Javier Chicharito Hernandez from baby faced boy next door to superstar deserving of respect – ESPN FC

Javier Chicharito Hernandez from baby faced boy next door to superstar deserving of respect – ESPN FC


There should be one name that comes to mind when thinking about CONCACAF’s superstar, or the closest thing to it. Hernandez has played for two of the biggest clubs in  football in Manchester United and Real Madrid. That trend in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen. The same club Landon Donovan left to go back to the MLS. Hernandez was a regular until the last season at United until the last season while being pretty productive and did a decent job on loan at Madrid as mostly a sub. And now he’s killing it at Bayer. Yes, he may still have some work to do on his all around game but he does arguably the two most important things for a modern forward really well, press and score goals.

Other than the Dos Santos’ no one else in CONCACAF in recent times has played for such big clubs and neither of them were really regulars. You could throw in Dempsey at Tottenham too. Christian Pulisic is certainly on the way up but has a way to go still.

So, despite lacking the glamour of many, Chicharito is CONCACAF’s best player/superstar.

How Far Can the Premier League Teams Go in This Season’s Champions League?

We’re halfway through the group stages of the Champions League and the Premier League are yet to receive their usual dressing down by the media. Well, Manchester City are sure to get an earful in the next couple days after the loss to Barcelona but we’ll get to that later.

As things stand Arsenal, Leicester City, Tottenham and Manchester City are all in a decent positions to progress from the group stage. Leicester are, of course, the surprise of the bunch with three wins out of three. The last time all English teams made it out of the group stages was the 2013/14 season in which Chelsea made it to the semifinals and Manchester United made it to the quarterfinals. A similar return wouldn’t be too disappointing given the respective pre-tournament doubts about Leicester and Tottenham.

Right now the most likely opponents, meaning those in first or second in each group, are Paris Saint-Germain, Napoli, Besiktas, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Monaco, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, FC Copenhagen, Juventus and Sevilla. Other teams within touching distance in third place include Borussia Mochengladbach, Benfica, Porto, Bayer Leverkusen and Lyon. Admittedly, it is easier to see who will progress after four rounds but even that isn’t a given. The Premier League clubs wouldn’t face each other in the Round of 16 regardless of position or seeding given they are from the same league and who knows what form they or their opposition will be when the tournament returns next February. While the current standings means each team would face some unwanted opponents should they reach the knockout rounds, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus and Atletico Madrid stand out, it would be hard to fully count them out for a variety of reasons.

Leicester have, as expected, benefited from being a top seed as champions of the Premier League and were put in a manageable group. While their domestic form leaves little to be the desired, Claudio Ranieri’s side has produced some professional performances their first time on the European stage. Progression is expected at this point and there’s a high probability they will be seeded again after finishing first. As ESPNFC’s Iain Macintosh pointed out, the club’s focus on European football is admirable but a Champions League trophy to follow-up last season’s Premier League is out of the question. Leicester could certainly compete with many of the teams still in with a chance of progression but their preseason losses to PSG and Barcelona are indicative of what would occur should they face the elite. A soft draw could lead to a Cinderella run but this side’s inexperience and lack of real quality in midfield will be their undoing. That’s not the case for Tottenham.

With two home games remaining, Tottenham could very well end up first in what is currently a very tight group. Even if they don’t, their intensity and quality will be enough to unsettle any of their more illustrious opponents. Spurs want to join the elite in the Premier League and part of that will be showing they can compete on multiple fronts. Mauricio Pochettino’s squad now has some decent depth even if they don’t have the Champions League experience of Arsenal and Manchester City. Last season’s Europa League run will be beneficial despite the disappointing end and Spurs will hope to do one better than their London rivals.

Arsenal seem to be benefitting from finishing second last season and thus having a higher seeding in the draw. Funny how that works. Paris Saint-Germain, especially this work in progress version, aren’t the most daunting nouveau-riche side to face. If the Gunners don’t pull their usual deer in the headlights performances away against Basel and Ludorogets then the home game against PSG should decide first place. Oh, what a day that would be. This Arsenal side look a lot more focused and efficient up front with Alexis Sanchez leading the line, again, no surprise there, and they may finally get over the Round of 16 hump. We hope. It may come down to how tight things are in the Premier League race in February but this is the trophy missing from Wenger’s cabinet so Arsenal will be expected to give it their all.

And lastly, Manchester City.

The 4-0 loss to Barcelona was a blow, especially when coupled with Borussia Mochengladbach’s win over Celtic, but it’s not the end of the world. Were it not for Fernandinho’s slip and Claudio Bravo’s horrendous decision the game would’ve played out differently, and there may even have been talk of Manchester City finally becoming elite. That didn’t happen but they are on the way there. City finally has a manager to make the difference on this stage in Pep Guardiola. If he continues to get his tactics right as he did against Barcelona, and the players can cut out the mistakes and step up their game, then City have the best chance of the English quartet. A draw against Barcelona at home and win against Mochengladbach in their next two games and second place is all but assured. Of course, those aren’t the targets to set but the minimum needed. This team wouldn’t be huge underdogs against the elite like their fellow Premier League sides.

There’s no telling what’s in store for any of these teams with the group stages not finished but anything can happen. Of course, they could render all the above thoughts useless by failing to progress in the tournament but the odds do seem in their favour. Arsenal and City will expect to progress further given their experience and the quality in their squads. Both Tottenham and Leicester can revel in the fact that they are lesser know quantities, as much as can be in this digital age, and can use that to their advantage.

It’s unlikely that more than one of these teams will make it to the semifinal but stranger things have happened. The Champions League its still in infancy but these might turn out to be a good season for the Premier League clubs.

Is Unai Emery the right man to take Paris Saint Germain forward? | The Boot Room

Is Unai Emery the right man to take Paris Saint Germain forward? | The Boot Room

My piece for the Boot Room and Unai Emery at Paris Saint-Germain

Paris Saint-Germain have been one of the surprises of the season so far, and not in a good way. The French champions sit third in the Ligue 1 table and second in their Champions League group. It may just be October but there has been cause for concern already this season.

When a team goes through as summer of changes as PSG did then a bedding in period can be expected. Except, when you are PSG, winners of four straight Ligue 1 titles and spenders of countless Euros, that bedding in period is almost nil.

Laurent Blanc departed after his failure to progress in the Champions League and Unai Emery took his place. Add to that the departure of talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and his winning mentality, as well as David Luiz’s regular presence in defense and Emery has had a lot to contend with early on.

http://acdn.adnxs.com/ib/static/usersync/v3/async_usersync.htmlThe issue of Blaise Matuidi is also unresolved as the France international has, per to ESPNFC, made it clear he would have left the club if given the chance. A January departure could still be possible and would be another blow for the club given there are no replacements for him in the squad.

Still, a squad with this quality, and without much turnover in key departments, would expect to be humming along business as usual in a league they’ve dominated in the last few seasons. That hasn’t been the case.

Losses to Monaco and Toulouse as well as a draw with St. Etienne has already seen PSG lose some of its invincible aura domestically. Things aren’t much different on the continent either as Les Parisiens failed to finish off Arsenal and had to come from behind against Ludogorets in the Champions League amid some up and down performances. Of the key arrivals, only Thomas Meunier and Gregorz Krychowiak have contributed positively while Jese and Hatem Ben Arfa have yet to make an impact.

Those in charge at PSG wanted to head in a different direction and after Blanc’s tenure and Emery was certainly a good choice for that. The Spaniard has shown himself to be a very capable manager during stints with two of Spain’s storied clubs, Valencia and Sevilla. His three consecutive Europa League titles while at Sevilla would have played a major role in his appointment given PSG’s focus on European success. Yet, unlike Blanc, who won a title with Bordeaux before his stint at PSG, Emery has found silverware hard to come by domestically. While Blanc was perfectly fine continuing his predecessor’s work with some minor fine-tuning, with much success it must be added, Emery was to represent a significant change in style and mentality.

The Spaniard started the season trying to implement the 4-2-3-1 system he used at Sevilla but in recent games he has reverted to the 4-3-3 the side used under Blanc. Emery places less focus on possession and more on pressure of the ball than Blanc, and it seemed this was the way forward. According to Bleacher Report, several key players took issue with some of Emery’s tactical ideas which then led to the return to Blanc’s system.

While the formation may not have been the main issue Emery has put himself in a tough position. His acquiescence to the player’s preference weakens his position with a group of players used to winning a certain way. Conversely, a manager of his capabilities should see that a possession-based approach matched with his pressing would make PSG a more formidable prospect regardless of formation. If he can get the players to buy into both approaches then success should follow.

One positive for the Spaniard is the recent form of Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan has started to knock in the goals in a fashion similar to his Napoli days but, as shown by his display against Arsenal, there’s still a case of the yips in big moments and games. He has dealt with one of his major arrivals, Ben Arfa, quite strictly, something that may not have occurred under Blanc judging by his handling of Serge Aurier’s actions earlier this year.

The former Sevilla manager must be mindful that he’s in a different situation altogether, where increased expectations and egos mean much more will be demanded of him on and off the pitch. His three consecutive Europa League titles represent both a gift and a curse in that respect. While Sevilla dominated that competition, Emery has never done particularly well in the Champions League, PSG’s holy grail, while at Sevilla or Valencia. In fact, he’s failed to get past the Round of 16 with either side and was knocked out in the group stage last season with an abysmal record of two wins and four losses.

It may seem harsh to judge a manager so quickly into his reign but that is the status quo in football these days. Those in charge at PSG have spent millions to ensure their club becomes on of the biggest in the world. With that comes massive, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations. Emery has proved his capabilities with two of Spain’s well-known clubs but he faces a different beast here. His appointment, much like the transfers brought in after him, generated more curiosity than excitement.

Now it’s time for him to show that he’s up to the job.

Finally. With Alexis Sanchez Leading the Line Arsenal Begin to Look like the Arsenal of Old

The are still lots of wrinkles to iron out but one major positive for Arsenal this season is Alexis Sanchez leading the line for Arsenal.

Let’s get one thing out of the way really quickly though. For anyone who says Sanchez is a winger playing as a forward, you’re wrong. Going back to his Udinese days, and the few times he led the line at Barcelona, Sanchez is an attacker, not a forward or winger but capable of playing both quite efficiently. Some of his best work for Chile came when working in tandem with Eduardo Vargas, as a forward, even if Sanchez spent time dropping off out wide or back into midfield as you usually see when the national side plays. Got it? Good.

Now, back to Arsenal.

Folks will want to tip their hats to Arsene Wenger for making this adjustment but that’s a stretch. When Sanchez initially joined Arsenal, Wenger tried the Chilean up front and scrapped the experiment all too soon. He has featured there once or twice since but you would never think that this was the long-term plan for the Professor. Indeed, it was a surprise to see Sanchez start the Liverpool game at forward even with the other injuries and one expected Olivier Giroud to return once fully fit. He hasn’t reached that status yet so maybe that will occur but Wenger always has a preference for keeping a successful side together. So as long as Sanchez performs up top he’ll keep that spot. Does that mean he is now officially the No. 1 forward at Arsenal? That question will be answered as the season progresses.

Regardless, the improvement Sanchez brings to the Gunners in attack can be seen for all. There’s more fluidity, pace, creativity and improved pressing. Not to mention the improvement of the likes of Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott. These are the types of targets Ozil had at Real Madrid, not in case of overall quality or skills, but in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria he had that same fluidity etc and not a stagnant, lumbering target man. His growing relationship with Sanchez is a prime example with that and his lovely volley against Swansea, his third assist from Sanchez, could be a sign of more to come the longer they play together.

Giroud has certainly done a job for the Gunners but I’ve always said he was a Plan B forward and not the type to be starting under Wenger. Nor is he one to be relied upon in big games as the manager put it, per the Guardian. He can come on to help change games or even start in certain circumstances to rest Sanchez or play him out wide. Giroud may very well be next in line as it seems new signing, Lucas Perez, is going the way of former No. 9 Park Chu-Young in terms of performances and impact at the Emirates. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen but right now it seems that was Wenger panic-buying, again, to please the masses.

There’s a long season to go yet and Wenger will also have to be careful to not burn Sanchez out as he has the last two seasons, so maybe Perez will get some playing time. If Wenger also decides that Danny Welbeck starts up front upon his return with Sanchez back on the wing then I won’t mind that either. Sanchez is the best option up front but Welbeck provides similar attributes and need a good run of games to solidify himself as a starting striker. There’s still some growing pains to work through offensively, as the Burnley game showed, though that was partly down to Wenger’s lack of rotation, but the signs are promising. There’s still issues at the back and midfield as well so this is by no means a change that will win silverware of any kind.

With Sanchez up front Arsenal are a better attacking outfit and reminiscent of the days when Thierry Henry led the line. Hoppefully in time the same type of silverware will begin to roll in as well.

World Cup Expansion Coming?…..

FIFA’s new boss, Gianni Infantino, definitely picked up some tricks from his predecessor.

It’s a given that campaigning in for any form of office comes with promises that are highly unlikely to be filled, right? One such promise that isn’t going away as far as Infantino is concerned, as reported by the Guardian, is the possibility of expanding the World Cup. In that sense he’s definitely taking things further than Sepp Blatter who seemed to mostly filled with talk when it came to this topic.

Sure, it was nice to see teams like Iceland and Albania perform admirably, or really well in Iceland’s case, in the recently expanded Euros but the flip-side was the overall level of football was very watered down. That was mainly due to team’s eyeing results with a microscope to navigate their way to the knockout rounds in a tournament that f$*#(@g  Portugal won. I wasn’t a huge fan of the CONMEBOL/CONCACAF mashup in Copa America either but it was at least more entertaining. (Admittedly, I think Iceland is no fluke as their start to 2018 World Cup qualifying has shown and that’s down to how they’ve built their program from the ground up in recent years).

Of course, the promise of expansion helps win a few more votes from countries that would very much like the chance to trot out in the world’s biggest sporting event besides the Olympics. At what cost though? Certainly the level of play, issues with scheduling etc. and the small fact that the current proposed deals would see a majority of teams play two years to take part in one game to fly back home. Would those playoffs bring plenty of interest? Yes. One could also argue that the countries new to the experience will get better the more they come up against top opposition. Would that really be the case if the majority of them are playing one-off games to even make it into the tournament proper? I doubt it but Infantino doesn’t.

“Whether it will be 40 or 48, it was a positive discussion. I don’t agree it will dilute the quality,” Infantino said. “I would like to remind you that in the last World Cup, England and Italy were eliminated by Costa Rica. The level of football is increasing all over the world.

“In a 48 team format, the quality would be higher because the 32 teams would have a play off. The quality would improve and not decrease in any way.”

The quality wouldn’t be higher because of one-off games though ratings probably would and FIFA’s pockets may bulge a bit more. And, to be honest, there’s only one expansion that makes sense. If you want more teams, Infantino, and more games and more money(which is what you really want) why not just go to 64 teams and rename it June/July Madness with the same top 2 from each group going through and then a knockout round of 32 onwards? I’m sure one of your successors will bring that up so let’s just get straight to it. Except, we’re forgetting one thing. Increased workload for the players after grueling club seasons would undoubtedly drain the competition of its increased quality.

Let’s not forget that some of these teams already play in playoffs to get to the big show. They may not mind the possibility of an automatic spot but that really wouldn’t be the case as they are likely to be first in line for one of those playoff spots. So what’s the difference?

I should be happy with the idea of more football every four years but seeing as I’ll probably be sneaking to watch those games at work or, staying up late/waking up early, I’m not sure my schedule can take it. I think 32 teams and a month-long tournament is enough, and especially so when we’re talking about a one-game playoff.

I’ve said my piece but the articles below offer some interesting, and contrasting, views on the proposed changes and its something we’ll continue to hear about until a decision is made.

World Cup expansion is reasonable, as long as it works for everyone

Infantino’s 48-team World Cup plan would be funny if it was not so serious


ESPN FC writers on how they would change football – ESPN FC

ESPN FC writers on how they would change football – ESPN FC

Some interesting suggestions here.

Some are highly unlikely to happen, like making wages etc. public or lessening the amount of games.  Others, such as “safe standing,” and paying attention the Club World Cup are kind of meh suggestions. The suggestions about ending the Europa League, reformatting the Copa America and having 10 players are definitely ways to change football but not really good ones to put it nicely.

The two most interesting ones for me were the regional leagues and changing the international break. The idea of regional leagues may be further along than you think, as per the Guardian’s initial look here at a possible “Atlantic” league in Europe. If a European Super League is coming then why shouldn’t other clubs assess things. I don’t think it would happen nor do I necessarily want it to happen but it is interesting to think about.

The changes to the international break would be huge though, and hopefully well-received. Instead of the stop start beginning and end of seasons annoying the majority, I think most parties would be fine with two prolonged longer breaks with friendlies, qualifiers etc. One would think a lot of countries might benefit from the increased time together, I’m looking at you England.

Next Generation 2016: 60 of the best young talents in world football | Football | The Guardian

Next Generation 2016: 60 of the best young talents in world football | Football | The Guardian

Aand, we’re back. Just going to ignore the fact I haven’t done shit for about 6 months.

Figure this is a decent way to start. Nice look at some of the future young talents in world football. Interesting to see the updates on the 2014 and 2015 lists.

I’ll be doing a lot more writing both here and other sites but posts like this will still be on here occasionally.

Is Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette the man Arsenal should sign to win the Premier League? | The Boot Room

Is Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette the man Arsenal should sign to win the Premier League? | The Boot Room

My Piece for The Boot Room on a possible Lacazette to Arsenal move.(I highly doubt it will happen but the primary source of an Arsenal fan’s sanity nowadays is hope so what the hell)

In the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal and French forwards go hand in hand. Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Olivier Giroud have been prominent in their compatriot’s plans since joining the club. It seems that this summer, they could be followed by another.

The Telegraph reports that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette is a now on the Gunners’ radar after they missed out on Jamie Vardy. In truth, missing out on Vardy may actual be a blessing in disguise if a move for Lacazette comes to fruition.

Arsenal have been in need of a top-level forward for the last few seasons and have missed out on a few targets in that time. Gonzalo Higauin and Luis Suarez are the two names that stand out and; while not on their level yet, Lacazette would still be a fantastic signing, and has the potential to become one of Europe’s most feared hit-men.

The Lyon star is only 25 years of age and yet to reach his prime, so Arsenal can expect to pay a premium. The Frenchman has all the hallmarks of a stereotypical Wenger forward – able to boast fabulous pace, techinque, finishing, solid dribbling and mobility. Those are traits that every one of Wenger’s previous French forwards; Giroud aside, possessed. Lacazette has been consistent in front of goal over the last few seasons and possesses European experience as well.

Lacazette had 21 goals and three assists in 2013/14 followed by 31 goals and six assists in 2014/15, while the 2015/16 campaign saw him score 23 goals at the same time as adding 3 assists. He has done most of this as a part of an impressive but youthful Lyon side, and would certainly benefit from playing with the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez.

Özil would thrive with another speedy target ahead of him, but it is the potential partnership with Sanchez that should excite Arsenal fans. Some of the Chilean’s best performances for The Gunners came when Danny Welbeck started up front for Arsenal. Lacazette would provide the Alexis with a similar partner who would be more productive in front of goal.

Sanchez has played his best when partnering another mobile forward, as he did with Antonio Di Natale for Udinese, and still does with Eduardo Vargas on the Chilean national team. If Wenger wants to get the best out one of the driving forces of his squad, then a move for Lacazette makes sense.

Lacazette has the versatility to play out wide as well if necessary, and that will aid the side when it comes to other line-ups. A starting front four of Lacazette, Sanchez, Özil, and one of Welbeck, Alex Iwobi or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should have more than enough creativity, pace and goal-scoring punch for the Gunners. With the ability to select the likes of Giroud and Theo Walcott instead to suit the opponent or situation, Wenger would have no shortage of options.

Welbeck is; unfortunately, likely to be out half the season, and that makes signing someone like Lacazette even more important. He too can mirror the high-energy game that Sanchez employs and make Arsenal’s pressing game that little bit more dangerous.

With doubts surrounding the futures of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal need an injection of fresh blood. Targeting Vardy made sense, but Lacazette offers a better option for both the future and the present. The North London outfir will have to move quickly though, as interest in the Lyon forward is high.  ESPNFC reported back in May that West Ham had a bid for the forward rejected and the same source presented rival club Spurs’ supposed interest in the Frenchman.

Arsene Wenger has made steps, slowly but surely, to fill the holes necessary to get his squad to the level required to win the Premier League. Petr Cech, the essential top-level goalkeeper, was required last summer and Granit Xhaka is soon to join up with the squad to control the midfield. A defender and a forward are still required. The longer Wenger waits to pull the trigger on a deal like this could come back to haunt the Gunners.

Lacazette is reminiscent of many of Wenger’s forwards during his best seasons at the club. His versatility, finishing and overall play would be beneficial for key players and the entire team. He may not fit the bill of a superstar just yet, but he is a top striker and one who can certainly help the club to win the Premier League title.