Tag Archives: Monaco

Arsenal correct to stop pursuit of Monaco star

£143,000,000 is a lot for any footballer. It is 66% more than the world record transfer fee that Manchester United recently paid for Paul Pogba.

For that price, you would expect Lionel Messi. Perhaps Neymar. At a stretch Gareth Bale or Luis Suarez. It is possibly a bit too much for 32 year old Cristiano Ronaldo.

In summary, for a world record price, you would expect one of the best players in the world. An established global superstar. Someone who will come in and win you the league. Will score near enough a goal a game. Will break all sorts of goal scoring records.

What you would not expect for that price is an 18 year old striker with just 19 starts in the French Ligue 1. But that is what Kylian Mbappe is set to go for.

Now there is no doubting his potential. He is an extremely gifted player with a bright future, if everything works out. But What Real Madrid and others are paying for is not an established star, but for what he might become.

There are a lot of obstacles from being a talented youngster to becoming a global superstar.

When you look at the winners of the Golden Ball since its inception in 2003, how many of the players have kicked on to become a truly global superstar.

Now I am not talking about just become a very good player, I am talking about becoming one of the best in the world. The level where you are being considered for the Ballon d’Or. That they are considered in not just the top 2 players in their position, but they are considered as one of the best players in the world, regardless of their position.

Of the 14 players to have won the Golden Ball, only really Lionel Messi has gone on to become a legend of the game. Sergio Aguero is borderline. I probably would consider him one of the greatest strikers of the last 8 years- although injury has probably held him back from reaching the top bracket.

Injury, one of the many things that can stop a player going from being a top youngster to a global superstar. What ha soften set the likes of Messi and Ronaldo apart is their fitness record. Over the last 10 years, Messi has averaged 50 games a season for the last 10 years. Ronaldo has averaged 50 games a year since he joined Manchester United, way back in 2003.

Since joining Manchester City, Sergio Aguero has averaged 40 games a season, and that is what has held him back.

The likes of Wayne Rooney & Cesc Fabregas have had glorious careers. But you feel they peaked in their early 20s and never really kicked on to be amongst the best global players of their generation.

Rafael van der Vaart ended up with a bit of a journeyman career.

Anderson, Alexandre Pato and Mario Balotelli all highlight that being a top youngster does not always guarantee being a top senior pro. All have had big money transfer. They are aged between 26 and 29 and should in the peak of their careers.

Anderson (29) is currently at Brazilian side Coritiba, on loan from Internacional. Mario Balotelli (26) is playing for Nice in France. And Alexandre Pato (27), plays for Tianjin Quanjian in China.

Isco is a slow burner. He took a bit of a wrong move joining Real Madrid, where he struggled to break through, but he is now flourishing. But I doubt if he will ever reach the level that Cesc Fabregas was at his best, let alone the level of a Xavi or Iniesta, and certainly not reach the heights of a Zinedine Zidane.

The likes of Mario Götze and Raheem Sterling have certainly not lived up to their big billing as a teenager. Gotze dumped by Bayern Munich after a big money transfer, Sterling just not pushed on since joining Manchester City. Renato Sanches and Anthony Martial are both in danger of following the same route.

Then you have Paul Pogba. A bit of an enigma. The current holder of the world record transfer fee. At times he is unplayable. A mix of strength and technique. But he has yet to do what Yaya Toure did. And is not yet fit to clean Patrick Vieira’s boots. For him to justify his transfer fee, he has to surpass these two players achievements.

So the road to stardom is not guaranteed for Kylian Mbappe. At £144m, Real Madrid, Man City, or whoever buys him, will be paying for what he might become. They are spending the big money on the basis that they hope he is a 50-goal a season man by the time he is 21. The heir apparent to Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne.

But he is not yet Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored just 15 league goals last season. He still has a long way to go. He is not the even the best striker in Ligue 1 – last season he finished behind Edison Cavani, Alexandre Lacazette, Radamel Falcao and Swansea flop Bafétimbi Gomis in the top scorer charts.

Mbappe was level with previous top youngster Balotelli, Newcastle flop Florian Thauvin and Ivan Santini, whoever that is.

Would you be happy spending £144m on Balotelli, Thauvin or Santini? The answer would be no. You would be disappointed if your side spent anymore than £20m on those players.

You would not consider paying above £60m for Cavani. Arsenal signed the superior Lacazette for around £45m. And how much would you be willing to splash out on previous Premier League flops Falcao and Gomis?

So Real Madrid (or whoever go’s for Mbappe) is certainly not paying the £144m Mbappe as the player he is now, but as the player that Mbappe could become. And as we have established, there is no guarantee of a top youth player becoming a top player.

For someone like Arsenal, not signing Mbappe is the right move.

If he becomes a £144m player, then fair enough. We will all moan about how we could have signed him in 2016 for £265k – although I do not know why this criticism is always labelled at Arsenal, every club could have got him for this amount in 2016. Mbappe decided to stay. Arsenal did not miss out.

But if (for example) he stays at Monaco for a year, and he fails to score 30 league goals, would he still be worth £144m? Or would that price start to dwindle a bit to represent his true value rather than his potential?

And if he joins Real Madrid (or Manchester City, or whoever) for £144m, and flops, he will be available in a couple of years for half the price, or more. If he does not score that 50 goals a season, does not break into that top bracket, he will still be a top player, but his value would then represent what he is actually worth, not what he might be worth.

To finish, a story of a young lad from Chester. The year was 1997. He was just about to have his breakthrough season. He was just 17.

At 18 he had the world at his feet. He had scored 23 goals in 44 games in the 1997/98 season for his boyhood club. That summer he was to score a wonder goal for his country at the World Cup. He exploded into the world’s conscience.

What followed were 4 injury hit seasons, when only once did he play over 30 league games. He never once scored over 20 league goals, and by 24 his hamstrings were shot. His fitness did not stop him getting a big money move at 24 to Real Madrid. He lasted a single season before being sold to Newcastle. A talented player, but he could not get fit.

He ended up finishing his career at Stoke City.

At 18 he was expected to become a world great. Break every record going. Lead Liverpool to multiple titles. It is ironic that his only league title came at bitter rivals Manchester United as a bit part player. And whilst he won the Ballon d’Or in 2001 at just 21, you feel his career never reached the heights expected as a 18 year old.

Michael Owen could have been one of the greatest of all time. But he never lived to his potential.

At £144m, I would expect to be getting the real deal. Not some youngster with potential. Arsenal are best off missing out.


First major signing shows Arsenal still outgun Spurs

Arsenal are set to complete their first major signing of the summer in the shape of Monaco magician Thomas Lemar.

The French youngster was top of North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur’s wish list. The fact the talented midfielder has picked Arsenal over Spurs is a massive coup.

Having finished in the Champions League places for the second season in a row, and above Arsenal for the first time since 1995 – before Lemar was born – there had been talk of a shift of power in North London. But the decision by Lemar to pick Arsenal over Spurs shows there is no power shift.

Whilst Spurs might have qualified in the Champions League ahead of Arsenal, they are still seen as a small club on the continent. Dani Alves once said he was “surprised” when he found out Manchester had two clubs. Many of those in Europe couldn’t point to Tottenham on the map.

Meanwhile, whilst Arsenal have had 20 years of Champions League failure, they are amongst one of the biggest names on the continent.

You then come to managers. Mauricio Pochettino is massively hyped up in England. But like the club he manages, he is an unknown in Europe.

An average playing career, he has won nothing as a manager and would not be top of any major sides wish list.

Arsene Wenger meanwhile has been heavily criticised in England, but his stock remains high on mainland Europe. Still considered a top coach, the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil came to Arsenal to play for him. Being French, and from Monaco, Lemar would have been massively influenced by Arsene Wenger, and the much maligned manager is a big reason Lemar has chosen Arsenal.

A big factor is also wages. Arsenal can offer top dollar, whilst Spurs are still paying mid table wages as their funds have to go towards things such as buying cranes. Arsenal have literally blown Spurs’ salary offer out of the water.

The final key factor is success. Spurs have no recent success. They might be able to offer Champions League football but they can not offer Lemar trophies.

Arsenal have won 3 FA Cups in 4 years. It might not be the league, but it is the greatest cup competition in the world.

There are reportedly a few more i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but once the deal is done, it will send a reminder to that lot up the road.

North London is still red.


Monaco, Sanchez, Ozil & Walcott


Last night Arsenal were not glorious defeat. Arsenal were not unlucky. It was not a result to be proud of. Ultimately, Arsenal were dumped out at the 2nd round of the Champions League once again. And we were victims of our own downfall.

Yes, 2-0 away at a side who had not conceded a home goal since November is a good result, and as a single game, it was an excellent performance, one of our best of the season, but the Champions League is over 2 legs, and having conceded 3 at home in the 1st leg, we did not deserve to go through.

We showed how average this Monaco team was last night and, infact, had finishing been better, both last night and at home, we could have scored 5 or 6. We should have scored 5 or 6. A 2-0 win away at Monaco should have been expected. It should have been building on a comfortable home victory. But we bottled it at home. That last second goal at the Emirates putting the nail in the coffin.

We are out and deserve to be so.

Spurs fans however need a reality check. For some time, we have known that there footballing lives is dictated by our failures, rather than their success, and their boasting about us being out, and them having made more quarter finals in recent years shows how small time they are. They got knocked out of the Europa League, are 7th in the league, lost in the League Cup Final, and are out of the FA Cup. Their season is over.

As things stand, Spurs will need need Arsenal to win the FA Cup for them to get into Europe next season. There is a sensible Spurs fan out there:

Alexis Sanchez

Alexis Sanchez is a brilliant player. He plays the game the way everyone should. Realising you have a talent, working hard at it, and playing with a smile on your face. You know his life is football. You get the sense he is more interested in kicking a ball about than the money in the bank.

At times this season, he has single handedly won games for Arsenal. But in his last 11 games, he has gone off the boil, with just 1 goal and 1 assist in that time.

It is natural for players to have peaks and troughs throughout their career. Even more usual is foreign players to have an average 1st season. The fact Sanchez started so brilliantly just further highlights his current dip of form.

The worry for me is Sanchez’s response to this dip in form. Rather than keeping it simple, playing himself back into form, Sanchez seems to be burying his head in and complicating his game. Last night was a perfect example.

Sanchez continually gave the ball away, continually ran into blind alleyways. Yes, he was fouled a lot, and wrongly booked for diving, but it was certainly his worst game in an Arsenal shirt so far.

At 74%, his pass completion was only better than Olivier Giroud, of our starting 11 – Cazorla, Ramsey & Ozil were all over 84%, Coquelin 94.6%. Yes, I know that passing is not his game, but 74% is very low, that is dribbling.

He only successfully completed 1 dribble, and was disposed more than any other player 0 bar Giroud, and with just 1 shot, which  was off target, he contributed little.

You could see last night why he does not suit Barcelona and why they were happy to sell him. He is not a team player. It reminds me of when you play FIFA online in the mode where you play as a single player. There is always someone in your team who every time they pick up the ball, they attempt to run it the length of the field and score. They usually mess up. Sanchez is that sort of player.

He needs to learn to get his head up, to notice his team mates, to play the simple pass. He does not need to try and win the game single handedly every time.

Despite the criticism, he is a quality player and will continue to get better.

Mesut Ozil

Whilst Alexis Sanchez seems to be immune to criticism, Mesut Ozil seems to be able to do nothing right in the eyes of most journalists and some Arsenal fans. Since he has returned from his injury, he has been in sensational form, and last night was no different.

The reports from last night would make you think Ozil had a stinker. Bet lets look at things:

Successful dribbles – 6 (Match high)
Passes – 101 (Only Cazorla completed more)
Pass completion – 84.2%
Kay passes – 2 (Match high)
Touches – 126 (Only Cazorla had more)
Crosses – 8 (Match high)

Yes, he might not do the defensive work load some demand, but that is not his game. Complaining that Ozil does not put in enough tackles is the same as moaning that Mertesacker does not put in enough crosses, our Bellerin does not make enough saves. It is not his game.

As for the shirt swap. Some people were up in arms over this, but in my opinion, if you are the one being asked to be swapped with, it is actually a good thing, as it shows your opponent believes himself to be inferior to you. Kondogbia asking Ozil to swap was very different to Santos asking van Persie to swap.

Theo Walcott

What to do with Theo Walcott. Since he returned from nearly a year out, he has struggled. Struggled to make the starting 11, struggled to make an impact when he come’s on.

The chances he has missed since returning from his injury are into double figures. Against West Ham he could have had a hat trick, last night he should have scored – hitting the post.

The problem is he plays on the edge of the game. Bar hitting the post last night, he did little else. In 25 minutes of football, he touched the ball just 4 times. In comparison, Gibbs was on the field for half the time yet had 21 touches.

I have long been a fan of Walcott, and 2 years ago he was one of the best players in the Premier League and had finally looked to have become a man, then he got injured.

He is now 26, and as examples of Michael Owen and Fernando Torres show, players start to slow down in their mid-late twenties, and if you have not developed other aspects to your game (as Giggs & Henry did) you will struggle. Walcott is now in that boat.

With one year left on his contract, Arsenal have a decision to make. Do they offer him the deal he wants, which, with his recent injury record and dip in form could be a waste of money in a year or so, or do Arsenal cash in this summer.

I feel it will be the later. I would not be too surprised to see Walcott moved on and Arsenal sign Raheem Sterling, who also has 1 year left on his contract. Or even a shock move for Gareth Bale.

The fact is, our right hand side is the weakest part of our attack. Walcott can be improved on. I think he will be improved on.