Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Arsene Wenger's deja vu Moment Is Here

For the last six years, Arsene Wenger has doubled down on the idea that Arsenal do not need to buy for the "sake of it". However, if the "right player" becomes available on the market, he would go for it. Implicit in his argument has been: show me the sort of player who can make my team better, whose talents are outstanding, and I'll show you I am not scared to spend money.
Arsene Wenger: Ready to sign a new deal with Arsenal

The longest serving manager in the premiership is now attempting to validate his argument by courting Real Madrid's Argentine Striker, Gonzalo Higuain. Arsenal have made a bid, if reports are correct, but Real Madrid, and the player are playing it cautiously for the moment. The potential for a transaction seemingly loosing traction by the day.

Luis Suarez has been hankering for a move to Real Madrid all summer. Bleating about how tired he is of life in England. It does not look like Los Blancos would be swayed by this eponymous plea; so, in comes Arsene Wenger to play knight in shinning armour to the Liverpool Marks man. Allegations that Arsenal offered £30 million for the Uruguayan striker last week was staggering to me. It's the most cavalier I have witnessed of Arsene Wenger in his approach to sign a player, especially as there were  no indications Arsenal were monitoring the player's situation.

 Is this classic Wenger? The player is quintessentially his type of striker. Explosive, quick, skillful, attacks from the flanks, and lethal in-and-out- of the box. Does that remind you of a certain striker, who wore number 14 for the gunners, called Thierry Henry ? It is little surprise the North London club have not won a trophy since the departure of their legend, and all time top scorer. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Eduardo, Olivier Giroud have auditioned the role of replacement, but Henry has been  a hard act to follow.

From whatever angle you view Arsenal's purported interest in Luis Suarez, there is no denying acquiring a player of his standards resonates with Arsene Wenger and Arsenal's core needs at this point in time:  An outstanding forward of versatility and goal scoring pedigree. Right age, at 26, and most significantly the sort to spark Arsenal into real championship form.
Luis Suarez: Has previously blamed press intrusion for his desire to leave Liverpool

The fact he remains a Liverpool player must be respected, but Arsene Wenger would lose further credibility if he and the board cannot cut a deal for a player who seems intent on leaving Liverpool to play champions league soccer. What excuse can they possibly give the Arsenal faithful, after the repeated public declarations of substantial funds to strengthen the squad.

It's almost a decade since Arsenal last won the premiership, and no doubt the vision to build a new stadium, and spend within their means during the transition, has been a convincing argument,  but the reality today is: Arsenal are treading water, and all the prestige built in the Bergkamp, Vieira, Henry era is fast fading into distant memories. Should the narrative be: Arsenal mortgage their future as one of Europe's top clubs for a new stadium, payed for in part by exorbitant ticket prices ladened on fans, who watch their team's talented, but average players, play second fiddle to the Manchester Clubs, and Chelsea ?

Arsenal have speculated to accumulate in the last ten years. It's made sound economic sense to self sustain. The next stage is to use that brilliant axiom as a means to an end. How about : a well run club, with a 60.000 stadium, that attracts star players, wins trophies, and has the trappings of an elite European side !

Not taking the risk to achieve the next level, would mean an antithesis to the Club's progressive agenda, and global appeal. After all, investing in youth has not quite produced the stars Wenger promised. There is a ready made one in Suarez, who could potentially capture all of Arsenal's attacking flair, and Wenger's lofty, but unfulfilled dreams. Luis Suarez could be the game changer. It's now or never. This transfer could be the gate way for Arsenal. Luis Suarez is there for the taking, and Arsene Wenger would be judged on this one !    

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Matter Is If Man Utd Want to Sell Wayne Rooney

Hell will freeze over before Manchester United sell Wayne Rooney to Chelsea specifically, or Arsenal to a lesser extent. The player has had to pull out of the Club's far East tour, and the conspiracy theorists have ratcheted up the doubts as to the player's future at Old Trafford. Chelsea Manager, Jose Mourinho has found it perfect breeding ground for his archetypal mischief making, by saying "he's a player I like very much".

I find the mechanics of this story pretty easy to analyze. Wayne Rooney is posturing.  His employers are hanging, and new manager David Moyes holds the key to resolving the issue. This story simply needs more time to settle down, then it will subsequently die away slowly.

READ : The Substance Behind Wayne Rooney's Blustering

Here's my take. Wayne Rooney knows only too well this is the season before the world cup. He is yet to really perform to his potential on the big stage. In two crucial senses, he is approaching the sunset of his career : The 2014 world cup is logically his last as a player with the big name tag. His next contract carries similar connotations, and the Liverpool born striker knows he has reached the defining point of his career. A lot of loose ends need tying up, but it has to suit the three parties involved, that tends to give rise to contrived deadlocks as we currently witness.

Wayne Rooney: Manchester United striker out of pre-season tour through injury

Manchester United, and in particular new chief executive Ed Woodward are mindful of handling the situation carefully, and setting the right precedent. Ultimately, the club know handing the player a new improved contract is the end game, but the trajectory of pre-contract talks / events must ring correct. It boils down to the player deserving it, and going about asking for it in an acceptable manner. Loosing Wayne Rooney will represent a blow to the club on the pitch and financial terms. It is a risky strategy to call the bluff of a big player with two years only left on his contract.

This is why Manager David Moyes' role is central to resolving this logjam. He has to get Wayne Rooney thirsty to play, by building a tactical frame work that affords the player room to maximize his talent and potential for the team, and as much provide stimulation for his growth on to a Man United legend. I will continue to reprise the argument that having van Persie and Rooney in the same team is a very difficult balancing act to perform for any manager. The balance of the team is potentially held hostage by it's biggest star players, who happen to occupy a similar sphere tactically, where it is one from two.

David Moyes: Has big targets

READ : Man Utd's Dilemma or Collateral Damage ? 

I will not believe for a second, yet, Man Utd will fathom selling Wayne Rooney. The conspiracy theorists are deluded. The Player, I believe is injured, and that creates a setback to a quick resolution of the dividing issues between player and club. If Man Utd are not going to countenance the sale of their number 10, and the manager is clever enough to understand players like Rooney are hard to find, never mind their price. Then the optics is the player would work hard and perform to his ability to hold on to a precious bargaining chip when his representatives meet the club to discuss his future. The club would expect to be presented with enough reasons to keep him on improved terms  A Parting of ways suits neither party, especially as each has what the other needs.

Subject to the unknown unknowns, this matter is a storm in a tea cup, and United fans would soon be rising to rapturous applauds, when the England International smashes one in the back of the net. Time and clever management  settles events like these.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Can The World Champions Reload Their Chamber ?

Crave my indulgence, please... not many, if any had dared to encourage a challenge to Spain's authority in International Soccer. The media establishment, obsequious pundits and analysts, even coaches in the game, got predictably boring with their acquiescence of Spain's excellence. Such complacence is short sighted, and highly unwholesome for the game. On the 25th of June, I wrote these lines below :

We cannot eternally view Spain with rose tinted spectacles, we must start to challenge the status quo, hence I belong to the esoteric school of thought that seek to exalt a fiercer contest to Spain's reign, rather than the sport to remain paralyzed by their panache. An International record 28 games the world champions have gone unbeaten: It's time for  nations in the football community to take a good hard look at themselves and what they are doing. Spain are outstanding, but there is also an argument of a psychological inferiority hanging over the rest which is self evident. Change that, and the barriers start to fall.

READ : Belabouring The Spanish Point

Brazil produced a devastating display of power, tactical pressing, a ravenous hunger to win,  sparked by national and sporting pride. The confederations Cup was a show case for the FIFA World Cup next year, and Brazil took the bull by the horn. It was in so many ways perfect for them to face Spain in the Finals of the competition. Whilst Spain had become World champions, and held in the highest esteem, everyone forgot they had not  beaten 5 time world champions Brazil at any point in time in this magnificent cycle. Congratulations to Brazil for playing their part in providing a competing theory to Spain's, and making the winner's of the 2014 world cup a close one to call. 

Neymar: Celebrates with the trophy after Brazil beat Spain 3-0

The Samba stars from Brazil were fired up, bursting with pride and motivation after a rendition of the Brazilian national anthem by the players and 75,000 fans, A cappella style. It was such to get the hairs at the back of your neck standing. The charged atmosphere complemented Brazil's tactical plot to stifle and pulverize Spain with aggression, speed, pressing; and always looking to exploit the loose ball, with  rapid conversion into attack.

The much maligned David Luis played the game of his life. His partner in defense Thiago Silver  suffocated space; Luis Gustavo an Paulinho underpinned the team, and boy did they tackle ! Oscar picked the scraps in midfield, while Neymar was quick, elusive, creative and magical. Striker Fred was competent, as his two goals underlined. Brazil delivered an A-Z team performance - a perfect response to their doubters.

Big Phil Scolari has got it going on once again. He has picked up a floundering team, and burnished it. Spain had been at the cutting edge of contemporary tactical advancement ; so much so, perhaps, Brazil were in danger of being forgotten as major players in the sport. Almost no one had faith in this team, but Scolari has not just restored Brazil's pride, he has re-announced to the world, Brazil have the players, the tactical variation, and adaptability to keep it at the fore front of the game. We saw a model way to counteract the opponent when they press : The centre backs Thiago Silver and David Luis took up positions akin to a full back when Brazil had the ball in their half ; with the two midfielders Paulinho and Luis Gustavo serving to protect. David Luis, especially, launched diagonal cross field passes from the left back position towards Hulk on the right side of attack,meaning Brazil were not sitting ducks. This shape was awkward for Spain to press.

Luiz Felipe Scolari: Confederations Cup success for Brazil boss

Spain were not bad! They played their game, except they were surpassed. Iniesta and Xavi were in the mood, but Brazil were more than determined and tenacious in midfield. Spain's potential  in attack was always visible. Torres was played as the point man, but it was that sort of game where La Roha needed something new, because Brazil had their number all the way.

Andres Iniesta: Not happy with the referee

I was watching ESPN Press Pass the other day, and one of the issues raised and discussed by Paul Mariner, Stewart Robson, and Sid Lowe about Spain was their lack of fresh ideas, and if the younger generation might now have to step in. Haven't you heard that theory on this blogsite, like when Spain looked invincible, Hello !!!!!

 The fissures in the Spanish last third is latent, but a tactical reality for opponents. Has anybody noticed that Spain's starting XI has been more or less unchanged for the last three years or that nine of the twenty outfield players in their current 23 man squad is 27+ and another three over 30 ? Here's the deal :

If Spain's starting XI picks itself for three years, then why is all the young talent not seeping through ?

* If the squad if brimming with talent, how come the glass ceiling has not been broken ?

* With the age symmetry of the squad, won't it  be the case a large percentage of the current squad      
    getting phased out the same time ?

* If 60 % of the current squad are likely vanish at the same time, would the talent of the up-and-coming youngsters be a match for the unique experience of the departed ?

Hypothesis for consideration.

Blog post, June 25th, Soccerprescription.

The likes of Alan Hansen on BBC are proving to be reactionary and sclerotic in their analysis. In the build up to the game, he dismissed Brazil with impunity. Calling them "overrated". What grates is that stiff, dismissive demeanour he possessed making his declaration Brazil would not be good enough. Praise be to Luca Vialli and Alan Shearer for better professionalism. Alan Hansen's one dimensional commentary is symptomatic of all that is wrong about our pundits today: Boring and repetitive. The game is crying out for dynamism, and pundits must come out of their self absorbed bubble. 

READ : Sky's Egregious Punditry 

Back to Spain: they did not score in their last two games of the confederations cup, and the 3-0 loss to Brazil in the final could have been worse. It will be foolish to talk about the end of an exceptionally amazing group of players, but it's safe to say they are now at a critical juncture. That defeat to Brazil will be analyzed countless times by prospective opponents. There is enough talent in their arsenal, especially from the under 20 group to keep them a force in the game for a while to come, however, there is now factual evidence they are beatable, and worse still, there is a method to doing so. They will have to raise their game hereon, and what sort they reload their chamber with, and whether they can get hungrier for more titles is what determines their future. There should be nothing automatic about success in football. Take note, Alan Hansen !