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Arsene Wenger – Is his Time up

After Arsenal’s 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich, all but ending their Champions League hopes and with their struggles in both domestic cups, all rests on a top 4 finish.. Is that enough to save Wenger?

Being a avid fan of Manchester United my whole life, the less teams challenging us for the league the better. But also being a life long football fan I just cannot understand the intense scrutiny Arsene Wenger has been put under. Everyone is aware of the current trophy drought Arsenal are in, which looks like it may continue past this season and i can understand the fans disappointment, but thinking he should be sacked is farcical. This is the man who took over a team that were in a decline, and he turned their fortunes around almost immediately, bringing a lot of success while also playing sublime football. Winning 3 League Titles, 4 Fa Cups and 4 Community Shields. Not to mention creating the “Untouchables” team who went the 2003/04 Premier League season unbeaten.

Since Arsenal moved to the Emirates Stadium their success has waned. The cost of the stadium has stopped Arsenal from spending the sort of money that Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham have. They have a set pay structure which helps them run their club excellently. All these teams are spending more on both transfer fees and wages than Arsenal, yet Arsenal are still competing for the top 4 spots year in year out. Also people seem to forget they finished in third place last year, behind only the two Manchester clubs. This ensured Champions League football for the 15th successive season, with only Manchester United boasting a better record than that.

Maybe when people think of the job Wenger is doing at Arsenal now, they should look towards Everton as a comparison. Nobody in football doubts what a great job David Moyes has, and still is doing at Goodison Park with little or no money. They have finished in the top 8 places in 7 of the last 8 years giving Moyes a legendary status at Everton. Their fans realise that Moyes is overachieving somewhat due to the restrictions imposed on their spending. Perhaps Arsenal fans should be thinking the same way with Wenger. When UEFA’s Financial Fair Play and The Premier Leagues Financial rules come into effect in the next few years Arsenal will be in a much stronger position to compete with the big spending clubs.  Arsenal fans need to be patient with Wenger, and show him the support and respect he deserves after his 17 years in charge. If they were to dismiss him in the summer than whom could they get to replace him?


Spain prove their doubters wrong, including me!

In my previous post I discussed Spain’s 4-6-0 formation and gave my opinion about it. I still stand by what I said, which is that I would prefer that other teams don’t play this formation and by doing so not make the role of a out and out striker redundant. I think if this happened, it would remove something special from this beautiful game. However Spain aren’t just any other team. They are by far the number 1 football nation on this planet at this moment and possibly ever.

Spain have totally evolved the idea of how football should be played, with every other European country now looking at them as a template for success. We all know Spain’s style of play is to keep possession, and they do that better than anyone. Although in my opinion that is not what makes them unique. It is their ability to change the dynamic of the game that is truly exceptional. With 1 good run and a perfectly timed pass they go from a team not looking particularly dangerous 40 yards out from goal against a team with 11 men behind the ball, to a 1 on 1 goal scoring chance. Players like Iniesta, Xavi, Silva, Fabregas, Alonso, Mata, Pedro, Muniain and Carzorla love to keep the ball and play simple passes, but then any 1 of them can spring into life with 1 through pass and 1 run. None of these players are  restricted to where they can play and that constant rotation makes them almost unplayable. Add their flawless technique, impeccable vision and awareness of players around them and you have a team who can destroy anybody at any time, like they did to Italy on Sunday and Ireland earlier on in the tournament.

Spain have probably been overly criticised by a lot of people including myself during these European Championships. As they haven’t been able to reach their best, although they do say a sign of a good team is winning while not at your best. Yet they still produced an excellent display which proved all their doubters wrong in the final on Sunday. The score line in the end was in truth possibly a little flattering due to Italy playing the last half an hour with 10 men due to an injury to Thiago Motta but that cannot take anything away from this team.

Since I have been watching football, Brazil have always been the team to beat. They have always entertained and shown outrages flamboyancy. This entertainment went hand in hand with winning football matches and trophies. This ensured that every wanted to see them play, the were the highlights of the tournament. But perhaps this supremacy which they have enjoyed over the years, could be a shifting towards Spain? And with the Spanish under 21 side winning the U21 European Championships in 2011 playing the same style as the senior team, the future looks bright for them.

By Alan O’Brien

Spain’s 4-6-0 Formation – Good or Bad for football?

Vicente del Bosque could possibly have the easiest job in world football at the moment with the quality of  players he has at his disposal. But while nobody can argue with Spain’s results in Euro 2012, with 9 goals scored and only 1 conceded from their  5 games so far, the same could not be said for their performances. Yes Spain will always have more possession of the ball then their opponent will and generally create more chances. But by flooding the midfield with 6 players are they damaging their performances.

Without doubt their midfield the strongest area of the squad. Especially when you take into account players like Mata, Pedro and Fabregas are not considered 1st choice in the starting XI. When you have players like Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Silva and Busquets playing in midfield, why is their a need to play a 6th midfielder? The 5 players already playing are probably the best in the world at holding possession and carving out chances. Playing another midfielder means they lack a vocal point for their attacks. When the opposing team gets men behind the ball in numbers 40 yards outside their goal, Spain need a player who will play high up the pitch, on the line of the defence making runs off the centre halves.  This would straight away open up more space in midfield for players like Xavi, Iniesta and Silva to work their magic to create chances which a quality striker would thrive on.

Everybody knows Torres has had a torrid time in the last couple of years but as he proved against Ireland in the group stages, he will score when the opportunity arises. He may not be as technically gifted or as good a passer as the rest of the Spanish team, but what he offers is his willingness to stay as far forward as possible occupying both centre halves, as a result creating more space for the more creative players to flourish. By a team not playing a recognised centre forward, we will miss exciting battles between central defenders and centre forwards.

I hope clubs and other football nations don’t buy into this new formation of football as it will only deprive us of quality forward play, excitement and goals.

By Alan O’Brien

England’s Failures

I see a lot of people on blog’s and other opinion websites giving out about the English team. Saying that this player shouldn’t be in the team and that player shouldn’t be even in the 23 man squad, and then offering up their own version of what team should be playing. But nobody has seemed to notice the biggest and in my opinion the most obvious problem with the English national team, for as long as i can remember.

This problem is one that most big footballing nations have been avoiding for a long time by just using their common footballing sense. For years England have put together a team comprised of 2 or 3 players from their top teams (Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs & Liverpool) and jumble them altogether into a formation and style of football that the current manager prefers. All these players come from teams that play different formations and have different styles of football. Where as most of the other top European footballing countries base their team around a core of players from one team. For example Spain have Barcelona running through their core with Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas and David Villa all first choice when fit. Same goes for Germany and Bayern with Neuer, Lahm, Badstuber, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Kroos and Gomez. Also Italy use Juventus’ core players; Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, Pirlo, Marchisio, Giaccherini.

A lot of these player would walk straight into any team but also some of these players wouldn’t. Take Busquets for example, a very important  player in my opinion but I am sure their are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t have him in the team ahead of maybe Javi Martinez. But Del Bosque picks him every game, especially the big games. Not because he’s a world beater, but because he plays together with Xavi and Iniesta every week. The top international sides use a club team from their own nation as a template and they fit other good players around this core of players. They then play a similar and sometimes identical style to that of which their main club would play.

If England done this, they would play better football and do much better in tournaments. In my opinion England should base their future team around a core of players that are playing for one of these teams week in week out. The obvious choices are Man Utd or Man City. Man Utd have good English players in Jones, Smalling, Cleverly, Carrick, Young, Rooney & Wellbeck while Man City have Hart, Richards, Lescott, Barry, Johnson and Milner. A team based around these players would play a more possession orientated attacking style of football. That would not only entertain the fans of England but of other countries too.

By Alan O’Brien