Monthly Archives: November 2009

Capello’s no.1 problem

The England manager has more concerns ahead of the 2010 World Cup, after David James picked up an injury whilst warming up for today’s game against Stoke.

Fabio Capello said after the friendly defeat to Brazil last week, that Portsmouth goalkeeper must prove he is fully fit before the Italian considers him England’s no. 1.

Capello’s concerns were highlighted amid reports circulating that James’ persistent knee injury prevents him from training two days after every game he plays.

At 39 many are suggesting England’s first choice goalkeeper will still be dogged by the injury come next summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

The other contenders for the no. 1 jersey fail to instill any hope for Capello.

Robert Green has looked less than impressive in goal for England, with the West Ham ‘keeper so far failing to transmit his impressive club form to the national side.

Manchester United’s Ben Foster – who played in goal against Brazil in Qatar – looks both commanding and at ease. Yet his lack of playing time for his club is a concern.

Foster, 26, is United’s third choice ‘keeper behind Edwin Van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak, despite Alex Ferguson recently claiming the former Stoke City player is England’s best stopper.

Capello feels England are one of the favourites for next years World Cup, yet James’ latest setback and Foster’s lack of first team football, means their chances look to have dealt an early blow.

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Germany’s Kiessling ideal for Premier League

With Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool all looking light up front – an unusual suspect may well ease the pain.

Stefan Kiessling may be at the centre of a bidding war come January

Bayer Leverkusen’s Stefan Kiessling is a time bomb waiting to explode.

Kiessling, 25, is the German league leaders’ top goalscorer. Tall, athletic, calm and blessed with an industrious work ethic, the German international has got the lot. He’s so far managed 9 league goals, with the latest coming against Bayern Munich in his side’s 1-1 draw earlier today.

According to those in Germany, this guy has had it for a while now without ever really producing the desired goods. Back in his hometown of Nuremberg, many footballing wise guys felt Kiessling – a teenager back then – was the hottest prospect in Germany, a player who could go as far as he so pleased.

There’s added pressure this time around for Kiessling, however, as Leverkusen are without another German international, the influential Patrick Helmes, who is out injured until the new year. Early signs are good, as Kiessling continues to thrive under the extra responsibility, regularly providing as well as scoring, which has propelled his club to the top of the Bundesliga.

The target man has more than meets the eye. His goldie locks fail to show his exemplary determination, trickery and strength. It quickly becomes apparent just how good Kiessling can become once you see him in action for a full 90 minutes.

With or without the ball, he continues to willingly run anywhere his legs can take him. His intelligence and self awareness allows those runs to be used to maximum potential. If you watch a game for long enough you’ll soon wonder why Kiessling always seems to gain possession in acres of space.

Finishing isn’t a problem either. Aerially, left foot or right, nothing is too daunting for a player who confesses to enjoying celebrating a goal he’s scored more than anything else.

So, come January, with Drogba and Kalou away for Chelsea, Van Persie just returning from a lengthy absence for Arsenal, and United and Liverpool still looking light in the final third, all four may well be keeping a close eye on the availability of a certain Stefan Kiessling.

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Vermaelen proves Wenger is the Simon Cowell of football

The Belgium International Thomas Vermaelen has already proved a bargain at £10million, as his club Arsenal go from strength to strength.

Arsene Wenger wanted a defender during last summer. It was the Frenchman’s top target, with money – for once – not an issue. Arsenal fans had been crying out for a no-nonsense tank of a player throughout what was a below-par 08/09 season for the Gunners.

Barely a month had past since the end of the campaign and in came that defender.

Wenger was more than pleased with capturing a player he envisaged as the final block of stone in his aching defensive wall. Arsenal fans have seldom been treated to getting what they want from their manager. A defender is what they all wanted and so, to Wenger, a defender was what they got.

The "Verminator"

The "Verminator"

Only Thomas Vermaelen wasn’t exactly what the Arsenal faithful were anticipating. A relatively young recruit, at 23 years-old the Belgium had only ever been tested in the Dutch league. He stands just under 6ft, yet reports suggested he is a monster aerially both in defence and attack. This was the guy – the tough tackling, no holds bar soldier – who was going to put a stop to the comedy of errors ever present in the Gunners’ back four.

Well, Arsenal fans can be forgiven for feeling a tad pessimistic of the former Ajax captain. However, they cannot be forgiven for doubting Arsene “Simon Cowell” Wenger. Many saw the signing as a failure from the Arsenal boss. Many felt his decision not to recruit an experienced defender like Cannavaro – even the proven Hangeland – was ample evidence showing Le Professor had finally lost it.

Only Vermaelen leapt out of the starting blocks.

A commanding performance on his debut away to Everton, along with a goal to boot, left Arsenal fans murmuring to themselves as to whether Wenger had pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat.

More impressive displays – and cracking goals – followed, resulting in the defender picking up the club’s player of the month for both August and September.

He is already a fans favourite for his never say die attitude, even when the team seem to be cruising. Arsenal’s number 5 is now fondly and harmoniously known around the Emirates as the “Verminator”.

It is a nickname that shows admiration whilst aptly describing the heroic attributes the youngster brings to the team.

The Verminator is a warrior.

He’s the player Arsenal fans dreamt of. He is a footballer who breeds professionalism, tirelessly thriving to be the best, to win every ball, every challenge and every game. His game is built around guts, graft and a touch of class.

Andrei Arshavin, the pint-sized Russia, was the star buy from Wenger in January. His goals have and will continue to grab the headlines from starry-eyed plaudits. The Verminator’s resilience should be heralded in similar fashion. He is the team’s hard man, a key reason as to why Arsenal have started so well and why his partnership with Gallas has blossomed. Where he is the chalk (toughness), Gallas is the cheese (artistry).

As Musa Okwonga pointed out in his book A Cultured Left Foot, every successful team needs a Verminator:

The hard man is a feature of any successful football team: its guardian, its cornerstone, and its dark heart…(they) are the anvils upon which the reputations of many opponents as beaten or broken altogether.

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Button to take on Hamilton at McLaren

After Jenson Button joined the McLaren team this week we asked – Will the real World Champion please stand up?

Jenson Button will look to replicate his his Brawn form with McLaren

Jenson Button’s decision to join up with Lewis Hamilton is set to provide the McLaren team with a bumpy ride next season.

World Champion Button signed a multi-million pound deal with McLaren on Wednesday to set up an all-British team.

Button’s switch from Brawn to McLaren happened after the 29 year-old never received the pay rise he expected from his former team at the end of the season despite being crowned F1 World Champion.

Button has since, however, suggested the chance to pit his wits against Lewis Hamilton was too good to turn down. Many believe he will eat his words come next season.

Although McLaren feel the deal is a fantastic scoop, having the last two World Champions on board may yet see a clash of egos.

Only one driver can become World Champion and so McLaren have a difficult decision in deciding who is their main man.

But who is worthy of being McLaren’s no. 1 driver?

Jenson Button

  • Age: 29
  • Grand Prix Debut: Australia 2000
  • GP Races: 171
  • Wins: 7
  • Pole Position: 7
  • Points: 327
  • Podium: 24

Lewis Hamilton

  • Age: 24
  • Grand Prix Debut: Australia 2007
  • GP Races: 52
  • Wins:11
  • Pole Position: 16
  • Points: 256
  • Podium: 27

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France hate Domenech not Henry

Despite progressing to the 2010 World Cup last night, the French supporters still feel home is where the hatred is.

French football fans are not unhappy with their captain Thierry Henry, but with their manager Raymond Domenech.

After Thierry Henry scored that controversial goal against Ireland last night, the home fans in the Stade de France obligingly celebrated with glee.

Yes, they were not to know that the deft control by Henry was crafted by his left hand, before the striker crossed for his former Arsenal teammate William Gallas to head in for the vital equaliser.

They were cheering because they got very, very lucky and were heading to next year’s World Cup finals in South Africa.

It was another poor performance by the French, and it was only after the game when the French decided to vocalise their discontent.

If you ask a French fan how they feel regarding the result they will reply ashamedly, confessing that the best team didn’t go through, before spouting a personal tirade on Domenech.

It’s difficult to find a friend of Domenech, with many claiming the former Lyon player/manager couldn’t manage himself out of a paper bag. Popular words used to describe him are incompetent, unfit and stupid.

Yes they were not best pleased that their captain Henry handled the ball before setting up the equalisier; yes, many venomously admit that the performance by Les Bleus was inadequate, like many previous performances; and of course, the fans are more than willing to confess that Giovanni Trapattoni’s Irish side deserved to go through and not France.

However, when your team play as bad as France did last night yet still come out on top, you are, deep down, very pleased. The result was a great escape and apart from gaining a win or progression, you see it as a sign of greater things to come.

Henry will not be targeted by the French as a cheat like the rest of the world because the French have bigger fish to fry in the shape of Raymond Domenech.

French football writer, Phillippe Auclair, seemed to be speaking for many French fans when he told Radio Five Live not so much how they hated being unwarranted winners, but how angry they are that their talented team will continue to be lead astray come next June.

He pointed out that “Domenech is a picture of ridicule” in France and lacks respect from not only the fans, who continued to boo him when he appeared on the giant screen at the match, but also the players.

And whereas Giovanni Trapattoni is a  “master,” by comparison, Domenech is somebody who “doesn’t even deserve to be called an apprentice”.

France would never contemplate replaying the match; but swapping managers with the Irish? They’d bite your hand off.

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Van Persie wants speedy recovery

Robin Van Persie carried off injured against Italy

Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie is having horse placenta fluid massaged into his injured ankle to help speed up the recovery.

Van Persie went off injured after 10 minutes whilst on international duty with Holland last Saturday against Italy.

Doctors first feared the 26 year-old would be sidelined for the rest of the season, but a scan revealed that he does not need surgery.

“The prognosis is that I will be out for four to six weeks,” Van Persie told Dutch television station NOS.

It’s a blow to Arsenal as the Dutchman is the club’s top goalscorer, who also picked up the Barclays player of the month for October.

Arsenal already have Nicolas Bendtner and Theo Walcott out injured, and so Arsene Wenger only has Eduardo, Andrey Arshavin and rookie Sancez Watt to help fill the void.

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Ireland’s Trapattoni remains resolute

Giovanni Trapattoni believes Ireland still have a 50/50 chance of making the World Cup despite losing the 1st leg Play-off at home 1-0 against France last Saturday.

The Italian feels Ireland showed in the 1st leg that their more than capable of causing an upset in Paris on Wednesday in the return leg.

For those Ireland fans feeling a little dejected from the result, look no further then at the video below.

Bulgaria beat France 2-1 in Paris back in 1993, as Gerard Houllier’s men failed to qualify for USA ’94. The same scoreline would send Ireland through to South Africa in 2010.

France only needed a draw to qualify, yet Cantona and co fell dramatically at the final hurdle in front of their home fans.

The French crowd are highly critical, even towards their own team, and so if France struggle to break down a resolute Ireland team in the opening half, don’t be surprised to see the home crowd get a little restless.

Ireland have had their fare share of mountains to climb down the years.

Playing away to France may not seem favourable at first, but if Trapattoni takes his team to the French capital and orders them to unsettle the likes of Henry and Anelka, the away side will soon have the backing of not only their own supporters but the home sides as well.

Mission Unimpossible

  • Ireland beat Spain 1-0 en route to qualification for the World Cup 1990
  • A Ray Houghton wonder-strike was the only goal in their 1-0 win over Italy at USA ’94
  • Jason McAteer scored in front of a full house at Lansdowne Road as Ireland beat Holland 1-0 ahead of qualifying for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.

Home Disadvantage

  • Lost 3-2 at home to Israel in their 1994 World Cup campaign.
  • An injury time goal by Emil Kostadinov was enough to send Bulgaria to USA ’94 and knock out France in the process.
  • A fantastic strike by James McFadden shocked France and their supporters as Scotland miraculously held out for the 1-0 win in the Parc des Princes.

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