Tag Archives: Leicester City

Book Review: Heads Up: My Life Story – Alan Smith

OK, here we go: that passage of play embedded in Arsenal folklore. The most famous moment in English club football history? Well, I think so. Tell me of another that tops this goal for spine-tingling drama. People talk about Sergio Agüero’s last-gasp effort for Manchester City, the goal that won the title in 2012. Of course, it was sensational, the Premier League’s standout moment, but that came against QPR, fighting relegation, not the champions of England in a straight shoot-out when everyone else had packed up and gone home. Because of those unique circumstances, there really is no contest. Agüero’s winner doesn’t even come close.

Lukey says he was shattered, lacking the strength to punt the ball upfield, so threw it out to Dicko, who didn’t want it either. But with the ball at his feet, Lee couldn’t understand why I showed for his pass, rather than spinning for a big hoof. But show I did, out of habit more than anything, knowing Lee would try and hit me, as he always did. And what a pass it was, fizzed in at pace. As it flew my way, I knew I simply had to take a chance by trying to turn first-time, otherwise run the risk of getting crowded out in a congested midfield. Luckily, this was one of those nights when everything came off, my ball control as good as it had ever been. As one Liverpool player flatteringly put it later, ‘If they’d have fired a cannonball at Smith that night he would have brought it down first time.’ Well, this wasn’t a cannonball but it was a tricky pass all right. Thankfully, my first touch worked out perfectly, allowing me to swivel in one movement thirty-five yards out. A flash of yellow reared up in my peripheral vision. All I could do was try and find this shirt that, as it turned out, belonged to Mickey, making a run, going for broke. An instinctive poke fell into his path as Steve Nicol rushed across to cut it out. But a fortunate break of the ball saw it rebound right where he wanted.

‘It was actually a crap touch by me,’ Mickey told me years later. ‘I knew Steve Nicol was the last man so I tried to dink it over his head and run round the other side. But I didn’t get it right and the ball hit him.’

I know it sounds corny but everything, at this point, seemed to go into slow motion. I jogged helplessly behind, praying for Mickey to shoot, as Ray Houghton sprinted up from behind, unbearably close to making a tackle. I could see the whole picture and it didn’t look pretty. Our last chance of glory was about to be smothered. We all knew what Mickey was like. As stubborn as they came. Never did anything in a hurry if it didn’t suit and that trait to his character looked like costing us dearly.


Alan Smith is the unsung hero from that night at Anfield.

Whilst everyone remembers the winning goal, Thomas charging through the midfield leading to one of the most famous goals, commentaries and moments in sporting history, none of it would have been possible without Alan Smith heading in a 52nd minute goal to take Arsenal 1-0 up.

Having joined Arsenal in 1987 from Leicester City, Smith scored 115 goals in 347, winning the Golden boot in Arsenal’s title winning seasons of 1989 and 1991.

Smith’s greatest moment in his Arsenal career came when he struck the sole goal in Arsenal’s 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final victory against Parma.

Legend is thrown around too quickly in the modern era.

Anfield ’89. Copenhagen ’94. Two of Arsenal’s greatest triumphs in the modern era. Both matches defined by the goal-scoring prowess of one man – Alan ‘Smudger’ Smith.

He is an Arsenal legend.

The memoir of former Leicester, Arsenal and England footballer, Alan Smith is available to buy now.

Heads Up: My Life’s Story bey Alan Smith from Amazon.

Keenos

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Arsenal spend right rather than big

As the transfer window trundles to a close today prior to the Premier League opener tomorrow, I thought I would share some thoughts on the market, and how Arsenal have performed.

My thought can be summed up in the statement it is not what you spend, but who you buy.

Fans can often become obsessed with the value of the player, rather than the ability of the player. Thinking that the more expensive the player, the better he must be. But with brilliant recruitment you can sign top class players at the fraction of what other clubs are spending.

It is dangerous to look at what other clubs have spent over what they have actually signed.

This summer West Ham, Everton, Fulham and Leicester City have all outspent Arsenal (at the time of writing – Wednesday lunchtime), and some people might use that fact to attack the club. But look at what the actually signed.

Everton spent £42million on Richarlison from Watford. He hasn’t scored since November, and no assists since December.

West Ham also went big on an attacking Brazilian, spending £38million on Felipe Anderson. The former wonderkid has never really developed into a consistent performer and £38million is a lot of money for a man who was restricted to just 9 starts last season due to a serious knee injury.

Leicester City signed James Maddison for £25m, Ricardo Pereira (who?) for £23million and Liverpools 9th choice goal keeper Danny Ward for £12.5million. Over £60million spent on Championship players.

Also buying Championship players are Fulham who have spent £37million on Aleksandar Mitrovic and Alfie Mawson – two players who have previously been found wanting in the Premier League.

Now lets shut our eyes and imagine Arsenal bought the 7 players mentioned in this blog. Nearly £180million spent. Would you say it is good business? No. It would be big money wasted.

Arsenal spent just £67million on Stephan Lichtsteiner, Bernd Leno, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Lucas Torreira & Mattéo Guendouzi.

What would be the better business? £67million on what Arsenal got, or the £180million on a bunch of tripe?

Perhaps what sums up what I am saying is 4 players signed by Arsenal and Chelsea. Two a piece.

Lucas Torreira + Bernd Leno =  £42million

Jorginho + Kepa Arrizabalaga = £130million

Now I am now saying Chelsea have made poor signings. Joringho is a very good central midfielder and Kepa a top young keeper. But are they much better than Torreira and Leno? Are they even actually any better?

Torreira and Jorginho both played in Italy last season, slightly different styles of play. They both bring a lot of ability to the middle of the park. For me, they are both equally as good as what they do. Torrieira defending, Jorginho keeping the ball moving.

As for the goal keepers, Arsenal are getting an experienced German keeper who is on the fringes of the national team, Chelsea a less experienced Spanish keeper who is on the fringes of the national team.

The uneducated amongst us will point to Chelsea and say “they have spent £130million, they have shown ambition” whilst criticising Arsenal for “going cheap”. But the reality is the quality of the players being bought in is not much different.

Arsenal have not gone cheap, they have bought the right players at a good price. Meanwhile Chelsea have probably over paid for what they have bought in.

I have always been a student of Soccernomics where you do not focus on what has been spent, but what has been bought in, and what Arsenal have bought in is plenty to be happy about.

Keenos

Who could Arsenal draw in the EFL Trophy?

Who could Arsenal draw in the EFL Trophy?The Checkatrade John Stones EFL Paint Trophy (or whatever it is called these days) was a terrific little competition for those clubs in League One and League Two.

A cup competition without the big boys that could result with a trip to Wembley.

The 1988 Final saw 80,841 turn up for the m match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley at Wembley. Just a year ago, 74,434 went to Wembley for the 2017 final between Coventry City and Oxford United.

The year that Coventry lifted the trophy, the English Football League revamped the trophy, inviting 16 under-21 sides from Premier League and EFL Championship clubs to take part.

The hope was that by letting youth team players participate, it would eventually improve the English team. What it resulted in was a big two fingers up to those lower league clubs.

Instead of embracing the opportunity to beat a top side, the decision to introduce academy teams lead to widespread boycotts.

In 2016/17, just 274 fans West Bromwich Albion academy team’s 2-0 defeat at home to Gillingham as fans stayed away.

Arsenal opted out of entering the competition for the first two years of the revamp. Deciding instead to have their players concentrate on youth-European games as well as the League Cup. This season, however, we have entered the competition.

I am not a fan of Premier League sides entering the EFL Trophy.

It has wronged the lower league clubs, with the potential of robbing them of a trip to Wembley. The last two season, the academy sides have failed to make the final, but what happens in the future if those sides start to dominate the later stages?

The result will be that the lower league sides give up on the competition. They will start putting out their young players, and the competition will become no more than another version of the FA Youth Cup.

Last season Chelsea visited MK Dons. There team contained 35-year-old goal keeper Eduardo. He is capped 36 times for Portugal.

Under the rules, your academy side could contain over age players. By playing Eduardo, Chelsea destroyed the integrity of the competition.

Scoring in that game was Michy Batshuayi, the Belgium international. Chelsea had used the game to help Batshuayi maintain his fitness whilst not in the first team.

A €40 million international striker playing in an academy team in a competition that was revamped to give young English a chance of senior football.

Belgium Charly Musonda and Brazilian full-back Kenedy also played in that game for Chelsea. In fact, their side contained just 5 English players.

So what benefit to English football was there for Chelsea to be in the competition?

And it is not just Chelsea. Rules are that sides

Leicester City fielded an Under-21 side with six senior players, three internationals and transfer fees worth around £45m in their 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy second-round win at Scunthorpe.

The rules of the competition dictate that teams may play four overage players, although I have seen some reports claim that you can have up to 5. Leicester’s 6 included Kelechi Iheanacho who was under 21 at the time.

I am not happy Arsenal entering the competition. If the club wants to see how young players get on against senior professionals, send them out on loan. In the mean time, Premier League Clubs have already have busy youth team calendars, with the Premier League 2, FA Youth Cup and various different European competitions.

Taking into account players currently injured (Laurent Koscielny) and those senior players who might be in need of first team football come the 3rd round in early January, Arsenal could put out the following XI:

Martinez

Lichtsteiner Koscielny Mavropanos Maitland-Niles

Zelalem  Guendouzi Reine-Adélaïde

Pérez Nelson

Welbeck

Just the two English lads who are under the age of 21. One of which (Ainsley Maitland-Niles) would quite possibly have played over 50 senior games by then.

The way the FA and Football League continually mess about with their competitions is a disgrace. There are constant complaints of their competitions dying, but all the authorities are doing is poising them to kill them quicker.

Today is the day that Arsenal will find out which group they will be in.

So everyone up for a trip to Wembley in April then?

Keenos