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

The Typical Week of a Gooner… By Harry Symeou

The typical week of a Gooner…

After last Wednesday’s win in the league cup away to our bitter rivals Spurs & then an emphatic win on Saturday away to the premier leagues only remaining unbeaten side I’m sure we all thought ‘that’s more like it.’

Starting at the lane, it was a pretty solid performance from the Arsenal in my view. A magical performance from Monsieur Flamini having the game of his life & scoring not one but two goals! The second of which I’ve probably seen 15-20 times and still can’t believe he’s produced that! Arsenal stayed strong and defended pretty well overall I thought. Bringing on Sanchez after the Spurs equaliser definitely was the push that got us over the line in the end. Constantly causing panic, picking up the ball in good positions and running at the Spurs back line seemed to peg them back at a time they will probably say they were on top.

Apart from the obvious positive of Flamini’s performance I want to make the point that Calum Chambers looked a lot more assured at centre back and had one of his better games. I know he scored an own goal but how many times have we seen a centre back stick his leg out in reaction to a cross and it end up in his own net. It can happen even to the best.

On a less positive note I thought Mathieu Debuchy looked completely out of his depth! Constantly Spurs were pushing down our right hand side & giving the Frenchman a hard time. Every time Spurs picked up the ball I always thought his starting position was too narrow. This was something I mentioned in the opening ten mins, Chadli & Rose in particular had the pace to constantly get away from him. A friend I was watching the game with made the point it could be his fitness? Perhaps it was…but I was baffled as to his positioning. Having seen it again, he looked both unfit and positionally all over the shop. Bottom line ‘Not good enough’ – fortunately we got away with it on this occasion.

Now onto the weekends game at the King Power – away to Claudio Ranieri’s unbeaten Leicester side. This was never going to be a walk in the park and after going a goal down il be honest, I feared the worst. Up steps Theo Walcott to make his claim to be the no.1 striker. The debate will continue as to whether that role is best for him or not but he’s certainly scoring goals when he’s given the chance. Sometimes he needs 3/4 chances and that is where the uncertainty comes from but his goal record speaks for itself.

A cool left footed finish from the England man put us level and from there on we were playing some irresistible stuff. Alexis came up with a hat trick having not scored all season and announced himself back at the King power. Fantastic performance and between the Chilean and Theo they were a constant threat on the break. Credit to Leicester though they went for us and probably should have scored more than the 2 goals they got on the day. Offensively… Arsenal in full flow. Defensively… Well probably the less we say about that the better. Probably to an extent papering over the cracks but if we go and score 5 away from home then we shouldn’t really have too much complain about.

Now onto the champions league, the one we’re all dying to discuss. As Arsenal fans we are very quick to criticise the manager and to an extent I agree with it. Before I go into the reasons I believe we lost at home to Olympiakos let’s look at the whole picture.

We were drawn in a group with arguably Europe’s top team at the moment and with two sides from Greece & Croatia respectively. Do we have the right to walk through this group? Not in a million years is what I’d say to that. Olympiakos have dominated Greek football for as long as I can remember and have a number of talented South American players in the ranks including Esteban Cambiasso (who regardless of his age brings pedigree to the team).

Dinamo Zagreb – Croatian champions, went the whole season unbeaten last year and have a few talented and very useful players themselves.

Peoples response will be ‘but they play in weak leagues’ – in my opinion people who use that excuse are naive and really don’t understand the game they are watching. Ever heard the saying you can only beat what’s in front of you? Every club in the champions league group stage is there on merit and are there because they are of a certain standard. People live under this illusion that the premier league is by far the best standard in the world – well wake up mate because it’s not. And before people start going crazy I’m not saying that the Greek or Croatian leagues are. I’m making the point that the premier league clubs don’t have this devine right to beat everybody else.

Because these sides don’t spend £40-50m on single players doesn’t mean they can’t compete over 90 mins with the likes of Arsenal or any other club for that matter. England are in danger of losing the 4th champions league spot – this tells us that English clubs haven’t been dominant for a while – it’s not under threat on the basis of one season. Yet the majority of plastic fans think we should still be battering everyone and anyone across Europe home and away.

Moving onto Tues game specifically it was an under par performance from the whole team! Yes I said it, the whole team! Not just David Ospina.

I was at the Emirates and watched us ease off after creating a couple of half chances and let the Greeks grow into the game. You could see it from the stands they were gaining confidence as the mins passed. Cambiasso pulling the strings in the middle of the park and keeping his team focused and organised. A true leader. Where was ours?

A smartly worked corner, a weak shot & a weak attempt to block the shot from the Ox led to them taking the lead. As the Olympiakos players ran over to the scorer in celebration my eyes were glued to Esteban Cambiasso who calmly walked over and made a gesture to the whole team to ‘calm down’. Again…the leader, the most experienced player in the side taking it upon himself to take ownership of the situation.

Fortunately their joy was short lived as Theo broke away and a howler from their goalkeeper Roberto gifted us the equaliser. Now we were level, 10 mins to go to half time. Where was our leader to say ‘right lads were level after a scare, let’s keep it tight go in at half time and re group’…. Nothing. No instructions from Arsene who went straight back to his seat after the goal. The next goal we conceded was a howler from Ospina – nothing more to say about that, an individual error.

Wengers been highly criticised for his selection but having said that. I bet you all thought we were gonna win comfortably and I’m sure nobody can think of times where Ospina has let us down before. So why doesn’t he deserve to start? Yesterday’s poor display was more than just one error from Ospina and he’s been made the scapegoat for it. Me personally, I’d have played Cech because I always wanna see our strongest side in the champions league. But I don’t make the decisions.

65 mins gone and Sanchez pops up with a well placed header to level it… 2-2 & Olympiakos surely now are thinking ‘right boys lets hold on to the point and get out of here’. But don’t worry lads Arsenals naivety kicks in again – where were the leaders (plural) to say ‘right lets be patient here we have 25mins to find the winner’ – ‘concentrate on not throwing this away again and push them back onto the edge of their 18 yard box and we will create something’

Obviously I can’t be sure that nobody said that but if they did my god nobody listened. Typical Arsenal …headless chickens leaving gaps every where and once again gifting Olympiakos the third and what turned out to be the winner. This is the champions league and it goes back to my previous point… There aren’t any sh*t teams in this competition so you can’t be so naive and go around gifting people opportunities. They will punish you at this level.

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Truth is I could sit & talk about why Arsenal fail in big games for hours & hours. I’m not a Wenger out man just yet but its his players that he picks and that he has brought to the club that are forever letting this huge club down.

We now realistically face the prospect of failing to qualify for the last 16 and it’s because we simply haven’t been good enough.  Is it time for a change at Arsenal? Will we keep falling short with Wenger at the helm? It’s a serious question – even for the Wenger In crowd!

From highs to lows in the space of a week – the typical life of a Gooner!

Harry Symeou – AFC FAN

Spurs 4-1 Man City – Daniel De Luca gives us his thoughts…

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The View From Park Lane

Kane’s goal drought has ended, Erik Lamela is fighting Messi for the Argentinian number 10 role, Vertonghen and Alderweireld are like a present day Nesta-Cannavaro, Eric Dier is the English Lothar Mattheus and Spurs are gonna win the Rugby World Cup.

4 Days is a long, long time in football.

Pochettino must have afforded himself a few smug grins on Saturday evening. At 12:45 Saturday a few, myself included, were starting to question the direction he was taking Tottenham in following his decision to go half strength against Arsenal in the cup on Wednesday. In his year and a bit in charge there had probably been to date no more than 5 good performances and the transfer window didn’t bring in the striker everyone associated with the club were desperate for.
Then BANG!! It happened. Spurs put in a performance that had everything a fan would want to see.
The philosophy seemed to truly kick in for the first time, and the result was spectacular against a team who have dished out many punishing defeats on Tottenham that our 3 previous managers could never truly recover from.
Redknapp’s career may forever be defined by the “what If’s” of spurs’ narrow 2-3 defeat at Eastlands in 2012. AVB was mauled 6-0 in 2013 and it really was the beginning of the end. And by the time Tottenham Tim was mauled 1-5 at White Hart Lane any last hope he had of securing a full time job with a cockerel on his Gillet was deteriorated.
Pochettino’s Tottenham put in very few good displays last term, a 5-3 win against Chelsea and an enormously one sided 2-1 win against Arsenal being the obvious picks. But players picking themselves up for a big derby performance at home when the atmosphere is up can happen in football. A come from behind victory in a midday kick off when the crowd are not quite so raucous is a different kettle of fish altogether. This is the type of result we have had so rarely over the last decade. The away wins at the Emirates in 2010, San Siro in 2011, and the first win at Old Trafford in 2012 are the only 3 that qualify. They were all hard fought odd goal wins, this was in the end a three goal cushion, and if the game lasted longer, Tottenham would have won by more. Manchester City were well and truly beaten and desperate for the sound of the referees whistle.
The most impressive thing about the result was that it had to be worked for. The away side dominated the first half so comfortably that spurs had trouble stringing two passes together in the opposition half, and when they fell behind to De Bruyen’s first half opener it was hard to see a way back especially with City in the ascendency and cranking up the pressure, often with a man over on either flank to lead the attacks. City had big players missing, of course that was a factor, and the linesmen might have wondered how they each failed to rule out a Spurs goal that did impact the momentum of the game, but Spurs seized the opportunity in a fashion that a lot of the players have replicated individually this season. Dier given a chance to a starting role this season out of position had grasped the opportunity with some incredible performances and his 25 yard pile-driver was just a cherry on the cake of an outstanding first half performance that kept Tottenham in the contest defensively and then gave belief in the dressing room when the ball crashed into the net just before half time. Dele Alli given the chance to start in the premier league against the league leaders at just 19 was outstanding as he has been all season. Nothing seems to phase this lad and we’ve got a player on our hands of unbelievable quality. Lamela getting game time due to Eriksens injury has improved no end over three performances this season and this was a level not seen by him on these shores and against a worthy opponent.
Momentum is a powerful thing in sport, and taking the lead just 5 mins into the second half having equalised seconds before the end of the first one (despite Kyle Walker being 3 yards offside in the build up) was ultimately the key moment in this game. Whilst the linesman shouldn’t have saved City on this occasion, stand in goal keeper Willy Caballero should have, caught in no man’s land for Alderweireld to nod in a simple header. When people criticise Tottenham’s transfer window I wonder if they forget that this guy was signed from Atletico Madrid for £11m. Most managers will tell you that to re-create football teams you have to build from the back. His partnership with Vertonghen is as solid right now as anything younger Tottenham fans would have seen. Just 6 games in I know, but Spurs have the best defence in the league right now. That is truly unheard of, even after just 6 games.
Then after an hour came the moment many have been waiting for, Harry Kane finishing the rebound of Eriksen’s fantastic free kick which crashed off the bar, won after some superb work from the unrecognisable Erik Lamela. The linesman should certainly have spotted Kane in an offside position – he didn’t and this was clearly going to Tottenham’s day. They say when a striker is in a rut he just needs a lucky break, and Kano certainly got it here to open his account over a month earlier that his first premier league goal last season. I’m not expecting a goal glut to replicate that necessarily but now the panic has gone away I’m sure the sight of Harry heading for a corner flag in celebration will become more frequent.
Watching Tottenham over the years as I have, makes me know that we are never safe, but this game felt different. Manchester City were getting some ball in attacking positions but never really threatening the score line. It was Spurs who were the more threatening and City were grateful the linesman had woken up to correctly disallow Son making it four. If he hadn’t touched it at all Chadli’s header was goal bound.
When the fourth did come it was Erik Lamela who capped his Man of the Match display with a deserved appearance on the scoresheet. Clinton N’jie looked impressive for his second successive cameo and turned superbly to lay on Erik Lamela to cooly round caballero when it looked for a moment that the chance might have gone. Spurs will be hoping Lamela can put in this level of performance with increased regularity, and in N’Jie there are signs that Spurs might have found the pacey handful that the squad has been lacking.
It’s easy to get carried away, and I think the team is missing the world class player sides need to finish in the league’s top 4 places over a 38 game season. But if you can’t get excited after a second half display like this then there probably isn’t a lot of point in supporting a football team.
I do wonder what difference Hart particularly might have made had he been fit to play and don’t think that can be underestimated, the linesmen obviously did their bit, and Sterling certainly needs to do a lot more for the amount of ball he gets in dangerous positions to justify that price tag. From Tottenham’s point of view though a winger of their own finally started to justify his own huge price fee, and nothing should be taken away from Tottenham, Erik Lamela, and Mauricio Pochettino. This was their day. Spurs are unbeaten in the league since the opening day and long may it continue.

Daniel De Luca – Spurs fan

DIEGO ‘DISGRACE’ COSTA ONCE AGAIN CROSSES THE LINE – Harry Symeou

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DISGRACE, FOOTBALL WORLD LEFT FURIOUS AT COSTA – Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal by Harry Symeou.

It’s Monday morning and I’m sure I’m not the only Arsenal fan that’s still fuming with the officials from Saturday’s game. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Gabriel Paulista & whilst he made a sort of kicking out action against Diego Costa he was no way at fault for that whole incident.

I’ve seen it over and over again and I’m very pleased to say that Costa’s actions have been condemned by the whole footballing world, all except his deluded manager of course. The man had no intention other than to get an Arsenal player sent off from the very beginning of the incident.

If I’m honest I don’t know why I was even surprised we’ve all seen Costa’s dirty tactics and classless actions over and over again & should just expect it by now. However, Saturday’s display was something else.
For me it all began from very early on when he clearly dived under a challenge from Coquelin in the middle of the park. The replays were conclusive and clearly showed there was zero contact between the two and a free kick was awarded surprise surprise, in Chelski’s favour. This was when I first began questioning the referee… My immediate thought was ‘if you really do think that was a foul Mr Dean why haven’t you booked Coquelin? I mean if you do think there was contact it’s definitely cynical enough to warrant a yellow card no?!

At this point in the game it was 0-0 coming up towards half time, neither side had really threatened or had any decent attempts at goal. A couple of routine saves from the keepers was all we had seen at this point.

Then, just before half time it began. Costa’s antics reached a new level and we were about to witness something that in my view makes a mockery of the beautiful game and nobody, Arsenal fan or not wants to see happen on a football pitch. Koscielny and Costa are in the box awaiting a cross, Costa first of all puts his hands in LK6’s face & then blatantly swings an arm into the face of the Frenchman. Once the play has broken down Costa gets up off the floor and throws his chest (a clear sign of aggression from the Chelsea man) into LK6 again who goes down.
Gabriel comes rushing over to the defence of his partner and his first reaction is to get them apart, play the peacemaker.

Sportsmanship and peace making are obviously two things that Diego Costa doesn’t understand as he then starts on Gabriel. Constant verbal provocation and patronising pats on the chest from Costa led to Gabriel ‘flicking out’ at him. I won’t even call it a kick because it was child’s play compared to what Costa had just done to Koscielny. Gabriel was then shown a red card for the whole incident. Absolute disgrace! Was he wrong to react? Yes of course, but where was the punishment for the provocation? A poxy yellow card!? The thing that I can’t seem to comprehend is how on earth has Dean missed the whole incident with LK6 yet he notices Gabriel’s small part in the whole thing and decides to send him off only? If he really didn’t see it then I expect him to say that in his report and allow the FA to punish Costa retrospectively.

Howard Webb on BT Sport criticised the ref and even said he should have been stronger and bossed the situation and put out the flame from the start. Instead the ‘weak’ Mike Dean allowed the situation to escalate and Costa got his way.

‘Weak, biased refereeing and disgraceful behaviour from the Chelsea striker’

There’s been all kinds of reaction to it all over social media and in the press, I especially enjoyed Garth Crooks’ piece on it on BBC’s final score programme. One thing I do want to mention though was my disappointment in Arsenal legend Ian Wrights comments, having watched him on BT Sport that day I was disappointed he was so reluctant to point the finger at Costa. He was so quick to point the finger at Gabriel for reacting but it was as if he was ‘afraid’ to lay any criticism at the feet of the Chelsea striker.

Not to say Arsenal would have won the game but it certainly doesn’t help when you lose a CB right on the stroke of half time. It was always going to be an up hill struggle from there and this seriously damaged our chances of getting a result. I mean as if it isn’t hard enough to get anything at Stamford bridge let alone when it’s all going against you.

Mourinho once again lacked any class by claiming that Costa was playing the game ‘the way it should be played’ – he’s not stupid he knows exactly what his striker was up to.

And so the fued between Wenger & Mourinho continues…

Wenger was criticised by some people for his comments after the game but I for one was very proud of our manager. He stuck up for his team and pointed out (not that he needed to) exactly what Costa had done. He was also honest in saying Gabriel shouldn’t have reacted and I thought the Arsenal manager showed passion and fight in the way he defended his side. We might not always agree with his tactics and some of his decisions but you can’t doubt he cares about our club.

My final point takes me to some comments I read from Jens Lehmann regarding the incident… Jens pointed out that had this been his Arsenal side ‘the invincibles’ they would have showed more ‘togetherness’ & in his words ‘dealt with Diego Costa’. Jens went on to say that had he been Arsenal goalkeeper on Saturday he would have been straight out to defend both his centre halves. “When I was in goal for Arsenal the goal area was mine and I would police it, if I had seen my centre halves being bullied I would of been straight in the face of Costa and you can bet that Patrick and Sol would have been there too letting him know he would have to take on all of us as a team, it’s not cheating it’s showing togetherness and this Arsenal team lacks that”

I think in an in-direct way it was a dig at Petr Cech because he then said “maybe because Petr played many years for Chelsea he felt he couldn’t do this, you will have to ask him why.”

That did get me thinking though, what happened to that fighting Arsenal side that could play everybody off the park yet still had the steel to deal with those kind of situations.

But ultimately another weekend over where all we are talking about are bad refereeing calls. Bring in technology I say your killing the game!

Thanks for reading,

Harry Symeou – Arsenal fan!

LVG faces his old adversary Koeman as Utd take on the Saints! – Apostolos’ XI

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GOAL | David de Gea
I still can’t believe this man is playing in goal for us! After his collapsed move to Real Madrid on the penultimate day of the transfer window Big Dave began his reconciliation with the club that made him a superstar by signing a new deal and committing himself to another four years. The Liverpool game last Saturday had the potential to be a seriously tough test for a man who hadn’t played a minute of competitive football all season, but thankfully Benteke and co. had a thoroughly uninspiring afternoon, giving de Gea a comfortable return to Old Trafford. Sunday’s trip to St. Mary’s could be another fairly quiet game for him with Southampton starting the season badly (five goals scored and three points in the first five games).
DEFENCE | Matteo Darmian, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind
United’s defence has been arguably our most consistent and best performing area of the pack this season – a far cry to the makeshift, inexperienced appearance that presided over our defencive line-up this time last year, when Blacket and Fletcher regularly made up part of our back four! However the four players that have played together in all eight games (all comps) this season has very suddenly been forced to change as a result of Luke Shaw’s awful injury vs. PSV in the Champions League. Rojo will come in in place of Blind, who will play at left back (as he did for the majority of last season) however more worryingly is the news that Shaw, who has vastly improved from the player he was this time last year when he first joined, will be out for up to nine months. An awful incident and one that I hope he’ll be able to come back from stronger like Antonio Valencia and Aaron Ramsey before him.

MIDFIELD | Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Memphis Depay, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young
Young has been restored to the side – and rightly so – after his awesome 45-minute appearance in the Liverpool win. He wasn’t quite as influential against PSV during the week, but there is no denying he is currently a more well-rounded option on the wing; someone who can attack well and cause defences problems while also helping out his own defence when called upon.

Mata and Memphis – who we are still waiting to transfer his European form to the Premier League – are regulars for me at the moment, although I’ve heard a suggestion that Mata will be dropped to allow Herrera to play behind the striker and have Young and Depay operate on the wings. I’ve never rated Herrera as a no.10, seeing him more as a ‘later years’ Paul Scholes who can control the game in the centre of the park with his vision and passing. Add the ever-reliable Michael Carrick into the mix and that creative pairing should cause S’oton some problems.

ATTACK | Anthony Martial
Undoubtedly United’s problem area. Martial Mania has rapidly dampened after a timid performance against PSV followed his heroic cameo in the league last weekend. Rooney looks set to miss the third game in a row thanks to his hamstring, so Martial will more than likely lead the line again. Having been at the club for a few weeks now, and with the pressure placed on him to score his first goal out of the way, hopefully we will start to see a more composed, clinical side to his game. Let’s face it, we could do with the goals.

APOSTOLOS LAMBRIANIDES – MAN UTD FAN

Chelsea vs Arsenal Saturday 12:45 – Preview by Kyri Christodoulou

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Chelsea had a much needed break from domestic football this week and their champions league campaign started well when they beat Maccabi Tel Aviv at home last night. A much needed boost to the likes off Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa who got on the score sheet and a boost to the whole Chelsea team really was much needed for Saturday’s game against Arsenal. Early on in the game though it looked like it was going to be the same old when Eden hazard blazed an early penalty over the bar and into the shed end. But a routine 4-0 win is exactly what they needed at this point with Arsenal up next for them.

Going onto Chelsea’s start in the league and I don’t think anybody could have predicted the champions shocking defence to their tittle would start this way. Many peoples favourites to retain their crown before a ball was kicked. Chelsea currently sit 11 points behind league leaders Manchester City and just above the bottom three and any sort off drop points at home to Arsenal at the weekend and it really will be hard for Chelsea to make up that ground even this early in the season. Whatever your opinion on Jose Mourinho’s philosophy on football his teams usually defend well in numbers off the ball and are a very hard defensive unit to break down and it usually works more than it doesn’t were ever Mourinho has been, that’s why it’s so hard to understand even after 5 games why they have the worst defensive record in the league. Not the best time for them to loose Thibaut Courtois to injury for 2-4 months.

For me Chelsea’s trip to Goodison Park last Saturday was the perfect example off Chelsea’s season so far. Everton started the game with a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield with Kone and Lukaku as the two strikers and both off them getting in-between Zouma and Terry with ease and managed to create space and chances for the themselves on a few occasions especially in the 1st half and really gave the Chelsea defence a tough afternoon. Another Chelsea defender who has been far from his best is Branislav Ivanovic who over the years has been one off Chelsea’s most consistent and reliable players, which is a surprise considering his experience in the game, we’ve been used to the Serbian throwing himself in front off shots and bullying players for fun and being a real rock at right back and centre half in his Chelsea career. So far this season he is giving the opposition so much time on the ball, wide players beating him constantly this season and is far from the Branislav Ivanovic that we’ve seen. then there’s Matic and Mikel who sat in front off the back 4 who applied no pressure and allowed time and space on the ball for the Everton midfield, none off them tracking any off the Everton midfielders runs into the box and Everton players passing rings round them way to easy at times they were chasing shadows for a lot off the game even though Matic did produce a great strike to get Chelsea back in the game before half time. Matic is another player is season who doesn’t know weather to press the ball or sit deeper and over the past 18 months since he re-signed for Chelsea from Benfica he has been a player that reads the game well breaks up play and is also a bully in the middle off the park. in the past 5 games this season he looks confused off what his duties are and that’s very unlike him. The likes off hazard and Fabregas, two off the best players in the premier league if not in world football and on there day are a joy to watch who can’t seem to control, pass or even keep the ball for Chelsea at the moment and have been pretty much none excitant in games this season who haven’t delivered anything to Diego Costa at all. Even Diego Costa who last season was so energetic who used to come from deep link up play who used to get himself in very good positions was constantly moving around off the ball getting in between defenders and was always a threat on and off the ball, defenders last season at times in games had no idea were Costa was. Now it seems like he’s waiting for the service that isn’t coming his way and seems less confident in front off goal and is guilty off taken one to many chances in front off goal than he did last season when he does get the ball to his feet and times as well looks like he feels sorry for himself. Funnily enough last Saturday will probably one off john stones easiest games he’ll play this season. Many people have their opinions on why Chelsea have started the season so badly many people seem to think that they have a lot off problems off the field which looks like one off the cases but Chelsea looked exactly the same during pre-season and still haven’t rectified their problems. Did Mourinho not do the correct business in the summer which some people are also saying? That is also a possible explanation as well. If I’m being honest I still expect them to finish in the top 2 come the end off the campaign but that remains to be seen.

So Chelsea welcome london rivals Arsenal to Stamford bridge on Saturday lunchtime. Arsenal like Chelsea were in Champions League action on Wednesday night away in the Croatian capital off Zagreb and the Gunners were dreadful. Arsene Wenger made 6 changes to the team that beat Stoke on Saturday and it showed. I can’t say I blame Wenger for rotating the team he didn’t really have a choice with 4 games away from home in 10 days but the good news is that Arsenal will field a much stronger team on the weekend. Got to give a lot off credit to Dinamo Zargreb they had a game plan and it worked they sat with two banks off four off the ball and didn’t let Arsenal settle at all and caught the gunners on the break and it worked. Arsenal with the ball were pretty bad with no movement, creativity or imagination what so ever. Arsenal couldn’t keep the ball and kept giving it away in a very sloppy fashion. These sort off results do happen in football not just to Arsenal and it could also be a wake up call for Saturday but these wake up calls seem to happen to Arsenal way to often than they should. I still expect Arsenal to qualify from their Champions League group with 5 games left in the group but still a very disappointing night.

Before a ball was kicked this season Arsenal were a lot off people’s favourites to be Chelsea’s closet challengers for the premier league tittle until the transfer window slammed shut at the beginning off the month and not to mention Manchester City’s perfect start to the season in the league. For some reason people seemed to have forgotten about City before the season started which is strange because of the likes off Kompany, Silva, Toure and Aguero and co in that team and if they stay fit and have good seasons then I feel their the most ruthless team in the league and without question have the leagues best centre forward and have also added the likes off Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling two young and very promising players for big price tags.

Back to Arsenal and for me looked sharp, fit and exciting in pre-season and looked very promising for the start off the season but we’re shocked on the opening day by a 2-0 home defeat to West Ham (another wake up call) and since then I think Arsenal have done ok and responded well from a shock opening day defeat apart from Wednesday night in Zargreb but have certainly created a lot off chances in games but seem to be very wasteful at the moment but the goals will come at some point no question about that. I think Arsene Wenger has again put together a very good team and squad together again and even though he only brought in 1 player in the summer it was rectifying the goalkeeping situation which was a problem before but bringing in the Petr Cech was a big step forward for me. Cech returns to Stamford Bridge in Arsenal colours for the 1st time on Saturday after 11 successful years at Chelsea and managed to keep a clean sheet on his Arsenal debut against his former club in the community shield. he will probably feel mixed emotions returning to Stamford bridge for the first time as an opposition player but he will definitely get a warm reception from the Chelsea fans.

He is a top professional and world class keeper who was made 2nd choice at Chelsea in his last season after Courtois came back after 3 seasons on loan at Athetico Madrid but with Chelsea winning the league tittle you couldn’t argue with Mourinho’s decision to make Courtois no.1 goalkeeper last season, he certainly didn’t want to sell Cech to Arsene Wengers side he made that clear. Cech will want to go back there and make a statement with his new club.

Many people still feel Arsenal are still missing a top top centre forward to compete for tittle and people argue that Arsenal also needed a defensive midfield player which I also agree with but I like Coqualin who put in fantastic performances since he was called back from on-loan from Chalton in January. Didn’t have the best off games against West Ham and maybe lucky to stay on the pitch before being substituted at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace and still lacks experience in that position but since then has again put in good performances and was very good against Stoke on Saturday.

Chelsea HAVE to win and cannot afford to drop points and theirs a lot off pressure on them which as an Arsenal fan scares me. I think it can be a good time for Arsenal to play Chelsea because they are obviously lacking confidence at the moment and their is clearly problems on and off the pitch at the bridge but also you can argue its a bad time to play them because Chelsea have to respond and have to win the game. As an Arsenal fan attending the game in South West London on Saturday I can happily say that I’d settle for a point considering Arsenal’s record at Stamford bridge over recent years how times have changed When pre-abramovic era how Arsenal always used to get a least 4 points off Chelsea a season it’s certainly been the opposite since the Russian took over at Chelsea. Jose Mourinho’s long unbeaten record against Arsene Wenger came to an end when Gunners saw off Chelsea at Wembley in the community shield at the start off the season which for me is a massive mental believe that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger can believe they can beat Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

As the starting 11 for both sides on Saturday i think Mourinho Will play Terry and Cahill at the heart off the defence. I know Cahill hasn’t been in the team and has been replaced by zouma recently even though he did start in midweek in the champions league I’d expect Terry and Cahill for the experience and the they seem to have a good partnership and understanding together and both good readers off the game. I expect Chelsea to sit deep and have men behind the ball at a lot off the time on Saturday and look to catch Arsenal on the break just like Dinamo Zargreb did and Chelsea have against Arsenal in the past. Apart from that I don’t expect the Chelsea team to be much different to the side that played against Everton. I expect the two holding midfielders in Matic and probably Mikel to play and protect the back four with Fabregas Hazard and Pedro to play infront off them and Diego Costa to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

For Arsenal I’d expect the same 11 that beat Stoke last weekend I’d expect Ramsey to sit with Cazorla and Coqualin in a midfield 3 without the ball in front off the back four, for me Ramsey is an engine and he’d get behind and the ball and sit with coqualin even if Ramsey is put out wide id expect him to slot in more off a central position off the ball and cover the right ground when arsenal don’t have position and he’d also bring the ball forward quickly on the break Then you have Santi Cazorla who can spread the ball around the pitch quickly. Then Theres Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil who will be left right and central at times in the game anybody who watches Arsenal regularly will know that the likes off Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey love to rotate and switch around the pitch at times in the game and I don’t expect any different on Saturday. A lot off Arsenal fans have been saying a lot at times this season that Alex oxlaide-chamberlain should start more games but I don’t think he deserves to at the moment, ok he was injured for a long part off last season but for me when he picks the ball up from deep he’s very quick and direct and looks very threatening on the break and can probably beat most full backs in this league but his decision making and end product lets him down for me his stats with assists and goals will prove that and I think the manager doesn’t trust him so much at the moment.

Another question is who will Arsene Wenger start up top on Saturday? Will he stick with Walcott or will he go with the low on confident Olivier Giroud? People can say what the want about these two but I do think they both have certain qualities about them that are very beneficial to the team. Oliver Giroud comes deep to receive the ball and holds up play well and has good link up play and brings the midfield into play which is one off his strengths and is good in the air but what he lacks for me is pace and movement off the ball and cannot create space for himself and doesn’t run in behind defenders which is frustrating. Then Theo Walcott on the other hand obviously has bags off pace plays on the shoulder and can run in behind which centre halfs don’t particularly like especially against somebody as quick as him, sometimes it’s annoys me that Walcott is so quick but doesn’t use it to his advantage a lot off the time I’ve always said that Theo Walcott is a right forward player but I do think he can play through the middle in certain games depending on who the opposition is or what defence he’s coming up against. None off Oliver Giroud or Theo Walcott are consistent or clinical enough to be Arsenal’s number one striker to score enough league goals and fire them to win them the tittle and as much as people may disagree with me I think Arsene Wenger Knows that. However both are still more than good enough and have certain attributes to be part off a tittle winning squad. If Walcott starts I can see Chelsea sitting deep because off walcott’s pace but I don’t think that’s a good thing for Arsenal, I always prefer arsenal to play against a team who like to play higher up the pitch thats my opinion. if Oliver Giroud starts I can see Chelsea playing a little bit higher up the pitch witch may benefit arsenal but even if they do Oliver Giroud hasn’t got the pace to get in behind but can link up play with the midfield well. I think Mourinho would rather see Giroud play than Walcott at this moment in time. Walcott on the other hand can cause Terry problems with his pace and has a decent record against Chelsea and has shown up in the big games for Arsenal in the past. But who knows maybe Wenger will start both and play Giroud up top and Walcott on the right but I don’t expect him to. I’d expect Wenger to start Walcott over Giroud on Saturday even though Walcott came on as a substitute on Wednesday he only came on because Arsenal were trailing and needed a goal and it was a good finish as well but Wenger clearly wanted to rest Walcott for the weekend. Giroud is having problems at the moment with confidence and isn’t really in the Arsenal or France fans good books and he didn’t help himself last night picking up two stupid yellow cards.

It’s a massive London Derby and it’s going to be a tight game and a very interesting one and what spices it up even more is Wenger against Mourinho who have had plenty off disagreements down the years but as much as they bicker against each other I do believe their is mutual respect their for each other from both off them even though neither manager will probably admit that. unfortunately i wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea discover the form we know their capable off against Arsenal I also wouldn’t be shocked if Chelsea ended up with the 3 points and getting back on track but I hope that isn’t the case. Let’s hope the Gunners can get there first victory at Stamford bridge since October 2011 it’s due if you ask me but But I’m biased. Saying that I’d gladly take a point.

My prediction is a score draw ill happily bight your hand off for that right now and I’m going to predict:

Chelsea 1-1 Arsenal

UP THE GUNNERS!!!!!!

KYRI CHRISTODOULOU – AFC FAN

‘A Game of 2 Halves’ – Man Utd 3-1 Liverpool -Apostolos Lambrianides

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To pinch one of football’s most over-used clichés – this was truly a game of two halves. What promised to be an utterly dull, anti-climactic United vs. Liverpool encounter was transformed into something special thanks largely to a couple of stunning goals late in the game.

Firstly there was Benteke’s ludicrous overhead kick that give’s Rooney’s ‘Premier League Goal of the 20 Seasons’ award-winning effort vs. City in 2011 a run for its money. However the real story of the afternoon was the final goal of the game that came only minutes after Liverpool’s Belgian striker gave them a glimpse of hope by taking the game to 2-1.

In a substitute performance reminiscent of Kiko Macheda’s debut against Aston Villa six years ago, Anthony Martial introduced himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a fantastic solo effort – making a total fool of Martin Skrtl in the process – and sealed a 3-1 win in what turned out to be an excellent victory over our old rivals, one helped largely to the inadequacies in Liverpool’s performance.

Of course the big difference between Macheda in 2009 and Martial at the weekend is our goal-scorer this time was not a player drafted into the first team from the youth squad. This was a £36million risk that many dubbed a “panic buy” when the news of his signing broke on transfer deadline day.

Given that United had sold van Persie and Hernandez during the window, while failing to sign Falcao after his loan spell, we were left with only Rooney and the inexperienced James Wilson in attack. We desperately needed a striker…however for that sort of money, a 19-year old unknown from Monaco was not what United fans had in mind. After this cameo however, I’m sure I speak for all fans in saying I cannot wait to see what the youngster does next. With Rooney still out injured, Fellaini doing little on Saturday to suggest that he is a decent replacement up-front, and a Champions League game vs. PSV on Tuesday, we may not have to wait very long at all.

With all the Martial Mania (© the Cockney Red) however it’s easy to neglect others who played their part in the victory – namely Ashely Young, who’s break up the pitch set-up Martial for his goal.

Young’s introduction at half-time – triggered by an utterly unadventurous first 45 minutes – changed the game. Whether people like it or not (and by “people” I’m referring to those still obsessed with his reputation as a dishonest, diving player) when Young comes on for United we usually score goals. In his nine substitute appearances during Van Gaal’s reign, we have scored 13 times with Young on the pitch. In four of his most notable substitute appearances during this time – away to Arsenal in the league last November, against Preston in the Cup in February, coming on to score the last minute winner against Newcastle in March, and at the weekend against Liverpool – United were yet to score before Young emerged.

After Di Maria was sent off in the FA Cup Quarter Final vs. Arsenal last season (the game after the aforementioned Newcastle league match) Ashley Young regained his place in the starting XI – and as we saw on Saturday, with Depay still struggling to make a significant impact, he could earn another promotion. Van Gaal has previously said he “fits my profile” and it is easy to see why, such is Young’s industry and productivity on the wing.

Credit should also go to the manager here who is gaining a reputation of making pro-active substitutions at the break. Young’s introduction for the erratic Memphis was Van Gaal’s 17th half-time change as United manager and his decisive decision not only sparked life into our lethargic first-half display, but allowed us to win the game.

When called into action this season Young has been was a reliable source of innovation for the manager. After being dropped following his mediocre display on the opening day against Tottenham, Young has responded positively and will hopefully be rewarded with a start against PSV.

The headlines following Saturday’s win all went to Martial for his moment of magic in front of the Stretford End, however as we look to finally string a run of decent performance together while getting our Champions League campaign off to a solid start, it was one of United’s less glamorous squad players who sparked life into our performance that lead us to victory.

APOSTOLOS LAMBRIANIDES

MAN UTD FAN.

more from Apostolos at www.followingthetrawler.com

Sunderland 0-1 Spurs – De Luca’s view

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Harry Kane’s world famous goal drought again extended by 1, but Tottenham’s winless start to the season finally came to an end at the Stadium of Light.

Spurs started quickly out the blocks and were denied a clear penalty, courtesy of ‘the five minute rule’, the rule whereby to earn a penalty in the first 5 minutes of a match you probably need to have been shot by a centre half. Kyle walker was only fouled, and this was less than a minute in.

Spurs’ new look front 3 settled in quite well, full debutants Dele Alli and Son were seeing lots of ball early on but still no penetration of the opposition defence. Sunderland came into the game midway through the first half and Jermain Defoe clearly must have been busy deciding whether he was going to celebrate against his old club or not, when scuffing his finish on to the post. Lloris and the Spurs defence were beaten.
The through ball to Defoe from Lens was outstanding and might have served a stark reminder to the Spurs’ bench of what they have been missing in recent games, he was lively most of the match and Yann M’Vila also impressed me breaking up the play in midfield and keeping Sunderland moving. These two will have given Sunderland some optimism for what will no doubt be another tough season.

If fouls in the box are still penalties then Sunderland should have had one also, when Alderweireld tugged his arm in the box just before halftime. When players are not rewarded for trying to stay on their feet it’s easy to see why the diving problem in the league is getting worse before it gets better. Anyone who’s seen Callum McManamans attempt to win a pen for West Brom on Saturday will appreciate the scale of the problem.

From a Spurs perspective it’s becoming a big concern how much more threatening any opposition we face look when they have the ball compared to Tottenham’s languid, slow and inpenetrative approach. This has been a recurring feature of post-Bale tottenham.

The second half which was even albeit a bit dull was probably the first time this season I started to really worry about the season. The style of play didn’t really improve and nor did the urgency, and when you’re winless after 4 games I’d expect a bit more. Pochettino has been at Spurs long enough now to have the benefit of the doubt of ‘transition’, he needs to start picking the players up for these games. Son went completely of the boil, poor touches and unable to adapt to the pace, and was replaced by Townsend. Dele Alli who was Tottenham’s most impressive player was hooked for Lamela. This was a good display by Alli who at just 19 looks ready now to be a regular starter in the Premiership. His skillful run before flashing the ball across the face of goal shortly before he was subbed was Tottenham’s best play of the match so far. Harry Kane last year might have gambled at the far post, Harry Kane last year would certainly have connected with the cross minutes later that found him free 8 years out. This year, it’s still not quite happening for him, this was his least effective display of the season and he was far less influential linking the play up as previous matches.

In fairness to Pochettino the subs swang the game in Tottenham’s favour, Townsend hasn’t been great in a Spurs shirt over the last 18 months but he showed directness and pace and in constantly trying to get past the full back put Spurs on the front foot. It had taken 75 minutes to register the first shot on target and from then onwards the pressing paid off and Lamela was a key part of the only goal of the game with just 8 minutes left. It was a brilliant goal, a superb passing move including Lamela Mason and Kane before the Argentinian played a perfectly weighted pass beyond the defence for Mason to delicately chip over the advancing keeper. He was clattered for his troubles and substituted.

In typical Tottenham fashion the next 120 seconds was a struggle, Rodwell rattling the crossbar as Spurs tried to settle after taking the lead. Some other hairy moments were to follow but Spurs created further good chances of their own. Kane smashed straight at the keeper opting for power, Lamela missed the target with a header that should have been testing the keeper from close range. An ugly 1-0 win was just what the doctor ordered maybe, and Pochettino who prides himself on his teams’ fitness might have felt vindicated that Spurs started to dominate the final 20 minutes as Sunderland tired, but Tottenham are going to need more than that against tougher opponents. This squad is really light. No striker on the bench this week and with Mason potentially injured and Bentaleb out for a month it could be just Dier available for the 2 central midfield holding roles on Sunday. Dier is a centre half. Another summer has passed without any progress made in the transfer window.

Dier was given the MOTM award, Vertonghen played well at the back and Lamela was good after his introduction back in a central role, by far his best position, creating more chances in his 20 minutes that any player from either side, and Townsend was direct and effective, and Dele Alli really impressed me with the way he confidently tried to lead the attack. It’ll be interesting to see the starting XI next week and who doesn’t start Thursday’s Europa League game in preparation for Sunday’s game against Palace.

With this, and then City at home soon after, hopefully this win will provide confidence and kickstart the season. Spurs are certainly going to need to play better than this to add another win though.

DAN DE LUCA – SPURS FAN

Spurs 0-0 Everton – The view from Park Lane

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The view from Park Lane – Spurs vs Everton

3 games unbeaten, 4 games without a win, the cup is starting to look half empty rather than half full though as another winnable game ended winless for Spurs at the lane.

This is quite a significant point though in the sense we have now surpassed the “2 points from 8 games” acquired in 2008/09.

I’m happy to correct a few common media led misconceptions of the last day and a half. Tottenham played well, Tottenham DID create chances, Stones did not play like Franco Baresi, and Harry Kane isn’t tired.
Kane is tireless, never stops working, never stops moving, always dropping deep to pick the ball up and drive Tottenham forward. He missed probably Tottenham’s best chance when he got in behind midway through the first half, dallying a bit before finding Tim Howard’s big left foot. After a slow start Spurs had taken control after around a quarter of an hour and it only looked like a matter of time before the lead would come. As well as Kane’s miss, bentaleb steered just wide, Mason had only the keeper to beat once in each half and failed to find the net, Alderweireld had a powerful header tipped over the bar, and Chadli, who impressed in the first 45, skied a loose ball over the ball in the second half when he had to hit the target. How many chances are people expecting? By comparison Everton’s only chance in the first came via a Walker error and culminated in a routine save for Hugo Lloris. Vertonghen and Alderweireld were by far the more competent of the centre half pairings, restricting Everton to virtually nothing over the course of the game. When Lukaku drifted out wide to pick up possession he was comfortably dealt with by the returning Danny Rose whose improvement was one the of the few positives of last season. Lukaku was by far the most ineffective of the 2 teams’ frontmen on display and was hooked by Martinez with still a quarter of the match to play.

It proved the game changing substitution, as Naismith, clearly sent on to hustle and disrupt Spurs’ flow achieved it within minutes. Featuring in a couple of flashpoints and earning several free kicks to break the rythym. The ref got caught up in the excitement with an inconsistent session of whistle blowing and card waving that aided the disruption somewhat.

Spurs never regained the momentum in the last 15 minutes and it was clear that their best opportunities to win had been and gone. Everton conjured up a late chance to steal the points when Kone glanced a header wide with Lloris along with my comrades in the Park Lane end stood helpless in hope that the ball would miss the far post, it did, and the match ended in stalemate.

A worrying points return from Spurs for the season so far especially given the fixture list could have been tougher so far. Things are far from rosy in the White Hart Lane garden but this was not the game to use an example. A good performance, solid clean sheet, and plenty enough chances created to get the elusive first win.

Of course, the Kane “drought” extends by 1, but then of every player to score 11 or more last season none of those 18 players have managed more than one league goal. The pressure on Kane to deliver for his club is a bit disproportionate. The international break will hopefully give him the chance to see the net bustle once more and he’ll return to the lane with an extra spring in his step. It was November before he scored his first Premier League goal of the season, it’ll be few more weeks before I start to hit my panic button.

DAN DE LUCA

SPURS FAN

Dan De Luca gives us his thoughts on Spurs capture Heung-Min Son

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I didn’t jump off my sofa when the news was announced we’d completed the signing of Hueng-Min Son, I’m not on my way to the Lane to wave my retro scarf in jubilation outside the front gates.
That doesn’t mean he’s a bad signing, but not someone who makes me jump out of my skin with excitement.

Let’s look at the positives though. We’ve picked up a player who has scored goals in one of the top European leagues, his key attribute is pace, which is something that the squad is desperate for, and he’s knocked in a handful at international level including one at the last World Cup. These are all positive notes regardless of the standard.

Alright, so he’s not the big name that everyone would have wanted, but Tottenham aren’t really in the market for the real elite right now, nor do we have the pulling power or wage structure to lure one in. He’s a decent looking player with some pedigree and I don’t think there will be the same pressure placed on him as some recent signings which could be a benefit.

The price tag is still hefty at a reported £22m, and I know the fashionable thing this week is to compare everything to Pedro transfer fee, but Barcelona didn’t need him like Leverkusen need Son or indeed West Brom need Berahino, so the comparisons should die right there.

Whilst I’m not gonna rush to club shop to get Son on the back of my shirt. A lot of Koreans who don’t even know where Tottenham is have probably already placed their pre-orders with international shipping. If you’re offsetting this additional revenue against a transfer fee you’re heading back down to a reasonable value. Painful when as a football fan you’re looking at the commercial value of a transfer abroad but that’s the dark world we live in. You know Mr. Levy factored that into his equations before signing the cheque, but if that makes him see it in his heart to splash a bit of the money he claws back on a central midfielder before the window closes on Tuesday.

It’s been proved plenty enough over recent seasons at White Hart Lane that a big name and reputation doesn’t mean a thing, so the fact Son isn’t the best player on FIFA 15 doesn’t really bother me a jot. He’s got as much chance of success as anyone else. Not many people had Harry Kane in their fantasy teams at the beginning of last season, that worked out alright.

The thing that pleases me most about this transfer is that Tottenham have identified their target, quietly and under the radar, stumped up the money, and bought him to the football club. Something that hasn’t happened over the last two seasons.
It’s a positive move that may or may not pay off, but still nice to see the chairman prepared to pay what’s needed to bring a target to the squad.

Now he’s in who knows how it may work out, or whether the greatest benefits will be realised on or off the pitch. But someone at the club has got their man and will be hoping he bucks the recent trend of disappointing attackers making their way to the lane. Let’s hope his boy delivers.

Good Luck my Son…….Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

DAN DE LUCA

SPURS FAN