Reviewing Arsenal Players at the 2014 World Cup

With the World Cup now over we’re taking a look at how Arsenal players fared on footballs biggest stage.

To make things a little more interesting we’ll even look at how the  former players fared as well. We’ll look at how many minutes the players played, and their impact, both good and bad, on their teams performances. Playing less than 45 minutes in the tournament is equal to an N/A, as the player had little time to make an impact or show their skills.

Arsenal had 12 players on the books when the tournament started on June 12. Bacary Sagna finalized his move to Manchester City and Park Chu Young was released during the tournament so we’ll put them both on the former players list

 

Current Players

joel-campbell

France

Laurent Koscielny – Koscielny did get ample playing time in the tournament despite being behind the preferred partnership of Raphael Varane and Mamadou Sakho. He came on as a sub against Switzerland and Germany, but started in games against Ecuador and Nigeria in between.  Koscielny did little to improve or harm his reputation in the tournament, taking part in two clean sheet matches as a starter, against Ecuador and Nigeria, though the defense was certainly tested in both encounters. Verdict: B

Olivier Giroud – Unlike his best mate, Koscielny, the incomparable Olivier Giroud played a part in every game for France. He started twice, against Switzerland and Nigeria, and came on in the other matches. He provided a different option for Didier Deschamps but didn’t make the most of it.  Giroud benefited from an open Swiss team and bagged his first World Cup goal and an assist as a result. Otherwise he had little positive impact for the French. The game against Nigeria was case in point, as his presence made France that much more predictable until he was subbed off, and he did little to change things against Germany. Verdict: C

Germany

Per Mertesacker – Per Mertesacker was one of Arsenal’s better performers during the tournament, and his teammates did well to cover his lack of pace. He played every game bar. Per showed he was a team player by sitting out the quarterfinals, knowing his pace would be an issue then. That was effectively his last game in the tournament, minus a cameo against Brazil. Verdict: B-

Mesut Ozil -One of the surprising factors in Mesut Ozil’s game during the tournament was the level of fitness he showed throughout. Ozil played almost every minute of the tournament except when he was subbed during the demolition of Portugal. He didn’t set the world alight, he held possession and showed some good dribbling but he wasn’t particularly effective until the semifinal. Verdict: C+

Lukas Podolski – Podolski is no longer key to Germany and did little to show why it should be otherwise in his two appearances. One of the few clinical finishers on the squad, Podolski wasn’t called upon when Germany needed a goal against Ghana and failed to be effective against the USA. Verdict: D

England

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – Kind of a wasted tournament for the unfortunate Englishman who was injured and was unlikely to make appearances unless England made it out of the group stage. Verdict: N/A

Jack Wilshere – Jordan Henderson was picked over Jack Wilshere twice before he started the meaningless game against Costa Rica. That about sums up his effectiveness, influence and importance during the tournament. Verdict: D

Spain

Santi Cazorla – Saved the embarrassment of on-field time against the Netherlands, Santi Cazorla was subbed on too late to make an impact against Chile and did a solid job starting against Australia. The Arsenal man will feel that this tournament could have been one to make his mark given the difficulties of his more illustrious teammates but, like so many others, he was still not given much of a chance. Verdict: C+

Belgium 

Thomas Vermaelen – Thomas Vermaelen’s World Cup summed up the previous season at Arsenal. Shunned for a more solid defensive partnership that conceded 3 times in five games, Vermaelen then got injured in only 30 minutes of his only appearance in the tournament. He may be joining the players in the next category very soon if rumours are to be believed. Verdict: N/A

Costa Rica 

Joel Campbell – Arsenal’s most talked about player, which is funny considering some didn’t know or forgot that he was an Arsenal man, Campbell started off the tournament with a bang recording one goal and one assist.  While the offensive production may have waned after, he was still one to watch. Consider that this little 5′ 10″ attacker, according to ESPN FC, appeared in all five games basically as target man against the likes of Diego Godin, Giorgio Chiellini, Gary Cahill, Sokratis Pasthapolous and Ron Vlaar and you have to say that he showed some strength, held up the ball well and wasn’t afraid to take on defenders. Verdict: B

Former Players

Switzerland v Ecuador: Group E - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Switzerland

Johan Djourou – Djorou did a pretty solid job in the back for Switzerland which makes me even more annoyed that Arsenal has less depth in this position. He’s fine as a backup for us, and one that’s needed given the injury troubles the likes of Per Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen have suffered. Verdict: B

Philippe Senderos – Philippe Senderos subbed on versus France. Switzerland loses 5-2 versus France. Correlation? Probably. Senderos didn’t play beyond Switzerland’s second game of the tournament and they may have been better off for it. Verdict: F

France 

Bacary Sagna – Not sure why Mathieu Debuchy is preferred over Bacary Sagna but I guess Didier Deschamps was vindicated as France only lost the one time. Sagna played against Ecuador and provided his usual solidity on the right flank though he didn’t make another appearance. Sagna started the tournament as an Arsenal player but signed for Manchester City on a free, and may yet be replaced by the man who started over him in Brazil. Verdict: C

South Korea

Park Chu Young – Park didn’t do himself any favors in this tournament. He was subbed off against Russia and Algeria without making an impact and failed to feature against Belgium in a meaningless game. He was one of the many to be released by Arsenal during the tournament, and maybe that news affected him. Verdict: D

Cameroon 

Alex Song – Alex Song embarrassed himself, Cameroon and Barcelona with this piece of madness during Cameroon’s 4-0 loss to Croatia. Cameroon was always going to be the weakest African team, and the least likely to make it out of their group but they relied on Song for some semblance of creativity in midfield. He didn’t offer that or anything else. Verdict: F

Spain

Cesc Fabregas – Arsenal fans will have been delighted that Cesc Fabregas’ tournament was such a shambles. Usually playing a major role off the bench, or as starter, Fabregas managed barely 45 minutes of playing time in Spain’s 3 appearances. That’s what you get for going to Chelsea, bub. Verdict: N/A

Croatia 

Eduardo – Eduardo was a talented player during his time at Arsenal so it’s still a bit weird that he doesn’t play a bigger role for his country. He came on during the demolition of Cameroon but wasn’t able to add to the tally. Verdict: N/A

Netherlands

Robin Van Persie – Van Persie started off his campaign with one of the goals of the tournament but kind of petered out as things went on. He did coolly slot home a penalty against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals but wasn’t a major threat to the opposition during the knockout rounds. Scored another penalty in the third-place playoff versus Brazil. Verdict: C+

Ivory Coast 

Gervinho – Two goals and an assist signifies a decent individual tournament for Gervinho despite the overall disappointment that was the Ivory Coast. His goals showcased two of his best attributes, his movement in the box and his dribbling skills while his assist showed an eye for a pass. A decent outing for him personally. Verdict: B-

Kolo Toure – Toure could do little to solidify the Ivory Coast defense against the, um, fantastic attacking capabilities of the Greeks, and confirmed that he is well past his Arsenal prime with his lone performance. At the very least Toure could have marshaled the defense and allowed Ivory Coast to get into the knockout rounds. Verdict: D

 

Thoughts Across the Web Wednesday’s Are Back

Except its Thursday, so we’re a day late. It’s basically a Wednesday in my week though so that’s what counts.

First Thought.

Sanchez to Arsenal, Woohooo. We are back among the big boys. Makes up somewhat for that Fabregas move.

I’m a bit in shock that it’s finally happened to be honest but couldn’t be happier. Unlike my “so what, we got lucky” reaction with the Mesut Ozil signing, I feel we’re on the right track with Sanchez. I expect him to play a major role. Shoot, I’d love to see him put Olivier Giroud on the bench. Then I’d be even happier. That’s a big possibility given his talent.

I feel bad for Barcelona fans, one in particular, as I do like the Catalan side as well. At the end of the summer, I’ll go in-depth about Arsenal’s signings, so that’s it on Sanchez for now.

It’s been a few Wednesdays since I linked articles of interest across the web, and we’re starting that back this week. Have fun reading the links below;

Camaraderie key to Germany success

Interesting look at Germany’s team-building approach for the World Cup. I’ll admit that common sense makes me want to back away from my pick for Argentina as the winners. Still, I’d like to think that this Argentina team is very unified in their ambition, especially when the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio have constantly placed the team ahead of themselves by playing the roles they have thus far.

Key matchups of the World Cup final

Again, Michael Cox brings us some good tactical analysis with a look at key battles. As always, stopping Lionel Messi will be key to Germany making things a bit easier on themselves.

Messi Is Better Than Maradona, But Maybe Not Pele

If you like stats then you’ll love this. I hope Lionel Messi has gotten the Argentina monkey off his back with his performances so far but he could make sure of that reality with a win on Sunday. I honestly don’t know if it should just be these three talked about as the greatest ever, as some will point to the recently deceased Di Stefano and maybe even Johan Cruyff as candidates also.

Germany wary of Lionel Messi counter threat in World Cup final

Messi the focus again. This being a piece from another author  who brings good analysis, Jonathan Wilson.

How Germany’s Awesome Attack Can Break Down Argentina Defence in World Cup Final

Argentina’s defence has gotten better as the tournament has gone, and the Germans may face their toughest test in an attacking sense during the final. Their blowout of Brazil came at the right time, and they will be confident of unlocking the Argentine defense even with Javier Mascherano playing as he is.

Suarez to Barcelona? Sanchez to Arsenal? Hell Has Frozen Over

It may just be that the football gods are smiling on Arsenal at long last in the transfer market.

The Gunners are on the verge of benefiting from mind-boggling transfer moves by two Spanish giants in consecutive summers. Last summer they were able to steal Mesut Ozil away from Real Madrid after Madrid’s signing of Gareth Bale. This summer they seem to be on the verge of signing Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona while the Catalan club signs Senor Chomper(my name for Luis Suarez for the foreseeable future).

The deals for Alexis Sanchez and Chomper are much more closely linked than the usual transfer sagas.

David Anderson of the Mirror reported today that Barcelona will wrap up the deal for the Uruguayan in the next 48 hours, while the BBC’s Sachin Nakrani wrote that Arsenal’s signing of Alexis Sanchez probably won’t be completed until Chomper flees the UK. We’ll see how things pan out over the next couple days.

suarez_sanchez-487303

Both moves are quite surprising given the players and teams involved.

While Barcelona has made some of the right moves in strengthening the goalkeeping and midfield departments, the Suarez/Sanchez swap makes no sense. It’s throwing money at a player they don’t need, and who could be more of a headache, for a player who is coming off his best season at the club amid three seasons of integration.

Remember how spectacularly Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed?

While Suarez may not have the Sweden’s ego, no mere mortal does, he is used to being the kingpin on the pitch like the PSG forward. Who’s to say he’ll be okay taking backseat to Messi like Sanchez, David Villa and Neymar before him?

What makes things even more annoying/absurd/inexplicable is that this comes off the back of his most recent bit(see what I did there?), and subsequent punishment, at the 2014 World Cup.

It’s still incredible that even after Suarez went before FIFA and said he tripped, Barcelona is still interested. Sure, there was an apology but as ESPN FC’s Graham Hunter stated, that was most likely a ploy to get the ball rolling on this transfer. Suarez has tarnished his reputation, and the reputation of two of football’s biggest clubs, Ajax and Liverpool, with this same behavior.

So, does  Barcelona not care? There is no real plus behind bring Suarez to Barcelona as he’s just a slightly better version of Sanchez. It basically boils down to a power move from those in charge, one to hopefully bring in votes for the next elections.

After wasting money on Neymar, and I say wasting in this instance as there were more important needs for the club, those in charge still haven’t gotten the picture. They are again set to put the club further in debt, and with the possibility of facing a tarnished reputation should Suarez act up again. I think he may. Pepe, for instance, is one player sure to get under his skin in La Liga. Can’t wait for that first “Clasico.”

Messi, Neymar and Suarez together? Looks great on paper but its a bit much if you ask me. Does Luis Enrique think that he can get all those players to work well togetherr and keep their egos in check? Gerardo Martino seemed to have a hard enough time with Messi and Neymar tactically while Suarez further muddles the issue plus he brings along his baggage.

Liverpool’s willingness to deal certainly goes beyond the money in play as they are surely fed up with a player who has been as troublesome to deal with as he has been helpful in their resurgence.

But why do I care? Barcelona is only my second favorite club after all.

Their proposed move for Suarez has given Arsenal the chance to strengthen a key area, and make sure I put my foot in my mouth in the process. Just as we whisked away Mesut Ozil so he didn’t feel unwanted, we are now doing the same with Sanchez.

Things look good for now, and if it continues then Arsenal fans will have a new name to chant on game-day.

Unless I’m soon to be woken up with Leonardo DiCaprio looking innocently at me on a flight home, having planted this scenario so deeply in my mind that I believe it’s reality and that Arsenal will win the league.

(It will actually take more than Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy to bring such silverware but we can dream.)

Only one way to find out.

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

So Paddy got up – an Arsenal anthology(Arsenal book)

So Paddy got up – an Arsenal anthology | Arseblog … an Arsenal blog.

So, I’m a bit behind the 8-ball as far as this book is concerned which comes from the creator, and main contributor, of probably the premier Arsenal blog, Arseblog.com.

It’s a fantastic piece of work on Arsenal looking at the club’s past, top players, finances, tactics and plenty of interesting pieces throughout. I’d recommend it to any Arsenal fan despite some of the pieces on events around the club in 2011, when the book was initially published.

Some personal favorites from the 26 chapters include;

4. Dennis(I hope there’s not a question about which Denis)

5. Highbury v Emirates(Been to the Emirates. Unbeaten in all appearances)

7. Herbert Chapman(He absolutely changed the fortunes of the club)

12. Arsene Wenger and Tactics

15.  Wembley. Bastard Wembley(Birmingham City. 2011 Carling Cup. I need not go further)

17. On Arsenal’s Finances: A Game of Two Halves

18. Supporting Arsenal From Afar(Done so all my life)

21. Glory Days(Asks a good question about how one can feel supporting Arsenal through good and bad)

26. We’re on Our Way( A recap of that wonderful, wonderful 05/06 Champions League run. Good times)

 

Going through this book, I gained an even greater appreciation for the level of knowledge and passion portrayed by the authors. I increased my knowledge of certain aspects of the club, and went on a great trip down memory lane. I know I bring a lot of presumably pessimistic views of Arsenal in current times but I still love the Gunners dearly. If you read the Glory Days chapter you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Again, I suggest this to any and all Arsenal fans, old and new.

(Fingers crossed for good news tomorrow)

2014 World Cup Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals Prediction(Revised)

Continuing with our look at predictions for the knockout rounds, we’ll take a look at the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. Here is the revised version of the Round of 16 matchups, as well as the original and the original pre-tournament post of the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals predictions.

As you can see, I had 8-8 predictions correct in the Round of 16 matches and I hope to continue the trend. That probably won’t happen.

One thing to note, as Michael Cox states in his piece looking at the Round of 16, is how fatigue affected teams, and that will continue to be the case.

Brazil vs. Colombia, Netherlands vs. Costa Rica(Crazy, right?), France vs. Germany and Argentina vs. Belgium are were my expected matchups for the quarterfinals, and so it is.

Let’s see how things pan out.

Quarterfinals

 

Brazil vs. Colombia

Brazil barely survived the test against Chile but with almost a week to rectify things, rest and prepare, they will be up to the task against Colombia. Never mind that home team factor.

Colombia will be full of confidence after 4 convincing wins in 4 matches, and they, unlike Chile, will pose a significant threat in the attacking third.

Colombia’s wing-play will be a real worry for the Brazilians as Dani Alves and Marcelo love to bomb forward. The wing-play on both sides will actually be pretty key in this game, with Zuniga vs. Neymar, Cuadrado vs. Marcelo, Armero vs. Hulk/Oscar and Ibarbo vs. Dani Alves. Colombia did play more of a 4-4-2 formation in the game against Uruguay, which could be even more of an issue for Brazil’s defensive unit.

Whether those battles are even or not, this may be the game where James Rodriguez has a chance to truly let his light shine. Or, he could be hounded out by Paulinho and Fernandinho in midfield(Luiz Gustavo is suspended). While you wouldn’t bet against Rodriquez after his performances so far, that duo is certainly capable of reducing his ability to affect the match, and decrease Colombia’s chances of success.

Who Will Win: Brazil marches on, growing in confidence as the tournament goes on.

France vs. Germany

Having gotten this far, France will not be an easy game for any opponent. Germany is a team with plenty of options and experience though, and can stifle Les Bleus attackers.

One thing that may work in France’s favour is the selection of powerful midfielders like Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi against what may be a tired German midfield due to their expenditure against Algeria in extra-time. The problem is that the defense hasn’t been tested too much during the group stage, and Thomas Muller will be waiting. Nigeria did give it a good effort but lacked some of the clinical finishing that Muller and supersub Klose bring.

Germany will look to the dominate the game, and while France will pose a threat on the counter their defense may crack under the pressure.

Who Will Win: Germany advances to set up a fantastic semifinal with Brazil

Netherlands vs. Costa Rica

The fairy-tale has to end some time, and that tale will come to an end for Costa Rica against the Netherlands. Even if they defend deep and try to use Joel Campbell’s speed, they won’t have the advantage on the wings that they have in earlier matches.

Wesley Sneijder isn’t the same player he used to be but he, and Robin van Persie, can unlock the Costa Rican defense and grab the win. The CONCACAF side won’t make it easy but the Netherlands should progress.

Who Will Win: The Netherlands will continue to win, and end Costa Rica’s fairy-tale run.

Argentina vs. Belgium

Argentina will, hopefully, have it all sorted in defense and attack by this game but they may actually be content to let Belgium come to them. Why?

Belgium is another team lacking proper full-backs, and that will finally get exposed against the speed of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, and if Aguero’s not fit, Ezequiel Lavezzi. Kompany does have a good turn of pace but he will have a torrid time with the sloth-like Daniel Van Buyten beside him.

Belgium’s profiligacy in front of goal against the USA will have to be fixed if they are to have a chance. And tracking Lionel Messi, as all other opponents have done, will be essential. The duo of Marouane Fellaini and Axel Witsel aren’t the most agile or quick players, so if Marc Wilmots is smart he would use someone like Moussa Dembele to deal with Messi.

Belgium will surely have chances, and will be a major threat on set-pieces but Argentina’s attack will be too much. Messi may just find the extra freedom he needs to continue having a major impact on games.

Who Will Win: Lionel Messi and company going to march on to what would be a great semifinal matchup.

 

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany

Here’s where Germany’s lack of full-backs finally catches up with them, as Neymar and Hulk, or whoever else plays on the wing, should have a good time attacking Howedes and Boateng out wide. On the opposite end, Brazil’s defensive unit has enough pace and strength to  keep a handle on Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gotze.

At this point, you also have to take into effect the psychological mindset for both sets of players. Brazil, playing at home, will be out of the gates with force and an early goal will leave the Germans feeling, yet again, that a  trophy is out of their hands.

Brazil’s speed and physical power will be too much for Germany in the end.

Who Will Win: Brazil to go through

Argentina vs. Netherlands

An open game is a good thing here for the fans but neither defense will be happy. Louis van Gaal could switch the Netherlands between 5-3-2 and 4-3-3 depending on the situation, while Argentina may be more settled in a 4-3-3.

Argentina can use Australia’s blueprint to trouble the Netherlands defensively, and the greater amount of quality players in the ranks means a good few chances, and finishes, should be in store. Argentina will have also been provided with a trial run for shackling Arjen Robben, as Xherdan Shaqiri provides similar pace, trickery and finishing from the wings.

Who Will Win: Whether Lionel Messi’s brilliance is required or not, Argentina have it in them to make it past this stage.

Finals

Brazil vs. Argentina

Here’s what I had to say about this game pre-tournament;

Is it too crazy of me to think that any team could defeat Brazil, in the Maracana, especially after what they did to Spain a year ago? Probably.

If there’s one team that can do it then it’s Argentina. While they may not have played in a game of this size against their eternal rivals, the Argentinians are more accustomed than most to a hostile Brazilian crowd. Add in the confidence boost of beating the World Champions and you have a Argentina side raring to end their trophy drought.

Their defensive weakness will again be tested but all bets are off in what should be a back and forth encounter. Argentina has more clinical finishers to make the most of their chances on the break in the form of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. Angel Di Maria can chip in as well, and his energy on the left will prove just as vital in exploiting the Brazilian defense as Lionel Messi on the right.

Here is where Lionel Messi quiets all critics once and for all. The Barcelona man is the reason I just can’t stray away from an Argentina victory for my predictions.

As disappointed as I feel about this assumption, I think he held something back during the season, though I’m sure the injuries weren’t part of the plan. Lionel Messi will make this tournament his, and lead his country to glory.

Only a few changes required to that statement. Argentina will be confident, though they wouldn’t have faced Spain, and they will be less affected by the Brazilian crowd.

It should be a back and forth game, and Angel Di Maria, given his history against Dani Alves, is one player who will be vital for Argentina.

I still think an Argentina win is going to happen, especially as they have a great chance of getting to the final where anything is possible.

Looks like we are in for another long Arsenal Summer

I haven’t written about anything Arsenal-related as much as I’d like but there hasn’t been much to feed on so far besides a constant barrage of ridiculous transfer rumours. And then there’s that thing about Cesc Fabregas which we won’t mention again.

Ever.

There’s still two months left in the summer, and anything could happen, but it looks like another long wait for some official news. I’ll only take anything from Arsenal.com as reality on new signings.

What was my dream for Arsenal’s activity so far? Well, anything  really. The incident surrounding “he who shall not be named” is a prime example of a missed opportunity, not to mention the situation with Carlos Vela, and for all the rumours so far it seems unlikely that anybody will sign before the World Cup ends.

I, for one, would have loved to see Carlos Vela back in an Arsenal shirt. Will we use the extra money to sign someone useful?

I, for one, would have loved to see Carlos Vela back in an Arsenal shirt. Will we use the extra money to sign someone useful?

Arsene Wenger certainly felt that would be the case and while he’s somewhat right in that a lot of big teams haven’t made moves, there’s still been some activity from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City. Some of those moves involved players involved in the World Cup.

As has been the case for the past few summers, Arsenal’s rivals have already gotten the jump on strengthening key areas of the squad, while Arsene Wenger’s been on honeymoon holiday with the FA Cup trophy. Doing this. Even then, there are fans of other teams begging Wenger not to steal their stars. Don’t worry, he won’t.

Actually, he’s in Brazil scouting for the next youth star to raise up and sell, or he’ll pick up some obscure talent.

It’s as this point in the summer, after seeing all the other activity, that Arsenal fans, especially those paying week in, week out for tickets at the Emirates, should enact some retribution, Stewie style. And if there’s still no proper action by August then there’s always part 2.

Okay, maybe that’s harsh and I’m reacting a bit too soon when, as mentioned before, there’s two months left in the transfer window.

My frustration is down to seeing other teams make moves, and seeing the  number of players linked to Arsenal that we’re highly unlikely to buy. Same old, same old.

Was Mesut Ozil a one off?  Or will he be joined by more?

Was Mesut Ozil a one off?
Or will he be joined by more?

Some Arsenal fans seem to get too excited with every mention of a quality player, and after the signing of Mesut Ozil it’s not too far-fetched to say we’ll spend money. Given the top options touted though, I still doubt it. Nobody, minus probably a select few, knew about the Ozil signing and I don’t see Arsene Wenger being happy with his supposed big-money targets being tweeted and reported by every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Serge Aurier? – seems the most plausible as he fills as need and Wenger has worked with Ivory Coast players before.

Karim Benzema?- Already unlikely, and he’s certainly prized himself out a move with his World Cup performances so far.

Alexis Sanchez? - Barcelona would be dumb to let him go, and he’s another player who’ll cost some change after the World Cup.

Arturo Vidal? – Juventus would raise eyebrows with the sale, and all Wenger said was that he’s a great player.

Mario Balotelli? – Really? Does anybody think Wenger would want this headcase in the team despite his talent?

Those are some of the big-name or most linked players in terms of transfer rumours to the Gunners, and I don’t see any of them as a reality. Maybe the likes of Loic Remy and Morgan Schneiderlin, sorry Southampton fan, are more attainable.

Now, I’m not saying we can’t attract those top players but those players in particular seem pretty tough buys at this point.

I guess we’ll see when August ends how the team has changed. Hopefully it has for the better.

On another note, I’m adding a new category, books, and I’ll start with a book that every Arsenal fan should read “So Paddy Got Up -An Arsenal Anthology.” I know I’m behind the 8-ball as far as that’s concerned, and a few of the articles concern event surrounding Arsenal in 2011, but its a good read nonetheless.

Until next time.

 

2014 World Cup Round of 16 Knockout Predictions(Revised)

One day of no World Cup action couldn’t be over quicker, and I’ll be glad when I can again do something productive at work. The Round of 16 begins tomorrow with Brazil facing Chile, and an intriguing game between Colombia and Uruguay.

With a number of teams unwilling to take part in my dream to be lauded as a seer in world football results, we’ve instead been presented with these match-ups.(See below)

actualbracket

In the meantime, here’s a look at my earlier predictions, and how the bracket looked before the tournament even begun.(Quick Fact: I have gotten 2.7% of my group stage predictions correct). Will not be joining the ranks of Paul the Octopus with those kinds of numbers.

 

bracketfinal

 

 

Unfortunately, four of my quarter-finalists are out. Thankfully, my predicted winner is still in. Is Argentina still my choice? They certainly have a great chance. Look below to see why they’ll progress from the next round, and in my future post looking at the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

 

Brazil vs. Chile

At least I got one right. My previous thought on this match was a Brazil win, though it wouldn’t be an easy one. Things are a lot more iffy after the group stages. The Brazil squad seems to still be playing with nerves, and that isn’t a good prospect against a fearless Chilean side.

Chile has been about more than just gung-ho attacking and pressing in matches but can they beat the home team? The problem is that despite the fact that they will make Brazil nervous, they still seem to lack the cutting edge to make teams pay.

Alexis Sanchez and Neymar will be key, but Oscar may be the one to make or break this tie depending on his performance.

Who Will Win: Just like before, I believe Brazil has too much for Chile. The home crowd will boost them, and Neymar has been electric so farI won’t be mad if Chile win as they certainly are capable.

Colombia vs. Uruguay

Colombia has arguably been the most exciting side in the tournament so far. With James Rodriquez pulling the strings, Juan Cuadrado on the wing, as well as a clinical striker like Jackson Martinez, Colombia is a side to be feared by anyone. This team has strength in many areas of the pitch and will be confident heading into the group stages.

Uruguay, however, has failed to live up to expectations after the 2010 World Cup, and their situation looks bleak without Luis Suarez. Experience, team spirit, and some quality players like Edison Cavani and Diego Godin means this side should not be counted out despite missing Luis Suarez.

Who Will Win: Colombia should come out on top in this encounter, as they can bring a variety of attacking weapons to combat what is usually a stern Uruguayan defense. If they get ahead early, they’ll trouble Uruguay on the counter.

Netherlands vs. Mexico

This should be a good, open game, with both teams looking to attack with width and pace. In terms of a tactical battle, it’s likely that both teams will line up in a similar formation. With quality players like Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben, especially with Robben’s pace, the Netherlands should wreak havoc on the Mexican back line.

Mexico will no doubt be confident, but so will the Netherlands. Neither side was expected to do as well as they have, and both would be favorites to progress to the semifinals given their possible opponents.

Who Will Win: Mexico will fail to make it past the round of 16 yet again, as the Netherland’s attack will expose the likes of Rafa Marquez and Francisco Rodriguez.

Costa Rica vs. Greece

It’s hard to call this one, given the major surprise that either team made it to this stage. Costa Rica may be the neutral’s favourite, and could well continue a fantastic run thanks to superb tactical discipline(something the Greeks know about too) and some speedy attackers.

Unlike Greece, the CONCACAF side will come into the game a bit more rested, and they are more accustomed to the heat. Colombia’s speedy wing players troubled Greece in the first game and if they continue to play their fullest then Costa Rica’s players will do the same.

Who Will Win: Costa Rica will continue to surprise, and delight, on-watchers without playing the “Park the bus” strategy usually put in play by underdogs.

France vs. Nigeria

France will have the run of play in this game, but will be fearful of players like Ahmed Musa and Emmanuel Emenike on the break. Nigeria have done a decent job defensively in this tournament, even nullifying Lionel Messi to an extent, but will have their hands full against a team with 5 different goalscorers.

Having gone toe-to-toe with one of the favorites in Argentina, the Super Eagles will feel they can do a similar job against France, albeit with a win.

Who Will Win: France will have its nervous moments but should come through with a victory in the end.

Germany vs. Algeria

Germany’s toughest test in the group stage came from a powerful, energetic Ghana side and they will face a similar test against Algeria. This African squad showed how they could respond in three different situations, almost holding out a talented Belgian side, blitzing South Korea, and coming back to hold Russia.

Germany is the top European team remaining and have a ll the necessary tools to make a run to the final. If Joachim Low continues to persist without proper fullbacks then Germany will find it tougher to break through Algeria. Just as they found it tough against the USA.

Who Will Win: Germany should go through without too much fuss if they play full tilt from the start. It won’t be a walkover bu the Germans can make a statement by dominating the match.

Argentina vs. Switzerland

Argentina will be hoping this game is as open as their encounter with Nigeria. They’ll also be hoping Philippe Senderos makes his way unto the pitch somehow. It will be interesting to see how they shackle Xherdan Shaqiri, considering his impressive hat-trick in the last group game.

The key element here will be the Swiss full-backs against Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi, as well as Ezequiel Lavezzi.  Angel Di Maria especially may just be able to use this as his breakthrough game in the tournament, with Stephan Lichtsteiner susceptible defensively.

Who Will Win: Argentina’s attacking unit can pull them through this game, even if the defense is troubled because of tactics or dangerous opponents.

Belgium vs. USA

If there is one favoured team that has cause to fear its Belgium. Despite all their talent, the Red Devils struggled through the group stages against two teams, Algeria and Russia, that were well-organized defensively.

They will face the same test against the USA but are capable of breaking down the side. They shouldn’t have too many worries defensively, if Jozy Altidore isn’t available. The key battle may come on the right side for the US and the left side for Belgium. If Eden Hazard doesn’t track back with Fabian Johnson, the USA may just get that one moment they need to steal the tie.

The longer it goes on, the better for the USA.

Who Will Win: Belgium should win on paper, and they do have a bit of confidence with a 1-0 win while playing with 10 men. The USA has belief after getting through the “Group of Death.”  I’ll say a Belgium win  is on the cards but the USA stealing it wouldn’t be surprising.

 

2014 World Cup Fantasy Team(Revised)

With the knockout rounds of the 2014 World Cup set to start tomorrow, I got a chance to make some much-needed changes to my Fantasy team.

Here’s the original side, one you’d expect to bring plenty of points, and most players didn’t disappoint. We obviously know what happened with Spain and Italy but the rest of players did as I expected. Andre Ayew was my “cheapest” starter and he almost had as much points as Neymar and Lionel Messi.

fantasyteam

This wasn’t a bad squad by any means but I like this knockout round group better. The setup the last time was a 3-5-2 but I’ve moved it to a 3-4-3(attacking players get all the points after all) and had to make a few changes as a result  of players going home.

So here it is.

newfantasyside

 

Again, I went for quality and, hopefully, plenty of points while taking into account match-ups and how far I expect the teams these player represent to progress.

The only tough decision was between Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller, and I may yet switch that. Muller costs less which means I could get Eden Hazard to replace Dries Mertens. I expect one of those two Belgians to be productive against the USA, no matter the result.

Robben, though, should be involved in an open game against Mexico and I see his pace playing a major role in creating some goal-scoring opportunities.

Manuel Neuer actually cost less than Iker Casillas, a miss on my part the first time around, but who would’ve expected “Saint Iker” to be going home and perform so horribly.

There may be more changes as the knockout rounds progress but I doubt I’ll ever get the majority of one team together.

Hopefully this lineup can win some major points.

 

2014 World Cup Group Games Done: It’s Been Crazy So Far

Alright, so, that was a fantastic start.

This 2014 World Cup has provided us with 136 goals in 48 games thanks to some wonderful attacking football.

Sure, there have been a few misses here are there, I’m looking at you Russia, but overall the tournament has provided plenty of excitement, and surprises. With the group stages over, we start to get down to the games that will ultimately decide the world’s best team.

Of course, they were off the field elements as well, mainly from the African sides(more on that later) and Luis Suarez managed to grab the spotlight yet again by testing a new type of Italian dish, Spaghetti and Chiellinis. He’s since been banned but even the length and severity is still cause for argument among some.

suarez

Folks have argued that leg-breaking tackles or elbows being thrown should deserve as harsh a punishment but is there any one player that does that three times, without provocation? 

Roy Keane’s attack, and it was an attack, on Alf-Inge Haaland is one incident that comes to mind and that ended with a ban and fine for the player on two separate occasions. Keane probably deserved more but, even then, Suarez’s case is different. We have on our hands a serial biter who bit three different players, in three different countries, in three different situations and caught his victim unawares. Next Criminal Minds episode, maybe?

The fact is that leg breaks etc, however unfortunate and seemingly malicious in intent, are part of the game and generally occur in a contact sport. Biting, however, is just plain weird.

Thankfully that sad, sad man won’t be in the World Cup anymore, and hopefully his country won’t be either. So,  enough of that mess. Back to the football.

It’s fair to say my bracket predictor is pretty much busted, but my fantasy team is going strong, and will get some much-needed changes going into the knockout stages.

I’ll take a look at my pre-tournament predictions, and my revised predictions, in the next post but for now let’s review what’s gone on so far.

Group A

Predicted: Brazil and Croatia            Actual: Brazil and Mexico

Brazil progressed as expected here but the surprise in the group was Mexico. I’m happy the CONCACAF side made it into the next round but I did not expect them to perform as they did considering the results from qualification. Croatia, however, was quite disappointing, even with a 4-0 drubbing of Cameroon.

Brazil didn’t really put any fear into their opponents during the group stages, and will have to find more solidity defensively, and get Neymar some more help, to reach the final.

The goals didn’t flow for Mexico until the final game despite an attacking style and that, as well as a defense low on pace, may be found out in the next round.

Group B

Predicted: Spain and Chile            Actual: Netherlands and Chile

Oh, boy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I owe the Netherlands an apology for thinking they were done and dusted after the 2010 World Cup. Three wins out of three, with some good attacking to boot, and the Netherlands will be feeling really good about their chances moving forward.

Chile was expected to be a real threat to many sides in this tournament, and they’ve proven they can be just that. There’s not much to be said about Spain that hasn’t been said already and Australia can go home with their heads held high.

Group C

Predicted: Ivory Coast and Colombia                Actual: Colombia and Greece

You would think that Ivory Coast, just this once, would get it right. They could be excused in 2006 and 2010 but this time they were just plain disappointing. All it took was a draw with Greece and Didier Drogba and company couldn’t do that. For all the talk about the “Golden Generation” this Ivory Coast team was weak in key areas. The same can’t be said of Colombia.

Colombia has set itself apart as one of the teams to watch in the knockout rounds, with James Rodriquez orchestrating proceedings in fantastic fashion. They are another side that won 3 out of 3 and didn’t look to threatened in any game. Greece weren’t as boring as 2004 but are still aren’t the most entertaining of teams.

Japan was one of the most disappointing teams of the tournament, especially after the 2010 World Cup.

Group D

Predicted: Italy and England              Actual: Costa Rica and Uruguay

Wow, Costa Rica. Joel Campbell, an Arsenal man by the way, leads the attack for a side that has surprised three top footballing nations. As with Mexico, I’m happy this CONCACAF side made it through in unexpected circumstances. Their win over Uruguay is surely one of the most surprising of the tournament.

Both Italy and England disappointed thanks to certain individuals not playing up to par. Italy was expected to continue its progression from Euro 2012, while many were excited by the injected of youth and creativity in the English side. Whether it was the heat, expectation or Luis Suarez(who I’m sure was happy to decimate some of the very defenders he did during the 2013/14 season) they both fell flat.

And, Uruguay. Well. Not really much to say there, they did what they had to and made it through. They have the tournament experience necessary to go far.

Group E

Predicted: France and Ecuador             Predicted: France and Switzerland

Maybe there was too much faith put in the continental advantage for Ecuador on my part. Judging by their performance in the group stages they weren’t worthy of progressing. Enner Valencia will have turned heads with his performances though.

Despite receiving the third worse loss of the tournament(Cameroon to Croatia and Spain to Netherlands come before), Switzerland’s talented players came through and have set up an interesting match with Argentina.

Honduras did as expected but France, despite being expected to win the group, surprised with their teamwork and efficiency in the final third. They face a Nigeria team that will also have confidence after almost going toe-to-toe with Argentina. The team spirit shown by the French can have a positive effect moving forward.

Group F

Predicted: Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina             Actual: Argentina and Nigeria

Argentina hasn’t been impressive, and they haven’t been horrible. Lionel Messi looks like he’s warming up and could drag this side to a title all by himself. He may just get some help during the knockout rounds though.

Nigeria isn’t too big of a surprise at second but that partially down to a disappointing, and disheartened Bosnia and Herzegovina team. They may have felt things didn’t go their way in the two most important games but they have only themselves to blame. A better result was not far from reach in the games against Argentina and Nigeria.

Iran showed up. Now they’re gone.

Group G

Predicted: Germany and Ghana         Actual: Germany and USA

The “Group of Death” lived up to its billing with all teams having a chance of progression in the final round of games. One team shot itself in the foot more than most, and another made the best of everything that was given to them. Can we figure out who’s who?

Ghana should have beaten the US in their first game and would have had a good chance of progression had that been the case. The performance against Germany provided an example of the best of what African football had to offer. The incidents leading up to the Portugal game showcased the worst.

Germany’s place was never really in doubt and Portugal did little to suggest there’s much success coming after Ronaldo. The US must be credited for getting the points they needed with solid showings and they could prove a hurdle for Belgium.

Group H

Predicted: Russia and Belgium        Actual: Belgium and Algeria

The games in Group H weren’t overly exciting, minus Algeria and South Korea’s back and forth attack-fest. Belgium huffed and puffed and eventually broke teams down but everyone’s favorite dark horse will need to improve significantly.

Russia provided tactical discipline as expected but were oh, so boring as a result. Algeria shook of the shackles after Game 1 and deserved to get into the knockout round. South Korea, like Japan, was quite disappointing and one would have expected them to do better in an open group.