We need to talk about Luis.

Today I was planning to a piece on the poor performance by the England team in the World Cup but then I witnessed something we thought I would never see again. The sight of Luis Suarez biting another player.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a Manchester United fan, but even I appreciate Suarez as a top player and I completely agree with his clean sweep of awards last season as he was phenomenal and almost pushed Liverpool to their first league title. The thing is this time, unlike the others times there are no words of support coming from Liverpool, fellow pundits or anyone. It’s almost as if the patience has run out for the Uruguayan from everyone. There is even talk about Adidas and 888 Poker withdrawing their endorsements with the striker.

So in case you live under a rock what actually happened? Suarez and Chiellini clashed shortly before the goal that ultimately decided the clash and eliminated the Italians, at first look the Uruguayan seemed to run and headbutt the Italian defender and both men went down. The first inkling that something was different from a standard clash in the box was the sight of Suarez grabbing his front teeth as if he had been elbowed. It wasn’t until the second and third replay that I thought hold on a minute, surely not, not again, he didn’t just bite Chiellini did he? The answer is yes, yes he did. It became obvious when Chiellini pulled down his shirt to show 5 teeth marks on his shoulder. The whole thing cast a massive shadow over a big win for Uruguay, the Italians elimination and Pirlo’s & Buffon’s last international game.

So the big question is whats next? Well there is no doubt that FIFA will impose a ban on him that could have potential ramifications not just for country but for club as well as they could put a worldwide ban on him, although this is highly unlikely as it would leave them more open to appeal and reduction under various human rights infringements. If they go down the route of just banning him from all international football it may make him more desirable to teams looking to sign him from Liverpool as they wouldn’t have the burden and risk of him going halfway across the world to play football for Uruguay, so he would essentially have a two week rest every couple of months which would probably make him an even more useful player for the club. As we have already said he risks losing potential endorsements with this latest blot on his copy book, although in his native country he is seen as a bit of a hard man and uses it to trade on his likeness in adverts.

The thing is as well is if this was an isolated incident then perhaps it could be written off as a lapse of judgement but it’s the regularity he seems to do something controversial that would alarm me if I was a Liverpool fan, after all this is now the second world cup in a row that Suarez has done something to cast a shadow on his performances. I have seen various things saying that this is like his way of blowing off when his frustration gets to its maximum, but surely fans would prefer him to go and destroy a team with a magnificent solo goal? or a bit of outstanding play like he showed last season in the Premier League? And if it is the case then why did he not do it last season when the pressure was on Liverpool  in their title run in.

Either way FIFA need to exercise the full force of their power in this instance more than anything to show that they are not as corrupt as they seem. Let me know your thoughts?

Ry

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World Cup 2014

So here we are, only a few hours away from the biggest event on the footballing calendar.

After all the hype, scandal, deaths and protests lets hope that Brazil 2014 doesn’t disappoint. But who are some of the teams and players a few members of our writing team think could catch the eye. I will also provide a few players and teams that shouldn’t be written off.

Adam Dell Boy
Winner: Brazil
Player of the Tournament: Neymar
Potential Shock Exit: Portugal

Pete
Winner: Brazil
Player of the Tournament: David Silva
Potential Shock Exit: Italy

Ryan
Winner:Brazil. Although Netherlands would be a good left field bet and Belgium could make it to the semis
Player of the Tournament: Toni Kroos
Potential Shock Exit: England, sorry. Although if Ronaldo doesn’t drive Portugal as he has done on many occasions they could be out at the group stage.

As well as the players highlighted I think Arturo Vidal could continue to build on his fantastic domestic season and help Chile provide a tough test for Spain and the Netherlands. All eyes will be on Neymar and as he showed in the Confederations Cup, he can handle the weight of a nation in an international tournament, but can he handle it on the biggest stage? Romelu Lukaku will be licking his lips and hoping he can win his fitness race before Belgium’s opener against Algeria on Tuesday. This tournament could put him right in the shop window, especially if Mourinho is in a selling mood, also keep an eye out for fellow countryman Axel Witsel who has sparked time and time again at domestic level. Let’s hope it’s Brazil 2014 where he catches fires.

As for teams I’ve already said Belgium and Netherlands are both good “outside” bets for getting far in the tournament and perhaps in Netherlands case winning but who else do I think can do a job? Well one team would be USA, managed by Jurgen Klinsmann and a team that plays a patient game and looks to hit teams on the break, they could prove a real test for all the other teams in perhaps what could be the hardest off all the groups.
The other team to watch is Russia. Built on typical stoic soviet defensive techniques and managed by Fabio Capello who despite his lack of personality is a tactical genius and builds his teams to be fantastic on the basics of the game.

So that’s who we think could be lighting up your TV in the next few weeks but what’s your opinion?

Ry

Adebayor: ….. To Be Loved

In the first 8 games of the season Tottenham Hotspur where winning all sorts of plaudits for their attacking play, with the focus coming on the emergence of Andros Townsend as well as the additions in the summer of Eriksen, Chadli, Lamela & Soldado. In amongst this time of great form their was a man forgotten, Emmanuel Adebayor. Banished to train with the youth team by then manager Andre Villas-Boas after returning late from his own brothers funeral and seemingly looking on his way out of the door.

Then Villas-Boas was discarded by Spurs after their form took a dip and AVBs negative tactics proved to much for the very loyal White Hart Lane crowd to stomach, and under rookie manager Tim Sherwood the man from Togo seems to have found a new lease of life.

Adebayor has always been a mercurial talent, from his tumultuous time at Arsenal where too often he showed glimpses of a player of special talent. To his largely forgettable time at Manchester City, although he will forever be a legend in my eyes for his pitch long run to celebrate his goal in front of the Arsenal fans. Then via Real Madrid he ended up at Spurs. Once again his first season showed how good much of a poacher the man is netting 18 goals and ending as their top scorer. Last season however Adebayor was everything his critics lambast him for: wasteful, lazy and seemingly at times disinterested and he only returned 5 goals, a figure he has already gone past this term.

So where exactly does Adebayor fit in in the criteria for a top striker? Well the answer to this lies in the fact which Adebayor turns up. On his day he has the perfect balance of speed and strength that all strikers need (a brilliant example of this was his goal against Everton a few weeks ago), he can also hold up the play well for midfielders coming from attacking roles. He posses a good eye for finding the net and has one of the hardest shots in the league. These are all his good traits so what about his bad ones? Well as we have already said he can often float through games seemingly disinterested, he is a forward so can’t tackle at all (see his red card in the North London Derby last season),he will certainly not track 40/50 yards with a player although as we mentioned he can’t tackle so maybe that’s a good thing and finally he has a one season syndrome about him, whereby he plays out of his skin for a year and then doesn’t really get off the ground for the rest of his time at that club. It’s something that can be tracked through his career and Sherwood must be hoping it doesn’t happen anytime soon with just Adebayor and Roberto Soldado (who doesn’t look likely to score anytime soon) as their only recognised strikers after Defoe goes to Toronto he needs both scoring.

Ryan

Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain; The Dilemma

I am currently writing this on the 29th December. Arsenal have just won 1-0 away to Newcastle, and are currently sitting top of the league going into the New Year. Small stat for you, in the last 4 years, the team top of the league has gone onto win the league. Pressure. However, I am writing about one of Arsenals missing players, who could make a huge impact in the second half of the season, and one they have solely missed. He goes by the name of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and is, in my opinion, Arsenals and England’s biggest prospect.

At Arsenal, the formation generally used is a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3. The 1 in this formation is vital, as it is to initiate attacks, directing our play forward. It is the stop gap between the full backs, the middle 2, and the front 3. The success of this role is measured in different ways, one, by how often we attack, what the quality of the ball is into the attacking 3 is. It has a great overview of the whole field, something which is vital. It requires quick decision making on and off the ball, accurate execution of passes, which will require a variety of different types. The player needs vision, close ball control, speed, agillity, can get the ball out of your feet, drive and stamina. A good ‘man in the hole’ gives the team shape and purpose by conducting the play, and hopefully will produce a great number of indirect, or, assists.

This might seem gibberish to you. However, where has Oxlade Chamberlain played for the majority of his career at Arsenal? Wide midfielder. Looking at the range of skills i just posted, how many has the Ox gathered over the last 2 years? I can safely say all of them. One advantage he has, is the fact that he has played out wide. “Get used to using the ball in a small space, as the touchline effectively divides the space that’s available to him by two; when you move the same player back to the middle, he breathes more easily and can exploit space better.” That is the beliefs of Arsene Wenger, and is shown it works, with players like Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey all having spells out wide before coming into the middle.This means that the Ox will be more aware of the space he will have when coming inside. Where do you play him?
As I mentioned, the Ox can play every role in the front 6 of the pitch, depending on the team around him.

    Box to box midfielder:

In the role deeper behind the 1 in Arsenal’s formation, is a position the Ox had to play in with great maturity in the past. He had to play there against AC Milan in the Champions League, trying to turn around a 4-0 deficit from the first leg. He showed the physical, mental and technical attributes to be arguably the best player on the pitch that game, performing so well in that game that Dutch legend Marco Van Basten called him a little gem. High praise from someone of that calibre in a position you haven’t really played in before. The Ox has the right attitude, chomping at the bit to get a chance wherever he plays, which is a great attribute to have in someone so young.
However, one of his greatest performances was against Newcastle at the end of last season. Arguably Arsenal’s biggest game of the season, and biggest in my opinion since the 2006 Champions League final, the Ox started on the bench. He had to be in the right frame of mind and mentally ready to step in for anyone, and unfortunately (or fortunately) he had to step in for our defensive midfielder, and captain Mikel Arteta who suffered a calf injury in the 28th minute. The Ox came on for him, and sat alongside Aaron Ramsey, and had to show a completely different side to his game that we had never seen before. He showed a remarkable ability to screen the back four, sitting in front of them and breaking up the play. He kept the ball in a calm fashion, always picking the easy passes for his team mates, whilst also doing a good amount of attacking duties.
A player like him is he always good to have in the starting line up, because of the possibilities he can give you during the game. He allows you to change your team shape during the game and can give you many varieties including the ability to overload in attack. His ability to glide past players in midfield is easier for him because of his experience on the wings, which is what I touched on earlier.

    False #9

The False #9 is a interesting one, and one that wont be used very often, but can be used to dangerous levels if used effectively. The false #9 is a interesting formation, one that must be understood by everyone in order for it work properly. For me, for this system to work you need 2 direct, pacey wingers with a good eye for goal (see Walcott, Gnarby, Cazorla to a extent, and maybe any additions such as Draxler, Reus, El Shaarawy) and midfielders with exceptional passing abilities (see Özil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta, Zelalem, and again any new additions, Pogba, Gundogan, etc) this is why it is a hard formation to master due to the complexity of it. Now, with the Ox, we all know about his immense talent especially his direct running, decisive passing and excellent decision making for someone still so so young. The ideal template for this role, is arguably the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi. He has mastered this role to perfection.

Now, I wont go into the attribute the Ox has had, because it feels like I have taken a trip on the Magic Roundabout. However, they all directly link into the False 9 system made so effective by, Bayern, Germany, Spain and Barcelona.

Now, is the dilemma with the Ox. Where do you put him?
Bare in mind, he is still extremely raw. He has a lot of potential, but still has a lot of learning to do.
Comments on the Ox are welcome and feedback appreciated.

Billy

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

Neymar

One of the first and biggest transfers of this season’s transfer window came when Barcelona finally sealed the signature of Brazilian starlet Neymar, a move for Neymar to European football has been coming for years and it was just a matter of time before one of largest clubs in the world beat their competitors to the talented youngster’s signature. Neymar, if you haven’t heard of him already (seriously, where have you been? YouTube him) has been closely followed for years after impressing hugely at his previous club Santos, winning South American footballer of the year in 2011 after previously coming third in 2010, and after a very impressing display for his country leading Brazil to a very important Confederations Cup win, this could be a warm up for next year’s World Cup held in his home country.

If you know anything about Neymar his style of play has been a talking point for as long as he has been in the spotlight, his acceleration, his tricks and his amazing power (given how small he is weighing only 64kg and still being able to smash a ball as hard as he can, it’s pretty much a miracle) all have brought him fame and fortune, but how well will he settle in the Catalonian giants, and how welcome will he be amongst the rest of the team. Firstly as has been advised by Barca’s doctors and coaches, is for Neymar to put on weight, his tricks and speed were enough to make him the lead role in Brazil’s league, but settling into European football isn’t an easy task, football in Europe is a lot more physical, which given Neymar’s size, could be a problem, I can’t see him lasting two seconds against the likes of La Liga rivals centre backs Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, this will be exacerbated when the Catalonians start their European campaign in the Champions League later on this season, there’s not many easy going centre backs and with the likes of Thiago Silva, Nemanja Vidic, Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini or Branislav Ivanovic awaiting him at some point in the future, something needs to be done . This may be the biggest task of all as he can’t keep his incredible speed and increase his power, at some point, something has to give.

Next is the fact that although his talent is irrefutable, the cold hard truth is, he’s second in line to Lionel Messi in Barca’s current set up, they usually play with a lone front man, either this will change of Neymar will spend a lot of time on the bench. Needless to say that with Neymar’s age and talent, he has plenty of years of success in front of him, but from my point of view although Barcelona might be one of the biggest teams in the world, it might not have been the best place for him to start his European career, maybe he’ll put his stamp on the team and they’ll be better for it, but only time will tell.

Lastly is how the team will take to him, Neymar is used to the limelight but in such a talented team there’s not much spotlight spare, (not to mention he led Brazil to a win over a Spain team almost dominated by his Barcelona teammates that ended an over 30 competitive match unbeaten streak) they might not take lightly to his showmanship and finesse, it might be a tough few years but if he proves himself as well as he did in the Confederations Cup, he should fit in just fine.

Elijah