Tag Archives: Arsenal she wore

Steven Gerrard shows Thierry Henry how its done

Yesterday Liverpool announced that Steven Gerrard would be returning to the club taking a full time coaching position in their academy.

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The former Liverpool captain only retired from football at the end of November last year, and within a couple of months has already agreed to rejoin his boyhood club as a full time academy coach. As predicted, this has led to a lot of Arsenal fans moaning that so many of our ex-players, so many legends of the club, are not on the coaching field of London Colney or Hale End.

This ignores the fact that the likes of Steve Bould, Freddie Ljungberg and Robert Pires are involved with the club. Lesser known ex-players like Giles Grimandi, Ryan Garry, Danny Karbassiyoon, Steve Gatting, Greg Lincoln, Steve Morrow and Kwame Ampadu also have possessions at the club.

Some people act like we can have hundreds of ex-players of coaches, and they should be coaching at the club, no matter how good a coach they are.

Of course, like anyone, I do wish the likes of Thierry Henry, Tony Adams, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp were at Arsenal. But they have all chosen to take their post-playing career elsewhere.

Martin KeownLee DixonIan WrightRay Parlour have all decided to take up a career in the media. It is a lot easier earning your money speaking once a week on Match of the Day, a few times a week on Sky Sports, or for a few hours every morning on TalkSport, than working 7 days a week, getting to Arsenal’s training ground at 7am to coach, not leaving till 5pm, and having night games.

Coaching is not easy, it is not well paid. You can get as much money appearing once a week on Match of the Day as you can being a coach at a top club. Less work. Same (or in many cases, more) money.

We do have many players who decided to stay in the game. Dennis BergkampMarc OvermarsGilberto Edu decided to return to their home countries, Holland and Brazil respectively, to ply their trade. And some of the cases, it was also a return to their boyhood clubs that they supported.

Patrick Vieira was offered a big money contract when he retired for Manchester City, moving into an ambassadorial role with the oil-rich club. He is now managing Man City’s sister club in American – New York City, where he has a 40% win percentage.

Then we have Tony Adams. My first Arsenal hero. A 14 year old me in 2000 would have had him down as Arsene Wenger’s replacement at Arsenal. At that age, it did not matter that he might not be a good manager, he was Mr Arsenal. As it turned out, he was an awful manager who took both Wycombe Wanders and Portsmouth backwards. He was last seen in Azebaijan. Being an Arsenal legend does not mean that you should automatically become Arsenal manager.

Finally we come to Thierry Henry, and this is where we compare him to Steven Gerrard.

Henry was offered a job at Arsenal, similar to that which Gerrard has taken up at Liverpool. Involved in the academy, Henry was offered a full time job coaching Arsenal’s Under-18s. He turned it down as he wanted the role to be part time.

The reason behind him only wanting a part time role was purely a monetary one. In 2014, he signed a six-year deal with Sky Sports worth a staggering £4 million a year. £24million. It was impossible for him to work full time for Arsenal and full time for Sky. He was never going to break his Sky contract to take a full time job at Arsenal for a lot less money.

Instead Henry joined Roberto Martinez’s Belgium set up, on a part time deal, which did not affect any of his work with Sky.

Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have also decided to take the big money on offer from Sky than return to coaching – Neville did it for a bit with Valencia but soon returned to the comfy Sky Studio.

Meanwhile, Steven Gerrard has shunned a media career. He could have easily have got a job with Sky Sport. A recently retired legends, an England captain, he could have negotiated himself a deal close to that of Henry’s. But he did not. He loved Liverpool, and clearly wants to coach Liverpool, even if it means harder work and less money then he would get sitting on a TV sofa.

And that is the difference between the two. Gerrard has become part of Liverpool’s academy set up because he loves the club. Henry turned down becoming part of Arsenal’s academy set up because he loves the Sky money.

Keenos

 

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Alexis Sanchez, Pep Guardiola, Harry Kane

Alexis Sanchez

My first thought when I saw Alexis Sanchez’s petulant display after being substituted against Swansea was grow up. 24 hours on, my opinion is still the same.

Yes, I understand the defence some are putting up for him. That no player should like being substituted, and that Sanchez merely showed that he wants to play, and win. But Sanchez’s behaviour showed he needs to understand the game situation a bit more.

On the pitch he is a selfish player. A remarkable individual talent. At the likes of Udinese, and for Chile, he has been able to do what he wants. At Barcelona he had to be a team player, and struggled. At Arsenal he has shown similar behaviour patterns.

He lacks respect for management and seems to be unable to understand decisions mde that ultimately were correct.

I doubt anyone truly thinks Arsene Wenger was incorrect taking Sanchez off at 4-0. And if you do think he was incorrect, this is likely more to do with your anti-Wenger agenda than the actual decision. Had Wenger kept Sanchez on, and he got injured, you would have moaned even more.

It was Sanchez’s overall behaviour that disappointed me throughout the entire situation.

As he came off, fans who had travelled for 4 hours, on the road, on the train, with a replacement rail bus service, sang out his name. At no point did he acknowledge those fans. He then failed to acknowledge Arsene Wenger. Highlighting he has little respect for management.

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He then sat on the bench, with a coat over his head, crying. Man up son.

Sanchez is a world class player. At 28 he is one that many of the youngsters at the club will look up to, try to be like, try to emulate. Some have spoken in the past about how he should be Arsenal captain. But this strop was up there with William Gallas sitting in the centre circle away at Birmingham.

He has a responsibility as a senior member of the playing stuff to set a good example. I wonder what the likes of Ainsley Natiland-Niles and Jeff Adelaide thought. Impressionable young players, sitting on the bench, Sanchez did not even accept their well done’s.

Over at Chelsea, Eden Hazard was taken off with 15 minutes to go, Chelsea were 3-0 up. He shook the hand, or high fived, every player, every member of staff, on the Chelsea bench when coming off. He understood the game situation. Realised the game was one, knew he had done his job for the day. This is how I expect a senior, talented player to act.

Sanchez showed he thinks he is more important than Arsenal. I admire that he wants to play every minute of every game, but as a senior player he should know that the team is bigger than him, that he does not need to play every minute of every game.

If Sanchez’s behaviour was due to him being unhappy at the club, wanting to leave, then he knows where the door is. I support Arsenal, not Sanchez. Players come and go. We have lost bigger and better players than Alexis Sanchez.

It is Arsenal FC, not Sanchez FC.

Pep Guardiola

Has Pep Guardiola been found out in the Premier League?

Yesterday Everton thrashed his Manchester City side 4-0. Guardiola sat there in his dug out, motionless. Helpless. Changing nothing tactically. Making substitutions that made no difference. It was a Wenger-esque performance from the Spaniard.

Guardiola and Wenger are kindred spirits. Managers who believe in a certain way of playing, and will rarely change that way. Both hold the belief that you do not need to prepare for the opposition, that if you play your own game, and play well, you win, no matter what.

At Barcelona, this philosophy worked. But when you had extreme talents like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, managing is easy. The Barcelona squad was filled with intelligent, talented players. Guardiola just had to sit and watch.

At Bayern Munich it was no different. Guardiola took over a Munich team who had lost just 3 times in all competitions the previous year. A side that won the treble. Scoring 151 goals and conceding just 33. Again, like at Barcelona, he had it easy. In Europe the cracks began to show, however, as his side were knocked out at the Semi-Final stage of the Champions League in each of the 3 seasons.

When Sir Alex Ferguson left Manchester United, the club fell apart. Ferguson was the genius holding the club together. Barcelona have won 3 of the 4 La Liga’s since Guardiola left, and Bayern sit top of the Bundesliga, having lost just a single game all season. Neither club has gone backwards since Pep left. Proof, perhaps, that Pep had little to do with the success of both clubs.

And now he finds himself in the Premier League, and he looks a broken man. He has previously spoken about struggling mentality at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, in two leagues where there is not a great deal of intensity. I think he is struggling with the competitiveness of the Premier League.

In Germany and Spain, 70% of the sides lie down and die. In the Premier League, every game (unless you are playing Swansea) is ultra-competitive, full blooded. And that is where Guardiola is struggling.

He is struggling to get himself up for a tough game every weekend. Struggling to get his squad up for every game. The fact that he left his squad with just one striker – Sergio Aguero – shows just how much he has underestimated the Premier League.

Last season, Manchester City were 4th, 15 points off top. They currently sit 5th (I am writing this before the Man U v Liverpool game), 10 games off top. Guardiola has not taken City forward.

I honestly think he will leave City in the summer. Managing in the Premier League is too tough a challenge for him. After only ever having success in his career, he will not be able to cope with failure.

He has spoken about how he is already thinking of retiring. He is clearly not enjoying the job he has at City. I think his bottle will go and he will chuck it all in.

Statistics

I love statistics. Always have done, always will. But the statistics have to be relevant. Yesterday I saw a statistic doing the rounds that was just laughable:

Spurs striker (Harry Kane) has reached 62 Prem goals in fewer games than Arsenal legend Thierry Henry

If anyone can tell me why 62 Premier League goals is relevant, please leave an answer in the comments section below.444

It is a statistic for statistics sake. Created to generate hits for the newspaper that produced it. To garner RT’s. Comparing Kane and Henry is laughable. Yes, Kane is showing himself to be a very good striker, but he has no where near the talent of Henry. Even the most die hard Spurs fan would admit that.

At 23, Henry had won the World Cup (where he finished his countries to scorer) and the European Championships. Harry Kane took a free kick that nearly hit the corner flag.

Kane is a good player, but lets see at the end of his career what he has won for Spurs before we compare him to one of the greatest players to have ever played in English football.

Keenos

Santi Cazorla’s Arsenal career over – who will replace him?

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The news was as expected. Santi Cazorla has been told to undergo surgery for Achilles tendon injury.

A quick Google of recovery times shows that after surgery, someone will be able to walk unaided after 6 – 12 weeks. But will not be able to return to full activity for 6 months. Taking into account we are a football club, not a normal person going physio once a week, you could probably guestimate that Cazorla will be out for 4-6 months. Pretty much ruling him out for the season.

It is then safe to assume that Santi Cazorla’s Arsenal career is over.

Arsenal's Santi Cazorla goes down injured against Norwich City.

He is 32 in a few weeks and with 1 year left on his contract, Arsenal were already debating as to whether to reward him with a new contract. There had been little talk of one being on the table. Cazorla had also spoken a few times about finishing his career in Spain.

With his age and his recent injury record (2 serious injuries in 12 months) it will be a very big risk for Arsenal to offer Cazorla anything more than a one year deal. Cazorla would be crazy to accept – knowing that a Spanish club would possibly offer him more.

So the love story of Arsenal and their cheeky chappy Spanish dwarf is over.

So where does this leave Arsenal’s midfield?

We only discussed a week ago about how much Arsenal were missing Santi Cazorla. With his career at the club now almost certainly over, it is time to look at the options.

Like for like replacement

Santi Cazorla is unique. His two footedness is only equalled by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s ambidextrous snooker playing.

He might be small, and not be physically capable for a heated midfield battle, but he always gave his all, and his control, dribbling and passing ability got him out of trouble when up against bigger men.

He was able to wriggle out of tight situations where he should really be getting overpowered with ease. A drop of the should, a quick pass off both feet. And it is the way he opened up both sides of the pitch that made him such a danger.

The fact is, there is no one in world football who is as gifted off both feet as Santi Cazorla. So a like for like replacement is unlikely.

You might see the likes of Isco get mentioned as a replacement, yet he is more lightweight and does not have Santi’s gifts.

Nice midfielder Vincent Koziello has had some comparisons to Cazorla. But this is more due to his size than his ability. Cazorla is far superior.

The only man who gets close to Cazorla’s attributes is Dimitri Payet. But he does not have the attitude of Cazorla. He would not be able to adapt to playing deeper.

So the realise is, a like for like replacement is an unrealistic demand.

Midfield Combinations

If we can not get in a like for like replacement, we will have to look at getting the midfield pairing right. The strength of two being great than one (and the power of three setting us free).

Discounting Cazorla, Arsenal currently have 5 central midfielder’s on their books to chose from going forward (including 1 on loan). How would they match up, and how could they partner with each other?

Francis Coquelin: The legs of the midfield. He covers the ground. Arsenal’s Kante. It is he who when partnered with Cazorla, allowed Santi to stroll through a lot of games. He was Cazorla’s legs. Getting round the park, winning the ball, and laying it off to the Spaniard. It is unlikely that we will get in a player as gifted on the ball as Santi, so Coquelin’s lack of ability on the ball could see him drop down the pecking order.

Granit Xhaka: Once he gets up to speed (I am still baffled as to why Xhaka is not yet playing regulary), Xhaka will be a terrific ball playing holding midfielder. Very much in the Xabi Alonso / Michael Carrick role, he has a terrific passing range, but also has very good defensive awareness and a bit in the tackle. He is a bit more defensive than Cazorla, not as good in tight situations, and it just one footed. But his passing ability will be essential when it comes to replacing Cazorla.

Mohamed Elneny: Kind of a mix of Coquelin and Xhaka. He doesn’t cover as much defensively as Coquelin, but can get round the park more than Xhaka. He is a better passer than the Frenchman, but no where near as good as Granit. He has been exposed in a couple of recent games for not giving the defence enough cover, and not quite having enough creativity. He has a place in the Arsenal squad, but as cover, rather than first choice.

Jack Wilshere: By now he should be Arsenal captain. Instead he is on loan at Bournemouth. Some think, like Cazorla, he will not be seen at Arsenal again. If fit and firing, he would offer very similar to what Cazorla did. The passing ability, being able to take the ball in tight situations and wriggle out of them, he should be exceptional. He just lacks Cazorla’s ambidextrous. And then we have his injuries. Last year we planned to build the midfield around him, and he got injured. Can you really pencil a player into the 1st team if he can not be relied upon? I am not sure. Also, if Granit xhaka is behind him, Mesut Ozil ahead, we have a midfield 3 of left footers. Not much balance.

Aaron Ramsey: And that leaves everyones favourite, Aaron Ramsey. Who had a shocker mid week. But his class is undeniable (even if some do try and deny it). For me, his best position is as the ‘waterboy’ of the team. Doing the hard work between someone more defensive and someone more attacking. If we are under the cosh, he has the defensive awareness to sit in alongside the defensive midfielder. If we are on top, he is free to get forward and support the front 4. He just needs to be played in his right position.

So an Aaron Ramsey / Granit Xhaka combination. And it is a combination that could work.

One left footed, the other right, gives us balance not seen since Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit. Xhaka has the defensive awareness and ability on the ball to sit in front of the back 4 and start the play, as Petit used too. Meanwhile Ramsey has the legs to get around the field, press a bit higher, a bit like Vieira did.

With Mesut Ozil ahead, it should give us plenty of creative fluidity, and plenty of defensive cover.

We would then have the options of Jack Wilshere, Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin as cover depending on the opposition / injury situation.

 

Losing Cazorla will be tough. A popular player who offered so much on the pitch. But we now need to move on. Let’s get the Xhaka / Ramsey axis developed.

Who do you think should play central midfield (pick 2):

Keenos