Arsenal FC – What Is The Problem?

Season 2003-04: The Gunners did not know about it at the time, but the team from North London was going to make history in British football. The club went on to be unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League for the entire season. A feat that has never been achieved before and after, so far. The future was supposed to be promising. It yielded a F.A. Cup title against Manchester United and a second place in the league behind José Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2004-05; and a Champions League final, at the Stade de France in Paris, lost versus FC Barcelona thanks to a late goal from Julian Belleti. Since then, Arsenal FC has been struggling to win titles. They have finished no higher than 3rd in the league. No FA Cup titles until the triumphs 2014 and 2015. No European titles (the closest was a seminal appearance against the Red Devils in 2009 which was lost 4-1 on aggregate). In the League Cup, they appeared in one final at Wembley Stadium in London, Birmingham City, which were just promoted by the score 2-1 with a last-minute goal.

In the meantime, several big name players left the club such as Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Alex Song, Alexander Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna etc. Others came in such as Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla, Nacho Montreal, Gervinho (left the team since), Marouane Chamakh (left), Nicklas Bendtner (left), Gabriel Paulista, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Petr Cech, Mohamed Elmeny, David Ospina etc. Young players have given Arsenal’s fans some hope such Hector Bellerin from Spain, Francis Coquelin from France and youngster Alex Iwobi from Nigeria. It is not enough to win the title though. This year was a year where, if done right, Arsenal could have challenged Leicester City FC most decisively. But now, with six games to play, they are 14 points behind with two games in hand. A task almost impossible to achieve.

Regrets and maybe frustration will continue to mount and the current manager, Arsene Wenger, will continue to be at the centre of it all. For years, fans and experts mentioned that the club was lacking several players to compete for titles a good defensive midfielder, a world class centre-half and a goal scorer. Interesting observations since Arsenal used to always field those type of players on the pitch (Tony Adams, Sol Campbell, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Robert Pires, Ian Wright, Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie). Where are those kind players been ? Why has Arsenal changed a winning formula? Is the construction of the Emirates Stadium good enough of an excuse to explain the lack of trophies by the former “Invincibles”? We shall see.

True, it is not easy to find those type of quality players, but Arsenal FC is not a club like any other. Based in London, England, with a successful history, big stadiums in the past and present and with ambitions, it is time for the Gunners to take that step ahead.

Stay tuned…

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2016 Ballon d’Or – Messi vs. Ronaldo (Week 15)

This week, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo ave been shutout statistically wise. No goal, no assist. This leaves us with the following numbers since January 01st. We count all competitions such club competitions and country competitive games and friendlies.

In La Liga, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored one goal and two assists this Saturday, at home, against Eibar in a 4-0 win for Real Madrid, while Lionel Messi was shutout once again, at la Real Sociedad, with a 1-0 defeat for the Catalan giants.

So far, Messi leads in every aspect of the game and is on course to win a sixth Ballon d’Or. Of course, we are still way early. (In bold, the leading statistic).

Lionel Messi 25 games 25 goals 10 assist 3 trophies available
Cristiano Ronaldo 20 games 19 goals 8 assists 1 trophy available
Total Messi 5 games Messi 6 goals Messi 2 assists Messi 2 trophies

Barca wins; Bayern wins; Real Madrid loses…

Very interesting beginning of the quarterfinals in the Champions League. FC Barcelona faced Spanish rivals Atlético Madrid, at home, for the first leg and as it was expected, it was not easy. Diego Simeone’s club even scored the first goal of the game and by the same token, a precious away goal. Only to see its scorer, a certain Fernando Torres, being booked twice and sent off at the 35th minute of the match. This action gave a sight of relief to the home fans and more space to maneuver.

Bayern Munich FC scored quickly in the first half and was able to contain S. L. Benfica until the final whistle. Still a 1-0 result heading into Estadio da Luz will not be easy for the German giants and defending champions. At the same stage, last year, they lost 3-1 at Porto before beating them easily 6-1 in the return leg.

Real Madrid CF, coming off a surprising and positive El Clásico win against FC Barcelona, faces off a difficult battle. Losing 2-0 at VfL Wolfsburg will not do them any good. Playing at home will be a plus for Los Blancos, but as we have seen this season, even under Zinedine Zidane’s leadership, the team can be challenged and lose matches.It will be interesting to see what tactics will be used for the return leg at home for Real Madrid. Julian Draxler was a key player in this historic win. His pace, going after defenders and his knack for passing the ball well have been a nightmare for Real Madrid’s defenders to cope with, and nobody believes that it will stop there. After all, Wolfsburg have experience and most importantly, nothing to lose. Tricky tie.

As for Paris Saint-Germain FC vs Manchester City FC, the English club has scored two vital away goals despite some sloppy defending on their side and on Paris-SG’s part as well. This tie is wide open. The French club and Ligue 1 champions can win matches pretty much anywhere in Europe (expect at FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF, for now).

Sayed tuned…

El Clasico 2016 – FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid CF Aftermath

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo.
Neymar Jr vs. Gareth Bale.
Luis Suarez vs. Karim Benzema.
Zinedine Zidane vs. Luis Enrique.

We could go on and on about the match-ups and the rivalry between so many players, managers, leaders that characterizes each El Clasico.

At the end of the day, it was Los Blancos who came out on top winning at the Camp Now by the score of 2-1 despite being a man down thanks to a second yellow card awarded to Sergio Ramos (who else) for a foul from behind on Luis Suarez.

FC Barcelona will surely be disappointed with the outcome of this result. They were undefeated in all competitions for the past 39 matches and are still in contention to win another treble this year. With Atlético Madrid winning earlier yesterday 5-1, the gap between the Catalan giants and the two biggest Madrid-based clubs is slowly shrinking to six and seven points respectively, although Los Blaugranas have the face-to-face advantage versus both teams (2-1 and 1-0 against Atlético; 4-0; 1-2 vs. Real Madrid).

It is still expected to see Barcelona win La Liga title, but for the Real Madrid and especially Zinedine Zidane, it will be a big boost to have won a first Clasico and away. Replacing the unpopular Rafael Benitez and trying to get the club back on track was not going to be an easy task and with the reputation of Real Madrid not hesitating to sacrifice a manager (for the right or wrong reasons), it was a risk for the former French maestro to take, with so little experience.

So far, we have to admit that, as usual, the Marseille-born former football legend is having success and there is no doubt that he can continue on with Real Madrid CF and maybe somewhere along the line, take over the French national squad and bring a FIFA World Cup back to his country, the one that he should have probably won in 2006 if it was not for the unfortunate incident against Italy. We have to wait and see.

Zinedine Zidane entraineur

Stay tuned…

Copa America Centenario 2016 – Argentina, Brazil, Chile or ?

La Copa America will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year and the United States of America has been chosen as the host country for this special event. The format of the competition has changed since 2007 from an every two year event to a more “normal” four year.

Last year, Chile, the host country, won its first continental title, on penalty kicks, against the Argentina of Lionel Messi, which failed, for a second year in row (after the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Germany) to win a final. This time around and not having to wait another four years, the squad led by Gerardo “Tata” Martino will hope to finally bring a professional trophy home, a first since la Copa America triumph in 1993.

It will not be easy. Several other countries want a piece of this silverware and this time around, 16 teams will be involved in the competition (Argentina • Bolivia • Brazil • Chile • Colombia • Costa Rica • Ecuador • Haiti • Jamaica • Mexico • Panama • Paraguay • Peru • Uruguay • United States • Venezuela).

  • Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica are in as CONCACAF Regional Cup Winners.
  • Haiti and Panama have been invited to join the competition as the two playoff winner and highest finishers of the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
  • The United States of America is the host country, as mentioned above.

Brazil seeks revenge, redemption, return to glory. The past few years have very difficult for la Seleção. Despite winning the Confederations’ Cup the past three occasions (2005, 2009 and 2013), it has had difficulties winning bigger tournaments since the 2007 Copa America vs. Argentina.

  • Defeats in Olympic tournaments, despite boasting names such as Ronaldinho in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (China) and Neymar Jr. in London 2012 have been a little surprising and very disappointing.
  • FIFA World Cups have also been difficult experiences since its triumph in 2002 led by “El Fenomeno” Ronaldo. Defeats in quarter-finals vs. France in 2006 and the Netherlands in 2010 were difficult to swallow. This was nothing compared to the historical 7-1 annihilation at the hands of future champions Germany, at home, in 2014.
  • In Copa Americas, elimination in 2011 and 2015 against the same team, Paraguay, and in the same fashion, penalty kicks, have been a disaster as well for the supporters. Neymar Jr., the current captain of the team, wants to play in both competition this summer (Copa America and Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro). FC Barcelona will have to agree to it before he can try to win both titles, which will be highly unlikely.

Uruguay, which holds the record for the most title wins with 15 Copa America trophies, has seen the return of Luis Suarez pay dividends already with his game-tying goal against Brazil in a recent FIFA World Cup Qualification match. Edinson Cavani (Paris-SG) has also been in good form the past few games. Can La Celeste win a record 16th Copa America? We shall see.

Chile, the current title holder, Colombia, an always dangerous opponent and the United States, the tournament host, are teams not to be taken lightly this year.

Who will raise this year’s Copa America Centenario? My prediction goes with La Albiceleste of Lionel Messi, who will grab a rare trophy missing in his already extra large cabinet.

La Albiceleste

Stay tuned…

Euro 2016 – Will France Win It ?

The European Championship is coming this Summer and France is hosting it for third time since its introduction in 1960. It has won it twice in the past (1984 at home and 2000 in Belgium/The Netherlands). Both times, the squad was led with legends as Michel Platini in 1984 and Zinedine Zidane in 2000. Nowadays, a young French team led by a natural born leader and trophy laden player, Didier Deschamps, hopes to finally get back to winning ways after about a decade of difficulties coinciding with the retirement of Zidane in 2006 after the FIFA World Cup Final.

This time, it appears that that France is not only loaded with talent but are angry to put e past behind them and make the most out their oppportunity at home. That could potentially culminate in lifting the trophy for a record third time (along with Germany and Spain). Players such as Paul Pogba (Juventus FC), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid CF), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspurs), Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid), the return of former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra (Olympique Marseille), Blaise Matuidi (Paris-SG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal FC), Patrice Evra (Juventus FC), Anthony Martial (Manchester United FC)  and a few others will constitute the backbone of a team that the French supporters hope will lead them to silverware on July 10th, when the final will kick-off.

Other countries will have their say in France…

Spain is the current title holder and after a disastrous World Cup compaign which saw them being humiliated by The Netherlands 5-1 and then eliminated by Chile 2-0, they would want to prove that this page of their history was simply an accident. Despite losing key players to retirement such as Xavi, David Villa, Xabi Alonso, Carlos Puyol.

Germany. The current FIFA World Cup holders will be looking at making the double in France (World Cup and Euro back-to-back). A few key players have left the national squad though such as Philip Lahm (Bayern Munich FC) and Miroslav Klose (SS Lazio). They can still bank on tremendous talent such as Marco Reus, Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich FC), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich FC), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich FC), Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich FC), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), to name a few. Will it be enough for “Die Mannschaft”? We shall see.

Countries such as Italy, England, Portugal can never be underestimated in international competititons and squads as Czech Republic, Turkey and Croatia can always surprise. But if a country has to be taken very seriously this summer, it has to be Belgium. I would not be surprised if this is the national team that surprises France and wins their first European Championship. The squad is simply full with top talent in almost several positions of the field/pitch. Thibault Courtois (Chelsea FC), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City FC), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Eden Hazard (Chelsea FC), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City FC),Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United FC), Dries Merterns (SSC Napoli), Axel Witsel (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Romelu Lukaku (Everton FC), Radja Nainggolan (AS Roma) etc. A very impressive list of fine players who just might be ready,in time, to lift a trophy and create history.

Stay tuned…

FIFA Ballon d’Or 2016 – The Race Is On

Already, the race for the FIFA Ballon d’Or 2016 (starting January 01st) is heating up. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar Jr., Cristiano Ronaldo are currently the favourites to win the big trophy.

So far and while most of the football world is on international duty, we can take a look at individual and collective statistical for each one of them and create a prediction on who might win the big prize next January (in bold, the best statistic for each category).

Lionel Messi is the current title holder – 22 games. 25 goals. 10 assists.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 17 games. 17 goals. 6 assists.

Luis Suarez – 20 games. 18 goals. 12 assists.

Neymar Jr. – 19 games. 11 goals. 6 assists.

Robert Lewandowski – 15 games. 13 goals. 1 assist.

FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich are currently on course for a treble winning season meanwhile Real Madrid is ten points behind the Catalan giants at the top of Spanish league, was disqualified from the Spanish Cup for fielding a suspended player, but are still alive in the C.L.

It will be interesting to see until the votes by the 209 managers and captains of their national team and a selected journalists from each country are counted sometime in November, but if everything goes according to the current statistics and trophies to be won, Lionel Messi should collect his unprecedented sixth Ballon d’Or next January.

Stay tuned…

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