Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool – Alavi’s Analysis

First of all you’re probably wondering why the picture below is my sky box paused at the point of the opening Chelsea goal. There is some method behind the madness- take a close look and I’ll reveal at the end of the review. For me, the key in this game were the tactics employed by Klopp. But let’s start with the game itself.

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Review:

Philippe Coutinho scored twice as Liverpool recovered from an early deficit to beat struggling Premier League champions Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and pile more pressure on Blues manager Jose Mourinho. Ramires headed Chelsea in front after four minutes but Mourinho’s side looked woefully short of confidence as Liverpool hit back to claim an emphatic win first league win for new boss Juergen Klopp. Just four minutes had elapsed when the hosts opened the scoring as Ramires planted a downward header into the back of the net from Cesar Azpilicueata’s centre. However, Philippe Coutinho drew the Reds level on the stroke of half-time, cutting inside the Chelsea goalscorer and curling a magnificent left-footed effort into the corner from outside the area. The equaliser marked an impressive recovery by curling in an equaliser in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. Liverpool had dominated for long spells after falling behind and their pressure told on 74 minutes as the Brazilian worked his magic once again. Collecting substitute Christian Benteke’s knockdown, Coutinho worked himself a yard of space inside the area before driving home via the aid of a deflection.It was to get even better for the Reds, too, as Benteke made certain of the outcome when he benefited from Lallana’s step-over by firing across goal and into the corner to put the seal on a fantastic afternoon’s work for Klopp and his team With Mourinho standing glumly on the touchline, Liverpool fans chanted: “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. Chelsea had already made the worst start to a season for Premier League champions and now have only 11 points from 11 games played, leaving them in 15th place

Klopp

Firstly, I want to caveat the following with the fact that I am by no means hailing Klopp as a tactical genius that can never be beaten. On the other hand, I don’t think there are too many managers who would get the tactics as spot on as he did on Saturday. Klopp showed ability to work out his opponent’s weaknesses, and to change the flow of the game with his substitutions.

Roberto Firmino, fresh from an encouraging midweek performance, would be the man asked to play furthest forward, supported by Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho.

It is tempting to view that as a negative move by Klopp – though Benteke’s ongoing knee issue is clearly one which will require careful management – but the presence of Firmino, Lallana and Coutinho enabled Liverpool both to press from the front effectively, and to work the ball between Chelsea’s lines with regularity. To play without a recognised number 9 is, of course, a risk. But it can help confuse a defence. If Benteke has played- Cahill and Terry would have quickly decided between them “You stick on him, I’ll sweep up anything that comes through”. When you have a your “number 9” instead playing in an additional free role then you can drift the opposition everywhere- too deep for the Chelsea Central defenders yet too advanced for the defending holding Midfielders. And that’s what Firmino did. Yes, you sacrifice rarely being in a position to get shots away, but he kept Terry and co occupied, and was a willing recipient for passes in and around the box, in a way that, say, Divock Origi may not have been. The first goal is an example of being able to bringing Coutinho into the game. In essence, Firmino became an unmarked number 10.

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The substitution was another tactical mastermind. Off went Milner, who had been sloppy, and on came Benteke, with Firmino dropping back on the right-hand side. The last thing a tired defence really needs is a power-house like Benteke coming at you. This was what Liverpool had planned for, a second-half burst from their No.9, at a time when the game was there for the taking. Benteke’s first act was to flatten Kurt Zouma in an aerial challenge, and within 10 minutes he had set up the game’s decisive goal. It was a strike which showcased both sides of what Klopp is after at Liverpool. A spell of controlled possession, followed by a quick switch of play (a nice way of saying long ball) from Sakho, Benteke, pulling away onto the smaller Cesar Azpilicueta, wins the ball and Liverpool have two men, Lallana and Coutinho, gambling on the knock down. Lallana didn’t make it, but Coutinho did – 2-1, and Klopp’s substitution pays off handsomely. 2 very different goals. Great teams often have both options. Am I suggesting Benteke doesn’t start ? Absolutely not. A different way of playing when he doesn’t? For sure.

So to the picture……………for Chelsea’s opening goal you have all 11 liverpool players defending. Yes, they conceded, but the dedication to Klopp’s counter pressing was already evident.

Klopp, clearly, is desperate for them to move the ball quicker, and to stretch the game at every opportunity. The all-action, high tempo, high pressure tactic was once justified by Klopp as “the best moment to win the ball back is immediately after the team has lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball.”

You catch the opponent in transition and their defensive shape will not be as it should. They don’t have enough time to set up properly. If every single player presses then the swarm effect forces opposition to make errors. Now here is the difference between Klopp and the Barcelona way. The Barca high press is designed to retain possession. Once the ball is obtained it is passed around to tire the opposition. Klopp’s version is basically all-out attach- the ball always goes forward. When defending from say a goal kick, the players are tight to the opposition players they believe will receive the all and zonally mark the area which a player can pass into. This forces the player on the ball to make a pass they don’t really want to. The attacking players win the ball and burst into life, which is why they close down closely together. One to win the ball and the other to take advantage of the loose ball, link up play and counter attack. There are flaws in the system. It won’t always work. Unfortunately, for Chelsea, Saturday was not one of those days.

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ALAVI

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Swansea City 0-3 Arsenal – Joel gets his Goal as Gunners secure vital away win.

Much of the talk in the build up to Arsenal’s game at Swansea was around the Costa Rican Joel Campbell. With injuries to Walcott, the Ox and Aaron Ramsey the options on the right hand side for Mr Wenger were limited. I did mention in my previous article that I was disappointed in Joel’s midweek display at Hillsborough & having looked at various pieces on social media many people were suggesting reshuffling the pack to fill that spot.

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Credit to the boss for believing in Campbell and giving him that opportunity because he stepped up and grabbed it with both hands. Many will look at the result and say ‘Wenger picked him & he scored” but it was much more than just the goal. From the very start of the game Joel was constantly involved in the play and had a fairly early attempt at goal curling a shot high and wide of the target. Also worth mentioning the Costa Rican’s incredible work rate and thankfully he got his reward by netting the third to seal the victory for the Gunners.

We always carried a threat on the break & were always going to make chances in this game & Giroud had a great chance in the first half to fire us in front. Unfortunately the Frenchmen couldn’t keep his effort down and sent it flying over the bar. That however, wasn’t before Swansea striker Gomis missed arguably the best chance of the game. He somehow beat the offside trap and seemed to have an age in front of the Arsenal goal with just Petr Cech to beat. The striker hesitated and Hector Bellerin’s rapid pace allowed him to chase back and make the crucial tackle.

So how did Gomis not score? I put it down to the fantastic goal keeping of Petr Cech. Gomis was clean through with lots of time and space and as he approached the goal the big keeper stepped out to confront the striker. Since his arrival at Arsenal he’s received a lot of praise for his presence, calm head and the fact that he gives his defence that sense of belief.

As well as all of those things I’ve personally been really impressed with how he deals with one on ones & yesterday confirmed what I already knew. This was the perfect example. As the striker rushed through Cech was out to confront the forward very calmly and making himself as big as possible. The key factor for me is that he stayed on his feet, it was like a stand off between the big keeper and the striker. By not going down to Gomis’ feet early he caused the striker to hesitate and that moment of uncertainty he caused the striker to have meant that Bellerin was able to get back in and win the ball.

So when people say a good goalkeeper can earn you points, that’s exactly what they mean. At a crucial moment in the game we were still level thanks to the big man. Some people may look at it on match of the day and just say ‘Gomis should have scored’ but I cannot stress enough what a massive role the keeper played in that staying out.

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The second half began and our attacking threat began to grow. Don’t be fooled though Swansea were also causing us plenty of problems and Laurent Koscielny in particular was outstanding at the back. One constant problem that the Swans were causing us was coming in our right back area and guess who it was, again! Jefferson Montero, the tricky winger who terrorised Callum Chambers last season was giving Hector Bellerin a hard time from the first minute right up until the last.

Bellerin in my view is a very good prospect and is developing into a fine player. In recent weeks I have been full of praise for the young defender and I do believe he will be in that ‘world class’ bracket we all love to talk about. He’s also blessed with incredible pace and a lot of the time this gets him out of some sticky situations. However, when you come up against a very tricky winger who’s also got a rocket up his ass, only then are we able to judge Bellerin’s positional play and decision making properly. It wasn’t all bad and I’m sure the young full back learnt a lot from this game – all part of the developing process. At times though, there is no doubt his positional sense and decision making were found wanting.

In terms of the goals, Olivier Giroud popped up with another header to fire us into the lead. He got away from his marker and smartly headed the ball into the ground towards the bottom right corner and gave Fabianski no chance. Some will argue the second goal was against the run of play & maybe at that moment in the game it was. But up stepped Laurent Koscielny to grab the second after a mishap from the ex Arsenal goal keeper. At first there were claims of a foul on the keeper but having seen it again and again the defender just stood his ground and was able to roll the ball into the net when the keeper couldn’t keep hold of it. That’s 2 goals in 2 league games for the centre half, maybe he’s been asked to cover for Theo in the coming weeks! Haha.

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX at Liberty Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.

Although the game was pretty much wrapped up at this point, the final goal was the one that put the biggest grin on my face. After working very hard all game the ball kindly fell to Joel Campbell to finish with his favoured left foot into the far corner and top off a brilliant Arsenal win. I literally couldn’t be happier for him! A huge confidence boost and hopefully he can push on and make that spot his own for the coming weeks. Other good individual performances I wanted to mention were those of Mesut Ozil, he continued his brilliant form and once again was the assist king at the Liberty stadium & Alexis Sanchez was again fantastic despite not getting on the scoresheet. Overall great team performance and the good run continues. Bring on Bayern!!!

Don’t forget to listen in to the weekly ‘Sofa Sports News Podcast’ featuring myself and Alavi. Now available on Soundcloud & ITunes!

Harry Symeou (AFC FAN)

SSN – PL PREDICTOR COMPETITION!

Have a go at our Premier league predictor this weekend… The winner will be rewarded with a small prize and will be congratulated on next weeks podcast!

Here are all of this weeks Premier League Fixtures – simply enter by listing your predictions in the comments section (that’s on this webpage – NOT Facebook) below in the following format:

e.g. Chelsea win

Arsenal vs Swansea Draw etc

Please leave your name and email address so you can be contacted to be given your prize!

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Good Luck All!

Crystal Palace vs Man Utd – Apostolos Preview.

Predicted XI | MUFC vs. Crystal Palace (31/10/2015)

GOAL | David de Gea
Romero did well during the Capital One cup defeat at home to ‘Boro, making a couple of exceptional saves, but there was no doubt it was a one-off selection from van Gaal. A shame really that the cup run ended so unexpectedly as you feel these games will be the only opportunity the Argentinian, who many expected would be United’s no.1 when he was brought in during the “de Gea to Real Madrid” rumours, will get in the first team.

DEFENCE | Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo
Valencia, who has started United’s last three games at right-back, is injured so Darmian will replace him. Jones and Smalling appear to be an immovable force at the moment, while Rojo has done really well since returning from injury and replacing Blind/Shaw at left back. Our defence has become a nice, simple selection for van Gaal; the man who, this time last season, had already experimented with no less than 14 players at the back (although these were of course the dark days of playing five at the back).

MIDFIELD | Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Anthony Martial
Another fairly straight forward choice for LVG. Mata was an unused sub during the week, so will return on the right for the trip to Palace, while he ensured Schneiderlin was kept fresh for the League game by leaving him out of the squad entirely. Carrick and Schweinsteiger appear to be wrestling for that second central-midfield spot at the minute, with the German holding the position for United’s last three league games, but I feel Carrick’s performance in the League Cup was solid enough to keep him in the starting XI this weekend. As for the left slot, as long as van Gaal insists on starting Rooney up front, while Depay continues to fight his way back in the side, then Martial – the man of the moment – will keep his place on the left.

ATTACK | Wayne Rooney
Another poor display by Rooney during the week has been conveniently overlooked thanks to a stupid Middlesbrough fan and his laser pen. However as I said, this incident during the penalty shootout is purely a distraction from yet another dire performance from United’s captain. “When will the manager be brave enough to drop him?” is the question all United fans are currently asking. For me, it should be ASAP, with Martial playing up front and Ashley Young out on the left. However this is the most stubborn manager in the business we’re talking about. So it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing the smart thing any time soon.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United

Apostolos (Man Utd Fan)

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What is your Current Premiership Best XI?

This was a really interesting question sent in to Harry at SSN this morning by Andy Paps.

What would be your current best Premiership XI? BUT you can only use ONE player PER CLUB!

Andy Paps sent in his team today and this is what he went for… It’s worth noting that Paps has gone with the overall quality of player and not just their current form.

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Whereas Harry has gone with a different approach.  “My best Premiership XI is based on the players current form, if I was picking the team for tomorrow based on the rules of this game this is who I would pick”

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Taking into consideration that you can only pick ONE player PER CLUB do you think you can do better?

Use our comments section below to tell us who you would have chosen and why…

Swansea vs Arsenal Preview – Kyri Christodoulou

After what happened on Tuesday night at Hillsborough it’s easy to forget that Arsenal head into Swansea game on Saturday in fine form. Beating Watford, Man Utd, Bayern Munich and Everton shows that Arsenal are in great form.

Tuesday night was just a disaster from start to finish. Firstly, the Ox going off injured and then his replacement Theo Walcott coming off injured shortly after so early on in the game.
I immediately got that feeling that this particular Tuesday night wasn’t going to go so well.

Something seriously has to be looked at when it comes to injuries. Part of the problem is Wenger’s obsession about his team being the fittest team in the league because it can win you games in the last 10-15 minutes. This has happened quite often in the past but our squad has also suffered for it for many seasons as well. The fitter you are the tighter your muscles are and the more likely you are to pick up injuries.

Had Wilshere, Welbeck, Arterta, & Rosicky been available they would have played at Sheffield Wednesday and we probably would have won. But we’ll never know that now. Arsene Wenger didn’t really have a choice but to play the likes off Iwobi, Kamara, Campbell the other night and have a very young and inexperienced bench and we paid the price against a very physical, hard working and organised Sheffield Wednesday side.

The problem we have now is we have Swansea (A) Bayern Munich (A) and the small matter off Tottenham (H) all in 8 days and we need to respond after Tuesday night. We have Wilshere, Welbeck, Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ox, Walcott, Ospina all on the treatment table. I personal think Arsenal have the starting 11 and the squad to seriously challenge or win the Premier League title this campaign but that’s if we can keep everybody fit. (1st team and squad players). If we can do that we have every chance (but its a big if). If it’s the same old story with injuries again then we’ll finish the season with nothing.

So heading into the game in South Wales on Saturday afternoon we have a big problem who plays on the right hand side.

The options are… I suppose Bellerin can play further forward and play Debuchy at RB, for me I want Debuchy nowhere near the 1st team at the moment. Cazorla, Ozil could play on the left and Alexis Sanchez on the right but who plays the middle? No Ramsey no Wilshere no Arteta, A partnership off Coquelin and Flamini would be to defensive for me. Another option would be to just play Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez on either side. It will be interesting to see what Wenger does.

For me Aaron Ramsey is a massive loss for Arsenal people criticise the manager sometimes for playing him wide right and I know it’s not his natural position but I don’t see a problem at all with him on the right. Wenger plays him on the right to accommodate Cazorla, Ozil etc but I don’t see a problem with that. He’s without question the biggest engine and hard worker in the team and tracks back, goes forward, he’s up and down always wants the ball even when he’s having a bad game and you can never fault his commitment.

Ramsey reads the game very well and even though he’s only scored once this season he’s getting himself in the right positions at the right times and that’s no coincidence, the goals will come for him. For me he is the next captain of Arsenal and hopefully he’ll be back in the team after the international break.

The Liberty stadium is a place where Arsenal have had a hard time over the last few seasons it’s never an easy place for a team to go to. Arsenal have won twice and lost twice and drawn 2-2 in an FA cup tie since Swansea got promoted to the premier league.

The two victories for Arsenal in recent seasons were certainly battles. This fixture last season in my option saw Arsenal comment suicide. The Gunners went ahead through Alexis Sanchez and with 15 minutes left Arsenal got caught on the break like they were the team chasing the game and and gave away a free kick which Gylfi Sigurdsson scored, was a cracker to be fair. After that Jefferson Montero who was a massive pain in the back side for the whole game put in a cross for French striker Gomis who scored the winner & Swansea ended up winning 2-1.

In fact the last time Arsenal beat Swansea home or away was in September 2013 at the Liberty stadium, and have played each other 4 times since then, so this is far from a easy game especially with 8 injuries and a poor recent record against the Welsh side. Having said that, Arsenal’s away record is very impressive. And if the Gunners are to be Champions come May, they need to win at places like Swansea throughout the season. So in conclusion a tough test for The Arsenal.

This is the line up I would go with,  the reason I’ve gone with Campbell is because he’s an experienced player and should be able to cope at this level, he has experience of playing at a World Cup and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Hopefully he can produce and take his opportunity in the first team.image

My prediction: “My heart says 2-1 Arsenal but my head says 1-1!”

Kyri Christodoulou
(AFC FAN)

De Luca discusses Liverpool based on the 0-0 draw with Spurs.

The view from the Lane – Spurs 0-0 Liverpool, & why Liverpool can’t finish 4th this season

Tottenham and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw at the lane, a game where the pre match talk was dominated by the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and the inevitable debate over whether these sides could make the top 4 this season.

I spent a fair portion of last week trying to justify my opinion that Tottenham were better placed than their match day opponents to qualify for one of the coveted 4 spots and the game on Saturday did all the talking for me.

I don’t think either side will make it of course, and despite being largely impressed by the way Tottenham are developing this season as a team, I’ve still not seen enough to change that view.

Let’s make the unlikely assumption though for a second that Chelsea do not turn around their disastrous start to the season, and then don’t spend £274m in January to try and correct their failings, one of these two sides will probably finish 4th this season and there is no way whatsoever it will be Liverpool based on more than this showing.

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Jurgen Klopp will have just realised the size of the job he’s walked into if the fans need him to be the saviour of this football club because he would have seen his new team are light years away from a top 4 finish never mind Liverpool’s first title in over a quarter of a century.

Managers can’t just wave magic wands I’m afraid. Yes, the new manager effect works sometimes, but only when a team are underachieving compared to their current ability. Liverpool are not in a false position. Klopps first task is to consolidate Liverpool’s position in the top 6 for the purpose of his reputation whilst assessing the players he wants to bring with him for the long haul and implementing his style upon his new football club. Time just doesn’t stand still though. All the while the season of transition carries on relentlessly around him as his injured players suffer setbacks and the same ones that contributed to the failed second half of the Rodgers reign put in more ineffective displays. I have a belief based on gut feeling more than anything else that Klopp will improve Liverpool massively over the next two to three years, but anyone expecting anything more than a top 6 finish is wackier than the German himself. Even 5th would be an achievement.

The extra 10% that players mythically put in for a new manager was there on Saturday in all fairness, although it is not supposed to last for just 10% of the match. Even during that opening 10 minutes that Liverpool’s impressive high pressing meant Spurs could not get a foothold, no real bite to Liverpool’s attack could be identified. Injured attackers missing can’t be used as an excuse. The Sturridge problem is going to be recurring throughout this season as well you’d think and Benteke does not add to a sides creativity but more relies on it coming from behind him. After those 10 minutes where the Reds threatened only from set pieces including a scrambled effort away that flirted with the Spurs crossbar, Liverpool offered absolutely nothing. No spark, no creativity, no ideas.

Spurs’s failure to win this game highlights why they too will miss out on the top 4 places, nowhere near clinical enough when dominating several games already this season and up to 10 points wastefully dropped points already that all add up to inevitable shortcomings. Their problems end there though, whereas Liverpool’s are rife right through the spine of there team.

A bad refereeing display and some wasteful Spurs finishing meant Liverpool escaped with a point, and whilst neither of those things are Liverpool’s fault or concern, what will be a concern is the certainty that Manchester City or Arsenal would have dismantled them if they were on the other side of the pitch.

Mingolet had a rare good game at the lane, two or three solid saves kept the score goalless and although neither shot was quite finding the corner, he’s still dealt with them adequately. He’s miles short of the other 5 keepers in the top 6 and over the course of this season that I expect that to be costly.

The two centre halves were dreadful despite their clean sheet, even the experienced Skirtel was outjumped, outfought and outwitted by Kane time and time again. Sakho is an accident waiting to happen. There is no left back, Moreno standing in for injured Gomez was shocking, and whilst I’m a fan of Nathaniel Clyne he can’t save this back 4 from a defensive point of view.

Henderson is a smart player, but with suddenly a huge Steven Gerrard sized armband to fill, and as it took him a year to settle to his step up to Liverpool, I expect a little time too to adjust to his new standing in following the past skippers of this great football club. In James Milner, a player I’m a big fan of by the way, we have a guy who title chasing City saw fit to release last season. We’re hearing talks of ‘returning Liverpool to Glory’ associated with Klopp’s appointment. 30 year old castaways cannot be the answer surely? Players over 30 so rarely work in this league. Milner was so far off the pace committing 3 bookable offences, the 3rd of which was right under the referees nose, so lucky to stay on the field.

In Emre Can and Lallana we saw two of Rodgers’ Suarez signings who I’m afraid just aren’t good enough to win titles. Decent players, yes, no one is saying they’re bad, but they just aren’t good enough to be first team regulars at a side with high aspirations, and need to be ushered out of the first team to support the squad. They offered little in this match where after 10 minutes Hugo Lloris was a virtual spectator. This was the worst display by a travelling side to White Hart Lane this season.

Sturridge aside, Just Coutinho now is up to the standard, and now he knows it the weight is on his shoulders, the expectations are raised. The impact that had on sterling last year was negative and whilst I’m sure Coutinho will have another good season it is a big ask for him to replicate it exactly. With Benteke relying on him for service the stakes are so high if Sturridges injury problems continue. He can be forgiven for his poor display at Tottenham maybe, although with his opponents choosing no natural defensive midfielders you might have expected more than the only highlight being a dive to try to win a late penalty. It’s an example of how the team will struggle when he has an off day, a bit like Spurs with Kane pressure can do funny things and someone needs to step up and share the burden.

So, the ramble and possibly brutal dissection of Liverpool’s starting XI by me comes to an end, and the commencement of Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding challenge has begun.
I’m excited by some of the players he may bring to League from his past as part of his long term objectives for Liverpool, as much as I am about seeing a lot more of him bringing his style and charisma to one of our country’s most famous clubs. But please please please be realistic if you want him to succeed, because he needs time. The squad he has inherited is not good enough to play champions league football, which is proven by the way they fared in the competition last year if not by my maybe ruthless review above.

He maybe knows after watching his team for the first time quite how big his job is, give him time to do his thing.

Sheffield Weds 3-0 Arsenal – One word to sum it up… Sh*t!

Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Arsenal – Capital One Cup – 27/10/2015

One word to describe the Arsenal performance… SH*T! Possibly one of the worst performances I’ve seen in recent times from an Arsenal side – maybe not the worst but it was up there! An all round crap night topped off by two injuries to two very important players in our squad. Firstly the injury to the Ox – the old ‘precautionary’ substitution (which normally leads to 3 weeks out with our players). Followed by the bigger blow – the injury to Theo Walcott, the man who’s been bang in form lately.

I think for me the most disappointing thing is the way the Walcott injury happened… Watching it I was fuming because I genuinely believe he sustained that injury because he didn’t warm up properly. I know he didn’t have long but you know what, play with ten for 5 mins until the guys warmed up. The only person to blame here is Theo himself because as a professional you should be warmed up and I’m sure if he had said ‘boss I need a few mins to warm up’ Wenger wouldn’t have gambled with his fitness. Especially having just lost the Ox & Ramsey already on the treatment table.

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(The view from the away end – thanks to Kyri Christodoulou for the photo)

Wenger kind of said after the game that he felt they were not experienced enough and with that I agree 100%. Some of the youngsters in last nights team were well out of their depth and will only learn from this experience. Honestly I wouldn’t have played the first team last night, we have some huge games coming up and I probably would have done the same as Mr Wenger last night. Truth be told I believe that some of his senior ‘squad players’ let him down more than the kids, that ultimately cost us the game.

Gibbs, Debuchy, Chambers, Flamini, Campbell and even Per Mertesacker & Olivier Giroud didn’t perform. Granted the majority of these players are not in the current starting 11, but they’re all members of the first team squad & should have done better. Flamini was hopeless in the middle of the park & having the young Kamara next to him didn’t do him any favours. Calum Chambers is forever showing us that he’s not quite the centre halve we all hoped he would be & in my opinion is not good enough yet to play for the Arsenal.

Gibbs, Mertesacker & Giroud don’t usually perform at that level so I’m putting that down to an off night and in Giroud’s case a lack of service but Debuchy has been poor every time he’s appeared this season & last night was no different. Is he up to the standard of Bellerin? No way! Is he anywhere near the standard required at AFC? On current form no way!

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I suppose for me the most disappointing one was Joel Campbell. After successful loan spells around Europe in recent seasons & a really impressive World Cup with Costa Rica many of us have been waiting to see him get a chance. I thought he was poor, granted he didn’t have the likes of Ozil and Cazorla to supply him but he just seems so wasteful and raw still. I’d imagine his days at Arsenal are numbered.

It will be interesting to see if he gets the opportunity in the league now with Theo, The Ox and Ramsey all out or if Wenger will reshuffle something else. That’s one to keep your eye on, I certainly will be. The selection on Saturday will give us a good indication as to whether Wenger see’s him as having a future at this club.

Huge credit goes to the championship club though, Sheffield Wednesday are something of a sleeping giant. Huge fan base, big old fashioned ground and a club with tradition. It’s refreshing to see these bigger lower division clubs heading in the right direction. They’ve been very difficult to beat this season and have had an encouraging start and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the play off mix come May!

Ultimately, last nights result wasn’t the end of the world and I know people have said it before but the capital one cup is definitely not our priority. Do I think that it will effect us going forward this season? Overall probably not but it’s a shame to halt the momentum that we’ve built recently. A good result this weekend and it will all be forgotten, just a distant memory!

Let’s see what happens at Swansea this Saturday – COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

Harry Symeou

Harry talks – ‘Arsenal’s title credentials’… What are your thoughts?

Is Arsene Wenger equipped with a side that are capable of mounting a serious title challenge this year?

Based on the start to this season you have to say yes – 7 wins from the opening 10 games. Just two defeats, the opening day disaster vs West Ham and that farce of a match at Stamford Bridge (Don’t get me started on that again). As a Gooner you’ve gotta be pretty optimistic so far.

A lot has been made recently of the form of Theo and the fact that Giroud has been coming off the bench and making an impact for the Gunners. People starting to talk about the fact that Arsenal have two very different striking options at the moment and Wenger seems to be using them very well.

In the recent win over Bayern at the Emirates I thought Arsene was tactically spot on. We sat and soaked up pressure and used Theo and Alexis’ pace to hurt the Germans on the break. After half time, Bayern began having a lot of possession and we just couldn’t get out. Goal kicks were being launched up the pitch and with Theo being the lone front man and no physical match for the Bayern centre halves it was coming straight back.

On came Olivier Giroud to relieve the pressure, we now had a physical presence, someone to aim the goal kicks/set pieces at. Someone that offered a completely different threat to the one Walcott had posed the defenders all night. And hats off to Arsene because it paid off. The big man grabbed the goal that set us on our way to victory.

Saturday’s win over Everton was also encouraging and reinforced the fact that at the moment we have two very useful strikers that can both do the job. Up to now the boss has called it right as to when to use Theo and when to use Giroud.

Jack Wilshere mentioned it on ‘Goals on Sunday’ this week – there are certain games Theo is more effective and some where Giroud is the better option. Let’s hope Monsieur Wenger continues to call it right!

Enough about the strikers – and while I think they’ve been fantastic in recent weeks I also think it’s worth mentioning the form of Mesut Ozil. The German international has been much more involved in games and has contributed to the recent form as much as anybody else. I’ve been known to criticise him in the past so I thought I’d better give him the credit he’s due.

As for Alexis Sanchez… I don’t need to bore you with a paragraph, the man is simply incredible.

Aside from the talk about the strikers though I’ve been most impressed with Arsenal’s defensive record. In my view this has been the difference and this is what makes us contenders this season. We are one of four teams with the joint best defensive record in the premiership this year.

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Petr Cech has been outstanding in recent weeks and after that first game blip against West Ham has proven what a great goalkeeper and addition to the side he is. He’s pulled off wonderful saves and just reassures the defence . Not bad for £11m eh?

The whole defensive unit has improved – the team now defends as a team. In recent seasons how many times did we see our back four left completely exposed by our ‘goal-hanging’ midfield. The emergence of Coquelin and the more disciplined displays recently from the likes of Cazorla & Monreal amongst others has seen a huge improvement!

The Final player I want to mention is Gabriel Paulista… The Brazilian made himself a hero amongst Gooners after his spat with Diego Costa. (In my eyes anyway). Since then he has proven he is capable of stepping into the side in place of either CB and do a job, a bloody good job! Did I mention he’s as ugly as Martin Keown and hopefully grows into as good a player as him!

I think it’s now or never for this Arsenal squad and Wenger looks as buoyant as we’ve seen him in recent seasons. I just hope his players can keep focused and get this huge club back to the top of English football.

So to answer the original question…. yes I do think this Arsenal side are very capable and on their day as good as any other side in this division.

I do believe they CAN win the title this season its’s what Professor Arsene deserves.

Harry Symeou

De Luca’s thoughts on technology in football… What’s your view?

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After LVG referenced technology in his post match interview on Sunday. It has posed the question about whether football needs to branch out further, and so has caused me to re-challenge my on views on the subject.

Here are my thoughts; I don’t like the idea of too much technology at all.
However, I do support goal-line technology as that is a factual event and it’s done in real time. It’s not just because my club Spurs have suffered courtesy of a few high profile ones over the years. It’s because it’s clear, quick, and what’s better is it kills the debate. Chelsea’s near miss on the weekend would be talked about forever if the technology didn’t exist. I’m sure the only reason Mourinho didn’t come out to speak to the media Saturday is because he knows he can’t blame a machine.
I 100% support a similar computer system that can determine offsides, goal line might be used 4 times a season but offsides are 4 times a game. Linesman have consistently proved over the years they are incapable of getting offside decisions correct. The offside rule might need to be fixed to suit but I think that is badly needed anyway.

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Some people float ideas of a ref in each half of the pitch, and I have to say I’m not in support of that motion at all. You need one guy in charge of everything. The boss who takes responsibility. However, with offsides now taken care off you happen to have a guy in each half with a lot less to do and a lot less pressure who is readily available to support the Referee. With offsides no longer an issue positionally he has a lot more freedom as he doesn’t have to be forever level with the last defender. Makes him much better placed to offer an opinion.

Everything else you need a ref to use his discretion for. I’m not into “letter of the law” stuff, that hamstrings referees these days. A ref should be allowed to interpret the rules based on the game he is refereeing at that moment. Gabriels red card against Chelsea might not have happened if a ref didn’t have that level of guidelines, Collocini certainly wouldn’t have gone this week. People shouldn’t compare decisions from one game to the next as there is a different context in each, only decisions within each individual match should really be compared to one another, and it’s of course right to expect consistency within any given match. Nothing beyond that is reasonable for my mind.

The letter of law stuff is a big factor in why players dive I think. Knowing a player will be sent off if he’s last man makes going over under a slight contact a better option than trying to stay on feet, especially outside the box. Ashley Young is a big utiliser of that convenient law.

That being said, technology can’t be brought in to adjudge diving, it would almost certainly be detrimental. It just wouldn’t work. You know when the co-commentator says “but there was definitely contact” after every tumble in the box once he’s seen it from 7 angles. Do you want to wait for that 3 times a game? I don’t.
You get to the situation where the ref or camera ref or whatever the proposal is, is viewing several angles and looking for contact, similar to a rugby try scenario. Unless the situation is a fresh air dive, which 9 times out of 10 it won’t be, contact will be found. So now you’re asking a referee to judge a players intent. Tough to do and doesn’t put the issue to bed. Debates will rage on. So fundamentally what this will do is make any contact technically a penalty so players will have even more reason to hit the deck under any amount of contact and the technology will be there to support and defend them. Divers can only be punished after a game for me and given suspensions if found guilty by a majority panel. I think I can tell if a player tries to con a ref into a decision and whilst a panel may not float everyone’s boat, if it’s good enough for deciding murder trials then I’m happy to go with it for this. In game though, an absolute no no.

Lastly I do not under any circumstances want to entertain the idea of managers having 3 challenges. This is not tennis, this is not cricket, this is the greatest sport in the world and I don’t want it ruined by the circus of a crowd slow clapping awaiting a decision because Mark Hughes thinks there should have been a throw in to stoke 3 minutes before the ball hits his own net. Can you imagine the gamesmanship as well? We live in a world where players get booked on purpose to miss certain games, now think of Mourinho throwing his arm up to challenge to break up the play if his team are under the cosh, or West Brom challenging in the 88th 90th and 92nd minutes because they are 1-0 up away the Emirates. Nonsense. Poisonous. This sport has a finite time for a match to be played and an ebb and flow particularly in England that must be respected and preserve at all costs.

So in summary, yes let’s help the refs but let’s keep it sensible and based on indisputable facts.
Goal-Line technology, offside or not, and free up the two linesman to aid with other decisions under instruction from the man in charge. Everything else needs to stay down to the men in black I’m afraid. We all see & interpret things differently, it’s what makes football special.

Dan

Goalaaaaccccccciiiiiiiioooooooo! – Alavi

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Growing up as a “90’s” kid, I quite liked the Premiership but the real highlight of the weekend was football Italia and in particular shouting GOLACCIO. Serie A was the home of stars such as Zanetti, Baresi, Batistuta, Totti, Lombardo, Donadoni, Peruzzi and Boban. However, one man stood above them all for me (only narrowly piped by Mike Tyson as my childhood hero), namely Roberto Baggio. With a record of 291 goals in 643 games and a pony-tail to revere, I soon learnt that I could only copy the latter of these attributes, refusing to take off the hat I had bought with a tail attached to imitate my football icon. The hat still resides in my bedroom occasionally worn when the HeartBreak kid makes returns at Wrestlemania and my knee still bares the scar of running through a glass door to celebrate Pagliuca’s penatly save in the 94 World cup final, but sadly the state of Italian football means it is no longer the one I pay homage to.

FILE - In this July 17, 1994 file photo, Roberto Baggio of Italy looks disappointed after Brazilian goalkeeper Taffarel saved his penalty shot, during the World Cup Final, in Pasadena, Ca., USA. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

For football fans over a certain age there is no greater fall in modern football than what has happened in Italy during the past fifteen years. Serie A, the top division of Italian football, seemed like an unstoppable force throughout the 1990s. Shown live on Channel 4 in the UK and Ireland every Sunday the league brought glamour and entertainment to a sport slowly emerging from the disasters of the 1980s and was a huge contributor to what football has become today. Serie A in the late nineties was, arguably, the greatest football league of all time. Even the preview show on a Saturday remains long in the memory of many of us approaching, or already within, our thirties.
It was all very different back in 1992 when Paul Gascoigne, undoubtedly England’s biggest football star of the time, signed for Lazio for £5,500,00. Let’s not forget where Maradona, cited by many as the greatest footballer of all time, enjoyed some of his best club playing years. Then, and for the rest of the decade, it looked like Serie A was untouchable. So many other great names played such historic clubs. From the superstars like Zinedine Zidane of Juventus to Ruud Gullit and Paolo Maldini of AC Milan and Ronaldo at Inter Milan to the greats of the decade like Gianluca Costacurta, Ivan Zamorano, Guiseppe Signori, Gianfranco Zola, Daniel Fonseca and dozens, if not hundreds, more.

Six of the ten Ballon d’Or winners of the nineties came from Serie A, two of the other four signing for an Italian side the season after they won it. There never was a league line up like it and often it seemed like even a mid table Italian side would be a match for the champions of England, Spain, France or Germany.So what happened? The short answer is poor management. The owners of Italian clubs in this era tended to treat them as an accessory and not as a business. The clubs rarely owned their own grounds and so allowed them to fall into disrepair by the end of the decade.The World Cup in 1990 has kickstarted interest in the sport and pumped funding in to selected stadia but that had not been maintained. It meant little match day revenue for the clubs and an over-reliance on investment from the owners and TV money. It also meant the league flagged behind their counterparts when it came to corporate sponsorship and merchandise selling at matches.

As money began to pour in to football from new sources it flowed towards the more family friendly English Premier League or the powerhouses of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain instead. The Spanish Liga has exploited the famous active nightlife, the immense prestige of the two biggest teams, Real and Barça, and especially the favorable tax regulations. Teams can spend more and offer better salaries, as the taxes on football are much lighter than elsewhere. Moreover Spanish major clubs have shown not to be scared of spending unbelievable sums (Real Madrid bought players for €250 million in one summer), or even getting into debt. On the other hand, Italian football teams, have to spend great amounts of money in taxes, and try to keep an active balance too.
The English Premier League has more and more fans from all around the world every year; it’s currently the biggest media market and moneymaking machine in football. This dominance is reflected on the field, where English clubs such as Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool impose their strength in Champions League. Thanks to this, over the last few years, many investors have poured their money into the English Premier League, making it grow bigger and bigger. Chelsea squad for example, has been enriched by many players bought with Abramovich’s money, a billionaire Russian entrepreneur, and the same happened to other teams. Italian club presidents instead are reticent in selling their property to foreign groups, reducing the economic resources of Serie A. While in this time of economic crisis, caution when it comes to spending millions could be an intelligent move. In a field like football, a club can grow and be successful only through investments, and passionate Italian fans could face more disappointments if there isn’t a change in the passive attitude of those who run the clubs they support.

Instead of being able to respond to a decline by following the German Bundesliga’s increased focus on the fan experience Serie A instead just had to hope their fans would stick with them. And they did, for the most part, until the Calciopoli match fixing scandal of 2006 erupted and threatened the league from a new angle. The police investigation in to Serie A clubs leading up to the scandal had shown that numerous major Italian sides held cosy relationships with various referees. Major clubs like Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina were all accused and found guilty of coercing the referees in to favouring their clubs during matches and given various punishments from fines to points deductions. Juventus were stripped of their 2005 and 2006 league titles and automatically relegated to Serie B. Public confidence in the sport was severely harmed and it still has not fully recovered.

All of this happened in the wake of the world’s top players leaving Serie A for newer pastures. Ronaldo moved back to La Liga in 2002. Big name foreign players like George Weah, Didier Deschamps and Oliver Bierhoff all left and were never adequately replaced. But it was in 2001 that the biggest indication of the shift of power came when Zidane, the world’s greatest player at the time, left Juventus for Real Madrid. For the first time in over a decade it could be said that the best players in the world weren’t flocking to Serie A from other clubs. They were instead leaving it for the re-emerging superpowers in Spain or the new money clubs of England. While Zidane’s exit from Juventus for the Santiago Bernabeu can be seen as the end of Serie A’s dominance and the approval of La Liga’s ousting of the league as the world’s top division there have been arguments that the subsequent decline of the league has been exaggerated.

In 2003, Italy produced the first ever Champions League final between two sides from one country. AC Milan would defeat Juventus in Manchester to lift the European Cup for the sixth time in their history and in 2007 they would capture it for a seventh. Inter Milan would win it in 2010 on route to completing a historic treble of Serie A, Italian Cup and European Cup victories, the first Italian side to ever accomplish that feat. But these victories only hid the growing divide between Serie A and its counterparts from England, Spain and Germany. Outside of those three victories there was only one other occasion when an Italian side made it to a Champions League final post-Zidane, when AC Milan lost to Liverpool in 2005.

In comparison, the English Premier League has sent eight representatives to the final in the same timeframe, La Liga six. More worrying is the nation’s performance in the Uefa Cup, now the Europa League. An Italian side hasn’t been to the final of the competition since Parma’s victory in 1999. During the nineties, Serie A hosted six of the winners of the competition and the Uefa Cup also had three all-Italian finals, in 1991, 1995 and 1998. What was a surplus of great mid table sides has now fallen away completely and even the two current top clubs, Juventus and Roma, can barely make a dent in the Champions League.
During 2009’s summer transfer market two of the biggest Italian football teams, Inter Milan and AC Milan, lost their key-players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kakà, two of the best strikers of the world. Spanish domination of football has led to Real Madrid buying the Brazilian-born star Kakà, from Milan and Barcelona taking the Swedish striker from Inter. This loss seems to be just another step in the process of Serie A’s decline while many factors have started to prop up the growth and supremacy of both the Spanish Liga and the English Premier League.

But there is some hope that the league is slowly starting to get itself back in order. The success of Juventus’ move to a new stadium in 2011 has prompted other clubs to explore the same avenue. Udinese and Sassuolo are revamping their grounds whilst Roma plan on moving to a purpose stadium in the coming years. New owners are starting to trickle in to the country from abroad, Roma have attracted American investors in recent years whilst Erick Thohir, an Indonesian businessman, purchased 70% of Inter Milan in 2013. Inter are now one of the most supported football sides in Asia and 60% of their fan base are said to come from the continent.Television money also remains high, second only to the Premier League, so new investors could bring new expertise on running football clubs as businesses. The improved match day experience of new and revamped stadia would go a long way to generating more income for the entire league as well. None of this may be able to recapture the league’s nineties glory days and push Serie A back to the pinnacle of club football but it might, at least, make it competitive again. Getting James Richardson back presenting a football highlights show on Channel 4 would be an added bonus. And those enormous Italian deserts.

Alavi

Arsenal gun down United in just 20 minutes… read my thoughts here – Harry Symeou

THATS MORE LIKE IT! – Wengers men blow away Utd in 20 mins!

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It was another roller coaster week at the Emirates. After the huge disappointment of defeat vs Olympiakos, yesterday’s performance went a long way in silencing the Wenger out boys. At least temporarily.

So after the doom and gloom from Tuesday night we are now once again firm title challengers? Based on that performance yesterday and the inconsistency of the premier league all around this season you have to say yes. As always with our beloved club there were a few of those ‘just clear it’ moments and I did find myself at times thinking ‘why are you trying to play your way out of this, get rid of it!’

Having gone 3-0 up I couldn’t stress enough to my fellow Gooners how important it was to go in at half time without conceding. Not saying that United were going to come back or anything but it was important not to give them that glimmer of hope & we have Petr Cech to thank for that.

He made a crucial stop and spread himself brilliantly to keep Martial out before half time. Once again showing that at 33 he still can still produce a good save in what I believed to be a crucial moment. Your probably sitting there thinking ‘how is that a crucial moment when we’re 3-0 up?’ When you know Arsenal as well as I do and after all the talk about how fragile our defence is I just felt it was vital not to give United a sniff before half time.

Now I want to focus on that opening 20 mins, absolutely brilliant is the only way to describe it. Arsenal came out of the traps like a side with a point to prove. Our players were hungry, sharp and everything was done with such precision. We saw everything we know a Wenger side is capable of. Alexis Sanchez was immense, power, pace, skill and above all the desire to score goals. The first goal was a fantastic move and Mesut Ozil played a huge part in it and ended up with the assist. Alexis Sanchez’s cheeky back heel to put us in front was a delight to watch.

There were 74 seconds between the first & second goals, Theo Walcott running at the shaken United defence before finding Ozil to steer the ball into the corner and put the Arsenal fans into dream land. Two goals up within 7 mins, not a bad response after the Olympiakos game!

Ever since Ozil joined Arsenal I can think of many occasions where I have criticised him for not ‘taking control of the game.’ I like to see the more talented players get on the ball and dictate the play wherever possible and I sometimes criticise him for not getting into those positions often enough and scoring the goals we know he can. He’s a player with so much ability but at times he plays in such a modest way.

Certainly couldn’t say that yesterday. That was the Ozil I’ve wanted to see for so long and on a more consistent basis. Involved, sharp, creative & carrying a goal threat of his own!

Back to Sanchez ‘El Nino Maravilla’ – there’s talks of the club offering him a pay rise. My response is ‘Give him whatever he wants!’ He’s a sensational player with bags and bags of ability but there’s one thing he possesses that puts him among the worlds elite, he has an unbelievable desire to win and score goals.

His two goals yesterday proved that better that point for me. The first goal saw him come sprinting across the near post to back heel the ball into the net. This is the man playing on the opposite wing! As soon as he sniffed the chance he was on his bike and across that front post to meet Ozil’s pass. For his second goal he almost lost the ball but had the tenacity to battle through and came out with the ball to unleash that rocket of a shot at De Geas goal! Have heard so many people calling him lucky, I’d say it’s a reward for being tenacious and having more desire than your opponent to make the ball yours.

There were plenty of other brilliant performances yesterday in Arsenal shirts, all the way from the goalkeeper to the forwards. A couple of players I really wanna mention that I haven’t already are Ramsey, Theo, Cazorla & Coquelin. Our midfield at times were a bit wasteful on the ball but their work rates were brilliant… Pressing players even in the late stages of the game when your 3-0 up! ??

Just couple of points I’d like to make on Man Utd also, thought Louis Van Gaal got his team horribly wrong – they’ve been on a decent run lately and would have gone into yesterday’s game full of confidence.

For me the key mistake was including Carrick & Schweinsteiger or however you spell his name! Two very experienced players yes but two players that lack the engine required to play in a midfield away to a top club. Whilst they both were assured on the ball and calm as always, the pair lacked the mobility to plug in the gaps and Arsenal’s talented midfield were allowed to run riot.

Im still shocked Schneiderlin wasn’t included and when I saw the selection before kick off I took a lot of confidence from it. Ashley Young at LB? Options were limited for LVG but that was never going to work was it!

He’s a funny manager Mr LVG, still haven’t worked out if he’s any good or not. One thing I know for sure is United certainly don’t carry that fear factor they used to.

Away from the Emirates it’s been a good weekend for us in general. Moving up to 2nd place just a couple of points behind the leaders. Chelski slumped to another defeat & Jose’s well and truly lost the plot. He claimed that his side were harshly done by when Falcao took a tumble in the second half. But in fact the Saints were the ones denied not just one but two stone wall penalties! When he was asked about Koemans sides penalty claims he just stormed off like the petulant baby he is.

Brendan Rodgers got the chop, guess that’s bad news because Liverpool might actually get a decent manager in. Southampton will be gutted… Who’s gonna pay well over the odds for their average players now?

So in conclusion a brilliant performance from the Arsenal, tactically spot on and one for the ‘Wenger out’ club to swallow. Lethal going forward & solid enough at the back… Nobody can have any complaints after this one. Back in the title race (for now) and all is good at the Emirates, long may it continue! Anthony Martial who? Haha

Harry Symeou – AFC Fan

Alavis Barnet boy!

Jason Puncheon

When I looked at the England squad recently announced for the Estonia and Lithuania games I noticed (as well as it being the worst squad of England players I’ve personally seen) one glaring omission- Jason Puncheon. To add further insult to injury the current Midfield squad reads: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Ross Barkley (Everton), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea City), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) .

I appreciate Jason hasn’t been performing at his currently level for long but why are tried, tested (and failed) players been picked above him? Is it his off-field behaviour or the fact that he plays with an element of unpredictability. England have been known to avoid the talented yet unpredictable mavericks- Hoddle and Le Tiss are testament to that. I’m not comparing Jason to either of those two, but he does possess flair that’s both missing from the squad yet worth taking a risk on. Ask any palace fan who their best player is and they’ll answer simply “Easy. Puncheon.”. Displaying a subtle yet imperative control over every game for Palace so far this season, Puncheon (and Palace) aren’t going to be taken lightly this season. Chelsea being the amongst the victims this season

For a long time, the aforementioned on-field unpredictability has been applied equally to the rest of his behaviour ranging From tweeted criticisms of former Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese – his employer at the time – to serious accusations in 2014 against Neil Warnock which prompted a £15,000 FA fine. But those episodes have been balanced against some magnificent form last season and a good start to this campaign. As far as his personality is concerned, Pardew is convinced a turner has been turned by the forward, who he signed for Southampton in 2010 after rising from non-league. He said: ‘I think because of the nature he developed at the lower levels, I think he had to learn how to be a professional first. He didn’t live his life right, but now he is much more mature. When I had him at Southampton I think the penny was just beginning to drop. And although there was still a couple of incidents there, his ability was beginning to shine through.’

Can I see Roy Hodgson and Jason Puncheon having a drink and being best mates? Probably not. But Puncheon is underestimated by a lot of people in the game. Is he somebody I can say with some confidence is better than some of the players selected ahead of him? Without a doubt
The reformed play-maker deserves his chance and England could certainly do with his skill, speed, balance, strength and final ball. Not just because he made watching Barnet fun for a while, although that will always stay in my mind. When people ask me about Jason Puncheon playing at that level I liken it to a FIFA controlled player picking up the ball from the half way line and scoring a matter of seconds later. We used to chant “what’s that coming over the hill, is it a Puncheon?” to the tune of Monster by Automatic. The time has come for the Palace sensation to be an automatic pick.

ALAVI