Saturday, 6 August 2011

Are the noisy neighbours about to turn the volume up?

So, here i sit, less than 24hours before the 2011 Community Shield between Manchester United and Manchester City, bitter rivals, all the more bitter since City's billionaire owners decided to settle down in Manchester. Sir Alex Ferguson often refers to United's rivals as the "noisy neighbours", but with all this, you still got the feeling Sir Alex was not totally worried about City's ambition. If he was not this time last year, he would sure as hell want to be now.

Since the takeover, the noise City have created has gradually been building. Under Hughes, they were just seen as a student house that often had the odd house party, harmless enough and usually tired themselves out after a while, then the arrival of Roberto Mancini and the arrival of players such as Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Yaya Toure just turned the volume up some more, the volume was turned up so much that United would often have to go around and ask them to turn it down, City obliged, until the FA Cup Semi-Final where they would not give in, showed their class and won through and had their party. Ultimately, United won the league, so City's success in the Cup was dampened by this.

This Summer transfer window has been all about the two Manchester clubs so far, the next two weeks will surely see Arsenal have a face lift, along with Chelsea bringing in at least one player in highly rated Belgian Lukaku, Liverpool seem to be just interested in spending big on central midfielders and British born players while Arry has not done a lot at Spurs.....well nothing in fact. United burst into the market with the signings of Phil Jones and Ashley Young, two promising signings which add great depth to the squad and added competition. They were soon joined by highly rated Spanish U-21 goalkeeper David De Gea, this lad has the potential to be one of the best around, as long as he works on his set piece ability, he will live up to his potential. As far as replacing Paul Scholes, United have failed. Wesley Sneijder is continuously linked, but nothing as of yet, although we all know talks are taking place, but as of today, we also know talks are taking place with arch rivals Manchester City also. United have options in the center, more than widely thought. Rooney can and will drop deep, Anderson staying fit will be big for United, whilst Tom Cleverly looks as though he will be given a well deserved chance this year, a talent that need to be respected.

City were not to be out done in the market, after some shrude business with the signing of promising defender Savic, they also brought in Gael Clichy, this man splits opinion, personally i don't rate him as high as others have, but will do a job with City. In a week where it looked likely they would nab Samir Nasri, they came up with a quick and straight forward signing, and what a signing. Sergio "Kun" Aguero is a special footballer, he has got it all, even Maradona's daughter. I make no secret of the fact, i do not like Carlos Tevez, i can appreciate his talent, but in Aguero, they have a player who is not like for like replacement, he is better in most departments. Whether Tevez stays to partner Aguero is up in the air, but what a front 5/6 City will have.

Mario Balotelli, another amazing footballing talent, clearly loopy, but clearly gifted. The LA Galaxy scene was blown out of all proportion, it happened, people need to get over it. The game was a pre season friendly in which he thought he was offside, and even if he didn't, would people prefer he did this in an important game? Other options include David Silva, maybe the most technically gifted player in the Premier League, adds great vision and ability to the attacking line. Players such as Yaya Toure, James Milner, Adam Johnson and Edin Dzeko will surely be enough to get the goals needed for a proper run at the title?

The only area of concern would be defense, Vincent Kompany has a decent shout for being the best defender in the league, Joe Hart also just as good an argument for best keeper. This though is where the problem lies, Clichy will do a job, but a lot of the time needs help through a lack of concentration. Another central defender may be needed to add depth.

Verdict: This really could be City's year, they have the talent, the potential, all the infrastructure is there for them. Champions League football will dictate how close they come for the league this year in my opinion, the further they go in Europe, the less likely they are to mount a real challenge. For me anyway, they are United's main challengers, and the title is going to Manchester in 2012, but which part?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011 are the man, but you already knew that didn't you?

Having a starting point on discussing this man is very difficult, if not impossible, but i will try. Various articles are very interested when reporters make cases for why he is either brilliant OR rubbish. The man divides opinion, one thing for sure though, is that Zlatan is cock sure of how damn good he is, and i have to agree.

When it comes to people here that i talk to, its hard to ever talk about him without finding yourself going on a rant, for a couple of reasons. So many fans base their opinion on a player on one thing and one thing only, and that is the Champions League. The reason for this is because that is where they get to see the big boys from around Europe come out to play through the coverage we get from Sky, ITV etc etc you get the point. They then get to see the likes of Bayern, Inter, Milan, Juventus, Ajax, Barca and Madrid play, sometimes though they only watch them if they are playing a big match or another English team is not on TV, other than that, they will watch them on highlights shown directly after the feature match. Nothing wrong with this, its good that people watch the highlights, better than not watching anything at all. The problem is, they base their opinion on a player from these highlights, or from the couple of games they see a player play in the competition from playing their team.

This leads me to Zlatan, people i know actually have called him a very bad player, come on you cant be serious? You watch maybe 2 full games of this man a season.......if even that, and if he has an off game or just does not score, then you make your mind up on him. One thing worth point out, is that the Swede does not have a great record in the Champions League, in fact, he left Inter and they won the competition, he then leaves Barca....guess what? they then go on and win it. If a fan was to indeed take time out to watch Zlatan in the Italian league, then they would just see why he is one of the best players in the world, his touch is just simply fantastic, up there with the best touch in World football. He can change a game in seconds, he can win a match all by himself also. So, many will say he is a big game bottler, this is also false, terribly false in fact. If you were to watch the Milan derby last season, he cause all sorts of problems against his former club, getting, and scoring the penalty that indeed won the game. Just 6 minutes into his first ever El Clasico, Zlatan popped up and volleyed home the winner, what a goal that was.

Maybe we should check this pass out? There was not much need for it, but hey, its wonderful to watch..

Ok enough with the videos, lets take a look at his, according to people i talk to in Ireland, flop season in Spain? This actually makes me laugh. He is actually still a Barcelona player, although Milan will want him and the fee set was not much more than £20million. Ibrahimovic did not ask for Barca to pay in and around £40million plus Samuel Eto'o for him. Talk at the time was, Eto'o had to leave die to falling out with players/staff etc and was thrown in as a sweetner to make the loss of Inter's best player a little less painful. Ibrahimovic scored 16 goals in 29 league games, and only 23 of them were from the start of a game. Not bad is it? Add in some goals in the Champions League against Arsenal and you have got a top quality striker. He did not fit in with Barca's style of play and that inevitably has led to him leaving. Barca wanted a plan B, he did not fit that bill, although playing some great stuff, he just didn't suit. 

Zlatan has won, and quote me on this, 8 league 8years, a title every year for 8 years. This is no coincidence, he can clearly be disruptive, but clearly one of footballs best players. 

La Gazzetta dello Sport summed it: "Serie A is a tournament in which various teams compete, and then at the end Zlatan Ibrahimovic wins."

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Arsenal fans.......DON'T PANIC

Oh dear, it really is silly season now isn't it? It never ceases to amaze me the way in which 'football fans' react to big moments in a clubs history. Arsenal have not won a trophy in 7years now, for around 5years this went relatively unnoticed due to the way in which they played, and the young guns promise that was being rammed down our throats, we were being told to wait, and Arsenal fans seemed to be ok with that, in Wenger we trust right?

The past 2 seasons have threatened to be magical for Arsenal, they have played some amazing football, and i would go as far as saying, if Barcelona were not scooping up all trophies in front of them, Arsenal would be the darlings of European football, trophies or not, we love great football. Problem being, Barcelona play the football Arsenal thrive to play, the football that at times, Arsenal play brilliantly but, Barca play it better. 

It was all going quite well last season for a large part, the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott seemed to find his feet finally, Samir Nasri filling in perfectly when Fabregas was not fit. There was even talk Fabregas would be allowed leave due to Nasri's emergence as a key player at Arsenal. The forgotten man it seems now, Marounne Chamkh, made an immediate impact, fillinf the void left by the injury prone Robin Van Persie. So where on earth did it all go wrong?

The Carling Cup final for me was the pivotal moment in Arsenal's season, it was there chance to put something back into that trophy cabinet. It all looked quite good, until mistakes at the back let Obafemi Martins become an instant Birmingham hero. Birmingham's season went desperately downhill from there, but so did Arsenal's. A draw with my boyhood club Leyton Orient was also a major point, showing that these new young guns, and also some older one's, are maybe just not up to the standard we have came to know and love. Arsenal managed to beat the might of Barcelona at the Emirates, and even got a goal in the Camp Nou, they were a stupid Van Persie red card and a nervous Nicklas Bendthner away from winning that tie, and who knows where that may have brought them. A late surge from Man City means that Arsenal must qualify for this seasons Champions League, the should do so without any major hiccup.

Now, here we are, silly season has arrived. Clubs around Arsenal seem to be strengthening, well at least Man Utd do. Rumors are rife of the imminent departures of Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Add to this, the Sunday papers which are claiming Arsenal are in major breakdown, oh come on you can do better than this. Some deadweights are sure to be leaving during the window, Bendthner who is unhappy at not being played in a central position will leave, we may even see Arshavin take a hike (you can never tell what is going on in his head). Of the players being linked away from Arsenal today, this would be my opinion.

Fabregas - (Yes ok, we get it, he wants to go to Barcelona, get it over with)
Clichy - (Yes but who exactly said this lad was a major part of Arsenal, he lacks.....well basic defending skills)
Nasri - (Yes maybe, and as a Man Utd supporter i want him, but Arsenal would have to fit Wilshere in somewhere)

Van Persie - (Can not see this happening, in fact, i will bet that it wont, papers putting 2+2 together and getting 7)
Walcott - (The least likely to leave in my book, the rumor is unfounded and ridiculous)

People are going on and on as if these players have left the club, and that Arsenal will not sign anyone. Good god, Arsenal are going through a patch where they are changing players, and maybe even the shape of the team. I think it could turn out to be exciting for the club. Wilshere may get the chance to play further up the field in the absence of Nasir, and according to most fans, Wilshere was one of the players of the season. Ramsey was hailed as the next Fabregas, he has talent, given time he will be a major player for Arsenal. Gibbs will replace Clichy in the long run i think, although could easily see Vermaalen being shipped out to the left if a couple of CB’s are brought in.

It’s not as if they are not going to sign anyone, Gervinho is expected to arrive, Chamberlain also along with a CB or 2. Once these players are signed, what else do Arsenal need? Possibly an Attacking midfielder to fill the void while Ramsey rises to the top, and in my view someone to challenge Song for his place. 

As long as Arsene Wenger gives some players their time to shine, and i include Chamakh in this, then Arsenal will be just fine. People need to relax themselves.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Ashley Young, Great......but why now?

So here we are, Ashley Young signs for Manchester United on Thursday, although for all football fans who take a big interest in their club, this deal has been done for a long long time. In April i wrote a post about Nani and looked into how the rest of his season would work out for him, and it basically worked out like i thought it would. He failed to make any real impact towards the end of the season, as Ji Sung Park made the left side of midfield his own for big games, including the Champions League Final, and also Ryan Giggs continuing to amaze people with great displays. I also tipped Young to join us back then, and welcomed the deal.

You never really got the feeling Nani would start the final in London, you knew his work ethic was not good enough, and would leave Dani Alves and Lionel Messi to run riot up the right hand side of the field, even without Nani in the team, they did it anyway and showed up some of the obvious weaknesses in Patrice Evra's game. So this leads to me to a couple of questions about this Ashley Young signing.

Why exactly would Sir Alex go out and buy a player, who don't get me wrong is a very very good player, but essentially very similar to Nani? Young has more weaknesses than you may think. Like Nani, Young's work rate defensively is not anything special, if anything its on a par with Nani's. He had less assists than Nani last season, also less goals, so again, why?

One solution i have came to is Young has been a big fish in a small pond at Villa, i'm not taking away from Villa here, they are a big club and have done a lot for him. They took a risk on him, bringing him from Watford and letting him grow into an England International and a valuable one at that. I feel he may have grown too comfortable at Aston Villa, grown comfortable with the fact they are not expected to win the league, or qualify for Europe every year. When lately he has been playing for England, he has shown glimpses of the talent many thought would lead him to be one of the best wingers in the world, but now he is 25, there is no more time for excuses, it is surely now time to show the goods. His peak should be in the next 3-4 years, and he wont have this pace forever. Also the fact that he is English may be a big factor in the signing, with Sir Alex showing with the signing of Phil Jones, he wishes to add some home grown talent to the squad.

Speaking to some Villa fans, they are sad over Young's departure, although not a lot have noticed too much, they seem to be too angry about McLeish taking charge rather than one of their best players being sold. They feel Young can be very frustrating, lacks some work ethic, but also has strokes of genius that will win you 3 points instead of one. Does this not sound familiar? Do we not have a certain player who matches that criteria already for the same position?

Either Nani is to leave, or Ferguson will have to find a way of keeping both happy, i can see an attempt to bed Young into the center of midfield, but i can see it failing too. Some are saying why not have used the money from the Jones and Young deals to bring in an attacking midfielder, i say that's stupid, we have bought a possible future England Captain in Jones, and as for Young, it remains to be seen but i feel we have bought a match winner. Iv no doubt United will go and sign a midfielder, who? I'm not sure, my personal preference would be Mezut Ozil, although the little German has declined to hold talks with United. Other than that i can see a bid for Sneijder coming, although i fear we may not be bringing the Dutch man to Old Trafford. Also can see a bid maybe for Stephen Defour, he signed a new contract recently but talks of Juventus making a move may just prompt Ferguson into a sneaky bid.

It remains to be seen how the Young signing will fair out, i hope and believe it will work, but also feel it may mean Nani will not be at Old Trafford for many more years to come.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Test Report: How good is Nani?

The question that will get so so many different opinions that you could hardly come to a conclusion. Nani, a man that has come of age, a man that has finally learnt his lessons, a man that finally has gained that end product. All these terms were going through my head earlier in the season, and don't get me wrong, i am still a huge believer in his ability. He has it all in my eyes, he has speed, a winning mentality, vision, dribbling ability, two good feet and a genuine love of step overs. The burning question for me is: Will it ever come together consistently?

This season, without doubt, has been Nani's best. 9 goals and an absolute glut of assists saw him nominated for PFA Young Player of the year. An award that to be fair, he really was up against it, Jack Wilshere has dominated this season for me and totally deserved the award, Gareth Bale also has had a good season, but  i feel did not warrant winning the senior award. For example, how can Bale win the senior award, but miss out on the young award? surely Wilshere has been voted better than Bale in one category, how on earth can Bale then win the top prize? Thtats football i guess, and why we love it.

Anyway, back on track, Nani. When he missed an 87th minute penalty against Fulham in August, i felt this might be another typical season for the Portuguese ace. Nani, though, has done exceptional this term as discussed before. After tonight's game however, i cant help but feel that Nani has not matured as much as we may think. Remember this?

This, there was no need for. In a game where Utd had the game won, he decides to annoy and provoke Arsenal. To us fans, it was fun, it was good to see the boy wind them up.But this was a piece of Nani that will never disappear i feel, he showboats too much, when it is not needed. Many will say C Ronaldo does the same, but when he has scored 42 goals in a season, he can do whatever he wants, when he wants. Nani just has certain areas to work on, big time. Like his crossing from is and i will argue on this, ABYSMAL. He will pop up with a good corner every now and again, but 7/10 times, he will not beat the first man. His free kicks are very like Ronaldo's style, but unfortunately his ability to take a free kick is not up to that standard.

Man Utd have had a weird season, looking right now on track to win a record breaking 19th league title and on course for another Champions League final, sounds like a pretty amazing season....unless you have been watching it. The midfield has not had a consistent look to it, Scholes is now surely on his last legs, Giggs although going through a good spell is soon to retire also, Hargreaves is....whatever and Gibson and Carrick just don't want to be good footballers anymore and Fletcher, even as a workhorse, will not win you the game or place that killer pass, Anderson also is looking less likely to fill potential that made United pay so big for him. With the midfield looking so thin on the ground, Park Ji Sung, Antonio Valencia and Nani must have a major impact on the remainder of the season if United are to have any chance of lifting another European Cup/

Nani must show some of the ability he showed earlier in the season, where he just glided by numerous Bolton defenders and slotted the ball home. In the end i feel this could be one of Nani's most important season's in a United shirt, with rumors of Ashley Young arriving, also rumors surrounding a swap with Wesley Sneijder growing, Nani must show up in the big games from now until the end of the season. If he doesn't? Then i truly believe Nani will not be as big a part of Manchester United's future as he may even think