Arsenal’s 90 Minutes in Hell and What They Can Do to Avoid A Recurrence

“If this was a boxing bout, the referee would have ended it a long while ago.” – Match commentator, Liverpool and Arsenal.

This comment came on the heels of the #MayweatherMcgregor fight in Las Vegas wherein the referee had to end the fight in the 10th round to save Mcgregor all the “Floyd punishment” he was receiving.

It was the perfect description of Liverpool’s dominance on the day at Hellfield, Anfield.

A match that was dubbed the pick of the weekend unfortunately became a one-sided affair when Liverpool controlled the proceedings from the beginning of the encounter till the blast of the final whistle. As one tweet captured it,

To equate the Liverpool player with the Algerian born French maestro was not an exaggeration on the evening going by his performance.

So, what went wrong for the Gunners – or is it the Gooners?

Make no mistake about this, Arsenal is not a bad team. A team that boasts of world class players and internationals in their own rights like Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Shkodran Mustafi, Olivier Giroud, Alexandre Lacazette, etc. is not a small team. Why is a team packed with World Cup winners struggling to make an impact in the Premier League and the Champions League? The only problem I think is leadership.

Ozil reacts after Arsenal lose 4-0 to Liverpool.

Ozil reacts after Arsenal lose 4-0 to Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger has been at the helm of Arsenal affairs since the year 1996 and did achieve a lot of great things for the club; including a 49-match unbeaten record in the league that is yet to be replicated by any other team since.

A glorious 2003/2004 season if you ask me it must be said. But after their heroics of getting to the final of the Champions League in 2006, there has been a downward spiral for the club. It was as if the exit of the last notable “invincible” Thierry Henry, started a free fall for the club.

Apart from the four FA Cups won during since then, Arsenal has never looked like worthy challengers for the Premier League crown, talk more of the Champions League where they have failed to cross the last 16 hurdle since 2009 when they were defeated by a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Manchester United.

The statistics just show that it has been the case of a diminishing returns for the club. It is also a sad fact that Arsenal for 13 years have not been able to lift the Premier League crown even though they are the only team to still have consistency in terms of being managed by the same man for over two decades.

The past few months have not been exactly great times for Arsenal fans. They know it and they’ve never hidden their displeasure, expressing it with their frequent #WengerOut on social media.

It is just obvious that the hunger has disappeared from Wenger, a one-time feisty manager who was not afraid to get into a war of words with Sir Alex Ferguson in their days of rivalry and not too long ago, with Jose Mourinho while he was still at Chelsea.

The last game against Liverpool showed a man who was not bothered about the fortune of the club because even while his team was 3-0 down, he just sat in his chair and chewed on his fingernails. This is not the case for other managers that will want to salvage something from the game and will continue to charge their players to attack and play better.

Some readers might say that I have gone for the obvious by taking cheap shots at the man but in all sincerity, the buck stops at Wenger’s table, no matter how we want to look at it.

arsene_wenger_cham_3492459b.jpg

Arsene Wenger needs to do more if Arsenal are going to improve.

I think Wenger has lost the team and it will take a miracle to psyche them up for the coming campaign that will see them compete on four fronts. To salvage something for himself and the club, Arsene has to make some hard decisions. Making such hard decisions for the team is one problem that he has always had.Right now, these decisions have become a necessity.

First, there are too many unsettled players in the team. To keep them against their wishes is to create a sense of complacency and a nonchalant attitude in the team. Sanchez, Chamberlain – now reportedly off to Chelsea, Mustafi, Ozil, Bellerin and so many others are all unsettled.

While some want to leave the club to where they can win trophies, some want better contracts and some others are not comfortable with their current positions on the pitch. These issues have made the team look like they lack the focus and hunger to carry out their professional tasks.

It must be said that although the players are paid to do their jobs, it is the job of the manager to motivate, unite and psyche them up for the overall interest of the team. This job also extends to knowing which players fit the various tactical approaches to be employed on the field of play. Unfortunately, the body language of the Frenchman has said a whole lot of other things.

It is absolutely unnecessary for the club to try to run down the contract of a player that is no longer happy to play for the club. Alexis Sanchez in today’s market is worth over £90m. Isn’t that incentive to sell him off already?

With one year to go and the high probability that he will not sign a new contract, it will be better to sell him off NOW and get a hungrier player to replace him. It has to be a player who will be focused on the job and will want to make a name for himself.

Arsenal still has the players that can confidently replace him in the team. Maybe not adequately, but they will do a good job. It is now left for the manager to tweak the team in a way that the team will get over him. No player is indispensable.

Manchester United last year signed a 35-year old Zlatan Ibrahimovic and albeit performing above expectations, his role was more in the dressing room than on the pitch. It was for the same reason that Jose Mourinho brought back Didier Drogba for one year to help him win the title on his return to Chelsea.

While citing names like Ozil, Sanchez and Cech, club legend, Patrick Vieira, pointed out that the team does not lack leaders. Maybe he’s right. But what he has failed to point out is that, out of these three, two of them whom the team depends upon the most are unsettled. How can they lead when they see their futures outside the team?

Arsenal needs a leader now more than ever.

Futhermore, there is another weakness that Wenger has exhibited for some time. This is the loyalty syndrome which he bears for his older players. X-raying the team against Liverpool, Bellerin played the left wing back role even though he is a right footer and has played the right back role for over two years.

It was a wonder to see Kolasinac who has impressed since coming to Arsenal on the bench. In the same vein, what was Ramsey and Welbeck doing on the pitch while Coquelin – a much more defensive minded midfielder – and Lacazette – a deadly finisher – were sat on the bench.

Even though some will want to go with the argument of Wenger wanted to play familiar foes, you do not keep your AK 47 at home and go to battle with a revolver. It is Arsene Wenger’s team and he alone bears the responsibility.

I was also shocked that Arsene Wenger who is a world class manager, played the high line against an attack that boasts of runners like Mane, Salah and Firmino who can hold their own against Usain Bolt. It also means that Wenger’s tactics are actually questionable and even at 2-0 down before Salah went on the solo run to score, there were no answers forthcoming.

Wenger has become a legend in Arsenal and the rule of diminishing returns has set in. I do not see Arsenal getting better under his tutelage and unless the Arsenal Board of Directors want to continue being self serving in their decision making, the best time to let him go is now to allow for another manager to bring hunger, drive, vibrancy and new ideas to the team. To continue with Wenger is to continue with mediocrity and complacency.

Wenger does not believe that his actions are costing the team even as the continue to go down the doldrums. The time for the board to act is now, to save the fans of the continuous misery and shame that they have been through in recent times. He does not need to be sacked, he should be asked to save face, resign and go on vacation. It is not too late to do the right thing.

 

Author

Victor Ndulewe

Manchester City 1-1 Everton: The Review – and Tweets From Rooney Trolling City Fans

  • Wayne Rooney isn’t finished, yet
  • Kyle Walker sees red in his home debut
  • Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines impressed and goalkeeper Ederson failed his first real test
  • Substitute Raheem Sterling provided the equalizer with eight minutes from time

Two goals in the two opening games for Everton this season and Wayne Rooney is casting doubts on the ‘finished’ tag he was associated with in his later years at Manchester United. As he wheeled away in excitement after putting the ball between Keeper Ederson’s legs and into the net, Rooney celebrated his 200th goal in the Premier League.

Familiar Ground: Wayne Rooney celebrates scoring against Manchester City. Photo credit: Rex Features

Interestingly, his 50th, 150th and now 200th goal were all against the same side.  The goal made him just the second player to score 200 EPL goals, the other being Alan Shearer with 260 goals to his name.

Referee Bobby Madley added controversy to the game as he issued two red cards in what could be called questionable decisions. The first of went to Kyle Walker who on his home debut was adjudged to have fouled Mason Holgate. The second red of the night went to Morgan Schneiderlin for what looked like a second bookable challenge on Sergio Aguero.

This left the Everton coach, Ronald Koeman, implying that the referee was trying to even things up with the second red card of the night against Morgan Schneiderlin. “I was in a better position for the second yellow of Walker and he played the ball. But away at City, sending off a player of City and you know what the referee will do then” the Everton manager said.

Pep was seen in a heated discussion with fourth official Michael Oliver at half-time as City trailed. At the restart, City controlled the game in a manner they were expected to. But they just couldn’t find a breakthrough as the Toffee back four was resilient, with Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines starring.

This coupled with the fact that the home side wasn’t as clinical as they should have been almost added up to make the Cityzens lose their first home game of the 2017/2018 Premier League season.

But Raheem Sterling’s equalizer came in the 82nd minute as he pounced on Holgate’s weak defensive header to rifle a shot into the bottom corner. For all the City push for a winner, it was not to be as Everton held firm for the draw.

The result means the unwanted record continues for Guardiola as he has never beaten Everton since becoming the City manager.

Of course, there was time for some banter after the game.

Author

Awolope Kolawole. You can follow him on twitter @Kopainzy.

Football This Past Week: The Notes…

The fever that grips every football fan when he/she wakes up on a Friday morning is one of joy, like that of an animal freed from its cage, a man liberated, from the horrors of the conventional 8-5.

I, on my part, get Goosebumps, like a man going on his first date. My love for football isn’t mutual, it is an obsession. And just like that, the liberation I felt this past Friday was immense, smacking my lips at the action that awaited football purists over the next few weeks. This was the start point of that action.

However, if there is anything we purists do, we are more of critics just as we appreciate our football and this weekend’s action brought about a few points worthy of note round the world…

  • THE REAL BATTLE IS IN BETWEEN. 

In England, all hands are on deck. As of three weeks ago, Chelsea were sleepwalking to the Premier League title. It was a foregone conclusion; the only battle was at the bottom.

That was before Sam Allardyce and Mamadou Sakho intervened.

The Blues have since lost two of their last three games while Spurs have kept up their winning streak. It was unimaginable that we would reach this stage in the league. But they brought it upon themselves.

The Blues were nowhere near their usual dominant selves in those defeats and while Sakho and Herrera put in man-of-the-match performances, Ngolo Kante and David Luiz had their performances and roles brought into question.

Spurs, on the other hand, continue to march on, and the joy in the white half of North London is in deep contrast to the emotions in the red half of the city. Mauricio Pochettino’s men have looked imperious, certain and played with a swagger and brute unlike the cowardly, uncertain and aimless football Wenger’s boys have served up since the turn of the spring.

They look like ‘WENGER’s INVINCINBLES’ right now and not the ‘INVISIBLES’ receiving instructions from the Frenchman. The desire, passion, joy and willingness to die for the shirt is there.

As for the Gunners? Not so much. For the first time, in Wenger’s time at the Emirates, Arsenal may not make the Champions league. Not because of anything, but rather because their rivals aren’t dropping points. Liverpool showed fight to down West Brom at the Hawthorns, completing the double against a team they traditionally struggle against.

Vincent Kompany showed why he is still the best centre back in the league, commandeering City and giving them the assuredness and confidence the defence has lacked in his absence.

At the other end, Sam Allardyce continued his resurgence of Palace with a draw, while Swansea are in real danger of been cut adrift at the bottom.

Only a meagre nine points separate eleventh from eighteenth, and while there is still hope, teams must look to win the war and not the battle. The attitude needed for both isn’t the same.

 

  • THE CLASICO? WE HAVE A RELEGATION FIGHT IN LA LIGA… AND IT GETS BETTER. 

If there is anygame I always mark on my calendar first once the fixture lists are released, it’s the clasico. However, while many are talking about the fact that Neymar will miss Spain’s ‘biggest game,’ it is infact at the bottom that the biggest games are taking place.

Granada and Osasuna are especially fighting for their lives. Granada’s attempt at a new approach backfired dramatically against Celta where the players did more of dancing than playing, just like their interim coach while Leganes, despite showing fight and spirit still lost to Espanyol.

The Catalans are locked in a desperate battle with the two Basque outfits as well as Villareal for a place in Europe and while the top two are well ahead of the others, a photo finish isn’t out of the picture either.

 

  •  INTER AND MILAN HAVE ONE PROBLEM: THEMSELVES. 

The Nerazurri and the Rossoneri are currently two underachieving teams. And while on Saturday they served up a fascinating game, it brought back memories of why both sides are being left behind by the two Roman sides, Juventus and Napoli.

The manner in which Inter threw away a two-goal lead was baffling and astonishing. They left a position where they could have easily seen out the game and put themselves in deep trouble. Worse still, they conceded the equalizer with the last kick of the game.

A side that lacks that mental fortitude should be nowhere near Europe’s elite. Many did praise Milan for the comeback, but it was only due to their rivals weakness that brought them back in the game. They were passive for long periods and relied heavily on the influence of Gerard Deulofeu and Suso to keep them in the game. They are miles behind Lazio, let alone the top three.

The problem at Inter is mental and psychological, in Milan? Cluelessness

 

  • THE CAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE & CONFEDERATIONS CUP NEW FORMAT CAN BE WORKED ON.

It’s the first time 16 teams will participate in the CAF club competitions. However, it may be better they increase it to 32 from next year. Only diehard fans of African football have followed the qualifiers and while the group stage action doesn’t start till May, it can be restructured.

The coefficients system can be readjusted. It’s sad if we cannot see fascinating football from a larger pool of teams. The two club competitions have lost top teams in this qualification stage due to reasons varying amongst themselves.

Bidvest Wits are one of them, Enugu Rangers another. Smouha and Zesco will only be playing in the CAF Confederations Cup. It is time we have teams that would of a surety reach the group stage than have a three-tier tedious qualification system. This can be facilitated by using national team coefficients, which could even see an increase in the competition at international level.

Take South Africa for instance. They have one of the best leagues in Africa; the last three South African representatives in CAF club competitions have reached the semi finals at least.

Achievements like that can be rewarded with three or four slots the following season. That’s enough motivation, one that would spur other countries on.

African football has stayed in the shadows long enough. Issa Hayatou’s heralded exit would be meaningless if changes aren’t visible from 2018 onward

Video Technology in Football: What I Learnt

On Tuesday night, we were treated to another controversial topic in our “sacred sport,” Football. I deliberately use the word sacred because to some people, football is a religion to some people who rever it and guard it jealously.

As the saying goes for the English, “football is not just about life and death, it is more than it.” This is a strong indication that to the billions of people on the face of the planet, football is more than just a sport.

The game between France and Spain last night re-awakened an old controversy: the use of too much technology in the beautiful game of football. In that game, the compatibility of using a video referee to scrutinize critical decisions in a football game was put to the test.

This was a perfect platform to look at the strengths and weaknesses of that technology and its compatibility with the flow of the game. After the game and the many reactions that followed, here’s what I learnt.

The first goal scored by Antoine Griezmann for France was correctly ruled for offside. I must appreciate the fact that at least it was great to finally get justice when we watch football matches, something we have also seen with the use of the goal line technology thus far.

This was a laudable achievement going by the injustices that have been experienced overtime in the sport- there have been so many of them and these decisions have always kept tongues wagging at every incident. These decisions have divided fans amongst different lines.

However, on the other hand, did anyone take notice of how long it took for the referee to listen over his ear piece and pronounce the appropriate decisions? I think this should form the basis of this argument for or against the compatibility of the proposed technology.

As a fan and a proud one at that, I had to take a look at the video at least not from the Director’s box- as I am no bourgeoisie, and definitely not from the technical room, but from my television and device and I took notice of the time it took to get the decision on both occasions.

Griezmann’s disallowed goal was scored with 47:15 showing on the clock. Of course the linesman ruled it as a goal but the referee stood static and paid attention to his ear piece while the Spanish players surrounded him. On the near side of the pitch, the French players were already celebrating.

When the clock showed 47:59 and Griezmann was returning to his own side of the pitch, that was when we – Griezmann and I – discovered that there seemed to be a problem. Then the waiting continued until 48:09 when the referee gave the correct ruling with his hands raised to signify a free kick.

Simply put, it took 54 seconds to make that decision. Do not miss the part that the linesman actually gave the goal.

Then came the goal scored by Deulofeu, which was Spain’s second, assisted by Jordi Alba and scored with 76:23 on the clock. In this particular incident, the assistant referee (linesman) ruled offside while the referee waited – yet again – for signal from the video room.

Gerard Deulofeu had already accepted his fate and was returning to his position for the free kick to be taken having seen the flag for offside. It was until the 77:10 when the referee got the signal and gestured towards the halfway line that it was a goal.

That took 47 seconds.

The first thing that comes to mind is the time taken, in the course of discussions between the main referee and the video referee, to take these decisions even though some persons were trying to say that it took place while the players were celebrating the goal.

Okay then. What if the scorer does not celebrate and picks up the ball to run back to the half way line based on the fact that he is trailing the other team? Does that remove the window for discussions between both referees? We are talking about 54 seconds + 47 seconds= 1 minute, 41 seconds for just two incidents. That is enough time for a team to score two goals which we have seen many times in football.

Another fundamental issue is that the technology is actually a threat to the Assistant Referee’s position and if it is implemented, we might also not see that individual running down the lines with a yellow flag any more. This is because their decisions where actually clashing at both times the video technology came into play.

Furthermore, while video technology thrives with tennis, cricket and others, football is different because it has to do with a lot of psychological factors – like who is on the ascendancy in the game? Who is pressing? Who is likely to get a goal soonest? Who has got the momentum?

Someone might then ask, when does all these big big grammar happen in a game? Have you stopped to think of the reason why managers make substitutions at some critical parts of the game? Why players also feign injury because they want the scoreline to remain the way it is and to also kill the morale of their opponents?

These are critical questions that whoever is reviewing the technology should put into consideration.

Finally, football is about controversies, banter, trolling, etc. To take these parts of the game away is to demystify the game and make it ordinary and less appealing.

In the midst of all the controversies, football following has increased astronomically for the past two decades. A demystifying of the sport could bring about a decline. Wrong decisions or not, the biggest teams on the planet have always succeeded and this part of the game should not be reason enough to restructure the beautiful game.

The idea of this new technology does not remove the human factor because judgement calls will still be made at each incident, only slower and with adequate video evidence.

Therefore, it suffices to say that the video referee, after seeing the video, can still make a wrong call because of our different criteria for awarding a penalty, free kick or a red card. Why not? He’s human too!

 

About Author

Victor Ndulewe is a freelance football writer and a football analyst/pundit on radio (The Beat FM 97.9 Ibadan).You can engage him on Twitter @vicndulewe

There is Something Mysterious About the 2016/2017 Premier League Season

Enigma!

Enigma!

The Premier League, on any good day, is an interesting league, one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting one). One moment, you know what’s coming. The next, you’re left in awe of what just happened.

The Premier League is majorly a standout league for one reason: any club in the league, size and league table position regardless, can come visiting and steal 3 points from right under your nose, sometimes effortlessly, sometimes with the last kick of the game.

This, and not the famous English Fourth Estate (they play their part too) is what makes the league notoriously exciting. But the 2016/2017 season has been different.

No, I’m not talking about that 5000/1 kind of different. I’m talking about the 6th-position-for-months, Conte-nious-table-topping-performances, Pep-ppered-on-all-sides-by-Everton-and-Bravo kind of different.

Chelsea’s rise, Pep’s choice of Bravo despite those dangerously negative statiatics, Arsenal’s ‘upandan‘ season, Spurs, the Leicester blow-up, to mention but a few, have been mysterious and unexplainable!

There’s “almost” been more than enough excitement this season (enigma too!). Every week and matchday seems to have it’s own special surprise for all and sundry.

And in this article, I’ll be focusing on this week’s episode of mysteries served up by a mysterious season.

1. KARMA

It is believed that the world is run by a set of people, that keep the world in balance to prevent her from shutting down. For every good, there must be a bad, For every bad? A good. Its what keeps the world okay. It may seem a farce but, it is a reality which Jose Mourinho must come to terms with.

The 54-year old stormed out of his post-match TV interview apparently disgusted at the result, but it was one which had his own blueprint. Hull sat deep, refused to be bullied and had answers to all the questions United asked of them.

It was a classic Mourinho print, one reminiscent of his Inter days. He shouldn’t have been angry. He was simply being paid with his own kind of coin. His team had done the same earlier this season at Anfield.

Often times, snatching a win could be the sweetest thing in football but you being the victim? Leaves scars. However, it wasn’t the case here. Maybe Mourinho should applaud Hull’s resilience and be proud of them than putting up hypocritical behavior.

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Have I mentioned the 6th place mystery? It’s been so enigmatic that I’ll just let this infographic emphasize how deep this mystery is.

 

Pep's Strongest Manchester City side yet?

Pep’s Strongest Manchester City side yet?

2. SANE, WILLY & JESUS, Guardiola’s Saviour

It doesn’t come everyday, the chance to say how much a goalkeeper saved Pep Guardiola on a Matchday. It’s usually the Spaniard’s frontment wrecking all the havoc and breaking down barriers.

But in recent times, just like a wardrobe malfunction, a “goalkeeping malfunction” has not saved Pep. It has made him look surprisingly terrible. Don’t get me wrong. The tacts have been fine.

Jesus comes from Brazil, gets a goal, an assist, runs away with the Man of The Match award and comfortably fills in the shoes left by Kun Aguero’s absence – all on his first Premier League start.

Sane’s trickery, run-ins, innovation and youth makes Man. City look alive again! I mean, Sterling is being greatly helped by the young German.

So, It’s obvious the Pep Tacts are intact. But no team can hide, for long, the pain of a bad (actually, terrible’s the word) goalkeeper.
And the Philosopher had been suffering this pain for some time. So, he decides to take a pill to alleviate his pain by replacing Claudio Bravo with Willy Caballero. The result?

Manchester City beat West Ham 0-4! No goals were conceded. Mysterious treatment of that “goalkeeping headache.”


3. THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY

Man is often said to be his own worst enemy. The architect of his downfall. And Arsenal are edging towards that spectrum.

Disastrous decision making in the stands courtesy Arsene Wenger, moments of naivety courtesy the Arsenal defence and a twirl of fate all combined to perfection against Watford. They lost the game

Being Arsenal, a loss to Watford may not entirely be a mystery. But, isn’t the mystery of CONSISTENTLY losing the “title ambitions” steam around this time of the year mysterious enough?

Season after season, the story has been the same: September to November, an Arsenal side that’ll kill all in sight. From Santa’s arrival, to his departure and the first month of the new year inclusive, you have an Arsenal side that just can’t help themselves from caving in.

They often play as if they are scared to win and while they have scored the most late goals this season, they must realize fortune will only favour the brave. It won’t hurt if they grow more cajones and played like champions. They already have the core!


4. ThE OTHER MYSTERIES

Chelsea fans have to forgive me for adding your beloved club to this list, instead of making it a point on it’s own.

Well, it seems no one else is interested in catching up. Since that unbeaten run, the only thing that can be a mystery is Chelsea losing. I’ve adjusted to this “type” of Chelsea. Nothing new to see – erm, can I mention that mysterious David Luiz goal?

Mysteriously, Liverpool were able to slow down that Chelsea train whose next stop sems to be the Premier League title. Mane is back. As such, the poor run of form should stop now.

Peter Crouch is still a prolific scorer. Scoring 100 Premier League goals is a mystery because not many made it that far. But Crouch did and celebrated the feat with his famous Robot Celebration.

Leicester’s season has been so confusing. It’s like the force of overcoming a 5000/1 odds is still with them, but this time, in a negative form.

The relegation cloud is hovering dangerously and that, my friends, is a mystery for a club that is the reigning champ.
Did I omit any other “mysteries”? Do you have some of yours? Please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to talk football with you. 😉
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Thoughts on the First Set of Premier League Games in 2017

Arrrggghhhhhh: Alexis Sanchez is seen expreesing his frustration during Arsenal's 3-3 draw against Bournemouth

Arrrggghhhhhh: Alex’s Sanchez is seen expreesing his frustration during Arsenal’s 3-3 draw against Bournemouth

January kicked off in grand style. While it’s safe to say the race for the title has started, there was quite the drama on display in the first Premier League games of the year. Some teams did a good job in starting the season on a high while some others stuttered even though it may not mean much if they can bounce back from the points already dropped.

In this piece, we’ll be looking at the various talking points and goals that made those Youtube highlights worth watching.

 

Watford v Tottenham – 1-4 (Jan 1): Two English sensations turned up to give us quite a show. Going into the game, there really wasn’t any doubt considering how both teams have fared this season . Pochettino got the team sheet right this time, making four changes, something that is always hard to do to an already set side. Dele Alli is always a joy to watch especially when he hits top gear and in my opinion, Kane is becoming too good for Spurs (I could be wrong but it’ll be fun to see how his career grows).

Spurs resting in fourth and leapfrogging Man. City, is only a forecast of the things to come over the second half of the chase to the Premier League title. Watford, on the other hand, need a lot of work to be done. You kind of get the feeling that their fairytale season is slowly coming to an end. They may not relegate but then again, they’re much trouble anymore, unlike the Watford that was a year ago.

 

Arsenal v Crystal Palace – 2- 0 (Jan 1): Yet another North London side doing what was expected of them, with Olivier scoring a potential goal of the season and the wonderkid Iwobi getting on the score sheet. The Gunners started quite well as they hope to get their title-winning hunt back on track. Still 9 points behind league leaders Chelsea, it’ll be a thing of joy to actually see how Wenger and his army can overturn that and get something off a season that has been full of surprises.

I still tip Arsenal to go far this season; a second/third placed finish probably, but it’ll be more fun if they can get in the mix and at least get Conte’s men to eat a little bit of their heart. Palace on the other hand, well their woes just keeps on getting compounded and honestly I doubt if the “ Big Sam to the rescue” method would work this season else, they just might be joining Swansea in the bottom mix.

 

WestBrom v Hull City – 3-1 (Jan 2): Lol, not the scoreline I expected, even though I expected the win. But it must be said, Tony Pulis and the Baggies have sprung a few surprises this season. Although it’s too soon to say they are turning their season around but, if that is what they’re up to, way to go! Even though they started slow in the game against Hull City, even even letting Hull take the lead, it was nice seeing a few tweaks and tricks and then the rain of the goals (that’s their second consecutive comeback victory).

Seeing them in eighth and the way they’re playing, maybe an European spot is not as far as we think again, provided they can keep this momentum. But then, the reality check is: The Premier League is harsh and you can never tell. You just might be riding high only to crash hard. Hull City really need a to get a grip, a brightly powered team is really draining, I gave them no chance at the beginning of the season, but when I saw them unlocking defenses and doing things, I felt they were here to pull another Leicester on. But with Phelan now sacked, maybe they need to start planning for football under new management, something that could go either ways (see Swansea and that American coach, can’t remember his name).

 

Sunderland vs Liverpool —- 2-2( Jan 2): Okay, this one had me turning my phone up, down, sideways just to see if I was not reading the wrong scorline. This is not what you would expect from a title contender. Surely some points will be dropped but then again you have to be wary of when you drop it.. As mentioned earlier, the Premier League is harsh, but notwithstanding, certain teams are meant to be chew out and spit out other teams.

I must confess, at some point seeing Liverpool playing ding dong with Sunderland was really annoying. On the bright side, it was great to see Sturridge getting his groove back. That being said, if Klopp has any plans of getting to the top, he has to first find a solution to the back 5 (keeper + 4 defenders). The middle pack looks okay but sometimes I blame the men from Anfield for lack of concentration. Sometimes I feel the problem with Liverpool is the confidence in knowing that they can score when they want and how much they want.

As for the black cats, oh well, Moyes has really surprised me so far. I actually felt that by now, he would be out of the job. But he’s done a good job feeding Defoe from the fountain of youth and even though he has been given very little to work with he has made a decent turn around at the Stadium of Light.

 

Joyous Pep: Pep Guardiola seen celebrating

Joyous Pep: Pep Guardiola seen celebrating

Manchester City vs. Burnley —- 2-1 (Jan 2):  Wasn’t able to see the game, just the highlights and the first question that popped was, “Dear Pep, what were you thinking with that lineup?” For the Spaniard, it has been a strange run of few games happening in fewer days than normal. And maybe that’s why Pep decided to rest certain players. But then again, there some times when you dare not rest certain players, no matter the log of fixtures lying in wait for you.

As for the Fernandinho part of the story, maybe it’s time he’s let off the hook by City. He is becoming a menace to a coach for whom one of his top priorities is fair play. City with all that money can easily find their way into the mart ang get a decent replacement for him. City are gradually losing touch with the leaders and if they are not careful, they just might be out of the title race, considering the steady improvement of their next door neighbours.

Well Burnley did well and they deserved at least a point from the Etihad, but then again that’s football, if you don’t score, you can’t win and they had a lot of chances begging to be buried. Well it was nice seeing a rare Clichy goal. I’ve always liked the lad.

 

Everton v Southhampton —– 3-0 (Jan 2): An inspiring one man show from Enner Valencia and a joy to watch. Truth be told, this game was a pain to watch until Valencia came on. Everton have been disappointing this season, looking at the table, considering how this season has been and how fun it has been to watch, you would think they’d be in the top 5 or 6 mix by now (they ain’t far behind but still not expecting them to be keeping West Brom at bay either).

But then again, giving that a host of other teams have been disappointing this season, maybe the Everton case is understandable. I feel Koeman still has a lot of decisions to make considering team selections and he needs to be rash sometimes as a lot of folks need to be benched while a lot need to go.

The Dutch man has been too merciful and that has cost him very dearly this season.  Southampton on the other hand, is another team that hasn’t been much of a joy to watch. Even though they started this season brightly, it seems as if their light has just faded away. Maybe Dirk and Redmond have been the few who have been exceptional others are not just in tune this season. Both teams need to get a grip least dey get dragged further down.

 

Boro vs Leicester – 0-0 (Jan 2): The dullest game in this article save for the last 10 minutes. There’s actually not much to say on this one… so I’ll just move on.

West Ham vs Manchester United – 0-2 (Jan. 2 ): Probably the most controversial match of the season so far as regards refereeing calls, officiating, and tempers flaring . I felt the game would have been much more interesting for Hammers if Feghouli hadn’t been sent off inside 15 minutes, a sending off that caused West Ham to lose touch and balance in the game.

Mike Dean has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons this season, and the FA really has to start checking and rechecking all the officiating officers. Some re-orientation has to be done. That kung-fu-like Zlatan’s goal should have stood. But it was great to see United getting back on track, level with Spurs on fifth and one behind Arsenal in 4th.

Maybe it’s safe to say José and his men are back in the mix. Maybe it’s too soon to say but if that’s the plan (to be back in the mix), then they are on the right course. The Hammers on one hand, are another disappointing daddies. Looking back at last season, one won’t be faulted for tipping them as European football contenders this season, but Bilic can’t seem to find the solution to their problems, and time is running out fast.

 

Bournemouth 3-3 Arsenal (Jan 3): One of the games of the season. The Gunners failed to pick up three points when it mattered again and often times it is these games that determine who wins what. Alexis Sanchez’s body language said more than enough, He was disappointed. For 70minutes, the Cherries ran them ragged and gave them a solid run for their money.

This kind of mentality, the one that saw Olivier Giroud slide away like they had just earned three points when he netted the equalizer is not one Champions exhibit, it’s for mediocre. And Arsenal must not think that way. The solution might probably have lying in the opposition dugout as Eddie Howe is doing the unthinkable. Bournemouth have earned their spur against all top teams in their two seasons in the Premier League and it is the never-say-die, bullish, we-can-beat-anybody attitude that has helped them thus far. Anyone who thinks Bournemouth will be relegated needs to think again.

 

Fun time: It was hard to resist the urge to make some fun out of Chelsea after their winning streak came to an end.

Fun time: It was hard to resist the urge to make some fun out of Chelsea after their winning streak came to an end.

Spurs vs Chelsea – 2-0 (Jan 4):  Had a tiny argument with my dad on this one. The old man had facts but I just couldn’t see how Chelsea was going to lose this. 13 and counting, it seemed like a sure 14th for me. I’d even predicted a 1-3 scoreline, but alas, I had to eat my words. I have watched the game twice and streamed highlights off youtube, trying to see what went wrong.

They (Chelsea), on the day, seemed to have forgotten their scoring boots, as they misplaced passes, and at some point I could have sworn I saw a few moments when they ran out of steam. Although insignificant, the loss is bitter to swallow and they have got to pick up and dust themselves. They’re still on top as regards who will win this year’s Premier League title as they’ve done well so far this season.

But if they lose the next game, (it’s a bad thing to lose when you’re on an amazing run of form) then maybe the Blues faithful can start worrying. Kudos to Mauricio who got things right. Walker and Rose were wonderful marking out Alonso and Moses. Eriksen was a beauty to behold, with all those mathematically-calculated passes and dare I mention Alli.

This spurs team have been impressive for the 3rd year running, and it’s high time they begin to be recognized as title contenders. It’ll be fun to see how they see out the rest of this season. But I tip them to be around for a while.

 

About Author

Bamgboye Ayodele, is a freelance writer who writes for ForTheGoals. You can catch up with him on twitter Lord_obote.

Demba Ba, New Jersies and more Talking Points from #FootballThisPastWeek

It’s that time of the football season where everywhere’s quiet. Golf and other sports kick football to the back of the news queue and only ‘short scenes’ instead of ‘season-long movies’ are the order of the day.

But of course, with football, even short scenes are major sells thanks to the news media and social media. From friendlies to transfers and all, football never really gets quiet.

So, what has been happening over the past week?

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High Flyers: Iceland benefitted from their surprising display at the Euro 2016

– The Latest FIFA Rankings
FIFA, as usual, released its latest rankings of football-playing countries across the globe. Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Portugal, France, Spain, Brazil and Italy made up the top 10.

One of the biggest movers on the rankings was Venezuela that jumped 31 spots to 46th. Thanks to the Euros, Croatia, Poland and Iceland jumped up 12, 11 and 12 spots respectively to now occupy the 15th, 16th and 22nd positions. Wales jumped 15 sppts to the 11th position.

On the other, Austria dropped 11 spots to the 21st position while the Netherlands dropped 12 spots to 26th.

Nigeria? Sliding down the list as they’re now ranked the 70th best football-playing nation in the world.

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Cross-Country Move: Chelsea FC confirmed the capture of N'Golo Kante from Leicester City

– The Transfer Mart
There have been major movements in the football supermarket:

* Newcastle made its fifth signing of the summer.
* England seem to want Sam Allardyce.
* Kante joined Chelsea from Leicester (this one still baffles me).
* The 50m Pound of Stones: Everton will not sell their star defender for anything less.
* Leroy Sane moved to a new City in Manchester.
* Antonio Conte completed his move to Stamford Bridge. He came along with his record: In his three seasons with Juventus, his side never conceded more than 24 goals. It’s the first time he’s coaching outside the Italian Serie A but his “work” mantra may just work out fine for him.

Of course that’s just a little of the whole news, this one transfer market is bubbling.

– The Friendlies Season
Clubs resumed from their various hiatuses and needed to get the engines rolling. Of course, playing friendly games is the way to go!

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United started off with a win over Wigan while Antonio Conte could not get the better of Austrian side, Rapid. So much for taking charge of your first game just after two days of becoming a coach.

But of course we know the obvious: friendlies are important but they don’t determine how well a club will perform in the season. Louis van Gaal knows this too well

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New Jersies: Necessary or not? Photo credit: BleacherReport

– The New Jerseys: How Necessary Are They?
So many clubs have unveiled new kits to be used for the upcoming season. Some, great while some weren’t exactly so great. Since it has been a tradition to have new jerseys for new seasons, the question arises: Why does there have to be a new one? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?

Most times, the jersey used by the club the season before does not become obsolete. Most fans still love it: partially because it’s their club and partially because they’ve bought it for their closet.

Now, the club goes ahead to change the style, outlook or colour of the existing jersey. It’s simply a “reformation” or “refurbishment” or “simple improvement” of the existing one. But it comes with all the fuss of a new one. Sales tactics if you ask me.

The fans (loyal, die-hard ones though) go on out there and snap them up. The “old” jersey becomes history. The trend continues over the years.

The question arises again: Is the “New Jersey for a New Season” really necessary?

Worthy Mentions
The most exciting game of the 2015/2016 NPFL season was played on Saturday. Akwa United vs Rangers International. The five-goal thriller was a “balanced diet for a football fan’s appetite.” In the end, Rangers won and ended up at the summit of the table.

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Awkward Angle: Demba Ba broke his leg while playing in China.

Demba Ba, 31 years of age, suffered a devastating and heart-wrenching injury where his leg got broken. The sight of the awkwardly-bent leg was a gory one. I ran away from the video and only managed rhe sight of the picture. Get well soon Ba. In other news, after that injury, I’m not sure of his football-playing career.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Akwa United vs Rangers International: A Beautiful Game, Beautiful Goals, A Determined Rangers Side and more… #WhatILearnt

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It was a match that will go down as one of the most interesting in Nigerian Professional Football League’s history.

Victor Ikpeba admitted it was the most exciting NPFL game he had ever seen in all his NPFL-games-watching career. And when a pundit speaks like that, you know a lot went down during the game.

A five-goal thriller, the game between Akwa United and Rangers International was a very open one. Back and forth the action swung, with both clubs threatning to score with every move in the opposition’s direction.

There were flicks and kicks. Tackles and dribbles. There was a display of deadly attacking prowress by both sides and some outstanding goalkeeping by the goalies who did not want to be victims the whole 90.

But what did I learn?

– Rangers Came To Win
The Enugu-based side were the visitors in this encounter. And they had one thing in mind: take all three points back home. They were second on the log, behind Wikki Tourist and they wanted that top spot so badly.

They took matters into their own hands in the second half after Lady Luck smiled on them and caused Harrison of Akwa United to score an own goal. Let’s just say they scored two goals in the second half… one more than their counterpart in the half.

They looked shaky towards the end of the first half and in the early stages of the second half. But they showed what strong stuff they’re made of by recovering well.

An ambitious team this Rangers side, they want to win the league title. And they played like it. They smell blood and are going in for the kill. Watch out Wikki Tourist!

– A Fixture of Beautiful Goals
The NPFL has gone way past the days where players just scored goals. These days, the players play CONFIDENTLY and score BEAUTIFULLY. And this game in Akwa Ibom was not left out.

Asides the simple tap in of an own goal that Harrison scored and Omoniwari’s second goal, the rest were beauties to behold.

Fortune Omoniwari equalized for Akwa United with a powerful header after a beautiful cross-in from Friday.

Then Egbuchulam scored the best goal of the day. Receiving a cross from his left, he controlled the ball with his right foot in the opposition’s 6-yard box. Deciding against shooting directly even though the goal-scoring chance was good enough, he switched play to his left foot, leaving the goalkeeper for dead and scoring an amazing goal.

Morris Chebem’s goal wasn’t as beautiful as the build-up to it. First a cross into the box (another cross?), then a chest-control of the ball by a Rangers player killed the momentum of the ball and placed it in fine position for a bullet shot from Morris who had just come on as a substitue.

– Akwa United Have Potential but…
… they seem to not know how to use it yet. (Or maybe I’m the one seeing things wrongly?) While chasing the equalizer in the dying minutes of the first half, they played LIKE A TEAM. The passes were perfect. The run-ins were deadly. The inter-changes were exceptional. Every move forward seemed to be accompanied by a potential goal. And in the end they got their goal.

In the second half, they started from where they stopped. They made the Rangers players quiver in fear. Their moves caused the Rangers defense to be “at sixes and sevens” according to the match commentator.

Then they slept off. They eased up on applying the pressure. And the rest is history. During this time, their midfield seemed to not provide enough cover for the defense and was not productive going forward. Names like Omoniwari and Friday were trying but the others weren’t helping.

Cooreman, coach of the Akwa Ibom side, needs to take note of this and make sure to bring his players to the awareness of the fact that a game is only won after 90 minutes (+ whatever minutes the ref decides to add on), not during a 10-minute long spell.

Worthy Mentions
The Rangers coach (or technical advisor), Imama Amapakabo was the most animated of the two gaffers on the day. His glasses reminded me of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp. His acting too. Though his armless top made him look like he was heading to war. He looked fierce. Even after his team scored 3 goals, he wanted more!

He may have taken things too far with his “passion” as he was seen yelling at the fourth official while trying to express himself. There seemed to be some pushing too!

No matter how passionate you are, player or coach, I think the referee SHOULD BE RESPECTED! Football is a contact sport and a game of emotions, I know, but the “RESPECT” has to be respected (pun intended)

A side that can score three in an away game in the NPFL should be taken seriously. A team that wants to win the league, scores three goals in an away game and takes all three points home should be taken EVEN MORE SERIOUSLY!

Rangers International mean business. They want Enyimba’s trophy. Beware!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Jose Mourinho the Serious One, £100m Pogba, the NPFL and 7 More Talking Points From #FootballThisPastWeek

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Portugal: European Campeons!

I’ve got a confession to make.

Well, let’s just say it’s more of a theory I’d like to prove than a confession.

Want to know what it is? Okay, here we go!

Football is a whole lot about “could haves,” “would haves,” and “should haves.” (you agree with me right?)

Although it’s something associated with sports in general, football (or soccer for the U.S fans) gets more than its own fair share of the “what-could-have-been” tales of the sports industry.

Maybe it’s because of the worldwide reach of the game, which means there’s a massive amount of people to talk about what happened, with plenty of regard to what could have happened.

“What if the German national team was not hit by injuries? They would have beaten France.”

“Manchester United want to buy Pogba for £100m? They shouldn’t have sold him in the first place.”

“Portugal are champions of Europe? They shouldn’t have even qualified out of their group. They were that poor.”

You get the gist?

It is these kind of questions and the assumptions (and presumtions) that come along with them that makes football deep; so deep, it’s hard to cover all about football in one article.

Different opinions from different people watching from different angles. But this is what makes football fun to talk about: the endless possibilities. An ever-growing list of stuff to talk about.

And in the past week, there’s been more than enough to talk about.

From the Euro 2016, to England’s search for a coach, the players leaving and joining football clubs with weird price tags (and weird locations too!), football has been quite eventful.

Let’s review some of the talking points from football this past week shall we?

– The Euro 2016: So Far, So Good…French Hosts, Portugese Champs, French Runners-up
The European championship has come and gone. It brought drama, amazing goals, upsets and surprises.

One of the surprise, and the ultimate one,  was Portugal winning the tournament. Judging by the way they played in the group stages, they were the least-expected country to even qualify for the final.

But, they pulled a Leicester on all and, against all odds (the C. Ronaldo injury included), won the trophy.

Their opponents, the Frenchmen, couldn’t capitalise on their mistakes like they did against the Germans. The host-nation had to settle for second place.

This Euro was the one European tournament that had long-standing records tumbling over themselves. In Euro 2016,

▶ FRA which had NEVER lost an European Championship Final, after winning both the 1984 and the 2000 finals which were their only final appearances, came in second place behind Portugal.

▶ France beat Germany in the semi-final of the competition. That was the first time in 58 years that the French beat their German counterparts in competitive football.

▶ Ronaldo: With 9 Euro goals, Cristiano Ronaldo tied Platini’s 1984 record for most goals, in an European competition.

How about the weird ones?

▶ Portugal didn’t win any game in normal time until they got to the semi-final stage of the competition.

▶ Who would have thought that Griezmann would turn out to be the highest goalscorer of the tournament? Dunno bout you but, I didn’t see him scoring six before the tournament started.

▶ OFFICIAL: Renato Sanches has won the #EURO2016 Young Player of the Tournament award. A star is born. https://t.co/jwo3xnvKyy
Even Sanches could not have seen this one coming.

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Jose 'The Serious One' Mourinho

– The Jose Mourinho Press Conference
The Special One has officially become the HNIC at Manchester United (just in case you’re wondering what HNIC means, search for it a href=”www.urbandictionary.com”>here ). I’ll be waiting for you when you come back.

But after his press conference, the media changed their minds and gave Jose a new name: The Serious One. Why?

Let’s just say some tough statements, aggressive statements and some excerpts from his first press conference as a Manchester United coach:

José Mourinho:

“I was never very good at hiding behind words or hiding behind philosophies.”

José Mourinho:

Man. Utd is a Champions League club. We have to make sure in July 2017 that this club is where it belongs.

José Mourinho:

“I prefer to be more aggressive, to say that we want to win. We want to win everything.”

https://t.co/aLoZB8mmIi

José Mourinho:

“I know the responsibility, the legacy, the history. I know what the fans expect from me.”

https://t.co/zRa8RVZYw5

José Mourinho:

“This is a job that everyone wants and I have it! This challenge does not make me nervous.”

https://t.co/bJvqPYHDSc

José Mourinho:

“I feel a bit frustrated we’re not in the Champions League. Man Utd is a Champions League club.”

https://t.co/TgXDE2fTtY

José Mourinho:

“49 is a lot. One lie repeated many times. Always a lie. If you want names, I give you the names.”

https://t.co/19DD3lGrzO

José Mourinho on why Ryan Giggs left Man Utd:

“The job Ryan wanted is the one I got. He wants to be a manager.”

https://t.co/OUNK1Koh4W

José Mourinho on Ryan Giggs:

“I will never stop him coming back. The club tried to offer him any important job they could. He’s been brave.”

José Mourinho on the advice Sir Alex Ferguson gave him:

“Bring the umbrella! And bring the good bottle of wine.”

https://t.co/MAZRLaOwBA

After using the word ‘I’ 91 times during his introductory press conference, according to DailyMail, you can understand why the media quickly gave Jose a new name.

But with all the huffing and puffing, will Mourinho turn Man. Utd’s fortunes around? Can he actually win all?

I think he can’t win all. What do you think?

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New Citizen in town: Pep Guardiola poses for his first official photos as Man. City coach

– The Pep Guardiola Press Conference
During the week, in the other half of Manchester, Pep “The Philosopher” Guardiola also gave his introductory press conference.

While reading through the excerpts, you will notice a sharp contrast between the words he chose to use and those used by Mourinho. A norm for two coaches known to never have been on the same side of a coin.

Pep on Mourinho:

“I think Jose said pretty well in his press conference that it’s not about me and him.”

Pep:

“The top coaches, and Jose is one, help me reach the next level. They made me better. Like Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund too.”

Pep Guardiola on Yaya Toure:

“I’m counting on them all including Yaya.”

PEP:

“I love to work with young players. Now I realise in a short time working with players from the second team, I’m really impressed.”

Pep Guardiola:

“Antonio Conte is a master tactician. It’s going to be very interesting competing against him.”

https://t.co/QZciP6BeQU

Pep Guardiola:

Manchester City can play ‘beautiful football’ in Premier League

: https://t.co/9ZSj0V9Urq

PEP:

“I will always be grateful to this club for giving me this opportunity to come to the Premier League. I’ll do my best to the last day.”

Pep:

“I think it’s great top managers are here in England. Big managers take me to another level — they push me to achieve things.”

Pep:

“My responsibility here is for the players. The other business is huge so I just focus on my players.”

What is Guardiola up to? I wish I knew. Of course I’d love to hear from you if you know what the Philosopher will do next.

-The Crazy Football Transfer Market’s Getting Crazier!
With the way most football clubs are going about their deals: signing players, selling some, and releasing others for free, there might not be too much to do on that dreaded dealine day.

Clubs like Newcastle made their fourth signing in the past week (English Championship clubs beware!); a signing from Atletico Madrid. Unless they’re aiming to beat Quique Flores’ record at Watford last season, they’ll be very well done with their purchases before August 31 (or is it September 1?)

Players like Pelle of Southampton discovered that the grass is greener on the “Chinese” side. Victor Valdes intends to “pick it up from ground level” again at Middlesborough and Ahmed Musa joined “a family” at Leicester.

But the major transfer news was about a player whose only movement was the movements he was making on the pitch for his country at the Euro 2016.

Paul Pogba is his name. And wherever that name appears now, a price-tag of £100m follows. And Manchester United is the football club making the offer.

And a whole lot has been said by a whole lot of people about this, one of them being Robbie Fowler…

“The former England striker has launched a scathing attack on the Manchester United target, claiming the £100m price-tag is way too much for the 23-year-old France’s Paul Pogba is ‘massively overrated’ and has been average at the European Championships.”

“He’s done OK against pretty limited opposition for France, but what does he bring? Energy and athleticism to midfield, but so does N’Golo Kante.”

– Fowler

Ouch!

But, the question remains: Whose fault is it that an amount that huge is being offered for a player of, erm, let’s just say, that calibre?

Manchester United? Mourinho? Pogba? Who’s to blame?

– Coaching Drama
Guardiola and Mourinho weren’t the only coaches in the news over the week.

England has put a number of coaches in the spotlight with their recent search for a new coach. Roy stepped down after the dismal Euro 2016 showing and now the Three Lions are in search of a new coach.

Jurgen Klinsmann has become one of the front-runners for the job. Can’t blame the FA. Seeing the job that was done by the German with the USMNT, Jurgen presents a fantastic opportunity English football has been waiting for since 1966: a coach that knows how to win. Or at least, a coach that knows how to turn a losing side into a side that will be feared.

An impressive C.V and the opportunity to help develop a predecesor who will take over when he’s gone means Klinsmann is an offer the FA can’t refuse. Seems England may not be needing a ‘Roll of the Allardyce’ afterall. Sorry SkySports.

Still on irresistible offers, Marcelo Bielsa resigned just two days after taking the coaching role at Lazio! This one will go down in coaching folklore.

Bielsa threw all the blame on Lazio but we both know who’s to blame right?

Moving on…

Worthy Mentions
During the past week, a certain Real Madrid player, Lucas Silva, aged 23, was forced to retire from football due to a serious heart problem. https://t.co/HRxK8zPvbL

It’s certainly a sad one for the lad who, going by his age, still had a couple of playing years ahead of him. Hopefully Real Madrid will be able to get him a player-scouting role at the club because… of course a coaching role would be bad for his heart!

This stat appeared somewhere online last week: Hugo Lloris had 33 passes v #GER, only Paul Pogba (35) had more on the French side. Playmaker.

I really dunno where to categorize that.

Kano Pillars, missed out on cash from the Musa-to-Leicester move. Why? No sell-on clauses were inserted in his contract when he moved to Europe.  Maybe our Nigerian clubs need more business orientation. Maybe that alone can make the NPFL a better league generally.

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Tight Battle For the Title: Wikki Tourists, Rangers and Rivers set to make this one a "photo-finish." Photo credit: LMCNPFL

Speaking of the NPFL, Rangers International are obviously giving Wikki Tourists a run for their money. Or should I say… a run for their title. And with both teams on 43 points, Rivers United is lurking around the corner like an hyena, with 41 points, waiting to take advantage of any slip ups.

Who said the NPFL isn’t fun?

Did I mention that Portugal, before the Euro 2016, were 20/1 to win the tournament? I guess it’s safe to say again, THEY PULLED A LEICESTER ON ME! I’m sure they did on you too right?

Don’t forget to share this beautiful read with your friends. I’m sure they’ll love it and will thank you.

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Euro 2016: So Far, So Good… (Eight Become Four)

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Bel-GIONE: Wales celebrate after knocking Belgium out of the Euro 2016

It was a fitting end to the Quarter finals of the Euro 2016.

A quarter-final that had it all: The birth of a star, the late awakening of another. The embarrassment of yet another nation. The end of an era, and the end of a cycle; one which ended in tears… or maybe not?

It re-ignited an argument that was born the moment the first game of the tournament ended: “Is this the most interesting Euros yet?”

For the doubters who were against the idea of an expanded tournament, Michel Platini had being vindicated… albeit a bit too late.

But wherever the Frenchman was on Sunday night (most likely in his living room or most likely entertaining more questions from investigators), he would have being proud of himself and his achievements.

An European tournament like none other.

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What a tournament!!

He called it his own Euros when France got the hosting rights, claiming it was the perfect place for the new cycle to begin.

He was right. Spot on! The cycle of unforeseen surprises (the Icelandic fever and those Portuguese), broken jinxes (Angela Merkel must be very proud), and the big Whales (Wales).

Monseuir Plat must have peeked into the future!

Euro 2016 has been a blockbuster of a competition far. And while most fans seem to have been surprised enough, you’ll agree with me that more’s coming.

More surprises… especially with the way Portugal seem to be crawling to the final.

While we await the semi-final matches, how about a rewind?

So far, so good:

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Pole-less Euro: Portugal celebrate after beating Poland on penalties

When You Can’t sPORT UR GAL en route to the Final
Coming into the tournament, they seemed primed for it. They had the luck of the draws and many expected them to roll over their opponents in the group.

If they had done so, they would have faced Belgium and… that would have been game over (or maybe not?)

Many blamed them when second place seemed certain with only two minutes of their last group game remaining. But then, it never came through.

Iceland somewhat created a fairy tale by scoring perhaps the deadliest counter-attack at the tournament, one which demoted them to third place.

Had they finished second, England would be lying in wait. Cross the English hurdle and France would have been patiently waiting for them.

However, fortune favours the brave (if I am permitted to say so). Ronaldo and co now have the final in their sights… without even hitting second gear!

It might seem bad, but look on the bright side: there was the birth of a certain Renato Sanches, the lad that said no to the club some call the biggest in the world. The sizzling goal he scored to cancel out Lewandowski’s strike was one which had Cedric Soares written all over it, the Southampton right back selling out.

Fernando Santos would be wise to reinstate Vierinha to that position against Wales due to the You-Know-Who effect. Portugal have managed to come this far by making little mistakes, a key component of every title winning side.

They might not be scoring but they aren’t conceding either. When they do, they find ways of cancelling out the deficit without giving much away, yet another key component for winning trophies. If in doubt, ask Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.

It’s time the emphasis on the collective is reinforced and they get a way to coax the best out of their star men. It is a shame that they have no No.9 who can score effortlessly which increases the work-load on Ronaldo, who likes to score, but then is losing his legs and his no longer as young.

If there was any time for them to hit second gear, it’s now! And they would need every help they can get. Ronaldo stepped up against Hungary. Rui Patricio was the reason they hung on against Croatia. Renato Sanches came to the fore in the quarters.

However, it goes way beyond that now. Otto Rehaegel who masterminded Greece’s win in 2004 in Portugal’s backyard would say, “While being the underdog can be good, it could be extremely dangerous and leave you vulnerable.”

Portugal are playing that part well, but they would be wise to let the world take them serious and set themselves up for the final with the right morale.

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The winning penalty: Hector takes the penalty that sends Germany through at the expense of Italy

The Bells Rung
When Eden Hazard said he felt fresh for Euro 2016, it meant good news for the Belgian fans. Many felt their time had come. The golden generation had matured.

However, they (or us?) got it all wrong. Belgium was just a bunch of individuals with talent, one which was showcased by Radja Nainngolan’s unbelievable goal.

The flashes were there, but they never became electricity. They were like a circuit that twitched, but never came alive. Sadly so.

Aaron Ramsey on the other hand showed what talent in a well-oiled system would do. Two assists helping his side to a victory. And even when he’ll miss the semi-final, he will with a mind that his replacement would be just as good. An audacious team.

In the opposition dressing room, they were coming to blows, Thibaut Courtois revealed in the mixed zone. It was a case of the fleet wanting a new shepherd. Someone with the tactical discipline. Not the man in charge.

While he might be right, he is just as wrong because, he only came to the fore after the first game, a match in which he contributed to their failures. They were doomed from the outset, the loss to Italy had set the tone for the remainder of the tournament such that they had already being eliminated even before they took to the field against the Welsh.

The 4-nil win over Hungary aside, they left a lot to be desired and never needed to change gears to win games, something that should be the norm and not the exception.

The bells have rung and they have done so clearly, he who has an hear let him hear or else they would end up just like England’s failed class of 2000-2006.

A MACHINE AND A CHICKEN
I might have wished Italy won against Germany (but I still honestly do and Antonio Conte would be feel the same). The less said about Simone Zaza’s spot kick, the better.

Italy’s elimination had a sense of unfairness in it, just like that of the Icelandic and the Polish teams. However, their’s felt the most unfair. The cruel nature itself was just as unfair as every missed German spot kick felt like Italy would score their next.

It’s their second spot kick elimination at this stage since the turn of the millennium, one which brought back memories of Euro 2008. Gli Azzuri’s spirit, one embodied in their coach, Antonio Conte, had endeared them into the hearts of many. One Body, One Soul, One Spirit.

It was typical of the man and the team, even after going down to Ozil’s neat finish, they stuck together and got the reward. It however exposed the failings of the Italian game, the spot kicks in particular.

At some point, it felt like we were watching a Principals cup penalty shootout. While the Germans did have their version of poor penalties, the Italians’ were the worst. Names like Graziano Pelle, Matteo Darmian appear. Simone Zaza in particular, whose spot kick is still making waves on social media was a joke.

Giampero Ventura has a big job on his hands. He has to retain the mentality that Conte has instilled in this team of fighters. Conte admitted Italian football was at its lowest ebb and they would need a miracle to win the Euros.

Well he was right. The miracle didn’t happen. And while Germany stroll on, the Machines would hope they have enough left in the tank to see off Les Bleus, who dispatched Iceland.

This was France’s best game all tournament, they chose to hit top gear at the right time, given whom they have in sight in the semis.

And while Iceland might have seen their fairytale come to an end, they would go home knowing that they have reached out to a whole continent and preached the gospel that is, football.

About Author
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez