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

Dilly Ding, Dilly Gone

Some things in Football aren’t a shock, some things are. This was certainly the latter. Or are we not shocked by anything that happens within our beautiful game anymore?

I try to pride myself on my articles always being from the viewpoint of the ‘typical honest football fan’. No flash match day stats, no self-promotion within the articles – just stories that I would want to read about as a football fanatic myself.

This is not one of them.

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Claudio’s reign at Leicester City is over. As he makes his way back home to his beloved Italy, he takes with him the last remaining drops of honesty and compassion from our game back with him.

With suspected in- house rifts with players and backroom staff, and with key senior players supposedly meeting with club owners up to four times already this season to get Claudio the boot. You can’t help but think the game has dropped into a bigger black hole than it was in previously.

The last 48 hours do not reflect well on the Premier League, Leicester City and foreign owners. The only positive I can see from my position is the unity of managers fully backing Ranieri. With the likes of Moyes, Klopp & Mourinho all speaking out in support of the Tinkerman.

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Only 298 days have passed since the favourable Italian lifted aloft the Premier League title at the King Power stadium, to signify that the greatest achievement in world football had actually really happened.

Will we ever see the likes of this happen again?

Supporters can have faith and believe it’ll happen, after the Foxes remarkable achievements last season. But in all reality – It won’t happen again, not in our lifetime.

Any of you reading this don’t agree, get in touch – I’ll put money on it. Not much though mind, I’m only on an internship.

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Yes, it has been one of the biggest falls from grace in the sport since Adriano’s demise from World Beater at Inter Milan to gang leader in the streets of Brazil. But come on man, Claudio WON THE PREMIER LEAGUE WITH LEICESTER CITY!

 

In my opinion, not only should they be building statues of the man outside the stadium, he should be given as long as he wants to be in charge at the King Power.

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It’s a disgrace, there’s part of me that wants to see Leicester City get relegated this season. Karma – What a wonderful thing.

Let’s remember Leicester aren’t anyway near being an established Premier League club yet. Yes, they might have won the title last season, but previously in their first season back in the Premier League they managed to avoid relegation by a whisker (Ehey, Foxes.. Punny innit) and finish 14th.

This is only Leicester’s third season back in the big time, we’ve seen much more established clubs go down before in the past. I fully believe that if Ranieri hadn’t been so successful last year, and finished in a respectable mid-place position – we wouldn’t have a story to talk about, and I wouldn’t be writing this.

Catching up with the weekend phone in’s podcasts on my commute to work, you hear the odd delusional Foxes fan suggesting that Claudio needed to go, but you take it with a pinch of salt. It’s an obvious one, but people get used to winning quickly, and when that’s taken away from them they’ll do anything to get that back. It’s almost a drug.

I hope Claudio looks back at his second stint in the Premier League with fondness and a cheeky smile, he achieved something very special which will never be forgotten.

It will be levelled at the tinkerman that he didn’t invest the money given to him in the summer well at all, such as £30million on Islam Slimani. Managers live and die by the transfer moves they make, that is football. If Pogba hadn’t worked out at Manchester United you know Mourinho would be getting a lot of attention in the press.

People will argue that N’Golo Kanté leaving and moving to Chelsea who was pivotal to Leicester last season has had a huge impact. I agree to a certain extent – but it’s not like there were 11 Kanté’s playing for Leicester last season. Players need to take responsibility.

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It’s all good and well for the likes of Kasper Schmeichel to come out and give press conferences about players taking responsibility but if you don’t actually do it, what’s the point?

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Even though I am adamant it won’t happen in our lifetime again. You do have to think that if something similar happened next season to Middleborough a club well run by an English owner, would the manager still be in charge the following season after a return to normality?

I do believe that sometimes the foreign owners don’t understand how impressive or hard a feat winning the Premier League is.

Heck, just being in the Premier League is impressive, just look at how competitive the Championship is!

As for now, I hope football fans remember Claudio Ranieri for the dream he achieved, not for the nightmare it has turned into.

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Addio Claudio, e grazie per i ricordi.

(Goodbye Claudio, and thank you for the memories)

Ta for reading,

Tom

Welcome to Liverhampton

Afternoon folks!

With us whizzing through January like Trump and ermm certain ladies of the night. Yep, let’s leave it at that.

We have the EFL Semi – Final Cup competition upon us. Last night saw Manchester United win 2-0 against Hull City, and even with the 2nd leg still to play at the KCOM stadium, you’d have to suggest that Manchester United fans should start sorting their travel arrangements to Wembley.

It’s a competition José knows well, being a previous winner on 3 occasions with Chelsea, but who will his United side be facing come 26th February?

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Southampton or Liverpool are the candidates; common sense would suggest Liverpool with the depth of squad at their disposal and with the 2nd leg at Anfield it should be easy going. For Saints, tonight’s Semi – Final should provide a break from the league, where Claude Puel’s side have lost 3 on the bounce. But we shall have to wait and see.

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But what I want to focus on today, is the added spice that has crept into Southampton Vs Liverpool games over the past couple of seasons.

Which of course as you know is down to The Reds let’s say ‘selective’ transfer approach of Saints players over the 3 years. I’m going to look into how those players who swapped the red of Southampton for the red of Liverpool have gotten on.

You do have to wonder if Liverpool’s chief scout Barry Hunter, has a renewable season ticket down at St. Marys, with the club forking out in excess of £95m for 5 Saint players.

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Let’s get crackin!

First up, Rickie Lambert £4m (June, 2014)  MISS

Talk to any Saints fan, and they will only speak in the highest regard of the man. From scoring goals in League 1 to scoring against City away in the Premier League, what dreams are made of for any professional footballer. He gave everything for Southampton football club, and with 117 goals in 235 games for the club – twice voted Saints player of the season.

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When news broke, that his boyhood club Liverpool had submitted an offer for his services, he was always going to go and I think the majority of SFC supporters would have wished him luck.

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Didn’t work out for him at Liverpool as he would have hoped. A season of bit part performances from the bench mainly, meant that he only lasted 1 season at Anfield before securing a move to West Brom.

Lambert’s the sorta player which gives hope to all professionals in the lower leagues that they can do it at the top level.

Adam Lallana £25m (July, 2014)  HIT

265 games for Saints between 2006 – 2014, as an academy graduate his first experience of professional football for Saints was in League 1. Was instrumental in Saints securing back to back promotions, to get back to the promised land. Made captain of the club in 2012.

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His Liverpool career took a while to take off, but this season the boy can do no wrong! So far in this PL campaign he’s scored 7 and got 7 assists. Transformed himself from a bit part player into a key player for The Reds. Willing to put the miles in for Jurgen Klopp’s high pressing side too.

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Pub Quiz Question: Who’s been named in the League 1, Championship & Premier League team of the year in consecutive years? Adam Lallana.

 

Dejan Lovren £20m (July, 2014)   MISS

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Only the one season spent at St. Marys for Lovren, signed from Lyon for £8.5m on a four-year deal. Went on to be sold to Liverpool the following summer for £20m after rumours of a transfer request. From Saint’s perspective, you’d have to say it was a wise move selling him.

Liverpool have been looking to fill the void left by the retirement of Jamie Carragher for some time now, not sure Lovren is the right man personally. 

He’s a tough tackling centre back who will always be an attacking threat from corners granted. But his decision making has to be questioned at times, Klopp will want to build the team around Joël Matip.

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Nathaniel Clyne £12.5m (July, 2015)  HIT

A solid performer for Saints and now for Liverpool. I believe the 25-year-old will be battling it out with Kyle Walker for the next couple of years for the starting RB position when it comes to England duty though.

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Always does a good job and quietly goes about his business. This season he has really impressed onthe eye though, leading the assist charts for defenders. A constant threat down the right-hand side for Liverpool, one of the Reds key players. 

Klopp will be delighted with his full back’s form this season.

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Sadio Mané £34m (June, 2016) UNDECIDED

The former Red Bull Salzburg player spent two seasons at Southampton. Unknown quantity in his first season but give Koeman his credit he clearly knew about Mané’s raw ability.

 Unbelievable acceleration and became a major part of the game plan for Southampton & a fan favourite. During his 2nd season, you could see the writing was on the wall for Sadio, after being fined for turning up late to team meetings several times throughout the season.

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It’s too soon to decide if his Liverpool career will be one which will be looked back on fondly or not, but he’s off to a great start so far. Scoring against Arsenal on the opening day of the season, and then scoring the winner in the Merseyside derby. Liverpool will be thankful that Coutinho is back playing, with Mané off for ACON duty.

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So there you have it peeps, let’s hope for two great cup legs and see who ends up on top.

 

Ta,

 

Tom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 into 4 Doesn’t Work

Welcome / Willkommen / Bienvenido!

It’s true folks I’m back.

Apologies for the lack of content towards the back-end of 2016. Things to do, people to see etc.  You know how it goes.

But like I said I’m back, but more importantly welcome to 2017! Let’s hope it doesn’t put us through 12 rounds with AJ like 2016 did.

When Andy Williams wrote the trademark Christmas song ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ rumour has it, he was actually singing about January. Yes that’s right people, January brings us crazy spending, impulse buys and career making decisions. It is of course the January Transfer Window.

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One whole glorious month dedicated to clubs to either strengthen or save their respective season. It’s a pivotal moment in the campaign for managers, with only half a season left to avoid the ever-present fear of getting the proverbial boot. (No pun intended. Okay you saw through me, maybe a little one was intended)

With Chelsea topping the table at Christmas time, this season has a much more ‘familiar’ feel about it after Leicester City’s unexpected incredible feat last season. Make no bones about it, last season was an astonishing season, but for different reasons this season could turn out to be even more exciting (Perhaps not if you support Leicester City though!)

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The 2016-17 season could and hopefully will be remembered for being a 6-horse race, and should provide to be an exhilarating journey until the Champions get crowned in May.

Even when Chelsea have threatened to run away with the title race in recent weeks, deadly Dele struck twice for Spurs to ensure the winning streak came to an end for Conte.

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It would appear that all six, yes that’s right SIX teams have a realistic chance of lifting the trophy come May and become champions of England.

So.. Aim of this article?

I’m going to attempt to apply some of that useless irrelevant football knowledge I have, and discuss where each of these teams need to strengthen, during the January window and also try to predict the final league standings.

 Wish me luck.

Let’s start with the leaders; Chelsea  img_1183

After a rocky start to life in the Premier League, Conte has adapted superbly – Guiding his side to top of the table and 13 victories on the bounce. At this moment in time they are obviously favourites to win the league. But favourites don’t always succeed. Otherwise we’d all win our acca’s at the weekend.

Area to Strengthen:

 LWB: Marcos Alonso deserves a lot of credit for his performances this season, his ability to bomb up and down the flank and his crosses in particular have been an added bonus to Conte’s team. But Italians pride themselves on their defensive displays and defensively I’m still not sold on the Ex – Real Madrid man. Chelsea’s search to replace Ashley Cole continues.

(Did you know? Marcos Alonso only made 1 appearance for Real Madrid in 2010)

CM: This is a late addition. But after watching how the Spurs midfield controlled the game against Chelsea in midweek, and in particular how Mousa Dembélé played. It was noticeable what Chelsea were missing. The Belgium international is known for his silky dribbling and his ability to maintain possession, something IMO Chelsea need next to the destroyer known as N’Golo Kanté. There’s no argument that Chelsea have the best defensive midfielder in the league. They just need more energy in the middle of the park which Fàbregas & Matić haven’t got anymore.

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ST: With the lack of game time and the consistently great form of Diego Costa this season, it seems Michy Batshuayi’s time at Chelsea might be short-lived. It would appear that Batshuayi has fallen down the pecking order considerably under Conte, who would rather play Pedro as the lone attacking option when Costa isn’t available. But perhaps a run in the FA Cup will help Batshuayi to impress the Italian.

Prediction:  2nd    *Chelsea fans before you begin reporting me, hear me out*

I firmly believe Spurs showed a real weakness in Chelsea during the midweek game, and with having to travel to Anfield at the end of January. I can only see a victory for Liverpool with a fit again Coutinho as well.

I would highlight Kanté & Costa as key men for Chelsea, but they are also battering rams in a sense, who are likely to have to serve a suspension ban at some point before May. Could prove to be key.

But if Chelsea can get a win at Anfield, the title is heading to Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool img_1184

 It would appear Klopp likes to do things the hard way. An excellent home victory against Manchester City, followed up by giving 2 points away against Sunderland. Klopp is an Anfield favourite already and given time he will take Liverpool to the top of the league, but will it be this season?

Area to Strengthen:

 GK: What is it with Liverpool and Goalkeepers? From Calamity James to Simon Mignolet, they have all been prone to a howler or two. This title race is going to go down to the wire, and Liverpool can’t afford to give points away due to howlers. It’s a shame that Jordan Pickford got injured on Boxing Day, as I would have liked to see Liverpool put a bid in for a young talented English Goalkeeper. Or even a cheeky bid for Kasper Schmeichel wouldn’t be out of the question.

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CB: Klopp has found a solid CB in Joël Matip but troublesome ankle injuries have meant appearances have been few and far over the hectic Christmas period. But like the GK issue, Dejan Lovren has a clanger in him too and hasn’t convinced me of his defensive capabilities yet.

Prediction: 1st

I could be way off with this one, but I think it’s going to happen this year. One of the reasons is that, Liverpool’s final game against a Top 6 team is on the 18th March. That could provide to be pivotal.

It’s also like they are landing a new mega signing with the little Magician they call Philippe Coutinho back on the training pitch.

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Finally it’s Klopp just the best man motivator you could want in a title race?

Tottenham img_1185

 Poch is certainly building something at Spurs, and at White Hart Lane they are unplayable at times. Youth is certainly with Pochettino’s men, as of end of August ‘16 they had the youngest average age of all the Premier League teams. Arguably have the best defence and GK out of all the Top 6 teams.

Area to Strengthen:

ST: I would like to see a variation to Harry Kane. Kane’s a bit of an anomaly as he likes to play leading the line on his own, which has worked well with the continued great form of Dele. Moussa Dembélé at Celtic could be one way to go, I like the look of him and could provide to be a good speedy alternative to Kane.

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Prediction: 4th  

 Feel it might be a season too soon for Poch and his young team, with a tough Jan / Feb period where they have to travel to Manchester City & Liverpool. If they can get 4 points from those two games who knows though.

Manchester City img_1196

 

Not as easy as it looks ehey Pep? The Sky Blues have looked a shadow of the team who looked they were going to run away with the league before November. Pep looks flustered and frustrated on the touchline and his aging team needs some new life injected into it.

Area to Strengthen:

 Defence:

Some of the defensive capabilities of Kolarov, Otamendi etc would have given the likes of Jamie Carragher nightmares. With the consistently injured Kompany edging ever closer to early retirement, it would appear Pep needs to invest and spend big. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Virgil Van Dijk at City next season.

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GK: Bring Hart back. Simple.

CM: Gündogan is an exciting player but another one who’s struggling with injuries, Yaya isn’t the same player as a few seasons ago and lacks the desire to get back and defend these days.

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Prediction: 3rd

City have an opportunity to drag themselves back into this title race with Spurs, Manchester United & Liverpool all having to come to The Ethihad before April. But saying that they then have to travel to London and play Arsenal and Chelsea less than a week apart. I can already hear Pep moaning about that one..

Manchester United img_1199

Stuttering start, but looking a lot more consistent these days. The likes of Pogba & Zlatan are beginning to show why they are held in such high regard by the Old Trafford crowd. Jones & Rojo in the heart of defence isn’t a long-term fix but it seems to be working right now.

Area to Strengthen:

CM: United’s main aim should be finding a long-term replacement for Michael Carrick (35), his defensive displays in midfield have allowed Pogba to shine and take the headlines.

Prediction: 5th

 Jose is building. Next season will be the real test for his Red Devils.

Arsenal: arsenal_fc-svg

What can you say about Arsenal and Wenger which hasn’t already been said? Cazorla and Coquelin out for months with injuries, Sanchez disgruntled. What does Wenger do? Signs a Non – League player of course.

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Area to Strengthen:

CM: Xhaka hasn’t worked at all, with consistently clumsy challenges putting Arsenal under unnecessary pressure and Francis Coquelin injured yet again, it’s time to look elsewhere.

 Prediction: 6th

My maths has never been my strong point, but even I know that 6 doesn’t go into 4. Someone’s going to miss out and for me Arsenal are looking the most likely to miss out. Perhaps that will help the board make a decision on Wenger’s future. With visits to Chelsea, Liverpool and a North London derby to come it doesn’t look promising for Arsenal.

So there we have it folks, you might agree you might not. Either way we are in for a treat up until May, let’s see what unfolds.

As always thanks for reading,

Ta Tom