Has the new Prince of Les Prinicipautaires arrived in town?

*NEWS – JUST IN* ‘A teenager has broken into the Monaco 1st team’.. ‘Wait and he’s French? AND he plays as a striker! He must be the next Thierry Henry!’ 

Forgive my sarcastic approach to the beginning of this article, but I’m getting a feeling of déjà vu; and I’m no mystic meg.

There was a great deal of hype surrounding Loic Remy when he initially burst onto the scene, a player who has been known to score spectacular goals in his time but also one who has been known to suffer from Jamie Redknapp-itis. (Spending more time on the physio table than on the pitch). _76389845_remy_epa2

Anthony Martial has also been another player who has fallen foul of being compared to Henry since his mega bucks money to Manchester United. Albeit it started out promising for Martial, with a mazy solo goal against Liverpool. An instant way to all United fan’s hearts. But since those first few games, he’s struggled to live up to the hype of being ‘The Next Thierry Henry’.

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But there is something different about Kylian Mbappé.

He plays with belief that he should be playing at the highest level – demanding for the ball, a continually calmness on the pitch; with or without the ball, and most importantly he has a deadly instinct for goal.Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 15.28.13

Henry was known for his ability to calmly score from one -on-one situations and also loved to operate outside the opponents area before picking up speed and running with the ball.

During the victorious 2nd leg tie against Manchester City on Wednesday night, an instinct moment resonated with me that perhaps Mbappé – the young pretend could actually be the real deal to Henry’s Monaco crown.

Early in the game, Monaco managed to turn over the ball in midfield and caught Manchester City on the break. Bakayoko threaded a ball through, just outside the area for Mbappé to run on to. With Kolarov closing him down, he calmly pushed the ball past the incoming defender and ran onto the ball, before forcing Caballero to make a fine save.

Very Henry – esque.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 16.21.10 Fig 1. Kolarov closing down Mbappé.

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Fig 2. Mbappé evades the Manchester City defender with ease.

Watch the footage in full here – Go to 0.15 seconds on the video!

But it isn’t just the split second decisions on the pitch, that are leading to a queue of pundits and journalists ready to compare Mbappé, to World Cup winner and all time national goalscorer Henry.

The stats don’t lie either – Kylian has not only become Monaco’s youngest ever senior debutant at the tender age of 16 years and 347 days old but he has also broken the youngest goalscoring record for the club too at aged 17. Records both previously held by – yep you guessed it, one Thierry Henry.

Notably the youngest ever senior debutant record stood for 21 years.

didier-deschamps-france-deschamps_3378169No question about it, Kylian Mbappé is flying – after scoring against Man City in midweek, he now has scored 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions. Form like that doesn’t go unnoticed. So much so, he now finds himself being awarded with his first call-up to the full Senior International side for friendlies later this month against Luxembourg & Spain.

It would appear he has taken his opportunity with both hands, and relishes playing in Leonardo Jardim’s attacking focused side.

It wouldn’t be unjust either to suggest that at this current time in his career Mbappé, looks  more developed as a striker than Henry was at the same time.

Henry made his senior career debut in 1994 for Monaco as we know, but it took him until the 1997/98 season before he really started having an impact for Monaco – helping them reach the Semi – Finals of the Champions League. 37081

That 1997/98 season was also the first time Henry, scored over 10 goals in a campaign in all competitions, a feat that Mbappé has already reached in his first full season – he already has 17 for the season.

It is true that Henry spent the majority of development on the wings, but even so – it would appear that Mbappé is heading for the very top.

In 10 years time, we could be talking about a new all time leading goalscorer for the French. One thing for certain is that if Kylian Mbappé can go on to have anywhere near the career as Thierry Henry had, he will be incredibly successful.

586217496-ousmane-dembele-of-dortmund-in-action-during-gettyimages-1475729229-800It will be interesting to see how this young talents career unfolds, but the future looks bright for French Football with the emergence of other talents such as Ousmane Dembélé.

There will be a lot of European defenders gulping at the prospect of having to mark these two over the coming years!

Ta for Reading,

Tom

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From The Invincibles to The Invisibles

‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’ How Albert Einstein described insanity.

Is there a more relevant quote to the last decade of Arsène Wenger’s reign in North London?Arsenal's coach Wenger reacts during their English Premier League soccer match against Bolton Wanderers in Bolton

There is no question about it, Arsène has been a revolutionary genius during his historic tenure in London. He has given his life and soul to Arsenal Football Club.

He is Mr. Arsenal.

 

With a career that has spanned over 1,160 games in charge, 3 Premier League titles and 6 FA Cups. Le Professeur has certainly secured his place in Arsenal folklore.

But has the time finally come for him to step aside and allow a new approach direct the Gunners forward?

Wenger’s family home village of Duttlenheim, was occupied by German soldiers during the Second World War. His father was among 100,000 local men who were forced into the Germany army. The alternative was to have their families taken to the concentration camp in Schirmeck.

His father didn’t run from this, and it taught Arsène a valuable life lesson, not to run from anything.

This isn’t the first-time Wenger and his team have come under fire. We’ve lived through Gael+Clichy+Samir+Nasri+UP92EeMY8ucmthe ‘stepping –stone’ saga, in the period that saw numerous key Arsenal players being sold to rivals. Wenger also come through a shady beginning – when allegations in the public eye almost caused him to quit only several months into the job.

 

But after consecutive protests organised prior to Arsenal’s last two home games, and with a selection of fans having decided to organise a crowdfunding aircraft to fly over Arsenal’s next away game advertising ‘Wenger Out’.

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Surely this is the most consistent and loudest appeal we’ve heard from supporters so far during his tenure, so is the Frenchmen’s time really up?

 

I don’t need to go into detail why Arsenal fans have become so restless with Wenger, as history looks set to repeat itself once again at the Emirates. February – Bloody February.

It seems to be Wenger’s bogey month if such a thing is possible.

February seems to be the month where everything falls apart for Wenger. Champions 649341634-arsenal-fc-v-fc-bayern-muenchen-uefa-champions-league-round-of-16-second-legLeague embarrassment often takes place – usually at the hands of Bayern Munich. Complied with poor results in the league, effectively ending any possible claim Arsenal might have put forward to win the Premier League.

 

In a profession where you can find yourself performing miracles one season to getting fired 6 months later (Yes, that’s right I’m still fuming about Ranieri) Wenger has done exceptionally well to survive as long as he has in ranieri_8pniwz2z3ybb164inp2yrypifcharge of Arsenal.

 

But I don’t want this article to be bogged down discussing the Arsenal Board, it’s executives and balancing the books because let’s face it that’s pretty boring and to be honest I’m not sure anyone knows really what’s going on – I certainly don’t.

But it does look like as long as the club is making a profit and financially getting rewarded by making the Champions League season after season – Wenger will continue to get another bite of the cherry.

Tottenham1With Champions League qualification looking an exceptionally tough task this season, with the emergence of their local rivals Tottenham; and also the improvement of Liverpool and Manchester United this season – If Arsenal fail to qualify, will he stay or will he go?

 

I mentioned earlier that Wenger has been brought up not to run from anything, but has his stubbornness become his biggest weakness too?

Ever since he was young, he studied Rinus Michel’s Total Football.  Fascinated with this Spanish Soccer - Primera Liga - Barcelona v Espanolapproach, he knew from a young age that this was how he wanted his teams to play – and he hasn’t looked back since.

 

But there is no Plan B with Arsène – there is no shutting up shop in Germany when they are already 3-1 down in a 1st Leg Champions League game.

There was no damage control when they went on to lose 8-2 at Old Trafford in 2011.

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Surely there must be a Plan B. Sheer stubbornness to change formation and tactics shouldn’t continue to dictate the outcome of Arsenal results – should it?

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Arsenal have always been portrayed to play beautiful football on the floor, and have been described thousands of times before that they would rather pass it into the goal rather than have a shot from outside the box.

 

But at what cost? They aren’t deadly on the counter attack like Chelsea have become, they struggle to compete with Spurs in midfield & they haven’t got the intensity to live with Liverpool.

A double-edged sword for most Arsenal fans I presume.

 

 

Yes, some of the team goals scored over the years have been sensational and well deserving of the awards they received. But where have these goals been in the big games? Where have the ‘superstars’ being during the big games for a matter of fact.

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Now I might be doing Arsène Wenger a massive disservice, and I can’t wait to hear what Gunners fans think to this article – as I’m genuinely interested, is it time to reshuffle?

 

But I find it hard to believe that this is the same manager who has not only delivered 3 Premier League titles during his time in charge, but also the same manager whose side went a whole season without getting beaten in 2003/04.

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A feat that hasn’t been achieved since and won’t for some time with the way Premier League teams defend in the modern era.

Wenger built that 2003/4 Invincibles side player by player, and deserves all the credit he received for that incredible achievement.

But what has happened since that side? Well that’s exactly what I’m going to look into now for the second part of this article.

Built from the front?

Let’s start with formations – During that impeccable season which must seem like a Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 18.22.40lifetime ago now for Arsenal fans, Wenger employed a very simple but flexible 4-4-2. But when in possession of the ball, it interchanged into a 4-4-1-1 with Dennis Bergkamp supporting and assisting a majority of Thierry Henry’s goals.

 

Henry at the time was phenomenal, arguably the best striker in world football. Scoring 30 league goals and impressively 41% of the whole teams’ goals in the league came from Henry that season.

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Yes, so they had Henry in his prime scoring for fun, and yes they also had the likes of Pirès and Ljungberg scoring too. But it was a team primarily built from the back with a solid spine and solid principles. To play attacking football using movement and interchanging with full backs joining in attacks.

This undefeated side was built from the defence upwards with Wenger establishing a solid sol-campbellpartnership with Sol Campbell & Kolo Touré as his first priority before he moved onto exciting attacking options.

 

Whereas with the current side there seems to be much more focus on the attacking options first before shifting his attention towards his defence. With the likes of Sanchez, Ozil & Walcott taking centre stage for the majority of this season. They might go on to score more goals this season than they did in the 2003/4 season with currently 55 playing 73.

 

But they have already conceded 5 more goals than the 26 they did 13 years ago.

Surely the fans would rather see success rather than the thrill of a few extra goals? But please Arsenal fans get in touch.

Of course, he has invested heavily on Mustafi who has been an excellent addition at times, but he’s still nowhere near Sol’s level during that 2003/04 season. As for Laurent Koscielny, I find it baffling – the amount of reviews I read from Gunners supporters suggesting he’s one of the best in the league.

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Really?

 

There are two better CB’s down the road at White Hart Lane in my opinion. Another player 396778B300000578-0-image-a-3_1476525551381who goes missing in the big games – He has to be stronger. Wenger needs to find his Sol Campbell if he wants to be in a title race again.

 

Partnerships

 

Another interesting point I’ve discovered whilst looking up some stats on the 2003/04 Invincibles side is the connection Ashley Cole & 51737344Pirès had on the pitch, Cole was well on his way to becoming one of the best LB’s in football at the time and his partnership he had with Pirès was a major factor to Arsenal being so successful.

 

When I watch the current Arsenal side now, it never seems to be fluid when defence meets attack – There aren’t those key partnerships where players on the same side of the pitch know each other’s game inside out. Like Beckham / Neville or Cole / Pirès.

 

Maybe this is due to the amount players get rotated – I don’t know. I’d just like to see more link up play. Just as a side note – Wenger used 6 midfielders that whole campaign, he’s already used 9 in midfield so far and we are only in March.

The Vieria Effect

How do you go about replacing a giant like Vieira? Arsène has been searching for the answer for well over 10 years now. I can go on and use paragraphs to describe the immense force that Vieira was on his day, or I can let Roy Keane do it for me.

‘On his day, when he was driving Arsenal on with the sheer force of his personality, he was 106387unplayable.’

This is exactly what Arsenal are missing in today’s side. Do you really think if Patrick Vieira had been playing over the two legs against Bayern they would have lost 10-2 on aggregate? Not a chance!

They have no driving force, there isn’t that competitive spirit anymore with Arsenal. I remember watching the games at Highbury when Manchester United would come to town and the battles which would ensue for 90 minutes. Those were proper games of football to watch.

I’m not sure if it’s just the current crop of footballers in general who are more concerned with their individual ‘brand’ like #Pogba or choreographing handshake celebrations.

The Granit Xhaka experiement has not worked out, and I can’t see it working out in the future either. You can learn certain skills, but temperant is not one of them in my opion. When it comes to heat of the moment, Xhaka can’t be trusted to not do something rash. He should look at his predecessor; Gilberto Silva.

 

I’ve written a fair amount in this article compared to my normal ones I usually write; it’s amazing what a peppermint tea and some chocolate rice cakes will do to you.

So, I’ll leave you with this thought, Wenger got quoted in August 2003 before the season began saying ‘Nobody will finish above us in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if we were to go unbeaten for the whole season’.  Wenger’s confidence shines through in this statement, has anyone heard anything similar over the last 10 years?

No, didn’t think so.

If he signs a new deal or not is yet to be confirmed. But whatever the outcome is, Arsène Arsene Wenger celebrates by lifting the Premiership trophy after the match between Arsenal and Everton, 2002Wenger take a bow – You’ve been an icon, an ambassador for not only Arsenal but for the Premier League.

If Wenger & Arsenal do part company come the end of the season, I’d like to see Thomas Tuchel given a chance. I believe he would continue to play football in the same tradition that Arsène has always prided his Arsenal teams on.

As always Ta for reading,

 

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is The Poacher Heading The Same Way As The Dodo?

After the first instalment of the Technical View where I looked into ‘The Art of Defending’. This time I’m targeting the other end of the pitch as it were, and looking into whether the goal getting Striker is facing extinction from our game.

Take yourself back to when you were at school, what position did every kid want to play in within the school team? Striker.

That’s right the position where you get to score the goals.

Every kid wanted that feeling you get when you score a goal in a match. Heck, doesn’t matter if it’s in a U10 school game or a University 5-aside game – Yes that’s right I’m name dropping the hat- trick I scored in 2nd year for The Honey Badgers.

But anyway. No one ever seemed to remember the stellar goalkeeping displays or majestic defensive performances only the goals scored – I’m not bitter but it’s the truth.

The game we love shifts effortlessly between defence and attack, and with each manager applying their own unique philosophy.

Some believe success will be found from an all-out attack formula like AS Monaco’s Falcao-Jardimmanager Leonardo Jardim (Being the leading goalscorers in Europe you can’t blame his theory!)

Whilst others believe success will be found from swift counter attacking football such as WAC RZ Pellets v Chelsea - Friendly Matchwhat Chelsea are playing under Conte at the moment – Which again you can’t argue with either.

Even with the colossal range of philosophies out there, there does seem to be one common theme – Where have all the poachers gone?

The strikers with born intuition of where the goal is and ready to pounce on a goalkeeper’s mistake at any moment. We’ve seen them in the past with Gary Lineker and Ian Wright as prime English examples – but where are they now? Surely the modern game can still accommodate for players of this ilk.

Players who are in the team for one reason and one reason only – To Score Goals. Strikers who are always composed on the ball and know their angles inside out back to front.29 09 2015 Fussball Saison 2015 2016 Champions League 2015 16 Vorrunde FC Bayern München Di

Take last night’s Champions League game for example – Robert Lewandowski is arguably one of World Football’s Premier Strikers – and his movement off the ball was incredible, pulling apart both Gunner CB’s. But from multiple chances he only converted from the penalty spot. What has have happened to the clinical strikers in our game?

It would appear within the modern game there is no place for this mould of striker anymore. With the Total Football brand appearing to shape how a large majority of teams over Europe want to play their football – which fundamentally suggests that every team member needs to be able to contribute going forward but also needs to be able to defend.

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Has this led to managers overlooking a genuine goal scorer for another player who has Aston-Villa-v-Liverpool-17superior abilities in holding the ball up or being able to contribute to a defensive approach?

Yes, the argument will come back to me and suggest that if you have players surrounding the striker who are quick footed and creative they will magic plenty of chances up during the game and you would fancy a striker to put at least 1 of them away. So why does it matter?

I just would like to see more poachers in the game, real live wires in the box – not just happy to get on the score sheet once but hungry for the full 90 minutes

Take last night’s Champions League game for example once again, there’s no denying it – 649293832-arsenal-fc-v-fc-bayern-muenchen-uefa-champions-league-round-of-16-second-leg.jpg-850x560Arsenal in the first half were impressive and created multiple chances and on another day, they could have gone in 2 or even 3 – 0 up.

But just stop for a minute, roll back the clock. If you had replaced Giroud a more physical combat striker for the Arsenal legend that is Ian Wright a real fox in the box – In the starting line-up, you have to think the opportunities Arsenal were creating in the first half – Wrighty would have bagged 2 goals at least.

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I think sometimes managers are too quick to opt for the bigger physical presence upfront because of the overall game they can bring to the team. Even if that means hindering the team’s attacking options.

Now I’ll get some stick for this next part, but personally I believe that Jermain Defoe has been England’s Premier Finisher for the last decade. Before you begin cursing and muttering under your breath. Hear me out.

He may not have been England’s best complete forward, but in terms of giving him an opportunity to finish – Defoe has rarely let down his club or country. In a 1v1 situation against any keeper in the Premier League, you’d have to fancy Defoe’s chances.

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His 150 + Premier League goals have come playing for an array of clubs with Tottenham being probably the biggest of those clubs – It’s interesting how a bigger club has never come in for him.

I think it’s the ability to score all kinds of goals, tap in’s, right foot, left foot, headers, screamers & instinctive goals. The full package. Yes, it might mean the rest of the team needs to work harder as a defensive unit to cover the striker, but surely that’s a price a manager is willing to pay for a somewhat guaranteed return of goals.

It’s understandable that manager’s want to share the attacking responsibilities around, which is why a striker who can hold the ball up well is a valuable commodity but I personally would rather see a striker who turns on the ball and drives forward towards the oppositions goal instead.

Anyway seeing as it’s 10-2 now, this seems a good place to leave it for today.

As Always Ta for reading,

Tom