Posts Tagged ‘ Arsene Wenger ’

Wenger : Dawn Of A New Era Or Beginning Of The End?

wengerAfter an opening day defeat to Aston Villa and the home crowd turning on manager Arsene Wenger and his team, Arsenal’s season looked bleak and all hope was lost after only 90 minutes into the new season.

However, with Arsenal clinching a much-needed Champions League qualifier victory in a relatively easy fashion against Fenerbahce last Wednesday night, and following it up with an equally impressive 3-1 league win away at Fulham, the perspective on the Gunners’ season has already changed  for concerned fans. Continue reading

Premier League Preview: Jose’s Blues Are The Boys To Beat

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With the new Premier League season fast approaching, it’s hard to look beyond an old foe of many managers and fans alike from stealing the limelight once the season gets underway.

This summer’s transfer window and indeed all of the summer’s talk has been shaped around three men, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez and Arsenal’s pursuit of the Uruguayan, Wayne Rooney and his transfer request and Spur’s Gareth Bale who is being courted by Real Madrid.

One team, with the exception of a handful of Rooney rumours, has slipped under the radar as they plan to wrestle back a title that they won back to back in 2005 and 2006, and they have Jose Mourinho back to steer them there. Continue reading

Is Van Persie Made Of Manchester United ‘Stuff’?

Recent transfer speculation has placed Arsenal star Robin Van Persie in the sights of several of Europe’s top clubs; Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus being chief among his potential suitors. It’s not exactly difficult to imagine why he would want to leave. After all, he boasts only two trophies from his days at Arsenal; an FA Cup medal from 2005 and one slightly less momentous Community Shield from 2004. Arsenal, whose financial model makes sense yet is so far removed from the outrageous wages and expenditure so favoured by world football and the Premier League and thus is failing, are looking more and more like a feeder club to those at the top, rather than one looking to seriously challenge for domestic and European honours.

This speculation has favoured Manchester United to capture the Dutch forward and one of the most recent revelations declares that Van Persie is seeking wages similar to those of Wayne Rooney, if he is to join the Red Devils. While United do have the financial clout to meet his demands, the questions is not can they, but should they.

The thing is, Rooney is 26 and van Persie has three years on him. And while the Dutchman may have a similar amount of playing time, due to several bouts of injuries, the fact remains that the clock is beginning to tick. 28, going on 29 may not be exactly old, but paying such a large transfer fee for an older player can be somewhat of a risk. Take Berbatov, for example, whose £30 million transfer to United from Spurs hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses. It all hinges on whether Van Persie is only getting going, or if this is his peak. There’s no denying that he is an extremely talented footballer. But there are still a number of things that go against him. His injury record, for example, which may or may not be a worry to the manager, who would doubtfully want another Owen Hargreaves. His record too is a little short. He has had really only one great season at Arsenal, though it has to be said, what a season it was. Talisman is a word used often and certainly not sparingly by the press, yet a talisman for Arsenal he was, joining the ranks of a handful of players who managed to score 30 goals in a solitary league season. But he’s only done it the once. Can he do it again? Or has he reached the peak, the summit of his skill and is it simply downhill from here? Nobody can really predict what’s going to happen. Who could have foreseen, for example, Fernando Torres’ remarkable slump into mediocrity?

Then of course there is the wage demand. Sir Alex seems to prefer the type of footballer who comes to Old Trafford seeking to play with and for the best, whose passion lies out on the pitch rather than with a pay cheque. With his rather exorbitant wage demands, Van Persie comes across like a footballing mercenary, (Samir Nasri springs to mind) looking for money rather than a club to be passionate about. Sure, footballers should be able to demand what they feel they are worth, though that opens up yet another can of worms regarding how much the profession is paid these days. United don’t need another like Tevez. Sure, mercenaries are part and parcel of our game, just like diving and whinging is, but United are one of those clubs, like Barcelona and a handful of others, who are able to attract a certain type of player which exhibits a quality possessed by the rarest of footballers – loyalty. Really, he should stay another year and prove himself worthy of the recognition he’s getting. Then again, if Arsenal have any sense, they’ll offload him now rather than have him see out his contract then leave at the end of next season on a free transfer.

United have plenty of talent up front, in the form of Rooney, Chicharito, Macheda, Welbeck, even the much maligned Dimitar Berbatov, who may or may not be on the way out this summer. Should van Persie join then he is just another name taking away valuable playing time from those younger potential stars who need regular games not just to ensure fitness, but one of the most important things a footballer can possess – confidence. Not to mention the small prospect of the financial aspect to this transfer. For wages alone, on a three-year deal, should United offer Van Persie the same £220,000 a week Rooney is on, it would cost the club a little over £34 million. That’s not even including the £30 million transfer fee Wenger is reportedly looking for. And of course the figure rises should the contract extend any further. £64 million is quite a huge investment in a player who will turn 29 by the time the Premier League starts again, who has had quite a number of injury concerns over his career and who has had only one really great season for Arsenal.

No, midfield is where they should concentrate on; a long-term replacement for Paul Scholes, and one or two other potentials besides. Lucas Moura or Modric would be nice names to feature on the United team sheet but there are many other young players like young Nick Powell out there, because big transfer fees and solid reputations don’t always ensure value on the pitch. So on the surface, a move for one of football’s hottest talents might be the right one but under that surface it doesn’t seem quite so attractive.

Grave Threat to Football As We Know It.

The Barcelona Chief, Sandro Rosell, had already warned UEFA, in November of last year, of an imminent breakaway of the top European clubs by 2014. The warning was blunt – “If UEFA and the ECA reach an agreement, we would like to increase the Champions League under the umbrella of UEFA. If not, the ECA is entitled to organise their own champions competition.”

Rosell’s main aim is to cut the number of teams in country leagues to 16, in order to expand the Champions League. In addition, days will be freed up which will allow Barcelona to play friendly matches, bringing in large profits for the club, and allowing for Champions League games to be played on weekends, a move which would increase tickets sales, television viewership and, most importantly, revenue.

The current deal between UEFA and the clubs runs out in 2014, a date fast approaching. And, in order to get the clubs signatures again, Rosell has outlined a number of demands:

–        An expanded Champions League with up to eight teams from one country competing and big games played at weekends.

–        A total revamp of the international football calendar, including the reduction or even abolition of friendly matches.

–        Payment to clubs for the release of players to take part in the World Cup, European Championship and other tournaments.

–        A bigger share of money generated by football and a greater say in how the game is run.

More recently, during the latter weeks in January this year, UEFA has announced constructive talks with Europe’s elite clubs. General secretary Gianni Infantino is confident that the Champions League will remain the “best competition for clubs in the world.” Talks are underway over insurance for players departing for international duty, as well as a reduction in the international fixture list. A refusal to resign the agreement for participation in the top European competition which runs out in 2014 now seems less likely, with both sides compromising on several issues.

Money has already entered our game. Not slowly, but with a bang, which sees clubs being run by a passion for profits that a passion for the game. Critics have criticised Arsène Wenger in the past for operating the club with its wallet in mind. Not to mention the astronomical wages being paid out to footballers and exorbitant transfer fees which are fast leaving the less economically secure clubs out in the cold.

Some of these demands are not entirely negative. A revamp of the international calendar could be beneficial; we could entertain the possibility of less stretched out campaigns during which the risk of injury and fatigue is a major concern for those who actually pay the player’s wages. Payments to clubs for the release of players, however, is a disgraceful proposal. There is no higher honour in football today than the opportunity to represent your country on the international stage. Money rules all. An increased Champions League would serve no real purpose. It has already been extended throughout Europe, with the result of weaker teams entering the competition, their sole purpose to serve as stumbling blocks for the traditional Champions League teams. Undoubtedly, some of these teams have talent, as seen recently in Manchester United’s clashes with FC Basle and Otelul Gulati. But realistically speaking, these teams cannot win the Champions League, which has been the stamping ground of a select number of clubs for much of its existence. As these top clubs get richer, the situation will only stay the same. And as for downsizing each league, how does one choose which four clubs are cut? And how does one convince them that their removal from the top flight is really for the greater footballing good?

The other two demands simply serve to highlight the greed which has taken our game by the scruff of the neck. Rosell sees an opportunity to make more and more money than his club already earns. In La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid take the lion’s share of revenue generated from television coverage, and yet more is desired. Clubs should indeed have a say in how the European game is run, but only to a certain extent. The manner in which Rosell has conducted these ‘negotiations’ show that too much power has already changed hands. Football needs an independent governing authority with the best interests of football at hand, rather than clubs and profit margins running the show.

What is worse still are the rumours that top English clubs would be willing to make such a move. In England, they say, lives football – the game at its most passionate. Football fans around the globe need to act fast before their chance to oppose such a move is taken away. Each club needs to know the dangers it puts itself in, were they to agree to such a move. Football as we know it is in danger of becoming an all-out business. Granted, it is nearly there already. We just need to make sure it doesn’t take the final step.