In Wenger we trust

IN ARSÈNE WE TRUST
Arsène Wenger has been handed a new contract by Arsenal FC, but after 17 faithful years and just over 1000 games at the club, he is yet to put pen to paper. Many believe this is due to Arsenal’s lack of success in recent times in comparison to his early years and the club’s history leading him to become doubtful of his position at the club. This is understandable due to the outstanding pressure on him to get silverware both internally and externally. Therefore, it seems he will base his decision on the result of the F.A cup final and whether Arsenal gain a Champions League place this season. Despite this, many feel Wenger should not sign the contract and others are surprised he has not left already. But, the truth of the matter is, Arsène Wenger should not be allowed to leave any time soon.
Arsenal have failed to win a trophy over the last 9 years and have only reached 2 League Cup finals and 1 Champions League final in this period. This is simply not good enough for a club of Arsenal’s stature and has in turn attracted negative press and many critics. In conjunction with these statistics and Arsène Wenger being the manager, the answer on many lips is to fire him. We have seen this solution a lot in recent times with clubs going through 2/3 managers in a single season. Whether it is right or not is out of question, this is the brutal business of football. So it is no wonder why many feel Wenger should see the door.
Moreover, Wenger has had his faults, the most obvious being his activity (or lack of) in the transfer window. Arsenal fans are ridden with rumours over the summer and January periods of potential purchases by the club. It would be a surprise if one out of the several names eventually comes to the Emirates and don’t end up at rival club. Arsenal are based in London and never cease to reach European football so it should not be a problem to attract quality players. Apart from this, Arsène has been very late to act in the transfer window which has made him lose out to other clubs and has restricted his negotiation time. Plus, he has sold key assets to the club such as Robin Van Persie, Nasri, Fabregas and Song who have essentially helped opponents gain trophies. In particular, RVP’s contribution to Man United’s title race of 2012/13. Such activity is just unacceptable with a team you are competing against for the Premier League title. Due to this, Arsenal have not been able to really compete either due to experience, skill or depth in the squad over this range of time.
Although, one has to consider the fact that Wenger has done exceptionally well in the circumstances he has been in. In this 9 year drought, Arsenal built a £390,000,000 stadium putting them into debt which they have recovered from, developed talented youngsters into stars and have still remained in the Champions League displaying superb football beating teams such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Juventus and Dortmund without the expenditure of some clubs.
Hence, what many cease to understand is that Wenger has a long term project at the club. He knew the construction of the Emirates would plunge the club into financial difficulty, hence was inclined to sell his top players and could not be as influential in the transfer market. Although Wenger also knew that to be the best in the future, it would be fitting for Arsenal to have one of the best stadiums in Europe and this lead to this investment. In addition, he gradually grew a close knit of youth players in a period where everyone criticised the club for their lack of experience, but he knew that they would become Arsenal FC in the future and would go on to become legends. Examples include Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Gibbs and Walcott who have all come of age if injury does not become a regular hindrance. Hence, whereas some may be thinking short term and the lack of trophies, Wenger knows his goal for the club over the next few years. Now the young players have both experience and ability and the money is available for big summer signings therefore Arsène is simply waiting to see the return on his investment. If Arsenal were to let him go now, we could end up like Man United and plummet as a club as the job had not been completed.
Apart from Arsène Wenger, other contributing factors need to be taken into account such as the players playing on the pitch. Despite often brilliant on the ball, it seems the Arsenal players are vacant at time and expect the ball/goal to come to them eventually. There have not been many figures who are willing to contest for the ball whilst motivating the players around as Vieira once did for the squad. The team as a whole need to inspire themselves and provide the flare and desire portrayed by Rosický, Sagna and Flamini after his surprising return in the summer. Plus, apart from some supporters who do support the club, the Emirates can be a stale environment at times. In fact, many abuse the players as opposed to supporting them. I feel any club’s ground should provide a daunting atmosphere for the away team through thick and thin and I feel some (not all) Arsenal fans often forget to support the boys on the pitch. For Arsenal to reach their desired heights, each individual fan and player has to play their part whoever they may be.

From this we can deduce that it is vital for Wenger to finish his project and after his amazing time at the club, he should be allowed to end on a high and provide a solid foundation for a new manager.
Uyiosa Eghobamien

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European Top Flight Scores RoundUp

Premier League

Everton 1-0 West Ham
Fulham 1-3 Chelsea
Hull 1-4 Newcastle
Stoke 1-0 Arsenal
Southampton 0-3 Liverpool

La Liga

Malaga 1-1 Valladolid
Levante 2-0 Osasuna
Getafe 0-0 Espanyol
Elche 0-0 Celta Vigo L

Bundesliga

Augsburg 1-1 Hannover
Leverkusen 0-1 Mainz
Dortmund 3-0 Nuremberg
Braunschweig 1-1 Monchengladbach
Werder 1-0 Hamburg
Bayern 5-1 Schalke

Serie A

Roma 0-0 Inter

Ligue 1

Saint-Etienne 2-0 Monaco
Lorient 1-1 Bastia
Nice 0-2 Toulouse
Reims 3-1 Valenciennes
Rennes 0-2 Guingamp
Sochaux 2-0 Bordeaux

League Cup Final Preview

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This time last year, Swansea defeated League 2 side Bradford at Wembley in a rather unorthodox final contest.

This year, League strugglers Sunderland come up against a free-scoring Manchester City side who are hungry for silverware.

Sunderland

Manager: Gustavo Poyet
Best Previous Performance in the League Cup: 1985 Runners-Up

Having never won the League Cup before, Sunderland will be hoping to go one better than their 1985 final attempt, losing on that occasion to Norwich 1-0. City lost in the FA Cup final to Wigan last season, and the Black Cats will be looking to exploit any possible weakness. Adam Johnson, scoring 9 goals this season, will prove to be a key player in any attempt Sunderland will make going forward. He has been in terrific form of late, confusing many that he has no been included in Roy Hodgson’s recent England squad. Joe Hart will not be available for tomorrow’s clash and this may give Sunderland a boost. Sunderland will really be looking to put their league woes behind them and give the fans their money’s worth, and hopefully we will see them put up a fight against the might of Man City.

Key Player: Adam Johnson.

Manchester City

Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
Best Previous Performance in the League Cup: Winners 1970, 1976

Man City are not the same team they were the last time they contested a League Cup Final. They will be firm favourites to take the trophy back to Manchester tomorrow, and they will be determined to not make the same mistake they did in last year’s FA Cup Final losing to Wigan. Sergio Aguero will be available for tomorrow which will be an enormous boost to morale having had a difficult time playing without him, most notably at home to Barcelona. I feel City’s squad is just too strong for Sunderland to keep up with and this makes them favourites, however this is a cup final, and it is foolish to predict the exact outcome. This is an excellent chance for Pellegrini to win his first piece of silverware for the club, and one of these two managers will become the first South American manager to win an English domestic competition.

Key Player: Sergio Aguero.

We are looking forward to another cup final at Wembley believing these two sides could provide some excitement, as Sunderland have impressed having knocked Man United out and Man City will be looking to not be complacent and secure their first silverware under Pellegrini.

Joe Bennett

How do you solve a problem like United?

sportingissues.com

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(Telegraph.co.uk 2014)

After another record breaking week for Manchester United, their first ever loss in Greece, some are starting to question the clubs capabilities. The premier league champions have been more than disappointing this season currently sitting in 6th 15 points off of the top and 11 points away from a champion’s league qualifying place leading many to question what has gone wrong? Is it the manager? The players?  Or was the Fergie effect just that effective?

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The changing role of the CDM

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The one dimensional defensive midfielder are a dying breed in football. No longer will clubs settle for a CDM that simply breaks down play and then quickly passes the ball to his nearest team mate, to lead the attack. They instead expect not only an attacking threat from this position but a goal threat and it has become integral for each top team to have one.

This can be shown by the recent transfer of Nemanja Matic to Chelsea, you would have thought Mourinho’s priority in January would have been a new striker, with Chelsea short of a title winning striker. However I also believe that Mourinho had also seen the difference in ability between City’s Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, two versatile defensive midfielders, with 19 goals between them in all competitions this season and his desperately poor John Obi Mikel, who is the definition of a one dimensional CDM, offering little other than slowing the pace of a game. The bravery of bringing back a player that they had only let go three years ago for £21 million shows how vital Mourinho believed he could be to their title hopes.

Juventus’s domination in Serie A can also be put down to their strength and depth of powerful, versatile midfielders. With Paul Pogba and Vidal being at the heart of of their midfield, this can also explain Manchester United’s poor season, as they simply lack one of these players. Not keeping Pogba at the club could in future go down as Sir Alex’s single biggest mistake in his career, with the player already being valued at £40million and Moyes’s visit to Juventus recently showing his desire for one of the two players in the summer.

As the game is developing these ‘work horse’ style players, however popular with the fans will become scarce, as a tireless work ethic is no longer enough to succeed at the top level and a certain amount of technique is needed, in order to offer the team another dimension going forward, and ultimately success in games.

Dougie Gordon

WorldXI of the 21st Century

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GK- Iker Casillas
There have been so many exceptional goalkeepers since the turn of the century, Buffon, Cech just to name a couple. For me though Casillas is the stand out choice, the most capped Spain international, is one of a very select group of players who have won all major club and national championship titles. He has also featured in six consecutive teams of the years from 2006-2012

RB- Philip Lahm
The versatility and talent of this footballer has been shown with him recently adapting to a central midfield position under Guardiola. Lahm has won 5 Bundesliga titles, and a Champions league at Bayern. He has also won over a 100 caps with Germany.

CB- John Terry
A controversial inclusion I believe for some. Labelled captain, leader, legend, at Chelsea. Terry has turned out outstanding performances for Chelsea for over a decade. Resulting in him being named Uefa Club defender of the year in 2005, 2008 and 2009. He has also overcome bad moments in his career, missing the penalty in the champions league final against United, which could have haunted the rest of a players career.

CB- Carlos Puyol
Puyol has been the rock of the Barcelona and Spain teams for the past decade. Although injuries have recently plagued Puyol, the man boasts 21 major titles at Barcelona, and 100 caps for Spain and featured in the team that won the European Championship in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010.

LB- Ashley Cole
Cole has been one of the only English players to carry his club form into international football, boasting 100 caps for his Country. He has had an illustrious club career at Chelsea and Arsenal. Being an integral part of Arsenal’s invincible’s in the 2003/2004 PL season and Chelsea’s champions league triumph in 2012.

CM- Andres Iniesta
One of the greatest midfielders of all time. Iniesta, has had one of the most successful careers of all time. Having scored the winning goal in extra time of the 2010 World Cup Final, a dream we all have as a boy. Also being named the player of the tournament in Spain’s 2012 European Championship triumph. At Barcelona he has had 3 champions league triumphs, and has won countless tournaments. Was also named as the European player of the year in 2012.

CM-Zidane
Although a lot of Zidane’s career was played in the 1990’s, his performance at the 2006 World Cup on its own could put him in this team. In my opinion the best player of his generation, he won a European Championship in 2000 and his trademark volley in the champions league final against Bayern Leverkusen, establishing himself as a Madrid legend. His two goals in the 1998 World Cup final also delivered France their first World Cup.

LW-Cristiano Ronaldo
A machine of a man, Ronaldo has everything if you were to make the perfect player, Ronaldo would be pretty close to that. Recently being named world player of the year, Ronaldo has almost single handedly delivered Portugal to this year’s World Cup. He has won countless trophies at United and Madrid, most notably the champions league in 2008.

ST- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
This man makes my list because of his goal scoring record at each different league and team he has played in. Having played in Eredivisie, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1. Ibrahimovic has certainly had controversies in his career but just looking through his catalogue of goals, you just can’t deny this man’s place in the team.

ST- Thierry Henry
Growing up watching the premier league, this player was always a cut above the rest. Scoring countless unbelievable goals, and delivering so much success to Arsenal. Being part of the invincible’s in 2004, and their all time top scorer with 228 in all competitions, being nominated for world player of the year twice. Also scoring 51 goals for his Country, he won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000.

RW- Lionel Messi
There couldn’t be a team of the 21st century without Messi, the four time player of the year is only 26 years old and is already being labelled the best player of all time. His club career at Barcelona has been phenomenal. He scored an unbelievable 73 goals in all competitions in the 2010-11. He’s fired the club to three champions league triumphs, and six La Liga titles. He has yet to fire on all cylinders at international level but that could all change at his years World Cup.

Comment below, on players you believe should have made the team.
Dougie Gordon

Our Champions League Player of the Week – Gareth Bale

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Having moved to Real Madrid in a world record transfer deal for 80 million pounds from Tottenham, Gareth Bale has since proven himself as ‘the real deal’. Having had his immediate start to his career in Spain held back by injuries, Bale has cemented his place in the side scoring 14 goals so far this season.

Signing for Real Madrid has sufficiently boosted Gareth’s career allowing him to become a true super star in world football, and having played his ‘best game’ since joining Real at the VeltinsArena in their 1-6 destruction of Schalke, he is our Champions league Player of the Week.

Bale scored twice on Wednesday night against a below-par Schalke, scoring one absolute stunner. Carlo Ancelotti labelled Bale’s performance as his best so far as part of the Spanish giants, and this surely consolidates his position in the starting eleven in the future. Scoring a sweetly hit stunner in Germany on Wednesday evening, with involvement in the other goals, Bale has turned into a key player in the Real Madrid strip, helping his side in their complete annihilation of Schalke.

As Real continue on their trophy charge, Bale will be a key asset in Real Madrid’s attack for the rest of the season. They find themselves top of La Liga, Barcelona having dropped points at Sociedad last weekend. Still in the Champions League, Bale will hope he can contribute to their hunt for Real Madrid’s 10th Champions League title and what would be their first since 2002.

Whether Real Madrid win silverware this season or not, Gareth Bale signing for them this season can already be viewed as a success. He stood out last night as a key player to any success that Real hope to have. He was able to show off his excellent athleticism and technique, which rendered him virtually unplayable to the Schalke defensive players. Having Cristiano Ronaldo in the team obviously helps, but last night Bale showed that perhaps he could prove to be Ronaldo’s future successor as the main player in Madrid, it’s a future I’m sure Bale and his team mates are looking forward to as Ancelotti aims for glory.

Gareth Bale has become a footballer willing and able to operate at the highest level of club football, and quite frankly, he is making it look easy.

Joe Bennett

The return of Jonathon Trott

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Asked a year ago who’s England most mentally strong batsman was, the sure answer would be Jonathon Trott. He was a batsman that showed little emotion at the crease, other than the rare smile when confronting the other batsman at the end of the over. A batsman that would seemingly block out any interference whether from the crowd or the field and would instead just simply focus on each ball as it comes. And would recuperate himself with the constant re-making of his mark at the crease.

However the sight of a fully fired up Mitchell Johnson, in the Ashes Series seemed to completely throw Trott, and you almost felt like a little fear had crept into the back of Trott’s mind. Playing shots that we had never seen before, throwing his bat at wide deliveries and not shying away from dangerous short balls. As in to give an aura of confidence but in fact portraying the complete opposite and taking risks that Trott would have usually calculated were not worth taking.

Although Trott at the time boasted an average of over 50, It seemed that this speed of bowling from Mitchell Johnson, was completely alien to Trott. Which in fairness is true as there has not been a bowler on the cricketing circuit that consistently delivered the ball at 90mph since the likes of Brett Lee.

Don’t get me wrong, I would be very pleased to see Jonathon Trott return to the international cricket circuit. However I do wonder if he has shown too many weaknesses during that Ashes tour, that can now be exploited by other teams and coaches, especially against short explosive bowling. Which two of the three major test sides have in their armoury, with Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn in the South African side and Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris in the Australian side. And these are the sides that a cricketing nation like England should be competing against.

Also with England’s recent decision to discard Pietersen from any future plans, you wonder whether they will reintegrate a 32 year old back into the setup. But instead take a fresh approach and mould Joe Root into the England number 3, which if successful would guarantee a great batsman in the most important batting position for many years to come.
Dougie Gordon

Why Didier Drogba is still Blue

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” I’m the luckiest man in the Champions League. I’ll play both games at home”

These were Chelsea legend Didier Drogba’s first public words upon discovering Galatasarary had drawn Chelsea in the Champion’s League.

The Ivorian Champions League winner secured a move to the Turkish giants after a troubling spell at Shanghai Shenhua last season, but the three-time Premier League champion still has Chelsea in his heart.

Over the eight years Didier spent playing for Chelsea, he was not always the fans’ favourite amid speculation and criticism of his diving in and around the penalty area for example. Drogba did however, end up becoming one of the football club’s greats, scoring ‘that penalty’ on that night in Munich.
Going on to score 100 league goals for Chelsea, he became a fans’ favourite fairly easily. Scoring 12 goals in 13 games against London rivals Arsenal & scoring in every final he played in other than the 2008 Champions League Final consolidates Didier Drogba as a true hero at Stamford Bridge. The passion he showed throughout his career in England will never be forgotten by English football fanatics, above all Chelsea fans.

Didier however, has embarked upon a new love affair with Gala in Istanbul, and Chelsea fans will be forced against him in 180 minutes of knockout football, but make no mistake. Didier Drogba is still very much so a blue, and he will be relishing to return to Stamford Bridge to take on former team mates, coaches and friends. The King of Stamford Bridge is due to return.

The gap that Didier Drogba has left up front at Chelsea is simply irreplaceable, and he will always be noted as one of the club and the league’s most prolific centre forwards.
It is for all these reasons, and there are many more that could be mentioned, that Didier Drogba is and always will be blue, no matter the outcome of this particular European Cup tie. We eagerly await Didi’s return.

Joe Bennett