All things USA

I learnt four things this weekend. 1) US customs can take a long time (I hate airports) 2) The women’s World Cup got off to a great start 3) MLS games can be very open yet frustratingly boring, and 4) the Americans don’t half go on about it if they lose to Mexico.

Touched down in New York JFK on Saturday lunchtime, and finally left the airport an hour and a half later due to ridiculously long customs queues. Those guys are either very thorough or very prejudice, I seemed to stroll through in about three minutes. Anyway I was able to bask in the glorious sunshine visit Central Park, Madison Sq Gardens, Empire State… etc, all the usual touristy sites then collapsed in a jetlagged heap that night. So having woken up at half 4 Sunday morning absolutely shattered and then sleeping again until 9am, I decided to gear myself up for a day of football in my hotel room.

First up on ESPN, all that was showing were continuous highlights and analysis off the USA vs Mexico game. Now I for one am not surprised that Mexico are a good team. They have a lot of talented pacey players, and are always going to be a handful. Chicharito’s debut season in the Premiership last season proved this. But for some reason, american commentators are extremely surprised by this. How could the US’s lowly Southern neighbours be better than them. To cut a long story short the USA got ahead with two goals early on before Mexico fought back and came out 4-2 winners. There was also a great chipped goal from Tottenham’s forgotten man Giovanni Dos Santos, which was quite something. But the US pubdits couldn’t believe it. Every football show I watched throughout the day went on about it. Alexis Lalas then came up with his greatest worry: with no promising US youngsters coming through, where is the next generation going to come from? Exactly what generation are you referring to? Yeah the US had a good Confederations Cup, and did ok at the World Cup, but they’re hardly world beaters, and with football/soccer still not on the radar as one of the top sports in the country what was he expecting. I’m not saying that there aren’t talented US players. Landon Donovan has plied in trade in Europe for many years now at the top level, as has Rob Green’s World Cup tormentor, Clint Dempsey. Bolton’s Stuart Holden also deserves a mention as he has put in some fine performances in the last few years. But it was no great shock to me that Mexico beat the USA, and I don’t understand how it was to the Americans.

When they weren’t interrupting games with US highlights, I managed to watch a great game in the women’s World Cup between Germany and Canada. I didn’t catch the France/Nigeria game so I can only base it on one match, but the tournament has started just as well as the last one left off. And Germany looked in scintillating form. And the host nation certainly gave the 73,000 plus in attendance in the Berlin Olympic Stadium something to cheer about going ahead early on with a good header, and doubling their lead before half time. It looked like the Germans were going to romp away with victory and Canada rode their luck at times with the woodwork saving them on more than one occasion. But in the 87th minute a rasping Canadian free kick from 20 yards pulled them right back in it, and was also the first goal Germany have conceded in the WWC finals since 2003. For this reason, along with the talent of the team, I hope England don’t have to face Germany until much later in the tournament. They seem to be the team to beat at present.

Having enjoyed that game, I then turned my attention to Chicago vs New York, and was pleasantly surprised to see Thierry Henry returning for the Red Bulls. He never quite set the States alight in his first season, but has been enjoying a better vein of form this term. However my interest in the game quickly dissipated in about the first 10 minutes. I can’t say I’ve watched too many MLS games live so I don’t speak for all, but based on this showing I can see why the sport isn’t popular across the pond. The game was very end to end but with no penetration. Through passes didn’t seem like an option and I constantly found myself thinking a breakaway attack was on, only for a pass to go waywardly wrong. New York took the lead in the first half thanks to an Henry through ball on the turn, before some shocking goalkeeping allowed a long range effort in to draw Chicago level. If I’m honest I switched over about 70 minutes in and was never bothered to find out the final result, there was some ten pin bowling on and it was far more exciting.

 

By andymcdougall Posted in Posts

So what of our newly promoted?

As is normally the case, all the focus at the minute is what the big clubs are doing. Who are United buying, look at the new Chelsea boss, how much will City spend… it goes on. But what about the three fresh faces to grace the Premiership stage?It’s been a long awaited return for QPR, not so long for Norwich, and a first time for Swansea. And I predict each will face different fortunes.

Well lets start at the top. QPR were promoted as Champions having waltzed to the title, albeit almost overshadowed by the legal case surrounding a certain transfer 2 years ago. But the hoops can hold their heads high, as like Newcastle before them, they were at the summit all season and were deserved winners. Plus they also provide a bt of financial clout that could challenge their West London neighbours, although I think it will be a long time before the R’s reach those heights. I think Newcastle are probably a good base for QPR to work from. They achieved Premier League status early on, got a good mid table finish and can now look to build and consolidate this status. Given the money that manager Neil Warnock has at his disposal, he should be able to bring in some experienced additions to the squad, and I wouldn’t imagine the hoops to flirt too much with relegation this year.

I for one am also intrigued to see how Adel Taarabt steps up to the big stage. Player of the Season last year in the Championship, the young playmaker has plenty of goals and skills in his arsenal, and bags of confidence too. It may be key for QPR to hold onto their man, and will be interesting to see how he fares against the top defenders in the country. Taarabt however, has been quite outspoken since his time at QPR, flirting with the idea of a move to a big club and most recently expressed his admiration for thr R’s West London rivals Chelsea. With the spending power of Qatar behind them, a newly revamped PSG are also rumoured to be lining up a bid, although one would think QPR won’t have too many problems matching financial demands.

Elsewhere the club have been linked with a whole host of players this close season. Whilst a move for Wayne Routledge, who was on loan at Loftus Road last season from Newcastle, looks to have stalled slightly over payments, there are a host of other players linked with QPR. Recently David Nugent was linked with the club. The striker enjoyed a mixed spell in the Premiership with Portsmouth and I would have thought QPR may need to aim a bit higher than a player who has slowly fallen off the radar. Today there are reports linking Fabio Cannavaro to the club. Whilst there are no doubting the defensive talent of the one time World Player of the Year, having played out a season in the Qatar League and at the age of 37, one could be excused for thinking this is just a big name move. The only business of note so far was the new contract signed with Heidar Helguson. Whilst never prolific in the PL with Watford or Fulham, the veteran striker can pop up with a good goal tally, and I think it is a smart move if only as a solid back up. I think of the three promoted clubs, QPR has the best chnce at survival, and think that with financial backing can outdo the likes of Wigan and Wolves next term.

After a six year absence, the Premiership also welcomes back one of its founding members, after Norwich secured automatic promotion. The canaries played solid football throughout last year, and the pressure they applied to early shoe-ins Cardiff, ultimately made the Welsh wannabes implode not even taking the battle for second until the last game. Paul Lambert has been given massive credit for Norwich’s fortunes and rightly so having turned the club around since arriving from Colchester in 2009. Last time out, under Nigel Worthington, the canaries crashed out in style following a 6-0 thumping by Fulham on Survival Sunday, although I expect they will be more prepared this time out and won’t play such open football. That’s not to say I don’t want to see another half time Delia outburst.

As is always the way for newly promoted clubs, investment is key. Even moreso I think for Norwich and Swansea than QPR, as the latter has a substantial financial status to fall back on. So what Lambert does in the close season could have a big say on how Norwich’s season pans out. Of course a club always has to take into account the financial cancer that is relegation as has been seen with many clubs who have dropped to the lower tier and never quite been able to return. But Norwich have dropped out before, so they know what their up against.

They already have a few good players who warrant the step up to test themselves against the premier elite such as winger Andy Surman and captain Grant Holt who both enjoyed fine seasons last year. They have already added former Everton striker James Vaughan to the ranks, following Vaughan’s most recent promising role at Crystal Palace. Rumoured to be in for Frazer Forster, another goalkeeper emerging through Newcastle’s books, as well as sealing a deal to take Manchester United’s Ritchie De Laet on loan for the season, the canaries are definitely looking to tie up their business early. Whilst in comparison to QPR’s squad, Norwich seem weaker, I think the better comparison would be to those clubs who narrowly avoided the drop last season such as Wigan and Wolves, as I believe it is these teams that Norwich will be battling with to retain Premiership status. With a squad of untested talent I predict Norwich to struggle and would label it a good season if they survive the drop this time round.

At last, having spent the last four years pushing and prodding, Wales have a team in the top flight, albeit not the one we expected. Back in 2006, halfway through the year, Cardiff City topped the table and looked like shoe-ins for automatic promotion before they catastrophically imploded and fell right off their perch. Two years ago, having finished third they made the Playoff final only to be beaten by Blackpool, who finished the season in sixth after a late dash at the end of the campaign. And then last year, having occupied second for so long they imploded once more in spectacular fashion losing 3-0 at home to Boro to slip into the Playoffs once more. Having earned a solid draw away at Reading they once more threw it away at home and have now parted services with their manager and a host of first team players, leaving one wondering what the future holds for them. Contrast that to their South Wales rivals Swansea and its a different picture. In Cardiff’s shadows for a long time, it wasn’t too long ago that Swansea were battling away in the football league’s lowest division. But having secured promotion to the championship with the League 1 title three years ago, they cemented themselves in the Championship before pushing for the playoffs. Two years ago they narrowly missed out, and I think this was a good thing as it gave the Swans another year to develop and push on which they did having finished third this year.

Having followed the flowing football of Roberto Martinez and Paolo Sousa, Brendan Rogers has installed a bit of confidence in the free-flowing football the Swans play and they were deserved winners against Reading in the Playoff final last month. They have some exciting talent too. Nathan Dyer is a fantastic talent and is sure to cause problems for many full backs in the Premiership next year. Scott Sinclair, fresh from Chelsea, is also an exciting prospect having scored a hatrick in the final to help secure promotion. I’m also shocked he was omitted from England’s starting line up in the Under 21’s fnals this summer, losing out to Tottenham’s Danny Rose. I for one only remember one game in which Rose had real impact and that was against Arsenal at the Lane when Rose’s rasping distance strike sealed three points for ‘Arry’s men. But that was the season before last, and Sinclair has had a full season in which he was instrumental in Swansea’s success.

Swansea also have a good back line with Welsh captain Ashley Williams, although it is in defence where I think Swansea are struggling at the moment and need to tighten ship. I’m speaking about the transfer of keeper Dorus De Vries to Wolves and speculation linking Neil Taylor away from the club. De Vries has been Swansea’s number one for many years now and is a reliable a keeper as they could have wished for. He won the Golden Gloves two years ago for most clean sheets and was a solid performer in their promotion campaign last term. I think they will struggle to replace him, but will have to to achieve survival. Taylor has also been linked with a move to Newcastle to replace the possibly outgoing Jose Enrique at St James’. Perhaps not as influential as De Vries, it would be a big loss to the Swans who will probably be looking backwards to the Championship for replacement. The club have already been linked with Emnes and Leroy Lita from Boro, although I would cite a slight lack of ambition here. Whilst Emnes is a promising player and has years ahead of him, he was never quite tested at the top level, having been slightly too young when Boro occupied the Premiership. And whilst Lita has enjoyed spells at a number of clubs and was a promising member of the under 21’s set up a few years ago, he has never quite fulfilled that promise and falls into the Akinbiyi-Earnshaw category as great Championship player, but never proved at the top.

Another player linked to a move to the Liberty is Spanish midfielder Marcos Senna. Back in 2006 the Villareal man was linked with moves to Man Utd and Arsenal following an outstanding spell, dominating in central midfield. Senna chose to rebuff this interest and stick it out with Villareal who have never quite reached the heights of the 2006 Champions League semi final against Arsenal. Now out of contract it would be an odd move for Senna to choose South Wales to Spain, but would be a good one for his potential employers if it goes through. Whilst his talents have waned and he is ever-aging, he does add a great deal of experience to a side that is relatively lacking at present. However with VIllareal back in talks this move may never materialise.

It seems a long time since the days of the Vetchfield, and Swansea have come a long way, although I’m not sure how they will fare in the Premiership. Whilst they play the most attractive football of the promoted trio, this could be their downfall as past sides have shown; opening up against the big boys normally puts you on the wrong end of a drubbing. I would love to see the Swans stay up, but struggle to see how this will be possible without a significant investment this summer. Still, stranger things have happened and I wouldn’t have predicted Birmingham or possibly even West Ham for the drop this time last year. It can all change so quickly…

Tidy business

On a dry Wembley night at the end of May Barcelona pointed out some glaring differences between themselves and the English Champions, Manchester United. And this week United have returned the favour. The difference in question this time concerns the  club’s transfer dealings. Unlike our Spanish friend in Catalonia, Manchester United have once again carried out the simple task of expressing their desire for a player, agreeing the fee with the club in question, and have captured their second signing of the summer, in what looks to be a good move for all parties.

So while Barcelona scrummage around in their pockets for loose change, and stall transfers using unwanted youth players as pawns in their ridiculous negotiations, or even go on about a player to the point he is unsettled but never stump up the cash, Sir Alex Ferguson has bagged another promising player to add to his side and will surely move on to looking at other positions in need of strengthening.

The capture of Ashley Young was a great one for United. I will avoid falling into the trap of saying he is a promising young winger, because I don’t believe that is his best description. Yes he is only 25, but Young is about to enter into his best years as a footballer which is why it is a good time to have signed him. Rather than purchase an inconsistent youngster who has to learn the game, United have purchased a player who is stepping up to the international scene and has been well educated in top flight football, with big thanks to Aston Villa. And the fee I think is a fair one. For United, they get a player for a true value, and what looks like a steal in today’s over-inflated market, and Aston Villa get a good figure to try and replace the attacker, especially considering Young had only a year left on his contract.

The criticism of Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon has always been that they lack the consistent end product, but with Young you have a player who willingly takes on his man and has a quality pass on him too. He can play on the right, left or through the centre, although I think the latter would not be his best suited role, and depending on how Sir Alex plays it, I imagine Rooney and Chicharito will be occupying that position. And teaming up with Monsieur Rooney adds another good prospect into the mix as the two will arguably be playing for club and country together. So if it works at Old Trafford, it will hopefully work at England level. I say this with Barcelona in mind, with Xavi/ Iniesta/ Villa as my blueprint.

And its another example of the fact that the wiley old fox Ferguson still knows what he is doing. Yes, United have an abundance of wingers, and Nani and Valencia may wonder where they figure in all this, but Sir Alex is very much looking to the future. One criticism is that he hasn’t done anything to replace the departed Paul Scholes, although there seems to be no rush, also considering Scholes’ waning appearance count: the ginger maestro put in his lowest appearance tally since 1997, bar the dreaded 05/06 campaign when he missed half a season with blurred vision. And with three candidates identified as replacements in Sneijder, Modric and Nasri, I think we can trust Sir Alex on this one. And his latest signing may be a premature replacement, for the remaining member of the golden generation at Old Trafford.

At 37, one would think Ryan Giggs’ days are numbered, and maybe Ashley Young provides that proven cover when the Welshman does decide to hang up his boots. With Valencia still not back to top form following his injury, and Nani throwing in as many duff performances as he does world-beating ones, Young may be the solid performer United are looking for.

So, it looks like United know what they’re looking for in this transfer window and seem to be executing their plan without any fuss so far. Reports suggest that the club will break the 80m barrier this summer, suggesting that a central midfielder and goalkeeper are shoe-ins to be coming through the Old Trafford doors.

If you’re good enough, you’re old enough

So I will be the first to admit, I had tuned out of the managerial debate surrounding Chelsea, purely because I presumed it would be Guus Hiddink. Up until a week ago all the talk suggested it, it was just a matter of time. So I was pleasantly surprised when the announcement came earlier this week that Andre Villlas-Boas had stepped down at Porto and the expectation was that he would fill the vacant managerial post at Stamford Bridge. Fast forward a few days, and he’s signed his contract, held up the shirt and given his first interview. For all those wondering who he is and why such a fuss, you can be forgiven seen as he only stepped into management two years ago. However Chelsea fans may recognise him as part of the Mourinho entourage.

Villas-Boas worked under Mourinho at both Chelsea and Inter, and eventually followed in the footsteps of ‘The Special One’ taking the reigns at Porto, after short stints with Academica and the British Virgin Islands years back. He’s also Portuguese, never played professionally, and regarded as one of the most promising young managers in the game. But that’s where similarities with Mourinho stop. It has been well hyped up in the media, but anyone expecting a ‘Special One Mark II’ will be severely disappointed. Villas-Boas is a very different character.

In his own words, he is more like his mentor Bobby Robson, of who he lived in the same building and was encouraged to get his qualifications by, than like his previous boss Mourinho. Since the appointment players have even come out to say how different the two are with Andre regarded as much more approachable and likeable than dear old Jose. With Mourinho there always seems to be a fight to be had, a battle to be won, but Villas Boas is not like this.Even in his first interview with Chelsea TV Villas-Boas seemed a different kettle of fish. Rather than making outlandish statements as Mourinho did on arrival, the 33 year old preferred to put more emphasis on the whole club and its fans as it ‘is not just about one man’.

And I’m sure he will have endeared himself to Chelsea fans too, playing up the fans and speaking of how far the club has come. Villas-Boas quipped it is less about him arriving at the club and more about the continuing success of the club. And the continuing success is undoubtedly what will keep the Portuguese in a job, given the impatience of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. The Russian has been known to make rash decisions if things are not going Chelsea’s way as Felipe Scolari and Carlo Ancelotti found out. The former wasn’t even given a year in the job, and a trophyless season for the latter was enough for Abramovich to show him the door despite a league and cup double last term. Even Mourinho couldn’t bring the Champions League success that the Russian craves. However a treble last year, including the Europa League and going the domestic season unbeaten certainly puts Villas-Boas in good stead.

And Porto definitely saw the potential as they shrewdly worked in a 15m euros buy out clause into his contract, despite being relatively untested prior to his role at the Portuguese champions.

By andymcdougall Posted in Posts

The ‘Unsettling’ saga

The season has finished and we still have 8 days until the transfer window officially opens, so its that time of year where clubs sound out their top targets for the summer. And for many clubs it means a mammoth amount of talk about their best players being linked somewhere else.

And this is a feeling an Arsenal fan knows too well. Having put up with the Barcelona hierarchy and players drone on and on about Cesc Fabregas last summer, the gooners knew full well that Barca would be back for round two once the European Cup had been placed into the cabinet. And as if on cue, here we go…

I for one, love the way Barcelona play football, and they are fortunate enough to have a dozen or so of the world’s best footballers at the peak of their talents at the same time in the same team. I love the ethos Pep Guardiola has as a manager and if anyone has ever been to the Camp Nou, it is a majestic stadium. However, one thing I dislike (besides the constant theatrics – Busquets looking at you here, son) is the way they go about their business. And it would be unfair to just tar Barca with that brush, as many clubs, even Arsenal themselves have been accused of unsettling players in the past. However, given the hype around this case, the fact it includes two Champions League teams, one of the top players in the game, and that it has dragged on for two years, Barcelona have deserved this special mention.

And why get so upset? Is it because I begrudge Fabregas a move to one of the top clubs in the world? Or that the Premier League would suffer? Or Barcelona may possibly get stronger? No, its because at the minute Barcelona are all bark and no bite. It’s all well and good going on and on about a player, but if you’re not willing to put your money where your mouth is, you should just keep it shut. Last year, Gerard Pique, Xavi, Puyol, Villa various member of the Barca hierarchy, all said how Fabregas would be great at Barca, yet the club would not meet Arsenal’s demands. Now this year has come around and its the same story. I have never known desire and talk to pay for a transfer before, although that seems to be all Barcelona are offering. A player’s value depends on the selling club; it’s what they value their asset as. If a player is under contract then it is his club that should have the authority (not always the case these days). Therefore Arsenal have no obligation to accept a bid that they feel is not enough. Then Barcelona come out and say the player is not worth as much as he was last year citing ‘wear and tear’! What do they expect, Arsenal to agree and say ‘ yeah you’re right, he’s 24, not much left in him now’?!

The twist comes in Barcelona’s pursuit of other players. They are keen admirers of ex United striker Giuseppe Rossi, who will cost upwards of 20m, and are reported to have bid 33m for Alexis Sanchez. If this is true, and the club that publically announced it has 45m euros to spend this summer, has indeed bid for the Udinese playmaker, one begins to wonder how serious Barca are about Fabregas. Not willing to pay 35m for a player who has been a top performer with CL experience for several years, but willing to take a 33m punt on a player who has had one great season and no CL experience. Cesc are you hearing this? Is that really a club that values you as much as they say. No doubt, Barca want a cut price deal, but if you’re gonna talk about being serious about a player then show it in your actions too. So far Cesc has said he is happy where he is, and that announcement was probably prompted by the fact that he has no idea what Barca are up to, and he doesn’t want to upset his current situation.

I have no idea if Fabregas will be an Arsenal player next year because I have no idea if Barca will front up the money to back their claims. What I do know, is that this kind of unsettling shouldn’t be allowed, although Arsenal fans are used to it by now I’m sure having gone through similar situations year-on-year with Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry, although this one seems to take the biscuit.

And of course this isn’t the only case, Real Madrid did a similar thing with Cristiano Ronaldo a few years ago, although United stayed strong and got the money for their man, and to be honest haven’t done too badly since! And now I fear the same may be happening for Spurs and Luka Modric. Having had a good couple of seasons, Harry seems to be building something at Spurs, so the last thing he needs is a team, from his own division too, unsettling one of his star men. But that’s exactly what Chelsea did. A bid of 22m, in todays market anyway, was nowhere near what Spurs value the little Croatian at, but it was enough to turn Modric’s head and say ‘we’re looking at you’. So now the player expresses his desire to leave and despite Tottenham having a contract with the player, may well be bullied into selling one of their top players.

And as I say, every club is guilty of it, and in todays game where money and player power seem to have the most influence it will be interesting to see what happens this summer. I no doubt expect Fabregas to return to his boyhood club, whether it be now or in the future. And as for Modric, I would urge him to stay for one more year a least, if Tottenham can find one or two more decent players and find the consistency to maintain their challenge throughout the whole season, it may be the best place for him.

By andymcdougall Posted in Posts

Silly Season Begins…

So as the dust settles from another league campaign, fans must brace themselves for the part of the year in which they find their clubs linked to a whole host of players. And thanks to the lack of any senior national tournament, this Summer’s transfer talk will go on even longer. And we have already seen a flurry of action. Man Utd got in early to secure the services of defender Phil Jones. And that business seemed vindicated following the ex-Blackburn man’s solid displays in the U21 championship. He seems like a solid centre-back and will surely be placed at no.3 or 4 next season behind Rio and Vidic, and alongside the impressive Smalling. But what does this now mean for Jonny Evans or Wes Brown? The latter already seems to be looking for pastures new, with Sunderland reportedly keen, but Evans would make a good addition to another Premiership club, possibly one looking to challenge the newly crowned ‘Top 6’.

Another solid piece of business looks to be Brad Friedel who moved to Tottenham. It remains to be seen whether big Brad will be given the number one spot, although given the continuous links with former club PSV and his string of comical errors which appears to be a seasonal thing, it wouldn’t be ridiculous to suggest that Heurelho Gomes has perhaps lost his manager’s confidence. And I don’t doubt for one second that Friedel is still a top quality keeper, although maybe not a long term solution for Spurs. The move also leaves a place open at Villa which could be filled by Friedel’s fellow countryman and understudy, Brad Guzan. However with Big Eck taking the reigns there has already been links with Blues stopper Ben Foster with whom he worked with only last month. The 28 year old would be a good signing, but one must wonder just how many players are willing to follow Big Eck to Villa, with Scott Dann another player linked to follow his ex-boss.

Dann however is also wanted by Liverpool, who seem to be a club going through a major refurbishment, probably something that was needed a year ago following Rafa’s departure. The addition of Suarez in January was definitely a welcome one, and although the price was massively inflated for Andy Carroll in the same window, the Reds can be forgiven given the equally inflated 50m that Chelsea gave them for Fernando Torres. Jordan Henderson has been added, and I would have to say the jury’s still out on this one. 20-22m, as has been reported, is a lot of money for a player, albeit a young one, who doesn’t have much high level experience to his name. Considering the Reds paid almost the same for Luis Suarez, a player with Champions League and World Cup experience, along with proven credentials, the question has been raised over whether it is indeed English talent that perhaps demands a higher price, particular following James Milner’s move to City last Summer st a similar price. It also takes Kenny’s tally up to around the 80m mark for the 3 players mentioned, which may seem a bit steep and will have Blackburn and Newcastle fans warning Liverpool of how Kenny spent big at their clubs despite minimal success, however I think despite the money, Dalglish is guiding Liverpool in the right direction following the disastrous additions recently such as Joe Cole, Poulsen and Jovanovic. I also wish the best of luck to Henderson, especially as a promising national player, as a player is valued at whatever a club is willing to pay, and in this case its a favourable figure, which hopefully gives him the confidence to excel at Anfield.

Another club reportedly in for Scott Dann, although he is just one name that has been thrown around the Emirates rumour mill as it is no surprise the club is looking for a centre back. Following Vermaelen’s injury last term you did wonder how the Gunners would cope. Koscielny had a decent debut season, albeit it with a few stutters, whilst Sebastien Squillaci’s signing became more and more questinable the more the Frenchman played. Last season did finally unearth the talents of Johann Djourou, along time waiting, but the boy came of age, putting in solid performances, sadly cut short by his injury at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. It remains to be seen if the Swiss defender can repeat this form next year which is perhaps why Wenger is looking to add to his backs with seasoned pro Chris Samba and promising Gary Cahill both linked to the club, and reportedly both keen on a switch. However, bigger problems loom for Wenger as it does most close seasons for Arsenal, with star players constantly linked with moves away. First up is Samir Nasri who put in a sterling effort in the first half of last season and seemed to be found wanting at the business end of the season, much like the fortunes of the team as a whole. Nasri is out of contract next year and seems to be holding out for big money as well as assurance that top players will be brought in. A bold move and one which I think Arsenal fans may welcome the logic behind, as it may force Arsene to finally splash out for those much needed extra players to push on to launch a serious title challenge. Wenger also sounded right in his evaluation of Nasri, stating he wasn’t quite the finished article and that a move would be premature, which I think is evidenced by the Frenchman’s performances last year. Arsenal fans will hope this will be tied up sooner rather than later to avoid a Summer long saga like with Fabregas last year. And of course the Fabregas furor continues with Barcelona again flirting with the option of buying him, despite his ‘stock’ depleting. Arsenal fans appear to be more welcoming now to the thought of their skipper leaving, possibly due to the emergence of Jack Wilshere and the return of Aaron Ramsey, and perhaps cashing in wouldn’t be a bad thing. Arsenal seem to be holding out for 45m whereas Barca seem adamant they will not be spending more than 35m having only received slightly mor for their summer transfer kitty.

And according to reports today they have agreed a fee of around 33m for Udinese playmaker Alexis Sanchez, who was also wanted by both clubs from Manchester. If this is true then the pot would seemingly be spent meaning a move for Fabregas would be off the table. BUT, in more gossip it would seem that the European Champions are looking to offer Spain International David Villa to both City and Chelsea for around 40m in a bid to raise funds for a possible Fabregas capture.

And the chance to link up with national striking partner Fernando Torres at the Bridge could turn out to be a tantalising option, and also one which could strengthen Spain’s Euro 2012 bid. It is reasonable to state that since his move to Chelsea, Torres has not had the best of times and struggled to settle following a hefty transfer fee. But with rumour surrounding a Didier Drogba departure, Fernando may be given a new lease of life, and I predict he will have a better season next term (it could hardly be worse!). And the arrival of Spain buddy Villa could be the welcome boost as one would assume that the partnership that was at the forefront of Spain’s World Cup winning side, albeit Torres wasn’t quite at his shining best, could also cause havoc in the Premiership. However any Villa transfer is surely on the backburner now as Chelsea still look to tie up a move for long-standing target Neymar. The Brazilian caught the Blues eyes last year and added to the admiratio with a fine display in Brazil’s friendly against Scotland last year at the Emirates. However former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is also an admirer of the Brazilian’s talents and the player is rumoured to prefer a move to Madrid, so the transfer seems far from done, with Neymar’s club also looking for around 40m for the player. Clesea of course will also be looking to tie up a new manager too, expected to be in the next few weeks, before the end of the month.

Well that’s a mammoth post and one which I will leave there for the dust to settle, however I expect I will be back as there is a whole heap of activity not mentioned, particularly from cash-rich Man City, who I’m sure will light up our transfer window once more, and the ongoing Luka Modric saga unfolding at Spurs, although I think I’ll let that one develop for a bit! Until next time, speak soon…

By andymcdougall Posted in Posts

Welcome to my blog!

Hi my name is Andy, welcome to my blog. I am a massive sports fan, mainly football, but I will watch/play anything! I live in the South of France having moved here for work a year ago. I am a journalist but I also love to draw, so I figure this space will be one for my views, probably on football most of the time, plus some other random musings, and the odd cartoon thrown in for good measure. If you ever have any suggestions for cartoons, let me know and I’ll see what I can do! More will follow shortly, so until then have a good day/ good luck/ happy birthday/ speak soon…

By andymcdougall Posted in Posts