern who’ve just lost the best coach in the world. Players like Robben, Ribery and Alonso are getting on a bit, and Lewandowski and Muller are woefully out of form. Have we seen enough of Sanches to call him a league winning central midfielder? I really think Dortmund can beat the bullies this year if Aubameyang and Reus stay fit. Definitely worth a punt.
2/ Higuain to be Serie A top goalscorer (no odds available): This is a no-brainer for me. Comfortably the best team in Serie A have just signed comfortably the best goalscorer in Serie A. The odds may be quite short, but anything over 3/1 I’ll be backing. The head-melting fee for the 28-year old Argentinian may conjure up some warranted criticism amongst football fans, but what surely is unwarranted is doubts over Gonzalo’s ability to score goals.
3/ Middlesborough for a top 10 finish 7/1: Karanka’s new boys have been busy in the transfer market, snapping up some serious talents who’ve played on the main stages of European football – namely Alvaro Negredo. I still don’t understand what Alvaro did wrong to limit his time at City, although a total of 9 goals in 32 appearances may have contributed. Given more time and trust, I feel he could have done much better. But looking at his ratio of just over a goal every other game in 139 matches for Sevilla, I’m placing trust in him up front in my Fantasy Football team. He’s going to fire ‘Boro to a top ten finish and a league cup semi-final. Mark my words.
4/ De Bruyne PFA Player of the Year 2017 (no odds available yet): Provided the ginger maestro stays injury free, I’m backing him to take to league by storm this season. He’s a majestic talent and has the lot – fierce shooting, finesse passing, Zidane-esque vision and that effortless velcro touch. I think City would have won the league last year had he not done his cruciate. KDB is the league’s best player, he’ll prove that this season.
I’d like to hear some other thoughts on season outrights so next May I can have a free holiday courtesy of Mr. Paddy Power.
Dan, Dublin (Makin’ it rain)
The daddy of single moment footballers
George Weah’s cousin.
And you missed him out? For shame.
Here are a few other names for single moment footballers
David Trezeguet – A man who has had an illustrious career, but THAT golden goal volley against Italy will forever be remembered. It was only a matter of time after France’s equalizer, and we all knew it was coming, but what a way to close out such a wonderful tournament.
Sylvain Wiltord – Yes he had the equalizer in that game against Italy at the last second, but I will always remember him for that goal at Old Trafford. Wiltoooooooooooooooooooooooord still gives me chills.
Antoine Kombouare – He will always be remembered in France for a last second goal to send PSG through to the semi finals against Real Madrid. PSG had lost 3-1 in Madrid and all hope seemed lost. Then, in a remarkable fashion, a star-studded PSG with Weah, Ginola, Valdo, and Rai went up 3-0 against Madrid at home into the dying minutes. A late late goal by Madrid meant it was going to Extra time, until Kombouare headed a Ginola free kick in. Just crazy.