Sunday 31 January 2016

Online Scam Artistes Masquerading As Concerned Football Fans

Scammers, Scamming or Scam artistry is not a recent invention. It goes way back in the history of man. I’m sure some will be familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse. In case you are not, you can learn more here . The Greeks used it as a subterfuge to conquer the city of Troy.

If you are a creationist, you are no doubt aware of the story of the snake pretending to be what it was not in the Garden of Eden. The snake persuaded the first human pair to go against their creator and the rest is history.

Fast forward to our modern era. Like it was back then so it is today. We still allow ourselves to get scammed. You receive a letter that you have won the Spanish lottery. A competition you never participated in and you want to claim the prize and end up forking out money to claim your prize. Or you receive a mail from a generous man in Africa offering you a share of some huge amount of money that can only be released by providing your account details and you agree, effectively asking to be scammed.

I see lots of similar scams with some of the football related things I have noted on Social Media. Don’t get me wrong; I think social media is a fantastic invention. What we should realize though is that social media is not a new thing. It didn't start today. Before the advent of Facebook there was MySpace.  Before the advent of Twitter, there was Yahoo messenger chat.

The Spanish lottery scammer and the 'money tied up in Africa' scammers banked on the fact that their scam was not in the open. There is always an element of secrecy especially with their potential victims. However the football scam artistes on Twitter are brazen. They do it openly and succeed in scamming many.

Take Piers Morgan as an example. He has something like 5 million followers majority of whom are ready to lap up any drivel he comes up with. They believe everything he says is gold dust.  For example, he has proposed a few managers for Arsenal in the past. One of these was Harry Redknapp. Surely that alone is enough to discount anything he says thereafter. It ought to be a crime akin to a capital offence. No, people still lap up his comments. Is that because we are suffering from amnesia or we just love been scammed.

Take a look at this graphic from Paddy Power. These are the players Piers Morgan has asked Arsenal to sign.  You can firmly classify this in the “You couldn’t make it up” category. Stop, sit down and think. Do you think this person actually understands football? Does he deserve to be listened to?

However you still find thousands of people on Twitter claiming that he talks sense. Gullibility of the highest order. I’m sorry this is the classic definition of NON SENSE. Any manager who signed that lot in one team will be out of a job now. But Piers Morgan is still on Twitter talking more NON SENSE. Claiming to know more about football than a professional who has dedicated his life to his profession and has done so at something of the highest level within the game. If Piers’ reputation as someone who understands football is not a scam I don’t know what is.

The truth of the matter in my opinion is that Piers Morgan needs Arsenal more than Arsenal needs Piers Morgan. He needs Arsenal to remain relevant.

Is he truly a fan of Arsenal even? Below are some of his recent comments (I paraphrase):

"Wenger is a busted flush"

"The FA Cup is rubbish"

"Olivier Giroud is rubbish"

"Ramsey will never amount to anything"

"Wenger should spend whatever amount it takes to buy players"

Do these comments show that Piers Morgan understands football? Does he understand that signing a top player is not all about money?  Like top managers, top flight footballers are increasingly looking at their next move as a project. Does he understand that footballers develop at different pace and that players adapt to the premier league differently? I don’t think he does, 

A recent article I read referred to him as a “Media Whore”. I agree completely because Mr. Morgan inserts himself into any controversy going.

Donald Trump makes controversial comments about migrants. Wow there is Piers Morgan.

African American actors boycotting Oscars. Unbelievable, out pops Piers Morgan.

Kanye West Twitter battle with some other celebrities. No surprise, surprise.  It's Piers Morgan again. What is he? A Russian Matryoshka doll? Take one out and oh there is another. Is he a reporter extraordinary or what? Seeking relevance with every trending /controversial subject going.  And nothing gives him that platform as the divided fan base of Arsenal. There is always that vocal section who love to have their ears tickled by him. Who conveniently forget his horrible atrocities towards Arsenal fans in the past and his dimwitted recommendations in terms of player purchases.

In decent societies and in societies that hold people accountable for their actions, Piers Morgan would have conveniently skunked off to oblivion never to be heard off again after offering a full apology to the people he has conned with his comments.

Sunday 24 January 2016

The Circus of Legends in Football

Arsenal Twitter is a wonderful place. Scratch that. Twitter is a wonderful place and so is life. It is only on Twitter you will find someone trying to tell George Soros how to make money or advice McDonald's on how to sell burgers.

In the past if you felt particularly strong about something, you either had to persuade the Editor of a newspaper to publish your views or proceed to Speakers Corner at Hyde Park and share your no doubt profound views. The Editors were quite adept at leaving out the barmy ideas and the sheer energy and motivation required to get out of bed and travel by rail, bus or tube to Hyde Park discouraged many and potentially spared the Hyde Park audience some of the wackiest opinion now freely shared on Twitter and other Social Media platforms. 

As far as I am concerned, Social Media has democratised stupidity and ignorance. A newspaper journalist who is slightly more informed than the ordinary man in the street joins in spreading rumours and totally made up stories with a view to gaining Social Media eyeballs. 

Recently retired footballer touts themselves around as experts in football management. Fans know more about football than the journalists, the players, the referees, the managers and club owners. I can't wait for the first football club to be owned by fans, staffed by fans, managed by a fans and where the entire squad is made up of fans only. Sorry to say, I can bet you, it wont work. Not in a month of Sundays. Never. 

Fans should stick to 'fandom', leave managers to manage, owners to own and players to play. Which brings me to the topic today, Club legends. 

Club legends are wonderful for any club. They have been there and done that. They have represented the club, often with pride, won things, displayed passion and showed disdain for local or traditional rivals. They know the club inside out, they are often like a totem pole for fans, they have displayed loyalty and help with reinforcing the tradition of the club. All very good. 

However while legends are very much a signpost for the past, the manager is often about the present and depending on the type of the manager, he is also about the future in conjunction with the owners and or the board. 

Legends are excellent for ambassadorial roles, smooching sponsors, helping the club cultivate new markets, explaining how things used to happen in the club during their time. However in situations where they have no formal involvement with the footballing side of things, they can often prove to be a distraction. 

Look at the Class of 92 over at Manchester United. These class especially Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs have done their very best to undermine the last 2 Manchester United managers. Constantly harping on about the United way and the past whereas the present is a very different world. 

Sir Alex Ferguson had an aura, Old Trafford had a aura during his time, United could attract the best players with Sir Alex in charge. United had a World Player of the year during his time. Also the administrative and strategic management side of the club was well looked after by David Gill with the support of the owners. That's all change but the legends wont let go. You will think these legends will approach the current management and owners to fully understand what is happening inside the club  behind the scene but no, it is criticism after criticism. How difficult it is to understand the spectacular fall from grace that happened in the Moyes years. Opposition players are playing against Manchester United either at home or away with belief in a game that relies a lot on confidence. What part of this fact is passing the legends by?

Gary Neville is now managing in Spain, possibly regretting all the things he ever said about Van Gaal. Paul Scholes passed on the chance to manage Oldham to fully concentrate on his Talkshop. Same with Rio Ferdinand who is so in love with his own voice and is very good at spouting the bleeding obvious.  

The less said about Ryan Giggs the better. Clearly undermined David Moyes in return for his mess of pottage as a Man United Manager for all of 4 matches. He helped midwife the Van Gaal era & is hoping to get the call again. Ryan - you ain't no Pep Guardiola bruv.

This not about Man United legends only. Thierry Henry put his foot in his mouth about 6 months ago. I wrote this in response to that incident. I'm happy to see that he has somewhat recanted but you get the kind of circus show that accompanies legends .

Over the past weekend, Arsenal Twitter had its knicker in a twist because Patrick Viera gave an interview where he said Jose Mourinho was a better manager than Arsene Wenger. Obviously this contradicted something he had said before. 

Without a doubt, we are all allowed our opinions and depending on what stage we are in life, we can reevaluate those opinions and hold a totally different one. Also the context of the two interviews  given by Patrick at different times could have been different. So fair play to him. I am convinced he knows his own mind as he has always come across as a strong character. 

What I however found very disturbing was the impression that Patrick was waiting for a call from Arsenal & Arsene to join the management staff at the Emirates and was somewhat disappointed with this not happening and there is this impression that this perceived slight has resulted in his latest interview. I hope this is not true.

While I fully respect Patrick's right to know his own mind, I wonder if he appreciates Arsene's right to choose his back room staff. Clearly the allegations that Arsene does not want any club legends around is nonsense. His former assistant - Pat Rice is an Arsenal legend in his own right and so is his current Assistant - Steve Bould. Yes, later day fans especially of the Social Media variant might not know Pat & Steve but it doesn't change the fact that they are Arsenal legends. So strike that nonsense about Arsene not wanting legends around. 

What I think Arsene objects to is the circus around legends. What I have heard him say in interviews many times is that you wont get handed a role with the management staff on a plate. "Come and earn your corn". Do your badges, coach the junior teams and the reserves and then let's see. I don't see anything wrong with that. 

Maybe some of his critics are also missing the fact that Arsene has worked with these legends over a long period. He should have an idea of each player's strengths and weaknesses and be able to make an informed decision on their respective abilities to manage or assist a manager. Let managers manage. 

Its a bit of a shame and a revolting hallmark of the world we live in that the opinion of pundits (who often have never managed or owned a club) on managerial and club ownership issues  are considered superior to that of a manager or a club owner / board who is doing it at the moment even if that manager is not doing it to the expectation of the pundits who are either unable to do it or are running away from the same responsibility.

Let managers manage. 

Sunday 17 January 2016

Arsenal Away Day - Anfield January 2016

The older I get the quicker time flies. It makes me wonder if the person who coined the phrase 'time flies when you are having fun' knew what they were talking about. I am not having fun and time is flying. Surely I can't be in the minority. Someone please tell me. 

Unbelievable that January is almost gone. The month of May will soon be here and the identity of the English Premier League winner will be revealed. I am still hoping that this winner will be Arsenal Football Club. By far the greatest team the (WHOLE) world has ever known. :)

2016 has started on a good note for the Gooners. Newcastle, Sunderland and Liverpool all somewhat successfully navigated. You wouldn't call any of them emphatic performances but they all count in terms of results and where the Club will be come May. 

In 2016, I hope to continue my visits to iconic stadiums. A passion I have had since my teenage years and a passion rekindled by my group of friends and brothers when they organised a trip to the Estadio de Dragao and The San Siro 3 years ago. Since that trip, I have visited St James Park in Newcastle, The  Boleyn in the East end of London, The Allianz Arena in Munich, Wembley for many momentous occasions in the recent life of an Arsenal fan and Anfield last week. 

 I was looking forward to the Anfield trip for two reasons. About 7 years ago, before I ever heard of Twitter & before Instagram was founded and when Facebook was for time wasters, I visited a very close friend who lived in Manchester and worked in Liverpool. I went with him to work one day and decided to spend the whole day exploring the Liverpool City Centre. I was told it will take me 10 minutes. It was all going to plan until I got to the Liverpool Dock and discovered the Museum of Slave Trade. 

It is now renamed the International Slave Trade Museum. I spent time at the Museum then and I knew I will be back. So when the opportunity to visit Anfield came up a few weeks ago, I grabbed it with both hands. 

I have since visited Anfield and the Museum and hope that I will find the energy and comportment to write about my visit to the Museum on another occasion but today is very much about my trip to Anfield

Anfield is somewhat small - pitch and stadium itself. Development  to increase the capacity is ongoing and should be finished by next season. 

The Kop end singing YNWA is hair raising and to be fair appears as solemn as a funeral service. Far from being intimidating in a threatening kind of way I dare say. I see the intimidation from a different perspective. The opposing players could be potentially awed by the solemn nature of the singing. But trust us the Away fans, we were having none of it and were quite irreverent. 

The home support is quite unlike the Crystal Palace support though as they were very quiet for spells in the game and not just when Arsenal were on top. Trust the Away fans, they picked up on this quiet spells and severaly asked 'where the @£$%* @£$% is your atmosphere.' :) There were other politically incorrect and quite rude songs / chants from the Away fans as well and I enjoyed these to no end. 

On the downside, why is there is no video replay screen at Anfield? The screen in the stadium is similar to the small display screen you have in a GP Surgery. Surely Liverpool FC can do better. Maybe transfer the screen outside the stadium into the grounds. 

On the football itself, I believe Liverpool played a blinder in the days leading up to the game. The noise about the injuries was all that - noise. Designed to lower Arsenal's guard and it succeeded. How Ibe (HighB) miraculously recovered from his injury is anybody's guess. Sakho was meant to be out for 8 weeks after the Watford Clash. Eh. Yippee that was Sakho knocking lumps out of Giroud's fine face during the match. Lies. Lies Lies & Deception and Arsenal fell for it. 

Arsenal were firm favourites. Odds on. Sure banker. I fell for that too. Note to self, do not bet your trousers on Arsenal when they are favourites. There I was, dreaming of how I will stroll into the office like a boss the day after the match. Quite confident that the day of atonement for the 5 - 1 loss two seasons ago was here. Was it heck? 

As at today, Liverpool have Origi, Skertel, Lovren, Coutinho & Sturridge out. Of those 5 only Skertel & Coutinho are nailed on guaranteed first team starter. So don't be deceived that the Liverpool squad was decimated. It wasn't. 

Trust Arsenal, we started on the back foot. I suspect the in - your face Gengen pressing got to the Arsenal lads. A pity Liverpool can't do Genegen defending. :)

From what I saw and from replays / highlights of the match, there was a foul on Theo before the ball was nicked off him before  Liverpool scored their first goal. Having said that, Cech got down low to save from Can who committed the foul on Theo and Koscielny could / should potentially have blocked Firminho's shot. Laurent throwing his leg was a hopeful punt and not one timed towards the trajectory of the goal bound shot. 

To those who think Cech could have done better for the first goal, maybe they are right. I have been between the sticks before and it is a daunting place. For me, that the goal keeper reacts and pushes a goal bound ball away is enough. His defenders should anticipate and be quicker to react than the opposing team to clear the ball from danger. 

From where I sat, more like stood in the stadium , I could tell immediately what Firminho was trying to do for the 2nd goal. Forget the comedy of errors leading to Arsenal gifting the ball to Liverpool before that strike. As soon as Firminho took his first touch to set the ball up for himself, switched on defenders should have been crowding him out to cover the space & possible trajectory of the shot he eventually took but Arsenal defenders stood of him. 

For the 3rd goal, I don't think the Arsenal players showed enough commitment and desire. Two defenders on Benteke and he nicks the ball for a knock down to Joe Allen. How? Allen approaches to strike the ball and Bellerin's defending was non - committal on both the ball and the man. It is the 90th minute mate, what is the worst that can happen with a hard challenge that leads to a penalty? A penalty? Those get missed you know. What happened to games management? What happened to disrupting the match with fouls, needless argument, scuffles, pretend injuries when you are under pressure and there are a few seconds to go? Disrupt the match with sense. Get the players not on a yellow to commit yellow card offences. 

All over the pitch, I saw lots of poor decision making from the Arsenal players that could potentially have won them the match if they had made the right decisions. Ramsey's determination to get on the goal sheet is not always to the advantage of the team. The goal line clearance by Sakho could have easily been a Walcott goal if Ramsey had used his touch to set up Theo. The move by Walcott when he dribbled the entire Liverpool Team should have ended in a goal but Theo finished the move with a poor shot. Lay it on a plate for somebody else son. Giroud refused to pass to Theo at some point as well when it appears Theo was in a better position. 

Guys, when you are 4 nil ahead and cruising, you can then think about personal glory, stats etc. However when the game is finely poised, Think Team. 

Officiating was poor overall. I believe English Referees think its their God given right to even out weakness of the opposition by giving contentious decisions or allowing play go on in the face of  blatant fouls. I wonder if this is in there briefing note from the English Premier League (EPL) management. Something to feed the social media frenzy that the EPL is the best league in the world because of its competitiveness. 

I was drained at the final whistle. It was a very cold night. Thank God for my new gloves. I was somewhat relieved with the result especially as I am always worried that a poor performance is somewhat round the corner for Arsenal. I was disappointed at what I consider 2 points dropped. 

This season in the league, we have lost to Chelsea and Southampton, West Brom and West Ham in inexplicable fashion. We have drawn with Liverpool on both occasions, drawn with the Spuds and with Norwich in matches we should have won either with good luck or or just a win if we had taken our chances and defended better. I am hoping we don't regret any of these results come May.  

We are still in a good place. I'm not overly worried about today's match. A loss will not be a disaster. Our opponents today have beaten Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea at home this season. Although I genuinely want Arsenal to win today as we are due a result at the Britannia. 

Why am I not worried about a loss today? We have kept pace with the league leader Leicester . We are 1 point behind them but with superior goal difference. We are level on points with Manchester City, the team that was going to steamroller everybody and win the league at a canter. Also, we are expecting Leicester at the Emirates soon and go to the 'Emptyhad' or is the 'East Midlands' for our penultimate game of the season plus Leicester and Manchester City are also to meet.

So calm down everybody. Yes, we are not yet taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to us by a misfiring City. Yes we dropped 2 points at Anfield. But I can guarantee there will be more twists and turns on the road to May, when I hope Arsenal can prove to everybody they can last the distance. 

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Comparing Manchester City & Arsenal Squads

I started writing this article late on Sunday. Tired, miserable and lacking inspiration. 

In the space of the last two days, I have benefited from reading two football related articles that have helped immensely with this write up. I have referenced both below. 

I have been intrigued by football pundits who have been very quick to award this season's Premier League to Manchester City Football Club based on claims that City have the best & most complete squad in the league.  Many of these pundits are quick to dismiss Arsenal's chances on the same basis especially as every comment about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger is paraphrased with the latter's criminal act of refusing to buy an outfield player in the last transfer season. 

Clearly Manchester City are the most expensive squad in the Premier League. The squad cost is estimated at approximately £409m plus another £194m in wages. They also have the experience of winning the league in two of the previous four seasons and they have a manager who has recently won the league. 

In comparison, the Arsenal squad despite witnessing significant investment in the last 2 seasons, costs approximately £223m with wages of £192m. Unlike Manchester City, Arsenal are yet to win the league in the last 12 seasons although there are some individuals in the Arsenal squad who have won the league in other countries including Petr Cech who won it last season in England as Chelsea's back up goal keeper.  

What majority of the pundits don't confess to is that they think the Arsenal players and their manager do not possess the mental strength, the bottle to last the distant in a full Premier league season. Time will tell. Before Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin journeyed into Outer Space, no human had the bottle, the mental strength to do the same. So fingers crossed. Bring on May 2016. 

To understand the assertions about squad depths, I have decided to compare both squads. Here goes

Goal keepers
Manchester City have Joe Hart as their number 1 and Arsenal have Petr Cech. In terms of experience and career attainment, I believe I will struggle to find a sane person who thinks Joe is better than Petr. In terms of performance so far this season, Petr steals a clear march over Joe. While Petr is somewhat at his peak, there is a view that Joe has many more years ahead of him. If you are not convinced and you are a lover of stats, please see the  infographic below

Looking at the number 2s, I will also rate David Ospina ahead of Willie Caballero. Quite what Pellegrini was thinking of when he brought Willie 'Frank Spencer' Caballero to City, I will never understand. I rate Ospina highly and he had better stats than Joe Hart last season when both were number ones for their respective clubs. 

City are blessed with money. This is reflected in their ability to spend siginificant sums on central defenders in the last 2 close seasons. Mangala and Otamendi have been bought for big money and Mangala looked the part when City played Chelsea last season but appears to have regressed since then. Likewise Otamendi, he is strong and appears to be a brute but looks like he is having a torrid time settling into the Premier League this season. City also have Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis. In addition, Bacary Sagna can fill in Central Defence if required. 

City appear to have the edge over Arsenal in the central defensive area when it comes to the cost of their players. While I admire Per Mertesacker, I think he is a difficult one to sell to most neutrals who are quite accustomed to beastly central defenders, munching everything in their path.  That's not the BFG's game. He is about the timing of the tackles, positioning and aerial threat both defensively and offensively. Yes he doesn't have pace, but he is behind a lot of the good things that the Arsenal defence do. 

I rate Lauren Koscielny better than anything City have and that includes a fit Vincent Company.  In my opinion, Vincent was poor last season and the fact that he has had a number of injuries over the last 2 seasons is something to factor in into any assessment of squad depths. Just in case your memories of Vincent last season are somewhat clouded, here are sone stats to help you. 

Gabriel and Nacho Monreal who are the Arsenal 3rd and 4th choice central defenders are at best on the same level as Otamendi and Demichelis. 

With respect to full backs, City have Sagna, Zabaleta, Clichy & Kolarov. 2 seasons ago, you could easily make the case that Zabaleta and Kolarov were 2 of the best full backs in the EPL. On their current season form, they are not even in the top 10. Zabaleta has suffered 2 injuries this season and now appears to be City's 2nd choice right back. Similarly, Kolarov has endured his own injury woes and appears to be a shadow of his former self. 

Personally, the fact that Sagna & Clichy are ex Arsenal players is enough to conclude that their Arsenal replacements are upgrades on both of them. Nacho Monreal might not be as intimidating as Kolarov but on the strength of both players performance this season, Monreal is clearly the better player / defender. 

I want to believe that Gibbs as Arsenal 2nd choice left back is better than Clichy. There is a reason why Arsene let Gael go in the first place. Yes he has won more silverware since he left Arsenal but based on current performances, you will struggle to rate Gael Clichy above Kieran Gibbs.

Bacary Sagna / Pablo Zabaleta versus Hectot Bellerin. Yes the City guys are more experienced as this is Hector's 2nd season in the top flight. Not even Arsene can boast that he knew Hector will come good this soon. Hector has been so good that he has displaced Mathieu Debuchy. Dont forget that Debuchy consigned Sagna to the bench of the French national team during the last World Cup.

Based on these comparisons, it is difficult to make a case for City having a footballing advantage over Arsenal in defence. 

To further reinforce this point and in the spirit of the Ballon D' Or, the BBC Football website conducted a poll today for the best English Premier League XI, below is the final team people voted for.  I know Arsenal fans have a reputation for hijacking polls, but you can easily see from these XI that the results of the poll appears objective. 

Still think City squad is better?

Midfielders / Forwards
Manchester City have Silva, Fernadinho, Fernando, Yaya Toure, De Bruyne, Sterling, Navas, Nasri, Delph 

Arsenal have Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Campbell, Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Coquelin, Wilshere, Arteta, Flamini, Oxlade - Chamberlain 

Based on current form and contributions to their respective teams, it is fair to say that Ozil is streets ahead of Silva at the moment. At both of their pomps, their is a chance for a debate on who is the better player. However at the moment, Ozil wins it and is a early front runner for the EPL Player of the year. 

Nothing City have in the defensive midfield position is a match for Francis Coquelin. He was way way ahead of the competition in the 2nd half of last season and picked up from where he stopped at the start of this season until he sustained an injury. 

Based on current available players, you will choose Fernadinho ahead of Flamini or Chambers in the defensive midfield positions. However Fernando's partner in Yaya offers less of a threat to Aaron Ramsey in the same position. Yaya was a world class player a few years ago but unfortunately and as it is with all players at some point, age has caught up with him. 

Also Yaya does not enjoy pairing up with the defensive midfielder. He wants to play in the David Silva role and because City want to accommodate De Bruyne & Sterling, City are unable to move Silva to the wings to accommodate Yaya behnd the Central Striker.  Apart from not fancying the role, Yaya's legs are not what they used to be. They are still long, he can still stike a mean shot and his brain is still working at full pelt, but the body is less willing. This is where a Santi Cazorla or Aaron Ramsey have an advantage over Yaya. 

Sterling and KDB cost close to £100m and they sometimes look the part. But will you exchange anyone of them for Alexis Sanchez? Hell No. They are both exciting talents but they both have nothing on Alexis. You might argue that Theo Walcott or Aaron Ramsey or Joel Campbell when they play on the wings are not necessarily better than Sterling, KDB or Jesus Navas and you will be right. However City's talents in this area is not necessarily much better than Arsenal's. Sterling is developing and to a large extent so is KDB. Jesus Navas however is a different kettle of fish. He is lightning quick but will find it dffiuclt to score in a whorehouse. 

City is blessed with Sergio Kun Aguero while Arsenal's number 9 is Olivier Giroud. The French striker sometimes alternates his striking duties with Theo Walcott and it is possible that Danny Welbeck might get a look in when he returns from injury hopefully next month. In addition to Sergio, Manchester City have Wilfried Bony and the hot and young Nigerian international - Nacho. 

Unquestionably Sergio is the better striker although his availability has been in patches over the last 2 seasons. However and despite all the stick he gets, Olivier Giroud is a very decent striker whose strike rate favourably compares with a number of top European league strikers like Robert Lewandoski & Karim Benzema. 

When I started to write this article very late on Sunday, I wasn't going to delve too much into statistics. I however read this article by @shotta_gooner and I will recommend it to everybody with a half a brain who genuinely loves football. I suspect this article will not be up your street if you are the type whose every 2nd description of a footballer, manager or club side is 'shit' and 'wanker' (no offence meant). The article is a thinking man's take on football and should be recommended staple for all aspiring pundits. In fact, I decree that anybody who  is inclined to take up a football punditry role on national TV or Radio must read this article and ensure their research is at the level outlined in the article before they are allowed to spout their stuff. 

 So, is the Manchester City squad better than the Arsenal squad? I'm sorry I can't see it, I don't think so.  Yes, the City squad is clearly more expensive but I don't see a gulf in quality that the 'punditerrati' keep referring to. 

Sunday 3 January 2016

Gary Neville - Talk is cheap

I am no admirer of Gary Neville. Not as a player,  a pundit or a coach / manager. I take nothing away from his great achievements as a player although I have read a few informed comments that suggests he wasn't blessed with great ability but grafted to become the top player that he was.

As a football pundit, he blew many away initially. He took to punditry like a duck to water and made football understandable to many. I dare say he offered lots of insights into on - the - pitch football decision making and some of the behind the scene stuff.

Also, I think Gary as an assistant to Roy Hodgson in the England set up has handled his role with some dignity and class. There have been no rumours or briefings of Gary's unhappiness or manoeuvres  as some are inclined to do in other set ups. The England camp appears to be a happy one and I am of the opinion that Gary has played a part in this. You never hear him talk about his England job as a pundit and I respect his ability to separate those roles & manage any potential conflict.

Back to Gary's punditry. A lot of hype has surrounded his ability as a pundit. Some will say deservedly so,  however I am naturally against hype and started to view Gary's punditry with caution. I took a strong dislike to this article on Jose Mourinho. It represented everything I disliked. It was hype personified. Yes Jose & Chelsea went on to win the league that season but look at the state of all of them now - Jose is unemployed and looks like a vagrant and tramp polluting the streets of West London. Chelsea are in a relegation scrap and Gary Neville as the Valencia manager is the personal embodiment of 'Talk is Cheap'.

What did I dislike about that article? It made Chelsea's win at Anfield when Steven Gerrard infamously slipped something of a tactical masterstroke. When did defending in numbers become a masterstroke? When did playing on the pride of an opposing manager you know so well become a masterstroke? It was a routine day in the office for Jose. 

Brendan Rodgers was complicit in the 'Gerrard Slip' and in losing the match and Liverpool's title hopes in the name of some yet to be established reputation as a ball playing side.

Liverpool didn't need the win, so there was no need to staying true to some ridiculous philosophy by a manager in his first big job. Win the league, establish an enduring reputation and talk about philosophy. Not the other way round.

Back to Gary. By the time, he stopped analysing football and started commenting on managers especially Arsene,  he was a lost case to me. Mate, you are a good player. Some say very good. Some might even say world class on your day. You have established yourself (somewhat) as an astute business man. Great. You are a brilliant pundit. Fantastic. But you are learning the ropes as a manager. What qualifications do you have to definitively tell a very experienced manager he doesn't know what he his doing and that you know better? And when he offered some clarity, you disagreed and insisted you were right. 

Gary TALK IS CHEAP. Employ some of that fabled punditry skills to dig Valencia out of the hole they are in now. It shouldn't be too difficult to move some of the dials on your big punditry screen, offer some weasel words and the benefit of hindsight. Turn Valencia's season around mate.   

Anybody. Even me, can tell what Obama, Cameron, Merkel and Buhari what they are doing wrong. We even know how Messi can do better as a player.  We know what the managing directors of FTSE100 companies are doing wrong. But guess what? We will never be given the opportunity to perform any of their roles. So our theories about what they are doing wrong and can do better are unlikely ever to be tested.

But Gary. Its hilarious you didn't see this coming. You walked into a trap set by Peter Lim the Valencia owner.  Just imagine how many times you have mouthed - off to him about what managers are doing wrong in your private conversations. Remember that when you face the Valencia Board at all and every inquisitions after matches. I hope you are bold enough to critically analyse the team's and your performance and blame the manager as you are wont to do in your time as a pundit. I wonder how long before the Spanish pundits start a campaign to question your competence, your appointment and Peter Lim's patience in not pulling the trigger after a poor run of results. 

I know it doesn't matter to you as I have recently read that you have no intention of managing permanently. I don't blame you boss. TALK IS CHEAP. I was privileged to meet a former pundit at a social event a few weeks ago. He is now into coaching and he said  that his old job was million times easier than what he is doing now. The good thing is that he never slagged off any manager as a pundit. He never got into any media slag - off with any.  He was humble, he was modest and he had enjoyed success as a footballer. Unfortunately, he didn't play well as a pundit with today's generation who love exaggerated gestures and definitive comments.

You are privileged Gary. You played under the great Sir Alex Ferguson. On the back of your successful playing career, you were fast tracked into a top pundit role and the England job. You were even fast tracked onto the Valencia role on the back of your association with the owner / your friend. I am certain you will come back as a pundit but please be aware that your words will carry less weight if your failure as the Valencia manager continues. I hope when you do return, you truly realise that -


& you couch your pronouncements about managers with wriggle room.

Friday 1 January 2016

Winning the English Premier League

I get really upset when I read some comments on social media. Especially the Wenger Out Brigade who believe that winning a league should be a stroll in the park. Some even going as far as stating that Arsenal's inability to stroll this year's premier league is evidence of the fact that Wenger is finished as a top top Manager.

Personally, I think many should be licensed before they are allowed to assault public sensibilities with their opinions and comments. The cheek of it, when football fans believe they know more about managing a football team than a manager with some considerable experience or when same fans believe they know more about running a football club than the professional managers at the helm.

In fact never mind Twitter licences, I think football clubs like Arsenal should be able to ban or suspend some peoples' right to support the club. In real life, if you are a public nuisance, the law enforcement agencies can 'slap' you with an Anti Social Behaviour Order of some sort.

So why can't Arsenal ban or suspend someone like Piers Morgan from supporting the club because he is a nuisance. Because he is divisive. Because he has absolutely no clue about running a football club or managing one and believes his opinion matters one bit. Because he has backed Gary Monk, Jose Mourinho as potential successors to Arsene Wenger and those two are currently deemed unemployable by any club.

When Arsenal were in the same position as they are now two seasons ago, I had several heated and emotional conversations (make that shouting matches) with my friends. My objective back then and in this season filled with promise is for Arsenal to remain competitive. As a football fan, that is what you should ask for. You can't ask that your team should 'stroll' the league. That's wishful thinking.

Have some clubs strolled to winning the league in the past? Yes definitely. PSG are currently strolling the Ligue 1 but don't forget their main rivals are fighting some demons of their own (serves them right for not knowing their place in last year's Champions League.  I'm waiting for when they will appoint an administrator. If I'm one of the administrators we will sell their stadium for a pound and convert the place it into a rubbish tip)

Anyway, back to strolling the league. Sir Alex strolled the league in his final season. Yes and many have said this is down to Man City not putting up a fight / proper defence of their title.

Chelsea strolled to the league championship last season is something you will often hear. I however disagree. I will concede that Chelsea strolled the first half of the season. However until they got a point at the Emirates their title winning wasn't certain. Once they lost 3 - 5 to Spurs 12 months ago, they went back to grinding out results not strolling the league.

In the 2 sometimes 3 horse race that is the La Liga, none of the sides stroll the league. the difference in the last 2 seasons has been a maximum of 3 points and this season appears to be following the same template and this is despite the breathtaking attacking talent in Barcelona's possession. Of course 3 seasons ago, Barcelona won by 15 points but guess what?  The human wrecking machine that is Jose Mourinho was deploying his demolition ball to the maximum effect inside the Real Madrid dressing room.

So back to my strolling the league issue. I don't think any team can stroll the league in a competitive league like this latest incarnation of the Barclays Premier League. It is impossible because of the nature of competitive football when 11 competitive men of lesser ability can take on 11 top class footballers and defeat them. It wont always happen but football folklore is made of such legendary occurrence.

Football matches are much too often decided by moments of brilliance, inexplicable errors gifting the other side an advantage, weird injuries, unexplained refereeing decisions etc. Each or any of these can cost you the points that ensures you don't win the league no matter how good your team is.

What I ask of my team, what I am expecting of Arsenal in any league season is for them to be competitive. If your team is competitive, the mental toughness needed to last the long haul is a given (in my opinion). The dice of all the 'unpredictables' in a football match tend to roll in your favour. You are more likely to be able to capitalise when others falters. At the end of the marathon that is the league, you are there or thereabouts and hopefully if you hold your nerve at the death you might win it.

I happened to be listening to a man earlier this year when he appeared on Radio. A man who knows a few things about winning titles.  Nigel Winterburn appeared on Talksport Radio on 2nd of June 2015 and said in part "Winning the title is about small margins and a bit of luck. If you are 2 or 3 points behind the leaders in April, that's a title challenge".

I am lad Arsenal is challenging. Of course I want us to win the league. I hope we do and look forward to it. But I think those who expect their team to stroll the league or expect their team to win a league do not really understand what is required to win.

Come on Arsenal