Spurs Hold The Key To Arsenal’s Transfer Window

Being an Arsenal fan during transfer windows is a lot like having a girlfriend that will only give you handjobs, isn’t it? You love her to bits, but it’s endlessly frustrating that she won’t just take the extra step and get it done. Only, at least with a girlfriend, she probably wouldn’t let the fate of the relationship be decided by your arch-enemy like Arsenal have.

Right now, with just days remaining until the end of the transfer window and it seems as though the only players we’re being linked with play for Real Madrid (because that went so well last time, didn’t it Gonzalo?) and all three players (Ozil, Benzema and Di Maria) are seemingly quite happy to stay put in sunny Spain. What works to Arsenal’s advantage though, is that while Spain might be sunny, it’s also broke as fuck and Madrid aren’t exempt from that.

We’ve seen for a while now that Madrid (and Barca, while we’re at it) pay some huge fees for players, but these fees are almost never up front, instead being spread across a number of years (which is why Barca still owe us money from Alex Song!). Usually, these installments are a manageable €10m a season or so, but with the eternally impending transfer of Gareth Bale, Madrid will be pushed to make payments in far bigger chunks, to make up the eventual (and batshit insane) fee of around €100m. This presents something of a dilemma for them, because they just don’t have the money right now – and that’s where Arsenal come in.

We’re the most cash-rich club in Europe right now and Madrid will absolutely have to let one or two go in order to balance the books. Di Maria is one of those that have been most heavily linked with a move away from the Bernabeu (and the only one of the three Wenger would realistically target, though I’d be fine with him proving me wrong) and Arsenal, with Gervinho gone and Podolski injured, are reportedly very interested in bringing him in to make the left wing his own.

Simple move then, right?

Sadly not, because Spurs will know exactly what the situation is here and it’s perfectly feasible that they could drag the Bale move out even longer (sigh) to stop their rivals from strengthening. We can always hope that Madrid will be confident enough in the transfer to let him go before Bale signs on the dotted line, but considering their financial state, it’d be surprising if they were prepared to take that chance.

So here we are, stuck in a position where our most bitter enemy are in a position to dictate whether we’d be able to sign a target or not (though, let’s face it, even if it does go through soon, we still might not have a shot at him). Dark times indeed.

Still though, we’ve signed Flamini which, in relation to that earlier analogy, is like being allowed to put the tip in for a bit, so that’s a start… I guess. It’ll be depressingly unfulfilling if that’s it, though.

Romelu Lukaku; The Beauty & The Beast

It is not unknown that Belgium is a country that lives the Golden Generation in football with a national team containing names like Vincent Kompany, Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembélé, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen and…Romelu Lukaku! But who is this youngster, often said to be a beast on the football pitch? Who is Romelu Lukaku and what is the beauty in the beast?

Romelu Lukaku, born in Antwerp (Belgium), now plays for the club he loved since he was a toddler, Chelsea FC. The 20-years-old striker signed the deal of his dreams at Stamford Bridge in 2011 and left the club where it all began for him, RSC Anderlecht, behind.

We take a look back at his days in Belgium, when he was a fresh addition to the Anderlecht squad, a star striker with his own TV show following Lukaku during his days at school. He signed his first professional contract at the age of 16 and made his debut against Standard Liége. His days at Anderlecht were promising, as I went watching their matches more often to see Romelu Lukaku play. This young footballer, who played in an advert for cookies, caught my heart and I knew that one day he would leave Belgium for a bigger league. That day arrived at 6 August 2011, when Chelsea started talks with Anderlecht, Lukaku put an end to his days in Belgium and joined the Blues.

Today, Lukaku is back at Stambord Bridge after being on a season long loan to West Bromwich Albion last season. It is time to entertain Mourinho and the fans with some of his hidden talents. Last season, Lukaku impressed the world of football with a total of 17 goals in 38 appearances scoring some crucial goals for his loan club and a hat trick as a substitute against Manchester United on the final day. He was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and won the West Brom Young Player of the Year Award.

During Chelsea’s pre-season tour, Lukaku announced that the new season is an important one for him as he wants to become one of the best footballers in the world when he reaches the age of 21. He said he’s not impressed by his fellow strikers, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, who make it harder for Lukaku to get his place in the team. Romelu is often compared to a younger edition of Didier Drogba, but it is a fact that there will never be a player the same caliber of Drogba at Stamford Bridge. One similarity between Lukaku and Drogba is their ability to score goals out of the most difficult situations in front of the opponent’s goal. Next to this, Lukaku also has the strength to be a star substitute who is able to score whenever Mourinho will bring him on.

During his days at the The Hawthorns last season, Lukaku developed and became an adept passer with solid footballing instincts. These skills make the Belgian international a deathly weapon for the Blues. Having a player like Lukaku who can start and score early or come off the bench and score late is a luxury few managers in European football enjoy, and one of Mourinho’s first pieces of business should be to return the rock-solid Belgian to the club where he can show off his synergy with countryman Hazard to the Premier League this season.

Annelies

Arsene, It Really Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

Arsene, It Really Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

Being a club legend allows people preferential treatment in football and why wouldn’t it? If you’ve given everything you can to a club and brought success along the way, of course you’re going to be given a pass. It’s the reason Chelsea fans ignore the fact that John Terry’s a despicable prick and, more importantly, why Arsenal fans have had so much patience with Arsene Wenger despite going eight long years without a trophy? Well, until now, at least.

Before we get into it, though, there’s no denying Wenger has earned that club legend status. He’s the man who lead us to an entire season unbeaten in the league, earning the first (and probably last) gold Premiership trophy in the process, the man who’s kept us relatively competitive while the club built and paid for a brand new stadium (find another club that can build a stadium using mostly their own resources and stay on course) and, owing to all his innovations in regards to player diet, scouting, etc, arguably the most revolutionary manager in premiership history. He’s provided Arsenal fans with some of the best memories of our lives and for that, we will always be grateful.

The past is the past, however, and a club such as Arsenal should be looking to compete with the best right now, especially this year. With every team that finished above us last season seeing managerial changes, it only seemed logical that by adding some world class quality to our stable foundation this would be the year we could finally look to break the infamous trophy drought (and trust me, this isn’t being written by one of those people who say ‘this is our year’ every year). It all started so well, with Higuain seeming all but certain within a few weeks, but as you probably know, that didn’t go quite to plan.

The details on what exactly happened with Higuain are pretty blurry, but the fact of the matter is that he was for sale for a reasonable price (£30m on him would equate to about a million per goal in his first season… I’d take that.) and is exactly what we need – even Giroud, the man who he’d probably have replaced in the first team, has gone public about the fact that the club need a striker! For me, it reeks of a manager who is either unprepared to pull the trigger on a big deal, or one that is genuinely just out of touch with market value. It’s happened time and time again (Alonso, Cahill, Mata etc.) and it’ll keep happening until he puts his ego aside and just stumps up the cash that it takes to bring in the top players. This ‘we refuse to deal with an overinflated market’ rhetoric is complete hypocrisy too, we sold Alex fucking Song for £25m to Barcelona! He can’t expect every club in the world to sell him players at a cut price and then demand crazy prices for his own players. That was a great transfer fee to get out of him, but you just cannot have it both ways. What is the point of being the most cash rich club in the world if you’re not going to make use of it?!

Strangely, the press, pundits and fans of other clubs all seem to think that we’re just baying for that one ‘marquee’ signing and that really isn’t the case. I’d be perfectly happy with Arsene only spending £7.38 on a player if he was going to come in and step us up to the next level, the problem is that you don’t really get many great players for that price. Regardless of how much we spend on any one player, the fact is that our squad is paper thin at the moment after shipping Gervinho, Chamakh, Djourou, Squillaci, Andre Santos and a whole bunch of kids off to the island of misfit players – even with those players being as rubbish as they are (and the clearout being as sorely needed as it was), we’re down to the barebones with our squad with the season already underway. The game against Villa on the opening weekend showed us exactly how far we still have to come and despite beating Fenerbache and Fulham, you can take a look at the benches from those two games and see exactly how close we are to a serious crisis. Our first XI is capable of beating anyone on their day (see: Bayern away last year) but one or two injuries and we’re back to fielding kids in big games (see: that time we got hammered 8-2 by Surrey’s favourite team) and it’s just not good enough for a club looking to compete at the top.

The atmosphere in the stadium for that game against Villa was vile and the sentiment is clear with chants of ‘spend some fucking money’ reverberating around the stadium for almost the entire closing half hour of the game, it really is pressure time for Arsene to do exactly that. Ideally, we need to bring in a keeper, centre back, holding midfielder, winger and striker in to really add depth to the squad and put us in a position to compete. The worrying part of all this is the mangers insistence that “we will only buy if there are players available that are better than what we have,” if he genuinely hasn’t been able to find players meeting that criteria, both him and his scouts are just not up to scratch because we’ve seen dozens of players moving who would’ve improved us no end. Hell, even Spurs have managed to bring in quality additions and they have to work on Thursdays!

The most wall-punchingly frustrating part of all this is that we shouldn’t even be in this position right now. He’s had over 90 days to improve the squad and get us ready and he hasn’t, leaving us to pick up the scraps in terms of transfers and letting the results suffer on the way. It’s horrible having to feel this way about a club legend like Arsene, but there’s no doubt that if he fails to bring in what we need and make a proper push for the title (I’m not expecting to win it, but to still be involved in March would be nice) then he’s thrown away his last opportunity and has to go (who would replace him is a whole different discussion for a different time). I would love for him to prove me wrong, but I really worry that he won’t, at least not to the extent we need him to.

Still, the fans know it, the players know it, the fucking Gunnersaurus probably knows it and you would like to think that the man in charge of running the club knows it: it’s time to spend the money and prove to the naysayers (God knows there’s loads of them) that we’re still the same club that less than a decade ago were the most feared in Europe. Arsene, we love you and we appreciate all you’ve done for us but fuck ‘the race for fourth’, we want to actually compete again!

Ryan De Freitas

Ryan is an Arsenal fan and also Editor & Creator of Louder Now , a fresh online review and news site on the alternative scene. Follow them on Twitter @GetLouderNow

Suarez: Tainted Love

There has been lots said about Luis Suarez this transfer window (summer 2013). Some love him, some hate him, and some flip between the two. People have come out asking, even pleading with him to stay at Liverpool. Our beloved Captain Marvel (Gerrard) has spoken with Suarez in an attempt to convince him to stay. We’ve heard the manager, the owner and other members of the management team, praising him and stating we need him. They’ve said where they want the club to be, with Suarez being part of that vehicle to help the club get there.

However, it has not all been about praise and convincing Suarez to stay. There are those that have argued the club would be better without him, even going as far to say he is ‘poison’. With the success of the January 2013 signings of Sturridge and Coutinho, their displays in the second half of the 2012-13 season showed Liverpool can cope without Suarez. Cope is probably the right word, we weren’t overly dependent on Suarez as we once were but we certainly needed his 23 goals in the league. Liverpool fans will know that Rodgers is keen to get a ‘tika taka’ system in place and that as Rodgers has stated has been fitted around Luis.

If I had to give my personal opinion, I’d agree with Gerrard. Liverpool would be in a much stronger position to finish in the top four with Luis in the team. The Liverpool way and the old cliché of no one man is bigger than the club couldn’t be more evident that it is now. When I look at the transfer rumours with Spurs about Bale and the lack of transfer activity with Arsenal; I thought Liverpool have a genuine chance of breaking into that top four again. Whilst Spurs could afford two, three, maybe four player to fill the void if Bale left, would they have had the same impact? The same point could be argued with Liverpool and Suarez. How difficult would it be to forge that understanding between Gerrard and a new striker? Of course, Liverpool fans have been here before with Torres, but that’s a different story.

Throughout the summer, I’ve frantically been checking Sky Sports, papers, Twitter, in the hope of reading something I like about the situation. Trying to take Luis’ quotes in a positive manner yet doomed to acknowledge this wasn’t the same passionate player we saw on the pitch a few months ago. It was almost with some relief that he came out and outright said it in the recent paper interviews that he wants to leave. Broken promises or not, inviting a paper into your own home to give an interview was not the best approach. You have to wonder how far Suarez had thought this through and what impact his agent had made on his decision making. I’ve pondered though, why has only one club made an offer for him all summer? This is a player that scored over 30 goals last year, in a prime age of 26, has done well for his country and has the moment of magic to win a game. Yet, only one club has made a bid?

Is it that the other clubs have seen or at least acknowledged, what we the loyal fans have chosen to ignore? When you support any team, you will defend that team, or a player with blind passion. I myself have commented on many Facebook statues about Suarez and his antics. Yet now I feel let down by a player with a chequered history and feeling a tad embarrassed with the latest comments. It is with some irony that the fans that state how ‘disgraceful’ Suarez has been in the past, would still love him at their club. That is the passion of football; we will look past everything, in the hope of finding a new idol.

So Luis has finally officially said he wants to leave the club. It brings back memories of when an ex-girlfriend wants to have a ‘chat’ with you. You thought the world of that person, you would put them on a pedestal and they could do no wrong. You’d never listen to your friend’s advice because she was perfect, yet you never realised that inside they were a mess or a broken person.
Those feelings linger parallel with “The Cannibal of Ajax.” There is the Evra incident, the lack of handshaking after making promises, sticking his middle finger up to the Fulham supporters. Then there is the diving, admitting to diving, and finally losing control which resulted in biting another player. We have looked past all of these things because he is such a wonderful player with real talent, someone we idolised week in and week out. This, all without regard to what it has done to the image of our club or the impact on previous managers. We ignore the fact that he will try to take on a whole team, or try to do the impossible, simply because we love him. Although granted, some of his maze like runs do succeed and he does make the impossible, possible.

So now I find myself in a love, hate relationship with Luis. It’s difficult to admit to your friends they are right and that girl was crazy all along. They say there is a thin line between love and hate. Yet if Suarez apologises, signs some autographs, we will welcome him back with open arms won’t we? After all, we love him for all his faults, isn’t that what “Tainted Love” and football is about?

Andy

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Cuvelier: The Next PL Belgian?

Excellent blog on the next Belgian Breakthrough

The Inside Forward

Looking at the talent Belgium currently have at their disposal, it’s hard to believe that this is a national side who have failed to qualify for the last five major tournaments. In the Premier League alone you can now realistically build an entire team of Belgian players, a sort of

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You don’t win anything with kids.

On the 19th August 1995 Manchester United were beaten 3 – 1 by Aston Villa at Villa Park in a match they never looked like winning , prompting Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen to famously remark “you don’t win anything with kids” but when you look at the team it wasn’t really a young team.

During the previous summer United had had a bit of a clear out of players with Ince, Kanchelskis & Hughes leaving to be replaced by “Fergies Fledglings.” Now we’ve all seen the famous photo (that is usually cropped to miss out Terry Cooke on the end) and we are now seeing the players coming to or in most cases at the end of the career but lets get back to the original point.
Yes United did play a lot of youngsters in that side with both Neville brothers, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and John O Kane all playing (Beckham was the scorer that day) but Beckham and O Kane were subs who came on. There was still Irwin, McClair, Pallister, Schmeichel, Keane, Parker & Sharpe all playing so Hansen’s statement looks weak in retrospect. Also Villa had a half decent team back then with Dwight Yorke and Savo Milosevic forming a useful strike partnership that was complemented by the center back pairing of Ugo Ehiougu and Gareth Southgate. The Villa team that year finished 4th that season and claimed the league cup title although again this is hindsight but still it was a naive statement to make by Hansen on the basis of one game.

Maybe it’s Hansen’s Liverpool links that allowed him to look upon this team with scorn, although this was the same season a certain Robbie Fowler made his name and won the PFA young player of the season award playing on the red half of Merseyside. In his defence you could argue that the return of Cantona mid season buoyed United a bit, but this was a team on their way to a league and FA Cup double (beating Liverpool in a dull final most remembered for that Cantona goal and those Liverpool suits) and the young players that played topped 350 caps for their country so maybe this was one time that Hanson was wide of the mark.

Ry

Season predictions from our team

As the new season is upon us, we thought we’d treat you to our own predictions. It’ll be interesting to see how close we are. Feel free to share your own predictions and thoughts on ours in the comments section below.

Ry

Top 4

1/ Chelsea
2/ Man Utd
3/ Arsenal
4/ Man City

Relegation

Crystal Palace
Hull City
Cardiff City

FA Cup

Everton

League Cup

Chelsea

One to watch

Gerard Deulofeu

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adamdellboy

Top 4

1/ Chelsea
2/ Man City
3/ Man Utd
4/ Tottenham

Relegation

Crystal Palace
Hull City
Stoke, think Villa and WBA in for a close shave too.

PS strongly tip Cardiff to survive.

FA Cup

Chelsea

League Cup

Chelsea

One(s)to watch

Jordon Ibe, Iago Aspas, Andreas Cornelius, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.

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Elijah

Top 4

1/ Man Utd
2/Chelsea
3/Man City
4/Arsenal

Relegation

Norwich City
Crystal Palace
Hull City

FA Cup

Arsenal

League Cup

Liverpool

One(s)to watch

Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian bruisers!!!

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Andy

Top 4

1/ Man City
2/ Chelsea
3/ Man Utd
4/ Liverpool
Relegation

Norwich City
Newcastle Utd
Hull City

FA Cup

Tottenham

League Cup

Arsenal

One to watch

Gary Medel

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@BillyyAFC

Top 4

1/ Man City
2/ Arsenal
3/ Man Utd
4/ Chelsea

Relegation

Crystal Palace
Hull City
Cardiff City

FA Cup

Chelsea

League Cup

Arsenal

One(s) to watch

Aaron Ramsey, Adel Taarabt, Nathan Redmond, Yannick Bolasie, Hatem Ben Arfa, Philippe Coutinho, Oscar and Andreas Weimann.

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Ross
Top Four
1/ Chelsea
2/ Manchester City
3/ Manchester United
4/ Liverpool
Relegation
Hull
Newcastle
Crystal Palace
Sunderland’s new signings must pull it together quickly, and Stoke certainly won’t be safe unless a brash and energetic striker is brought in.
FA Cup
Chelsea
League Cup
Liverpool
One(s) to Watch
Ross Barkley, Iago Aspas, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.
Ricky-van-Wolfswinkel

The Championship Playoff winners – champagne moment or poisoned chalice.

At the start of every Championship season, each team has a dream of reaching the promised land and the riches of the Barclays Premier League. Some will have a realistic chance and will arrive at the top table of English football in style, whilst others will fall painfully short. Undoubtedly the most exciting way to join the big boys is through the Playoffs, often heartbreaking, always dramatic. A multi-million prize awaits the winners, but how have the sides that have achieved this glory fared over the last 10 years?

Back in 04/05 Crystal Palace were the victims of a last day relegation having spent just £4.5m on new players, with their most high profile signing being Fitz Hall at £2m. It has taken them the best part of the next 10 years to regain their place in the elite, following this summer’s playoff success. During that time it has needed a multi million pound takeover to put them back on the right track.

West Ham United have undoubtedly been one of the most successful playoff winners of this period, finishing 9th in the 05/06 season and runners up in a famous FA Cup Final against Liverpool. They were backed to the tune of £20m that season, with Dean Ashton arriving for a whopping £9.5m, whilst Yossi Benayoun at £3.3m provided further class. Their spending continued for some time after, the next season saw the stunning arrivals of Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez before they ultimately hit the wall financially, concluding in relegation in 2011. West Ham maintained the majority of a Premier League quality squad and bounced straight back, again through the playoffs. They splashed the cash once more upon their return on players such as Matt Jarvis(£8.3m), high profile loan signings such as Andy Carroll and quality free transfers in Mo Diame and Jussi Jaaskelainen. That spending on Premier League class players resulted in a comfortable 10th place finish and provides a foundation for further success.

Watford were relegated immediately, finishing bottom with just 5 wins after their playoff win in 2006. They spent £9m in the Premier League, with Danny Shittu their most expensive acquisition at £2m, failing to build a squad strong enough to survive. They unfortunately fell short in this year’s playoff final with a squad filled with loanees.

Derby County fell at their attempt in season 07/08, scoring an all-time low points total despite spending a relatively high sum of £20m. This included £4m+ strikers Rob Earnshaw and Kenny Miller, both proven goalscorers. They also added the experience of the likes of Robbie Savage and Danny Mills to no avail. What may have caused difficulties for Derby was the mid season change of manager from Billy Davies to Paul Jewell, alongside a corporate takeover.

Hull City survived the following year, although it also went down to the last game of the season, Their success stemmed from a stunning start, spearheaded by the brilliant Geovanni and their highest value signing at £4.6m Jimmy Bullard. Despite the glory of survival, Hull succumbed to supposed ‘2nd season syndrome’ and were relegated. A couple of seasons in the Championship supplemented with heavy spending have lead Hull back into the top flight for this season via automatic promotion.

Burnley changed their manager from Owen Coyle to Brian Laws in their sole Premier League season in 09/10, with Steven Fletcher their only major signing at £4m. He wasn’t enough to save them despite an impressive win over Manchester United. Burnley have since struggled to find the form that propelled them to a surprise season in the top flight and have changed their manager on a number of occasions in search of the solution.

Blackpool were shock playoff winners next time around and almost pulled off an even bigger shock after reaching 30 points well in advance of Christmas. However, a lack of major signings and a stream of free transfer journeymen were not enough to survive, ultimately going down with defeat at Old Trafford on the last day of the season(the only time they were in the bottom 3 all season!!). Blackpool were relegated having spent less than £5m on new players, their chairman refused to sanction the signing of a goalkeeper when they were down to just one half fit keeper in the second half of the season. Their captain Charlie Adam earned himself a place on the PFA Team of the Season, illustrating what may have been with a couple of million spent in the right place. Blackpool came within a whisker of an instant return, losing the playoff final 2-1 to West Ham despite being the better team on the day. They’ve since gone into free fall thanks to a lack of investment and a crazy managerial merrygoround.

In 11/12, Swansea defied the odds after a terrific debut season by finishing a respectable 11th under Brendan Rodgers, a performance which earned him a move to Liverpool. They spent a modest £11m, but brought in reliable top level players such as Wayne Routledge and Michel Vorm. Their style of football was a departure from previous promoted teams as they did not sacrifice their footballing principles in order to survive. They’ve since gone on to complete another successful campaign including a League Cup win under the guidance of Michael Laudrup and continue to go from strength to strength.

So what of Crystal Palace this time around? Their manager Ian Holloway has been there before with Blackpool where he vowed to ‘attack the Premier League’. What he found that time around was that the result of playing in the playoffs meant that his time were weeks behind others in terms of fitness, preparation and perhaps more importantly, the signing of new players. He was left with the scraps that no one else wanted and had to resort to signing relative unknowns.

At the time of writing, history appears to be repeating itself as Crystal Palace have only been able to secure 7 new players, none with real Premier League experience. Dwight Gayle at £4.6m is their most expensive purchase but has no experience at the top level, whilst Arsenal fans may warn the signing of Marouane Chamakh my not be anything to get excited about. My prediction is that yet again the Championship Playoff winners will struggle to keep their heads above water and will find themselves back in the Championship when the dust settles on the new season.

It’s clear to see that a combination of things are required in order to survive. Money needs to be invested in the squad wisely, including the acquisition of experienced top flight talent, faith in the team that achieved promotion may only get you so far. Stability is key, though the pressure of top flight survival affects the judgement of many chairmen!!! Planning ahead is vital if you’re going to keep up with your competition given the time restraints that the playoff winners suffer. Finally, the likes of Swansea and West Ham have proven that maintaining your footballing principles reaps dividends and an intimidating atmosphere will help secure those vital home wins. Crystal Palace, it’s over to you………..

@adamdellboy

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‘Respect’ within the beautiful game?

We often hear throughout the season about the respect campaign within football. Whether it’s respect the referee, the ‘handshakes’ at the beginning or the game, or ‘kick out racism’ campaign, well any discrimination for that matter. My passion has always been with Liverpool, so the respect campaign has always been well publicised during the games and any TV broadcasts. However, I had the chance to see my local team in a playoff final last season and it was clear to see the respect campaign does not necessarily reach grass roots.

It was Bank Holiday Monday, Rugby Town v Biggleswade Town. The game was promoted as “support the town.” The crowds were big (for Rugby Town), approximately 1,500 were there for the game, usually I’m told the average is about 150. There was a family stand on one side of the ground but from the crowds, it appeared to be a more family occasion with parents bringing their children. I stood in the terraces behind the opposition’s goal for both halves with some of the more ‘hardcore’ fans. We hear so much about what has or is being done at grass roots level to respect the referee and the players. Sky Sports will often to do special presentations on the progress of this and how referees are more respected. So as the players ran onto the pitch to cheers by the crowd my expectations were for a ‘respected’ game. The players as expected shook hands with each other and with the referee. By the time the opposition players reach the end where I am standing, they are already introduced to a fan shouting abuse at them.

I stand watching, taking in the atmosphere, as after all this is a big occasion for Rugby Town. However, with the fan being encouraged by other fans, more abuse is given to the opposition. The Biggleswade Town goalkeeper’s kit is pink and quickly became the centre of attention for banter or abuse. Friendly banter is given by the crowd and to the goalkeeper, “Your mum’s got your washing mixed up”, one member of the crowd cries. Another shouts, “You know you have to separate the whites from the colours right?” The crowd at my terrace are buoyed by the reaction from the playful interaction with the goalkeeper. It is friendly banter taken in good spirits and the abuse from earlier seems to have died down. Yet more and more people push the boundaries of the ‘friendly’ banter, the odd homophobic remark gets thrown in, much to the delight of the crowd, until chants which comment on the players sexuality continue throughout the match.

As the match progresses, Rugby Town concede a goal in the final stages of the match, previously there had been a dubious penalty decision against them. The players surround the referee on numerous occasions, the stress of the game clearly getting to them. More explicit terms of abuse are chanted towards the referee. Although it is not the odd person now, there are groups of fans around me chanting the abuse towards the reference and the opposition supporters. Is this the ‘respect campaign’ that was meant to have been introduced at grass roots level?

There were parents with their children looking distressed at the chants and the abusive signs being gestured. The ground is small and quite compact which meant the groups of people were close together. The chanting could have been heard over at the family side of the ground. Although this was not just an area for families as they were around the ground. I questioned myself after the match as to whether football is a family game anymore? Is that an environment suitable for children, obviously only the parents can make that judgment call but is that the behaviour you would expect from a local football match? Yes at bigger matches, chants of abuse happen but with the spotlight so much on the Premier League and racist or homophobic chants, what next for the rest of the football league? Is it for the stewards to report people for abusive chanting which are homophobic? Where do you draw the line between friendly banter and abuse?

I must add the day was still enjoyable and I am not criticising my local team directly. I’m sure this could happen across other lower league matches, but I pose the question, would you be happy to take your child to the game? Knowing that for durations of the game, you’ll hear someone be possibly discriminated because of their goalkeeper kit is pink and have to listen to on-going abusive language? It will be interesting to see if the measures taken within the Premier League trickle down to the lower leagues for the years to come.

Thanks for reading and I’d be interested to hear your comments or thoughts on the matter.

Andy

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The Emergence of Kieran Gibbs

It’s not a case of has Kieran Gibbs got the talent to succeed as Arsenal’s no.1 Left Back, it has always been a case of can he stay fit enough to make that spot his own.
Kieran has been at the Gunners since 2004, where he made the jump up to the first team in 2007, playing a relative disappointing 61 times for the Gunners.

There is a funny story to Gibbs becoming a Arsenal player.. He was at Wimbledon until 2004, until they disbanded and became the Milton Keynes Dons. He was playing left wing at the time. However, one of his friend’s got scouted for Arsenal, and got offered a trial there; after not finding a club since leaving Wimbledon, his friend asked if he could bring Kieran along, and Arsenal accepted. Kieran got offered a place at the club, and his friend didn’t. I don’t want to bore you on his stat’s here, but this does show a remarkable improvement, for Kieran and Arsenal. Kieran, in his time, has suffered 8 injuries, totalling to nearly a year out injured. Just injured. That isn’t taking into account, gaining fitness, gaining match fitness. After replacing Gael Clichy as Arsenal’s number 1 left back in 2011, He has appeared in the red and white of Arsenal in the league a total of 43 times, injuries included, nearly double his appearances in the first 4 seasons on being Arsenal’s books.

Less of the stats, I want to take a look at his playing style. After seeing off the challenge( Well, you say challenge) of Andre Santos, Kieran grew in confidence, having a steady full first season, not setting the scene alight, just being a steady and consistent LB. His season didn’t really start until the start of January 2012, as he sustained a stomach problem in October 11 and was out injured for 6 week’s, but after that he really flourished. He was instrumental in clawing back the point gap with Tottenham, starting his first game since injury against the Lily Whites in “that 5-2”, which boosted Arsenal massively. He also saved Arsenal’s champions league hopes in the last game of the season against West Brom, making a crucial sliding tackle in the dying moments to deny Billy Jones. Once again Gibbs started the season as Arsenal’s no.1 left back, and crucially, along with others of the British Core, he signed a new long term contract with the Gunners. However, after blowing Santos out of the water, Kieran suffered another 6 week injury at the end of January, meaning Arsenal had to spend £10 million on Spanish international Nacho Monreal, proving quality completion for the England left back. Gibbs finished the season strong, the same as last time. It was almost like a case of Déjà vu from the season before. The same events occurred. The same score line happened with Tottenham. And Gibbs had a remarkable game up at Newcastle. Not much else you can say.

There is a healthy debate around the Arsenal fans at the moment, on who should be Arsenal’s no.1 left back, something we haven’t had in ages. For me, completion for places, means both players have to better themselves and improve, which is good news for everyone. They can learn off each other, complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. For me, Kieran should be starting over Nacho. He was one of Arsenals best players last year, showing real threat in the attacking third, and being a steady component of a ever improving Arsenal defence, marshalled by a partnership of Koscienly and Mertesacker.
He has great timing in his tackles, has a great burst of pace, which is shown when he dives intelligently forward, making penetrating runs inside the penalty box.

He is composed on the ball, making an average of 41 passes every game, at a overall success ratio for the season 83.9%. This means that he knows what to do when he is on the ball, doesn’t panic like other players. He is a vital cog down the left side, supporting either Podolski or Cazorla in the final third, as he has a impressive cross on him, but the key for me with Gibbs is, he is always looking up in the final third, unlike say Sagna. This is highlighted by the fact that Gibbs often chooses to pass the ball to feet if the opportunities comes up, there are so many instances where this has happened, but I do want to keep this short and sweet.

A lot of talk over the last couple of years has been Arsenal’s weakness is their defensive work. Respectfully, I disagree, it is down to individual mistake’s, not the set up of the defence.
But, that is for enough debate. Defensively Gibbs is sound, a real important member of Arsenal’s, and, possibly England’s defence, present and future. He averages 2.8 tackles a game, and 2.4 interceptions a game. This shows he has a really good reading of the game, as his tackle’s and crucially interceptions are high for a full back.
Remarkably, he was only dribbled past 22 times last season, TWENTY TWO. Over a long season, that is really impressive and something that can and should only be admired.

If, and a big if, Gibbs can stay fit, for a prolonged period of time, getting himself a good run of games under his belt, he is going to have a really big future for Arsenal, and for England.

Also, on a personal note, this is my first article ever, but I am delighted it is for SatInRowZ.
Any feedback or comments, positive or negative, is welcome, and if you want to give me a follow on Twitter, you can find me at @BillyyAFC

Thank you for reading.

Stats via WhoScored