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John (Dublin, Ireland LFC) raises some excellent points about Emre Can, most of which I agree with – especially the lavish praise he’s been getting despite still being a bit rough around the edges with a lot yet to learn. A few further points, if I may.
The criticism of not getting his head up enough is fair, though in mitigation I’d counter that this aspect of his game is improving. Yes, he still gives the ball away a bit much for my liking, however at least it’s often while trying to make things happen.
Driving a team forward is a fearsome weapon in a central midfielder, Gerrard was the master in his pomp. I see a bit of it in Can too, and think that with more experience and match-craft under his belt, he can improve this aspect of his game.
Though the stats don’t back it up, he does make things happen. From the ridiculous defence-splitting back heel, to the scorcher of a shot that led to Firmino’s first on Wednesday night – he has both the vision and ability. To affect matches in this way more consistently must now be his goal.
The scariest thing is perhaps what heights he could reach in the coming years, he’s a beast of a specimen blessed with pace and poise on the ball, good technical ability, okay positional sense and that intangible bit extra which can make things happen. A few tweaks from Klopp around his decision-making and we could witness something a little bit special.
Spoons (flicking between Talksport and Radio 4) LFC
Not giving up on the Ox yet
I can’t disagree with criticism levelled at the Ox. It is warranted.
From my vantage point last week at the Emirates, I saw a lad trying too hard. We do have to remember he is still a lad and very young.
Like other English players in the squad, he’s adjusting to having much tougher competition for places. He seems worried about the threat from Sanchez, who is capable of the magnificent, and has forgotten about the other threat from Campbell, who is a workhorse but also keeps things simple.
I’m not ready to write off a 22-year-old England international any time soon. The boy clearly has bags of potential and is very talented. He’s also not too sure of his place in the team.
My advice to the Ox, as it was on Saturday, is to keep it simple, don’t try and beat several defenders and lose the ball and to only shoot when there’s no other option or the keeper’s off his line and there’s a realistic chance of it going in.
It’s a true sign of how far we’ve come that we’re disappointed with a draw at Anfield. Next comes the real test – lose at Stoke and we can forget all about any chance of the league.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
…Just wanted to reply to Craig Gooner, London’s email about Alex ‘The Ox’ Oxlade-Chamberlain. Whilst I agree with you that his most of his performances in an Arsenal shirt have been below par for a player of his obvious ability, I feel that your email seriously lacked perspective and labeling him a ‘fraud’ was outright unfair.
Has he ever claimed he is the best young English talent out there? No. Has he ever displayed a modicum of arrogance? I would say no too. In fact I would say that this is a player so low on self-confidence that he can’t be a ‘fraud’. Normally frauds are confident in their own abilities, are they not? I would suggest that the current performances he is putting in on the pitch are closer to fraudulent, not that he somehow charmed us all into thinking he was amazing and it turns out he’s a bit sh*t, the media did that.
As for the Wayne Rooney point, it doesn’t even compare. Oxlade-Chamberlain earns far less the the Roonster, is far younger, and is not the focal point of his team. As far as I can see we have a young man, who is actually being played out of his best position, who is a bit low on self confidence but works hard
for the team and in training.
The type of things you have criticised him for are exactly the kind of things that most young attacking players get criticised for: poor crossing, poor decision making ,etc. If I had a quid for every young player that got criticised for his decision making, I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere drinking cocktails with rude
names, not typing this mail.
Would you go to the Emirates and shout ‘Fraud!’ at him? If so, do you think that would make someone who is low on self-confidence do their job better? If so, can I come to your workplace and call you a fraud?
Jamie Gooner, London
…Craig Gooner, London, I think you are mental if you think Oxlade-Chamberlain is a fraud.
I’m not going to try to defend his recent performances because, as you say, he’s been really quite frustrating in a season where most people expected, hoped, predicted that he’d ‘kick on’ and develop in to an excellent Premier League player. His performances have been pretty poor, but that doesn’t mean he’s not, potentially at least, a brilliant player.
I mean, you just have to watch him when he’s injury-free and running at defenders. His close control, change of pace/direction, and direct running absolutely terrifies players. He ties full backs in knots and that kind of player is rare and near priceless.
I also think you need to step away from the stats too. I think the piece on Rui Costa this week demonstrates well enough that it’s not just about stats and numbers. I’m not comparing him to Rui Costa but I am saying he’s a bit of a luxury player and I think a team like Arsenal can probably afford to field a luxury player every now and again.
So yeah, assuming Oxlade-Chamberlain overcomes his injuries and gets a run in the team, he’s probably going to replace Joel Campbell or, if it takes time, Cazorla’s spot in the first 11.
Dale May, Swindon Gooner
A warning to Spurs
A message from an Arsenal fan to Spurs fans is likely to be met with derision, especially if that message comes in the form of a warning. The temptation to hide my club identity was overcome when I realized the content of the email would blow my cover anyway. At least I can hide my name. Yet, the north London rivalry is not the reason I’m using Arsenal as a yardstick for Spurs. Just could not find as many similarities with other big clubs – not with moneybags Man City and Chelsea, nor with traditional giants ManU and Liverpool, but I see a lot of 2007 – 2012 Arsenal when I look at the current Spurs crop. Times may have changed with more TV money, FFP rules, and the two clubs’ financial models probably differ but I vividly remember that Arsenal as a very promising young squad, decent British core, good for top four, and a stadium move affecting everyday financial decisions (post or pre-construction).
It may be hard to admit but Spurs have impressed (and maybe even scared) me recently – with a promising young squad, decent British core, looking good for top four and a stadium move imminent etc. Yet some comments I’ve seen from fans are that they are a work in progress, a young side that will improve in years to come and win some silverware. Most comments seem to be on a ‘ceteris paribus’ assumption that a team good for fourth will improve to third then the same lot will improve to second then first, while everything else remains the same. It’s a tempting assumption I know, but it must be showered with some realism.
A warning from experience: it’s never that straightforward. The baby horse that is the entire squad may be looking like a future thoroughbred but individually some players may actually be performing at their best (Walker, Dembele and Chadli come to mind), while some may even be over-performing. Good players soon get frustrated at always being ‘nearly men’ and look for greener pastures, agents start seeking improved deals and on a glorious morning in sunny Spain the powers-that-be at Barcelona can wake up and decide that Christian Eriksen is the ideal replacement for Iniesta. Showing potential as a club can come at a price. Once 2/3 key players leave, the next batch and even the coach start questioning their own futures. All this with financial restrictions imposed by building a stadium as a backdrop.
Not to say Spurs can’t improve and go all the way in the next few years. By all means, be optimistic – the future looks bright at White Hart Lane. But just a warning on patience: the journey from top four to first can take longer than the journey from, say, 17th to 5th. I am interested to hear what other fans think. Not to rile up anyone, this is just a warning – all in the name of love.
Marty (just a regular type dude) Hart
Moyes got time…just not at United
Interesting that Mike, LFC, Dubai closed off his email – asking for positive examples of ‘giving a manager time’ – with a reference to Moyes being an obvious sacking for underperformance. This is the same Moyes that led Everton to their lowest ever points total in his second full season in charge there. Bill Kenwright kept the faith (or couldn’t afford to sack him) and the following season they finished 4th.
Who was brilliant against Man United…
Surprised none of the below made it into a catalogue of great performances against United:
Ronaldo, Real Madrid, CL Quarter-Final, 2003: Hat-trick at Old Trafford, spectacular long range goal, standing ovation from the whole stadium when substituted. O’Shea’s first-leg nutmeg of Figo is still better.
Kaka, AC Milan, CL Semi-Final, 2007: Still slightly miffed we were deprived of the chance to beat Liverpool in a CL final, but Kaka was just exceptional in both legs. Perfect combination of movement, intelligence, technique and killer instinct. Tore a good United side to shreds in the most elegant and refined manner possible.
Redondo, Real Madrid, CL 2000: After Fergie bottled it away in the first leg, playing for and getting a draw, Redondo’s performance at Old Trafford is the most complete and impressive I’ve ever seen. Essentially the only central midfielder in a line-up otherwise full of strikers and wingers, Redondo dominated Keane, Scholes, Giggs and Beckham (in the season when United won the league by 18 points) pretty much alone.
What every club needs: Part Two
Weird really, they have some very good players and I like Mitrovic and Perez but they probably could do with another striker. Again, Remy would fit the bill here but they wouldn’t be the only ones interested. I’d say another CB to push Coloccini, possibly a left-back and personally I’d look to replace Sissokho, who I’m not convinced is consistent enough.
A striker. The only way Norwich will stay up is if they start scoring more. Naismith or Charlie Austin would be my shout. I’ll admit I don’t know too much about Norwich, so I’m sure someone else can make better suggestions.
I don’t know really. They’ve got a really good team but every time they start to perform it gets broken up. I’d say stick with what they’ve got unless a player leaves.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record; a striker. Their defence is fine, midfield equally so. The only place where they’re short is genuine support/competition for Harry Kane. I don’t think Berahino is what they’re looking for, so I’ll go left field and say Javier Hernandez, though not sure he would be allowed to leave.
Nothing extra, I’d say. I think their attack is fine and will only get better with time, and the midfield is pretty damn good too, after their summer business. Also, make sure they sign Arnautovic to a new deal.
They’ve signed a new defender and could get another one in Kone, so that should help, but they might just have turned a corner. Central midfield looks a bit weak, so Kevin Nolan (just kidding) but I would go for a right-back. Most importantly, they have to move some players on, they have far too many who aren’t getting games.
Have a guess: a striker. They just aren’t scoring enough goals. Again, Austin would do a good job I think, and maybe a right-winger – Redmond if they were prepared to spend big. Defence could do with some work too after neglecting it in the summer.
I wouldn’t do much business if I was them. I can’t think of many available/affordable players that would genuinely improve on what they already have, so maintain the squad harmony as it is.
To get rid of Berahino. It’s pointless keeping holding of him now, everyone can see he wants out, so they might as well cash in. Replace him with someone who will put in the effort – Austin again would fit there. Other than that, Foster returning should make a huge difference and I’d be tempted to leave it at that.
Nothing. They’ve got a pretty good squad as it is and no one is underperforming really. I’d only strengthen if they got any long-term injuries or key players left.
In conclusion, almost everyone needs a striker, probably because real quality options seem to be few and far between. I don’t really expect loads of business, certainly not from United, before the end of the window, but I’m sure we’ll see some new faces arrive before the end.
A lovely tale from Gambia
Following on from the random football games witnessed mail I also have an interesting tale but my example takes a slightly different turn as I was actually playing in it. In 2011 I joined a number of work colleagues and others in a charity trip to the Gambia to promote the work of a charity called Football Gambia (www.footballgambia.org) in case you wanted to check it out.
The premise of the trip was to hand out equipment to the local schools and also play in a number of friendly matches with local teams to promote what the charity was trying to achieve. Anyone who has been to Gambia will know they are absolutely mad on their football.
Two games stick out for very different reasons. The first of these was played on a dustbowl of a pitch with the goals made out of long pieces of timber nailed together. As I was playing in goal for our team my pre-match routine of jumping up and touching the crossbar was not carried out as I was afraid the structure would collapse on my head.
In the first half we were exposed as ageing accountants as their pacey centre-forward latched onto long ball after long ball Two quick goals followed to put us 2-0 down and then when the striker stormed through again to complete his inevitable hat-trick I took matters into my own hands and pretty much rugby tackled him to the floor. As it was a friendly they let me stay on the pitch and the opposition converted the resulting penalty to make it 3-0.
The second half was a very different affair. Their striker did not want to be anywhere near me after the rugby tackling incident and we managed to amazingly get back into the game to make it 3-2. Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted something walking across the pitch. At first I thought it was a spectator but in fact this ‘fan’ was a bull who decided to take his afternoon stroll across our game. I was dressed in possibly the brightest red goalkeeper top you can imagine not wanting to be a matador I slowly backtracked off the pitch out of its path to ensure he didnt perform a rugby tackle of its own. He soon got bored and wandered off but sadly I think alot of the players couldn’t stop laughing for the last 15 mins of the game and we ended up losing the game 3-2.
The second game was a much more professional affair against Brikama Utd U19’s and U17 sides. Brikama at the time were in the top division of the Gambian League and we were treated to playing on the only artifical surface in the Gambia. Fans packed the stadium not really knowing what they were about to watch.
As I trudged over to the goal I was greeted with some fans calling out to me ‘Hey Goala!! Can I have your gloves?? I replied that I kind of needed them for the game. I don’t think this was the right answer for them as for the whole 90 mins I took a torrent of ‘well mannered’ abuse from the fans behind the goal. ‘Hey Goala have you done this before? Hey Goala are you going to save something today’. When I told them I wasn’t a footballer and in fact an accountant they all fell about laughing but still the abuse didn’t stop ‘Hey Goala you have to jump, watch!!’ and then jumped onto the pitch to throw themselves around my goal area showing me what to do.
The game finished in a 4-0 defeat but it was one of the most memorable games I have ever been involved with. I shook hands with all the lads behind the goal who had been hammering me all game and got a few photos with them. I think the one takeway from the experience was that the passion for football is universal. No matter what the location, facilities or the level that is being played it still creates special moments and fans are fans no matter who their team are playing against.
If anybody visits the Gambia soon and sees random locals walking around in old West Ham tops it is probably down to me.
Ross (It’s nice to be nice) Jenkins
Neil Custis has tried to make LVG feel small by blaming his weight gain on being able to go to the gym for the past four months.
So what was his excuse nearly two and a half years ago?