Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere
For so long, the midfield of Arsenal seemed one steeped in great quality but it was backed up by an unstable back line and fronted with a strike force who majored in the art of profligacy. Presently, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker have been hitched while Arsenal had 4 players in double figures, in the Premier League, last season: Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. The midfield is still the shining beacon of the team but, as Shakespeare coined, ‘Therein lies the rub’.
Arsenal lack conviction in their midfield play. The presence of Tomas Rosicky has rectified this somewhat but his injury record is glaringly bad. Mikel Arteta has deserved his plaudits but in the progression of the modern game where pressing is a major fixture, rightly or wrongly, will he be able to maintain his stamina? My solution comes in the form of three British boys in an unconventional system previously seen at Arsenal, but more notably associated with the Porto team of 2010/2011.
Santos’ Four Saints
From the time he emerged from the ranks of Santos, Pele has been a jewel in the crown of the Brazilian club, whilst he played and even while he has been retired. For years and years, no one could replace or even hold a light to what the publicly acclaimed greatest player in the world had done. Everyone involved with Santos held their breath as Robinho made his way into the first team of the black and white. However, the now AC Milan player has not lived up to the billing he was once given and now referred to as a flop, the world over. Even in Robinho’s time, Neymar was making waves in the footballing scene of Santos, a small port town in the state Sao Paulo, and has since gone on to prove the hype. He now has the world at his feet and the Brazilian sensation can now pick his next move into Europe as all the larger teams clamour for his signature. The next in line is Victor Andrade who has gone through a similar transformation to what Neymar went through as he grew up through the academy of the Saints, English translation of ‘Santos’. Do Santos now have a youth system where: They can now produce players in a similar ilk to Pele from one generation to the next; players that would have failed elsewhere, like Robinho, are now a thing of the past; and can they follow in the footsteps of the first Santástico, to become a team filled with immense quality and all 11 come from the academy of the Piexe? Continue Reading
Roberto Mancini during the FA Community Shield 2012
In Italy, the best coaches are often subjected to a great education of football by learning in Coverciano, hidden away in the trees of Tuscany, Florence. Mancini wrote an extensive thesis on the attacking playmaker, titled ‘Il Trequartista’. Looking at this and Italy’s adoration for the trequartista, it is of little wonder that Mancini is very much in favour of changing his Manchester City side from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2. Major criticism has been attributed to this change from the fans, journalists, pundits and some say, even the players of Man City. In these eyes, I believe the continuation of the insistence with the ‘Italian’ formation will bear fruit in time. Ultimately, the change is just an example of managers quest to get as many midfielders on the pitch without compromising their defensive capabilities and their attacking prowess. Continue Reading
The former Ajax player looking ahead…
“Managers fall into two categories: The Genesis quickly followed by the Exodus. Alternatively, there are the Jobs of these worlds who receive the Psalms of the fans.”
Before De Boer stepped through the doors of Ajax as the new manager, then only on an interim basis, the seven men in charge before him fell into the first category. They would start with all the excitement the introduction of the new manager brings but in keeping with these modern football times, they would be soon shown the door as the excitement levelled out to mediocrity and the mediocrity fell to an untenable relationship between themselves, the board and the fans. Then, there are the others. These men are the Jobs of Ajax, the men who believed in something and were advocates of it because they knew of the success that lay ahead if they continued with the philosophy they knew. Like Rinus Michels, Stefan Kovacs, Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and even Ronald Koeman. All of whom brought success to the shores of Amsterdam but doing so with exceedingly outstanding style. Thereafter, when the latter decided to resign after what looked like turning out to be a less then successful season, Ajax’s term of the excitement of beautiful football fell to the mediocrity of not even qualifying for the UEFA Champions League, where they went through seven managers in five seasons. Then, it all grounded to a halt. An exhilarating halt, if you will. A former player came back to get his team to the former glory of what he thought the club deserved. Frank De Boer, one half of the De Boer twins, has shown himself to be a man of Job in the Ajax’s managerial history and he is deserving to be a manager who gets the Psalms from the fans of Ajax Amsterdam. Continue Reading
Smoking hot philosophy along with his fiery personality
Luis Enrique was employed by the new board to bring forth a new era in Roma’s history. However, his appointment meant the players getting used to a Barcelona-esque style of play: methodical passing, a high line, high pressure etc. It did not translate well and Roma finished well off the pace. Enrique cited exhaustion as the reason for his resignation, a bug that seems to have hit former Barcelona players and Barcelona B managers as Guardiola accused exhaustion for bringing about his resignation. To replace the Spaniard, Di Benedetto agreed with Franco Baldini to go after the anti-enigma that is Zdenek Zeman. Having a cult figure in Italy, none less so with the Romanistas. He helped bring through the talent of Francesco Totti and got the team to 4th place in his first season while giving the fans moments of enjoyment from the football that he got the team playing. The next season the team slipped one place and the board relieved him of his services, replacing him with a then younger Fabio Capello. From then on, he roamed around Europe, mostly residing in Italy, on coaching jobs that lasted a little longer than one year. He found his stepping stone to Roma by leading Pescara, with the apparent Pirlo-like Marco Verratti leading with him, the new PSG midfielder, to promotion to the Serie A. Called the “Soccer Jedi” by Gabriele Marcotti, how long will the Giallorossi players have to stay in the Dagobah system with their Obi-Wan, Zeman, to get the force… To muscle their way into the Champions League places. Continue Reading
Pass, pass, another pass, then another and then another… Goal. A common occurrence with Barcelona, you may say but Borussia Monchengladbach have somehow established a similar way of playing, garnering the same results, of course on a much smaller stage. A smaller stage, I feel, simply because they lack the quality that the Catalan club have within their ranks. Also, they play quicker. Much, much quicker. And with less touches of the football, as well. The German footballing world have romanticised the return to the big time for the team based in what was the kingdom of Prussia and the man behind the beautiful football hasn’t missed out on the critical acclaim, in the slightest. Lucien Favre is fast becoming the most praised manager in Germany, some even saying his success is better than Jurgen Kloop’s achievement of getting Dortmund to two successive titles in a competitive Bundesliga. The Swiss manager has taken the team from 18th in the league in February 2011 to a top four finish in 2012. Winning football with a seductive edge. What more could anyone want? Nothing. That’s why Gladbach will have a torrid time from keeping the wolves, other teams, from their door. Continue Reading
The former Chelsea manager
Chelsea fans looked on with glum faces as hellish performances and results saw their team decline under Andre Villas Boas. It all started with the highest of expectations, waiting for the performances to not look automatic and for the Portuguese man to inject some freedom into the men of Blue. Chelsea fans would have wanted to be able to paraphrase Job 38:4 to their counterparts , saying “Where wast thou when we watched Boas lay the foundations of beautiful football on Kings Road?”. A false prophet, I heard one person call him. Andre Villas Boas: The false Prophet of Stamford Bridge. Promising so much but in the end offering so little. However, if reports are to be believed, then it could be that Boas has a chance of redemption to get rid of this solemn tag, as Tottenham have decided that it’s in their best interest to relieve Harry Redknapp of his managerial duties. Harry Redknapp saved them from being relegated into the pits of fire and allowed Tottenham, fans and players alike, to sip on the ambrosia that is the Champions League. It seemed that last season that they would once again achieve this feat, playing some magnificent football but it all went to pot in the end. Will Boas get them to the heavenly top four places, whilst showing his players his own philosophy to playing football worthy of being watched by the Gods? Continue Reading