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All Things Footie | Monday, February 16 | Jordan

José a clever boy?

They say big players announce themselves in big ways, Thierry Henry’s first goal for Arsenal was a spectacular strike against Southampton, and José Antonio Reyes now has a screamer of his own to herald his arrival in the Premiership. His attitude, work rate and courage have done as much as either of his goals in convincing most Arsenal fans that he’s the real deal, and I think there will be a lot more of this to come from the young Spaniard.

Unlike Louis Saha, Jermaine Defoe and Scott Parker, Reyes didn’t make an immediate imapct on English football (though three weeks is hardly sluggish), but unlike those three he’s unacustomed to the rough and tumble of the Premiership, and the more he plays the better he will become. Saha is a good player, a fast forward and a reasonably reliable scorer of 15-25 goals a season in a good team. Defoe is a brilliant player, an instictive striker; and he has the arrogance to go with it. Defoe’s problem is that he’s too big for his boots—he’s not nearly as good as he thinks he is, and his own selfishness and arrogance will be his downfall whatever club he’s at. Both Arsène Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson turned down chances to sign Defoe, for this reason alone.

Scott Parker has had a good season, as he had for the best part of last year, but he’s a risk for Chelsea. It’s risky that half of the fifteen midfielders they now have will not want to have quite as much competition for places, particularly the likes of Joe Cole, Emmanuel Petit, Juan Veron and Geremi. It’s risky that Parker is merely in the midst of a purple career patch—he’s still young, over-enthusiastic and eager to prove himself.

Enough player talk, the draw for the quarter finals of the FA Cup were made this lunchtime, and there’s one big game we’ll all be looking out-for. That’s right, Millwall v Tranmere should be a thriller. West Ham have had some happy memories against United in recent years, as have Fulham, but it’s odds on that Ferguson’s men make it through (if his defence can manage not to concede fourteen goals in the first half). After years of disappointment, post 1989, Arsenal have had some cheerful days out at Anfield in recent seasons, and I would expect them to get past Liverpool or Portsmouth.

All of which leaves us set up, five years on, for a repeat of the memorable 1999 semi-final at Villa Park, where Giggs’ jammy extra-time goal against an exhausted defence (after Bergkamp missed the winning penalty) put united on course to their historic treble. How poetic it would be if a repeat meeting of England’s two big clubs this time set Arsenal on to a similar feat. Just dreaming of course…

FA Cup Quarter Final Draw
Millwall v Tranmere
Man U v Fulham / West Ham
Sunderland / B’ham v Sheffield United
Liverpool / Portsmouth v Arsenal

Also announced this weekend was the latest England squad for the midweek game in Portugal, and what a mess it is. Mainly disrupted by some dodgily ‘injured’ or ‘otherwise engaged’ players—Sol Campbell, Gary Neville, Steven Gerrard—and with more full backs than you can shake a big stick at, it looks terribly unbalanced. Two ‘defenders’ that have spent the season in midfield and just two real centre-halves, though in John Terry and Gareth Southgate he has at least got two decent centre halves. Terry deserves inclusion over Rio Ferdinand regardless of any ban in my opinion. There are at least three players in there who are as International class as I am a Chinaman, namely Danny Mills, Jamie Carragher and Emile Heskey.

Sven won’t listen to me, but the team should line up (from the squad picked) in a four-four-two like so:

James, Cole (A), Terry, Sougthgate, Hargreaves, Butt, Lampard, Beckham, Scholes, Rooney, Owen

With, Butt playing in front of the defence, Beckham and Lampard as a central midfield two and Scholes and Rooney just behind Owen through the middle. Before you start thinking anything about Hargreaves, he’s a fine right back, and criminally overlooked in that role for England. Mills is useless, reckless, violent, and a waste of space, as is Carragher, I’d rather see the slightly dodgy but thoroughly modern Glen Johnson in the squad than the dull dinosaurs that Sven insists on picking. I’m not holding my breath, the day Eriksson picks an exciting team Satan will be skating to work.

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