Monday, October 29, 2012

Can Arsenal Compete with the Big Guns?

Arsenal revived their flagging fortunes this weekend with a scrappy 1-0 win over visiting Queens Park Rangers. But while it might have been a win, it was anything but convincing.

After two months of football, QPR are stuck at the bottom of the Premier League table. Yet even when the Rangers went down to 10 men after Stephane Mbia was sent off, it took a bad call from the ref for Arsenal to win the match when Mikel Arteta's point blank shot was incorrectly allowed to stand, despite being blatantly offside.

It was about as narrow a win as possible. For a team like Arsenal, who allegedly are regarded as title contenders, it looked far too difficult.

But that said, there were some encouraging things to take away from the fixture.

Jack is Back

After a 14 month injury layoff that saw him miss all of last season, Jack Wilshire returned to Arsenal's starting lineup for the first time this calender year. The young England international looked fit, sharp and truly provided some of Arsenal's most inspirational play before being subbed off after just over an hour.

On Again off Again, Arshavin

He's been seen very little of late, and when he has, it's mostly been dreadful. But after coming on as a late second half substitute, Andrei Arshavin showed flashes of the brilliance that made him such a dangerous player when he first arrived at the Emirates some three seasons back. The Emirates faithful have long since lost their faith in the Russian and even Wenger tried unsuccessfully to offload the player on a free transfer. But were Arshavin to rediscover his early form with the club, all would likely be forgiven.

Arteta Shows Composure

He arrived in a deadline day flurry just over a year ago in the midst of what was perhaps Arsenal's darkest hour in the Arsene Wenger era. Yet since that time the Mikel Arteta has proven himself to be a Gibraltar-like presence in the Gunner's midfield. His passing, his knack for maintaining possession and on Saturday, his composure in front of goal, continue to serve the Gunners well.

Missing: In Action  and Out of Action

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin were both sidelined Saturday because of injury. When Wenger needed to find another gear after the stalemate wore on well into the second half, it became apparent how invaluable the fleet-footed duo of former Southampton players are to Arsenal. Their pace and trickery on the wings were sorely missed when the Gunners wanted for additional inspiration.

Santi Cazorla, Gervinho and Lukas Podolski on the other hand, all appeared in Saturday's fixture. However none of them had the best of games and when their performances flag, particularly in Cazorla's case, Arsenal are much the poorer for it.

Gunning for Manchester United

Having already tied City and lost to Chelsea, Arsenal head into their next big Premier League test this weekend when they head to Old Trafford to take on a van Persie-led Manchester United. Arsenal currently sit in sixth place on 15 points, which at this stage in the game, maintains them within striking distance of league leaders Chelsea who are sitting on 22 points.

Competition for Arsenal's coveted top-four spot is thicker than ever with a revitalized Tottenham breathing down their necks. Meanwhile big spending City and Chelsea seem on the brink of leaving Arsenal in the dust yet again. If the Gunners are to maintain any hope of mounting a serious title challenge, or even maintaining their trajectory for a Champions League spot, it's vital they get some kind of result Saturday to keep pace with Chelsea and the high flying Manchester sides.

Walcott and Wilshire should both be fit for the fixture against United, as will Bacary Sagna, another welcome return in this weekend's win. However Arsene Wenger will need to coax good performances from Cazorla and Podolski in order for the Londoners to truly threaten United at Old Trafford.

And if ever there were a game for expensive but yet-to-dazzle French striker Olivier Giroud to catch fire, next Saturday's encounter at Old Trafford will surely be it.

Whatever the outcome, we should have a clearer picture of Arsenal's title credentials come Sunday morning.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Is Radamel Falcao heading for England or the other side of Madrid?

The highly rated 26 year old has been terrorising the Portuguese and Spanish league teams for the past few years and now the rumour is he is ready to add the EPL teams to this list. If Atletico Madrid decide to sell their prized asset then it is rumoured he will cost £48 million (near $65m). Can you believe this top talent would be considering swapping sunny Spain and games against Barcelona and Madrid for rainy England and games against Wigan and Fulham?

  • Falcao has scored many goals in two of Europe's toughest divisions
  • The striker has attracted interest from world class sides such as Real Madrid, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.
  • The strikers goals to game ratio is close to an average of a goal per game.
Can he perform as well as the worlds elite players?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Can Robin Van Persie help Manchester United rule their city and the world?

Robin Van Persie has become a well known figure in English soccer over the past few years. Of course you will know that he was almost single handedly carrying Arsenal and their small success of the past few seasons. Many of you English Premier League fans have possibly thrown their RVP jerseys away or even gone out and bought a new one with his name on, depending on who you support. Many of you are debating whether his change of clubs can restructure the balance of powers in Manchester and possibly the world.
  • RVP spent around 8 years at Arsenal from 2004-2012
  • Manchester United battled their arch rivals Man City for his signature.
  • RVP was offered a new deal to stay at Arsenal but decided to leave in pursuit of trophies.

Will RVP and Rooney be able to succeed together?

Many of you have suggested that this signature is enough for Manchester United to snatch their title back from their hated neighbours, however some of your views differ. You may believe that this transfer will complicate things this season as their forward line will contain two big name players with big reputations in Rooney and RVP and two talented youngsters in Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck. With a forward line this strong it is likely you will see competitive performances from the Man Utd forward line in each and every game, something many of your eyes may have not seen enough last season.

But he is past his prime you say?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Is Fifa 13 a realistic and worthy gaming experience for all of you football fans?

There is no doubt that the majority of the world's football fans agree. This years edition of the game sold a staggering 4.5 million copies in the first five days it was available. In America the sport of Soccer and its video game Fifa has been growing in popularity over the last few years. This year seen a near 42% increase in sales in a direct comparison with Fifa 12, suggesting Fifa 13 is the best and most realistic video game available worldwide.

Can Pro Evolution 13 compete with Fifa 13?

A quick answer for those of you wondering this is no it cannot. Although PES13 in it its own right has many fans and a great footballing experience it quite simply is not and cannot be Fifa. When looking across the internet and in many shops gaming sections you're sure to notice that the vast majority are choosing Fifa and this is shown in stores worldwide as many copies of PES13 are left untouched whereas Fifa13 have sold out and needed more stock in many of the same stores.

Do the virtual players play like their real life namesakes?

Every year Fifa has been concentrating on making the game more life life and this year is no different. With an incredible first touch system, a more realistic pace and many different styles this years game and its players offer a very genuine experience. If you are controlling Lionel Messi then expect a brilliant first touch however if you're controlling ClintDempsey expect a good first touch, but one that is not up to Messi's standard. And this is exactly what many of you have been wanting. No longer can the better Fifa players dominate you as easily when they are being say La Galaxy Vs Manchester United, they require better players or a real hard working team performance in order to compete with a better team.

But what about the problems millions have complained about?

Klinsmann Under the Microscope as USA Struggle Through World Cup Qualification

An injury-time strike from Eddie Johnson saved the USA's blushes Friday night, rescuing the team from what would've been an embarrassing draw with Antigua and Barbuda, while securing a valuable three points in World Cup qualifying.

The Seattle Sounders striker more than vindicated his selection ahead of the likes of Jozy Altidore and Terence Boyd, by heading home the go-ahead goal in the 20th minute and then pulling the USMNT's collective arse out of the fire after they gave up an equalizer barely five minutes later.

But while the 2-1 road win now sees the USA enter into their final match of the round needing only a draw against Guatemala at home next Tuesday, the narrow escape in Antigua seems to have once again put coach Jurgen Klinsmann under the microscope of fan scrutiny.

Antigua, after all, are regarded as a minnow of CONCOCAF, a region that is generally derided as being one of the less challenging corners of world football to begin with. With all Klinsmann's talk of employing some fancy new system, many US fans tuned into Friday night's match expecting it to be a cakewalk. And while a 2-1 win away from home is by no means a bad result, the uncomfortable nature of the win seems to have unsettled many US fans.

Sure Landon Donovan was out due to injury, as was Brek Shea. But with the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Hercules Gomez in the lineup, you could forgive US fans for expecting a bit more attacking flair from their team. Instead we got a lackluster performance without any real cutting edge that was an uncomfortable reminder of the kind of ineffectual performances regularly seen from Bayern Munich during Klinsmann's tenure at the helm of the Bavarian powerhouse.

Kyle McCarthy, writing for, called the USA's performance "laborious," as indeed it was throughout much of the match. However as McCarthy points out, it was the inclusion of two of Klinsmann's surprise selections: Johnson and San Jose forward Alan Gordon, who combined to create the winning goal.

To step back and take a little of the heat off Klinsmann, let's point out that the US has an 8-2-2 record this year, which is nothing to sneeze at. And sure Friday night's match was an unattractive slog, fought out in the rain against a dogged opponent with nothing to play for but pride. But haven't many of US soccer's most important victories also been less-than-dazzling when it comes to flair and spectacle?

Recently I spoke with former US number one goalkeeper Tony Meola, ahead of the USA's vital second leg match against Jamaica. He had this to say about the Klinsmann era.

"I'm not sure what’s changed. I think we’re a good team, I thought we were a good team before he got there. I’m not saying he’s not doing good work or that Bob did better. I’m just saying, I don’t know what we’ve done. We talk about this new system, but what really is the system? We’re an athletic team, when we’re organized we’re very good. We’re always gonna defend fairly well, we’re solid in goal, we can counterattack and when we’ve got all our players on the field we have enough creativity to score goals. Is that any different than what we had? I don’t look at our team and go `Oh, we look like Barcelona now.’"

Perhaps it's the weight of expectation Klinsmann puts on himself. It's easy to understand why US fans may not be 100% sold on the German manager. He flopped with Bayern and there are still lingering questions about how big a role his then assistant Jogi Loew played in Germany's success at the 2006 World Cup.

But Klinsmann might do himself a favor by talking less about innovating new systems and instead playing to the strengths of the player pool he has to choose from. The USA has recorded friendly away victories against the likes of Italy and Mexico this year. Barring any major disasters, we are also currently on track to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Comfortable, stylish victories have never really been the USA's forte. At the moment it seems as if expectations have been overinflated somewhat. This is leading to what could be regarded as a misplaced sense of disappointment, despite the fact that, first leg against Jamaica aside, results have generally been going the USA's way.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Look Back At Gabriel Batistuta Perhaps Argentina's Greatest Striker

When thinking back to the glory years of soccer during the 90s many names come up, such as Zinadine Zidane, Romario, Stoichkov, Baggio, Ronaldo, and even Beckham. Fans sometimes forget perhaps the most talented of them all, Gabriel Batistuta. I personally distinctively remember Batistuta, because he played for one of my favorite club teams, Fiorentina, during which also happened to be the glory years of Italian soccer.

Batigol as he was known then was a very interesting player. Batistuta was a prolific striker, but also knew when to pull back; Batistuta was very comparable to Baggio in that they both were great strikers, yet were great set-up players as well. It is interesting to me that Batistuta sometimes gets lost when mentioning past great players; Some credit that partly because he played for Fiorentina. Batistuta would later go on to play for Roma, and Inter Milan, but he enjoyed his best years at Fiorentina, which is a level below other great Italian teams, such as AC Milan and Inter Milan.

Batistuta also never quite enjoyed international success, despite being Argentina's all time leading scorer with 56 goals in 78 matches. However, he never quite led his team the way Maradona did. His career eventually began to fade out in the early 2000s, eventually retiring in 2005 after playing for Al-Arabi. Batistuta remains somewhat of a mystery, as he currently runs his own construction team in Argentina, and has remained out of spotlight since his retirement. I will never forget "Batigol" and others should not either as a great soccer player