Tag Archives: la liga

Welcome to the After-partey

We finally got him.

After what has seemed an age, Arsenal finally confirmed the signing of Thomas Partey from Atletico Madrid, for the princely sum of £45m. That amount constitutes his release clause from the La Liga club and had to be paid upfront – no installments or special arrangements that we seem so good at arranging. Nope, Partey is ours wholly and what makes it better is that it seems Atletico had no idea that Partey was leaving until the last minute.

With a release clause in Spain, no discussions have to take place involving the clubs – any interested party can simply contact the organising committee and lodge the correct amount – and hey presto – the release clause is activated, nulling the current contract between player and club.

Lucas Torreira went the other way and will be a fine addition to the Atletico midfield but Partey was very much part of Diego ‘El Cholo’ Simeone’s plans, having selected the Ghanaian midfielder for two of the three games that Atleti have played.

Now we have our man and Arsenal have announced it – in a very stylish way on social media of course, with an RSVP invite to a ‘party’ at 1115pm on transfer deadline day – what do we know about Thomas Partey?

BARCELONA, SPAIN – March 01: Thomas Partey #5 of Atletico Madrid in action during the Espanyol V Atletico Madrid, La Liga regular season match at RCDE Stadium on March 1st 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Aside from being the name most fans will have on the backs of their shirts – who can blame them – Partey is 27 years old (until he is 28) and predominantly plays in the heart of midfield. He has a tag of being a DM and while his skillset lends itself to the defensive, dirty work, Partey is far more than a sentry in front of the back four or three.

Partey is known for his driving runs through midfield, carrying the ball and  initiating attacks from deep. He has an Exocet of a shot and is probably one of the best candidates Arteta could have selected to link our team together. With Ceballos and Xhaka, we have certain roles already fulfilled but we never had that player to inject tempo into our game, someone who takes the ball, regardless of who has it – and says to the team ‘let’s go do some damage.’

Looking at his stats, he was played in a deep role by Simeone and last season, that helped Atleti keep 17 clean sheets from 29 games when Partey started (excuse the pun). That highlights how effective Partey can be in cleaning things up, but for Ghana, he is used in a far more attacking way. He has earned 11 goal involvements in 26 games for his country and this shows the capacity that Thomas Partey has. He can be utilised in a myriad of ways, or he can be the DM we need, but with a spin. He can carry us forward , giving counter attacks more power and options instead of relying on a quick release from either David Luiz or Xhaka.

It also gives Xhaka and Ceballos more license. With Partey helping at both ends of the pitch, both of our current midfielders can do what they do best, Ceballos could even take the play maker role should we switch formations.

Partey is versatile  – he can also play at right back – and all Spanish pundits purred about how good this player is. He is also very physically adept, meaning acclimatising to the rigours of the PL will not be a huge jump. We may see the Partey started sooner rather than later.

Arsenal may well have that player that makes everything else click into place. It’s exciting times – let’s get that party underway.

Aubameyang – Stick or Twist?

With absolutely zero football taking place right now, our minds have a little more room for thought.

Instead of your brain juggling your teams impending fixtures, injury worries, potential changes in your fantasy team and league placements all residing in a cortex of your grey matter, there is now more room to ponder other things……

Erm…

In the absence of that leather ball bobbling around on that lush carpet we call The Emirates pitch, we have been privy to the usual mix of player rumour – especially circulating around our star striker and perennial goal machine – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabon man is in contention to win the Golden Boot again after securing it last season. What puts that into perspective is that Auba has done this while for at least half of our season, the Good Ship Arsenal has plotted a course for mid-table ignominy.

Our number 14 has acted as a one-man lifeboat, keeping our precious cargo and personnel above the plunging depths. He has continued to terrify goalkeepers no matter what mess has been going on behind him. He has performed wonders – and we have recognised this.

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Our club has been attempting to lasso the striker into extending his stay with Arsenal as his contract winds down. Currently in his peak years, Auba is now approaching what will be the biggest decision of his footballing career.

Of course, the media have taken it upon themselves to write the alphabetical equivalent of smoke and mirrors surrounding Auba’s future at the club – and one story has certainly captured everyone’s currently free imagination.

The rumour surrounds Real Madrid, their unwanted striker Luka Jovic – and a large wad of money.

That’s right, the transfer rumour is that those at the Bernabeu want to lure Auba to La Liga, and will tempt Arsenal with a cash plus Jovic bid.

The question is – would you take it?

Everyone knows that the hardest thing to buy in football is goals. With Auba putting up more than his fair share of goals for the team, selling him and his numbers would almost certainly weaken our team.

We currently have Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah to make up the goals – but Lacazette aside, neither of the young strikers have proved week in, week out that they can make the difference in front of goal. How efficient will they be?

Lacazette has also changed his role somewhat since arriving at Arsenal. He still prowls centrally, but he is dropping deeper as his part in attacks is intrinsic to our moves. That has affected his goal return almost as much as poor form this season.

Then there is the Luka Jovic part of the equation. Jovic was a sensation in the Bundesliga – a competition far more similar to the rigours of the Premier League than La Liga ever has been. Rotation and reported poor discipline has seen Jovic play an ever-increasingly remote part of things at Madrid, but does his pedigree convert to success in the Premier League?

In short, can he be the man that replaces the certainty of Auba’s goals?

Maybe not, but throw in £50m and the search becomes a little easier.

There are other variables to take into consideration. Auba’s age means he has two, maybe three years maximum that we will have the PREMIUM version of the striker. Make no mistake, as he hits 33, 34, he will still bang in the goals, but he won’t be AS prolific, he won’t be able to beat as many defenders with his pace as he runs into the box, he won’t be AS lethal as the man we have now.

So, do we stick or twist?

Can we improve the team more with the money and Jovic?

Or do we stay where we are, potentially risk losing what is a huge asset on a free, but still feed off his goals while he does stay?

What a conundrum.

Good thing we have time to mull it over…

Overseas Fixtures Are Stark Warning For Future Of Football

A move from La Liga’s men that matter on the board may not have grabbed the headlines, but it is set to shake football to its core.

A single match between Atletico Madrid and Villareal is all arranged to play this Spanish top-flight fixture at the brand new home of David Beckham-owned Miami Internazionale.

La Liga has requested the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for permission to hold this December’s fixture between the above sides at the Hard Rock Stadium, currently the home of NFL side, the Miami Dolphins.

Both clubs have already agreed that this is a good idea and have signed on the dotted line, which brings the death of the game as an everyman sport, that one step closer.

Conventional, regular, everyday, diehard fans will now miss a game at their home stadium and instead be forced to watch the game at home. This is how the majority of us consume matches, but while it may be a solitary match, this is how the end begins.

No doubt the move to play this is lucrative in two ways.

Firstly, there will surely be bonuses for the sides for agreeing to play the game overseas.

Secondly, the move will strengthen US fanbases and also recruit new members – increasing their global brand.

The game will be lucrative, but with this in the offing, the NFL playing regularly over this side of the pond and more sports investigating methods on capitalising on the popularity of their respective sports – there will be other projects created to catch as much of the spewing cash as possible.

Clubs are now businesses, and the move to play abroad stinks of a business meeting with board members discussing how to increase revenue – paying no heed to the lifeblood of the club.

The fans.

Football without fans

Can we imagine if Arsenal eventually decided that they will play a fixture or three in a neutral venue in order to sup at the teat of the money-men?

The fallout would be spectacular, with social media awash with critique and vitriol.

This is not to decry the fact that as clubs grow and are a brand, the fanbase will be globally represented.

Indeed, Arsenal are the 6th-9th best represented club on social media. This screams of Gooners in all corners of the world.

Laying the groundwork has been each and every clubs decision to go on pre-season tours that are gruelling and serve no purpose in what a pre-season is meant to be – preparation for the coming season. Fitness and conditioning. Regaining as much match sharpness as possible.

While useful, the majority of games are against sides that have been plucked from obscurity and are as likely to fight each other for a shirt swap as they are putting in a shift and making life difficult for their opposition.

These tours maintain the affinity these fans have with the club, despite the miles of distance. They purchase merch, they watch games on streams with kickoff times that are quite frankly ridiculous. These Gooners are perhaps even more dedicated than a lot of us match-going fans or those of us who pay a kings ransom for a football TV subscription or three.

This move from La Liga and the clubs to play abroad, bodes terribly for the future of well-packed stadiums. It will ruin the already weak link between fan and club for a lot of us.

It is critical that club’s tap into markets and optimise their actions so every cent goes into the coffers. Without these shrewd business decisions, then many clubs would simply go under.

Fans around the world get the chance to see their team play live. This is a good thing, but it is what will lead on from this groundbreaking move that concerns us. At the moment it is one match but when these clubs and others see the packed stadium? When they do their maths, they will see that why not do this twice a season? Perhaps a cup game thrown in?

The RFEF have already rejected a move to play an earlier La Liga match this season, between Barcelona and Girona. This was set to kick off in January. This latest move shows that football is a juggernaut that one refusal will be unable to knock them off their desired route.

A route that takes football into the corporate world for good.

Bellerin To Leave In Summer?

When a player makes the grade and comes through the youth ranks at the club, the ties which bind them to the club are stronger.

The fanbase especially, share an affinity with this talented youngster. They see them as one of them. This starlet has fought through all the barriers and long odds which face any fresh-faced hopeful, and every time they pull on the shirt, it is a victory and something to cherish for the adoring support in the stands.

Hector Bellerin is one of those who the fans adore. From his baptism of fire in a Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 through to the present day, the floppy-haired defender has risen to every challenge he has faced.

His beginnings in the first team were borne from necessity. Our squad had been ravaged thanks to an annual injury crisis which Arsenal Football Club seem to have inflicted upon them without remorse. Hector had been pulling up trees for the reserves, and his sporadic appearances on the Arsenal bench were a signal that the Spaniard was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

The match that marked his debut was one to forget, as Dortmund’s intricate teamplay and movement were a living nightmare for every Gunner on the pitch. It ended in a well-deserved defeat for Arsenal, and Bellerin was mercilessly handed a reminder of the significant step up from what he had been doing, to what he actually required.

The transformation from this bamboozled youngster into the player we have on our hands now is startling. His rise has seen off established international rivals for his spot. His rapier runs forward have allowed his team a lifesaving pressure valve. His pace has been the inflatable ring that has been chucked into choppy waters when all around him are floundering.

In short, Bellerin has shown his impressive talents in all aspects of his role. He is a modern day full-back that is improving with every season. His full-bodied flavour has not risen to the palatte yet, but thanks to his age, we have many years to wait before his full potential is realised. 

Or do we? 

Revista De La Liga and their newspaper column at the end of the show report that Bellerin is interesting his home club, and that the Catalans refuse to rule out a move for our man. Guillame Balague, the Spanish presenter and self-proclaimed expert of Spanish football, went as far as to confirm that talks had taken place between the two clubs, although these were only tentative enquiries.

Tentative they may be, but as Arsenal fans, we are painfully aware of how this goes when Barca come sniffing around our key personnel. We have seen this horror movie countless times and the ending is depressingly familiar. Could Bellerin ignore the best advice and actually depart from Arsenal?

Hector has only recently signed a long-term contract extension, but all this means in today’s money-tarnished footballing world is that the transfer fee would be further inflated. We as Gooners can at least find comfort in the fact that, in his own brand of Spanglish twangs, Bellerin has reaffirmed his intention to stay at the club.

It isn’t just Barcelona who wish to lure Bellerin away from Arsenal. Man City are also rumoured to be in the hunt, with former Gunner Mikel Arteta pivotal in their supposed plans to snatch our Spaniard from under our noses.

He did confirm his wishes to stay before the uncertainty and fall down the table enveloped the club however. Has his position changed? If Bellerin left, it would smart nearly as much as when Cesc left – also for Barcelona.

It is all conjecture of course, but any rumours surrounding our best players are bound to make us all nervous. We have all seen the countless bilge circulating around Alexis and Ozil, and it certainly appears that the Chilean at least is set for pastures new. 

But Bellerin  has Arsenal DNA. Never mind that his roots are firmly entrenched in La Masia ground. He has come through the ranks at Arsenal, and we have made him the player which is so coveted by those at the Camp Nou. 

So much depends on our where we finish this season. Champions League qualification may be scoffed at by some – especially when we are not close to winning the competition – but it means that our best players are dining a the top table where they belong. It means so much for us to stay competitive. 

We have made him who he is. We have given him everything. Let us hope that Bellerin repays that faith.