Category Archives: report

Does contact constitute a penalty?

The recent match between tottenham and Liverpool illuminated an alarming facet of the modern game.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but only thanks to some erroneous decision making that was then judged by the majority of authority figures to in fact, be on the correct path.

The game swivelled on two late penalties – both for tottenham – and on close inspection, with the aid of slo-mo technology and a myriad of angles, we can surely all see that both spot-kicks were incorrectly given.

Since when does contact constitute a penalty?

We can forgive the referee, Jon Moss, for giving them. In the speed of the game, some things take on entirely different views and mistakes are commonplace. If VAR was in place though, then neither would’ve been given, right?

Jon Moss was in conversation with his fourth official for the final penalty – when Virgil Van Dijk ‘collided’ with Erik Lamela – and after a lengthy discussion, he judged that the Dutchman had brought down the Argentine winger. Moss even asked the fourth official for the use of VAR – even though the technology wasn’t available for this game.

If Moss was so unsure that he needed the benefit of a TV replay, surely he shouldn’t have given it?

Jurgen Klopp raged after the game, the German coach was obviously convinced his side had bagged the points after Mohamed Salah had scored in extra time to put Liverpool 2-1 up.

Mark Clattenburg was asked in the days afterward regarding the awarding of both spot kicks and said that both were incorrectly awarded – but he was in the minority.

Harry Kane, when asked by BBC Sport about the award of the first penalty, when he went over Lorus Karius’s dive, said “I felt contact so I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

Dejan Lovren was incensed about the penalty, and Van Dijk was quite candid, saying that Kane dived.

The second penalty, Jurgen Klopp said of Lamela;

“The softest touch in the whole game decided the game. Lamela was already on the way down.”

The PGMOL, Jermaine Jenas, former referee Dermot Gallagher and a host of other supposedly respected voices in the game all branded the penalties correct.

What does the actual law state for a penalty though?

‘If a player commits a direct free-kick offence in the penalty area, then a penalty is awarded.’

What constitutes a direct free-kick offence?

‘A direct free-kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force

charges

jumps at

kicks or attempts to kick

pushes

strikes or attempts to strike

tackles or challenges

trips or attempts to trip.

Did either incident involve any of the above? Does any of the above mention that contact constitutes an automatic spot kick?

No.

Raheem Sterling, Ashley Young, Delle Ali, Harry Kane, Ander Herrerra are all serial offenders, using a trailing leg or their forward impetus to sway the referees into a decision. Even our own players aren’t above simulating to earn an advantage – Welbeck vs AC Milan anyone?

Contact is going to be made in the game, and when a corner is swung in, players clamber over each other to gain leverage, yet no spot kicks are given. Harry Kane used Laurent Koscielny to climb and score the winner in the recent North London Derby, yet he wasn’t pulled up for this.

There are instances when players are unfairly penalised for not going down under a tackle, as the referee believes it isn’t a foul as the player hasn’t fallen to the ground like he’s been shot.

It is this that has led to players feeling justified in going to ground when they feel any form of contact. Why should their team lose out?

The game has changed, but it’s on dangerous footing. The current decision making is inconsistent and it can lead to massive errors.

Errors that can hardly have bigger ramifications with the financial rewards in the game.

VAR needs to be the impartial factor we all know it could be, but if match officials believe that contact constitutes a penalty, then what hope is there?

England’s Lionesses – What Next?

Mark Sampson became the England Women’s Manager in December 2013. In his four years at the helm of the Lionesses, the Welsh coach has lifted the team into a position as worthy challengers for top honours.


In only two years, Sampson engineered a Semi-Final place for England in the 2015 World Cup in Canada. It represented the best showing of an England team – male or female – since 1990. After losing to Japan at the penultimate hurdle, England’s women then defeated Germany to finish in a fantastic 3rd place.

Hopes were inevitably high for the recent Euro2017 tournament after such a wonderful run. 


Could Sampson prove that this is the level that his charges are at? The World Cup drew in amazing viewing figures – both on TV and spectators in the grounds – and the interest level was growing in female football.

Euro2017 then took it to another platform entirely. Terrestrial TV picked up the rights to the competition, giving the chance for so many people to watch events unfold, and it paid off.


England’s women played marvellously as they again made their way to the Semi-Final stage – this time falling to an impressive Netherlands team who were playing in their home country.

It was another wonderful display for Sampson and the girls, but it was again a tumble just before the biggest of all stages. Whilst the Semi-Finals twice in consecutive major tournaments represents a huge achievement – it leaves one question;


Do England have what it takes to win a big competition?




On first appearances, the answer would be an emphatic yes.


England have defeated both France and Germany recently, and both nations are powerhouses of women’s football. A win in the knockout stages of the Euro’s and a World Cup mean Steph Houghton and co are more than capable of keeping company with the best in the business.


There is a confidence within each and every one of the squad, cultivating a mentality that gives this team that surety on the pitch that all great teams have. The respect shown by each member of the squad is reciprocated unequivocally – and this has been the foundation for the improvement shown.


They have beaten the USA, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden in recent years. They have been hobnobbing with the elite for the last two years, and the strength of the WSL means that England should have enough resources to stay at the top table.


Which is of paramount importance. With Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea Ladies all recruiting top talent, it means the youth at each respective club will both benefit from training with these superb players, but they will also work harder to force their way through the enhanced competition for places.


The youth at each club will be responsible for picking up the baton left by the current pride of Lionesses, and they have one hell of a job to fulfill.


Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Alex Greenwood, Demi Stokes, Millie Bright, Isobel Christiansen, Jade Moore, Jordan Nobbs, Karen Carney, Toni Duggan, Fran Kirby, Nikita Parris and Ellen White are the players who will carry the team forward to the 2019 World Cup – with all of the above being in their 20’s. There is the small matter of attempting to replace some real quality in the squad though.


Jodie Taylor, Fara Williams, Jill Scott, Jo Potter, Casey Stoney, Alex Scott, Laura Bassett, Siobhan Chamberlain and Karen Bardsley are all 30 or older, and whilst some may still be at the pinnacle of the game, they will not represent the future of England Women.


With Steph Houghton and Karen Carney both 29 as well – how do England go about replacing the experience that 1036 caps brings?


More importantly, who will take the reins after Sampson?


England really do have some bright talent shining through. Millie Bright, Fran Kirby, Demi Stokes and Lucy Bronze will all be cornerstones of the side in years to come, and Jordan Nobbs is only going to get better, which is a scary prospect for opposing nations.


Do the WSL youth facilities and staff have what it takes to produce and replace what has already been?


Was this the ‘Golden Generation’ that should have perhaps achieved more than they did?


This is definitely the strongest squad that an England Women’s Manager has had to call upon, but in terms of achievements, it could be looked at another way.


The Euro 2009 Final and the last two Semi-Finals may not have garnered a ticker-tape parade and winners medals – but it has supplied the growth in the sport that it so badly warranted. The WSL now attracts talent such as Carli Lloyd and the cream of the Netherlands. It also can now look forward to appropriate levels of TV coverage thanks to a new deal with BT Sport, which in turn means better levels of funding for the League and its participants.


What has been engineered has meant that the England Lionesses have a fighting chance of glory in the future. The respective new manager’s charges have put the sport firmly at the eye level of a bigger audience. It means that young girls will seek a career, rather than see it as just a hobby.


The Euro2017 defeat to Netherlands may have smarted, but it is just a service station on the journey. England Women are not finished yet.

The 20 Highest-Paid Footballers in the World

Posted in The Sport Review

All details correct as of May 2017.

The face of football has changed rapidly in the last decade and the root cause of this transformation is money. Big wads of it. From the television deals which inflate clubs pockets to mega-rich philanthropists who buy teams when they seek a new challenge in the world of business – the sport is swimming in currency.

Now, the gap between the elite teams and the rest is a yawning chasm, so the chase for top-flight football becomes a furious frenzy. The promised land awaits, and the cash may have stolen the heart from the game, but it can also revitalise those cash-strapped outfits. The ultimate double-edged sword.
The torrents of money rolls downwards, and it pools in the pockets of the players who are lured by the lucre. Wages for superstar players are reaching astronomical levels as managers go to the transfer market with a blank chequebook.

Players now command a weekly wage that most can only dream of. To illustrate this, here are the twenty highest paid footballers in the world in 2017:

20. Bastian Schweinsteiger. Now at Chicago Fire, formerly of Manchester United.

Salary = £200k per week. (Schweinsteiger now at Chicago Fire.)

The German World Cup winner may be languishing on Manchester United’s bench, but he is trousering a corking wage to do nothing. His move from Bayern Munich was meant to show Europe how United was still a force even though Sir Alex Ferguson may have gone, but injuries and a lack of faith from Jose Mourinho has seen this legendary figure of the game fall from prominence.

19. David De Gea. Manchester United

Salary = £200k pw

Manchester United may not be the force of old in terms of trophy-laden seasons – but they are still a powerhouse in terms of income. The £200,000 paid to goalkeeper De Gea is a drop in the ocean and is viewed as a sound investment after the Spaniard was their best player in the post-Fergie years. Will the money be enough to stave off interest from La Liga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona? 

18. David Silva. Manchester City

Salary = £210k pw

Quick-footed Silva was one of the influx of players Manchester City bought to flex their new found wealth when Sheikh Mansour purchased the club. He has since won two titles for the blue half of Manchester, and City fans would say that this large amount of money has been well spent. 

17. Ezequiel Lavezzi. Hebei China Fortune

Salary = £220k pw

The Argentine represents the first entry from the new force of football in China – but isn’t the last. Lavezzi joined from fellow moneybags outfit PSG, and he is one of the golden generation from his homeland in South America which includes Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuian and Lionel Messi. The versatile forward paved the way for more players to fly over and help China put their football league on the map.

16. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Manchester United

Salary = £220k pw

Another entry for Manchester United, and another for a former PSG man. The player who is known simply as Zlatan in some circles has seen and done it all in Europe. Spain, Italy, Netherlands and France, before coming to Old Trafford to link up with Jose Mourinho again, after doing so well in their time together at Inter Milan. The Swede has banged in the goals wherever he has gone – and even at 35 years old, this shows no sign of stopping. 

15. Asamoah Gyan. Shanghai SIPG

Salary = £227k pw

From Sunderland to China, via the UAE. Gyan lit up the North East in his short spell for the Mackems, but the call came from Al Ain and the Ghana striker showed where his allegiances lie. He has since gone to China and continued to rake in the dough, and is now on loan from Shanghai back to the UAE with Al Ahli. 

14. Luis Suarez. Barcelona.

Salary = £230k pw

The buck-toothed Suarez was idolised at Liverpool, coming close to single-handedly inspiring them to a first title in over two decades. He had offers elsewhere, but he was adamant that he must go to Barcelona. It has been the dream move for the Uruguayan, and the mistakes of the past have melted away in the face of a hatful of goals and a deadly partnership with Lionel Messi and Neymar which has seen them lift all manner of silverware. A shrewd buy even in the face of such high demands.

13. Sergio Aguero. Manchester City.

Salary = £230k pw

The lethal Aguero has been the leading light in the Premiership when it comes to goals, and he has shown remarkable loyalty to City since joining. The Argentine has been the model of consistency and his performances have given a helping hand to City in their quest for domestic and European dominance. He may be currently on the bench watching upstart Gabriel Jesus take his spot – but there will be no doubt he will do the busniess when he pulls the shirt on again.

12. Yaya Toure. Manchester City.

Salary = £230k pw

If Aguero was the blade of the Manchester City sword when winning their trophies in the last 5-6 years, then Toure was the hand which propelled it. The Ivorian has eviscerated midfields since joining in 2010. When on the ball, he has proved nigh-on impossible to stop, and despite being in his twilight years in his career, he has been recalled to Pep Guardiola’s service recently. £230,000 can get him plenty of birthday cake….

11.  Robin Van Persie. Fenerbahce.

Salary = £240k pw

The Dutchman was patiently modelled by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, and he came good in spectacular fashion. He then chose to join rivals Manchester United, where he won them the title thanks to his bagful of goals. It petered out at Old Trafford, but the Dutchman is still doing what he does best in Turkey for Fenerbahce. For a 33yr old, he is doing well to earn this princely sum.

10. Wayne Rooney. Manchester United.

Salary = £260k pw

Even though Rooney had been terrorising defences and winning trophies from the moment he joined United from Everton – when the England and United record goalscorer signed his latest deal, it caused consternation across the UK. It was the first time a player had commanded such a number, and he was in his thirties at the time! He must have a fantastic agent. Injuries have hampered him in recent years as well as poor form, but Rooney still does the business when called upon. 

9. Neymar Jr. Barcelona.

Salary = £275k pw

The great hope of Brazilian football and the man with more tricks than a magician’s pocket, Neymar’s initial transfer may have been investigated, but he hasn’t let that hamper him. The second of the famed triumvirate which is firing the Catalan club to goals and more goals – Neymar is proving that sometimes, you get exactly what you pay for.

8. Graziano Pelle. Shandong Luneng Taishan FC

Salary = £290k pw

This is the third entry from a newly empowered Chinese club, but the player himself must be laughing all the way to bank. Pelle was enjoying moderate success at Southampton – 23 goals in 68 appearances – before the Far East called and dropped a ludicrous number in his lap. Can you blame the Italian for upping sticks? He is now getting paid more than Neymar and Wayne Suarez! And you thought Rooney’s agent was good at his job….

7. Paul Pogba. Manchester United.

Salary = £290k pw

The extravagantly-coiffured Pogba gets the accolade for highest earner in the Premier League, as his weekly earnings grant him the 7th spot. He is also the world’s most expensive player, after joining the Mourinho revolution at Old Trafford in 2016. He may sometimes be in the headlines for his dancing and hairstyles rather than his footballing exploits, but his talent is undeniable. The Frenchman is still young and will only get better. 

6. Hulk. Shanghai SIPG

Salary = £320k pw

Hulk has been somewhat of a journeyman in his career. A maverick for hire, the Brazilian will take his boots and play anywhere that will pay him adequately for his services. Japan, Portugal, Russia and now China have recruited the player who has a reputation for goals and an amazing exocet of a shot, but also that of a mercenary. Hulk is the first on the list to break the mystical and lucrative £300k pw barrier. He had best score a shedload of goals for that kind of money.

5. Lionel Messi. Barcelona.

Salary = £336k pw

There hasn’t been much that hasn’t been said about Messi. The one thing that really points out how good he is, is his goals. 328 in just 365 games. Just like Maradona and Pele, arguments are still rife as to who is better – is it Messi or is it his lifelong rival Cristiano Ronaldo? It is difficult to separate the two, but we should just enjoy them both while they are here. His wage is one of the few that most would say is great value. Messi is quite simply unstoppable. 

4. Gareth Bale. Real Madrid.

Salary = £350k pw

From humble beginnings has Gareth Bale hailed from. There was a time when in his infancy with Tottenham when he could not buy a win when in the team. Now, he is a genuine world-class player and has won the Champions League twice. The Welshman has also seen his country revived through his creative talents – reaching the Semi-Finals of Euro2016. There appears to be nothing he cannot do. 

3. Cristiano Ronaldo. Real Madrid.

Salary = £365k pw

The never-ending duel for supremacy between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo may be no nearer an answer, but the Real frontman has won the war of wonga between the two. The Portuguese sensation has done so much for his club, and his 273 goals in just 251 games is truly remarkable. He has also done something else that Lionel Messi has been so far unable to do – and lift a major honour with his country, after winning Euro2016 for Portugal. He may clear a hefty amount of money each week, but it would be hard to find anyone who could say he hasn’t done his best to reimburse his club. Champions Leagues and La Liga’s have been lifted, and so has Ronaldo’s soaring reputation as one of the finest in the game.

2. Oscar. Shanghai SIPG

Salary = £400k pw

Oscar is a fantastic playmaker who had been flitting in and out of the Chelsea side when China approached his agent. So the offer that was put on the table was more than enough to lead him away from the Chelsea bench. The playmaker could well retire from football after a few years netting this money each week, and at 25 years old as of now – that means he could be sunning himself back home in Brazil two years before he hits his thirties. Oscar’s talent is there for all to see, but with still so much to prove, was this move all about the money over footballing ideals?

1. Carlos Tevez. Shanghai Shenhua

Salary = £615k pw.

Who could have seen this coming for Tevez when he signed for West Ham in 2006? From there, he played for both Manchester clubs – winning titles at both – before joining Juventus in 2013. He then moved back home to his boyhood club Boca Juniors in 2015, and this move was presumably his last before retirement. It appears that any man has his price however, and at 33, the Argentine joined Shanghai Shenhua for a monstrous £615k per WEEK. That should be enough to set up a college fund for the kiddies and maybe a nice holiday home somewhere, right? His wage dwarfs every player on this list, and if it is a sign of things to come – then the big leagues in Spain, Germany and England will be very worried about keeping their top talent. 

Former Gunner Breaks Agent Laws

If you utter the name ‘Paolo Vernazza’ to the majority of Gooners, then the response is usually a swift shrug or a blank stare. The former Gunner made a smattering of appearances in the late ’90’s for the club, before moving on to Watford, Rotherham, Dagenham and Woking.

His big break at Arsenal was in the Double winning season of 1997/98, when he made a league start, but in total, there was only eleven appearances accrued in a Gunners shirt. 

His career status was that of journeyman. He wasn’t aided by regular injuries, but Vernazza was consigned to the lowe leagues for a large percentage of his career. 

So, what does a player do when they have not accrued the megabucks of their more illustrious playing brethren? They cannot fall back on their earnings, so they must forge a career elsewhere, usually using their ties in the game to good effect.

Vernazza did just that. Becoming a registered football intermediary with the FA, he and other ex-pro Danny Webber went on to play integral parts in building up footballing agency business ‘Platinum One.’ 

As former pro’s, they would be perfectly placed to negate any obstacles and hazards that may befall the players under their wing. They had information from behind enemy lines that would stand them in good stead when it came to crucial negotiations. It makes perfect sense for players to turn to this career when they hang up their boots. They could make this somewhat shady business a lot clearer with their combined acumen gathered during their own career as a professional football player.

The company values itself on being managed to the highest ethical standards – so what has happened just recently will not be helpful to the company’s cause.

Vernazza, Webber and two others were suspended or banned by the FA for breaking rules in regard to signing contracts with children. 

Vernazza was banned for seven months, after he was found guilty of trying to sign a contract with a minor. This was despite the former Gunner not being cleared to work with children. What made his sentence heavier was because the contract had also not been signed by parents or a guardian. 

Fellow Platinum One Agent Danny Webber – of Manchester United, Sheffield United and Watford in his playing days – was suspended for 84 days after approaching a player younger than 16 years of age. 

Young players are impressionable. They devote themselves to the game so they can enjoy the lifestyle they see on TV. Then an agent turns up to their game and it’s a former professional who played in the top flight. These kids need an appropriate adult present in any discussions about their future, to guide them away from hasty decisions.

There are already so many pitfalls that can inflict misery and a change of career on these starry-eyed starlets. With the constant shadow of injury, a slew of changing coaches who have different views, and loan moves deciding which direction your life will head, the last thing they need is to worry if their contracts are being handled appropriately. They need to know they are being handled in the correct way. These agents are meant to have the best interests of their client above all else.

This is why Vernazza and Webber deserve everything that was thrown at them. They have the futures of these youths in their hands, and they are charged with ensuring the best options for their client. To do so, they must follow the rules that everyone else must follow. It is a delicate business that must be run with decorum, respect, and above all else, a priority must be given to these kids.

A violation of this code of conduct should warrant a severe punishment. Hopefully this first violation will be a stark warning to Vernazza and Webber, and will direct them toward putting their clients first before their own gain. All within the rules too. 

Arsenal 1-0 West Brom – 5 Key Points 

After two successive defeats and losing precious ground with the top of the league, a win – any type of win – was always going to be the order of the day from this match.

This home victory provided the opportunity to put our season back on track, and despite the close scoreline, this performance was just what the doctor ordered. 

West Brom turned up to The Emirates with the aim of stifling the Gunners, and who can blame Tony Pulis? Despite being labelled as one of the managers who is capable of being a thorn in the side of Arsenal, Pulis’s record isn’t exactly impressive against Arsenal. The only thing that has worked in the past is the stoic approach, playing with two banks of four behind the ball. 

This is exactly what the Baggies lined up to execute, but it was to no avail in the end. Arsenal huffed and puffed at times, and there is a danger of overlooking the good points of our play, but West Brom really came close to claiming an undeserved point.

If not for Olivier Giroud’s 86th minute header, it was looking increasingly likely that more dropped points was on the Gunners menu. There was only ever one team that was going to score, but a combination of an errant final ball, hordes of West Brom players behind the ball and the woodwork meant that it took until the dying embers of the game for the points to be won.

Arsene Wenger had to shuffle his team before kickoff, as Theo Walcott was declared unfit, so Alexis was named on the left flank, and Olivier Giroud was named as the sole striker. Kieran Gibbs was also given the nod after a few shaky games from Nacho Monreal, so Arsenal could pose an aerial threat against a predominantly strong team with the ball in the air.

The Gunners though, seemed intent on playing on the deck, even though Giroud gave the side an asset in the box. The first half was a myriad of passes in and around the West Brom box, and Ozil and Sanchez looking to provide either the killer blow or pass. Conversely though, Baggies keeper Ben Foster wasn’t truly tested even in the face of such endeavours – there was only one shot on target in the entire 45 minutes.

The second half was a different story, although thankfully not as contrasting as our last two games. We played with more zip on the deck, intent to utilising West Brom’s lack of mobility compared to ours. 

Ben Foster, when not time wasting, was the man who was responsible for keeping his side in the game, but even he couldn’t touch Olivier Giroud’s header, which came from an Ozil cross. 

It was enough to win the game, but there was far more to write about during the ninety minutes. Here are the key points from the match:

Alex Iwobi getting back some form

The young Nigerian had been experiencing the inevitable dip that any starlet suffers from when bursting onto the scene. This game showed that amongst Iwobi’s strengths, he also has a steel spine to boast of. In the face of such criticism, he had not let it affect his game. He still was trying all sorts of flicks and backheels in order to pierce the Baggies backline, and it was he and Alexis that looked more likely to provide the inspiration. He looked the part, and this is also vitally important with our widemen missing this game. More of the same please!

Timewasting in the first half?

Just like Stoke City a few weeks back, West Brom knew they would have to employ more than a stubborn defence to take any points away from The Emirates, and it was their gamesmanship that was more frustrating than anything else. Ben Foster and on occasion some other players on the books at West Brom, were taking more than their sweet time for set plays. It was blindingly obvious to anyone other than the referee, but it spelled out exactly what Tony Pulis had instructed – Frsutrate Arsenal, and we can nick a point.
Bellerin and Gibbs so vital

Hector and Keiran both had license to run amok as their opponent seemed unwilling to venture any further than the halfway line. They really did give our attack another arrow, which we really did need to stretch a compact West Brom. They were solid when they needed to be, and they positioned themselves exactly where they were always needed. Great stuff.

Ozil always working

He will no doubt cop some heat again, as he didn’t perform sliding tackles, beat players with a rabona and score a screamer, but his work is there for all that want to see it. Against a Pulis side who were intent on shutting out all and sundry, he flitted around every nook and cranny that he could, trying to spark anything into life. We too, were static at times, so there were not many runners to pick out, but he had ridiculous amounts of the ball and whenever he could, he attempted to manipulate the opponent in order to create gaps. It was his 100th Premier League game, and he also recorded his 36th assist, which apparently is second only to Eric Cantona for assists recorded in 100 games. 

Giroud offers much, but there are limits

This was the Frenchman’s fourth goal of the season, and the majority of his season has been spent on the bench. We all know what Ollie brings to the table, and if a decent ball is whizzed into the box, then invariably Giroud will finish it – as shown with his goal. He doesn’t offer though, the movement of Alexis, and that is why the Chilean has prospered in the same position. Giroud is definitely useful and we must keep him, but he must adapt to his shifting role – which he has done thus far, offering much value from the bench when called upon. He is perfect for some games, not all. This game, he latched onto the only real chance that was presented to him. He did exactly what we needed. Job done.

There was much more to write about. Gabriel had perhaps his best game in an Arsenal shirt, offering a calm outlet when harrying Baggies players came rushing, and he was great aerially against Salomon Rondon. Xhaka and Coquelin were safe, but relatively untroubled so could spend the majority of their time in the opposition half, and Petr Cech finally ended a run of eight games without a clean sheet.

The most important thing amongst the words above though, is that we picked up the points. We were tough, and we kept at it. With City, Chelsea and United all winning, anything else wsould have been calamitous. 

Onwards we march. Well done boys. 

Arsenal 2-0 Reading – 5 Key Stats From The Game

Arsenal progressed serenely to the Quarter-Final stage of the EFL Cup, with a straightforward victory over Jaap Stam’s Reading side, as Arsene Wenger gave many of his young talents a chance to shine on the big stage.

I was lucky enough to attend this game, and after the pilgrimage to Piebury and The Tollington, myself,  @GreeneBantern and @SimplyEnigmatic made our way to the stadium. 

Just as we left the watering hole, the team was announced, and it was fair to say the biggest surprise was seeing Ainslie Maitland-Niles named in the centre of midfield. Whilst the talent is there, to be given a central role is a huge responsibility and it must have been an honour and extra pressure simultaneously for the youngster.

Just before we entered The Emirates, I must add that I saw a dear friend who I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. A fellow Gooner and an erudite chap, it was honestly great to shoot the breeze after so long. 

Arsenal really does have the capacity to improve your day! 

Back to the game, and Martinez once again started in goal, but it was in defence that perhaps carried most danger. 

The seats we had in the East Stand allowed for excellent viewing, and they provided us with the chance to really dissect each performance. It was like a FIFA game, as we were level with the halfway line, as opposed to our usual seats in the North Bank. 

The promising Rob Holding was alongside Gabriel in the heart of the backline. Normally the requirement for an inexperienced defender is to be partnered with a seasoned veteran, and the rash Brazilian is not exactly the sage influence that would soothe a fretting 21 year old.

We needn’t have worried.

Mohamed Elneny continued in the centre of midfield, and the attack looked full of vibrancy, with Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide just behind Lucas Perez as the sole striker.

The last few occasions we have faced the Royals, they have provided the sternest of tests, but new coach Jaap Stam seems to have instructed his team to play calmly and play out from the back, which played into the hands of the Gunners.

We started well, and fan favourite Carl Jenkinson had a great chance to break the deadlock, only for Royals keeper Ali Al-Habsi to parry, and Jenkinson could only head the second chance over.

Reading stood off Arsenal, inviting the young home team to try and play around them – and on a few occasions we did.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the man who put Arsenal a goal up, and it was the away teams insistence on starting moves from the back which gave The Ox a chance to shoot as two Reading defenders backed off – and he simply picked out the far corner. 

It stemmed from the pressure we put on a flustered defence, but the pressing died a little as Reading started to push a little, but it seemed as if Arsenal could break through at will.

The Ox’s second goal came from Rob Holding beating his man on the right of the penalty area, and when second half substitute Olivier Giroud laid the ball off, The Ox fired a bullet toward goal. A deflection meant it eluded Al-Habsi – and the key deflection may just have come from Alex Iwobi.

There was much more to see during the ninety minutes, but here are five points that occurred on the pitch that are worth reading about:




Elneny Man of the Match

The Egyptian’s first start Vs Middlesbrough in the weekend showed how rusty from lack of minutes Elneny was. This game required a steady hand on the tiller though. So many kids on the pitch that need an experienced colleague to dictate when required, and Elneny was that man. So often he was the player who put his foot on the ball and sprayed it wide to stretch play. So often he won possession when Reading were just starting to build a head of steam. Elneny was the player we needed, and he showed that he is more than able.




The Ox deserves some credit

Too often I have written of the Ox’s failures, but his display in this match showed his maturity and initiative. We are all aware he has the talent, but in this game, he was the player who took the game by the scruff of the neck in the flat spots of play, and he made things happen. He was also defensively diligent, which is a rare occurrence. I dearly hope this is a turned corner, as he was a delight to watch.




Rob Holding is all that

With a central defensive pairing of Gabriel and Holding, the potential for disaster was high. Not that they are incompetent, but chemistry is a huge factor for centre-backs, and these two have not played together since pre-season. Plus, Gabriel is known to be a tad on the rash side, but this game needed him to be the wise head for his younger partner. However, Holding showed positional astuteness, great instincts, and his physicality was just as good as his Brazilian colleague. Holding looked like a defender about six or seven years his senior. If he continues his trajectory, then greatness beckons. A really classy game for Holding.




Reading should have pressed

If the Royals had adjusted their game plan according to the Arsenal teamsheet, then they would have harried their opposition. A less-experienced player is usually more inclined to panic on the big stage, but Reading kept to their gameplan, which meant they would invite pressure and when in possession, attempt to pass and move. They didn’t, thankfully, give Arsenal as many nightmares as in previous cup games, but to be fair to Arsenal, I think that they would have coped. Still, Jaap Stam could have thrown caution to the wind.





Lucas Perez looks tasty

The swarthy Spaniard was given another shot as he was in the previous round, and although he didn’t register on the scoresheet or provide an assist, this performance was maybe a little more telling. Lucas was industrious, and harried as much as he could in his lone role. He had little to work with, but his endeavours were worthy of a reward he never received in the form of a goal. If he continues to put in as much effort as he did in this game, then he will be a fantastic asset.

There was much more to write about. Much has been made of the man known only as ‘Jeff,’ and he was tidy enough in possession, but there was little thrills or spills from the exciting talent. His time will come. Alex Iwobi looked a little tired but that is completely understandable, and Jenkinson impressed on the right of defence. Also worth noting is Keiran Gibbs, who played in the stalemate in the weekend, but showed no ill-effects. He led the line well as Skipper.

All in all, a comfortable enough victory, but not without a spirited if uninspired opposition. The future rounds will be tougher, but the fact we are still in the cup should be celebrated. It gives our fringe players a vital runout, and any chance for silverware should be embraced.

Flares, Fighting and Fantastic Tackling – The Euro’s so far….

The build-up to the European Championship saw talk centred on the heightened police presence that would be concentrated on events in France. The atrocities that unfolded in Paris the previous year meant that the likelihood of a repeat attack was elevated, and French forces would be en masse to ensure the safety of the crowds who would be attending.

There was no talk of how the potential fighting would be in the stands – and between rival fans.

Continue reading Flares, Fighting and Fantastic Tackling – The Euro’s so far….

It’s Happened Again – For The 21st Year……

We had plenty of time to adjust to it.

Any occasion in which events go against the grain, it is difficult to acclimatise to the new settings.

We had the whole of the second half of this season to wrap our heads around the fact that our neighbours – who for so long squirmed under our boot – had finally wriggled free of our supremacy and were going to reverse tradition.

Continue reading It’s Happened Again – For The 21st Year……

Old Trafford Chance Blown

I was able to go to Old Trafford to witness the game yesterday first hand. Needless to say, it won’t be forgotten any time soon.

A five hour road journey with none other than @thedanielcowan saw us eventually get to Old Trafford and we took to the away section with hope and excitement. The United lineup lacked experience, talent and should have been easy pickings for a near full-strength Arsenal side.

How wrong could I have been…..

image

Continue reading Old Trafford Chance Blown

Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham – Not On Our Worst Day. A Match Report

At first glance, a 1-1 draw against your bitter rivals is a satisfactory result. This was in stark contrast to the end of the game when Arsenal’s opponents, despite being in control of the majority of the game, were utilising all manner of timewasting techniques in order to salvage a point.

There again was a disparity in emotions at half time, when if any Gooners were asked if they would take a point, they would have snapped up the offer. Tottenham bossed the first forty-five minutes and there was little for any home fans to latch onto to boost optimism. I was in attendance in the Upper East Stand and the half time whistle brought with it only dismay.

Continue reading Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham – Not On Our Worst Day. A Match Report