Tag Archives: international

Coronavirus To Wreak Long-Term Havoc?

The Covid-19 virus is sweeping across the globe. Being easily transferable, mass gatherings are being winked out as easily as a lamplight.

And the Premier League is no different.

As I write, our Head Coach has declared that he has the virus. Thus, anyone in direct contact with Arteta – the majority of the squad, the staff and those at Hale End – will also undergo self-isolation.

We are not the only club with affected players and coaching staff. Both Leicester and Chelsea have stated that the virus has reached their respective camps. As things stand, the bout of impending weekend fixtures look destined to be cancelled.

This is only the start though.

The NBA season, Pro14 Rugby season, F1 season-opening Grand Prix, golf, tennis and many more have all decided to either postpone the season or play behind closed doors.

It does give us some form of perspective for the Premier League, however. It shows us how precarious the scheduling is, how tightly packed our matches are and the slim margin for error.

If we cancel two or three match weekends, we also have to factor in the remaining FA Cup matches, the Champions League, the Europa League too. This will all have to be squeezed into a frame of time normally reserved for recuperation for players and international squads preparation for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament – another event that looks decidedly dicey.

Playing games behind closed doors is an option no one wants to consider.

Emirates Stand

The possible domino effect could ripple outwards for quite some distance, affecting next season and beyond. At present, coaches and clubs already bemoan the sandwiching of games into miniscule timeframes. In order to clear this match clutter miasma up, this will get worse before it gets better.

From Euro2020 most likely being delayed for a month or until 2021, you then get the Premier League delaying next season. This in turn will affect all domestic and European trophies too, not to mention our European league brethren who are currently shut down until further notice.

There seems to be no alternative but to postpone these matches for a period of around 3-4 weeks. According to medical reports, the virus on these shores has still not reached its peak so a huge pool of 50-60,000 in one place is not exactly common sense.

This will get worse before it gets better and it is now time for the bureaucrats of the Premier League and the FA to start earning their corn. They should already have had crisis plans in place but they now need to ensure that damage is limited and our players are not forced to play beyond their means. That means a close watch on fixture burnout and fitness being compromised in aid of fulfilling TV schedules.

We can only watch on as we wait for the dust to settle, but right now we are watching the tornado whip its way toward us and we have no way of swerving it.

World Cup – Who’s Your Money On?

Now the Premier League is over, we need our fix.

What are we going to do to provide our football buzz?

Thankfully, there’s the small matter of a World Cup taking place less than a month away to sate our withdrawal symptoms.

Like footballing methadone, the World Cup will fill the gap in our lives as we go cold turkey from a lack of Premier League action. The World Cup is a festival of football that will provide daily thrills and spills, but how can we replicate the drama of watching our beloved clubs do battle?

Let’s face it, aside from the few England matches that will take place before the inevitable Last16/Quarter Final defeat, there will be plenty of action, but not enough to really make you care who exits and who carries on toward the famous trophy and the potential to be World Champions.

Spicing it up with a wager always helps.

I’ve consulted stats, a concise world cup betting guide, and the FIFA rankings to gauge who will be the teams to back with your hard-earned dough – or alternatively – just to win points with your mates and make you look like the ultimate football nerd.

Here are the teams who could pull up trees in Russia:

Croatia

The Croats have Nigeria, Argentina and debutants Iceland in their Group and it’s fair to say that they’ll give top spot a run for its money.

They have AC Milan’s Vrsaljko in defence, but it is in midfield that they are near unrivalled.

Inter Milan’s Brozovic, Real’s Kovacic, the electric Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic who plays for Barca and then the jewel on the crown is Luka Modric of Real. Up top they have Juve’s Mario Mandzukic to profit from the plethora of chances too.

If they can avoid the big guns at the Last16 stage, then a Semi-Final spot beckons at least – much like France 98.

Germany

The Germans are the holders, have continuity with the retention of Joachim Loew as Manager, and much of the World Cup winning squad is still present.

They have liberal sprinklings of brilliance throughout. Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Jerome Boateng, Leroy Sane, Julien Draxler, Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Ilkay Gundogan and the safe hands of Manuel Neuer to compliment this star-studded squad.

That is just the tips of the talent, and the bench for Germany will be nearly as strong as the first eleven. Whoever wins the tournament will have to get past the Germans, who always represent in the latter stages.

France

There have been recent signs that Les Bleus have been on the recovery path. A whole new squad, filled with electric young players, has given manager Didier Deschamps a few selection headaches, but what a choice to have.

There’s the record-breaking Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir – and some of these may not even make the final cut!

Whatever the side that rolls up in Russia, know that France qualified quite easily for the tournament, and will take some beating in the knockout stages.

Argentina

This may be the team to back. Always blessed with a squad to be jealous over, the South Americans have failed to show in a World Cup since a certain Diego Maradona lit up the stage.

That’s what makes them a great punt for your money. Most will be expecting another Quarter-Final exit, but this year may just be their year.

They have the most fearsome attack in the world, with Lionel Messi, Paolo Dybala, Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Carlos Tevez making up the front line. With Man City’s Nicolas Otamendi and United’s Marcos Rojo in defence, they will be well armed to deal with opponents too.

The biggest change though? They have Jorge Sampaoli as coach. The former Chile man was hot property before deciding to take charge of Argentina, and if they make it to the final, they’ll come up against holders Germany.

There are plenty of other contenders too. Spain and Brazil will be looking to lift the trophy again, and Belgium have perhaps the strongest squad in the tournament.

It makes for a mouth-watering prospect.

So who’s your money on?

Club Vs Country.

The groans that were emitted could be heard far and wide across the twittersphere, as the Premiership ground to a halt for the second time since the season started, and the negative noises for once, were shared by the majority.

As football news shifted to Gareth Southgate’s first game in charge of the Three Lions, the talk amongst fans still centred on their respective clubs – at least it did amongst Gooners. Theo Walcott’s return to the international fold, Mesut Ozil’s exploits for Die Mannschaft, and then late call-ups for our pair of left-backs – Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs.

Somewhat perplexingly, our very own beacon of consistency Monreal, had not received a call-up to the Spanish team since 2013, but a change in manager to Julen Lopetegui has seen our own Spanish defender called up as cover to Jordi Alba. 

Then, with Ryan Bertrand injured early in England’s insipid victory over Malta, Kieran Gibbs was called up to Southgate’s squad. Despite Gibbs not being able to nail down a first team spot for two seasons, Keiran has been the model of professionalism, and in each of his sporadic appearances since being forced down the pecking order he has performed admirably.

In both cases, the players involved would have been overjoyed to resume their international careers. Playing for your country represents the ultimate accolade, and even though club matters now overshadow international meetings, the players can feel nothing but pride when pulling on the shirt of their country.

For fans however, it has become an irrelevance, or perhaps even a scouting mission. With each match, the majority of fans I speak to simply watch the matches to keep a watchful eye on the players hailing from the clubs they support. Injuries crop up with alarming regularity, and the merest hint of a muscle strain sets panic aflame across social media.

It has become a procession of worrying for most fans. Hoping and praying that their star players return unscathed from international duty. The result is found far down in the list of importance when international football rears its boring head. We want our players to perform well and get on the pitch, but the crux of the matter is that we want our boys back safe within the sanctity of our clubs.

We all revelled in Monreal being called up to the Spanish squad, but we mainly want him to return unharmed. With England performing so disappointingly for so long, the passion for the Three Lions appears at an all time low. The club vs country battle that exists still wages on, but if it were fought in the stands, then country would be nursing a bloody nose by now.

The clubs pay the gargantuan wages that the majority earn, so when players return from their exploits overseas, or even from Wembley and the Millenium Stadium, then it would be nice to see these players not appear so jaded on their first game back in their club jerseys – as so often happens. 

Knowing that Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Petr Cech, Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are pivotal players for their countries does shine well on our club. When players such as Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers receive an international call-up, we fans cannot help but be pleased that they are gaining the recognition they warrant. When Germany won the last World Cup, how fixated were we as Gooners, that Podolski, Ozil and Mertesacker were part of the team?

We take joy from it, but international football, especially qualification, has morphed into a series of worries and voyeuristic looks into how certain players are performing. 

Whether some agree or not, the priority for players must be their clubs. It is how they gain international recognition in the first place – and it is supposedly how they maintain their place in their respective national ranks. Players are not supposed to be able to earn a place through reputation (Rooney, we are all looking at you), so how they play for their clubs is of the utmost importance. Not only this, but money talks. The torrents of cash that is pumped into the players bank accounts by the clubs demands that the players owe it to their clubs to be able to perform when they return from national duty.

It is cynical, and why shouldn’t these men, who are trained to the peak of physical fitness, be able to perform feats of wonder for their country AND their club? 

Nacho Monreal and Keiran Gibbs rightfully must be swelling with pride after returning to their international sides, but most fans just want them to play well, and return injury free. 

The result pales into insignificance compared to years gone by. 

Welsh Dragon Is A Different Creature

Posted on Goonersphere

It could be said that Aaron Ramsey during Euro 2016 has been one of the stars of the whole tournament.

After the Quarter-Finals were completed, our very own Welsh dynamo sat atop the assist stats and nigh-on single-handedly destroyed the best squad in the competition with his whirlwind performance in Wales’s 3-1 triumph over Belgium.

Now, the calls are for Arsenal to include Ramsey alongside new signing Granit Xhaka in the Gunners midfield.

Which would be a huge mistake.

Continue reading Welsh Dragon Is A Different Creature

Coaching In the UK – What is Needed?

The Dearth of Coaching is the Murderer of Football

The response that met England’s World Cup 2014 humiliation from the once vociferous Three Lions fans spoke volumes. Ironically, their silence should have been the thorough answer that the F.A needed to radically overhaul what is a decrepit and dated manifesto.
Normally following their beloved national football team from pillar to post, the crowd of less than 56000 at Wembley for the Euro qualifier against whipping boys San Marino was a statement from the normally loyal legions. Mediocrity has been suffered long enough.
Many have attempted to answer why England cannot match up to expectations, even with supposed ‘World-Class’ superstars peppering their squad.
Some have surmised ( including myself in a previous blog! ) regarding a lack of a winter break that recent World Cup winners Spain and Germany enjoy.
Others speculated on the muddied waters of the Premiership, citing a flooding of foreign players that smothers the chances of young English players.
The F.A have a mess on their hands. They need to see what is at the fulcrum of the problem. That would be the huge lack of coaches at all levels.

Continue reading Coaching In the UK – What is Needed?

Sterile England Take Verve out of Football

The England Management position is perhaps the most toxic and vilified seat in football. This mantle has seen the decline in many a Gaffer’s stock over the years. With hindsight, most have been warranted. With a spotlight brighter than any floodlight and with every scribe coming equipped with the most powerful of magnifying glasses to pore over every nuance – is it really mystifying that the country that started football has failed to find an answer to their failings?

Woy

Most pundits if asked will lazily point to the fact that last season saw less than a third of English players grace the field for their respective clubs. This figure is unarguably low – especially seeing as the Bundesliga had 50% of their natives playing at home and in La Liga, the number sat at 59%. In conjunction with the fact that these two nations also have been the last two winners of the World Cup, you could be forgiven for setting off the alarm which these experts brandish so flagrantly.

Continue reading Sterile England Take Verve out of Football