All Things Footie

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All Things Footie | Wednesday, July 27 | Jordan

Everyone's going striker crazy

What is it about shit lanky forwards and Liverpool? While I was initally sceptical about him, I’d warmed to Rafa Benitez and come to the conclusion that he’s a shrewd operator. His aquisitions of Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso were inspired, and he’s even managed to get Jamie Carragher playing something resembling football.

The fact that he’s making a big thing about signing Borderline Zenden—perhaps the most average player I’ve ever seen—and then gone on to pay God knows how much (£6m?) for Peter Crouch is beginning to make me think that I may have been right to begin with. Peter Crouch is nothing more exciting than the new Emile Heskey, only with even an even greater distance between his brain and his feet.

Like Heskey, Crouch has looked half decent and scored a handful of goals at a club destined for relegation, like Heskey, the physical presence of Crouch is his main asset. Unlike Heskey, Crouch has a reasonable amount of subtlety in his feet, and while his first touch isn’t as suicidal as Heskey’s, he’s no Kanu. I’ll be interested to see how he goes at Liverpool, but I fully expect him to score, ooh, at least 6 goals next year, maybe one or two more. I’ve heard armchair fans tell me that ‘he’ll surprise a few people’, no he won’t—Park Ji Sung will surprise a few people, Hleb may surprise a few, Borgetti may, but Peter Crouch will not.

Talking of poor decisions in signing forwards, I hear Graeme Souness is after Nicolas Anelka. Well, if he was having trouble with Bellamy acting the arse, misbehaving, talking back and generally thinking above his station, he’ll have no problem with Anelka. Just ask Kevin Keegan, Gerrard Houllier, Jacques Santini, Vicente Del Bosque, Philippe Bergeroo and last but not least, Arsene Wenger.

I’m convinced Graeme Souness is the worst manager ever to grace the Premiership. And that includes Christian Gross. He’s systematically attempted (albeit unintentionally—we assume) to destroy Liverpool and Blackburn, and now he’s moving on to Newcastle. He signs rubbish and sells quality, he’s an absolutle joke—and if I were a Newcastle United fan, I’d be quaking in my boots. Seriously.

In more recent news, I’m surprised Alex Ferguson even took Keane to Japan; we all know what happened the last time Roy hung out in that part of the World. Keane’s attitude has always been shocking, and it’s no surprise to see him kicking up a fuss over something as innocuous as family invitations to a club tour. I very much doubted he’d play on after this season anyway, and now I think it’s a certainty—the question is can Park Ji Sung replace him?

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All Things Footie | Friday, July 15 | Jordan

This is the end...

So Patrick Vieira is finally leaving Arsenal, after much constenation about his future over the last couple of years, it’s no surprise to see the captain leaving, and I don’t think Arsenal fans have anything at all to worry about. I’m not even convinced they need to spend money on a direct replacement.

Let me explain my thinking.

For a start, when has Wenger made a mistake selling/releasing a player? Did we see the best of Marc Overmars or Emmanuel Petit at Barcelona? I made my feelings about important midfielders clear last week, and I maintain that it would have been far worse for Arsenal to lose Gilberto at this stage than Vieira, particularly when Arsenal have a ready made replacement for Vieira in Cesc Fabregas, only he’s younger, more energetic and in this author’s opinion, has far more technical dexterity.

I’m a big believer in sporting pschology, and there’s nothing more useless than an uninterested or unmotivated player, and Vieira’s looked that for more than a season now. The hunger had gone, and he was never the most inspirational player in the first place. He may regain a bit of that hunger at Juve and go on to have more good years, but I somewhat doubt it. There’s no doubting he’s a phenomenal player, along with Roy Keane one of the finest dynamic midfielders of his generation, but like Keane, age and injuries have caught up with Vieira, and he’s not been himself physically as well as mentally over the last few years.

Arsenal are better off now, with a midfield that’s hungry for success and desperate to prove themselves. With characters like Thierry Henry around, Vieira’s presence will not be desperately missed in the dressing room—not to mention the outgoing personalities of many of the younger players like Kolo Touré. Fabergas and Flamini have had a perfect period of time to settle in and get used to first team action (not that the former has ever looked out of his depth) and it’s the right time to start replacing the likes of Vieira.

Yes, the likes of Vieira. More players will leave Arsenal in the next year, ‘big’ players. Sol Campbell, Robert Pires, maybe even Ashley Cole; and Wenger will not struggle to replace any of them. If there’s one thing that separates Wenger from 99% of football managers, it’s his long term view and vision, and he’s been preparing for this moment for the last three or four years. Maybe even longer. When Petit and Overmars left, he had Edu and Pires waiting, when the defence started ageing, he had Lauren, Campbell, et al in line. Even when ill-prepared for change, as he was when Anelka announced his departure, he managed to find Thierry Henry.

The fact is that whether Arsenal go and buy a multi-million pound replacement or not, Wenger has a plan and you can bet that it will only make Arsenal stronger. Francesc Fabregas is a far better player than most people realise, and most people realise he’s pretty prodigious. There’s every chance we could be talking about Fabregas in ten years in the way we talk about Zidane now, and I’m not exaggerating here. It’s not possible to exaggerate the potential of someone as good as Fabregas, and disregarding everything else I’ve said, he alone makes Vieira’s departure a positive move for the club, rather than a step backwards, sideways or in the wrong direction.

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All Things Footie | Wednesday, July 6 | Jordan

Liverpool fans show rational side

So Steven Gerrard is leaving Liverpool. He’s given them possibly some of his best years, and he’s led them to a European Cup triumph. I believed him after the European Cup Final when he said he wanted to stay, Scousers being the fiercely-loyal-even-at-the-expense-of-their-careers type, even more than Geordies. Something’s gone wrong, and you can bet it’s a mixture of Gerrard/Gerrard’s agent, Rick Parry/Rafael Benitez and the general capitalist malaise in football at the moment.

Whatever it is, burning effigies of him is just a bit too much. Xabi Alonso is better, and Gerrard wasn’t even the most important player in Istanbul anyway, for that accolade, we come on to something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while.

In modern European football, the most important player in any team is the unsung defensive midfielder.

They consistently fail to receive accolades—even from their own fans—but without a consistent, quality player in this position, it’s not possible to be successful. It seems the most obvious thing to say in the World, but it’s hardly ever discussed, and even fewer people appreciate the point. It is more difficult to find a world class holding midfielder than it is to find a striker who’ll score 30 a season. It’s more difficult than finding a solid defensive rock, it’s more difficult than finding a creative ‘hole’ player, and it’s even more difficult than finding a quality goalkeeper.

The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, managers are aware of all this, and doggedly refuse to let the good ones go; secondly, the players themselves are not the prima-donna, outgoing, flashy, ambitious personalities—the role they play is the antithesis of that—they enjoy being unsung, they enjoy the so called ‘donkey-work’. In the past, their abilities have been underappreciated, hence the derisory comments made about the Didier Deschamps and Dungas of the game. I won’t go so far as to say I under-appreciated David Batty, but there are plenty who didn’t get their dues in the past that would do now.

Lets look at some examples:

The game is played in such a way now that when a team attacks, three of the four midfielders in a 4-4-2 generally bomb forward, leaving a defence and one midfielder to fend off counter-attacks. Without wanting to get too analytical, the key player in this defensive line is the first point of contact for the attacking team. If this player can win the ball and send it back up the pitch, not only has he prevented an attack on goal, but even if his distruibution is iffy (as seems to be the norm for this type of player), he sends the play up the opposite end of the pitch, and indirectly creates chance after chance. The role becomes even more important playing for or against a five man midfield.

So there it is: as Arsenal demonstrated perfectly last season, no number of Thierry Henrys and Robert Pireses can make up for having a good ‘water carrier’.

EDIT: So it seems Gerrard’s staying—I bet those clowns who burnt his shirt outside Anfield feel like proper tits now.

(21) Comment(s) | Permanent link to this article

  1. Punishment should fit the crime
  2. Ouch
  3. Tevez and Mascherano madness
  4. Predictions
  5. Warming up
  6. The World Cup II
  7. The World Cup
  8. Thought for the day
  9. Ready children? Then let's begin
  10. Don't say I never give you anything