Month: October 2014

What Arsenal Need To Do To Be More Competitive

Arsene Wenger needs  defensiveive reinforcemnts to take Arsenal to the next level

Arsene Wenger needs defensiveive reinforcemnts to take Arsenal to the next level

In life you have to endure some difficult moments, it’s just part and parcel of life itself. In footballing terms though however Arsenal fans have been suffering more than usual it seems. Season after season Arsene Wenger talks about how his Arsenal side will be more competitive in the’ big games’ , unfortunately though the game against Chelsea however shows that Arsenal still might have that ‘mental block’ of beating one 0f the ‘big guns’.

It’s a never ending cycle it seems Arsenal’s failure to beat one of the so called big teams and the last match against Chelsea was further evidence that this depressing sequence of not beating the bigger teams could well continue. It begs the question why is this continually happening to the Gunners? (failure to beat the big teams) The most obvious point is Arsenal’s defence, although Koscielny and Metersacker have been impressive against the so called ‘big guns’ both have been left exposed.

Which nicely leads on to my next point, which doesn’t take rocket science to work out that the holding midfield position is a problem where Arsenal are weak. Over the years the North London club could call on the likes of Patrick Viera or Gilberto Silva- but sadly those days are long gone.

Arsenal are getting are out thought and out fought in the middle of the park, as technically gifted as Arsenal and in particular their central midfielders are , crucially I feel they are getting ‘bullied out of games’. The invincible’s team of 2004 was a team which all teams aspired to be like, Arsenal had big and strong players like Sol Campbell and Viera for example, the opposing teams knew they were in for a physical battle before they even walked on to the pitch.

That team of 2004 had the midfield general that was Patrick Viera, Arsenal’s defenders would have felt reassured with a player of that stare sat in front of them. Unfortunately this Arsenal team doesn’t have a player of that ilk, Arsene Wenger does have a very talented midfield- but none of those midfielders seem comfortable in the holding midfield position, it appears that they are in that position because someone has to be in that position.
Matthieu Flamini has played in the holding midfield position the most – but has looked especially uncomfortable against the big teams. The other problem Arsenal have is their tactics- they’re just far to cavalier in their approach, that shouldn’t be a bad thing- but it is, let me explain. With out sounding to much like Alan Hansen, Arsenal’s full backs lacked discipline in the Chelsea game and time and time again The Gunners’ back line was horribly exposed with a ball over the top in that exposed channel .

Don’t worry Arsenal’s fans my assessment isn’t all doom and gloom, the Gunners can be optimistic for the future. Last years FA Cup win shows that this Arsenal team is starting to get mentally stronger, plucky wins against Wigan and Hull are example of that. I know what you’re think (they’re ‘small teams’) but never the less Arsenal showed great spirit and determination to win a trophy after 9 years.

I am also a believer that most teams know how to play Arsenal, and have a set system to counter act the Gunners’ acting mentality. For Arsenal to be a competitive side in the tittle race I feel they need to win the games that they’re not expected or at least get something from those games. The game against Everton was a good example of the point that I am trying to make, Arsenal seemed down and out- but 2 quick goals helped Arsenal get a 2-2 draw which many didn’t think was possible after being 2-0 down with 10 mins to go.

Arsenal are close to being able to beat the so called big guns more often, a defensive midfielder like Sami Khadiera is needed, the Real Madrid player is a bit injury prone-but so is Abu Diaby I guess, with Khadiera you have a midfielder in the Patrick Viera kind of mould. To add a bit of variety I think a player in the mould of Cesc Fabregas is needed, the Spaniard is a player who knows who to look after possession, a bit of a strange one by Arsenal not to sign their former player.

A commanding centre half will also be needed to compete with opposing strikers such as Diego Costa, Mats Hummels would be good. In summary Arsenal need a few improvements to their side mainly in the centre of midfiled by signing a player like Sami Khadiera or even Adel Rabiot of PSG (who I have heard a lot of good things about) and a centre half in the Hummels kind of mould. This Arsenal team has been well assembled and to be fair to Arsene Wenger he has brought in world class talent.

Football is a funny old game, I think Arsenal will do well this season and if they do win a trophy or 2, all this talk of beating the big guns will go away. To quote a cliche ” you can only beat what’s in front of you” . In Arsenal’s case they need top beat what’s in front of them, and when they do that I feel Arsenal just might go back to being that team of 2004.

Super Mario Or Blooper Mario?

Mario Balotelli hasn't got his Liverpool career off to the start he wanted.

Mario Balotelli hasn’t got his Liverpool career off to the start he wanted.

In the football world it’s one of the most talked about subjects at the moment- and no I am not talking about who will win the Ballon D’or award. I am talking about Mario Balotelli and his failure to settle into life at Liverpool. Everyone has an opinion about why Balotelli has struggled so much, and we thought just for good measure we will throw our opinion into the mix as well.

Balotelli doesn’t really need an intro I guess, the Italian never seems to be far from headlines in one way or another. The former Manchester City striker though is in the headlines mainly for reasons on the pitch.

It’s hard to believe that Balotelli is still just 24 ( I had to check it as I was doubting my own knowledge) .’Super Mario’ as he is also known hence the headline has not adapted to life at Anfield at the moment, and unfortunately the pressure is mounting on the former AC Milan striker.

Mario Balotelli was signed this summer for £16 million in what was seen as a potential bargain and a ‘calculated risk’. Liverpool’s struggles have been unfairly been blamed on Balotelli although some of it is justified – as that what the Ghanian born striker is paid to do. That matter opens up a different debate (why are Liverpool struggling? ) I personally think that is mainly down to the defence and Dejan Lovren (don’t get me started on him).

With Balotelli you’re getting a player with pedigree,this man is a title winner with Manchester City don’t forget, no one in the Liverpool team can say that. With out really stating the obvious here- Mario Balotelli needs time to adjust to the ‘Liverpool way’ of playing.

What also counts against Balotelli is the ‘lack of work rate’ which doesn’t help his case. The talent is there all football fans know that, the problem is though ‘super mario’ needs to ‘knuckle down’. I am sure he is trying, Liverpool manager has publicly backed him- he has to as Balotelli was signed as Luis Suarez’s replacement.

That last statement there ‘Suarez’s replacement’ that’s the problem, maybe we’re all guilty of comapring the 2 too much. Such a comaprison isn’t fair and I feel the outstanding acheivements of the Uruguayan last year only raised the bar for who ever was going to replace him.

One fact remains the same both players are strikers and are paid to score goals, one player did it at Liverpool and at the moment one isn’t. The stat that Mario Balotelli has taken the most shots in Europe wih out scoring is a very unfavourable stat for the Italian, and weakens any other arguments to support Balotelli at the moment.

What Mario Balotelli has in his favour though is his age, and Balotelli has one of the best coaches around at the moment in Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman knows how to improve strikers, to me signing Daniel Sturridge must be one of the highlights of his managerial career (Brendan Rodgers). The further nurturing of Sturridge as well must be admired.

I personally am of the opinion that Mario Balotelli will come good for Liverpool, it goes with out saying that he needs to ‘pull his socks up’. Balotelli has scored goals pretty much everywhere he has gone whether in be the Milan clubs or Manchester City.

The Italian does have to start scoring soon, as there are several strikers that Liverpool have been linked with. If Balotelli’s struggles continue, that could force Rodgers into signing a striker in January which couls see Mario Balotelli sold, that would be sad because I think if Balotelli is sold he will be sold to a European team.

Love him or loath him Mario Balotelli is a player who will always divide opinion.

R.I.P Natural Wingers?

Seamus Coleman is the epitomy of the modern day full back

Seamus Coleman is the epitomy of the modern day full back

If you’re a football fanatic like me and were born in the late 80's like I was,I am sure when you were growing up you would have been accustomed to the formation 4-4-2. With that formation there would always be 2 wingers 2 full backs and 2 strikers, with the other postions as normal.

In recent years though it must be said that I have noticed a change of mindset by managers in regards to the formations they use, and in particular the failure in my opinon to have a natural winger or wingers in their sides.

I would like to give you a example of a team of my childhood that had 'out and out' wingers- Manchester United. United in the 90's were well known for having a 4 man midfield, there were 2 wingers in David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, and there were 2 central midfielders in Paul Scholes and Roy Keane. Many argued that, that Manchester United's midfield was the best of it's genration- but times have really changed.

Modern football has changed it has to be said, and it seems like the once 'sworn by' 4-4-2 is a thing of the past. I want to put forward the example of Barcelona, the Catalans have never used 4-4-2 from my understanding, the Spanish giants have 2 excellent full backs in Jordi Alba and Dani Alves. These 2 players love to 'bomb forward' and for Barca it works to great effect, the holding midfield player usually Busquets would fill in the vaccant holes left by his colleagues ventures forward.

Continental football has been like this for a 'while' and Barcelona I am sure are not the only side to use this model. Barcelona's fierce rivals Real Madrid do have 'natural wingers' in their system in Christiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale it could be argued- but even with these 2 players they can 'cut inside' as well.

If you look a bit closer to 'home' Chelsea don't operate with 'out and out' wingers, and if this season is anything to go by the Blues haven't needed to- they have been breath taking at times with their build up play. I can't think of many sides who have natural wingers, with Ronaldo and Bale being obvious exceptions. Bale himself as we all know was actually a full back converetd into winger, but the ex Spurs man spent his last season 'behind the striker' and it was to good effect as the Welshman was top scorer for Tottenham. Bales' team Ronaldo as we have seen with his days at United was a exceptional winger, he does tend to drift more 'centrally'.

Football is a very competitive indusry-which goes with out saying, and managers I am sure are always looking to 'new methods' to have the edge on their rivals. The days of '4-4-2 as we once knew it' have changed, now the 4-4-2 has been 'evolved into a '4-4-2 diamond' ,managers such as Brendan Rodgers, Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson are managers who have used this system. Just to clarify for you folks a 'diamond' is a 4-4-2 formation where the midfielders postions make a diamond if you were to look at it on paper-if that makes sense. The 'diamond' will have a player off the strikers with a play protecting the defence and 2 wide players

In all scenarios the player who is seen as the 'out and out winger' ( I know England and Liverpool involves the same player- Raheem Sterling) the results have been startling. Last seasons win at Old Trafford for Liverpool is an example of the '4-4-2 diamond' being used to great effect, in that game Raheem Sterling was nothing sort of sensational.

West Ham have put Stewart Downing at the top of their 'diamond' formation, to brilliant effect. Downing has got more assists already this year than he did than the whole of last year. As much as it pains me to say it- the '4-4-2 formation of the past' is a 'dying breed'.

The role of wingers in the modern scene isn't as we know it either, players such as Mesut Ozil and David Silva get put out wide but neither of these players aren't natural wingers. They're in short supply I am afraid, wingers such as James Milner and Matt Jarvis spend their times these days on the bench mainly.

The days of John Barnes going on one of those maisy runs beating 'the full back' at ease have gone I am afraid,these days we have Everton full back Seamus Coleman who is having a excellent season with the Toffees it must be said. The Republic Of Ireland international has been nothing sort of sensational at right back and at left back England international Leighton Baines has been brilliant.

For football pursists like me, the delcine of natural wingers is upsetting- but hey if your side has full backs like the 2 I just mentioned is it really that bad?

Younis Khan Breaks The Record In Emphatic Pakistan Win

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There is no greater achievement in life than exceeding targets, Younus Khan that’s the case. The former Pakistan cricket captain yesterday broke the record for most centuries scored by a Pakistani batsmen in test match cricket.

The Right-Handed batsmen has now scored 26 centuries in 92 tests, passing former captain Inzamam Ul Haq’s 25 centuries. The T20 World Cup winning captain achieved the record feat having played 20 games less than the Pakistani legend Inzamam.

Thankfully for Khan his achievements were in a winning cause as Pakistan won the 1st test against Australia by a mammoth 221 runs. Pakistan batted 1st in Abu Dhabi ( The Neutral Venue where Pakistan play their home games) and posted a daunting 454 all out. Younus Khan and Sarfraz Ahmed who is getting a big reputation in Pakistan both making centuries.

Fifties by Asad Shafiq, captain Misbah Ul Haq and Azhar Ali, made the difference as Australia’s bowlers struggled. Steven O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon who was the star of the Ashes whitewash, both took sever punishment from Pakistan’s batmen as both bowlers conceded over 100 runs in the overs that they bowled which were 30 overs and 37 overs respectively.

Australia got their reply off to a good start, their opening pair put on 128 for the first wicket. The opening partnership ended as Chris Rodgers was bowled by Rahat Ali for 38. From that point on for Australia sadly they lost wickets at regular intervals and were eventually all out for 303. Not a bad effort for the first innings- but the Aussies had a 150 run deficit to deal with, how they wished that they could have built some big partnerships in their innings.

Several players made ‘starts’ for Australia but with a 151 run deficit after the first innings, the Aussies knew the task in hand was going to be tough and so it proved. Pakistan proved to be just as destructive in their second innings as they were in the first as Younus Khan helped himself to a record breaking hundred. Khan was supported by Ahmed Shazhad who made a very impressive 131 at the top of the Pakistan batting order. The Asian side declared on 286-2, setting Australia a world record 438 to win.

The Aussies got their run chase off to a disastrous start as 4 wickets fell before 50 runs were on the board for Australia. Despite positive contributions from Chris Rogers who made 43, Steve Smith who made 55 and Mitchell Johnson who top scored with 61 for Australia, the Aussies fell woefully short as Zulfiquar Babar in only his third test claimed a impressive 5-74 off just 31.1 overs.

Pakistan will be looking for wrap up a series over Australia for the first time since 1994, for Australia this latest defeat means they have lost 9 of their last 14 tests in away games against Asian opposition. Australia will be looking to restore some pride after this very heavy defeat, the second test starts on Thursday.

ayyazmalik.com Talks Tactics

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They say in music the 2nd album is the hardest album to make,such an analogy could be used with Manchester City. The Citizens were last seasons premier league champions, their title was fully deserved with a near flawless home record and the fact that City scored over 100 goals in the season always helps.

The Blues though have come into this season a shadow of the side of last season- a bit harsh you may argue as the season is still very young where there are a lot of twists and turns still to go. It maybe harsh to say but the reigning champions don’t seem as solid this year than they were last year, a case of ‘finding the 2nd album difficult to make’. Manchester City suffered the same fate when they won the title with Roberto Mancini, the next season as defending champions they surrounded their title with a real wimper losing the title to bitter rivals Manchester United by some 11 points.

This season The Blues are 8 points behind Chelsea already, and unfortunately for City the West London club don’t seem keen to let their lead slip- which must be a worrying sign for reigning premier league champions.

Lack of personnel is one reason The Blues are struggling, City just didn’t do enough in the transfer market, they must have known the other sides will strengthen, but Man City still failed to strengthen. The main issue I want to talk about here though is the tactics of Manuel Pelegrini. The Chilean manager who is known as the engineer due to his qualification as wait for it…. an engineer, is clearly a clever man- but I can’t seem to get to grips with why he doesn’t play David Silva further up the pitch in a ‘free role’.

The Spaniard is a ‘magician’ on the ball and Silva showed us that he has a lethal left foot- just ask Adrian the West Ham goal keeper. In the 1st half of the game against West Ham David Silva was put out wide and looked like a lost sheep, when Pelegrini changed his formation and put David Silva further up the pitch it was clear to see that the 28 year old seemed at ease with his game.

Defending isn’t a part of David Silva’s game, nor should it have to be. I know what you’re thinking- the modern players need to defend and attack, people will look at Jose Mouriniho’s sides as an example- but David Silva won’t be the same player if he has defending to worry about. Look at Real Madrid for example and Christiano Ronaldo, the 29 year old isn’t in the Real team for his defensive work lets just say.

Manchester City if they are to succeed they need to put their best players in the best positions ( I know it’s stating the obvious but Manuel Pelegrini has stubbornly put the Spaniard out wide). Silva’s predicament reminds me so much of Mesut Ozil of Arsenal who is another player in the wrong position. The 28 year old needs to be behind the lone striker,Manchester City need to be better numbered in midfield. More numbers in midfield would mean dropping a striker which would regrettably have to be Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian has played pretty well- but at a club like City someone is bound to miss out and be sacrificed as part of tactics .

The player to fill that hole on the left should be James Milner, Milner is such a work ahollic and could look after the defensive side of matters while Silva can do what he does best and that’s making clever passes to the centre forward. Cesc Fabregas links well with Diego Costa and if David Silva can create a similar relationship with Sergio Aguerro, than maybe City might well just claw this deficit back. With the modern day full back ‘bombing forward’ at any given opportunity, it’s important that there is some one there to cover, James Milner in my opinion is one of the best players in the premier league to do that job.

Will The ISL Bring To The Football World What The IPL Did For Cricket?

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It’s a well established fact that India as far as the global economy is concerned, India is a financial super power, it’s the 2nd biggest economy to China if I am not mistaken. As far as the global sporting is concerned India will be looking to make the same kind of impact in the global sporting market like they have in the global economy.

In October the inaugural Indian Super League is to begin, the tournament itself will feature some sporting legends such as former France Euro 200 winner David Trezeguet, former Italy World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero and a name familiar to Liverpool fans ( Champions league winner Luis Garcia).

India have the already successful Indian Cricket Premier League played on it’s shores and it’s been a overwhelming success. The key to the success of the cricket premier league is the way it’s been marketed, global superstars of cricket always participate in the tournament.

The Indian Super League bossess have to bear this in mind, if the concept is to get off the ground. Not many might know this but the ISL did try to launch several years before but due to financial issues had to be postponed.

When I think of the Indian Super League I can’t help but think of Major League Soccer ( In the USA) , both at the moment are leagues that don’t get as much exposure as football leagues in Europe for example.

Having said that though I feel it’s quite apparent that the infrastructure is there for the ISL to blossom, the ISL is known as Hero Indian Super League, the motor giant giving the Super League some financial backing.Hero have signed a 3 year deal with the Indian league, after initially struggling to get the league formed due to finical restraints this is great news that Hero have signed such a deal.

The IPL organisers have marketed the TV rights brilliantly, the premier cricket tournament is screened around the world. The Indian Super league have been very shroud as well and appear to have taken a leaf out of their IPL counterparts book .Star Sports the Indian broadcaster will screen the football matches in India ,while Fox News will screen matches in Australia, Eurosport will cover matches in Europe and Star Sports UK will screen matches for the UK audience.

The organisers of the Indian Super League have covered all areas it seems, in another good marketing touch the ISL have decided to hold the inaugural tournament from October to December. Sometimes it’s best to go for the tried and tested option and the organisers of the ISL have most definitely done that.