And the Slow Start Continues

Common sense says it’s still way too early in the season for cynics to criticize the Gunners but another ho-hum result may see the scoldings begin in earnest.

Arsenal’s 0-0 draw away at Besiktas wasn’t the worst result possible for the London side and there were certainly a number of positives. There were negatives as well that seem indicative of a repeat of last seasons decisions, which were ultimately mistakes, by Arsene Wenger.

Why, for instance, was the starting XI, bar one or two players, from the Crystal Palace game trotted out after a short rest and an away trip? Arsene paid the prices for that decision with an injury to Mikel Arteta possibly forcing him out of the next few games, and some poor performances across the pitch.

The duo on the left side composed of Santi Cazorla and Nacho Monreal offered little going forward, the incomparable Olivier Giroud lacked sharpness, and Aaron Ramsey got himself red-carded. Those were some of the other negatives that made the return leg, despite it being a home encounter, a trickier proposition than before.

The game itself was pretty open while also being a bit physical, and there’ll be two players considering wearing cups before the return leg kicks off. Some of Arsenal’s underwhelming play is a result of the short preseason for certain players after the World Cup and it’s obvious that things should get better before they get worse.

One major worry tactically, besides the inability to finish against an open side, was Besiktas’ attacking down the left flank.

Mathieu Debuchy’s interest in pushing forward is all well and good but time and again there were was space in behind the position he vacated. That led to almost the best chance of the game for Besiktas soon after the second half begun. The Gunners inability to completely control the game as they should have also made it a more nerve-wracking affair than it should have been.

On the positive side, Alexis Sanchez began to show what he could really do for Arsenals’ attack on the break. He was the Gunners best player in that respect and I’m really hoping to see him lead the line.

Speaking of leading the line, where the heck did this version of Demba Ba come from?

For about 60 minutes, until he no longer received good service and lost some fitness himself, Ba was the complete opposite of Giroud. Creating chances, holding up play and almost scoring a spectacular effort from the kick-off. It’s a wonder what confidence can do for a player.

The final result is still not something to scoff about but with an away trip to Everton at the weekend things could get hairy fast. The Toffees will give Arsenal their sternest test so far this infant season, and will be keen to make up for lost points against Leicester City.

Should be fun. Until next time.

Looking at European Leagues during the 2014/15 season

I said we’d start with a Premier League roundup after an interesting first Round but the idea moving forward was to bring news and results from Europe’s best leagues.

We’ll try make this a weekly thing as we take a look at the top 5 European leagues(Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1). The Eredivisie and Primeira Liga will get a look as well.

The focus will be mainly on the big teams in each league, hopefully we won’t have to spell that out, but any team or individual performance of note will get a nod. Three of the seven leagues have already started, with Ligue 1 and the Eredivisie already one game ahead, so we’ll play catch up on those next week.

Since the Premier League holds special interest thanks to a certain North London side, we’ll just comment on the big boys there this time around.

There weren’t any major surprises as far as results go.

Manchester United lost to Swansea City at home, but it wasn’t a big shocker given the lack of depth and the club fighting to regain confidence from last season. The best team won in truth. Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool decided to play with fans hearts a bit with some very close scorelines and interesting performances. The ever faithful and, even more extremely hopeful, Gooners will already be biting fingernails. Elsewhere, it was all business as usual for Manchester City and Chelsea as they effectively dealt with their opposition and were comfortable victors in the end. Everton drew with Leicester City and may come to rue the dropped points later in the season. Leicester City look like they may be in the league to stay though.

So that’s a look at Round 1 of the Premier league and we’ll look to bring in all the leagues that have started beginning next week. Here’s to hoping Arsenal doesn’t throw away all the good summer work by ending up in the Europa League.

Will bring a recap of the Besiktas versus Arsenal match tomorrow. Bonne chance(did I say that right?), Gunners.

What Should Brandao’s Fate Be?

The aftermath of PSG’s recent 2-0 victory of Bastia brought some pretty interesting activity. Bastia forward, Brandao, once a Marseille player, head-butted PSG’s Thiago Motta in the tunnel after the game.

The response in some areas, led by PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, is for the Brazilian attacker to be banned for life. Some are also looking at Luis Suarez’s recent suspension and wondering how any punishment, and there’s no doubt that there will be, will stack up.

The Suarez situation shouldn’t come into play as far as this issue is concerned. Suarez performed his act of aggression in three different countries, in three different competitions and in two different continents. He obviously didn’t learn his lesson and his punishment was deserved.

Brandao took things to another level with an obviously premeditated act that occurred well after the result was over. Suarez’s actions were borderline premeditated/reaction to a situation.

What happened to Brandao during the match that could have caused such a reaction? There have been no reports so far of any ill-mannered activity towards the Bastia forward.

The question is, what should happen to Brandao?

The latest updates surrounding the situation, courtesy of Tim Daniels from Bleacher Report, show that Bastia is looking to terminate attackers contract. That’s a good start.

One would think that Ligue 1 may even chime in at some point with punishment of their own. Whatever the case, it may be fair to say that Brandao’s future in European football may be over. He’s 34 years old and has provided many clubs with a valid reason to avoid signing him beyond just his football skills.

We’ll see what happens.

Arsenal Start Off By Making Things Difficult

The win’s all that matters in the end, right?

True.

Arsenal opened their Premier League campaign with a 2-1 win over a Crystal Palace side recently stripped of their manager. The performance wasn’t one that excited, the result is the most important thing.

Not that there were many negatives during the 90 minutes. In fact, there were mostly positives throughout.

The debuts of Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers were solid but unspectacular. Alexis was somewhat frustrating, and certainly looked frustrated, but showed in spurts what he could bring to the Arsenal attack. Debuchy provided plenty of attacking verve down the right side, which is both a good and bad thing. Chambers didn’t have too much to do but was okay.

That the side still struggled to break down a defensively sound and well-organized Crystal Palace team is some cause for concern but that should be rectified when everyone is fully fit. We hope.

My preference is still to see Sanchez lead the line with Walcott and Cazorla out wide, though the Spaniard can’t be drifting into the middle so much and leaving us with no real outlet on the left. Kieran Gibbs does join the attack but not with the same gusto as Debuchy and with no other player out there the options were limited.

The major positive is Aaron Ramsey’s continued ability to influence games, as he popped up with another winner. The major negative was the lack of organization on set-pieces, a known issue, that almost led to an opening day debacle.

One other thing, which was mentioned in the Tactics Column on Arseblog, was Mikel Arteta in the Pirlo-type role with Ramsey and Jack Wilshere effectively acting as runners on either side. Arteta can certainly dictate things from there effectively but will be caught out by much pacier and more positive sides as the season wears on.

The team showed good fight, perhaps a product of the positives from last year and the FA Cup comeback, to take control and win the game.

Besiktas is up next in the Champions League qualifiers and that should be a real test. We’ll take a look at all the Premier League games once the first round of fixtures are completed.

Arsenal 2014/15 Season Preview

The European football season couldn’t come soon enough to help us football fanatics get over our World Cup withdrawal. For Arsenal fans like me, the Premier League will hold special interest.

The end of the 2013/14 season has created a new-found belief for everyone at Arsenal, and the fans. After almost a decade of failed title attempts, selling star players and generally being the butt of jokes around the football world, Arsenal won the FA Cup.

While there’s still cynicism around the club despite that success, Arsenal has made moves this summer to show they intend to progress and return to winning ways.

Here’s a preview of Arsenal’s 2014/15 season, including a look at transfers, preseason play and expectations for the next season.

 

Transfers

In: Alexis Sanchez, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina, Calum Chambers(there have been a few youth transfers as well but our focus is the first team here)

Out: Lukasz Fabianski, Bacary Sagna, Nicklas Bendtner, Park Chu-Young, Johan Djourou, Thomas Vermaelen, Carl Jenkinson(loan)

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After surprising everyone with arguably the biggest move of the 2013/14 season upon signing Mesut Ozil, Arsenal made just as big a splash this summer with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez. I’m sure it’s safe to say that Arsenal fans were deliriously excited with the move. I know I was.

Finally, someone who can lead the line with mobility, creativity and a good finishing touch. Can you tell I’m not a fan of the incomparable Olivier Giroud? Needless to say, Sanchez is who I would like to be our primary forward. Hopefully that happens soon.

The other signings weren’t blockbusters by any means but filled needs, increased depth and added quality. Sort of.

Mathieu Debuchy replaces Sagna, and hopefully won’t be a big drop in defensive solidity. David Ospina provides Wojciech Szczesny with his toughest challenge for a No. 1 spot, and Calum Chambers is an exciting young British talent.

The issue with Debuchy and Chambers is that they are replacements, not additions. Arsenal is left with only six first-team defenders(Gibbs, Monreal, Debuchy, Chambers, Mertesacker and Koscielny) after the departures of Carl Jenkinson, Thomas Vermaelen(always going to happen) and Johan Djourou.

Soo, how exactly are we going to win the title, or anything else for that matter, with six defenders in the group?

There’s still time before the transfer window ends so I would hope for at least one more signing to make it three experienced center backs with Ignasi Miquel as the fourth. At least eight defenders are needed, if only for depth but also hopefully with quality. I’d throw in a quality defensive midfielder as well but that may be too much to ask.

We shall see. In any case, the results, and mainly the play, during preseason was promising.

 

Preseason Games

Arsenal had a short preseason due to the World Cup, and we’ll see what sort of effect it has to start the season. There were only four( I guess we could count the Community Shield to make it five) games in 2014 compared to seven in 2013.

Versus Boreham Wood: A bit of a throwaway game here, and one which I’m not too ashamed to say I didn’t watch. There were some good showings from both the senior and youth members based on the match report and highlights. The result was expected.

Versus New York Red Bulls: Thierry Henry being my favorite player added to my interest in a match where I expected to see more first-team players in the lineup. While that was the case, the fact that Tomas Rosicky was the furthest man forward meant it wasn’t going to be too memorable a performance where Arsenal was concerned. That was exactly what happened as Henry stole the show, and the Gunners had positive play in spurts.

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Versus Benfica: The highlight of the preseason where performance and goals are concerned. Two of the new boys(Sanchez and Chambers) played and both looked good. Yaya Sanogo got a major confidence boost with his four goals while Joel Campbell showed his World Cup wasn’t a flash in the pan deal. The fluidity of movement and passing was another good point in this display.

Versus Monaco: A sluggish performance when compared to Benfica the day before, but again the onus was more on fitness. That Radamel Falcao was left all alone to nod home a confidence-boosting goal is a slight cause for concern. Again, the good outweighed the bad but sterner tests will show what we are all about.

Versus Manchester City: The naysayers will point to Manchester City’s lack of strength and attitude when looking at the 3-0 result. The team as a whole, as well as certain individuals, ensured it was a very comfortable win for the Gunners who still faced some top talent. A definite psychological bonus that I hope we build on.

Players who Impressed: 

Sanogo – broke his duck and looking confident, hopefully Wenger’s faith will be rewarded

Chambers -Played center back and was very solid, doesn’t make up for a lack of depth though

Sanchez - We got to see him in an Arsenal jersey, that’s enough for me

Campbell – Continued an impressive summer by showing he could add skills that Arsenal’s attack needs

Wilshere – Breakout season? Who cares if he took a puff? Showed some good touches and energy

Gibbs – Quietly introducing himself as another in a long line of solid Arsenal left-backs

 

Tactics/Starting Lineup

The starting lineup that was trotted out against Manchester City on Sunday is arguably the strongest XI for the Gunners at this moment, and that will probably be the group that entertains Crystal Palace this weekend.

I say probably because there are some minor injury doubts surrounding Laurent Koscielny with reports from Squawka and Arseblog News, though the Frenchman doesn’t show up on the team injury news. That would leave us with the possibility of playing a tanned Per Mertesacker beside the still not-really-a-center back-yet Calum Chambers. Marouane Chamakh must be rubbing his hands together with glee.

That type of situation is exactly the reason we need an extra center back, though I wouldn’t mind a versatile player capable of filling in there and elsewhere as mentioned in the Arseblog News article.

Arsene Wenger will obviously rotate players throughout the season given form and fitness but it will be interesting to see who are the preferred 11 once ze Germans and Theo Walcott are fit. Pretty much all the positions are filled.(There won’t be a star DM seeing as Arteta is now captain)

The  positions in question are right-wing and forward. What you see below is the most likely starting lineup once everyone’s at full fitness and so forth. Not what I’d prefer, of course. Switch Giroud and Sanchez and bring in Walcott and we’re all good. Alternatively, you could place Walcott and Sanchez on the wings but out of those four I’d rather Giroud be the substitute.

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Whatever the lineup, I think many will agree we’ll be seeing a more dynamic Arsenal attack next season.

With Sanchez, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and, hopefully, Campbell the Gunners now have four speedy, direct, skillful(not so much Walcott) attackers as opposed to two last season. There’s also Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi if they don’t get loaned and Wilshere and Ramsey to add thrust from midfield.

Hopefully we’ll see an improvement on the 68 Premier league goals as a result. The fluidity of movement and quick passing on show against Manchester City is hopefully a sign of things to come.

Where my problem lies is on the right side of the defensive unit(Mertesacker and Debuchy) coupled with Arteta and, even Flamini to an extent, as the defensive-minded midfielder.

Debuchy seems more aggressive moving forward than Bacary Sagna and could be caught out of position in key moments, leaving the slow as molasses pair of Mertesacker and Arteta to deal with any attackers. Not good. Flamini is more mobile than Arteta but he’s not going to be a major player except in the case of injury. We’ll see how that all works out.

Obviously, you can find a more in-depth look at Arsenal’s tactics in various places across the web but the Tactics Column at Arseblog isn’t a bad place to start.

 

How the Summer Impacted Arsenal

World Cup winners, No big departures and a blockbuster transfer. This summer has been a, mostly, good one for Arsenal. The FA Cup victory provided a boost to those in and around the club, prompting a period without much negativity.

From the World Cup, Arsenal’s younger players, and even older ones as well, can now look to the World cup winning experience of three players(Ozil, Mertesacker and Podolski). Ozil may have been the only one to really have an effect, mainly in the latter stages, but the trio will be oozing with confidence and mentally stronger through their shared experience.

They can certainly give some extra oomph to Arsenal’s mentality as they are coming off a high but it doesn’t mean they can push the club to Premier League title.

The one negative from that journey is that Ozil’s fitness may be a problem in the coming season. While he was surprisingly robust in that category during the World Cup, having played through so many hard-fought games may come back to affect him at some point in the season. Hopefully the new fitness coach can make sure that doesn’t occur.

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Can Arsenals German World Cup Winners Push the club over the edge?

Other players involved in the World Cup did enough to suggest they were worthy of a spot in the squad(Joel Campbell) or further excited fans battered by rumours(Alexis Sanchez). Mathieu Debuchy or David Ospina may not have excited but proved capable.

On the transfer front, the good news continued.

Arsenal captured the aforementioned trio of Sanchez, Debuchy and Ospina while adding young English talent, Calum Chambers. They all fix areas of need and keep the squad quality at a good level, Sanchez certainly improves it.

As with almost every season during the trophy drought, there is still a clear weakness in the Arsenal squad.

The attack has been fixed but now the defense is the main worry. Thomas Vermaelen was a loss but the Belgian hasn’t been an important member of the squad for some time now. The major story is the lack of center back cover, which will hopefully be addressed appropriately soon.

Overall, it’s still all good for Arsenal. The Gunners have had one of the best summers of any top club. There is definitely a good feeling heading into the season.

 

Expectations

So, what are the expectations for Arsenal heading into the 2014/15 season?

More silverware, of course. Given the adventures of players in Brazil, the outlay on transfers and the improvement of players fans will be expecting to continue the return to winning ways. Which trophy that is remains to be seen.

The Capital One cup would be seen as a disappointment and the FA Cup wouldn’t be much cause for celebration considering last season. The tough nuts, Premier League and Champions League, are looking tougher than ever to capture.

Around the twittersphere, and elsewhere, Arsenal fans are more positive than ever about the chance of Premier League success.

Does the fact that Arsenal spent a good amount on a few transfers and that some players won the World Cup give ample cause for such positive vibes? Maybe. It seems though that some are still overlooking the major deficiency in defensive midfield as well as depth at center back.

Add to that the level of competition from teams who have also improved(Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham) and you see things won’t be easy at all. While the first four clubs would be considered major contenders, Tottenham and Everton have shown they can put forward a very strong challenge to these teams for European spots, and could derail a club’s hopes.

Arsenal did this in 2014. Can they push on for further silverware in 2014/15?

Arsenal did this in 2014. Can they push on for further silverware in 2014/15?

Manchester United won’t be involved in European play this season and, like Liverpool last season, they will benefit. They even have enough title-winning experience to not falter at the last stages like the Reds did last year. The squad may not be as strong as it has been in the past but they are still Manchester United.

I’m not going to head into the realm of predictions here but, ultimately, I still don’t see a Premier League title heading to the Emirates. I won’t even bother to consider the Champions League either, though I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to look for a quarter-finals or semi-finals appearance.

If the center back position is strengthened, and Wenger and Steve Bould can adjust things tactically so Arteta isn’t too exposed, then I’ll have a more positive outlook.

 

The summer is finally over. Can’t wait for August 16th. 

July World Football Transfer Roundup(Part 2)

We continue the transfer outlook with some thoughts on the biggest, and most intriguing, July transfers. Here’s Part 1 of the Roundup. Fans are now able to get a better view of what their teams have in store thanks to the transfer window, as they get rid of dead-weight, strengthen key areas and bring in depth.

Each transfer brings plenty to talk about for fans of the club and, in some cases, can alter the hopes of a team’s chances for the upcoming season. (Definitely the case with some overly optimistic Arsenal fans) Aren’t we always?

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 July’s most intriguing transfers.

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Filipe Luis: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea

While Ashley Cole’s departure is the end of an era, Chelsea got over that quickly with the arrival of Filipe Luis from Chelsea. Luis was one of the best left-backs in Europe last season, anchoring an Atletico Madrid side that impressed throughout. The Brazilian, was a surprise omission from his national side during the World Cup but will look to make sure he becomes a first-choice fixture on the international stage.

Brown Ideye: Dynamo Kiev to West Bromwich Albion

When you pay a club record fee for a player, you would expect that the manager has some knowledge of the player. That’s not the case with Ideye’s move to West Bromwich as manager, Alan Irvine, hinted. Ideye should be okay in the Premier league with his power and pace but this will be an interesting scenario to watch.

Demba Ba: Chelsea to Besiktas

Demba Ba was always the most likely attacking candidate to leave Chelsea after Diego Costa’s arrival. A move to Besiktas is a bit surprising but it’s one he can use to vault himself back into the view of some of Europe’s top clubs.

Alvaro Morata: Real Madrid to Juventus

Real Madrid continued their policy of letting talented youngsters go amid high-profile arrivals, and Alvaro Morato is the first in that category this summer. Juventus will be happy with him joining the ranks though he had yet to fully establish himself at Madrid. It will be interesting to see how he’s used now that Antonio Conte has left the club.

Patrice Evra: Manchester United to Juventus

Patrice Evra, another of the old guard in defense for Manchester United, presents another post Antonio Conte signing for Juventus. Evra’s arrival may coincide with a return to a four-man defense with Massimiliano Allegri now in charge.

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James Rodriguez: Monaco to Real Madrid

The result was inevitable once the rumours came about during the World cup that James(Ham-ez) Rodriguez “dreamed” of signing for Real Madrid. The Colombian star of the World Cup has presented Carlo Ancelotti with an equally exciting and unenviable task of mixing in a host of quality attacking players in his side. It’s likely that departures will come soon.

Bojan Krkic: Barcelona to Stoke City

Few words can describe the shock of Bojan Krkic’s transfer to Stoke City. Is that how far the little Spaniard’s star has fallen? No offense to Stoke. Well, not a lot really. Stoke isn’t the same battering ram squad that Tony Pulis led a few seasons ago but the Potters hardly seem like the destination for a player with Bojan’s skill-set.  Feels like something that can only happen on Football Manager or FIFA.

Ben Davies and Michel Vorm: Swansea City to Tottenham

Two solid signings for Tottenham here, though one was sort of unnecessary. Care to guess who? Spurs needed some cover in left-back so players like Jan Vertongthen wouldn’t be needed out there but could have done with signing Vorm. The Dutchman goes from a situation where he has to battle with Lukasz Fabianski for No. 1, a battle he’d win more often than not, to a situation of warming the bench behind one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Strange.

Gylfi Sigurdsson: Tottenham to Swansea City

Gylfi Sigurddson returns to the club where he impressed in the Premier League a few seasons ago, though things have changed since then. Both sides will be hoping he can rekindle the magic that occurred in their previous partnership.

Jefferson Montero: Monarcas Morelia to Swansea City

Swansea City increased the number of speedy and tricky wingers in the squad with the capture of Ecuadorian Jefferson Montero. The former Villarreal man is facing a tough challenge in his career but can be effective if used well by Garry Monk.

Frank Lampard: Chelsea to New York City FC(via Manchester City)

Add another one to the retirement category for the MLS. New York City FC seems to be trying to build the most experienced, star-studded team ever in its first go around the league with Lampard joining David Villa.. Lampard swaps a dark blue for sky blue in the interim before turning out for his new employers.

Drogba of Chelsea holds the UEFA Champions League trophy after his team's final soccer match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich

Didier Drogba: Galatasaray to Chelsea

Didier Drogba returns to Chelsea following his travels around the world and Arsenal fans can put down two in the loss column already. Drogba links up with his favorite club, and the thoughts of him and Cesc Fabregas running riot in London Derby’s is sure to give some fans sleepless nights.

David Ospina: Nice to Arsenal

Arsenal needed a goalkeeper so in comes David Ospina. The Colombian international will give Wojciech Szczesny the strongest challenge for the No. 1 spot in his career but the Polish keeper has what it takes to hold on to his place.

Devan Lovren: Southampton to Liverpool

Southampton decided that they needed to continue the fire sale(goods have to go minus the discounted price part, of course) as Devan Lovren becomes the latest departure upon signing for Liverpool. The Saints have to be expecting something in return from Liverpool, right? They’ve handed them three top players to strengthen their title challenge significantly.

Calum Chambers: Southampton to Arsenal

Arsenal’s move for Calum Chambers came a bit out of the blue but it’s a solid one overall. You can never go wrong with signing young British talent(minus the price) and Arsenal get some more depth in defense. Chambers is versatile enough to play on the right and in the center of defense as well as midfield.

Muhamed Besic: Ferencvaros to Everton

Another impressive signing for Roberto Martinez here, as he captures a player who impressed at the World Cup with his defensive talents for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Martinez is definitely a coach you can bet on to help Muhamed Besic improve further. Everton looking good.

Divock Origi: Lille to Liverpool then back to Lille on loan

Liverpool took the safe route with this transfer, not wanting to overwhelm Belgian youngster, Divock Origi, despite some promising moments during the 2014 World Cup. That essentially means that Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert will lead the line next season, unless there’s another transfer in the works.

Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku: Chelsea to Everton

This is one of the biggest signings of the summer, and it’s wonderful that Everton is on the good end of the deal. Folks will point to the World Cup and say Jose Mourinho was justified with his decision last season. Roberto Martinez will only help Lukaku develop further and get over that disappointment. With a setup he knows well and a boss that trusts him, Lukaku may flourish.

Stefan de Vrij: Feyenoord to Lazio

After earning plaudits in the Netherlands, and proving solid during the World Cup, Stefan de Vrij moved on to a new challenge in Italy. One may have expected him to move to a club with probably more to offer in terms of European play and title chances but de Vrij could take the chance to develop further without major scrutiny.

Carl Jenkinson: Arsenal to West Ham(loan)

The beginning of the end of a dream for Arsenal fan, Carl Jenkinson? We shall see. A good season on-loan at West Ham should see him back in a Gunners kit. Jenkinson leaving puts Arsenal back in the same place with depth and quality an issue in defense. We’ll see how that pans out.

 

July World Football Transfer Roundup(Part 1)

We continue the transfer outlook with some thoughts on the biggest, and most intriguing, July transfers. Fans are now able to get a better view of what their teams have in store thanks to the transfer window, as they get rid of dead-weight, strengthen key areas and bring add depth.

Each transfer brings plenty to talk about for fans of the club and, sometimes, can alter the hopes of a team’s chances for the upcoming season. (Definitely the case with some overly optimistic Arsenal fans) Aren’t we always?

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 July’s most intriguing transfers.

Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana: Southampton to Liverpool

Adam Lallana continued the slightly amusing/annoying/disappointing Southampton exodus with his move to Liverpool in early July. Lallana should fit in easily within Brendan Rodgers’ setup, and help ease the creative pressure from the likes of Philippe Coutinho. Whether he’ll survive as a smaller fish in a bigger pond remains to be seen.

Kaka: AC Milan to Orlando City FC(Via Sao Paulo)

You wouldn’t think that, at the age of 32, Kaka would be signaling the end of his career with a move to the MLS.(Not a knock on the league but more so on the player) Injuries, competition and a lack of confidence have stunted Kaka’s playing time in the fast few season but the former World Player of the year should still excite in Brazil and Orlando.

Siem De Jong: Ajax to Newcastle United

This is one of the more interesting moves in the summer window, as Alan Pardew bolstered his attack with the addition of Siem De Jong. Coming from Ajax, De Jong will undoubtedly add a measure of creativity and intelligence to a Newcastle attack that managed only 43 goals last season in the Premier League.

Emre Can: Bayer Leverkusen to Liverpool

Liverpool continued to bolster their squad in much-needed areas with the signing of midfielder, Emre Can. The former Bayer Leverkusen man is versatile enough to fill in at a number of positions, here’s a scouting report on the youngster, for Brendan Rodgers, and at 20 years he could go on to make an impact at the club for some time.

Tom Ince: Blackpool to Hull City

Hull City made it to the FA Cup final, and almost won it, while surviving the relegation battle upon their return to the Premier League. The signing of Tom Ince presents something of a coup for the Tigers, as Ince was continually linked with a few top clubs in earlier windows. He’s a talented youngster who can add a bit of flair to the Hull City attack.

Ashley Cole: Chelsea to Roma

Ashley Cole’s move to Roma is definitely one of the surprises of the summer, as is always the case when a British player moves abroad. Even more surprising is that he was let go by a manager, Jose Mourinho, who surely holds him in high regard. It’s a good pickup for Roma as they strengthen the defense of a side looking to end Juventus’ reign in Serie A.

Dusan Tadic: FC Twente to Southampton

Southampton decided it was time to actually get a player in the summer, and brought in Dusan Tadic as basically a replacement for Adam Lallana. The lack of Premier League experience is a minus in this move for the Saints.

Willy Caballero: Malaga to Manchester City

Manchester City’s focus during this window has been mainly on defense so it’s fitting that Argentine goalkeeper, Willy Caballero was signed to challenge/back-up Joe Hart. The England No. 1 has had his critics in the last few seasons, and he’ll certainly be challenged by the former Malaga No. 1.

Gareth Barry: Manchester City to Everton

In what amounts to the official confirmation of a trial season in 2013/14, Gareth Barry is now a full-time Everton player. Barry played an integral role for Roberto Martinez’s Everton side last season, and will continue to do so from his deep-lying role in 2014/15. A solid first move for Everton.

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Alexis Sanchez: Barcelona to Arsenal

Boom! Arsenal signs Alexis Sanchez and the second big splash of the summer is made. Naturally, it involves Arsenal again but this time its good news. As many on Twitter, Facebook etc stated, Arsenal is now a shoo-in for the title.(Well maybe I’m exaggerating the excitement) This signing is definitely a big deal as it strengthens the Gunners attack considerably and signals the Gunners intent. Almost makes folks want to forget about that Fabregas saga.

Luis Suarez: Liverpool to Barcelona

Eh. I like Barcelona but I don’t like this move for them. I definitely don’t mind it though since Arsenal benefited with Alexis Sanchez moving to London. The Suarez’s potential for damage is what makes the move a bad one in my mind but he’s definitely a good player. He’ll make Barcelona’s attacking three one of the most fearsome in Europe.

Diego Costa: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea

Jose Mourinho got the big-name striker he wanted for the upcoming season with the capture of Diego Costa.

Now, I’m one of those guys who is a bit skeptical when players are coming off one monumental season. That’s not to say I don’t think the player is good but I don’t think they can be classified as world-class unless the level of play/productivity continues and, conversely, they can’t be labeled a flop if it doesn’t.

That’s sort of the case with Diego Costa but there has been improvement in his game for the last few seasons. Mourinho had first hand knowledge of that during his time at Real Madrid so obviously he saw/sees something.

Mario Mandzukic: Bayern Munich to Atletico Madrid

Mario Mandzukic was always going to leave Bayern this summer, and it was just a matter of who would pick him up. It’s a good thing for Spanish football that Atletico Madrid are his next employers as that means there won’t be a huge drop-off in attacking quality after the departure of Diego Costa. In fact, one could argue there is no drop in quality at all despite the two players different styles.

Remy Cabella: Montpellier to Newcastle FC

Remy Cabella joins Newcastle after another solid season in Ligue 1 with Montpellier. He becomes part of the ever-growing French contingent at the club, and provides Alan Pardew with another intelligent, versatile attacking player. Cabella could be a replacement for Hatem Ben Arfa but Newcastle fans would surely prefer that he is one a few set to give Newcastle with a potent attack.

Michu: Swansea City to Napoli(loan)

I was planning to stray away from loans in this but this transfer definitely falls into the intriguing and big category. With Michu coming of an injury-hit season, Swansea somehow saw it fit to allow the Spaniard to leave. Maybe that’s harsh on the club as it certainly seems like a player-driven move for a “better opportunity.” You would think Michu would have tried to prove his worth in the Premier League after his underwhelming 2013/14 season to push through a move.

Bruno Martins Indi: Feyenoord to Porto FC

The most interesting part of this transfer is that it basically facilitates a move for Eliaquim Mangala to Manchester City. The rumours of that saga have been constant this summer, and with Martins Indi as a replacement Managala should be able to move. The two are similar in many aspects psychically and with their ability to play centrally or the left of defense.

Lazar Markovic: Benfica to Liverpool

Lazar Markovic’s transfer to Liverpool is one of those exciting yet risky moves that plenty will be keeping track of. There’s no doubting Markovic’s potential, and he’s performed well in continental and domestic play in different leagues, but the Premier League is a tough nut to crack. Can he help push the Reds over the top? We shall see?

Cristian Tello: Barcelona to Porto(loan)

Barcelona’s interesting transfer summer continued with one player heading out on loan. Cristian Tello and Porto get the best this move,(check the last two paragraphs for news on the move) and one has to wonder what the Catalan side is thinking. It’s all well and good having three of the world’s top attacking players in your team but if there’s no cover for them then things can go bad fast. Especially if your major formation is likely to be a 4-3-3.

Emmanuel Riviere: Monaco to Newcastle FC

The French connection continues for Alan Pardew with the capture of Emmanuel Riviere. Their was probably a mixed reception to this signing given that Riviere is 24 and has yet to fully live up to the potential he showed as a youngster. Newcastle is the fourth team in his senior career.

Enner Valencia: Pachuca to West Ham

This is one of those moves that could come back to bite West Ham, and end up on a list of World Cup transfer failures. I think it’s fair to say not many followers of European football would’ve known much about Valencia before the World Cup but they would have come away impressed. His three-goal haul may not be indicative of success in the Premier League.

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Toni Kroos: Bayern Munich to Real Madrid

Are any of Real Madrid’s signings an actual necessity? Not really. You can say that Toni Kroos certainly adds to the depth and quality in midfield for “Los Galacticos” but it may well mean the departure of others. It’s a new challenge for Kroos, and one he can definitely be successful with.

Daryl Janmaat: Feyenoord to Newcastle

Newcastle pops up yet again. Daryl Janmaat is just a replacement signing for the Toon in this instance, albeit a younger player who can offer years of service.

Juan Iturbe: Verona to Roma

The major surprise in this move was the fee. Juan Iturbe may have been one of a few players tabbed as the next Lionel Messi but he’s failed to live up to that billing so far in his young career. That’s the good thing, though. Iturbe is only 21, and is coming off a solid season with Verona in Serie A. He may have a good chance to develop around the likes of Francesco Totti.

Rio Ferdinand: Manchester United to QPR

Rio Ferdinand’s decline has been there for all to see but a transfer to QPR prolongs his career, and with his experience he could help he London side avoid relegation unlike two season ago.

Mathieu Debuchy: Newcastle to Arsenal

Arsenal didn’t set hearts beating with their second signing of the season but picked up a necessary addition in the form of right-back Mathieu Debuchy. He’s not much a different from Bacary Sagna, except in age and the fact that he gets forward more, so hopefully there won’t be a drop in production. After all, he was chosen above his fellow Frenchman in the World Cup squad.

May/June World Football Transfer Roundup

A three-week hiatus is not easily explained, so I won’t bother. This article is long overdue on my part, and I’ll hope to get back to regular postings in the near future. Next time I stop writing for a while, I’ll be sure to give notice.

Now, back to football.

The summer transfer window can be a long arduous journey for some fans, and a prosperous and exciting one for others. The one constant is that the fans of all the big teams will be treated to plenty of rumours, many of which will be ridiculous.

Arsenal fans are in a special class where such rumours are concerned, as almost zero percent of our rumours become reality. In contrast, it feels like our actual transfers rarely get a mention before they become official.

It’s hard to remember Mesut Ozil being linked at all before his shock move to the Emirates.(Guess that’s changed this summer, hehe)

That aside, we’re here to take a look at transfers, mostly bigger ones but the intriguing ones as well, in World Football that have occurred during the summer window and the impact on all parties involved. We’ll go by BBC’s list of transfers in each month. Hopefully there won’t be any misses as a result.

(Some of these statements are definitely outdated considering more than a month has past but I still felt it worth posting).

May Transfers

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen- Borussia Mochengladbach to Barcelona

With this signing, Barcelona has essentialy secured a long-term replacement for Victor Valdes and a present-day solution in one stroke. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen has been one of the top goalkeepers in Europe the past few seasons.

The 22-year-old will benefit from some world-class competition, a point we’ll touch on later, and may well the next keeper to take the mantle from Manuel Neuer on the international stage.(That’s a bit tough though to be honest)

Mauro Zarate- Velez Sarsfield to West Ham

This transfer is straight out of left field. While you would expect Sam Allardyce to sign more Matt Jarvis’ (not a knock on the player just seems the type of player to fit into a Sam Allardyce team) he’s tried to add some pizzaz to his attack with Argentinean forward, Mauro Zarate.

Zarate does have European experience, having spent a few years in Italy with Lazio and a single season with Birmingham, and it will be interesting to see how he’s used in the Allardyce revolution.

Lukasz Fabianski – Arsenal to Swansea City

Arsenal can’t really be faulted for letting Lukasz Fabianski go, though the free transfer part is a bit annoying. Fabianski is a decent goalkeeper, and showed that during Arsenal’s FA Cup run, but maybe not what Swansea needs to progress. I guess we’ll see.

Jordi Gomez- Wigan to Sunderland

Sunderland got some much-needed creativity with the addition of Jordi Gomez from Wigan Athletic. The team as a whole, with wingers like Adam Johnson and forwards like Jozy Altidore, will benefit.

If Gus Poyet makes him the focal point in terms of attacking creativity there may be a much different Sunderland side next season.

 

June Transfers

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David Villa – Atletico Madrid to New York City FC(via Melbourne City)

Doesn’t seem like the MLS is going to get rid of that retirement league moniker anytime soon with David Villa to join the ranks courtesy of New York City FC. (He’ll be spending the season on-loan at Australian club Melbourne City until New York’s inaugural season in 2015).

Should be interesting.

Rickie Lambert – Southampton to Liverpool

Liverpool’s signing of Rickie Lambert was a surprising but also shrewd. Lambert has hit the double-digits in both his Premier League seasons with Southampton, and there’s nothing to suggest he can’t do the same in Brendan Rodgers’ setup. He’ll play a bigger role if Luis Suarez leaves but that won’t be a bad thing.

Ciro Immobile – Torino FC to Borussia Dortmund

It’s tough to ask anyone to replace the productivity of Robert Lewandowski but Dortmund have brought in young Italian striker Ciro Immobile as a replacement. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out seeing as Immobile’s only hit double-digits in the Serie A once in his career.

Joe Cole – West Ham to Aston Villa/ Philippe Senderos – Valencia to Aston Villa

Paul Lambert’s seems to be looking to add experience to his youthful side, and avoid the relegation battle in the process. Joe Cole should add some creativity to the midfield while Philippe Senderos brings plenty of experience, as well as depth, for the defense.

Cesc Fabregas –  Arsenal to Chelsea(at least that’s what it feels like)

I have no more words for this debacle than what’s been said here, and here. As those Winghouse ladies say in their commercials “Need we say more?”

Bacary Sagna –  Arsenal to Manchester City

As with Lukasz Fabianski, the departure of Bacary Sagna isn’t a huge hit given the possible replacements. The thing that bothers me is the lack of a fee. Between Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City now has arguably the two best right-backs in the league.

David Luiz – Chelsea to Paris Saint-Germain

Jose Mourinho’s obvious regard for defenders actually defending and Paris Saint-Germain’s obvious disregard for Financial Fair Play helped this deal through. David Luiz shouldn’t be caught out too much in the French League, and he has his national teammate to rein him in during the big games in Europe. A bit pricey though.

Ivan Rakitic – Sevilla to Barcelona

That’s one way to build from a Europa League title. Sell your best asset. While Atletico Madrid shattered the duopoly of Real Madrid and Barcelona, it seems that Sevilla is intent on taking sides having handed Ivan Rakitic to the Catalan club. Barcelona will certainly be happy that they’ve found a fantastic replacement for Cesc Fabregas with Rakitic capable of fulfilling a variety of roles in midfield without the “anarchy.”

Raul Bravo – Real Sociedad to Barcelona

Raul Bravo will battle it out with Marc-Andre Ter Stegen for the No. 1 spot at Barcelona, and the Chilean may have the edge due to his familiarity with the Spanish league. It doesn’t matter who comes out on top though, as Barcelona now has two top-notch goalkeepers and have already dealt with one area of need for the summer.

Ander Herrera - Athletic Bilbao to Manchester United

Manchester United fans should certainly be excited about the capture of a player who will certainly do well under Louis van Gaal next season. Herrera is a versatile, creative and hard-working midfielder who brings plenty of experience despite being only 24. The Red Devils have needed to strengthen the middle for some time now and Herrera can certainly help.

Fernando – Porto to Manchester City

Fernando is a solid but unspectacular signing for Manchester City, who will offer depth in defensive midfield while providing even more physicality and power to the side. Manuel Pellegrini probably feels he doesn’t need to add major pieces but solidify areas that were somewhat weak and he’s done so with this transfer.

Luke Shaw – Southampton to Manchester United

Luke Shaw was always going to command an outrageous fee considering his age, and Manchester United paid an initial  £27 million for his services. It may well prove worth it given his potential, as well as his impressive performances last season. Patrice Evra may be kept around to lend a guiding hand as United look to the present and the future with this signing.

Bafetimbi Gomis – Lyon to Swansea City

This was another surprising but shrewd summer signing that shows the increase in stature that Swansea has seen since entering the Premier League these last few seasons. Bafetimbi Gomis may not set anyone’s heart afire but he’s been a consistent double-digit scorer in France for some time, and could certainly do damage in the Premier League. Or, he could flop.

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

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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.