Barcelona 1-1 PSG: Impressive Tactical Displays From Both Sides Result in Draw

Barcelona 1-1 PSGWe all knew Barcelona were going to end up going through, didn’t we? But I don’t think anyone could have guessed just how well and almost perfectly tactically set-out Ancelotti’s PSG were going to be.

The game ended 1-1, but in all honesty that scoreline wasn’t true to PSG’s immaculate frontal display against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Having taken the lead early on in the second half through Pastore, PSG were only to be ridden of a Champions League semi-final spot by the inspiration of a half-fit Messi, who was subbed on with 30 minutes to go.

Ancelotti opted for a more than suitable squad to face a depleted Barcelona. Choosing Verratti over the demoted David Beckham, and with Motta back from injury, replacing the suspended Matuidi, PSG’s midfield was the perfect combatant to Barca’s exotic total footballing tempo.

Also, suiting the same front-three of Lucas behind Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi proved cunning at most times and too much for Barca’s ragged defense Typically, the same back four was assigned. Vilanova opted for the false-9, with Messi not fully fit and many other injured players, he struggled for a full team.

Opting a typical Alves/Alba wing-back scenario for Barca to attack PSG’s open flanks was always going to be the case; however, with Mascherano and Puyol out injured, Vilanova was forced to choose a center back pairing of Pique and Adriano. Adriano, predominantly a left-back, had a fairly reasonable game until he was injured.

Vilanova fielded a typical midfield of Busquets lying deep behind Xavi, and then Iniesta for Barcelona with Pedro and Villa as inside forwards on both wings, and Fabregas executing the false-9.

Right now, Thiago Silva is the best center back in the world, and alongside Alex, they have a special Brazilian partnership that isn’t easy to breakdown. Barcelona starting with a false-9 in Fabregas; they evidently struggled to create the flowing surge of tiki-taka that they usually do with Messi leading the lines.

Obviously, against Silva, Fabregas as a false-9 is going to be anything but effective; Silva’s mental awareness and experience overlapped Fabregas’ attempts to draw him or Alex out of the line to create a hole for Pedro or Villa to run into.

Barcelona 1-1 PSGPSG’s back four was simply impressive for the full 90 minutes, and it wasn’t notable of a single anomaly the entire game. Ancelotti wisely had his defense drilled into a solid lateral line, proving no gaps and no expenses. Verratti sitting just above it, holding the midfield and covering LB/RB when going forward, did a sensational job breaking up Barca’s play, too.

Motta and Pastore, sitting just above Verratti, also had their sensational moments. Motta was the deeper out of the two, helping to provide cover alongside Verratti whereas Pastore typically went to aid Moura in distribution to Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi upfront.

PSG’s tactics were working well; they were playing with intelligence through the middle on the counter, taking advantage of a helpless trio of Pique, Adriano, and Busquets as typically Alves and Alba flanked.

As always, everything for Barcelona was midfield possession, inside off-the-ball runs, diagonal through balls, and blistering driving dribbles from Iniesta and Xavi. Typically, they had a fair bit of possession with a total of 63% at the end of the night and with a pass completion of 89%, and you could see why.

Barcelona exploited the flanks in the first leg with Alves and Alba overlapping as support and overpowering PSG’s centralized tactics, however, PSG sought out with a similar tactic this leg and saw Barca doing the same. Villa often cut in through the gap of Silva and Maxwell as Fabregas dropped deep and Iniesta/Xavi layed off to Alves, who took use of the open space Villa had created.

Altogether, they were driving to the byline and attempting cut-backs, likewise the left-side with Pedro and Alba. Although, for me, Pedro wasn’t offering any advantage points other than ending up scoring and being the tie-winner (typical). Xavi recorded a sensational 100% pass completion record that night, with a total of 96 passes which included 8 long balls.

PSG’s goal was sheer counter-attacking brilliance, which nested from Barca pressing very high. Pastore picked the ball up and drove forward with Ibrahimovic and Lavezzi ahead. Alves and Alba, nowhere to be found as having pushed up to flank, so it was 3 on 3 as Busquets drops to cover and protect the center-backs.

Barcelona 1-1 PSGNo organisation between the three and sitting very central and tight, Pastore drove centrally with the ball as Ibrahimovic was sitting in the middle. Ibrahimovic pulled off to receive a pass from Pastore while Lavezzi flanked round the back, distracting Adriano and proving him void. Ibrahimovic then completed the one-two with Pastore who was now past Pique and belting towards goal with Lavezzi in support.

However, he decided to go alone and eventually drove just wide of where he preferably wanted to be, still slotted home coolly, hitting his shot into the ground and then just getting enough spin to go over Valdes’ leg and into the net.

From here, PSG didn’t do the typical, which was to sit back and invite Barca on, as there was still 40 minutes to be played. In fact, they drove forward in pursuit of a second goal. Chances were coming and PSG looked more likely to score a second than Barca did a first for a while.

Then came the hour mark and it was time, Vilanova could wait no longer and of course, Messi was brought into the fray in replace of a struggling Fabregas. Obviously, this was a desperate attempt to win as Messi wasn’t fit, or he would have started, but nonetheless it succeeded.

The uproar was humongous as he trotted on and the entire stadium lit up, including the tempo of Barcelona’s play. Clearly, it was a superb tactical substitution. The spark was there, Barca just needed the right opportunity to arise and take hold of it.

Eventually, it did, as Barca scored a typical ‘Barcelona goal’ on the 70th minute. Created from deep-left and on the counter, Barcelona’s tie-winning goal was as formidable and unstoppable as any.

With most of PSG’s midfield at the other end of the field, Messi was deep in the gap left between them and the defense. Once he received the ball, Messi drove ferociously with it, taking on a player before slotting Villa through, who was closely watched and marked by Silva. Laying off to Pedro, unmarked at the edge of the box, he lashed a superb unsaveable shot into Sirigu’s net.

PSG attempted to get back into the game, but found no vantage point as Barcelona held off the formidable attacks and long balls for the remaining 20 minutes of the game. Eventually, the full-time whistle was blown, and Barca, who were no doubt the worse team on the night, were through to the semis on the away-goals rule.

Barcelona 1-1 PSGHonestly, PSG played with a raw tenacity that I haven’t seen a team (other than Madrid) approach them with in a long time over two legs. They dominated in having better chances, and although not in possession and overall statistics, they were the better team on the night.

Ancelotti set them out with initiative tactics of a central mechanism that Barca were unable to cope with, especially against a front-man of Ibrahimovic at 6′ 5″; although doing nothing spectacular on the night, his hold up play and general distribution of the ball was sublime and was involved in the majority of PSG’s attacks.

Barca, typically using their wing-backs to flank, created a diversity of an overpowering tempo and distribution from the middle into the channels and round the back, eventually securing them a semi-final slot with the equalizing and tie-winning goal on the night.

Although, definitely not at their typical best this season, Barca are brewed with a winning mentality of Champions, and with Messi, they can still go all the way in the competition.

Written by @ManToManMarking

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6 Players That Should Make the Premier League Move

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre Emerick AubameyangThe Zlatan Ibrahimovic alternative, Aubameyang has been one of the main instigators in Saint Etienne’s challenge for Champions League football. A hero for both his club and national team Gabon, with 18 goals this season, he should be high on clubs’ lists to buy. Clubs that are reported to be interested in include Arsenal and Newcastle. He could be the difference in how the Premier League shapes next season.

Hector Herrera

An industrious midfielder, the defensive minded player would be ideal for any Premier League side. Set to be the backbone of a very successful Mexico side, his performances in the Toulon Tournament and the Olympics earned him many plaudits last year. Currently playing for Pachuca in the Mexican top flight, perhaps it is time for him to widen his horizons.

Omar Abdulrahman

Inventive and sharp on the field, Omar has the potential to become the face of UAE football. Currently playing for Al Ain, his performances in the AFC Champions League make him seem an ideal for Premier League football. After playing in England during the Olympics, he has already tasted what football in England could be like.

Wilfred Bony

Clinical for Vitesse, the Ivorian striker has been high on West Ham’s wanted list. With the ability to replace Drogba at the forefront of the Ivorian national team, a move to England would improve his chances of becoming a national hero. With 44 goals during his time at Vitesse, there is little wonder why he is so highly regarded.

Ryan Mendes

A integral part of the Cape Verdean side that defied the odds at the African Cup of Nations, the versatile forward has shown his potential to adapt to any type of football. Currently in the backdrop of the Lille squad, a brave Premier League side could pick the forward for a bargain price.

Valentin Stocker

A fast and dynamic Swiss winger, Stocker is yet another star to come from Basel. He announced himself to the English with an excellent display against Tottenham. With pace and agility being his main attributes, he is the ideal player to move to the Premier League.

Written by @Footy_Views

The Highs and Lows of Arsenal’s Season So Far

There is no denying that Arsenal are not at the level they used to be. The Golden Age of Henry, Bergkamp, Dixon, Wright, and Adams are behind us, and the new generation of Arsenal players are with us. Despite the addition of these new, young talents to the club, this new team hasn’t performed as well as fans were expecting.

Premier League

ArsenalArsenal are currently 5th in the Premier league with a game in hand against 4th placed Tottenham. They are currently 4 points behind the Spurs, yet their current run of form means that it will very challenging just to reach 4th place before the season’s end.

Arsenal currently has the best defensive record away from home in the league, yet at home, their defense is ranked in the bottom 8 of the league. You can now see why Arsenal’s defense gets such a torrid time.

Champions League

Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions league by Bayern Munich in the last 16. Admittedly, they were knocked before the second leg had even started after a poor performance in the first leg, losing 3-1 at home. However a valiant display in the second leg is surely one of the highlights of the season for Arsenal fans.

Domestic Cups

Arsenal were famously knocked out of the League Cup by League 2 minnows Bradford City. Bradford did eventually go on to reach the final, but lost 5-0 to Swansea. However, the worst thing about their performance was that Arsene Wenger fielded a very strong side. The likes of Cazorla, Podolski, Wilshere, and Vermaelen all started that game.

Arsenal also lost in the FA Cup to Blackburn. A quarter-final match, which Arsenal were expected to ease through, didn’t go to plan; yet another game that Arsenal should have won.

What Needs to Change?

Cesc Fabregas and Robin van PersieArsenal lack star power, having lost the likes of van Persie, Fabregas, and Song in recent years. A star needs to be brought in, someone who can change a game with a touch of class.

Arsenal also need a pacy center back to keep up with counter attacks. With Mertesacker, there is no pace, and often players can run in behind the defense.

Who Should be Signed?

Mario Götze has been outstanding for Borussia Dortmund and has showed his class and flair all season. His dribbling and creativity is exactly what Arsenal are missing.

Another option for Arsene Wenger is Edison Cavani, who like Götze, has been attracting attention by big clubs across Europe. Cavini is currently the top scorer in the Italian Serie A with 22 goals. His best traits are his impressive work rate and outstanding heading and finishing.

Plenty of rumors have been linking both these players to the club, and both Cavini and Götze have what Arsenal is missing. They would create and score lots of goals as well as having the star power they lacking at the moment.

Best and Worst Players

For me Santi Cazorla has been Arsenal’s best player this season by far. He has scored 12 goals in the Premier League as well as creating 7 assists. He commands games with his skill on the ball and his vision. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, and Lukas Podolski came close but couldn’t quite beat Cazorla. Jack Wilshere could have beaten Cazorla if he hadn’t been injured for much of season.

Andrei Arshavin has been very poor for Arsenal this season. He looks bored when he is playing and lacks a desire to create anything remotely decent. When he joined Arsenal in 2009, he was brilliant. He showed pace, skill, and a lethal shot, but now he just looks lazy. Gervinho ran Arshavin close, but his recent performance against Reading showed he still has what is needed to perform well.

Young Talent

Jack WilshereArsenal’s academy is still one of the best in England, and new talent is constantly arriving. The likes of Wilshere and Gibbs came through the ranks at Arsenal, and many new players have the potential to do the same. Recently watching a U21 game, the one player that stood out was captain Ignasi Miquel. He towers over the other players at 6 feet 4 inches, yet is so agile and good with the ball at his feet.

Another name for you to remember is 20 year old Thomas Eisfiled. The young German is said to be the new Götze because of his excellent play-making abilities.

Summary

This season has been disappointing for Arsenal fans and well below Arsenal’s usual standards. At times, the football has been great to watch, but the results have not been good enough. Players must be brought in to change the team for the better. On the plus side, there are plenty of new stars in the academy ready to come up and create a new generation of Arsenal players.

Written by Eleanor Martin (@EleanorMartin58)

Against Modern Football: A Movement to Improve the Beautiful Game

Against Modern Football is a movement that has been around in Europe for about 10 years and only in these past couple of years has started to creep into Britain; hopefully for the better good. The whole idea of the Against Modern Football movement is based on several parts of the current ‘new’ and ‘modern’ game:

  • Prices of Football Matches
  • Leveraging of Debt
  • Drop in Atmosphere

The Rise of Ticket Prices

Against Modern FootballTicket prices have rose over 1000% in the past two decades, which is truly ridiculous. The idea of a fan supporting a team back in the 1950s-1960s was watching your team every week, but the constant rise of prices hinders this. We are living in a economy who have gone through a double-dip recession, 1000s of business closures throughout Europe and millions have lost jobs.

Especially for a young football fan 18-22 who would not be on a high wage bracket in their working establishment, the prices they would be paying are completely unfair. In 1989, the cheapest price for a ticket to watch Manchester United cost £3.50, which, with inflation, should cost £6.20 in today’s money. In fact, the least fans can expect to pay today is £28. The picture is worse at Anfield where tickets were £4 and now the minimum is £45; a rise of 1025%.

In a Daily Mail article it quotes the following:

‘They are beyond the reach of many younger people who used to have access to football and now, if they are interested, they are watching the game in the pub.”

“Football, by tradition, was always accessible to almost everybody, and in the current economic climate, with jobs and standards of living under threat, there is a great danger an increasing section of the community will be priced out.”

Debt

Debt in football is a constant problem and it is also linked to the problem of clubs spending money they don’t have. Financial Fair Play is slowly being introduced, but clubs are said to possibly find their way past it, but we shall see.

The idea of Financial Fair Play is that clubs cannot spend more than their turnover over a net year. Last season, 8 of the 20 Premier League clubs made a profit, while Manchester City, whose lavish funding by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan has just won them the league title, reported the greatest financial loss in the history of football: £197m.

Manchester City were also the only Premier League club whose wage bill (£174m) exceeded their turnover (£153m). Manchester United have by a clear margin the largest debt, which at this current point (April 2013) stands at an est. £300m. United also have the largest turnover in the Premier League and have had so over the past 15-20 years.

Drop in Atmosphere in English Football

Borussia Dortmund AtmospherePersonally, this is the most frustrated and disappointing area currently in English football. England clubs atmosphere has remarkably dropped over these past 10 years, and the points I made at the start all lead to this.

Currently, a fantastic example in Europe of great atmosphere is Germany and German football. Why has Germany got such a great atmosphere? 3 things: fan ownership, safe standing, and cheap tickets. There is no doubt if more clubs in Europe adopted this style we’d notice an increase in atmosphere.

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, the two current best teams in Germany, offer season ticket prices between £60-£100! An Arsenal season ticket costs between £800 - £1000; the same Arsenal football club who have went 8 years without a trophy.

There are different forms of safe standing, the first of which are modern terraces. Morecambe FC’s Globe Arena have standing for over 4,000 spectators. Bolt-on, Fold-away, and Rail seats are the type of seats used in the Bundesliga. All German Bundesliga grounds permit standing and many have very large standing areas.

Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park provides standing accommodation for 27,000 fans. The problem of safe standing being introduced in England is that of health and safety, which seems to be the cause of a load of issues.

Written by @UtdMancunian

France National Team: The Future Looks Bright

France National Football TeamFrance have grown a notorious reputation over the last ten years as useless and inefficient. From the defeat against Senegal at the opening of the World Cup 2002, they have been extremely poor in international competition. Even reaching the World Cup Final in 2006 wasn’t celebrated as a huge success.

But now, France look to have a bright future, particularly in their youth squads. A wide range of quality technical players have been birthed and the future seems bright for the national sides. The Under-21 squad didn’t qualify for the European Championships and they are marred by some players being banned, but there is still quality in the squad.

Alexandre Lacazette has made the desired impact at Lyon, adding mobility to their attack as well as some goals. M’Baye Niang is also an exciting prospect for Milan. Massmiliano Allegri (AC Milan manager) spoke of his ability:

“He is a versatile striker who can play both as a center forward and as a second striker. He still needs to improve, but he’s developing well.’’

Antoine Greizmann is a player that France could utilize to great effect. An excellent technical player, he is the main reason Real Sociedad have had great success this season. With the ability to play anywhere across the forward line, he is extremely versatile and fits the band to the sort of player that was in France squad in 1998.

In the defense, France have a very capable center-back for the future; Raphael Varane has shown at the tender age of 19 he can read the game as well as any other. Filled with great athleticism, he has the ability to be the best defensive player in the world. He has been rightly suggested by Zidane to surpass Laurent Blanc in his ability.

Geoffrey KondogbiaMeanwhile, the France Under-20 squad harbors some great talent and they go into the Under 20 World Cup with a serious chance of victory. Geoffrey Kondogbia has been the main talking point in the squad, a player who looks a veteran on the field. The plaudits he has earned while playing for Sevilla and the French youth squads has been rightly deserved. Top clubs such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Juventus have been tracking the youngster, who told Spanish Paper Estadio Deportivo that he is attracted to Premier League football.

A player that could partner Kondogbia in the center of the park for France is Juventus youngster, Paul Pogba. After never fitting in at Manchester United, Juventus have brought out the best in his ability. A highly competent midfielder, he has also shown he has an eye for goal, with a total of five league goals thus far. The pairing of Kondogbia and Pogba looked very comfortable in the Under-19 Championships; likely the best pairing in the tournament. It boded well for the future of the French National Team.

Another player that could be a great addition to the French back line is Samuel Umtiti; a very able center back, he has shown his versatility as full back against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, in which he scored a blockbuster strike. He was a member of the 2012 Under-19 Championships squad, and for the full tournament he showed himself as the finest central defender in the competition.

He and Varane could be an excellent pairing, it does seem logical for France Under 20 coach Pierre Mankowski to select the pair for the upcoming World Cup.

The Under-20 World Cup this summer will provide a stern test for the youngsters; they face a difficult group against Spain, USA, and a side from Africa. Spain will be a very difficult test; the Under 19 side was very unlucky not to overhaul them in an enthralling encounter at the Under-19 Championships. It could be time for their first slice of revenge.

France Under-20 National Football TeamUSA provides the unknown to some degree; football in America is very much on the rise and they have obviously developed some technique in their game with ever improving coaching techniques. The tournament is pivotal in French football, with one of the strongest sides in the tournament it will be a unique learning curve for the squad.

The France national team currently have reason to be optimistic, with a real opportunity to knock Spain back to reality in their qualifying group. An impressive 1-1 draw in Spain has been the pinnacle of Didier Deschamps reign so far. Some may have written off France to even reach Brazil in 2014, and even if they reach there, they will still be largely dismissed.

Some of Under-21 contingent could find themselves on the plane to Brazil; Rapahel Varane may be spoken as one of the World’s best central defenders and Geoffrey Kondogbia could make a huge leap towards the national side if he makes a big money move. An average of 25.2 in the recent 3-1 victory over Georgia this squad is far from maxing out its potential.

They could be a side to look out for in their own European Championship in 2016 and the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

Written by @Footy_Views

The Monetary Challenge Facing the English Football League

Manchester City Win Premier LeagueAs big investment continues into the English Premier League with a reported £5.5bn TV deal soon to be agreed, the queries into Football League funding continue to grow. With countless examples of financial difficulties in the football league for clubs big and small, the question “where does this end” surely has to be addressed.

After seeing first hand the fantastic financial benefits of being a “small” in the championship, the incentive to reach that level is alive and well, but the reality of retaining that status is somewhat worrying due to the extra investment needed in a playing squad to survive.

Without more funds being evenly distributed down the leagues, especially League One and Two, there is a real danger of the league imploding; the gulf in funding from League One to the Championship is alarming. We’re not talking hundreds of thousands of pounds; the difference in up front cash is in its millions!

The payments in the Championship for clubs that don’t receive parachute payments currently stands at £2.3m a season, League One sides £325,000 and League Two sides £250,000. This is a large gulf in itself, without taking into account clubs receiving premier league parachute payments. If the Football League is to prosper and have a competitive future for all clubs, then radical changes must surely have to take place, and action must been taken very soon.

The real danger lies in smaller clubs having to live beyond their means to remain, or become more competitive in the Championship, as most football fans wouldn’t accept watching there club become a yo-yo team team gaining promotion only to be relegated the following season without any investments in the club.

So it would appear that the solution is simple: give lower leagues more cash! But in the real world without a proper structure and conditions added to higher payments, then money would just be wasted and find its way out of the game as fast as it entered.

Swindon Town Win League 2Youth facilities and infrastructure is for me the only way to bridge this gulf in the future, providing facilities at all clubs for young talent to flourish along with clearly defined rules and contracts for young players, so they are not just poached by top clubs at very young ages. Thus, protecting lower leagues investments while also either creating future stars for there clubs or sale-able assets providing further funds for club progression.

Implementing a new scheme like this would not only benefit the Football League clubs and their young players, but would also have huge benefits towards the national standard of young players. With the ever increasing prize money in the English Premier League, clubs are looking for the instant hit, already able player rather than giving an outstanding young talent a chance, thus leaving lot of talented youngsters languishing in un-competitive reserve leagues gaining no real valuable experience.

This is where lower league facility investment would pay dividends, young players would still be using state of the art equipment and facilities but it would be at a club and environment where first team opportuntiies would very plentiful.

So what does the future hold for clubs outside the Premier League? Without further financial support and planning for the future, I’m afraid we will see more clubs going out of business and losing there stadiums and identities.

But with the right foundations and rigid simple plan, there can only be a bright future with real rewards for hard working, genuine clubs.

Written by @JonyB83

Analyzing the Future of the North London Showdown: Part 2

One of the Fiercest North London Rivalries in Years: Where Will It Lead To?

Now, I am not the genie in the lamp who predicts the future of the world. Nor am I the highly experienced sports journalist who knows everything about these two sides. However, I do have my views; so what are they? Here you go:

Arsenal vs Tottenham: Last 4 Results
  • Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur03/03/13: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal
  • 17/11/12: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur
  • 26/02/12: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur
  • 02/10/11: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Arsenal

Looking back at those results, it does not look like Tottenham are the better side, which they definitely have been this season. What shows they are the better side is their smart purchases, their nice sensible attacking football, and other things like the fact they’re higher in the league. Will that all be there next season?

One thing for that is almost certain is that Andre Villas-Boas will be at the Lane next season. But will all his players stay as well? Gareth Bale has been linked to quite a few clubs, mainly Real Madrid and Manchester United, but other names such as Barcelona, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, and more have been linked with the Welsh superstar.

He has already said his ambition to play in the Champions League regularly, season in, and season out. And if I’m honest, Tottenham don’t look the side they were two months back. They look like the side that got Harry Redknapp sacked after their poor finish to the season got them in the Europa League instead of the Champions League.

Will he move if this happens again? Probably, yes. But he has been warned that he will become one of White Hart Lane’s greatest legend should he stay there and prosper for his whole career.

My opinion, he will move to Real Madrid. It will be best for him to link up with great players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil, and his attacking flair suits their style of play. Without him Tottenham will not be half the club they are now. Don’t get me wrong, most of their team is good enough to wear the white shirt, but it will not be the same should he go.

If chooses to stay for a season longer or even the rest of his life, this is the future I see for the North London derby:

Tottenham Bridge the Gap and Take Over

Tottenham HotspurAs you can see by the title, Tottenham would go on and best the Arsenal side of today. More players will be attracted to AVB’s side should they grab that Champions League spot and fewer players will move to the other side of North London, to Arsenal, because the situation to a foreign player would be described as a falling wreck.

In this particular situation I would not see Tottenham winning the title anytime in the near future. However, FA Cups and Capital One Cups could fill their trophy cabinet, trophies that Chairman Daniel Levy would love at his club.

As for Arsenal, they would slowly maintain a fifth spot in the Premier League. A disappointment for sure. Players would not come through the ranks like Thierry Henry or Denis Bergkamp, young players do not want small wages at a club not progressing well. Older more experienced players would not join, they would believe Arsenal were the new Liverpool.

Not all of this could happen should Tottenham keep Gareth Bale. Arsenal could fight back and we could see another hugely fierce Premier League derby, much like the old Man United-Liverpool or Man United-Man City ones. The top four could be:

  1. Manchester United/Manchester City
  2. Manchester United/Manchester City
  3. Arsenal/Tottenham Hotspur
  4. Arsenal/Tottenham Hotspur

Now, what happens should Bale leave?

Arsenal are Back, Tottenham Back Down

ArsenalNow, Gareth Bale will have left to one big club for one big sum of money. Arsenal will have invested well after the recent fans complaints. Arsene Wenger will have shushed the crowd and guided his new freshly bought side to third place. No Champions League qualification round worry.

He will have new players, bought to strengthen positions where the weaker players were. He will also have a bigger deeper squad. Making some quiet small money signings as Wenger always has done.

Meanwhile, over the road. Spurs would be without Champions league football after a dismal end to season coinciding with a poor run of form from Gareth Bale, the Welshman said he lost belief and felt he had to leave. He is no longer here, no big signings for Spurs now. Bids being accepted by players staying put.

No inspiring leader to score for them every game. No player who you know can always produce magic goals. Goals, that is where they would struggle. Jermaine Defoe and Adebayor not netting for their side. It would be expected after last season they relied on Bale for the goals.

Which do you think will happen? Not just to do with Gareth Bale, what do you think is the future for the two North London clubs? Tweet me or comment in the box below.

Click here to view Part 1 of this article.

Written by Harry Robinson (@hazza1236)

Analyzing the Future of the North London Showdown: Part 1

No, this is not a match. Not a Premier League crunch match or Champions League, FA Cup, or League Cup thriller. What is it? This, my friends, is the real showdown of the two North London clubs. This is my take on the future, the past, and the present:

The Good, the Bad, and the Arsenal

ArsenalIn the past few season, Arsenal Football Club, the 2002 Double Winners, has neither been good or bad. That job was left down to Tottenham. The Gunners have not been bad. They have just not been the club they once were under Arsene Wenger. Frustrated fans. Players leaving. Those players winning. Worse players coming in. And worst of all, no trophies.

I know how you are reading it and what you’re thinking now. When you read it like that, it sounds like the most depressing time in the club’s history. However, when you think of the competition they have come against in recent years: the endless money spenders Manchester City and Chelsea, the relentless force of Premier League Leaders Manchester United, and of course, bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Of course, I cannot say it is all going swimmingly for Arsenal. They should be doing better, attracting better players, and most importantly, signing better players. Arsenal fans are in a divide. Some call for Wenger’s head (as a figure of speech!), while others stick with the man who brought them such glorious success. What is my view? Read on my friends, read on:

Arsenal Wenger or Arsene Wenger?

Should he stay or should he go? In my opinion, he should go. Who should come in? I have plenty of managers who fit the club perfectly but are at clubs like Dortmund, Juventus etc, places where you wouldn’t leave for a club fighting for fifth place.

Jürgen Klopp (Borussia Dortmund)

Drooled over by many football fans as they dream of him coming to their club. Doing a fantastic job at Borussia Dortmund, relying on the youth system, purchasing little, and when buying, only investing in young prospects. The perfect manager, some may say. A great manager for any side, Man United, Tottenham, Real Madrid, and especially Arsenal. To be or not to be?

I guess the answer is not to be. A manager of that ability, at a club with such an exciting future wouldn’t come to a club threatening to become the new Liverpool and slowly fall down the table.

Roberto Martinez (Wigan Athletic)

Plays nice attacking football, much like the double winning side did in 2002. Also a very brave manager and plays a 3-5-2 formation in the Premier League. No other manager does this; a positive thing for Arsenal. I’m sure he would love to move himself from Wigan to North London.

Tottenham Hotspur: A Team?

Tottenham HotspurNow, I hope I’m not offending any Spurs fans. However, what I’m trying to get across in that subtitle is that are Spurs really a team? Is Gareth Bale the only thing keeping Tottenham in the battle for the Champions League?

Gareth Bale. He’s been so good this season there are rumors he will leave North London for Manchester, Madrid, or Barcelona for over £50 million. The Welshman has been netting goal after goal after goal and grabbing himself a few assists as well.

He has always been full of quality but this season, and he’s certainly shined. Not because he’s so much better than before, but because he’s been consistently good.No drops in form or niggling injuries (so far) compared to last season.

So now we have to wonder, where would Spurs be if he wasn’t there? Definitely not third and definitely not better than Arsenal. In the last few months, Tottenham have played only 1 or 2 games without him. What was the result in the last game he didn’t start? They lost 4-1 to Inter Milan. He came back for their next Premier League match, didn’t play his best, and the result? Again, a loss. This time 1-0 against Fulham.

In my opinion, the Spurs have a great side. One that could compete with some of the top sides over the years, but why are they not a great side without Bale?

The attacking genius of Dembele, the brave solid old English midfielder Scotty Parker. The new signing from Shalke’s Lewis Holtby, one of Germany’s brilliant young starlets. Hugo Lloris, chased down by Manchester United 2 years ago, a brilliant keeper keeping out the goals.

With all these great players, why are they not producing results without Bale? My view? He is their leader, the one player who inspires every single other man on the pitch to bust his gut and play for his side. Where does this put them in the future? Where is North London in the future?

Click here to view Part 2 of this article.

Written by Harry Robinson (@hazza1236)

The Battle to Remain in the Football League

It has been well noted this season that many European leagues have lacked competition, and teams have ran away with the titles and overall they have been fairly uncompetitive. League Two, though, is contrary to that, especially the relegation battle. With five sides locked in at 40 points, it ‘crunch time’ to stay in the Football League.

Torquay United

Torquay UnitedTorquay are a side that didn’t expect to be dragged into a relegation fight, after just missing out on automatic promotion last season. It was expected they would do the same this season, but things have turned quite badly.

Martin Ling is currently on sick leave that has left Torquay with Alan Knill as interim manager. Things have not improved under Knill, they have only got progressively worse. With no win since the end of January, it is difficult to be optimistic, but Alan Knill remains confident. Speaking after the draw with Southend, he praised his players:

“The players are so committed and we look a threat, as long as we’ve got that it gives us a great chance.”

There are some big games coming for Torquay, still set to face York and Barnet at home. They have reason to be quietly confident.

Plymouth Argyle

After sacking Carl Fletcher in the New Year, Plymouth’s fortunes have turned for the better under John Sheridan. After a shaky start initially, they have picked up some important points in the last few months, with wins over Aldershot, Barnet, and Fleetwood.

Jason Banton has been the catalyst in Plymouth’s success; after signing on loan from Palace he has hit the ground, running with five goals thus far. John Sheridan claims Plymouth can get more from him:

“I think we can get more out of him,”

“If he gets that into his game he can play at a higher level.”

The fixture list has been unkind to Plymouth; the last three games are as tough as it gets in League Two. This includes matches against Burton away (who are currently on their best form), Rotherham at home (a side who have realistic chance of promotion), and Rochdale at home (a squad that has greatly improved under Keith Hill). One thing is certain about Plymouth, though: they must persevere if they want to retain their League status.

Barnet

BarnetBarnet seem to be in the same situation season after season. This season it has happened again, however this time, it takes much more of an interesting view with Edgar Davids at the helm.

Results have been sporadic for the Bees, with wins at the likes of Gillingham and defeats to Accrington Stanley. No clear judgement can be made about the side. The next three games are critical for Barnet, with three home games on the bounce. It is the perfect time to get Underhill rocking and dig in for another season of last season dramatics.

Edgar Davids is clear about the fight ahead:

“Perhaps we thought we were comfortable. We do it the Barnet way, which is always the difficult way, but we are ready to fight every match. We have to man up and take responsibility.”

Aldershot Town

FA Cup distractions has seen Aldershot scrappin;, through the midst of Danny Hlyton’s heroic FA Cup run the club has demised in League Two. Andy Scott has come into replace Dean Holdsworth, who had long held the position before being sacked in February.

Scott had a successful started to his reign with a victory over Fleetwood, but with no wins since then. This has caused the alarm bells to start ringing. A lack of goals has been the problem for Aldershot, with only three goals in the last five games.

The question is being raised: Where is Danny Hlyton now? Aldershot midfielder, Danny Rose has been quick to defend the frontline:

“We can’t blame the strikers, the whole team has to take responsibility.”

Accrington Stanley

Accrington StanleyAccrington perhaps didn’t expect themselves to be in the relegation scrap, but it now seems a reality that they may slip into obscurity again; heir only mention in an advert for milk. Accrington have been improving in recent weeks; their recent 3-2 win over Barnet could be priceless and their 3-0 success at Rochdale was reason for profound encouragement.

What has been worrying for Accrington has been their inconsistency, after defeating Rochdale 3-0 they went on score blanks in their next two games. It epitomized their current state. What to expect from Accrington is certainly the unexpected.

York City

York are currently just outside the band of sides on 40 points, with 41 points to their name. This may put them in a better position, but York are still in peril.

After sacking Gary Mills, they appointed Nigel Worthington, which has little effect. A side fast running out of ideas, they look like they could drop into the bottom two at any moment. With no wins since New Years’ Day, York’s Football League status could again slip from their grasp.

Summary

There will many twists and turns in the run to the end of the season, but one thing is guaranteed: it will certainly be an exciting finish. Accrington may slip through the trap door due to their inconsistencies, while York look to be in a terrible state. Aldershot have been lackluster, while Torquay can’t buy a win.

The relegation battle is continuing to the final day.

Written by @Footy_Views

Tottenham vs Fulham: Spurs Look to Seal Champions League Spot for Next Season

Gareth BaleMarin Jol’s Fulham will make the very short trip to White Hart Lane today as they face 3rd place Tottenham Hotspur.

In his pre-match press conference, ex-Spurs and Fulham manager Martin Jol urged the controversy surrounding Gareth Bale to remain at Tottenham for the rest of his career, and eventually become a White Hart Lane hero and legend. Martin Jol was the manager at the Spurs when Wales international Gareth Bale joined from Southampton in May 2007. Jol said:

“I saw Bale at Southampton when he was 15, we followed him and other people came in but I had a few words with his mum to convince him to come to Spurs,”

“With hindsight it’s very satisfying, he’s probably the best player in the Premier League at the moment and he shows it week in, week out.”

“I played him in his first match against Manchester United and he had better stats than any other player, and he was 17. Hopefully for the league and for Spurs he will stay because I think it’s a very good club for him. He’s getting stronger and stronger and playing in the hole he is probably even better.”

“Spurs is a big club with a big fan base and he could be a legend there. If he decides to go on to bigger things abroad it can be a risk. It comes off sometimes but not always.”

“But whatever he decides to do he will have a big future. Hopefully he stays in the league and I can keep enjoying watching him.”

Bale did not play in Tottenham’s embarrassing Europa League defeat against Inter Milan, and Tottenham’s support will be happy he’s back in the starting line-up after they were less than convincing as they progressed to the Quarter-Final of the UEFA Europa League.

STAT ATTACK: Tottenham have won their last six Barclays Premier League games against Fulham

Players will catch up with each other as they face their old side. Dimitar Berbatov returns to White Hart Lane after he enjoyed a spell there before moving to Manchester United and then progressing to Fulham. Clint Dempsey and Moussa Dembele face their friends after they moved to the Lane from Craven Cottage last summer. Martin Jol also returns to the Lane after he managed Tottenham from 2004 till 2007.

Dimitar Berbatov & co.STAT ATTACK: Fulham have scored a total of only two goals in their last eight top-flight games against Spurs.

Some Spurs fans will have to wonder today; will two defeats in a row to Liverpool and Inter Milan have taken its toll mentally on Tottenham’s players. If so, they could be in a real trouble as they look to stay in third spot. Last season it was all looking plush for the London club, and then a dip in form at the end of the season made them loose out on a Champions League spot, and Harry Redknapp got the sack.

STAT ATTACK: Fulham have only ever won 21 of their 104 Premier League London derbies

What to do? Welsh International and Tottenham’s star player has been told he will become a legend if he stays at White Hart Lane for his whole career.

STAT ATTACK: Fulham have taken only five points from six London derbies this season, while Spurs have 16, more than any other capital club.

STAT ATTACK: Only five of Gareth Bale’s 16 Premier League goals this season have come at White Hart Lane.

Prediction

Tottenham should have too much for an inferior Fulham side. Bale, Dempsey and Dembele will attack the space and will be a huge threat. Bale will also be a big worry for Fulham from set pieces. Defensively, Tottenham have Michael Dawson returning after a rest in Italy. He should curb any Fulham attack with the help of Hugo Lloris, who was also rested at the San Siro in goal.

Score: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Fulham

Bale, Adebayor, and Berbatov with the goals.

Written by Harry Robinson (@hazza1236)