The premier league misses Pompey

Despite constant claims that Arsenal were everyone’s second team because they played the best football, or an individuals would support their local team.

The truth is that unless you were a Southampton fan, you loved Pompey.

No other team has come up (apart from maybe Leicester) and really given it such a go. People very easily forgot how small of a club Portsmouth really were. Aside from a lone season in the 80’s where Pompey reached the top tier and a great spell in the post war years Portsmouth have mostly been not just a second tier team, but a 3rd tier one.

Not in the 2000’s though, unlike most teams who consolidate and try to just survive, Pompey dared to thrive. Not just their first season in the premiership, but all of them.

With a team possessing entertainers like Lomanu LuaLua, Yakubu, and Patrick Berger this was a team that was unique amongst promoted teams. It was entertaining. They even had the flamboyant Linvoy Primus at the back, and Lua Lua’s flips set a popular trend that lasts till the current day.

Lomanu Lua Lua flip

This theme of excitement continued, and Portsmouth with their electric Fratton park atmosphere soon became a favourite on Match of the day.

A few years on and Portsmouth were still improving, with a squad that even now could probably challenge for Europe. Which is probably why they won the FA cup.

The 2008 Portsmouth squad is probably the biggest reason for the clubs eventual demise sadly, after all Sol Campbell doesn’t come cheap. But a team which had Jermaine Defoe and Peter crouch a year later brought the type of football that the south coast had never witnessed before.

Portsmouth 2008 FA cup        Crouch and Defoe

The truth is this was a team that dared to dream and created a golden era. Even the 2010 squad which wen’t down entertained with players like Kevin Prince Boateng.

Pompey are now languishing in League two, but if you ask other clubs in the championship now if they would pay that price for such entertainment, i’m sure a few would.

Even if they are now struggling, Pompey in the 2000’s left the premier league with some pretty great memories.

Arteta lined up for Man City

No he’s not going to be their next midfield enforcer.

Instead Mikel Arteta may be making his first steps out of football.

Reports in the Times claim Pep Guardiola may wish to add the catalan playmaker to his backroom staff, a move that would probably mean retirement for the Arsenal captain.

Knowing each other from Arteta’s time at Barcelona Pep reportedly wishes to add someone with personal experience of the premier league as well as experience playing a style similar to that which Guardiola imposes at his clubs.

If so Arteta would be retiring at the fairly young age of 33, especially surprising given his talent. The spaniard has never relied on his physicality and could probably still play a large role for any mid table side. Even though he has seen himself fall down the pecking order at the Emirates, his name carries a lot of weight from his time at Everton and he will be missed by the football community if he does indeed retire.

Arteta would also be adding to the already extensive ex-arsenal contingent in the city brand, with both Patrick Vieira and David Platt both managing city franchises abroad.

If he does indeed move on I’m sure all gunners will wish him well after his key role in a transition period which stabilised the squad in 2011.

Kevin Prince Boateng’s new start

Fresh in my mind (for obvious reasons given my allegiances) is Boateng’s screamer which sent Milan on their way to a 4-0 thumping of Arsenal in 2012.

 

Add to that another belter against Barcelona and Kevin Prince Boateng had announced himself on the European stage. Being part of a talented AC Milan side that included the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Thiago Silva, Boateng was amongst the best and it wasn’t long before Schalke came calling.

This all seems very recent though.

Fast forward two years however  and the form which made the German outfit pay €10 million soon deserted the Ghanaian. Always one to be the troublemaker Boateng soon fell out of favour at Schalke and despite playing 46 games in the Bundesliga only scored 6 goals.

Many thought it would only go down from here with Boateng also having a very public divorce, but it seems Milan are willing to give the player another go. Always one to buy back a player AC Milan are yet again signing an old hero and it is hoped he will be the same Kevin that left.

If he gets back to his best which is very possible at the age of just 28 i’m sure his future will be bright at the San Siro.

 

 

 

How’s Bendtner doing?

Nicklas Bendtner has been offered nearly £100,000 in weekly salary.

Yes you read that right.

Nicklas Bendtner

Reports in the Daily Mirror have claimed that the Big dane is wanted in the far east and that means naturally, a lot of money is on the table.

But why is he so in demand, most remember him as certainly not being worth 100,000 grand a week?

Well he hasn’t really done much of note since leaving the Premier League. Despite scoring a late equaliser against Bayern Munich which saw Wolfsburg win the German Super Cup the target man’s career has not quite taken off in the Bundesliga.

Falling behind both Das Dost and Max Cruse in recent times Nicklas Bendtner has lost his place in the side, a place he is unlikely to win back with Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking stating that he is free to leave. Sadly for “Lord” Bendtner it seems an exit is most likely, and with his contract running out next year, it seems Wolfsburg may choose to cash in.

Amazingly there are still Premier league clubs considering the Dane including most notably Crystal Palace, but given the striker’s now almost comical reputation it is hard to see many clamouring or his signature.

He does have talent, you don’t just score 29 international goals by chance. Not to mention 47 for arsenal somehow, but I feel we’ve seen enough.

It may be the end of Bendtner’s eventful stint in the top leagues of Europe.

But still £100,000 a week wouldn’t be bad.

 

 

Havard Nordtveit linked with West Brom

The last you probably heard of Havard Nordtveit was when he quietly left the Emirates after failing to make an impression in 2010. Poor loan spells saw the Norwegian play for Salamanca, Lillestrom and Nuremberg but Nordtveit eventually found himself a free agent with few prospects.

However Borussia Mönchengladbach had different ideas, signing in 2011 Nordveit has gone on to make 137 appearances for the German side. In the process Nordveit has moved from Centre back to Defensive midfield, a process started at Nuremberg, and has gone on to play in the champions league with the Bundesliga outfit.

Havard Nordtveit is no longer the player that left Arsenal six years ago.

Hence West Brom’s interest.

Standing at 6’2 Nordveit would fit in to Tony Pulis’ style very easily and with Claudio Yacob potentially heading to Sevilla, the Norwegian could be a good replacement.

Havard Nordtveit

Nordtveit has recovered his career to become a mainstay in a successful Borussia Monchengladbach side.

With a good passing range and tough tackling, Nordtveit may well come back to show the Premier League and particularly Arsenal what they have been missing.

Who were the worst side ever? Sunderland 05/06 or Derby 07/08?

Aston Villa are all but down and Jamie Carragher believes they are the worst team he’s ever seen. Straight up, he’s wrong.

The villains, Aston Villa are currently 26 games in with 16 points presumably they’ll get a couple more.

Derby got 11 in a whole season. (2007/08)

Sunderland once got 15. (2005/06)

Despite their 6-0 drubbing at the weekend, Aston Villa are not the worst there has been from a points perspective. It’s not just a question of points either but simply talent.

Don’t take my word for it, lets compare the teams..

 

ASTON VILLA (2015/16)

Guzan, Richards, Lescott, Okore, Amavi, Richardson, Sinclair, Bacuna, Grealish, Veretout, Agbonlahor, Ayew.

A talented side in truth, Villa’s defence looks like it should be a rock on paper. With two premier league winners, plenty of pace and a powerful back four Villa shouldn’t have the shaky defence they do, nor the weak attack as they are flush with skilful wingers. What’s wrong is the attitude, and that’s why they are going down.

Micah Richards

Micah Richards leads a team that possesses undoubted talent on paper but simply hasn’t had the drive to stay up.

 

DERBY COUNTY (2007/08)

Bywater, Mears, Moore, Leacock, McEveley, Lewis, Savage, Pearson, Fagan, Barnes, Miller.

An ageing squad with even older reserves, the likes of Andy todd, Darren Moore, and Robert Earnshaw were all past their best going into this season. Add to that a useless recruitment policy which saw the arrival of Savage, Mills and Laurent Robert all in their 30’s, Derby set a record low point tally under Paul Jewell, as well as having one of the oldest teams on record. Perhaps evidence that physicality is now more necessary than ever.

Robbie Savage

Robbie Savage was an example of the poor recruitment policy under Paul Jewell.

 

SUNDERLAND (2005/06)

Davis, Hoyte, Caldwell, Breen, Arca, Nosworthy, Whitehead, Miller, Lawrence, Stead, Le Tallec.

With a side in which no player played  more than a couple years in the premiership, Sunderland were asking for relegation. A team of Championship players were made to look like it and duly got just 15 points.

Jonathan Stead.jpg

Jon Stead was the marquee signing and main target man. He now plays for Bradford.

Ultimately Aston Villa are by no means the worst the BPL has seen.

The Premier league is better than ever and the talent on display even at the ‘bad’ clubs is still outrageous. People are quick to forget that many in that villa side have earned England caps and if they played this Derby side or sunderland for that matter, I have no doubt who would in the end come out on top.

Jamie Carragher should watch a few on the teams he played against.

 

 

Leicester already looking ahead

With Leicester now favourites for the league, it makes you wonder what will happen if they do in fact win the league. Given champions league football is now almost a definite, Leicester will come into some serious money. The question is, what to do with it?

It seems the first thing on Ranieri’s shopping list is a striker, in this case Ahmed Musa. The CSKA Moscow striker was touted as a Manchester United target not too long ago, but given the clubs respective positions, Musa would be forgiven for choosing the midlands.

Standing at 5’6 the Nigerian forward has drawn comparison’s to Arjen Robben, and is currently rated at £23 million. A sum that just a year ago would have been out of Ranieri’s reach, but now well within it. Known for scoring twice against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup Musa is a speedy player known for his assists as well as his finishing. If Leicester fans are excited just look below:

 

Still, this outlay would be a club record and with Jamie Vardy, Shinji Okazaki, and Leonardo Ulloa on the books, there could be questions on where he would fit in. Well the truth is he is very versatile, he can play wide as well as up front, and having a £23 million player as an option is something that shows how far the Foxes have come under Ranieri.

More signings like this and Leicester may be in the upper echelons to stay.

Sturridge linked with Newcastle

This story sounds surreal and it may well be a load of rubbish. After all it does come from the Daily Star. However it may just be possible.

Much has been made of Daniel Sturridge’s injury problems, culminating last month in Jurgen Klopp essentially hanging the striker out to dry. The German claiming to the press that he perhaps needs to understand the difference between “a bit of pain and serious pain.”

The obvious insinuation from Klopp: Daniel is the one who thinks he can’t play, not the medical staff.

This has somewhat soured relations at Anfield and understandably. Sturridge is remembered for being a part of Liverpool’s hailed SSS (Suarez Sturridge Sterling) which so nearly brought them the title in 2014. As such fans of the Reds seem to be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but a club can only hold onto a player for so long without playing. Considering he is not, they may look to offload him.

This is where Newcastle come in. Since the Summer the Magpies have spent up to £80 million. It seems Mike Ashley has finally put his money in, and their squad has had a much needed influx of talent. Sturridge would also add to a growing English contingent in the north East, joining not just Shelvey  but also the likes of Townsend, and Colback.

Sturridge would be another step though it has to be said. Newcastle in recent years have become a relegation side, and no matter what their fans say about being a big club, Sturridge is better than playing at St. James’. Though it could be a good place to rebuild his reputation and prove he can still play.

Reports say £30 million will be offered.

Liverpool want to rid themselves of a player who won’t play, Newcastle want a star, Sturridge wants to be playing.

It could be a great deal all round.

Is it time to give up on Walcott?

As much as it was a great idea, Theo is now 26. Keep in mind this isn’t a piece slating Theo Walcott as much as it is perhaps meant to simply adjust expectations and shed some light on the situation which has become probably one of the most consistent conversation’s in football over the past decade. People all giving the misinformed opinion of “he’s a centre forward” or “he can’t cross”, have not watched him develop and is simply the opinion of MNF in 2010 being regurgitated by the masses.

Ever the optimist I would like to think he is about to “hit his prime” or “come into his best years”. But I sadly have to concede, that I am probably wrong.

The stats for Theo Walcott are extremely impressive, in fact they portray the exact opposite of what I am arguing as his goal scoring ratio has been fairly consistent with the number of games he has played. Until however he went up front.

Year                 App     Goals

2009-2010       30         4

2010-2011        33         13

2011-2012        46         11

2012-2013        43         21

2013-2014        18          6

2014-2015        21          7

2015-2016        27         5

 

This year Theo Walcott has been used as an alternative to Olivier Giroud when things aren’t going well or when Arsenal need a Plan B as such. Walcott has also had sufficient playing time this season unlike previous years after returning from a very long injury. There should be no excuses any more. Theo has been given games as a lone striker, games playing as a pair, it hasn’t worked.

Theo is a good winger however, everyone knows of his pace and contrary to belief he actually does have a fairly good delivery. His finishing is also good from out wide cutting in, but he simply does not have the ability to link play, hold up the ball, or even pass that well. Theo should be running at people. Just look below:

The position issue isn’t actually the most serious issue either concerning Theo.

I feel that the real problem that lies with Theo Walcott is the expectations upon him. Signing for £12 million at such a young age put instant pressure upon his 16 year old shoulders and it still looms over him. Being such a household name has brought extra scrutiny, to the extent that when he scored 21 goals in 2012-2013 people weren’t just impressed with that, they wanted more. But in reality we probably won’t get that, Theo Walcott isn’t ever going to be the best around. He is a good player, but his status was inflated by early fame along with and a hefty contract which Walcott’s management leveraged well at the time.

Perhaps the saddest outcome of this whole saga however is the stifling of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Undoubtedly a more talented player, signed for the same amount from the same club, the Ox has not been afforded the same opportunities as his elder.

A real shame as Oxlade’s development has stalled as a result, similarly to how Walcott’s did.

I just hope for his sake that Oxlade-Chamberlain doesn’t follow the same route.

 

Why is everyone heading to China?

Ask any English football fan who Guangzhou Evergrande, Shanghai Shenhua, Jiangsu Suning were 5 years ago you wouldn’t get an answer. Now it’s a different story.

Few took notice in 2012 when Drogba & Nicolas Anelka joined the Chinese Super League from Chelsea. But as of today people may take notice.

Anelka

Anelka paved the way for seasoned professionals to go to China.

In the last window old stereotypes have perhaps been crushed. The Chinese league was often seen as one of those leagues where people seek “one last pay check”, along with the like of the MLS and a few leagues in the Middle East. But now its is different, players in their prime are leaving to play for clubs in Shanghai. The likes of Gervinho (13.5m), Jackson Martinez (£30m), and even Ramires (£21m) have just signed for what really are tiny clubs, in a country with little interest in the sport. It’s abundantly clear that this is because of money, after all below is a video of Ramires’ first goal in front of what looks like a crowd of friends and family.

Why the money now however rather than 10 years ago? The answer is the Chinese government.

Essentially the Chinese national team have been something of an embarrassment for some time, but a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong was probably the tipping point. Not only is this somewhat humiliating, it’s also not great for the relations between the principality & China given their historical tensions. As such grassroots investment has been boosted.

However unlike when the FA say they will invest, China really do. Authorities are currently building 50,000 “Soccer Schools” in order to find the stars of the future, and a world cup is a long term aim. This enthusiasm has filtered into the Super League in the process, and the Chinese Government has encouraged many of China’s new “billionaires” to invest in their local sides.

This is the reason for the sudden swathes of cash which are snapping up some of Europe’s best.

Given that the MLS & China are now reaching further afield and signing ever younger talent, it will be interesting to see how the world of football shapes up. With a move for Alex Teixeira on the table from Jiangsu Suning, we could also see the first player to turn down the Premier League (Liverpool) in favour of the Super league far sooner than expected.

We are all so used to European dominance in the beautiful game, but perhaps in the future that could change.