United go through but Jose is way out of touch!

Manchester United may well be through to the Europa League Final, but this was a game that reminded us once again just how far away they are from former glories.

They seem to me, a team playing to the system of a manager, yet not entirely comfortable with what they have been asked to do. It’s working as far as cup competitions are concerned where the result is all that matters, and a 1-1 draw was enough here to send them through to a European Final once more.

There must though, have been an easier ways of Manchester United managing this game.

The Europa League should be experiencing a resurgence around about now, from the quarter finals onwards the tournament is usually littered with big clubs, to win European silverware is an achievement and a historical occasion for any club, and the added carrot of Champions League qualification has raised the stakes even more.

Mourinho identified this early, and the man who once said he’d be ‘disappointed to win the Europa League’ prioritised last nights game at the expense of a shot at a premier league top 4 finish, bizarrely calling it ‘the most important in the clubs history’.

The fine margins within which United scraped through may justify his decisions, as you wonder if an understrength or more fatigued side would have escaped.

This was Celta Vigo. Not Seville, Villareal, or Atletico Bilbao. This was a team who currently sit in 12th place in La Liga, who despite a bright start to the season had lost their last 5 going into this one.

Having taken the lead on the night, against the run of play of this should have been comfortable, not relying on an extraordinary miss in the 6th minute of injury time that would have meant a humiliating exit.

The one historical plus is United are now one game from winning the only trophy they have never won and completing the set forever.

It’s hard to criticise the team and the man who is in the final, he will likely win the tournament playing this way and in doing so achieve silverware as well as his Champions League objective, but I can’t help but question why it needs be to done in this way.

Inviting a team on to you needlessly and dicing with death seems a risk hardly worth taking. The difference between United being 6th and 3rd in the premier league has been largely dropped points at home to mid table sides, Celta Vigo’s equivalent, and this has ultimately been an identical performance.

Mourinho mentioned history in the build up to the game, any United team in history would have put this to bed comfortably from the moment Fellaini gave them the lead with a first half goal.

No United players in history would have been happy tackling this game in the tactical manner employed yesterday, and I’m not sure the current crop are either. Manchester United as a club are a class above their opponents, the individual players a class above too against a side including Liverpool and Manchester City rejects amongst their ranks.

They approached the game like equals or even underdogs, seemingly overcome by fear. Often this season the forwards have been criticised for not scoring enough goals, but to leave them isolated in favour of a 6 man defence is contributing and even with the trophies surely Manchester United’s long serving fans won’t want much more of this.

United fans will not be satisfied with their self-inflicted fates left at the feet of John Guidetti in European Semi Finals at Old Trafford.

This wasn’t a glory night, not the enjoyable feeling of a European Semi Final win of times past, the elation of the wins against Shalke, Arsenal, Barcelona & Juventus.

This was flat, nervy, and even at the end the celebrations felt like there was an undertone of disappointment at the manner of the way the side had progressed.

Despite semi finals being only about result there was a lot of frustration about the performance which overcome the feeling of relief and that therefore the win was not as important as it might / should be.

Neutrals unimpressed. If this was even one of the biggest game in the clubs history the scenes at the end didn’t live up to expectations. That would demonstrate a disconnect of values between players, fans, and the manager and that is never a good thing at a football club.

Next season they will need to get closer together and Mourinho might well have to give it a bit.


De Luca


Just how good is Isco?


Spanish football expert Guillem Balague has insisted that Isco is too poor a player to thrive at Real Madrid. I disagree. ‘Many people will say Isco is a typical Arsenal player,’ Balague said on Sky Sports. ‘He is an elegant player who fails to fulfill his potential, doesn’t score or assist enough and doesn’t work hard enough without the ball.” It’s hard to tell whether that is more of a dig at Arsenal or Isco himself. He may not thrive at Madrid due to competition and currently playing for Europe’s top side, nonetheless his ability would improve any Premier League side. “Poor” is not a word you can associate with Isco.

Arsenal or City?

Arsenal have been linked with Real Madrid playmaker Isco for as long as he has struggled to become an indispensable part of Los Blancos squad. Additionally, fresh rumours have surfaced today that the midfielder is excited by the prospect of playing for City manager Pep Guardiola, who assured him that he’ll have every chance to nail down a regular spot at the Etihad.


The 23-year-old began his career at Valencia, then had a stint at Malaga before moving to Madrid in 2013 for a reported fee of €30m (£23m). Best utilised in an attacking midfield position his job is to deploy his technical ability and influence the game in the final third.

As a wider player, he wouldn’t be your out and out winger, but instead cut inside into his more natural role. Isco has terrific vision and can unlock a defence with a perfect pass. Of course, playing with who I believe to be the best midfielder in the world (Modric) would have undoubtedly helped his development.

Not afraid to shoot form distance, Isco combines this talent with the aptitude of skipping past the opposition smoothly.

At 5 ft 9in, he may not win many aerial duels and offers little defensively. Quite often when the team is faced against an attack, Isco turns invisible and is not able to contribute enough. Let’s just say Jose won’t be calling anytime soon.

Playing time

I had a look at the number of minutes Isco has played in the last 10 Madrid games: 68, 79, 71, 90, 14, 18, 90, 20, 11 and 79.

Perhaps not ideal, but hardly an under-valued player at Madrid. We see similar statistics for a player like Raheem Sterling, a player hardly synonymous with an up-coming summer transfer. The Madrid boss recently commented in a post-match press conference Isco is a great player and he has shown that Madrid is where he belongs. He has shown with his performance that he is a great player.”

Zidane rings the changes regularly and on current form it’s hard to argue with him. Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema, Modric and Kroos have all been rested when needed. In have come Isco, James Rodriguez, Morata, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez forming a formidable front five. Each of those players would be starters at most other sides, but Isco is head and shoulders above any of them for me. “If I have been unfair to Isco I have been unfair to all who do not play. In the end we are 24 players and everyone can play outside of Real Madrid.”

The future

Out of contract in 2018, Madrid must convince the 24-year-old that he has a future at the Santiago Bernabeu and tempt him into signing a new deal. If they cannot, Europe’s elite clubs will be lining up to offer the Spain star a permanent place in their first XI – because he is simply just too good to be on the bench.




Redknapp to remain with Birmingham City

Harry Redknapp has agreed to remain as Birmingham City manager and is expected to agree terms on a one year deal with the club this summer.

Redknapp was brought in as caretaker manager for the last 3 games of this season after the sacking of the hapless Gianfranco Zola, and after an initial defeat won his remaining 2 games to ensure that Birmingham survived relegation to League 1 by just 2 points.

Redknapp has had spells at Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Tottenham and QPR. But aside from a two game spell managing Jordan, the 70-year old has remarkably never managed a side North of London.

Love him or hate him, he’s great entertainment, and Birmingham City fans can at least look forward to some free flowing attacking football next season and no doubt plenty of new signings. Hopefully for them also, a far smoother passage to Championship safety.

Why Liverpool WILL finish in the Top 4 this Season…


Very simply, Westham and Boro. Surely there are two harder games in the league?

No cup distractions…

United have the Europa League trophy within their sights, but the grind of Thursday-Sunday matches could really test the resolve of Mourinho’s squad. We saw first-hand last season how that competition can affect your league position, and the hope is that it acts as a real distraction to United.

I think they’ll end up winning it. There are also the FA Cup commitments for Arsenal and Chelsea. It will always be at the back of their minds.

Bouncing back…

For what it’s worth, Liverpool have a great record of bouncing back from a lack of results this season. The last 3 games have been exactly that- 1 draw, 1 win and 1 defeat.

I believe this pattern will continue and Liverpool will attain the required points necessary for a top 4 finish. You have to think the stars are aligning if they’ve managed 4 points out of the last 9 available and still in a strong position.


The reds have been very unfortunate with injuries, suspensions and international duty so far this season. They have lost key men such as Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip for lengthy periods, while Sadio Mane’s absence was expected but still a big blow.

You have to look no further than Chelsea to see how beneficial a fully fit squad is, with Antonio Conte effectively using the same 11 players for almost the whole league season, with Cesc Fabregas and Willian thrown in now and again. Things suddenly look a lot more positive for Liverpool in that department, however, with almost everybody back fit and ready.


I backed them for top 4 on our pre-season show. That’s not a reason to support the validity of a top 4 finish, but instead, I am of the belief that if you back them from the start then you should stick by your guns!



Pickford to return to the Premier League?

Sunderland’s relegation was officially confirmed last week, and the speculation has already begun around one of the few positives to come out of their dreadful season.

Jordan Pickford has been many people’s selections for goalkeeper of the season thanks to a series of dazzling displays and you wonder how much worse the season might have been if it wasn’t for the 23-year-old stopper.

He has been linked in the media already with Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton and whilst David Moyes confirmed yesterday that there is no relegation release clause in the youngsters contract, three of the linked clubs have all struggled with stability in goal this season having rotated their number one at various points in the campaign.  Not to mention the uncertainty around De Gea’s future.

There is no doubt that there will be some pressure on Sunderland to sell the England U21 international this summer with some of the Premier League giants circling.

So we want to know, is Jordan Pickford good enough for your club?

Tweet us @sofasportsnews_

Classy Juventus Through To The Champions League Final!

Juventus secured their place in the Champions League Final following an emphatic 4-1 aggregate victory over AS Monaco last night.

Leading 2-0 after the first leg, the Italian champions were hot favourites to qualify in front of their own fans and a Mandzukic goal and a brilliant Dani Alves volley both before half time put the tie beyond doubt.

Juventus had kept clean sheets in their last six Champions League games going into this one and when Mbappe finally broke free of the famous back line on 67 minutes the ageless Gianluigi Buffon was there to divert the attempt wide.

From an attack following the resulting corner Mbappe was finally able to break the Juventus resolve from close range. It was the first goal the Italians had conceded from open play in this seasons Champions League.

The game threatened to boil over shortly after, following an apparent stamp on Gonzalo Higuain but there was little in terms of goalmouth action as the Italians inevitably held firm.

Monaco have entertained in this seasons run to the Semi Finals seeing off Tottenham, Manchester City, and Borussia Dortmund and scoring 22 goals in the process, but The Old Lady of Italy proved too strong and in truth saw this tie off at a canter.

They will head to Cardiff for their second final in 3 seasons as a much more rounded side than the team that fell short against Barcelona 2 years ago, with the balance between defence and attack well and truly mastered and quality players all over the park they’ll be more than a match on June 3rd for Real Madrid, who barring miracles will progress tomorrow night to set up a repeat of the 1998 final.

It’s been quite a rollercoaster journey for Juventus since then and after tonight they’ll be confident of completing their return to the summit of European football, 21 years after they last lifted the famous trophy.

Liverpool Season Ticket Holder Dan takes part in our Q&A…

Q: Taking your Liverpool hat off for a moment- would you back Liverpool for a top 4 finish and why?

I don’t think Liverpool will get top four.

Liverpool have two games left and they need to win both of them. A trip to West Ham these days isn’t as intense as it used to be (at Upton Park) but its never an easy place to go. They showed what they can do against Spurs (another ball playing team similar to Liverpool, although much better at it!).

West Ham are also a big, strong side which is the complete opposite to Liverpool with Matip being the exception. Our strongest defender is currently on loan at Palace and so I expect at least one set piece goal from them…Antonio header! – although I think he’s injured…hmm.

All West Ham have to do to get a result against us is to sit back and stop us creating anything which, with Sturridge and Lallana on the bench, was so easy for Southampton at the weekend.

Playing Lucas, Emre and Wijnaldum, all slow, defensive minded players, at home against Southampton was a ridiculous decision by Klopp. Especially in what really was a must win game for us. Origi doesn’t make half the runs Sturridge does which means every time Coutinho had the ball he had no one to aim for and we resorted to sideways passes over and over again.

Therefore, we were very easy to defend against. Sturridge and Coutinho have a great understanding, Coutinho knows where Sturridge is going to run to. You just have to go back to 2013/14 or 2014/15 to see that.

Then you have Middlesbrough at home, a team already relegated so you just know they’ll get a result at Anfield to restore some pride. I expect another bore draw with only one team going for it!

 The maximum points Liverpool can get is 76, Man City 78, Arsenal 75 & Man Utd 74– providing they win all their remaining games. So even though it looks good for Liverpool, I just don’t see it happening.

When was the last time we had a convincing win? Maybe the 3-1 win over Everton back at the beginning of April. Other than that any points we’ve picked up have been a result of scrappy 1-0 wins or draws.

Will the top 4 even be worth it if we continue to perform as we have been since January?– on current form we’d struggle to even qualify. Like I have said previously, I don’t think the promise of Champions League football is as much of an incentive to join a club as it used to be.

Players these days unfortunately tend to be motivated more by money. Look at United and Chelsea, they were not in the Champions League but were still able to buy sign top players such as Pogba, Zlatan, Di Maria etc.

The thing about Liverpool is that we are never going to splash out the wages needed to attract these top players, even if we do get into the Champions League. Its just not in our business model.

Q: What did you make of Gary Neville’s comments on MNF around the need for Liverpool to refine plan A?

I agreed with Neville and actually said the same thing last year when we lost to Bournemouth. Our strongest starting 11 is pretty good and can beat anyone on their day, we have shown this on numerous occasions this season.

But take just one player out and it’s a completely different equation. He took off Mane in that game and we conceded three goals. We had a plan B in Benteke, who’s since been sold to Palace…

Teams sussed out Klopp’s tactics straight away – its simple, pack the defence and we can’t get through. All this pressing etc. doesn’t always work so you need other options and various different ways of playing. This was evident when he almost got Dortmund relegated in his last season there, people simply worked him out.

Q: Ideally, this summer, who remains/goes/comes in? 

For me I’d get rid of Mignolet straight away. He’s done ok recently but his distribution and presence in the box is some of the worst I’ve seen. I like Pickford and Butland but they’re both quite inexperienced. Obviously you’ve got the superstars in Oblak and Donnarumma but we wont go for them. Klopp’s already said that he’s happy with his two goal keepers. Great.

  • We clearly need a left back. He’s done well but we can’t have another season of Milner at left back and he clearly doesn’t rate Moreno. I cant think of any targets off the top of my head but I wish we still had John Arne Rise!
  • He should bring back Sakho and have him partner Joel Matip. I rate Clyne so RB is fine, plus we have Trent Alexandar-Arnold who I think will be superb in a  few years (Ben Woodburn and Ojo look like players too!)
  • In an Attacking sense we are fine until we get an injury. Coutinho, Mane, Firmino and Lallana are all class. I would also keep and actually play Sturridge! Bar Harry Kane, hes the best English Finisher for me. – he did more in 5 minutes on Sunday than Origi has for 5 games
  • We do need another centre forward though; Lacazette or Aubameyang would obviously be welcomed! – both are runners and would fit the system well in my opinion.
  • The dream for me would be Griezmann – I love watching him play but it’ll never happen. We never buy the finished article/superstar player. Torres, Suarez, Alonso and Mascherano were not world class when we signed them. Im still not sold on Klopp. I don’t think he’s done anywhere near enough to earn the media and fan plaudits he receives.
  • He failed to strengthen the side in January despite us being top of the league at that point.
  • He knew Mane was going AFCON and opted not to replace him despite knowing how important he is to our team. It’s not like he picked up a sudden injury, we knew we were losing him for two months.
  • Klopp waits too long to make changes. The one thing I admire about Mourinho is that when it’s not working, he changes it. Jose makes a lot of changes at half time, never leaves it too late like Klopp.

Q: Palace fans are raving about Sakho- was that a mistake? Is the keeper/defence as vulnerable as popular belief?

He let Sakho go out on loan despite us having an awful defence all season. Up until his injury he’s been immense for Palace and the clean sheets he helped them get will probably end up keeping them in the league.

He needs to swallow his pride and bring him back because he’s our best defender by a mile. So what if he showed up late for training a few times, it doesn’t matter in my opinion.

You play your best players. Fergie played Cantona after he Karate kicked a Palace fan and we played Suarez after he bit Ivanovic! – both much more serious offences than being late for training!

Q: Coutinho- just how good is he? Is it only consistency that separates him from the league’s best?

Coutinho is class. At 24 years of age his best years and consistency are still ahead of him. He can change the game in a second either with an outrageous goal or a killer pass/assist.

He’s one of the few players that the crowd stand up to every time he’s on the ball because you know he can produce something magical. In terms of the league’s best, you have to compare him to players that play in his position, so you’re looking at Hazard (who himself can be argued to be inconsistent. He had a whole season where he was poor), Ozil – goes missing a lot in big games, Mane – who has had a better season than Coutinho, Sanchez – for me plays further forward so its tough to compare.

 Hazard is the better player though.

What are your thoughts on Dan’s views? Tweet us @sofasportsnews_



CPFC – The Great Escape Is Still On…

The Great Escape is Still On….

4th February at 1545 I thought we were relegated.   With fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester, Liverpool still to come and our final two away games in Manchester no sound minded Palace fan could have thought any different. How wrong was I….

After pulling off the miracle at the Bridge and quite frankly destroying Arsenal (I thought we would), the game against Leicester was the most pleasing and showed the real character of our side.

Two months ago at two nil down with half hour to go the ground would be half empty and we’d get beaten by four, so the fact that we came back and drew 2-2 demonstrated that we’d turned a massive corner and I felt after that game we might just be alright.

To then go to Liverpool and win up there was quite incredible and moved us from bottom three to 12th in about 6 weeks.

I’ll come onto Spurs and Burnley because for me the reason we’re now back in some danger are due to two factors Mamadou Sakho injury and the disgraceful tackle of Grujic on Tomkins a week ago. I can’t leave that, so more of that in a bit.

Credit Allardyce…

What Big Sam has achieved with us is incredible. Palace fans all over social media are glowing in their praise and quite rightly so. How he has organised our back four into a unit that looks incredibly solid, plays football from the back instead of ‘hoofing’ it to Benteke and quite frankly can stand up to the best attacking players in the Premier league – Hazard, Costa, Sanchez, Coutinho, Kane, Ali and only Coutinho scored (from a quite outstanding free kick), speaks volumes.

What he also deserves praise for is the attacking intent he’s kept in our play to go with that defensive solidness. Many say he’s a one trick pony and only defends to get results and maybe I would still be one of those if he hadn’t have come to Palace. But look at the facts..

Scored two at Chelsea, two at Liverpool, two against Leicester, three against Arsenal. Seriously it could have been five against Arsenal.

We’re good to watch. Zaha, Townsend and Benteke are flying but they can attack with freedom knowing that defensively we’re solid, there’s no panic and every player on the pitch is working at absolute capacity.

I’ve talked endlessly about Zaha so I won’t even bring him into this write up as there’s a new Palace hero alongside him…..

Mamadou Sakho….

If we stay up and he’s available for 40 million he will be the best signing we ever make! The bloke is off the scale when it comes to defending. I honestly think he’s the best central defender I’ve ever seen play for Palace. He has everything. His reading of the game is phenomenal and he doesn’t need pace because he’s always in the right place. His calmness under pressure is incredible  and he never hits a long pass…never.

He gets us playing from the back, but his most important contribution is the fact that he makes every single player in the back four plus Wayne Hennessey play better. He gives them assurance that he’s there and our improvement is down to what he has brought to our side.

If we only sign one player, he has to be the one. I mentioned the Spurs game and I’m not going to dwell on it, but we lost that game from the minute he went off injured. It affected the players and we were a different side without him. We need him back…quickly!

Yohan Cabaye has also been outstanding lately and I thought Luka had made a massive difference to our midfield (which he has), but I actually think Cabaye makes him look better and it was noticeable against Burnley how much Luka missed Cabaye in that midfield and Palace as a side missed both him and Sakho massively. So much so I think it cost us that game.

Martin Kelly….

I’ve always rated Kelly but he got slaughtered by Palace fans when Pardew was playing him at left back. I felt sorry for him as he was trying to do a job and was basically hung out to dry, but since Allardyce has moved him to centre back he has been sensational. He’s played that well that he could easily be the first choice partner to Sakho, which is some compliment given that he’s in competition with Scott Dann and James Tomkins. Which leads me onto…..

That disgraceful Grujic tackle….

If that tackle had been made by Fellaini, Costa, Joey Barton, Suarez it would be over every back page of every paper! It was a disgrace. A real leg breaker and looks to have finished Tomkins season and by doing so has really affected our chances of surviving. I’m serious when I say that.

We went to Liverpool (where Sakho was not allowed to play against his parent club) with Kelly and Tomkins as our centre backs and looked really solid as was proven with the result. My point being that because of that tackle we’re now having to play Kelly and Delaney and our back four against Burnley were quite frankly “all over the shop”, yet Kelly had another storming performance.

I’m really raging about it and can’t let it go. There should be retrospective action taken and how programmes like match of the day didn’t highlight it is beyond belief to me. They’d have been all over it if it had been one of those others I mentioned.

Thank god we had that magnificent run because those two defeats this week have dragged us back in. Six points clear, three to play and a far better goal difference so really 7 clear. The Hull game at home in two weeks time is absolutely huge, because I do not want to be going to Old Trafford on the final day needing something, regardless of what side Mourinho puts out.

Our run has been phenomenal and I just wish that Steve Parrish had appointed Allardyce in October as I honestly believe we’d be safe now.

However, if you’d have said to me on Feb 4th at 1545 that we’d be 6 points clear of relegation with three to play…I’d have snatched your hand off!

If we survive….

Get Sakho immediately, pay Wilf what he wants, keep Townsend, Benteke and Cabaye along with Kelly Dann and Tomkins. Buy two new strikers to back up Benteke and replace Delaney, Fraizer Campbell and Jordan Mutch with Premier league players and we’ll be battling for top 8….you heard it here first!

Mark Storey


NLD, Ronaldo vs Messi & The UEFA Champions League

On this weeks show, the guys discuss the North London Derby, Ronaldo vs Messi, The UEFA Champions League Semi Finals and various other footballing stories.  This show was broadcast live on GreekBeat Radio and will be aired on Perfect Radio UK this Saturday (6/5) from 11am.

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Has The Power Shifted in North London?

No, is the short answer to ‘has the power shifted in North London’ but the theory that this is ‘only one season’ is a quite common Arsenal rhetoric this week. It’s not one season, the ‘shift’ has commenced a while ago and really came to light last season when a title challenge was sustained by one side and not the other. It’s not uncommon for Arsenal to accept trouble when it’s too late (Monsieur Wenger) almost a natural denial mechanism.

So the long answer to ‘has the power shifted’ follows now. No one can say what Power shift means for sure but the answer to me should still be, no, not yet.

Power in modern football consists of various new things, and whilst I don’t think you’ll see a dominant era between the two clubs either way again like the one that has just ended on Sunday in terms of league position, There will unlikely ever be an opportunity for one to capitalise on the financial incentives of success to the extent that they can pull that far clear of the other that Arsenal benefitted from in the late 90s, the lie of the land is certainly changing

On the pitch, there is no gap anymore, I don’t think there has been for 3-4 seasons but if finishing above the rival at the end of the season was what was needed then that box has now been ticked. Indeed since redknapp joined Tottenham in 2008, Spurs have a marginally better head to head record against their neighbours in the league. That’s over a 9 season period. So not a flash in the pan.

A good period as a comparator as Spurs once went 9 years without even beating Arsenal once in the league. The dominance has ended quite clearly and arguably shifted slightly in Spurs’ favour when you consider that Arsenal haven’t beaten Spurs in the league for 3 seasons, and also a couple of the performances Spurs have put in away from home in drawing have been pretty dominant (one in particular), and the 2 home victories have again been more dominant displays than the eventual score lines reflected.

So are Spurs now ‘North London’s premier club’?

Well no, not yet. There are other factors that need to considered and other gaps to be closed.

A big impressive landmark stadium is a factor and an area that Arsenal could point to as a mark of their supremacy as a football club, in a similar way a mansion indicates wealth more than a terraced house, but Spurs are addressing that too and will have the advantage of over a decade of further innovations when the doors open in 2018, equal in size to their rivals too, possibly even deliberately 1000 seats extra capacity. Petty. But I’m sure a statement of intent.

Incoming revenue is another modern factor of power, and between stadium naming rights and shirt sponsorship, Arsenal benefit from £30m a year of income, when compared to AIA contributions to Tottenham of just £14m. Again though, that criteria is being addressed. Nike have signed a kit deal with Spurs for £25m-a-year. The benefit of he shirt being manufactured by the largest sports brand in the world will have huge secondary benefits. Whether it stretches as far to help with signing bigger players, I don’t know, but a player sponsored by Nike in a big stadium wearing a Nike kit is a lot more likely in 2 years time than it is now.

The naming rights to the new stadium will supplement the shirt deal and I haven’t seen the financial structure of the relationship with the NFL but I can only imagine it’s a handsome deal. Lucrative enough to warrant investing in the design and installation of a sliding pitch to be used just twice a season.

Champions League football has always been a measure of a clubs power, and Arsenal’s proud record of qualifying for 20 consecutive seasons will firmly have them in the driving seat and considered more of major club thanks to this exposure. Spurs have now secured successive campaigns for the first time and whilst they will need to at least progress beyond the group stages to start to warrant being considered part of the club, the gap to bridge to their rivals in terms of tournament progression is not a huge one to bridge.

However whilst Arsenal have continually featured for two decades its fair to say that they will rightly be perceived North London’s premier club across the continent, and of course they still haven’t missed out on qualifying this year just yet. That needs to happen once or twice for a shift in this category to be considered, or of course Spurs progress further than expected. I’d say currently though the situation is that the teams are more likely to meet in the middle than Spurs overtake, and the co-efficient supremacy Arsenal hold over their neighbours I’d expect to remain intact for the foreseeable future.

Champions League qualification has been wrongly in my view considered a trophy in recent years and the two North London clubs perhaps the biggest culprits of supporting this ideology, but in the quest for achieving this Arsenal have managed to pick up a couple of FA Cup wins and Spurs haven’t added a trophy to their cabinet since Pochettino took the reins or indeed since February 2008, the run is now as long as Arsene Wenger’s infamous trophy drought. The team need a trophy to consolidate their era of excellence, both in terms of style, financial sustainability and of course points on the pitch, over the last two seasons Spurs have amassed at least FIFTEEN POINTS more than any other side.

No teams deserve trophies, but their play, style and endeavour over the last two years would certainly make them worthy of one. Not a necessity in terms of a power shift as the opponent could well slip backwards, and having mounted a challenge to the league leader twice in two years when the more likely club to do so were their North London neighbours is another pointer to the swing that has clearly occurred.

Because of that form and the uncertainty around Arsenal’s managerial position, bookmakers have Tottenham down as more likely to win the Premier League Title next season than the gunners, and if that doesn’t change between now and August then that would certainly be the first time the gambling industry has felt that way since I was old enough to place a bet. That’s significant. The people / companies who could lose money would prefer to take a bet on Arsenal than Tottenham. How many seasons of that would constitute a complete power shift in that field?

The last area that has been overlooked largely in the media is the pulling power of buying / keeping players. Both clubs recent record of keeping key players has been pretty poor, and with Arsenal’s most expensive assets still to sign new deals, 5 of Spurs’ six most significant players have penned new deals in the last year tying them to the club until into the next decade. More power and control over the destiny of their players, or their next destinations should they demand to move on.

Significant to note also, is the spread of talent, in past eras Arsenal have had several talented players whilst Spurs have been devastated by the loss of their one star man. That scenario has flipped and you wonder what Arsenal would do if they couldn’t adequately replace Sanchez whereas Tottenham would certainly miss one or two players but the supporting talent feels a lot more equipped to manage if one should leave, indeed the title challenge has been sustained despite spells on the sideline for almost every player at some point over the season, and there’s also the feeling that the coach could improve a lesser player to help fill a gap.

All that said, just 2 years ago Arsenal were able to lure one of the World Cups stars to the club, after just one champions league group stage elimination is that situation likely to have flipped in Tottenham’s favour? Doubtful.

MOTD covered the topic on Sunday night at whilst the studio reluctantly agreed that Spurs would be the choice destination of a prime 24 year old, I’d still like to see some evidence of that before declaring that part of the shift complete. A young English player absolutely no doubt, maybe even an established player leaving a Premier league club, a top player from another European Club will still remain to be seen.

Spurs may say their philosophy doesn’t lead them down that path, but in reality it’s more of a case that club haven’t been able to attract the top players ahead of other clubs, and the second rate players that the club have signed have invariably been flops. 7 out of the top 10 most expensive transfers into Tottenham Hotspur have been complete disasters or at least failed to warrant the money spent. Sissoko, Soldado, Lamela, Bent, Janssen, Bentley & Paulinho have all on that top 10 fees paid list that have delivered less than their transfer fees warranted. Interestingly though Xhaka and Mustafi indicate to me the first signs that Arsenal are slipping into that pattern of having to pay big but for the types of players who are not top level. There record transfer of Ozil Failure to win a champions league knockout tie for 7 years will now be taking its toll. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City and, you guessed it, Tottenham have all won a knockout game more recently.

As mentioned, Spurs need to repeat that achievement in the next couple of season and maybe beat a big European name on the way. This transfer window will be a good indicator of if things have changed at Spurs, and if Arsenal do miss out on that champions league spot how will they be affected in terms of what they can bring in. Not much has come through the academy in recent years, a far cry of a decade ago where the production line at Arsenal was seemingly well oiled and functioning well. Iwobi is a demonstration that it is still producing players capable of joining a first team. Spurs had only really promoted Ledley King throughout the first decade of the century, but in the last few years a glut of players have featured in the first team and the ones not quite title chasing standard have been sold on for substantial transfer fees, good enough to play for other premier league clubs. An academy has snuck up at Tottenham and is taking effect in a hugely positive way.

So back to the question of power shift. Whatever you think, depending on what side of the fence you sit or what the term means to you as a neutral. Has your mind changed at all after all of that? Is a shift further along or less so that what you first thought? How many of the boxes need to be ticked for you to declare it complete. A few more probably for it to become undisputed.

Whatever your answer it shouldn’t stop Spurs from celebrating another fantastic season of progress, rubber stamped with the league position above Arsenal that so many demanded. And whatever your answer it doesn’t alter the fact that the shift is at the very least well underway, and although I expect Tottenham to suffer setbacks in coming seasons that may not halt it  unless Arsenal can do something to stem the indecision and uncertainty that has overcome the football club. Becoming a premier club can be as much about teams falling than teams improving, the two simultaneously will speed up the process.

For now though, shift or no shift? Does it even matter?

For this season after 21 years, North London is undoubtedly white. And it’s been more than one year in the making.

De Luca



5 Things That Should Worry Spurs Fans About The NLD

Spurs go into the NLD Derby as odds on favourites with the bookies for the first time in the premier league era. In awesome form at home and playing some exciting free flowing football, and expected to win, there is still plenty to be wary of to avoid upsetting the apple-cart.

1. Chelsea win – Spurs are aiming for bigger things in the league this season than Arsenal. That’s not a dig, that’s just the reality of how it is. Any slim chance of winning the title relies on Chelsea dropping points today at Everton. If Chelsea win ahead of Spurs kicking off that could easily affect the players. With the title race over last season Spurs lost their last two matches to slip behind the gunners at the by the end of the season.

2. Over Confidence – confidence has been a feature of Spurs’ home performances of late, and whilst we want more of the same, this isn’t Bournemouth or Watford, this is Arsenal so some extra caution will be needed. Arsenal are one of the 6 clubs picked out to challenge for the title and whilst their season hasn’t been the best it’s not as bad as Arsenal Fan TV will have you believe. There are still good players, it’s still a NLD and they will be extra hungry to prove a point. They have had an upturn in form and momentum and a new formation that will make them hard to beat. Similar to last season anyone expecting a stroll may be disappointed. Patience will be needed. Maybe even coming from behind.

3. No Dembele – When the media hype up Spurs players this guy seems to be regularly missed. He’s our best player, and is undergoing a late fitness test to make today’s line up. The formation may switch from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1 if he doesn’t make it, and whilst Spurs should be able to shuffle and cope, having the big guy in there breaking up play and controlling the territory will be a massive plus.

4. Lloris error – Hugo is often subject to the old World Class debate. Is he? Isn’t He? The thing in the minus column would be his big match status. He doesn’t make many errors, or put in many bad displays but when he does it tends to be a big game. One in this fixture last year, to add to one at the Emirates, a couple against Chelsea last week, and a couple away at City. His mentality in big games is certainly a cause for concern and we’ll be hoping for no repeats.

And finally….

5. Theo Walcott – he may not be the best player in Arsenals squad, but he loves playing against Tottenham, and with Rose out may enjoy it even more than if he was available. Spurs have always struggled against his pace and whilst a far better side now, minus Rose the left back side is the area of weakness matched worryingly with Walcott who has always enjoyed plenty of action on the right wing in this fixture. Combine with the overconfidence factor, Walcott could have plenty of opportunity to stretch Tottenham on the break if they do not box it clever.

A fast and frantic start from Tottenham who may need an early-ish goal to stop nerves setting in as Arsenal play their way into the game and push forward more in the second half.

I always say if you back 1-1 in the NLD and the home side to win 2-1 you won’t be far wrong.
Or if you can’t decide, back each team to have 2 or more corners in each half at 5/2

Dan De Luca


The Latest Podcast From sofasportsnews.com – 27/4/2017

On this weeks episode the guys discuss the FA cup semi finals, the Manchester derby, El Classico and a host of other sporting stories.  This Podcast is available to download on itunes, soundcloud, stitcher or tune in.  If you fancy watching the show, head over to our youtube channel, details below 🙂

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Reffing Hell!

There are 3 key components of every good side…

A strong spine. A 20-Goal a season striker. And a well chosen referee at key points of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have both had hands in progressing in the Champions League (again), Arsenal have been able to use their hands to avoid Arsenal Fan TVs server reaching capacity, and with Chelsea having a little wobble, well, it’s time for the FA to bring out the A team.

With the Spurs – Chelsea semi final neatly poised in 2012 ref Martin Atkinson decided the game could do with a goal, so… he gave one. Marvellous. Thankfully goal-line technology will prevent any such repeats but there is still no technology to prevent you from being a cheating attention seeking bellend. So with that it mind, who would you not appoint to handle the 2017 reunion of the two sides in the semi final? And who have the FA chosen from their pool of miscreants? Yeah, Martin Atkinson.

Who knows what will happen this time, will he subconsciously try to even things out? will he try so hard not to be seen to even things out and go the other way? Why even appoint him and crank the pressure up more with a crowd that won’t forget? You stupid stupid stupid organisation. Apart from Diego Costa being allowed 17 bookable offences before his first warning instead of his usual 12 expect this to end in tears and controversy and a ref at the centre of it all in the aftermath. Maybe that’s what he wants, but it makes you wonder what the FA know about common bloody sense. What does FA stand for again?

That was De Luca’s 2 pence #2pDDL


The Latest Podcast from sofasportsnews.com 13/4/2017

Harry is joined by Stel from Shoot the Defence, Andy Paps and Alavi. The guys discuss the latest footballing issues. How good is Sam Allardyce? They review last weekends premier league fixtures, take a look at the race for the top four and the battle for survival. A European round up featuring a Champions league review!

This show was broadcast LIVE on GreekBeatRadio.com

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Thanks for listening 🙂