London’s footballing finest will be out in force on 28 February, as the annual London Football Awards take place on 28 February.
Battersea Evolution is the destination for this year’s LFA’s, and some of the biggest names in the sport will be vying for the awards, Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Chelsea winger Eden Hazard and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are all nominated, with nine awards up for grabs during the prestigious event.
The cream of the capital’s football crop will be in attendance for this fifth London Football Awards. Among the honours being contested are Manager, Player and Young Player of the Year, as well as Women’s Player of the Year and Community Project of the Year also being in the spotlight.
Nominees are selected by an independent panel of judges, hailing from respected media professionals belonging to the BBC, The Telegraph and Sky Sports, as well as distinguished current and ex-professional players.
The nominees were announced by Bob Wilson OBE on 28 January. Wilson and his wife Megs run the charity Willow, the only national charity dedicated to working with seriously ill young adults aged between 16-40, aimed at making wishes come true with Special Days designed to give those suffering a time to forget about their illness and make some memories.
The London Football Awards will raise some much-needed funds for Willow, and the competition for the awards will be keenly contested, the city’s biggest clubs and players will be duking it out among some shining lights from the Championship, League One and Two for honours. It will be a celebration of London’s footballing achievements, and a chance for some to achieve recognition for their brilliance during the season.
Over the five years of the LFA’s, the likes of Arsene Wenger, Ian Wright, John Terry and Frank Lampard have attended and picked up Outstanding Contribution to London Football awards, and this year will be no different. Tottenham and England legend Glenn Hoddle will be the next icon picking up this illustrious accolade.
The night will be filled with stars and those in attendance will be hoping that this year will be their time to pick up one of the gongs. Other past winners such as N’Golo Kante, Hugo Lloris, Dele Alli, Jordan Nobbs and Aaron Ramsey have all enjoyed the spectacle and been given the honour of winning their respective category, and Bob Wilson feels this year will be even bigger;
“The London Football Awards is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the skills of our nominees, as well as the outstanding community work achieved by the clubs and County FA’s. It’s been a dramatic and exciting season for all the capital’s clubs and it’s refreshing to see names from some second and third tier league teams, vying for awards against the usual Premiership heavyweights. I’m looking forward to celebrating the best of London’s football with friends and colleagues on February 28th.”
Standard tickets to the London Football Awards, including pre-dinner drinks and a three course meal, cost 225 pounds per person Tables of ten are available at 2,250 pounds, with Premium tables costing 3,500 and Legend tables (for nine guests plus a bona fide footballing legend) going for 6,000.
The London Football Awards are back for 2018, and they’re bigger than ever.
In its fourth year, the London Football Awards showcase the finest that the London-based clubs have to offer, in both men’s and ladies football. The likes of Ainslie Maitland-Niles, Wilfried Zaha and Mauricio Pochettino have been nominated from the men’s game, while Lionesses Jordan Nobbs, Fran Kirby and Danielle Carter are in the running for the prestigious Women’s Player of the Year award.
Last year’s London Football Awards were dominated by Champions Chelsea, with Kante and Conte bringing home the silver-ware and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, awarded the Outstanding Contribution trophy. This year sees the dominance of the Blues and Tottenham Hotspur on the pitch, translate into a hatful of nominations.
The Premier League Player of the Year Award has three Spurs players vying for the honour, with Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha also in contention. Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes is up for the Manager of the Year Award, after winning the Women’s Super League last season. Hayes has tough competition, with Mauricio Pochettino and Roy Hodgson also in line for the prize.
Legends from the present and past of the sport will be in attendance, and previous winners include Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Aaron Ramsey, Arsene Wenger and John Terry. There will be eight awards during the glitzy ceremony, hosted by BBC sports presenter Mark Chapman, and the spectacle promises to be a special night full of London’s footballing elite.
The London Football Awards raise funds for Willow, the only national charity providing fulfilling and unforgettable Special Days for seriously ill 16-40 year olds. Former Arsenal goalkeeper, Bob Wilson and his wife, Megs, founded Willow in memory of their daughter. So far, Willow has provided more than 14,500 special days for those that need it most. The organisation receives no government or Lottery funding, relying on the generosity from donations and amazing nights like this award ceremony.
The 2018 London Football Awards recognise the brilliance from the 13 London clubs; AFC Wimbledon, Arsenal, Barnet, Brentford, Charlton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Millwall, QPR, Tottenham Hotspur, Watford and West Ham United. The awards range from PL Player, EFL Player and Young Player of the Year, through to Community Project of the Year.
Arsenal, Crystal Palace and England icon Ian Wright will be receiving the Outstanding Contribution to London Football award (Sponsored by Weston Homes) and will be in attendance to receive the trophy on the night.
Willow President and Arsenal legend Bob Wilson said, “Once again this season, football in London – in the Premier League, the Football League and the Women’s game – has been dramatic and exciting. The London Football Awards is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the skills of our nominees, which we have seen on the pitches of the capital over the last few months, as well as the amazing community work achieved by the clubs. I’m looking forward to catching up with lots of friends and colleagues at this year’s Awards on 1st March.”
Bob Wilson himself is on the judging panel, which is responsible for deciding the nominees and winners. The panel include luminaries such as former England strikers Tony Cottee and Martin Chivers, TV presenters Max Rushden and Jane Dougall, as well as journalists Sam Wallace and James Olley, and a host of other assorted people associated with the sport.
The London Football Awards 2018 guarantees a real spectacle for London’s footballing excellence, and they will be gathering on 1st March in the capital to find out who takes the honours.
It’s that time in the season again when we battle with our North London neighbours and this season sees a depressingly familiar outlook for the match.
This season and last have seen tottenham enter the respective derby matches as favourites. After over two decades of Gunner domination, spurs can now call themselves favourites to win. Last year was the first time in 21 years that they had finished above Arsenal and the team they now put out is a real equal – or perhaps stronger – than the eleven that Arsene Wenger is capable of assembling.
We do have a strong home record to fall back on and it is this that must fire our boys to a win we so badly need. The last game was a loss to runaway leaders Man City that highlighted the gap now between us and the title challengers.
This game has to spark a revival and a charge up the table if we are to sustain a belief of a Champions League spot.
There will be many tasty battles on display in this game, which can be found in this Arsenal tactical report – and the one that will probably decide the fate of the result will occur right in the centre of the pitch.
Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka have been the preferred duo to marshall the engine room this season, but gelling between the pair has been slow to muster. They have been effective at time, but we will need more if we are to harbour any hopes of victory. Especially if Pochettino goes with Dembele and Winks. This combo is quick to win the ball and just as rapid to offload to a marauding Alli, Eriksen and Kane.
In terms of injuries, Danny Welbeck may be back available for selection if he passes a fitness test and his workrate may give him an instant recall – especially if Alexis’ display in our last game is anything to go by. The Chilean appeared to have already left the club and if selection demanded form, then Sanchez would be out. This probably won’t be the case, but Welbeck could start ahead of Lacazette instead – omitting the Frenchman from our defeat to Man City was something that incensed our support and would likely have the same reaction this time around. Olivier Giroud is out after picking up a thigh injury on international duty, but it isn’t major.
Our defence should have Laurent Koscielny included, but Shkodran Mustafi will likely again be out. With Rob Holding stillnursing an injury, it appears as if Captain Mertesacker will have the job of snuffing out tottenham’s attack – something he has done countless times before. If aided by Koscielny and Nacho Monreal, we could have the perfect platform.
Harry Kane and Dele Alli were not available for England’s recent bout of friendlies and this has given them enough time to recover from injuries. Kane has a frightening record of scoring in derby games, and if he is fed by Eriksen, then Cech could have a busy 90 minutes.
Our team is more than good enough to win this, but what is worrying is that we all know we need to be at our best – and that is something that has been a fleeting occurrence this season. We will need every bit of passion, pressing and stamina to grab three points in this game and stop moods amongst our fanbase from plummeting even lower. November isn’t kind to Wenger – it is statistically his worst month in terms of points per game in his long tenure – but what a game to buck this alarming trend.
The season finally gets underway with this fixture. The Community Shield has been the curtain-raiser for many years, and this season starts with a London derby with plenty of expected fireworks to look forward to.
Last season saw the Gunners edge out their West London opponents in terms of amount of victories – one apiece in League wins, with Arsenal grabbing the decider with their victory in the FA Cup Final – but Antonio Conte winning the title in his first season means the Blues will start this fixture as favourites.
Last season means precious little however. Both sides will be fit and raring to go after both clubs have enjoyed extensive series of matches home and abroad, so there should be no lack of rhythm or final ball.
This event is meant to be a friendly, but it will be anything but as both sides will be eager to score psychological points over the other. Both outfits will be expected to be near the top come the end of the season, and a winning start over a rival is something that may be a big boost – and a huge dent for the other.
Both sides have already met in pre-season, with Chelsea running out comfortable 3-0 winners in Asia. It may have smarted, but this game carries far more weight.
Arsene Wenger has said in his Press Conference that his squad is nearly completely injury free, so the Gunners boss has some difficult calls to make. The only omissions from the squad will be Santi Cazorla and Gabriel, as well as Francis Coquelin. Will Wenger opt for the 3-5-2? Or will he fall back on his old faithful – the 4-2-3-1?
Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were carrying knocks but are expected to make it, but what of Alexis? The Chilean has just returned to training, will he come straight back into the team? In truth, there is an embarrassment of riches in attack for Wenger, with Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Alexandre Lacazette all vying for the striker spot.
If Wenger does go for three at the back, will Shkodran Mustafi miss out? The German has missed the majority of training, but is technically fit and available for selection. If Mustafi does miss out, will it be Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny or Per Mertesacker that will partner Laurent Koscielny and Nacho Monreal?
So many questions, but Antonio Conte has just as many quandaries. With Alvaro Morata, Kevin Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko added to an already bulging roster, what will Chelsea’s eleven look like? Will the success of last season dictate Conte’s selection? Or will Morata and co get a baptism of fire? He will have to make do without Eden Hazard and Pedro through injury.
Whoever makes the team at Wembley, they will surely know that this is no ordinary ‘friendly.’ Both sets of fans will want this trophy badly, as will the Managers, although they will be loath to declare their wanting. This match matters though, make no mistake.
Chelsea are favourites for this game, but they were overwhelming favourites in May – and look how that turned out.
Kickoff – 1730hrs GMT
So, the chance to offset Arsenal’s Premier League disappointment is upon us today, as we go to Wembley for the FA Cup Final against Chelsea.
This is Arsenal’s 20th FA Cup Final appearance, which is a record. With an unlikely win here, we would also hold the record for most FA Cup wins, with 13.
I say it is unlikely, because we have navigated through a season without an injury crisis for the first time in years, and now before the biggest game in this campaign – and the last – we are plagued with injured defenders.
Laurent Koscielny foolishly received a red card in our last PL game last weekend against Everton and so the Frenchman is suspended. In the same game, Gabriel busted ligaments in his knee and looks to be out for two months, and we may be without Shkodran Mustafi who is still struggling with concussion.
Who does that leave for our three man defence? Nacho Monreal and Rob Holding will take two of those slots, but we may have to rely on Per Mertesacker – who has not made a single appearance this season. People who are suddenly doubting the lanky German would do well to remember his pedigree and his talent. What is concerning with the potential utilisation of Mertesacker is the lack of match sharpness he will suffer from. Against the likes of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, that could be fatal.
Kieran Gibbs is nursing a thigh injury and may miss out, and if he is absent, then the 3-5-2 we have been using may be put on the shelf for this game. It doesn’t end there either. Petr Cech suffered injury in training, so perennial backup Davide Ospina will likely play his last game for the Gunners. If you want an omen, Lukasz Fabianski also bowed out of Arsenal on a high too after playing in our 3-2 Final win over Hull in 2014……
There are rays of optimism to hold onto though. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is fit and should come straight back into the team after his useful showings at right-back in our new formation. Alexis Sanchez is also declared fit, and this could well be the last time we see him in an Arsenal shirt.
If that is the case, then the least he could do is leave us with a breathtaking performance and a cup win!
Another dilemma for Arsene Wenger – who also may be involved in his last Arsenal game – is who gets the striker spot. Danny Welbeck has been getting the nod of late, but Olivier Giroud is far more prolific. The England striker has been pretty dire in front of goal in the last few games, but his workrate, linkup play and pace may get him the shirt ahead of the bearded Gaul.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has no such worries and will have a full squad at his disposal. His only headache will be who to play, and in particular, who of Pedro and Willian will get one of the flanks. Pedro had been preferred for the Premiership, where Willian has played in every round of the Cup.
We are certainly up against it, that’s for sure. With our defence looking almost unrecognisable, our backup keeper taking the gloves and our opponent looking to complete the Double, our chances are certainly impacted. A Cup Final is certainly a leveller though, as form usually falls by the wayside.
Much will fall on this young mans shoulders. His recent form spells out a bright future, but being bereft of Koscielny and possibly Mustafi will leave no margin for error for the inexperienced but talented Englishman. Can he step up and pull a performance out of the bag, and show what he has learned? Granit Xhaka
The Swiss star has had a mixed bag in his first season. Much of the negativity has spawned from a mis-labelling, as the midfielder is not simply a DM. His long-range passing is probably his biggest strength, and we will need his radar to be on point to spring Alexis and Welbeck away when we are under pressure. Alexis
The Chile star is odds on to be at a new club in the summer. He has given nothing less than 100% so far this season though, and his talents could hold the key to unlocking a tight Chelsea defence. KEY STATS
Seven of the last eight FA Cup ties between these two teams have resulted in Arsenal wins.
The last time the teams played was a semi-final win for Chelsea in 2009. This is the only time Chelsea have beaten us in the Cup in 70 years.
We are unbeaten at Wembley since 2011. That includes seven games.
Chelsea have won the last four Cup Finals they have appeared in – all by single goal margins.
Antonio Conte as manager has had only one Cup Final. This was in 2012 as Juventus boss. He lost the game 2-0 to Napoli. Predicted Lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.
Not for quite some time have our neighbours gone into a North London Derby as such overwhelming favourites.
It really is a good thing that form doesn’t apply in these fixtures.
If it did, then tottenham would win handsomely and enjoy the superiority they currently enjoy in the Premiership table. Sitting in second spot and chasing Chelsea hard for the title, they have left Arsenal choking on their dust. The Gunners are sitting in sixth place and the gap of 14 points is a chasm and the biggest it has been in over two decades.
Arsene Wenger must set his team up accordingly. This may carry a whole heap of pressure, but it is also a great opportunity to win the last derby at White Hart Lane – a place which has been a happy hunting ground over the years.
Wenger will have to deal without Shkodran Mustafi again, but talismanic defender Laurent Koscielny has a “60% chance of playing” according to the Gunners boss in his last press conference. Arsenal’s hopes could well hinge on if Koscielny makes the team, but if he does, will Wenger continue with his recent experiment with 3 at the back?
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be one who hopes so, as his performances have been excellent since the new formation has been implemented. The Ox was an unused sub in our last game, but could come straight back into the team. Theo Walcott or Hector Bellerin may be the men to make way.
Mauricio Pochettino is sweating on the fitness of Moussa Dembele, but if the Belgian misses out, then Eric Dier may come into the defensive midfield spot. Aside from Dembele and Danny Rose, spurs have a clean bill of health.
The title race may be filling the home side’s thoughts, but they won’t want to lose the last ever derby at their ground. They have recent derby results in their favour though, as Arsenal have one win in the last eight trips to White Hart Lane – which was in 2014. There may well be goals too, as despite the poor recent record, the Gunners have scored in 35 of their last 36 derby games.
Arsenal players and Gooners know that if tottenham win, then for the first time in over 21 years they will finish above us. We cannot allow them this luxury. There are some stats worth remembering though.
This is Wengers 50th derby, and he has lost only seven so far. spurs have the only unbeaten home record left in the league, and have already amassed their best ever points total. We meanwhile, have lost four of our last five away games and tottenham have won their last 8 league games.
The man to watch out for? Christian Eriksen. He has been involved in 16 goals in his last 12 games, and the Dane is playing the best football of his career so far. Harry Kane – the mouth-breathing, non-annunciating goal-getter, has a great record against us too, so our newly-shaped defence must be drilled and prepped.
Sunday’s draw against Top4 rivals Manchester City was a distinct improvement on the last couple of months in terms of result and performance.
It still was not good enough to improve our chances of reaching the Champions League places though.
With Liverpool winning as well as our North London neighbours, the gap has been stretched again. The mission is clear for our team with ten games remaining – avoid loss and pick up the majority of points available.
This of course will be easier said than done. With a fixture list that contains trips to White Hart Lane and matches against Manchester United and Everton still to come, a winning run of form is mandatory but ever so difficult.
It was made that little bit tougher when club captain Laurent Koscielny limped off in our game versus City. It was an achilles injury that claimed Koscielny, and it looks like he will miss out for this game against West Ham. His long term outlook is looking bleak for the rest of the season as well.
Our midfield against City consisted of Coquelin and Xhaka, but Aaron Ramsey may return to the side, and a popular choice would be to come in instead of Coquelin. The Welshman is more dynamic on the ball and his budding partnership with Xhaka was showing signs of promise. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also in the reckoning, and the England international has been in good form in the centre this season. A Rambo and Ox midfield could be the key to this match.
A key development is David Ospinapicking up an injury. Coupled with Petr Cech already being crocked, it means 24yr old Emiliano Martinez getting a first PL start since 2014 – and a real chance to elevate his chances next season.
One change that could happen is Danny Welbeck being replaced in the striker position. A rotation is well within the bounds of possibility, and that leaves a straight fight between Alexis and Giroud. Giroud has a good record against the Hammers, but Alexis edges it, with four goals and one assist in the last two games he’s played against them.
Arsenal have a great record against their opponents. One loss in the last 17 games means the Gunners will be favourites, but that one loss was in the corresponding fixture last season. With Andy Carroll proving to be a regular thorn in Arsenal’s side, Giroud’s defensive efforts may be better suited to this game.
Slaven Bilic seems to be unable to secure the backing of the West Ham board despite his favourable standing with the Hammers faithful, but the return of Diafre Sakho will boost his hopes of a result. Andy Carroll will no doubt start the game, but Sakho off the bench is an ace up Bilic’s sleeve.
The fight showed against City was a welcome change, and this will be vital to securing points here. West Ham have dropped 20 points from winning positions this season, more than anyone else, so if we go a goal down, a fighting stance could well reap rewards.
With City taking on Chelsea, three points here could ensure we at least stay on the coattails of one of our rivals. Win or bust.
On television, an awards ceremony is glossy. It is a conveyor belt of celebrity and headlines. The awards themselves are designed to highlight some exceptional work by a chosen professional in their field., and when the trophies are presented, we get to hear a snippet about the winner’s story on how they got to sit at the summit.
Football awards are no different, especially now the professionals are as close to megastars as the thespians who walked the red carpet at the Oscars recently. The big names need no introduction, but the awards ceremonies are there to do exactly that. They are the glitzy fanfare for deserving individuals that have excelled in their chosen sectors.
And for the biggest awards, we can hear that fanfare from any given place in the world.
I was kindly offered to attend the London Football Awards on the 2nd of March, at Battersea Evolution. I was to be an official member of the press and gain some soundbites from the attending football glitterati so the charity at the root of the LFA’s – the Willow Foundation – could gain some valuable testimony on the wonderful work they do.
It meant that I was to be given license to speak to some of my heroes. It was an offer I could not refuse.
As I entered the arena, there were a huge number of dedicated Willow volunteers working their magic in the final preparations for the event. I was given my press pass – I was unashamedly proud when I saw my name on it – and I was directed to the press enclosure where the pro’s would walk past on their way to their tables for the night.
I spoke first to Bob Wilson – Arsenal’s Double-winning keeper and all-round gentleman – and the man who started the Willow Foundation spoke warmly about the growing stature of the awards and how their prominence is on the rise.
Footballers past and present were coming and going and it was a lot to take in. The majority of the players time was spent ahead of us in front of the plethora of camera’s lying in their path, but I was quite content to bask in the light of these stars. I’ve always wanted to be a member of the press and this was the legitimate experience.
A man who I have spoken to on a number of occasions stopped to talk about the LFA’s, and Alan Smith was as warm and forthcoming as ever. He praised the idea of celebrating the clubs and players from the capital and the often unheralded work Willow do for those who need the aid most.
Perry Groves, Lee Dixon, David Seaman and Ian Wright. These were just a few ex-Gunners who attended the event, and David Seaman was quite gracious indeed with his time. His wife and Willow Ambassador Frankie Seaman stopped to talk and she told me that he always has time to give answers to the press, or anyone who asks him, such is his kind nature. Our former goalkeeper was with us for quite some time, and commented on everything from Arsene Wenger’s future to the rotation of Petr Cech and David Ospina.
For the record, Safe Hands will not speak out against Wenger as he declared the Frenchman the ‘best coach I’ve ever had.’ Also, he thinks the rotation of our goalkeepers is needless. To hear this straight from the source, undiluted, was a real treat.
Gary Mabbutt, Tony Cottee, Gary Lineker, John Motson, Tom Cairney, Eni Aluko, N’Golo Kante and Antonio Conte were just a taste of the names who were at the night. There were far more, but with only an hour to grab as many comments as possible, it is inevitable that some get through the net.
These awards are a real fillip for London’s teams, especially as all aspects of the game are considered in the awards categories.
Here are the Awards and the Winners from this special night:
Premier League Player of the Year:
London Manager of the Year:
London Young Player of the Year;
London Goalkeeper of the Year;
EFL Player of the Year;
London Women’s Player of the Year:
London Community Project of the Year:
Fulham’s Feltham Young Offenders Institute Scheme.
The London Football Awards were a real success and next year will be even bigger. Let’s hope that Arsenal manage to bag a few next year!
Football in its modern incarnation goes hand in hand with glitz and glamour.
Whether we enjoy the sparkle and popping champagne bottles that are intertwined with our game or not – it certainly doesn’t hamper the numbers which enjoy the game – compared to days gone by.
Playing in the capital of England certainly helps brighten the bulb that illuminates the players every move. London is synonymous with the cutting edge. Forward-thinking, hip, and most definitely where style resides.
Football is no different, and the annual London Football Awards this year have gathered the finest that the capital has to offer – and all for a worthwhile cause.
The roots of the London Football Awards (the LFA’s) lie with Bob Wilson and the charity he and his wife Megs started from the ground up – Willow.
It is all for a great cause. Willow is the only charity which grant Special Days to seriously ill 16-40 young adults aged between 16-40. It means they can reconnect with their family and forget the all-consuming battle they face every day. Over £200,000 was raised last year, and with a good push from all present at the event, a better figure could well be raised.
With Gentleman Bob being not only generous but an Arsenal Football Club legend – it sees the LFA’s come full circle
This special night celebrates the very best that the capital has dished up on the pitch in 2017 – and all clubs within London are recognised.
Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham, QPR, Crystal Palace, Watford, AFC Wimbledon, Charlton, Brentford, Barnet, Fulham, Leyton Orient and Millwall are all nominated for an award, and players and managers old and new will be present to add the delicious element of celebrity to the event.
Previous winners and attendees have been Arsene Wenger, Aaron Ramsey, Harry Kane and Dmitri Payet – and this years incarnation will be sure to have the photographers flashbulb white-hot.
These accolades for the best that London has to offer will be held at Battersea on the 2nd of March, and the awards themselves cover the whole genre that is football.
The Categories and Nominees are as follows: Outstanding Contribution to London Football: Decided by panel of judges. Premier League Player of the Year: N’Golo Kante, Diego Costa of Chelsea. Dele Alli and Danny Rose of Tottenham. Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal EFL Player of the Year: Scott Hogan (formerly of Brentford). Tom Cairney and Sone Aluko of Fulham. John Akinde of Barnet. Alex Smithies of QPR. Young Player of the Year: Dele Alli of Tottenham. Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi of Arsenal. Ryan Sessegnon of Fulham and Ademola Lookman formerly of Charlton. Women’s Player of the Year: Eni Aluko, Karen Carney and Katie Chapman of Chelsea Ladies. Jordan Nobbs and Danielle Carter of Arsenal Ladies. Goalkeeper of the Year: Hugo Lloris of Tottenham. Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea. Alex Smithies of QPR. Darren Randolph of West Ham and Jordan Archer of Millwall. Manager of the Year: Antonio Conte of Chelsea. Mauricio Pochettino of Tottenham. Neil Harris of Millwall. Neal Ardley of AFC Wimbledon and Slavisa Jokanovic of Fulham. Community Project of the Year: Fulham – Feltham Young Offenders Institute. Crystal Palace – Powerchair Football. Leyton Orient – DCD Football
I will be attending in an official capacity for Willow, quizzing the players and people connected to the clubs, and I’ll be penning an article which will give you all the scoop from the Awards night.
London deserves its own night to honour the best exponents of the footballing industry – and the LFA’s are the ideal platform.
Keep them peeled right here on The Hot Stepanovs for all the news!
After months of underwhelming, unconvincing and ill-fitting performances on the pitch, the Arsenal that we all know exists roared into gear – and destroyed West Ham in devestating fashion.
Goals from Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a blazing-hot hat-trick from Alexis Sanchez first put the home side on the ropes, and then sent them to the canvas.
Both sides were carrying injuries – Arsenal were missing Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin, Olivier Giroud and their long-term injured, and West Ham were missing Diafra Sakho, Michail Antonio, Aaron Cresswell and Gunners-terror Andy Carroll could only make the bench – but it was the quality of replacements that showed the gap between both clubs.
Arsenal brought in Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to fill the gaps in the eleven, whilst West Ham drafted in Fernandes, Ashley Fletcher and Arthur Masuaku. The difference in quality is marked, although all the back-ups for both teams were still more than able to cause damage.
The pattern of the match was visible from the start – Arsenal bossed possession, and West Ham looked to counter through Lanzini and Payet – but the lackadaisical ball carrying that has been the Gunners hallmark over recent outings was not on show. Instead, we moved the ball with purpose, with Ozil prying and poking in every cranny and Alexis looking to cause damage every time he received the ball.
West Ham’s game plan was being foiled by the awareness of Xhaka and Coquelin, who then offloaded quickly without fuss, to either of Oxlade-Chamberlain or Walcott. The end product may have been missing from both, but they were tireless and full of running, which took defenders out of position.
In short, Arsenal looked dangerous, vibrant and unplayable. The deadlock was broken, and predictably, it was Alexis and Ozil who were the architects. It began with Angelo Ogbonna attempting to play out from the back, but his tardiness meant that the alert Coquelin could block his pass. Alexis sniffed out the ball and ran into the box, before squaring it to Ozil to finish from six yards.
A simple goal maybe, but the positioning from the 3 Arsenal players completely built that goal.
The first half ended with Arsenal on top, and West Ham playing in fits and burst, but not truly troubling Petr Cech – the only threatening moment came when Obiang headed over from a decent position.
On the whole, it was a pretty perfect half from Arsenal – aside from a little profligacy in front of goal.
The second half was the fruition of wishes from Gooners everywhere – for Arsenal to return to the potent side they always threaten to be.
For the first twenty minutes or so, Arsenal continued to press and push the Hammers. That in turn created openings that really could have seen a shedload of goals and which would have killed off our London rivals.
West Ham at least woke from their slumber for five minutes. Dmitri Payet and Lanzini could have created an equaliser if it weren’t for Koscielny’s intervention – and Ashley Fletcher drew a smart save from Cech.
Then, Alexis made the difference again. Mustafi’s attempted pass was too strong, but the Chilean controlled it almost like he had boots covered in glue. He then turned sharply and angled a shot past Randolph in the Hammers goal.
The spirit had been dampened, West Ham were reeling, and seven minutes later, the Gunners had three.
Ozil attempted to outwit a defender, and the foiled attempt fell to Alexis, who fired past the keeper yet again. Clinical, and West Ham’s corner were ready to throw in the towel.
It wouldn’t be Arsenal without a wobble – and it was perennial Arsenal-botherer Andy Carroll who provided the drama. The big man had hobbled off the bench, and he was the first to react to a Payet free-kick which had pinged off the bar.
Jitters? Newcastle 4-4? Banterlecht? Last season against West Ham? Not this time.
Only a minute after conceding the goal from Carroll, Arsenal reapplied their foot firmly upon West Ham’s throat. It was lovely to see The Ox grab the goal with a great finish, especially after his previous minutes were not the most productive. It was a fantastic curling shot from outside the box.
The next goal was typical Arsenal – if there is such a thing.
Again, just a minute later, Arsenal threw a haymaker which connected flush with West Ham’s jaw.
Mesut Ozil laid a through ball on a plate for our wonderful Chilean. He was right on the threshold of offside, but his finish was a delightful dink over Darren Randolph. The assist and finish were pretty much the special moves from the respective players. Look out for Alexis’s little dummy before applying the chip – it was special.
Full time, and in truth, Arsenal deserved more. If it weren’t for some off-finishing and Randolph’s saves, West Ham fans would have left far earlier than they actually did.
There was so much to take from this game, but here are five big talking points from the ninety minutes:
Alexis MUST be signed long term
The Chilean’s dynamism, movement, desire and intensity were arrows the Hammers could not shield from. He is one of the leading lights in Europe and if Arsenal have any objectives this coming year, signing Alexis up long term must surely be top of the agenda. Imperative.Six of our last seven goals have come from him in one way or the other. He is the future. Pay him what he deserves.
Ozil was EVERYWHERE
There is an upcoming blog from myself objectively looking at Ozil and whether he has underperformed this season. It gets released tomorrow, and it is going to make me look like an idiot after this performance – as he showed the changing role he is playing this season. His touch map for the first half showed he was instrumental in everything we did. He is the catalyst, and he was the finsiher too for the first goal. It would be great if he could bag assists like they were going out of fashion, but his touch and vision can be implemented anywhere on the pitch. The German is genius.
Arsenal’s press was on point
At times this season, our harrying was not exactly efficient enough to cause our opponents problems. We didn’t see it through to all points of the pitch, but this game we didn’t give the Hammers makeshift backline any time to settle. We capitalised on a weakness, like a ruthless hunter. It will be needed throughout the season.
Xhaka and Coquelin worked
Coquelin is a destroyer, perhaps one of the best in the League. He does have his limits though. What he did do well in this game is he offloaded quickly and simply. He won the ball as he does, and then gave it to someone who can cause damage. Xhaka was just as protective, but his passing really did bypass any lurking Hammers midfielders, setting off Arsenal attacks regularly. While Ramsey may be a more conductive option, this combo is safe, and as long as Coq doesn’t go full Alexandre Song on us, we have options.
Revenge is sweet
West Ham recorded our first ever defeat at The Emirates. So to beat them so convincingly in our first match at the Tesco Arena really did add a cherry to the five-tier cake that was our win. Records stay around for a long time, so this blot on the Hammers copybook will always show that the Hammers were hammered by us in our first match together in the London stadium.
There was so much more to feast on in this game. Koscielny was solid, as was Gabriel at right-back.
It was so great – and relieving – to see Arsenal steamroller a side rather than tentatively poke at them with weak jabs whilst dancing around them. We showed the power we possess, and the confidence we can take from this will stand us in good stead for the flurry of tests which will follow in December and January.