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Where is the Wenger Out brigade?
A few weeks ago the majority of Arsenal fans were up in arms about the situation at Arsenal after seeing two insipid performances (Barca and Watford), which ended their hopes of a trophy. Fast forward and after two convincing victories and the emergence of Iwobi and Elneny in the starting line-up things have gone quiet.
If Arsenal fans truly believe that Wenger’s time is up then surely the Wenger out brigade needs to carry on. You will end up winning the majority of the remaining games, come second and Wenger will sprout nonsense in the Summer that Elneny and Iwobi are the solution to all your problems along with Cazorla and Wilshere “being fit” for the coming season. It feels like a similar situation at United at the moment, but I think the majority of people know that LVG will be replaced in the Summer.
Where are these Arsenal fans hiding now?
Matt B (Guy S and Rooney sitting in a tree…..)MUFC
A day as a lion
I am intrigued by the split between arsenal fans who are happy with consistent 4th place against those who hope for change to reach the summit again.
As a Liverpool fan I can confidently say I would never be happy with arsenal’s above average consistency. What’s the point exactly?
Does your club generate more revenue? Probably but we have massive sponsorship deals too and can compete on transfers.
More fans? Globally we have a bigger fanbase and soon a bigger stadium to compete on match days. So it’s not like you attract more fans with your fourdom.
Trophies? Remind me how many times you were in the champions league? Oh wait you do all the time. More than us (wahoo give them a medal) but yet we have 2 finals and a trophy. Remind me when you last properly challenged for the title? We had a run for the title with swashbuckling football which yes ended in glorious failure but will be remembered far more fondly than any of your runs to 4th place.
So what’s the point of my arsenal trolling? Well to put it simply if my team can’t consistently challenge for trophies (4th place cup doesn’t count) then I would rather be crap for 5 years and win something or actually challenge rather than finish 4th and get knocked out in the last 16 of the CL every sodding year or as some Roman dude said “it is better to live a day as a lion than a thousand as Arsene Wenger”.*
* I may have misquoted
H (hoping we don’t get Spurs-ed in Dortmund)
Liverpool and signing unknowns
Never wrote in before but I’d just like to reply Oliver Dziggel. I know I will be ridiculed for this but I am a Football Manager fan, and as such I could of told you in November 2014 that Firmino was highly rated by scouts throughout Europe. Millions of people play that game and last year Firmino was regarded as a player who could have walked into the majority of teams and improved them.
The same goes for Alberto Moreno, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can and Coutinho in other years – these were not complete unknowns in the slightest. I spent many hours cheering them on in my living room before their move, and was intrigued when they signed for Liverpool as they were regarded as some of the most exciting talents in Europe according to a database that actual football clubs use to help identify talent (such as Everton). Just because the average fan hasn’t heard of them doesn’t mean that Europe’s top clubs haven’t.
Joe Gomez and Shelvey were regarded as exciting young talents playing in a lower league, similar to Nick Powell, Deli Ali, Theo Walcott etc. These are the kind of transfers that bigger teams make all the time. Also Sturridge was angling for more game time than he was getting whilst at Chelsea, but if you watched him it was clear he was a very good technical and athletic player who would have been an asset to many teams.
I’d suggest that the reason alot of these transfers weren’t rumoured for months was that the majority of football journalists are lazy and generally have a poor knowledge of continental football, thus they just rumour the players they have heard of. Also, as a United fan I would suggest that these are exactly the most obvious types of transfers that Liverpool could make – young players not of the highest reputation whom they would have hoped could perform for a few years then sell-on for a large profit, ala Torres and Suarez. You are Liverpool, this is your market.
Ben, (won’t get published because I can’t structure essays) Rochdalian in Aus.
I can only assume you put the big club email top because you expected a similar response to the below about the “unknowns” Liverpool have signed.
Firminho – joint forth highest goal scorer in the Bundesliga in 2013-2014 from midfield. 38 goals in 140 appearances. He had also already made a couple of starts for the Brazil national team…
Markovic – won the treble with Benefica the year before joining Pool, 26 appearances. Sought after by a number of clubs
Coutinho – everyone knew he was talented. He just never met his potential at Inter. I will give this one purely because it was a gamble, but not because he was unknown.
Sturridge – the same sturridge who played for City and Chelsea. Never heard of him. Gamble on fitness yes, but not unknown by any stretch
Some of the other “unknown” entities (Ings and Can are 50/50) are more obscure but I’m having a bad day so i am taking it out on you Oliver, sorry.
Rob A (big clubs sign unknowns > play the knowns > unknowns disappear) AFC
Oliver, I don’t think Sturridge can be classed as an unknown. He started at City, then moved to Chelsea where he was scoring for fun until he was shunted out to the wing. Don’t mistake a low fee for unknown status.
Shaz, “I wonder which these 3 Wenger will bench if they are ever all fit at the same time: Ramsey, Cazorla, Wilshere, Elneny, and Coquelin.” Somehow, I don’t see that being an issue…
Conte and Chelsea
So Chelsea have confirmed the appointment of Antonio Conte. It has been mentioned that he could struggle in England due to his brand of football. Perhaps being Italian and drawing comparisons to Arrigo Saachi and Mourinho have firmly planted this image of a hyper defensive coach who is contended with winning 1-0. The reality is far from this as during Conte’s days as manager of Bari he utilized a very attack-minded 4-2-4 system.
Conte looks to play good football at an intense tempo. He can implement a system that allows his teams to orchestrate proceedings or play in a manner that consistently operates on the front foot with width and pace. Conte likes attacking football and he does not simply equate attacking football with endless passing.
I bet that whatever formation Conte pursue whether 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 (and it could be multiple) it will suit the players. Conte is an incredibly versatile and well-rounded coach, capable of playing in almost any fashion. While his teams are not as possession hungry as Allegri’s Juventus, they were arguably more incisive and dynamic.His Juventus side were incredibly strong in central areas, able to play out from the back, between the lines and create passing angles for an aggressive attacking approach. He is a coach who has shown he is capable of creating winning sides under a variety of shapes.
Conte’s football is both technical and powerful: it encourages creativity while remaining functionally very robust. In essence he feels tailor made for the Premier League.
What will be apparent is that Conte will certainly come to Chelsea with a set way of playing. Although there have been talks about who he might likely sign, it will likely be a case of extracting the maximum from this set of players in a shape that works. One would suspect that Diego Costa fulfils the requirements of what Conte likes about a centre forward. It would be the supporting role that seems up for grabs. Carlos Tevez’s role was that of an unrestricted second striker.Conte used Carlos Tevez in a slightly freer role by playing him behind a centre forward and it paid off as it allowed Tevez to express himself. He could shoot from distance, drift wide and drag defenders out of position with his dribbling ability. It made him unpredictable.
Conte could look to afford Eden Hazard a similar role assuming the Belgian international remains at the club next season. though at this point the links with Mauro Icardi make sense. Having Icardi dovetailing with Costa would be truly frightening.
He will look to find a system that utilises the players in a manner that lets them control games. His 3-5-2 system worked domestically, but these advantages did not necessarily translate to Europe. Defensively playing a 3-5-2 leaves you vulnerable down the flanks, but it allows you to be compact in central areas.
Although this style of play failed to work in Europe as they found it hard to cope and adapt against Teams superior in quality and so Conte failed on the European stage.
Antonio Conte will have to determine what players to bring in and those to let go at Chelsea when he takes over. The Chelsea squad lacks dynamic playmakers, physicality and an edge. While he was at Juventus, Conte signed Tevez, Pogba, Pirlo and Vidal. He will be looking to bring in players that are suitable to his brand of football.
In midfield the freedom and protection afforded Andrea Pirlo at Juve and by extension Cesc Fàbregas is of particular note. Conte surrounded Pirlo with energy and pace in terms of wingbacks. More importantly was the profile of player he supported Pirlo with: Arturo Vidal, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio are a trio that screams technique, power, pace, aggression and quality. All are capable of shooting from distance, playing killer passes, recycling of possession and winning the ball.
N’golo Kante might be a perfect fit for the ‘Pogba role’ of box-to-box midfielder with pace and thrust and an ability to contribute both in defense and attack.
Conte favours a varied approach. He loves wingers who can stretch play – pacey skilful dribblers who take the game to their opposing full-back. Unlike Mourinho, who seemingly judged his attackers on their defensive contribution.
Conte is certainly not without his flaws – his relationship with the media can be described as tetchy at best. And he has proved to be headstrong at times.
Emad MUFC Boston asks why top club coaches don’t seem to want to coach at the World Cup or the respective regional association championships of each country. Why none of Mourinho, Rodgers, Benitez or the other out-of-work coaches are knocking on the door of national Football Associations?
I’ve got a couple of reasons.
These guys are competitive. They might not be any good, but they’re all competitive. Really competitive. They need the adrenaline rush and if I’m coaching England to the World Cup, even if I win the thing, I’ve got the team for 17 matches over two years (19 if I made a ham fist of qualifying and had to play off for a runner-up spot). If I make a good job of qualification, there are going to be a couple of dead rubber games out of my allotted 10, so even those games don’t give me the excitement fix. Hopefully I’m not lying awake at night wondering how the hell I’m going to beat Malta either. Friendlies don’t count. They’re not competitive matches.
If I do crash out of the cup in the group phase, that robs me of a potential four really exciting games in the knock-out stages, so I go home early, glum and with a grand total of 13 games in two years. Which brings me to the second reason:
The media and the fans. If a manager makes a hash of his tactics in a domestic game and loses, his own fans and the local beat reporters will be pissed off, and, if this cock-up is part of a pattern, calling for his head. Depending on the profile of the club, the rest of the media and the fans of other clubs will either not give a rat’s ass or will be in full-blown schadenfreude mode. You’ve got another game in a few days anyway giving you a chance to make the rumpus go away.
Lose to Lithuania at Wembley and the whole country hates you, you’re dismembered in the national press by quality journalists, and that appalling hack of the worst order, Neil Curtis, feels entitled to take pops at you.
It’s not worth the boredom, and it’s not worth the pitchfork-and-torch parade when you screw up in Malta.
Steve (are you sure you don’t want my article about MLS salaries?) Los Angeles
Challenge the narrative
On Saturday I was on a train heading to watch Norwich v Newcastle and had 5Live on to listen to Aston Villa’s latest shambles. After the game David Pleat was asked what he would do if he was in charge next season.
His immediate response involved getting rid of the ‘foreign mercenaries’ that Villa has bought in. This irked me, not least because I held Pleat in higher regard than those who usually trot out these quotes. I was more annoyed though by the failure of the presenter to even remotely challenge Pleat on this view.
Villa’s defense on Saturday contained three Brits with another in midfield. Local-boy-done-good Gabby Agbonlahor can’t even make the bench and Scott Sinclair remained an unused sub. Plenty of British players have let this team down all season yet it goes unchallenged that it’s all the fault of those dirty lazy foreigns. Bullshit.
Look at Newcastle- in January the spent over £20m on two honest, hard working British lads yet form has not improved at all. On Saturday I’d say Shelvey and Taylor were two of the worst players on the pitch yet if they go down I have no doubt the media finger of blame will point at the likes of Sissoko and Anita (who were both crap) because they are lazy types from abroad who don’t work as hard as us Brits.
Norwich meanwhile have experienced an upturn in form of late and most fans will tell you a large chunk of this is due to the immense-but-not-British Timm Klose replacing the not-immense-but-British Russell Martin at the back.
It’s almost as if a players work rate, quality and dedication are in no way related to their country of birth. There is no shortage of lazy players from the UK just as there is no shortage of hard working players from France/Holland/wherever. So the next time some old English ‘Arry Redknapp/David Pleat type trots out this sort of bollocks I hope there is someone else in the media who will call them out for it.
So you do a top ten free-kick takers and you did’t include Shunsuke Nakamura?
Shame on you…
Chris M (The Grim North)
Your piece on the best free kick takers got me all nostalgic about Beckham (why you do this to me F365!).
It also got me thinking on all the hate (and still is whenever the opportunity rises) that was thrown at Beckham throughout his career, especially with the English team. As a Manchester United fan, Beckham has always been one of my favorite players. However as a non-english person, it amazed me how (and why) often he was berated in the press for something or the other.
First of all, let me clarify, I don’t think he is the greatest footballer ever. Or the greatest right winger. Or the greatest anything. No one says he was. Especially not him. But he was a damn good footballer. A great asset to any team. Yeah he didn’t win anything with England, but then who did. Frankly, his performances were way more consistent for the national team than Gerrard or Lampard or Scholes. Were the three better players than Beckham. Probably. But it doesn’t matter does it, when they perform like sh*te?
I know people will start with “look at all the media circus that comes with him”. Yeah, it did. So blame your f***ing tabloid media for it, why the man? To me Beckham was always the ideal professional, happy to play anywhere where the manager felt he will contribute(they dont play me in my position so I will retire), gracefully accepting the decision when he was dropped, happy to work his way back (I don’t get picked so I will retire), happy to give up the captaincy when asked. Without any suspicious “leaks” to the media from the even more suspicious “sources” like some other players about any “discord”, “dissatisfaction” etc.
And all this after he was crucified by the media and the public after 98. A young man lost his cool once after being provoked in a high pressure game – shock, horror. He wasn’t the first one, and he definitely wasn’t the last. But the difference is, in most other countries there is some slight criticism, then everyone moves on hoping the player has learnt from his mistake. But not the English media, no. They had to convince the whole world (by world I mean England) that they would have won the cup if it hadn’t been for Beckham. That he was almost a traitor ( I am pretty sure some tabloid must have used the word, the Sun perhaps ?)
And its not just the media. Ask any non-utd fan (and a lot of United ones too), and few would have anything nice to say about a player who generally gave his all to the best of his ability for the team. Even Barcelona fans appreciate Casillas and Madrid fans Xavi for their service to the national team. In any other country, Beckham would be considered a national team legend, not because he was the best player to ever play for the country, but because his dedication and hard work was the epitome of how a football player should be.
I think England being generally sh*t is just karma. For treating a decent man like that. And if any country in the world deserves to be stuck with a past it Rooney as their captain, to have good players “retire” early for egoistical reasons, to have all the bad luck in cup tournaments, its them.
I don’t really know the point of the rant really, mild hangover is probably it. I just never wrote to F365 when he played so why the hell not.
Apoorv, MUFC (I wish we had Beckham, hell I am from India, I wish we had Jermaine Pennant !)
The moment I saw Juninho Pernambuchano’s name on the free-kick list I immediately looked for this strike on Youtube.
One free-kick and so many stories. The look of bewilderment on the goalkeeper’s face, the sigh of acceptance from the opposing manager and the sheer inevitability of it all.
I wish I could have found a higher res video but even so the footage from behind the goal was something else. Seeing the ball deviate and the hapless goalkeeper trying to adjust his position in a vain attempt to save the strike.
Poetry pure and simple.
I’m going to give it another watch.
Lost admiring the flight of the ball,
Obviously you were bound to miss off some great free kick takers from that list of yours
The ones that immediately come to my mind are two Brazilians. Firstly Rivelino from the early 70’s, and going back even further into the mists of time, Didi – with his famous ‘falling leaf’ free kicks (look him up kids..)
From this country I would give you Ian Harte (probably your most glaring omission) and Stuart Pearce. I always pitied the poor s0ds in the wall when Psycho was lining one up…
Rob, Bristol Gooner (Arsenal – lots of good free kick takers, but no truly great one)
Really enjoyed the article on free kicks, I just wanted to add my two pence about that Beckham free kick. I think that performance summed Beckham up at his peak. It wasn’t just that free kick, but for 90+ minutes he ran his heart out. I can’t remember in my time watching football a more dedicated, driven, willing performance (maybe Schweinsteiger 2014 WC Final?). He epitomised everything that seemed to be lacking around the English national team at that time. There were the constant complaints about the players not caring, ridiculous over scrutiny of who did and didn’t sing the anthem, the classic feeling of English underperformance. But that game, that afternoon, Beckham did it all. He was everything we’d been crying out for, and finally scoring that free kick, after several attempts, was almost poetic. I was in the living room with my dad, on a sunny Saturday. I’ll never forget it.
Rob (gutted I never got to see him play in the flesh) Hull fan in Leeds
Full time reader and first time writer for the Mailbox, but after reading the top 10 Free Kick takers and seeing who was placed at number one just got my hackles up.
Don’t get me wrong David Beckham is an England legend and one of the greatest free kick takers of all time, but better than Juninho Pernumbicano?
The Brazilian scored some amazing free kicks in his time and easily the worlds greatest free kick against at the time the best keeper in the world in Bayern’s Oliver Kahn, he was the king of the dead ball and it didn’t matter what the distance when he stepped over the ball you feared he would score.
Mikey Clewer, Worcester, England
There have been a lot of uproar at Matt Stead’s articles by F365ers recently. Some justified, some not. But he finally got me with his top 10 free kick specialists.
First, there’s the problem of context and timescale, Matt doesn’t tell us if they are his personal favourites, which is okay if they are, or if they are evidently the best 10 with some good reasons to back it up. Then, he doesn’t tell us if they are the best ever in the history of the game or the best within a certain period. We are also left guessing at to the criteria for choosing the 10; technique? accuracy? power/poise?
Then, the actual list is a bit up and down. He’s got Payet in there, who I love watching and admit he’s the current free kick king in EPL, but then how long has he been doing it. Was it something be mastered this season or was he scoring lots of them in ligue un. Even then, he got into Matt’s top 10 and the current free kick king in the top 5/6 European leagues isn’t there…Hakan Chalhanoglu of Bayer Leverkusen for those who are wondering.
There are many free kick specialists who have a good argument to make a top 10 list of free kick specialists in addition to or in place of those in Matt’s top 10; Ronaldinho, Del Piero, Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Michel Platini, Chalhanoglu, Riquelme, Maradona, Lodi etc
But the one I think will generate the most debate is David Beckham at no 1, ahead of Juninho Pernambucano. Personally, I don’t agree with that and I believe I’m not alone. Beckham had the best curve of the ball and it was pure artistry the way he bent it in; but Juninho was extraordinary…he scored all kinds of them (curlers, dippers, swervers, blazers, thunderbast**ds) from all kinds of angles (left, right, central) and all kinds of distance (long range, short range, indirect). He scored 44 for Lyon alone and over 60 in his career. Becks was a free kick king, Juninho was a free kick god; and being idolised and emulated by the great Pirlo says a lot about him.
Mere Godled, Nigeria (Chalhanoglu wears the crown now, Payet worthy contender).
(Ed – At the very top of the article reads the line: ‘This list is based on personal preference, but my opinion is worth more than yours anyway.’ So, y’know…)
Leicester and Spurs are good
There’s a lot of negativity and nonsense about Leicester only being title challengers because of luck, refereeing decisions, big teams being rubbish etc…However one of the main reasons why them and Tottenham are the best teams this season are because they were most effective in the transfer market which allowed them to take their respective teams to the next level. Just take a look at their influential signings:
N’Golo Kante – The best midfielder in the league and signing of the season who filled a massive Cambiasso shape whole.
Robert Huth – They had him on loan for the second half of last season and was a big reason behind why they stayed up so the signing was a no brainer. His central defensive partnership with Morgan is the most effective in the league.
Shinji Okazaki – Big price tag, hasn’t got many goal or assists but very much worth the money as his pace, work rate and selfless play is the perfect compliment to Marhrez and Vardy. Let’s not forget that overhead kick too!
Gokhan Inler – Must be world class at keeping the Leicester bench warm by now!
Toby Alderweireld – The best defender in the league this season and an absolute bargain, easily worth 2-3 times what they paid for him. Quite why Athletico were selling him and why bigger clubs weren’t interested is a mystery, especially after his form for Southampton last season.
Dele Alli – Goals, assists, best attacking partnership in the league with Kane and hopefully for England at the Euro’s. The fact that him and Kane will only get better must scare the hell out of defenders.
Kevin Wimmer – When Vertonghen got injured many said Spurs title challenge would be over. Well not anyone who’d seen this guy play. Can you name any team in the league with a better 3rd choice defender and he only cost £4.3m.
Some random thoughts
*In amongst the list of Ray Hudson commentary lines, Divyank made it clear they never spent a bank holiday in the 1990s at their grandparents’ house with only four TV channels to choose from – this can be the only explanation why they don’t know about the Dambusters, and didn’t pick up on the “bounced like a Barnes Wallis bomb” line.
*I thought the late Trifon Ivanov might have featured in the free kick takers list – I half-wondered if his passing had been a partial inspiration for the column. My personal free kick hero is Mwepu Ilunga.
*Had the list of hard b@stard managers been extended beyond the Premier League, it would be interesting to see who else made an appearance. A couple of suggestions would be:
Mick McCarthy – similar to Brian Clough, but only in that he faced down Roy Keane and lived to tell the tale.
Martin “Mad Dog” Allen – he doesn’t like being called Mad Dog, he once stripped off completely naked and jumped in a river to motivate his players.
John Sitton – if anyone disagrees with me, we’ll have a f###ing sort-out in here. All right? And you can bring your f###ing dinner.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven
Jon Moss > You
Jonathan Moss has come under scrutiny a few times in the past couple of seasons but I really like him as a referee. In fact, he is one of the few referees in the league that I don’t roll my eyes at when he is given a Liverpool game.
I thought he was brilliant last weekend (not to mention a bit slimmer). I thought he let the game play fantastically well, and though he didn’t have to too many big decision to make, the ones he did he got spot on. He was also very sensible when it came to keeping the cards in his pocket.
In fairness I watched the Classico immediately afterwards so compared to that any performance would have seemed like a barnstormer.
Brian (Poll: Is Spurs losing out on the title to Leicester City the Spursiest thing Tottenham have ever done?) LFC
More Ray Hudson love
When Suarez missed the sitter in the first half he exclaimed ‘that is a Donald Trump’s haircut of a finish!’. Outstanding effort. I really enjoyed the match but his ridiculous commentary was highly entertaining.
Del, Glasgow, RFC
I also had the (mis)fortune of hearing his commentary on the Clasico. I’m surprised Divyank missed ‘He’s got the cool inside the seed of a cucumber in a cucumber sandwich in the refrigerator’!
That stood out a bit, for me.