Borussia Dortmund vs. Arsenal: A Case for the Defense, and Ozil

Arsenal continued what has been, ultimately, a disappointing start to the season with their worst performance yet. A 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League means the Gunners got off to the worst possible start imaginable in the Champions League, and it wasn’t because they were unlucky.

On the positive side of things the new blue jerseys the side turned out in were stylish, and Galatasaray’s draw with Anderlecht in the other group game leaves the door open as well.

And that’s about all the good that can be taken from this match.

Arsenal failed to make the best of a good opportunity to gain some confidence over the weekend, when they allowed Manchester City to tie the match after coming behind, and it seemed like that result affected the players as much as a loss. City almost made that a reality in the dying moments, and it’s disconcerting that the players couldn’t push on from that for a much-needed positive result.

Maybe the fact that the two sides have met in the competition during the last few seasons, with Arsenal generally coming out on top away from home made the side a little less worried. It shouldn’t have, and the Gunners were second-best all over the pitch.

The attacking unit that was so vibrant for the majority of that game was out of sync, the midfield overrun and the defense comical.

Alexis Sanchez continued his up and down start while Danny Welbeck continued to fluff chances, leaving no shortage of Arsenal fans groaning and some Manchester United fans smirking. James McNicholas of ESPN FC writes that fans must be the patient with the Englishman, and rightly so. But for how long?

Hopefully Welbeck will find his shooting boots for Arsenal soon, as I would still prefer to see him starting as opposed to Oliver Giroud. Finishing aside, his mobility, work-rate and link-up play make him a good addition to the squad.

When looking at the midfield performances, one begins to wonder when the fickle Arsenal fans begin to turn on Aaron Ramsey again after another uninspiring display. I’ve always felt that the Welshman, one of my favorite Arsenal players, shouldn’t suddenly be considered world-class, or the most important Arsenal player, until he consistently produces for two or more seasons. This is season two by the way.

Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere was combative but unable to influence and Mikel Arteta was extremely poor. Wonder if a defensive midfielder will come in January?

The Defense. What Defense?

With a duo protecting to the back four as opposed to one player, Arsenal’s full-backs can go forward as expected without too much worry. Or, even better, as with any normal team, if one goes then the other one stays while a deeper midfielder pushes forward.

Tactical outlook aside, what’s worrying for Arsenal fans is the slow return to the formerly shambolic Arsenal defense. The duo of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have formed a great partnership but neither are world-class defenders for a variety of reasons. The main reason for the improved defensive solidity is their complementary partnership, and that seems to have fallen by the wayside so far this season.

Despite Arsene Wenger having to pick Hector Bellerin in what was a huge game, through not fault of his own mind you, Arsenal still had three of its four first-choice defenders from last season. Bellerin definitely can’t be singled out for criticism and did okay enough given the circumstances.

Each of the more senior players had their moments of indecision, or ineffectiveness for either goal, Koscielny was near the forefront in both, and they have to improve. Especially considering they only have three other senior defenders to compete with, one of whom will be out for some time.

If Arsene Wenger continues to persist with one of either Arteta or Mathieu Flamini anchoring the midfield in a 4-3-3 then Arsenal’s season is doomed. Flamini may be more mobile but that still didn’t help against Manchester City over the weekend. The way forward this season is 4-2-3-1 for Arsenal, as much as I prefer other formations.

That will be as much for the increased defensive solidity as well as for the enhancement of the attack, and the increased role for one player in particular.

What To Do With Mesut Ozil?

Mesut Ozil again drew criticism for his performance, or lack of it, in his homeland, and, as I stated after the City game, there will come a point where he can no longer be defended. An article from Thore Haugstad of Four Four Two discusses Arsene Wenger’s dilemma surrounding playing Ozil out wide or in the middle.

My advice? Play him in the middle.

Ozil tried to be more involved against Dortmund but was still ineffective, and was subbed off after the hour mark. Among a few of the points discussed in Haugstad’s article is the lack of defensive cover Ozil provides on the wing(something many knew even during his time in the less physically demanding La Liga) and his effectiveness drifting from inside to out as opposed to vice-versa.

Folks can again point, with all validation, to David Silva as an example but not all playmakers are alike. Silva, one could argue, is a more energetic and physically tougher player than the German.

At the start of last season, Ozil showed why he was arguably the best No. 10 in the world from the 2010 World Cup on. Sure, he tailed off due to injury, and not being accustomed to the Premier League but that was expected. Not to mention that he was then, when fit, shuttled out wide at the end of the season.

Naysayer’s can also point to his performances for Germany during the World Cup but, again, he was basically criticized throughout the tournament, while playing out wide, and didn’t have a solid performance until the 7-1 demolition of Brazil.

So what do you do with, arguably, your most gifted player Arsene Wenger? Continue to shuttle him out wide a-la Shinji Kagawa and see him frustrated, vilified and eventually wanting to leave? Or do you return to a formation that will not only get the best out of him but improve your team’s balance and structure? Or does this happen?

No Rotation, Aston Villa up Next

One other frustrating and annoying decision by Arsene Wenger was the lack of rotation.

I almost forgot that we had players like Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain(who all came on) as well as Tomas Rosicky and Joel Campbell rotting away on the bench. Those who did play can’t be faulted for not turning things around as the game was beyond Arsenal when they did get a foot on the ball.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has been lively in every game since coming on, and Santi Cazorla would have provided more energy and effectiveness from out wide than Ozil.

I guess we’ll see what happens this weekend at Aston Villa. That is shaping up to be another tough one, especially after the Villans away victory versus Liverpool. They know they can either repeat their Liverpool blueprint, or take something away from Dortmund’s plan, to get a good result.

What will Arsenal do to combat that?

We shall see.

European Leagues Weekend Roundup

League football came back with a bang this weekend, and I’m definitely glad for that. Not that I’m not a fan of International football but it does get a little annoying when you start to get into the swing of things with the club season then have to deal with mundane results like Albania 1 – 0 Portugal. That result was no doubt the shock of the weekend, with the Czech Republic also throwing a wrench in the big boys plans by beating the Netherlands 2-1. Those were just a few of the results in European Championship qualifying, but there was there was also the usual array of friendlies as well as African Cup of Nations qualifying to consider.

Cameroon’s big 4-0 win over Ivory Coast was one interesting result in Africa and, as usual, it’ll be interesting to see how teams fare when the tournament proper comes around in January 2015. My major grievance with international football, mainly the non-stop friendlies, during club season is one many fellow FM managers, and those who actually have the jobs, fear. Injuries. Interestingly enough, Arsenal didn’t fare too badly in that arena this time around.

Let’s take a look at the fixtures now that we’ve gotten that little intro out-of-the-way. As stated last week, the focus will be on the bigger clubs in all leagues with special performances or shock results getting a mention as well.

Primeira Liga(Round 4) and Eredivisie(Round 5)

There are now five undefeated teams in the Primeira Liga, with big boys Porto and Benfica sharing the lead on points with Rio Ave and Guimaraes. Sporting Lisbon find themselves wallowing in eight place with one win and three draws. So much for Nani. Things got a little interesting in the Netherlands this weekend, with PSV being shocked away from home with a 3-1 loss to PEC Zwolle. That result leaves the two sides level on points, and leading the league. Here’s the highlights of each separate goal. Ajax picked themselves up to grab a win and are now three points off the pace.

Ligue 1(Round 5)

Big-spenders, PSG and Monaco, continue to have slow starts to the season. PSG have yet to fully kick into gear but stay undefeated, and Monaco is basically confirming they needed last years spending to do anything. Lille and Marseille are now the frontrunners after picking up wins at the weekend, and it looks like we are in for a very interesting Ligue 1 season.

Ligue 1 highlights here

Serie A(Round 2)

Milan, surprisingly, sit atop the Serie A table after coming out victors in a 5-4 goal-fest with Parma. That overall tally tops Inter’s 7-0 drubbing of Sassuolo, while Juventus and Roma each picked up solid victories. Those four clubs are leading the way in the table, while Napoli fell behind with a loss to Chievo. It will be interesting to see if the lack of European football helps Milan this season given this positive start.

Serie A highlights here

Bundesliga(Round 3)

Things are beginning to return to normal in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund climbing back up the table after another win. Bayern Munich were also victorious, while Bayer Leverkusen slipped up after a 3-3 draw wit Weirder Bremen. Schalke’s 4-1 loss to Borussia Mochengladbach was another interesting weekend result.

Bundesliga highlights here

La Liga(Round 3)

Barcelona is now the only perfect team in La Liga with three wins out of three, and that’s without anyone putting the fear into defenders thanks to his chompers. Sevilla and Valencia continue to march on with victories while keeping up with the Blaugrana. The Madrid derby saw Atletico Madrid continue the recent trend of outdoing their more fabled rivals, and leave Real Madrid in the bottom half of the table after three games. Are we witnessing a little more parity in La Liga? Probably too early to tell.

La Liga highlights here

Premier League(Round 4)

The Premier League’s match of the weekend, Arsenal vs. Manchester City, didn’t disappoint with beautiful goals, tough tackling, shoddy defending and the re-emergence of England’s shining knight, Jack Wilshere. The result was a 2-2 draw which Chelsea gleefully took advantage of with a convincing 4-2 comeback victory over Swansea. Tottenham saw themselves held to a draw while Aston Villa delivered the surprise of the weekend in beating Liverpool away from home. The new-look Manchester United defeated this season’s punching bag, QPR, 4-0, to pick up the first win of the Louis Van Gaal era.

Premier League highlights here

 

Until next time.

Arsenal 2 – 2 Manchester City: A Point Won or Two Points Lost?

The season-long Arsenal journey continued yesterday with another thrilling, and annoying, encounter versus Manchester City.

One obvious question leading up to the game was if Arsenal would finally showcase that big-game mentality. With new additions like Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy, as well as the title-monkey off their backs, fans were watching with major interest to see how the Gunners would react.

The answer, at least for a good 20 minutes or so in the first half, was that Arsenal was ready to go. This could well be the year they  really challenged for the title.

Except, as usual, the players were in such a frenzy to score after dominating for so long that they continued to leave space open at the back and were eventually delivered what would normally be a knockout blow. Maybe another positive this time around is that Arsenal fell apart miserably in similar games last season after conceding early. It took 28 minutes for Manchester City to score this time and it was definitely against the run of play.

The other major story-line was the introduction of former Manchester United man, Danny Welbeck, into the Arsenal starting lineup. That was a weird sentence to write, and it was certainly a strange sight for the duration of time on the pitch.

Apart from a glorious early opportunity to open his account, which was fluffed in the usual Welbeck fashion despite the inventiveness of his strike, Welbeck wasn’t a major part of the outcome but he was quite solid.

The one positive that is seemingly now part of Arsenal’s mentality is the strength of character, and belief, which ultimately led to a second half comeback with two brilliant goals.

One negative that has been consistent for some time is the defensive frailty in big moments. Evidenced by the 11 defenders in the 18-yard box on a corner who still failed to stop a Manchester City equalizer.

Jack Wilshere is again the savior of English football, cigarette and all, after an impressive all-action display. Let’s see how the rest of the season goes first, shall we?

Arsene Wenger had to defend Mesut Ozil again, and it’s getting to the point where his lack of productivity is indefensible. I would prefer to see the German, our most expensive signing, in his best position behind the striker but Wenger seems insistent on replicating his role with Germany during the 2014 World Cup.

Wouldn’t Ozil thrive behind Welbeck and with Walcott and Sanchez wide given those players have some similarities in terms of pace and skills with Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale/Angel Di Maria?

It’s safe to say that’s not working so far, and given the lack of defensive midfielder it may be best to go back to a 4-2-3-1 formation which would solve that problem as well as help us defensively as well.

One question brought up somewhere on the web while analyzing the German was why he can’t play well from out wide when David Silva, a similar player, can? That’s certainly valid, and if Wenger believes this formation will be the way forward, and that Ozil will stay out wide then he has to improve.

Ultimately, it’s a disappointing result for Arsenal given the way we rallied in the second half. Things don’t get any easier with Dortmund in the week, Aston Villa away and a very, very thin defensive line.

Until next time.

Ferguson, Moyes, Van Gaal? Whose fault is it that Manchester United is in this position?

Manchester United is, strangely enough, going through a major rebuilding process now. It’s a process that was necessary a few seasons ago but somehow they got away with it.

Faces are changing both on the pitch and off, with the official retirement of Ryan Giggs seeing the last player from the venerable “Class of ’92” hang up his boots. And, for the first time since 1986, when Alex Ferguson took charge(he wasn’t sir then), the Red Devils have seen two managers at the club in two consecutive seasons. David Moyes took charge at the start of the 2013/14 season, and Louis Van Gaal has been the face on bench since the start of the 2014/15 season.

Neither manager has made a positive impact with what was actually a weak team left by Sir Alex Ferguson. One question, with three parts, or, to make it simple we’ll break into three questions, must be asked given that outlook.

Was Sir Alex Ferguson that good of a manager that he could lead such a side to a title in his last season? If so, are his two successors not of the quality necessary to continue Manchester United’s, almost, unrivaled success? When can it be expected that Manchester United overcomes its current challenges?

Let’s take a look shall we.

Sir Alex Ferguson won the title in his last season at the club but was it all down to his managerial ability?

Sir Alex Ferguson won the title in his last season at the club but was it all down to his managerial ability?

Some statistics tell the story during Ferguson’s last season at the club. The club won the title by 12-point margin which was thanks mainly to an attack led by newcomer, Robin van Persie. While the attack scored 86 goals, 11 more than the next highest scoring club, United’s defense let in 43. That meant they had the worst goals against average in the top four and, were it not for Tottenham, they would have had the worst in the top seven.

Such statistics point to a defense that was poor, though injuries have to be taken into account, and a midfield not able to control and dominate games.

The likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were on a downward spiral, while Patrice Evra was still energetic but not as effective. The backups; Johnny Evans, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling etc, were okay at times but also not experienced enough, confident enough or consistent enough to make up for their senior counterparts.

The only real positive in midfield was the underrated consistency of Michael Carrick, who had Anderson, Tom Cleverley and an out-of-retirement, Paul Scholes for help. Had the club not signed Van Persie and gotten his league-leading 26 goals then they may have been out of the top four altogether.

But those weaknesses in defense and midfield were there a few seasons before, yet Ferguson was allowed, or commanded, that the club continued with what was available. It does seem that he was averse to making such changes given his recent comments on the clubs spending. Such stubbornness is akin to what Arsenal fans still face with Arsene Wenger despite the recent positives in London.

Ferguson persisted with the trio of Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, who were declining yearly and facing more injuries, with little attempt at top-level replacements.

Both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling arrived a year apart as potential replacements centrally but neither player has fulfilled his potential. Alex Buttner was supposed to cover for Patrice Evra but the Frenchman had a little resurgence to keep his spot. Rafael finally did solidify the right-back position but constant injuries meant that was still a problem position.

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The midfield received little to no help at all, as Ferguson kept the likes of Anderson and Tom Cleverley hoping they would both finally take the next step. Neither has. He instead relied on Paul Scholes to come out of retirement to roll back the years along Michael Carrick.

And that’s where one has to consider Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial ability. He managed to get an absolutely fantastic first season out of Robin Van Persie in 2012/13, somehow kept his midfield from being overrun on a weekly basis, and got his defense to tighten up when necessary. In essence, he used every ounce of his skills to squeeze good performances out of ageing or lesser quality players during those years.

Or was that all down to his reputation, temper, the referees(a certain Mr. Howard Webb in particular) and the infamous “Fergie time?”

One has to consider those factors helping in tight games with late winners, such as Southampton(away), Aston Villa(away), Manchester City(away) and Newcastle(home). Not to mention losses against Everton(away), Tottenham(home) and Norwich City(away) showcasing those weaknesses and dependencies in every third of the pitch.

Again, this is not to take away from Ferguson’s ability but it does offer interesting food for thought. No?

It’s not as if United had little opposition during that year either. The talent within the Manchester City and Chelsea squads should have produced more competition but those teams were also involved in other competitions for longer periods than United.

United were out of the Carling Cup early on, and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea in April.

Manchester City went on to the FA Cup final, though they were out of Europe before December and didn’t go far in the Carling Cup either. Chelsea reached the semifinals of both domestic competitions and won the Europa League so there’s evidence they were stretched a bit there.

Yet credit still has to be given where it’s due, and Ferguson did get to step down from the game while at the top. The warning signs were always there, though, and one still has to wonder whether the two managers after him, or any others, could have done what he did, or aren’t benefiting as he did due to his reputation and standing.

David Moyes wondering what he got himself into

David Moyes wondering what he got himself into

David Moyes took charge of the club at the beginning of the 2013/14 season, and oversaw United’s worst finish in the Premier League era by coming in seventh. While Moyes was, as reported by of the BBC, Ferguson’s handpicked successor, such ineffectiveness could not be tolerated at one of the world’s biggest club.

Moyes was a surprise pick for the Manchester United job even though many expected him to move beyond Everton at some point in the near future. He was hand-picked by the golden arm of Sir Alex but did little to suggest he was ready for the task.

Despite the players smart words to the press, and the backing of the board, there was always a feeling of awkwardness at United while Moyes was in charge. It didn’t seem like he commanded the respect of his players and that began to show on the pitch, as the poor performances mounted from players old and new alike.

Moyes did make two big acquisitions during his time at the club, bringing Belgian midfielder, Marouane Fellaini, from Everton with him to help solidify the midfield, and Juan Mata to add creativity. The debate about Fellaini’s usefulness to the United cause was constant given that he spent his last season at Everton, and with Moyes, as a second striker and was quite productive in doing so.

United benefited from Jose Mourinho’s decision to discard Juan Mata as he didn’t fit into his system, and that signing was certainly a bright spot for Moyes. Aside from that, he did little to showcase any tactical flexibility or game-management those at United became so accustomed to under Ferguson and wobbled to seventh place in the Premier League.

His eventual departure was poorly handled, as news sites provided reports on the impending decision before the manager himself was notified, but almost inevitable despite his status as the Chosen One. He was literally chosen by one of the most illustrious managers in the game, Mourinho, but you weren’t.

Whether Moyes was too afraid to shake things up or unable to add the necessary talent beyond what he knew(Fellaini) and what fell into his lap(Mata), he certainly fails the litmus test in terms of managerial ability in comparison to Ferguson. One thought is that his failure to get almost an exact replica of Ferguson’s last team to perform well made the situation even more unbearable.

Is it his fault he was thrust into the limelight and expected to conjure Ferguson-like magic in the transfer market despite having little experience in dealing with the really big transfers? He also had little help from Ed Woodward, who was heading into his first season as the man to deal with transfer negotiations and salaries.

Had those personnel issues, or some of them at least, been fixed beforehand he may have done better. Or maybe not.

While it’s obvious to focus on the league performance during Moyes’ ill-fated reign, taking a look at all the competitions provide a different outlook.

Moyes actually did better than Ferguson in two competitions, reaching farther in the Carling Cup and Champions League while things got really tough in the Premier League. The return of a certain Jose Mourinho certainly made one competitor stronger in the league, not to mention Everton under Roberto Martinez, a somewhat revitalized Arsenal squad early on and the presence of a strong Manchester City side, who were eventual winners.

Moyes had to deal with all these factors during his first year in the biggest challenge of his managerial career.

So now he’s offering his expert opinion on failure, I mean football, on the television and possibly prompting a good many Red Devils fans to mute the telly at half-time.

Louis Van Gaal, the "serial winner," is charged with turning things around at United.

Louis Van Gaal, the “serial winner,” is charged with turning things around at United.

Louis Van Gaal came in after leading the Netherlands to a surprise third-place finish at the 2014 World Cup, with many neutrals and Manchester United fans excited about his tactical acumen and experience.

Louis Van Gaal’s arrival was greeted with much excitement given his experience and pedigree in the game, and he wasted no time throwing Moyes under the bus by stating he received a “broken squad” from his predecessor while saying that following Ferguson would have been easier. Ouch.

If you think about it though, that was Van Gaal taking the attention away from himself and effectively stating that, “If things don’t start off wonderfully it’s because of that guy. I’m just trying to fix his mess.” He couldn’t have said that if he came after Ferguson.

Unlike the other two managers, Van Gaal has no Europe to contend with so expectations are higher on the domestic front. While he’s stated the club is not good enough to win the title, an assertion many would agree with, the Red Devils should be able to get into Europe and win a domestic cup.

One thing that does have to be considered is that the Dutch coach may never have faced such a big rebuilding process during his time at a club. Yes, that goes in line with his “broken squad” assertion but he is laying the blame on the wrong person.

When all are fit and accustomed to Van Gaal’s demands this is actually a good United side. How long that process will take is anybody’s guess. Van Gaal should be able to develop the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Adjan Jadnuzan, Luke Shaw and others while getting the best out of his experienced stars.

He has a similar aura to Ferguson, though he may not be as appreciated in Britain, and will be a commanding presence in the dressing room and on the field.

Given the activity this summer, Manchester United fans will expect to be back in Europe, meaning the Champions League, next season and challenging for the title again. That may not be too much to ask depending on how things go this season.

A look at Manchester United’s transfer activity this summer shows that there is indeed a good amount of talent now at the club. Additions in midfield and defense could still happen, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. The rating of 9/10 is still a bit high in my estimation, a seven would be more apt, as United may not be able to play Van Gaal’s preferred 3-4-1-2 with the requisite precision given the players currently available.

Van Gaal has moved further in strengthening the weak areas with both Ander Herrera and the versatile Danny Blind joining to help in midfield, as well as Angel Di Maria capable of playing further inside as you’ll see below in an analysis on Van Gaal’s tactical options.

The introduction of Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and, again, Blind help in the defense despite not being at the same level of Ferdinand when he joined.

ESPN FC’s Michael Cox takes a look at the tactical options available to Louis Van Gaal with the players at his disposal. Two such lineups are below, and both underline the quality available to him as well as the difficult task in selecting the best possible XI for each tactical setup.

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These are rough ideas of the 4-3-1-2 and 3-4-1-2 formations most likely to be used by Van Gaal, I was a bit limited by the template I was using, and it’s certainly not the case that these specific players would play in these positions in either tactical setup.

So was Ferguson more capable than his successors?

It has to be a resounding yes in regard to Moyes even if he had been able to build a team more to his liking. He may have been ready for a bigger job but in hindsight it should not have been Manchester United. Van Gaal may not have the same stability as Ferguson but his resume certainly comes close to the Scotsman, and he’s dealt with a big club or two in his time.

Is the shell of a team that Ferguson left behind capable of regaining its former glory?

With Van Gaal in charge that is possible. Moyes needed, and maybe should have been given, more time but that’s not something you get at a club like United. Had the two arrivals been switched, Van Gaal first and Moyes second, then maybe things would be different. Maybe Manchester United would have been better off going for the marquee manager who spends little time at a club before moving on, such as Van Gaal or Jose Mourinho, then getting Moyes.

As an Arsenal fan, it’s interesting to see Manchester United in such a state but we are in a position to benefit. Well, if we had gotten a defender or two and a defensive midfielder too. The race for fourth place will be tougher than ever this year, and it’s almost as if you wish United wasn’t involved so the odds would be better.

It will be interesting to see where this United side is at the end of the season. At least we know they won’t be winning the title.

Until next time.

Transfer Deadline Day Roundup

We continue the transfer outlook with some thoughts on the biggest, and most intriguing, deadline day transfers. Here’s the roundup for May/June as well as Part 1 and Part 2 of July and the August roundup. As usual fans were waiting for the big move on the last day of the transfer window, and they weren’t disappointed.

The one thing about transfer deadline day was the constant extensions for a number of teams. The deadline was set for 6pm EST or 11pm BST but a few teams, two big ones in particular, received about two hours extra to finish their deals.

That really shouldn’t be possible. Teams have all summer, as well as all day, to finish any transfers, paperwork and all, before the deadline so there shouldn’t be any extra-time given. Who does it benefit? The teams who get the extensions get to strengthen their cause in a such a way that may end up impacting their season and the seasons of other teams as a result.

Every team should be held to the same standard, and if you failed to meet your deadline your out of luck.

As expected, there was plenty of movement throughout the day, so let’s get to it.

Again, we’ll go by BBC’s list of transfers in each month. Hopefully their won’t be any misses as a result.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing transfers of the transfer deadline day.

 

Marco Van Ginkel: Chelsea to AC Milan(loan)

Obviously Marco Van Ginkel didn’t make as big an impression as expected last season due to injury. The loan move to AC Milan is a good one for the player, as the arrival of Cesc Fabregas drops him further down the pecking order in midfield. He’ll get good playing time and the opportunity to find his best form before returning to enhance the Blues midfield.

Javier Hernandez: Manchester United to Real Madrid(loan)

Real Madrid have another pure forward in the squad after selling Alvaro Morata to Juventus but you have to say the move for Javier Hernandez is a bit of a gamble given his current lack of confidence and form recently. Still, the old saying that players may benefit from new surroundings could certainly come into play with the Mexican forward, and he has shown in the past he is a great goalscorer.

Abel Hernandez: Palermo to Hull City

Uruguay fans will be hoping that Abel Hernandez’s transfer to Hull City will help him become the next in a line of top-level forwards the country has churned out recently. He is coming off his best season in Italy but his injury worries and general lack of productivity in the Serie A is cause for concern.

Lewis Holtby: Tottenham to Hamburg(loan)

Lewis Holtby returns to Germany to play for Hamburg after an underwhelming period in England. Holtby shone during his time as one of Schalke’s chief creators and will look to team with Rafael Van der Vaart keep Hamburg away from the relegation troubles of last season. It’s unlikely that he’ll return to Tottenham no matter what he does this season but some good form can see him get his pick of clubs.

Sebastian Coates: Liverpool to Sunderland(loan)

Sebastian Coates has done little during his time at Liverpool, aside from this outrageous piece of skill, to warrant much playing time so a season at Sunderland should do him well. Provided he stays fit. Should he do so, he has talent to get a starting role for the Black Cats and really push on his career.

Mohamed Diame: West Ham to Hull City

The arrivals continue to roll in for Hull City, and Mohamed Diame is definitely a good pickup. Diame is capable of adding steel, mobility and some goals to the Hull City midfield.

Daley Blind: Ajax to Manchester United

Daley Blind’s versatility means Manchester United fans will argue about his best position after his arrival from Ajax. Blind has worked with Louis Van Gal before, and the Manchester United coach will be sure to play him where he can be most effective. It’s a good signing for the Red Devils who are definitely in a rebuilding process.

Micah Richards: Manchester City to Fiorentina(loan)

The fact that a British player is moving abroad is what makes this move a bit strange. It’s a necessary one for Micah Richards’ sake though as he has dropped further down the pecking order at Manchester City due to injuries, and the form of his colleagues.

Benjamin Stambouli: Montpellier to Tottenham

Benjamin Stambouli, as you’ll see from this report from Squawka, seems to be a good fit for Tottenham’s style of play under Mauricio Pochettino. He does add some title-winning experience to the club from his time at Montpellier and it will be interesting to see if he can make the step up to the Premier League.

Sandro: Tottenham to QPR

Sandro’s injury record was definitely a knock against him under new manager, Mauricio Pochettino, and is one reason he left the club. The Brazilian had plenty of opposition for a defensive midfield role, especially after the arrival of Benjamin Stambouli at Spurs. As analyzed here by Squawka, his less accomplished passing skills made him less of an asset for his new manager.

Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa: Newcastle to Roma(loan)

The loans continue, and this time it’s Roma with a good short-term solution with the addition of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. The French defender can cover all across the back line at Roma, and helps solidify a defense for a club looking to challenge for the title.

Gaston Ramirez: Southampton to Hull City(loan)

Gaston Ramirez entered the Premier League with much fanfare after a couple fantastic seasons at Bologna. And now he’s playing for Hull City. The Uruguayan will be looking to get some playing time under his belt after injuries, form and competition for places have led to limited opportunities at Southampton. It will be interesting to see how he’s used by Steve Bruce.

Alvaro Negredo: Manchester City to Valencia(loan)

With Stevan Jovetic showing a scoring touch, Sergio Aguero on the way back from injury and Edin Dzeko providing an alternative to the two, Alvaro Negredo’s days at Manchester City were numbered. A return to Spain, this time to play for Valencia, should see Negredo return to his best form.

Toby Alderweireld: Atletico Madrid to Southampton(loan)

The loss of Dejan Lovren doesn’t look so bad now that Southampton have signed Toby Alderweireld. The Belgian player was second fiddle to the partnership of Miranda and Diego Godin last season, and would have returned to that role this season. Playing time was essential and with his level of composure and on the ball skills he will fit into the new Southampton regime well.

Sadio Mane: Red Bull Salzburg to Southampton(loan)

The transfer of Sadio Mane to Atletico Madrid will be one of those transfers to keep an eye on as the season progresses. The Senegalese forward has been productive in a the lower level Austrian league, as shown here in his profile, and it will be interesting to see how he adapts.

Hatem Ben Arfa: Newcastle to Hull City(loan)

Hull City’s attack has added some pretty impressive names and a lot of creative talent during the transfer window. Hatem Ben Arfa is one such addition, and he will be expected to produce straight away due to his Premier League experience. Ben Arfa has the talent to be playing on teams with better quality, and this season at Hull may be his last chance to do so.

Danny Welbeck: Manchester United to Arsenal

Danny Welbeck, as stated by ESPN FC’s Michael Cox, will divide opinion among fans and he certainly was an interesting signing for Arsenal. As with some of their other big moves, the Gunners profited from the actions of the player’s former club in getting the deal done. Welbeck will now have to show he can play centrally, and score goals, or else both he and Arsene Wenger will regret taking the gamble. And taking so long to do it.

Radamel Falcao: Monaco to Manchester United(loan)

The biggest piece of transfer news on deadline day came right down to the end, as Manchester United required an extension to file all the paperwork necessary to sign Radamel Falcao. While some fans will say his signing does nothing to fix the issues United has, it does strengthen the squad considerably. Louis Van Gaal now has three world-class forwards for two spots, and goals should come in abundance if they all stay fit.

Tom Cleverley: Manchester United to Aston Villa(loan)

Tom Cleverley’s need for playing time prompted this move, as he was, as ever, low down in the pecking order in Manchester United’s midfield. At one point in his United career it looked like he was about ready to make a step forward only to be stopped by injury, and he then failed to recover his form.

August Transfer Roundup

We continue the transfer outlook with some thoughts on the biggest, and most intriguing, August transfers. Here’s the roundup for May/June as well as Part 1 and Part 2 the July of the Roundup. This last month has seen plenty of action as teams look to finalize what they hope to be championship-winning, or relegation-escaping, sides

We’ll take a look at the transfer deadline day deals separately, as their were a few. There were a lot of interesting moves in August, including a lot of loans for top or highly-rated players, and lots to talk about for fans of those teams involved.

Again, we’ll go by BBC’s list of transfers in each month. Hopefully there won’t be any misses as a result.

Here’s a look at some of the most intriguing transfers in August.

Mathieu Valbuena: Marseille to Dynamo Moscow

So, this one is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. Mathieu Valbuena may not be every fans cup of tea but he’s an intelligent player who certainly should be involved in one of the top leagues in Europe. A move to Russia seems a bit of a step down but the player’s okay with it so who am I to say anything.

Eric Dier: Sporting Lisbon to Tottenham

Can’t say I knew much about Eric Dier before his transfer to Tottenham but Spurs looks like they’ve picked up an interesting player. He’s certainly gotten off to an eventful start at the club, scoring two goals in his first two games and then giving away a penalty in the loss to Liverpool. May be one to keep an eye on.

Keylor Navas: Levante to Real Madrid

The performances of Keylor Navas and Iker Casillas during the World Cup may have helped prompt this deal. Navas was brilliant for Costa Rica, off the back of a solid season with Levante, while Casillas was woeful with Spain. Casillas has started the season in goal but if he goes through a poor run of form he may end up back on the bench.

Jack Rodwell: Manchester City to Sunderland

It never quite worked out for Jack Rodwell at Manchester City, and the former Everton man(who probably should have stayed there) will get to revive his career after joining Sunderland.

Dani Osvaldo: Southampton to Inter Milan(loan)

A year after arriving in Southampton with much fanfare, Dani Osvaldo returned to Italy to join Inter Milan on loan. Osvaldo is a successful Serie A striker, and is a good pickup for Inter Milan. He won’t be a huge loss for the Saints given his lack of productivity. Interestingly enough, Inter’s Saphir Taider went the other way on-loan also but his loan was terminated on transfer deadline day.

Javier Manquillo: Atletico Madrid to Liverpool(loan)

This deal is a good one for all involved. Javier Manquillo gets game time instead of having to compete with the likes of Juanfran and Jesus Gamez, Atletico Madrid have sent out a promising youngster to get good experience at a top club and Liverpool got someone to compete with, or preferably, replace Glen Johnson. At least for two years.

Mauricio Isla: Juventus to QPR(loan)

It’s just not working out for Mauricio Isla at Juventus. He hasn’t featured much for the club since joining in 2012 and a loan move makes sense. QPR is a strange destination though. Isla should feature a lot on the right side in any formation that Harry Redknapp decides to roll out. He can attract some attention with some good performances.

Pepe Reina: Liverpool to Bayern Munich

Pepe Reina seems to like his cheerleader role for Spain. That has to be the only reasoning behind his move to Bayern Munich. He’s behind the world’s best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer, and it’s unlikely he’ll get much playing time. He does offer a good backup should anything happen to the German though.

Aly Cissokho: Valencia to Aston Villa

Aly Cissokho is a good pickup for Aston Villa. The Villans were in the relegation battle last season partly because they had one of the worst defenses in the league. The French left-back will provide some good experience and help solidify the defense overall.

Maarten Stekelenburg: Fulham to Monaco(loan)

A goalkeeper of Maarten Stekelenburg’s caliber and experience doesn’t really want to play in the Championship, and the eventual move to Monaco makes sense.

Gary Medel: Cardiff City to Inter Milan

In an effort to bolster their midfielder Inter Milan picked up Chilean star, Gary Medel. With Cardiff City back down in the championship it wouldn’t have been long before Medel moved on. He’s showcased his skills in La Liga and the Premier League and the Serie A will soon be seeing the “Chilean Gattuso”

Thomas Vermaelen: Arsenal to Barcelona

The Arsenal to Barcelona connection continues, with Thomas Vermaelen joining a long line of Gunners who have moved to the Catalan club. Few have gone the other way though. Vermaelen is well-suited to play in the Barcelona system and should prove a solid buy, provided he stays injury free. Barcelona make another good step towards finally fixing their defense.

Ibrahim Afellay: Barcelona to Olympiakos(loan)

It’s a case of what happened when talking about Ibrahim Afellay.  Injuries and fantastic form from his peers means he never made his mark at Barcelona despite his great talent. Hopefully a good season in Greece sees him return to prominence in European football.

Eliaquim Mangala: Porto FC to Manchester City

Manchester City continues a good summer with the purchase of Eliaquim Mangala. They solidified an area that wasn’t necessarily weak to begin with, and made this side even more complete.

DeAndre Yedlin: Seattle Sounders to Tottenham

DeAndre Yedlin’s performances in the World Cup were sure to attract attention, and Tottenham ended up being the victors in the race for his signature. It’s an interesting move, though, as Yedlin may have to compete with Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and the versatile Eric Dier unless one of the trio leaves before he joins. Staying in the US for now will definitely help his development.

Diego Lopez: Real Madrid to Milan

Not a bad transfer for Milan when you consider that Diego Lopez kept Iker Casillas on the bench for long periods in the last few seasons. Lopez may only have left Madrid as they see Keylor Navas as a younger replacement for Saint Iker.

Christian Atsu: Chelsea to Everton(loan)

Roberto Martinez continued a good summer in the transfer window with the loan signing of Christian Atsu. The Ghanaian winger was lively during the World Cup, and will add plenty of pace and trickery to the Merseyside club. He joins what is a very solid attacking group for Everton.

Shane Long: Hull City to Southampton

The most interesting thing about this transfer is the fee involved, and it has to be said that Hull City definitely got the better of the deal. That Hull sold him after obtaining his signature in January may be a warning sign but Southampton have picked up an energetic, versatile attacker who can chip in with a goal or two.

Javi Garcia: Manchester City to Zenit St. Petersburg

Both teams and the player benefit from this deal. City got rid of a player who didn’t work out in the Premier League, while Zenit pick up a very solid defensive midfielder. Javi Garcia will get a chance to work with Andres Villas Boas(for how long we don’t know) a manager who knows him from his time in Portugal.

Nicklas Bendtner: Arsenal to Wolfsburg

The greatest striker that ever lived was not greeted with much fanfare at Wolfsburg. Doubt that will put a dent in his ego. Bendtner does have talent and could be considered a very, very poor man’s Ibrahimovic due to his physical attributes and skill on the ball. He could carve out a decent career in Germany if he gets focused on playing football.

Victor Moses: Chelsea to Stoke(loan)

Chelsea loan out yet another pacy African winger, not sure what to take from that, who should impress. Victor Moses is a pretty direct attacker, and should benefit from playing time at a club that may not play as possession-based as Liverpool.

Alberto Moreno: Sevilla to Liverpool

One of the best signings of the summer based on his start at Liverpool. The error for Manchester City’s first goal aside, Moreno has been solid both defensively and in attack for the Reds and capped of a great display against Spurs with a wonderful goal. He should make the left-back spot his own with ease.

Nani: Manchester United to Sporting Lisbon(loan)

ESPN’s Michael Cox considers Nani one of the bargain transfers of the summer and that’s understandable, if he plays well. Should Nani recapture his old form, and move away from the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, then this is a good move. Nani wasn’t going to play at United this season regardless, so at least the playing time is a bonus.

Marcos Rojo: Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United

Manchester United’s defense definitely needed a lift after the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Rojo, coming off the back of solid World Cup, is a great addition. The Argentinian defender’s versatility means Louis Van Gaal can play a 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 with Rojo either centrally or as a fullback.

Federico Fernandez: Napoli to Swansea City

Another Argentinian defender enters the Premier League thanks to Federico Fernandez’s transfer to Swansea City. Fernandez will bring some good experience to the Swansea side, and has the physical tools, minus pace, to help solidify the Swansea defense. The club has gotten off to a great start this season, conceding one goal in three games.

Leroy Fer: Norwich City to QPR

Netherlands international, Leroy Fer, joins a long list of players making the jump from relegated clubs to those in top divisions. Fer will add some much-needed physicality, as well as a box-to-box midfield presence for the QPR midfield. He’s used to the Premier League and will be hoping to help his second English team survive the drop.

Georgios Samaras: Celtic to West Bromwich Albion

Georgios Samaras joins West Bromwich Albion and continues his British adventure in the process. The Greek striker is in an interesting player who can run at defenders and is great at holding up the ball. His strike rate isn’t anything to write home about though. Samaras does come on a free and does have Premier League experience from his time at Manchester City.

Mario Balotelli: AC Milan to Liverpool

Certainly one of the biggest, and most intriguing moves of the summer, sees Mario Balotelli return to England to don a Liverpool jersey. The Reds may have swapped one talented headcase, Luis Suarez, for another but they have gotten a proven Premier League goalscorer. Balotelli enhances the Liverpool attack and decreases the pressure on Daniel Sturridge but it is down to Brendan Rodgers to keep him in check and get the best out of him. Tough task.

Samuel Eto’o: Chelsea to Everton

Samuel Eto’o is no longer the same player from his Barcelona and Inter Milan days but he can still be effective as his debut against Chelsea showed. He won’t be expected to start every week but, yet again, Roberto Martinez has made a very shrewd signing that could reap great rewards. Having Eto’o mentor Romelu Lukaku will be a big bonus.

Angel Di Maria: Real Madrid to Manchester United

Having done all the buying they could, Real Madrid decided it was time to start selling and ushered Angel Di Maria into the welcoming arms of Manchester United. Di Maria will have a great impact on the Premier League with his all-action style, once he gets adjusted, but Madrid have let go one of their most important players. It will be interesting to see where he fits in to Louis Van Gaal’s plans but he will be there.

Michael Dawson: Tottenham to Hull City

Michael Dawson has been on the verge of leaving Tottenham in the past few seasons so this eventual move isn’t surprising. FA Cup runners-up, Hull City, have solidified their defense with a vastly experienced player who will help them keep their Premier League status at least one more season.

Kostas Manolas: Olympiakos to Roma

Without knowing too much about the player, besides the fact that Arsenal was reportedly interested at one point, his transfer to Roma seems like a good one. Manolas was a decent performer for an ever solid Greek defense during the World Cup. He will replace Mehdi Benatia, and if he can make the step up from Greek football to the Serie A, then bigger clubs may come running.

Mehdi Benatia: Roma to Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich may not have decided to sign Mehdi Benatia had Javi Martinez not gone down injured. Despite those circumstances, Bayern have picked up a fantastic player and, along with Manchester City as well possibly Chelsea, have one of the most complete squads in Europe. Benatia is comfortable playing in either a back three or back four, is a good reader of the game and should slot right into the Bayern defense.

Federico Fazio: Sevilla to Tottenham

Not to be outdone by his compatriots, Federico Fazio joined the Argentine invasion of the Premier League with his arrival at Tottenham. He will add depth and provide competition for what should be a first-choice pairing of Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen at center back. One worry is his inability to complete over 30 games in a La Liga season due to injuries etc.

Wilfried Zaha: Manchester United to Crystal Palace(loan)

Nothing like returning to familiar places to get one playing good again and that seems to be the case with Wilfried Zaha after his return to Crystal Palace on loan. Another bonus is the fact that Zaha gets to play under former manager, Neil Warnock, again after his return. One game has brought one goal, and those involved will hope for many more.

Esteban Cambiasso: Inter Milan to Leicester City

You have to look no further than Esteban Cambiasso’s move to Leicester City for the most shocking transfer of the summer. The Argentine midfielder brings a wealth of experience and talent that City will be hoping can help them stave off relegation. They’ve looked solid so far despite not picking up a win, and you would think that Cambiasso will add a measure of organization to the Leicester midfield.

Douglas: Sao Paulo to Barcelona

Barcelona completed what was an expensive, and extensive, summer transfer window with the signing of right-back, Douglas. The arrival of the Brazilian helps the club cope with the impending departure of Dani Alves at the end of the season, as they will unable to make any new signings until 2016.

Xabi Alonso: Real Madrid to Bayern Munich

Real Madrid and Bayern Munich raised eyebrows with an interesting move that sees Xabi Alonso join the German club. Alonso has been an integral part of the Madrid setup since his arrival in 2009, with his vision, passing and positional sense providing balance and helping them control games. He will continue that role at Bayern, inevitably strengthening the Bavarian club while weakening Madrid.

Alex Song: Barcelona to West Ham(loan)

Ha. Ha, ha ha. Alex Song surely didn’t think he would return to London to play for the likes of West Ham but that’s how far his stock has fallen since joining Barcelona. Song will be looking to make the best of his loan move and rekindle the form that saw him eventually make his big-money move. His familiarity with the league will help, and his skills could increase West Ham’s ability to play a more expansive game while still retaining a physical presence in the middle.

Daniel Agger: Liverpool to Brondby

While the player’s decision to move is ultimately a deciding factor, it is interesting that a player of Daniel Agger’s caliber decided to move back to the Danish league with former club, Brondby. Agger, 29, has had some injury problems but is still in the peak of his career and could still have been a useful addition elsewhere. Ahem, Arsenal.

Fernando Torres: Chelsea to AC Milan(loan)

Fernando Torres has been a shadow of his former self while at Chelsea and a move was always on. His transfer to AC Milan is good for all involved as Chelsea get rid of dead-weight, Milan get a replacement for Mario Balotelli and Torres gets the playing time necessary to, hopefully, rekindle some of his best form.

Loic Remy: QPR to Chelsea

Out with the old, in with the new. Chelsea’s signing of Loic Remy allows them to replace Fernando Torres with a pacier, versatile and more confident attacker who can certainly contribute to the cause. Remy has been pretty productive since entering the Premier League midway through the 2012/13 season, and can definitely get among the goals with the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas providing service.

Salomon Kalou: Lille to Hertha Berlin

Salomon Kalou, once of Chelsea, is now playing in his third major league after joining Hertha Berlin from Lille. The move seems a bit of a step back for Kalou though, as he was a pretty effective double-digit scorer for the French side. They will be playing in Europe this season and he won’t.

Shinji Kagawa: Manchester United to Borussia Dortmund

Shinji Kagawa returned to Borussia Dortmund after failing to make his mark at Manchester United. That’s mainly down to the succession of managers during his time at the club either failing to trust him or placing him in a position where he could be most effective. Still, the Japanese international’s lack of confidence due to his troubles at the club was clear at the World Cup and a move back to Dortmund should see him return to his best.

Alessio Cerci: Torino to Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid’s signing of Alessio Cerci is another move that strengthens the attack collectively after the departure of Diego Costa. Cerci scored 13 goals and had 10 assists with Torino last season, and given his talent, he should be a good asset to the Madrid attack.

European Leagues Weekend Roundup

The last weekend of league football before the first international break of the season is done. The Serie A finally joined in the fun with its opening round fixtures. Just as with last weekend, there were some big transfer moves to end it all off. Radamel Falcao moved to Manchester United on loan, while Javier Hernandez joined Real Madrid in a similar capacity and Shinji Kagawa returned to Dortmund. Today was transfer deadline day so look out for the roundup of all the August and September transfers in the coming days.

So, on the fixtures. As stated last week, the focus will be on the bigger clubs in all leagues with special performances or shock results getting a mention as well.

Primeira Liga(Round 3) and Eredivisie(Round 4)

Never a dull day in Portugal and the Netherlands as both leagues continue to march on. Porto is now the only big boy to have won all its games, while Benfica and Sporting Lisbon played to a draw. PSV continues to rattle in goals and pick up wins with 14 goals in four games and a perfect record. The shock of the week is Ajax falling to a second straight loss, this time to Groningen. Here’s the highlights of that game.

Ligue 1(Round 4)

Both PSG and Marseille turned on the style this weekend with big wins to climb up the table into familiar positions. Bordeaux still leads the league but things may return to normality soon enough. Monaco again continue to falter, and have left themselves in even more of a precarious position for the season after the departure of Falcao. Why do you enter the Champions League after so many years without arguably the best centre-forward in the game? An ever solid Lille side was the opposition this weekend, so excuses could be made. Meanwhile, gone are the days of the perennial title-winners Lyon.

Ligue 1 highlights here

Serie A(Round 1)

The Serie A returned with plenty of questions. A few of which were answered on day one, as Juventus, Roma and Napoli picked up where they left of with wins. The trio is again expected to battle it out for the title, with Roma and Napoli hoping the departure of Antonio Conte leaves Juventus a bit weaker. The two Milan sides had different fortunes as Inter seemingly couldn’t muster the energy to win after midweek play, while a Europe-less AC Milan started life post-Balotelli in style.

Serie A highlights here

Bundesliga(Round 2)

Bayer Leverkusen continued its good start with a solid home win. Schalke held Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw, while Borussia Dortmund squeaked into the win column. All of that action leaves Bayer as the lone leader in the league now, and neutrals will be hoping they can hold on to put up a strong challenge this season. Conventional wisdom would have Bayern winning it all, yet again, but this season could be different.

Bundesliga highlights here

La Liga(Round 2)

Things have already taken an interesting turn in La Liga after this weekend’s results. Real Sociedad pulled of an absolute shocker with four unanswered goals to defeat Real Madrid. Angel Di Maria won’t be feeling to bad about drawing with Burnley now. It was pretty much business as usual everywhere else though, with Barcelona picking up a hard-fought win as well as Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla getting in on the act.

La Liga highlights here

Premier League(Round 3)

Things got really interesting this weekend in the Premier League with the highlight being a thrilling, from what I’ve heard, encounter between Everton and Chelsea. Will be watching that replay soon enough. Manchester United continued to do an Arsenal with a draw at Burnley, while Arsenal did an Arsenal at Leicester City. Liverpool is the only other big team to come away with positive vibes after decimating Tottenham at White Hart Lane, as Manchester City fell to Stoke City.

Premier League highlights here

 

Until next time.

Leicester City 1 – 1 Arsenal: Pre-Transfer Deadline Day Doldrums

Which is a prequel to Arsenal’s actual transfer day doldrums.

Arsenal entered the international break in typically frustrating fashion after tying away with Leicester City 1-1. One could go on and on about the need for this, the lack of that and so on and so forth but it’s still really early in the season. Although for anyone actually thinking title challenge before all this, I hope they’ve seen the light.

I’ll make this quick since I have plenty of August and transfer deadline day deals(probably none which will involve Arsenal) to look at, as well as European league roundup.

Arsenal now has five points from three games, which looks bad at face-value until you consider Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham have six, Manchester United and Everton have two and Chelsea has nine. Chelsea look ready for the long-haul, and one can’t look past new additions Diego Costa and He Who Shall Not Be Named.

Unlike against Everton, though, the game against Leicester will be looked at as two points dropped. Arsenal fans at the stadium certainly made their feelings known with chants for new strikers to be brought in. Sorry fellas, Sanogo’s just warming up is all.

Alexis Sanchez did score again, which is the only real positive from the game. We were again nervous at times defensively, and even more so with Laurent Koscielny in la-la-land early on. Koscielny return to the field after knocking his head is partly to blame for Leicester’s equalizer and the Frenchman really shouldn’t have come back in.

Maybe having another experienced central defender in the ranks would have discouraged Arsene Wenger from doing something that daft.

Another continuation of stubbornness or lack of tactical insight, or just being senile, saw Arsene Wenger again force Mesut Ozil to play from wide. We aren’t Germany, Wenger. Far from it. And, you saw how ineffective he was in Brazil until the latter stages playing out wide.

Ozil, I’m sure, was bought to play the central attacking midfield role in a 4-2-3-1. That’s his best position. Why the sudden change? Cazorla is one of the few non-wingers who can do a solid job in that position, as he did for Villarreal. Not sure what’s going on there.

Ozil started last season there last year and was great. Whether he’s behind Olivier Giroud or Sanchez he needs to be central or else he’ll continue to falter and fall foul of the Arsenal boo-boys sooner rather than later.

Oh, and there’s also Lukas Podolski looking he could give two #$%s about being played centrally at last after coming on late in the game. I think he would have preferred to take his magical left boot elsewhere if Giroud hadn’t gotten injured.

Oh, well.

Still have ways to go in the transfer day yet.

We’ll see what happens.

FIFA 15 and Football Manager: The Best of Football Virtual Reality Returns

We are weeks away from the annual release of my favourite video game of all time, EA Sports FIFA , and almost two months away from yearly arrival of the highly addictive Football Manager.

FIFA15Box02 Football_Manager_2015_from_Sega

While we’ve spent a lot of time looking at some of the real life events on and off the pitch so far, the return of these video games will see me speak a bit more about the virtual side of the game. That will especially be the case with Football Manager, as right now it’ll be a bit more accessible for me than FIFA.

That may change if my PS3 decides to waltz back into my living room at some point in the next few weeks. Since that’s unlikely to happen, it will be the first edition of the game in some time that I haven’t gotten on the release date. That’s a big deal for those who know me well.

Both games are among the most in-depth and entertaining in the sports genre and are certainly ahead of others where football is concerned. Football Manager’s so in-depth in fact, that it was reported by the Guardian in early August that Premier League clubs will begin to use the game’s database. Here’s further info, again from the Guardian, on just why this move came about.

So this year when I brag about finding a player or using a system that achieves constant success for Arsenal I may think about sending a note or two to Arsene Wenger should he falter in London his season.

Hopefully I can get back on the FIFA train pretty quickly as well, as it’s become increasingly fun to beat players online. Almost as good as Career Mode.

It’ll certainly be fun to play these games, especially for disgruntled fans who think they can do better than their current managers. We’ll definitely take more of a look at these games as time goes on.

Until next time.

Michael Platini’s Champions League playoff plan needs revising – ESPN FC

Michael Platini’s Champions League playoff plan needs revising – ESPN FC.

Some good thoughts in this article but one area of focus in particular involves Arsenal.

As a Gunners fan I should be happy that our years of consistent appearances and progression in the tournament lead to us being a Pot 1 seed. However, I don’t believe it’s deserved in instances like this year when we have to go through playoffs to qualify.

As author, Rory Smith, stated in a note at the end;

*An additional note: the idea that teams can go through the qualifiers and then end up as first seeds, such as Porto and Arsenal, is entirely ludicrous. That privilege should be reserved for champions of the five major nations, the holders, and then the two best sides by coefficient. It is very easy

That’s pretty simple isn’t it? It is called the Champions League after all and the winners of the top leagues in Europe(England, Spain, France, Italy and Germany) should be rewarded for their efforts along with the winner. They are usually among the best performers on the continent as well and they should be joined by the next best teams that automatically qualify.

When we finish third then a Pot 1 seed is okay, but no team that has to play their way into the tournament proper should be able to be in Pot 1. Not that it’s seemed to help either way.

In the last five seasons(including this one) we’ve been in the playoffs three times and only once have we had a group that you would consider relatively easy.  We qualified automatically that season after coming third but came in second in that group.

2010/11 opponents(automatically qualified, Pot 1, finished 2nd) – Shakhtar Donetsk, Partizan Belgrade, Braga

2011/12 opponents(playoffs vs. Udinese, Pot 1, finished 1st) – Marseille, Olympiakos, Borussia Dortmund

2012/13 opponents(automatically qualified, Pot 1, finished 2nd) - Schalke, Olympiakos, Montpellier

2013/14 opponents(playoffs vs. Fenerbache, Pot 1, finished 2nd) - Borussia Dortmund, Napoli, Marseille

2014/15 opponents(playoffs vs. Besiktas, Pot 1, unknown) - Borussia Dortmund, Galatasary, Anderlecht

 

Nothing too easy there and it’s possible that things could get worse if Arsenal was to go to Pot 2. Maybe that would convince Arsene Wenger to push more for a finish in the top 3, or better, rather than the “4th place trophy.”

Let’s see what happens this year.