Based in London and writing for a global audience our aim is to produce EliteFootballTalk. Enjoy the site and feel welcome to join in our discussion on the beautiful game.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Diaby, Denilson, Cesc, TW = simply sensational

It ended in cup-final defeat but what a fantastic joy it has been watching young Arsenal in the League Cup this season.

The four youngsters that started in midfield yesterday need to be remembered because they are here to stay: Diaby (20), Denilson (just turned 19), Fabregas (19), and Walcott (17). They were there at the thrilling White Hart Lane comeback and yesterday in the Millenium Stadium they ran the double champions Chelsea side ragged in the first half with their smooth passing and attacking interplay as awesomely patented by Arsene Wenger.

Watching Diaby is like watching the second-coming of Vieira- and for me the match slightly turned against Arsenal when he went off injured in the middle of the second-half; Denilson is a fearless midfield playmaker that you can bank your entire belongings is going to be a massive player; Cesc is a magnificent rhythm-setter who plays with the authority, control and determination of a future captain, while Walcott showed with his goal that he does indeed have the excellent talent and mindset for the big occassion.

To have just one of these young midfield talents coming through the Arsenal ranks would be great - so to have all four of them coming through and performing in the same midfield as they did yesterday was simply sensational to see.

These guys were fearless in possession and took the game to a Chelsea midfield that simply couldn't keep pace for the first hour of the match. Their passing and running angles were fantastic to watch and all Gunners had to be proud of what they were seeing them achieve against Chelsea's expensively assembled XI.

All Arsenal lacked was a cutting edge - which Chelsea had in the excellent Drogba - to their moves but this will definitely come with more experience (and with an Henry or van Persie on the pitch it could have come yesterday - that said Aliadiere and Baptista fully merited their place in the final given their decisive contributions on the way to Cardiff).

For me despite the natural disappointment of cup-final defeat the lasting feeling is the one I have had for the vast majority of this League Cup campaign - and that is ultimate pride in watching these young guns play together and impose their game to fantastic effect: six goals (plus a penalty-miss) at Anfield, the fighting comeback at White Hart Lane, and running circles round Chelsea's established superstars for long periods in a Cup-final.

It has been a scintilating glimpse to the future of what Arsenal can be about and my sense is that if the likes of Denilson, Diaby and Walcott can combine together and impose their game against the double champions after literally just a handful of first-class games behind them what are they capable of achieving after a few seasons together under their belt?

By training under the tutelage of the proven potential exploiter Wenger and with winners in the squad to direct them like Henry, Rosicky, Gilberto and Gallas they have every chance of combining together to reach a consistently supreme level. And if the future does bring this it will be this League Cup campaign where people will say that the exceptional promise of this new generation of Gunners was first in full evidence. Well done young guns- and keep it going.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Young Gunners should be proud

As a Liverpool fan I was embarassed at our defeat at the hands of the Arsenal younsters in the Carling Cup. I thought that may have been a one off, but I was wrong. The Young Gunners went on to beat Spurs in the semi's and to be honest, they should have beaten Chelsea in today's final as well.

The pace, ability and sheer confidence they displayed today was a delight to watch. Ok so the brawl at the end was unsavoury to say the least but that should not dampen a great display by players who are merely kids.

I congratulate Chelsea for winning the season's first trophy. I have a feeling this may not be their last piece of silverware this season . . .

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Half-time update: Charlton heaping misery on Eggert!

Its unusual to write at half-time about a match but in one of the most decisive matches of the season so far nineteenth-placed Charlton are three-nil up on eighteenth-placed West Ham. I have nothing against West Ham but I wrote at the time that I didn't respect the haste that their new Icelandic owners removed the progressive Alan Pardew and see it now as some sort of poetic justice that Pardew's new team has had a great first half.

With Charlton now looking well on their way to a win West Ham's plight at the bottom of the table is looking as bad as ever and I can't help but think that Eggert (with his customary head-shaking) and Co had it coming. With the new Premiership TV money coming into effect next season the financial ramifications of relegation from the top flight are more marked than usual which just makes the decision to dismiss Pardew look even more costly. The second half has just begun... can West Ham somehow turn it around?? I simply don't see it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Champions League round-up

It's been a long while since the previous post, a longer while since my previous article. But at 8.30am I have eventually made some time to come onto the computer. There have been mixed results in Europe over the past 48hrs from the British contingent and a controversial ending in one of them. Not the Lille v Man Utd fixture, I refer to the Nou Camp last night!! We were not expected to get anything there, that is controversial!

Joking aside, it was a good result for Liverpool, quite frankly even a draw would have been good perhaps with the exception of a no-score one. The seven days prior to last night documented issues within both camps. Samuel Eto'o publicly responded to the words of Barca coach Frank Rijkaard and teammate Ronaldinho who spoke out after apparently refused to come on, after having warmed up, against Racing Santander. Eto'o and Ronaldinho publicly hugged to show it was not contentious between them, yet between the Cameroon striker and the coach it is questionable still. Eto'o was not in the team last night.

Liverpool went on a training break away in Portugal and encountered an alleged altercation between John Arne Riise and Craig Bellamy leading up to an attempt of kneecapping with a 9 iron. This would appear to threaten any build-up and such a thing is unheard of going into an important match. It was good to see Riise and Bellamy congratulate each other after the goals and at full time. Put the handbags away and get on with business.

Much is currently the headlines in football of the Lille - Man Utd match. There is the old debate about when is a freekick allowed to be suddenly taken without the opposition being ready. I'm not so clear on it myself, my understanding is when it is direct the referee need not signal with his whistle. He steps away and the kick can be taken, which Ryan Giggs duly obliged with a well placed curler. The ensuing scenes of derision with a member of the Lille coaching staff clearly gesturing to the Lille players to come off the pitch in protest, players angrily approaching the referee. When play resumed, Gary Neville was struck by an object and met a hail of objects when taking a throw. I await what findings UEFA will come to.

Paul Merson was on Sky Sports Gillette Soccer with Rob McCaffrey and guests commentating over the PSV v Arsenal match when I switched over to tune in on all football results briefly. Merson mentioned that PSV simply resigned to not chasing the ball and therefore left Arsenal with overall possession. In Merson's words, he said there was no way Arsenal were going to lose the game. McCaffrey made reference to the effect that Merson's words were bold so early into the game and so they turned out to be. I was more concerned with Celtic v AC Milan and did not watch Arsenal, however Merson stated Thierry Henry had given the ball away so often it was a surprise Arsene Wenger had not torn his hair out. Henry being Henry, I found that difficult to believe. Arsenal enjoyed the first half and then apparently PSV played better in the second. Yet with the return leg at The Emirates, I fancy the Gunners to reverse the deficit.

I would imagine Celtic being content with not conceding to AC on Tuesday. While AC enjoyed chances from the beginning with a save by Artur Boruc from Alberto Gilardinho, Celtic equally contested through chances from Lee Naylor and Thomas Gravesen, to name two. With both sides missing a few key players, who may hopefully return in a fortnight's time, this battle is not over. Ac maybe favourites in their home ground but with players returning, Gordon Stratchen could still pull a result out of the ordinary.

Jose Mourinho returned to his former club, with the memories of his first European cup win. With John Terry's left ankle strapped after Monday's training, the centre-back appeared prepared to lead the Chelsea side onto the Estadio do Dragao pitch. Yet after just seven minutes into the match Terry went over on his right ankle and it looked painful to the degree the defender signalled he could not carry on. I hope Chelsea have not rushed him back too early, he will miss the weekend's League Cup final. Porto seemed to be of no persuasion of Chelsea's reputation and took the lead, only for Andriy Shevchenko to cut across a typical Shevchenko goal to equalise. While Chelsea worked well to keep out an energetic Porto, I felt Didier Drogba was not his effective self and otherwise would have put Chelsea ahead. The main thing is Chelsea finished unbeaten to take back to Stamford Bridge.

A word on the other teams: I fancy Lyon and Valencia, bot of whom held well away from home. Though Lyon are apparently not firing as excellently as before at home, they still looked good last night at Roma. Valencia came from behind twice at Inter with two sweet goals, particularly that of David Villa's freekick from some 30-35 yards. Real Madrid looked good but conceded twice so it is still open as to their progress.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Is Crouch really the best England can currently offer at CF?!

England lost again in miserable fashion on Wednesday night to a neat and organised Spanish team. England don't play as a team, they don't play with co-ordination or composure, they don't play with rhythm or confident intent. They lack charisma and character. It's consistently bad and boring to watch this England team.

There are so many faults with this England side on an individual and team level but my focus in this post is on one player and one position: I simply can't believe that it appears that Peter Crouch is really the best English centre-forward option currently playing in the whole of England?!

Thankfully there is Wayne Rooney but he is more a Bergkamp deep-lying striker type than an out-and-out centre-forward. And it is in this crucial area that England appear to have a real lack of quality resources hence the selection - it seems - time and again of Crouch for the national team.

Crouch has some merit: he has good touch, always gives his best effort and has an excellent ability to score amazing scissor-kicks volleys. But he also has a lack of mobility, a lack of pace, a lack of power, a lack of overall sharpness, a lack of dribbling skill and a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal.

Many of these limits stifle a team from playing sharp, pacy, attacking football- and this is what England have to aim to achieve if they want to reach a higher level of achivement.

For me he is easily contained by good defences and his level of talent is simply not good enough for top class international football. He has scored goals for England but the calibre of match and oppostion - predominantly friendlies against lacklustre and limited opposition - need to be taken into account in deciding what his real worth is in the greater scheme of how to make England into a big force at international level.

A few years ago there was Shearer, Ferdinand, Sheringham, Owen, Cole, Wright, Fowler - all prolific strikers and at a higher talent level than Crouch. On Wednesday there was only the increasingly disappointing and stagnating Defoe as an option to the tall Liverpool forward. This is poor times for England when this is the current status-quo in the centre-forward line.

Darren Bent and Andrew Johnson - two strikers with more all-round sharpness and dynamism than Crouch - were injured for the friendly and I'd be looking for these two to battle it out to be given the starting role as England's centre-forward in future matches. The can simply offer more to the team than the limited Crouch in the important centre-forward position.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Benitez and 'small clubs'

I don't wish to draw this subject out for long, considering I hadn't responded to it immediately, but I felt I should add something about it. Rafael Benitez' quotation of 'small clubs' on Saturday was just the ideal soundbite for the media to pounce on, you couldn't get a quicker response were you dealing with cats and pigeons. Sky Sports simply reiterated it before it went out of fashion. But I knew what he meant and it was taken in similar fashion to how Didier Drogba was misinterpreted over his 'diving' quotation. I may be considered bias but had David Moyes, or anyone else from Everton, said it about Liverpool, I wouldn't be fazed. At the end of the day results count, regardless of what is said, and that is the important thing in football. We didn't get what we really wanted but we must move on to the next match and hopefully get a result there.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Liverpool need a world class striker

As good as Kuyt, Crouch and Bellamy are, Liverpool need a finisher, someone who will get us 20+ league goals every season. Perhaps they need something more, someone truly world class.

This has been our problem for quite some time now. We've always had good strikers but if you think of our main challengers, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd, their frontmen (Henry, Drogba and Rooney respectively) are truly world class talents, and our current three just aren't in that same bracket.

We create chance after chance and but for the lack of finishing, I really do think we would be much higher up the table. This isn't a knee jerk reaction to our goalless draw against Everton yesterday and I think Benitez knows this is a long standing weakness of ours.

Rumours are that the proposed takeover of Liverpool by George Gillett and Tom Hicks will land Benitez a transfer kitty of between £100m-£150m. I hope the manager is already planning who to spend the money on . . .


Locations of visitors to this page