Posts Tagged ‘Arsenal’

Premier League Preview: Focus on Arsenal

Another transfer window and another captain wanting to leave, also with the added frustration of Barcelona sniffing around your midfield (again). Yes, the transfer window is never a quiet place when Arsenal are involved. Robin Van Persie with a year left on his contract looks set to be heading to Manchester United and Alex Song an unsung hero at Arsenal might be tempted to head out of the Emirates to join up with former captain Cesc Fabergas at Barcelona.

But this transfer window wasn’t all doom and gloom for Arsenal as Wenger didn’t want to make the same mistake as last year and got his deals done early. This summer saw Arsenal making what can only be described as the best signings of the summer with Lukas Podolski, Oliver Giroud, and Santi Carzorla. Arsenal finished 19 points off the two Manchester clubs and Wenger would have been planning to overturn that deficit with Robin Van Persie in the squad and it would be hard to argue that a happy Robin Van Persie with these three signings couldn’t challenge for the Premiership next year. Alas this does not seem to be the case and even if Van Persie is kept and sees out the final year of his Arsenal contract it would be difficult to say whether he’d still be giving 100% commitment to the club.

Arsenal fans can also start to get optimistic about the fitness of Jack Wilshere who missed the entire campaign last season due to injury. With a return date semi-set for October and baring any more setbacks he will be a great boost for Arsenal to have Wilshere back arriving into the busy Christmas period. He was always the ‘what if’ for Arsenal fans last season. Would he be worth 19 points, definitely not. But he certainly is worth the hype around him and if he and other key players, especially those at the back stay fit, the huge 19 points between Arsenal and the top spot seems to feel a bit smaller.

Realistically what can Arsenal fans expect?

Unfortunately for Arsenal fans Robin Van Persie seems content on leaving and Barcelona don’t seem to be giving up in their pursuit of Alex Song any time soon so there could be bad news for Arsenal before there is good news.

But, if the new signings gel well and, as ever, the younger lads come of age this could be a very good season for Arsenal, as previously stated, out of all the Premier League sides Arsenal have by far spent the wisest in the transfer window. Compared to Man City who have only signed Jack Rodwell, Manchester United who have only signed Kagawa plus a teenager from Crew (Powell), and Chelsea who have spent a lot of money but it’s all gone on potential and haven’t really signed any player of distinguished merit yet.

Overall prediction; 3rd, So how is that better than last season? Well it isn’t but I think Arsenal will be one of the main challengers for the league this season and expect them to run a good race however; I just don’t think, especially with Van Persie on the way out, they will stick it out in the last months of the League and will fade out of the picture come the start of May. Wenger will be desperate for a trophy this year and will be looking for strong challenges in the FA Cup and Champions League.

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What Next For Robin Van Persie?

Robin Van Persie announced earlier in the summer that he would not be renewing his Arsenal contract. This left Arsenal with a decision to make, cash in on Van Persie now or face seeing him leave on a free contract next summer. When Van Persie announced this via his website it shocked a lot of Gunners as they fully expected their captain to sign a new deal. Most Arsenal fans were undecided on how to feel about the announcement at first with many hoping for a U-Turn. But as the weeks went on the Arsenal fans became more and more united in their feelings towards RVP with many feeling they would be better off if he was sold.

Today it was reported that Manchester United, Manchester City, and Juventus all had bids, all around £15 million, rejected by Arsenal, with it being suggested that none of the clubs offered enough to even tempt Wenger to sell.

Today it was also confirmed that Van Persie pulled out of Arsenal’s tour of Asia; the point of no return on staying at the Emirates it would seem.

With three bidders for Van Persie Wenger and Arsenal can be patient when dealing with bids and will probably hold out for no less than £25 million. But will the three bidders return with an improved bid for the Dutch forward?

Van Persie Has Left Some Arsenal Fans Feeling Betrayed

The Prospective Buyers.

Manchester United;

It is no secret that United manager is an admire of Van Persie and it was reported that Fergie told his footballing friends that he is confident of signing last year’s Players Player of the Year. But questions have to be asked whether or not an improved bid would be likely as other positions need more attention than the attacking ones. United fans wouldn’t be too impressed if Fergie blow a large hole in his tight budget signing a striker over a midfielder or left back. At the press conference of new signings Kagawa and Nick Powell Fergie suggested that he was still in the hunt with for one or two more players. He also said that the left back area is at the forefront of his mind, with Fabio being loaned out to QPR and Patrice Evra beginning to tire after five seasons of playing around 50 games a season. The fans ideally would like to see a centre midfielder brought in as Giggs and Scholes can’t be asked to play a full season. Anderson is a constant injury treat along with Cleverley and Fletcher is still not available and may not return to the side at all. This leaves just Michael Carrick as the only senior centre midfielder that can guarantee Ferguson a full season.

Manchester City;

After winning the Premiership last season City will be looking to strengthen again in order to challenge for the Champions League as well as retaining their title. Although it is unlikely that they will return with an improved bid until they offload some players first as City currently have Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, and Roque Santa Cruz as senior strikers on the books. City fans are still on cloud 9 after winning the League for the first time in 44 years. They will be happy to add last season’s top scorer to their squad list especially if Tevez or Dzeko is sold.

Juventus;

After going unbeaten in the Serie ‘A’ last year Juventus are keen to add to their squad as they will be looking to established themselves as a regular Champions League participants for the first time since being relegated to Serie ‘B’ in 2006. However it is unclear whether Juventus will be keen to peruse their interest if Arsenal are insisting on a larger fee. If Juventus are put off by the fee they will probably turn their attentions to Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. Although Arsenal would prefer to sell Van Persie to Juventus instead of league rivals City or United.

Other Interested teams;

As always Paris Saint Germain will be mentioned in a big money move for any player but after Zaltan Ibrahimavich they are unlikely to move for another striker.

The team PSG signed Ibrahimavich from, AC Milan, could be tempted to make a bid, as along with the Swedish man they may also be selling Robinho leaving them with Pato as their number one striker although it may not make sense to risk bringing in injury prone Van Persie as Pato himself has that tag and will probably try to go for either Tevez or Dzeko with the latter being more probable.

10 Young Players to watch out for at Euro 2012 (Part 2)

Sotiris Ninis

Country: Greece

Club: Parma

Age: 22

Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The pacey Albanian born winger made 7 appearances for Greece in the qualifiers netting a goal in the process. Ninis was linked with moves to big European clubs such as Man United and Lyon earlier in the year, instead he opted to sign for Serie A side Parma back in March. Having twice won ‘Greece Young Player of The Year’ a lot was expected of Sotiris Ninis but so far he hasn’t lived up to the hype at Euro 2012 having only played 53 minutes of the tournament. However Greece have progressed to the quarter-finals so hopefully we will see him perform like the Greek fans know he can.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Country: England

Club: Arsenal

Age: 18

Position: Winger

“The Ox” caught a lot of peoples attention this season for Arsenal and one of them people was Roy Hodgson who gave the teenager his debut in May against Norway. Oxlade-Chamberlain is a powerful and physically strong winger who can easily knock full-backs off the ball, showing traits from his days playing rugby at school level. He started in the game against France but only came on as a late substitute against Sweden so it’s still not certain whether he will start or be sitting on the bench for England’s clash with co-hosts Ukraine today. At only 18 ‘The Ox’ still has to develop and mature as a footballer but the future looks very bright for the young Gunner.

Yann M’Vila

Country: France

Club: Rennes

Age: 21

Position: Defensive Midfielder

M’Vila has been compared to legendary French midfielder’s Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele. M’Vila was the rock in the Rennes side that finished 6th in Ligue 1 last season.  He has already captained his club Rennes, making him the youngest captain in the clubs history and has now proven to be the heart of the French team. The ball-winning midfielder has incredible vision and is constantly looking to play the ball forward. M’Vila has only played 20 minutes at the Euro’s so far due to an injury he picked up in a friendly against Serbia before the competition began. I wouldn’t expect to see M’Vila playing in Ligue 1 come next season as it looks more and more likely that he could be on his way to the Premiership to join Arsenal.

Mario Balotelli

Country: Italy

Club: Manchester City

Age: 21

Position: Striker

Most people will be familiar with Balotelli at this stage. In just one game he can have moments of madness and/or moments of brilliance. The highly entertaining Italian can be unpredictable both in his play and personality, which makes people think “What’s he going to do next?”. The Palermo native netted 13 goals for City this season as they went on to lift the Premier League for only the third time.  Gifted with pace, technical ability and a powerful shot, Balotelli can be a real handful for defenders. In August 2010 Balotelli earned his first cap for the Azzuri in a friendly match against Ivory Coast. Making him only the third black player to ever play for Italy. Last night he scored his first competitive goal for his country against Ireland, a wonderful bicycle kick inside the area which could quite possibly be goal of the tournament so far.

Holger Badstuber

Country: Germany

Club: Bayern Munich

Age: 23

Position: Defender

The German defence has been rock solid this tournament and one of the main reasons for that is the Badstuber/ Hummels defensive partnership. Badstuber has established himself as a key figure for both country and club. He helped guide Bayern Munich to the Champions League final this season but will be hoping to go one step further with Germany by lifting the European Championship trophy come July. So far he has played every minute for Germany in the Euro’s winning  over 90% of the tackles and headers he has attempted. Former Bayern Munich manager Louis Van Gaal stated that Badstuber is the “best left footed defender in Germany”. If the Germans are to go all the way to win it (which many expect them to) then Holger Badstuber will one of the main reasons for their success.

 

See Part 1 here: https://footballtopic.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/5-young-players-to-watch-out-for-at-euro-2012/

The Premiership: Last Day Scenarios

Another Premiership season has come and gone but there is still a lot to sort out in the final round of fixtures this Sunday. Here are all the possible scenarios for the key battles.

The Title Race;

The Title race will go down to the last day, with both Manchester clubs still in with a chance to lift the title. Manchester City are firmly in the driving seat and a win against QPR at the Etihad would crown them champions for the first time in 44 years, but any slip up from City will give United the chance to retain their Premier League crown who still have a tough job to do themselves against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Another and more unlikely scenario is if both sides win but Man United match Man City’s score and win by a further 8 goals. A scenario that not even United fan’s could dream up.

Prediction;

Both sides to win.

Winners: Manchester City, Runners Up: Manchester United

 

The Champions League Spots;

The last guaranteed Champions League spot is still up for grabs, with three teams still in the hunt. Arsenal, Tottenham, and Newcastle are still looking for that last guaranteed spot. There is still a chance that fourth place could get one of the teams a place, in the best placed play-off round, but that place would be taken away if Chelsea beat Bayern Munich in the final of the competition itself. Arsenal’s destiny is in their own hands and a win away at West Brom would assure them an automatic spot in the group stages in next season’s Champions League. If Arsenal fail to win, Tottenham would have to beat Fulham at White Hart Lane in order to leap frog Arsenal. Another way and less likely scenario is if Arsenal lose by two goals or more and Tottenham at least draw against Fulham. Newcastle have to rely on both Arsenal and Tottenham to lose (or Tottenham to draw) for them to take the last guaranteed spot. Newcastle also have arguable the trickiest task as they face Everton at Goodison,a must win for Newcastle.

Prediction;

Arsenal to win, Tottenham to draw, and Newcastle to win.

3rd: Arsenal, 4th: Newcastle, 5th: Tottenham

 

Relegation;

Wolves and Blackburn may already be relegated but who will join them?

Bolton Wanderers currently occupy the final spot and must beat Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. If they do manage to win against Stoke it would mean QPR would have to get at least a point against Manchester City. This scenario would mean that both sides would be level on points but QPR boast a better goal difference and Bolton would have to win their match by at least 7 goals. Aston Villa are mathematically still in the relegation battle but for them to be relegated they must lose and there to be a 17 goal swing in Bolton’s favour. QPR would also need to win against Manchester City for Aston Villa to go down.

Predictions;

Bolton to draw, QPR to lose, and Aston Villa to draw.

18th: Bolton Wanderers, 17th: QPR, 16th: Aston Villa

 

Other unsolved battles;

Only a point separates Everton and Liverpool, in the favour of Everton, and bragging are on the line as Liverpool will be keen not to finish behind their Blue neighbours. Swansea and Norwich will be battling it out to be crowned the best of the promoted sides. Both have preformed above expectations this season and are locked on 44 points with Swansea having the better goal difference.

 

Fixture List:

Chelsea v Blackburn

Everton v Newcastle

Man City v QPR

Norwich v Aston Villa

Stoke v Bolton

Sunderland v Man United

Swansea v Liverpool

Tottenham v Fulham

West Brom v Arsenal

Wigan v Wolves

Nike Confirm New Kits For 2012/13

Nike are one of the top manufactures of football jerseys. So because of this you would be forgiving to think they would also be very stylish. But the truth is, despite having major clients such as Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Juventus yet every year they tend to ‘experiment’ or for use of a better term ‘mess around.’

For Arsenal their one objective is to have a red body with white sleeves and most of the time they do just that and Arsenal have lovely home kits. But this year Nike decided to incorporate a red and white band around the sleeves that just gives the kit a bit of a ‘tacky’ look.

The New Arsenal Kit

For Barcelona their objective is even simpler, Red and Blue strips. That is all. Yet for some reason Nike seem to mess it up and try to over complicate the issue.

Confirmed Barcelona Kit for the new season

As for Inter and Juventus, well you have to give credit where credits due as Nike normally stick to their task well with these too. After all they wouldn’t want to mess up an Italian jersey, as Italians appreciate style.

Manchester United’s Gingham Kit for 2012/13

Finally, the new Manchester United kit. For the past couple of seasons Nike have played it safe with United kits, just making them plain and simple with the odd white stripe running through the jersey here and there. Nothing major, just simple. So it was probably about time Nike took a ‘risk’ with next season’s United kit. Nike went for two shades of red in a chequered style, which gives it a bit of a table cloth feel to it. The idea of the kit is “Forged in industry, striving for glory.” It is a special edition Gingham made jersey as Manchester was a huge producer of Gingham textile in the 18th century.

Nike have also confirmed that as of 2013/14 they will be manufacturing Manchester City’s jerseys.

Euro 2012 – Group A

Group A is looked at as the weakest group in the European Championships but it’s also extremely well matched. The group contains c0-hosts Poland, Russia, Czech Republic and Greece. There isn’t much separating these sides and any of the four teams could find themselves in the quarter-finals.

Poland

European Championship record: 2008 Group Stage

World Ranking: 65th

The co-hosts Poland only played in one European Championship prior to Euro 2012 where they finished bottom of their group with only one point.  They will get the tournament under way against Greece on June 8th in Warsaw. Bar a few exceptions the Polish team isn’t really filled with well known players. However playing in front of their own passionate supporters will motivate them and could prove to be the deciding factor of Poland’s progression to the quarter-finals.

Key Players:

Wojciech Szczesny 

Poland is known for producing talented keepers and Arsenal’s Szczesny is no exception. With only nine international caps to his name he isn’t the most experienced player but he is arguably Poland’s most influential nonetheless. His form has kept fellow Arsenal team-mate, Fabianksi out of the first team. Although he is only 22 Szczesny is very confident between the sticks and trusts his defenders completely.

Robert Lewandowski

Despite only being 23, Lewandowski has 40 caps for his country already. He has helped lead Borussia Dortmund to their second successive Bundesliga title after scoring 22 goals for the German side. He will more than likely be played as a lone striker. The nations hopes seemed to be on Lewandowski and if he is on form he will be a real threat for defenders this Summer.

Greece

European Championship record: 1980 Group Stage, 2004 Winners, 2008 Group Stage.

World Ranking: 14th

Greece shocked the footballing world in 2004 as they became champions of Europe having beaten Portugal in the final in Lisbon. However in 2008 they didn’t pick up a single point. Now eight years on from their triumph what should we expect from Greece? It’s hard to tell but they remained unbeaten in the qualifiers in a group that contained Croatia, so they will be confident going into the European Championships.

Key Players:

Giorgos Karagounis

A vital part of the team that won Euro 2004, despite missing the final through suspension. Karagounis remains the captain following the 2010 World Cup and was arguably the most influential player during qualification for Euro 2012. At the tender age of 35 Karagounis is the second most capped Greek player ever on 115 and will hope to break the record at this Summers European Championships.

Avraam Papadopoulos

The Australian born centre back was the rock in the Greek defence and is a huge reason why Greece only conceded five times in qualifying. He was voted the Greek Player of the Year in 2011 and will hope to bring that form into Euro 2012.  He could well be a key reason if Greece are to make it out of the group.

Russia

European Championship Record: 1960 Winners, 1964 Runners-Up, 1968 Fourth, 1972 Runners-Up, 1988 Runners-Up, 1992 Group Stage, 1996 Group Stage, 2004 Group Stage, 2008 Semi-Final.

World Ranking: 11th

Russia are many people’s favourites to top the group and progress to the knock-out stage. They only lost once in qualifying (vs Slovakia) and conceded just four times in ten games. A win against Czech Republic in the first game is vital because both Poland and Greece will be tough for the Russians. Russia were the surprise package at Euro 2008 going to the semi-finals knocking out the Netherlands along the way.

Key Players:

Andrey Arshavin

Despite being loaned out by Arsenal to Zenit after numerous lacklustre performances he still remains a key figure for Russia. Arshavin captained his side throughout the qualifiers. It appears that he may have found some form again grabbing 3 goals in 10 games for Zenit so far. There is no doubt about it that Arshavin was a key figure in the Euro 2008 Russian side and put in two great performances to get them to the semi’s. Dick Advocaat could well get the best out of Arshavin again just like he did at Zenit when the lifted the Uefa Cup in 2008.

Alan Dzagoev

The 21 year old is looked at as the next big thing of Russian football. He has been putting in dazzling displays for CSKA Moscow since 2008. He was Russia’s top scorer in qualifying along with Roman Pavlyuchenko on four goals. Dzagoev outfoxed many defenders in this seasons Champions League and will be hoping to do the same at the Euro’s.

Czech Republic

European Championship Record: 1960 Third, 1976 Winners, 1980 Third, 1996 Runners-Up, 2000 Group Stage, 2004 Semi-finals, 2008 Group Stage.

World Ranking: 26th

The Czech’s are very proud of their European Championship record, having won it in 1976 (as Czechoslovakia) and sent a team to every finals since it got it’s independence in 1993. Although they don’t appear to be as solid as they once were. In qualifying they lost three times in only eight games, although two of them losses came against World & European Champions Spain. The other was a home loss to Lithuania. They qualified after beating Montenegro 3-0 on aggregate in the play-offs. Can they scrape through?

Key Players:

Petr Cech

The Chelsea shot stopper is one of Czech Republics most experienced players after making 89 appearances for his country. Cech has been in form this season for Chelsea helping them to the Champions League final and will hoping to lead by example at Euro 2012 to help put his nation through to the quarter-finals. Cech feels like he needs to make up for his blunder at Euro 2008 when he let a cross slip through his hands which allowed Turkey’s Nihat to score and ultimately eliminated the Czech Republic.

Michal Kadlec

He was the only Czech player to play every single minute of the qualifiers which instantly shows his importance to the team. Despite being a defender he scored four of Czech Republic’s twelve goals. Three of which came from the spot. He is clearly an attacking threat as well as being a solid defender. His father led Czech Republic to the final at Euro 96 so Michal will be hoping to somewhat follow in his fathers footsteps this Summer.

Final Verdict:

Russia to top the group and Poland to finish second in front of their home crowd.

Barclays Premier League Round-Up – Gameweek 35

Title Race

There were more twists and turns in the Premiership this weekend as we saw the title race being blown wide open once again. Manchester United and Everton contested in an eight goal thriller at Old Trafford.  Despite United being 4-2 up with less than 10 minutes of play left, Everton pushed on and got an 85th minute equaliser through Pienaar.

Elsewhere, Man City made it three wins on the trot against now relegated Wolves. Goals from Aguero and Nasri moves them to within three points of their rivals Man United. The top two will meet each other in the Manchester derby next Monday at the Etihad Stadium in a fixture which will have a huge say on where the title will be lifted come the end of the season.

Relegation Battle

Wolves become the first side to go down this season following a 2-0 loss at the hands of Man City. It doesn’t come as a surprise to most people that they have been relegated although some wonder where they would be if McCarthy was left in charge.

Q.P.R boosted their chances of survival with a vital 1-0 win over London rivals Spurs. They now sit three points ahead of the relegation zone.

Before kick-off Blackburn Rovers fans staged a protest march and displayed ‘Kean Out’ banners throughout the game, despite this Blackburn went on to beat Norwich 2-0. Will the Premiership winners of the 1994/95 season be playing Championship football next season?

A battling Wigan were narrowly beaten 2-1 by Fulham at Craven Cottage.  Aston Villa played out a 0-0 draw with Sunderland and Bolton also picked up a point at home to Swansea.  Aston Villa and Bolton play each other Tuesday night in a six-pointer at Villa Park.

Karl Henry and Stephen Ward applaud their fans.

European Spots

Newcastle keep their run of form going as they pick up yet another win and move into fourth place. A brace by Yohan Cabaye contributed to Newcastle’s 3-0 win over Stoke. The Magpies seem to be many people’s favourites to take the last Champions League spot.

Tottenham’s poor run of form continues as they slipped up to Q.P.R. With only two wins in their last ten Premier League games, Spurs season has gone from what looked like a third place finish and Champions League football to a quite disappointing one.

Arsenal and Chelsea faced each other in a pretty uneventful clash, it finished 0-0. Arsenal find themselves in third place, they will be confident that they can remain there come the last day of the season. However, Chelsea will the happier of the two after coming back from the Emirates with a point. They are four points off Newcastle as it stands. Can Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea make the push for a Champions League spot?