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, June 18, 2007

The Wenger Masterplan is key to the Henry question

Another summer and another tricky time for Arsenal supporters like me who must withstand rampant speculation about star players departing abroad.

Thierry Henry has three years left on his contract and the worldwide press talk is of such fevered nature that it would seem he is a free agent who has the free will to leave or not at the time of his choosing.

But three years on a contract means the ball is in Arsenal's court whether to accept any potential offer for our record goalscorer and talisman player. Given the authority of Arsene Wenger at the club this means it is his decision - and key to this will be how he weighs up Henry's worth in the context of his Masterplan.

The sale of Pat Vieira two summers ago signalled Wenger's signal intent to build a third generation team. He had already assembled Fabregas, Clichy, van Persie, Flamini, Senderos, Djourou, Eboue and Reyes as formidibly talented youngsters in a squad that were learning from 'the invincibles'. And since then he has added extremely promising youngsters like Denilson, Walcott, Bentdner, Diaby, Adebayor, Merida, Vela, Traore, Song, Fabianski and, most recently, Havard Nordveit to his squad.

Not only are the nature of these signings significant- but also the fact that Wenger has taken every opportunity he has had to blood these youngsters and expose them to the realities of top level football so to progress their development as quickly as possible.

This illustrates clearly that for at least three years Wenger has had a Masterplan: to assemble the best youngsters in world football, mould them collectively to his vision of football, mature their development as soon as possible, and then to lead them to a long period of success.

Parts one, two and three are in effect, and now it is a matter of achieving the difficult and decisive final aspect of his supremre vision. If he achieves this he will perceive it as his crowning achievement- and for a determined man like Wenger you know he will give everything to ensure its materialisation.

Now, if I was Henry, I would accept as an honour the leadership (assisted by other determined senior players like Brazilian captain Gilberto, Czech captain Tomas Rosicky, William Gallas and Kolo Toure) of this next generation squad. And Henry is a guy who in his eight years at the club has shown great affinity to Arsenal and what we are all about. But even if he decides he now wants to walk away and sample Barcelona it has to be with the consent of Arsene Wenger.

And Wenger will take the decision that fits in best with his Masterplan.

Now, if I was Wenger, I would refuse to sanction the sale of Henry unless a player of significant ability i.e. an Eto'o, was to come in as a replacement. Otherwise I would feel that I am damaging the stability and hindering the progress of my Masterplan. I'm quite sure this is how Wenger would perceive the situation too.

Lets wait and see... until then I believe we must trust in Wenger.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Rolls-Royce mechanical check needed on Bentley

A recent report in the EFT Chronicle:

'Off the production line into the public, the Bentley David model has been called into question due to a recent concern. Rolls Royce have said they were not aware of any issues regarding the model, released from a North London source to Lancashire on a permanent basis for services in relation to Blackburn Rovers Football Club, and are currently looking into calls for concern regarding a recent statement the model is not performing nationally due to fatigue.

'Experts say this could be due to a lack of understanding by the model as to its expected availability once it is called into service. One loanee, Stuart Pearce, has expressed his annoyance the model will not perform due to tiredness. Having received it on loan from Blackburn boss Mark Hughes, Pearce informed EFT Hughes spoke to him to say the model may seem run down and could require a break from a needy journey to Holland, and as such the club would prefer the model was not utilised at all. Mr Pearce declined to waive the loan and was incensed to consequently find the model was reluctant to perform none the less.

'Steve McClaren, Pearce's line manager, had taken the model on his travels to Wembley and Tallinn in Estonia but did not need to use it owing to having other senior models at hand. Pearce said: "I had an inkling when Mark Hughes spoke to me on Wednesday and said he wanted to pull the [model] out, but I said 'no' as I didn't find that acceptable.

"From my point of view to say I am disappointed is a massive understatement."

I am beginning to understand David Bentley more the more I hear from him. While his performances for the U21s' and Blackburn have been good, he appears to have a huge soft spot for the national senior side. Don't they all? Yet the likes of Scott Carson, David Nugent (who came on against Andorra and scored), Nigel Reo-Coker, Matt Derbyshire, practically any player in professional football who qualify want to play for England. But the glory is not being in the side, it is making a telling contribution game in, game out. Charlton's Luke Young spoke of the fear of being on the bench, much less on the pitch coming off at half time, when the England fans booed and jeered at the seniors against Andorra. Is Bentley prepared to handle situations like that? If being in the senior squad is all that counts, my answer is no.

He was ready and available to play for the seniors against Brazil and Estonia, was on the bench and didn't feature, mainly because David Beckham had two good games, a better one in Tallinn, and was replaced by Kieron Dyer. What if McClaren prefers experienced players? It is not the playability that counts alone, maturity and thinking on and off the ball, how you apply the ball in given situations, may all count when selecting the first XI. Perhaps Bentley is content to be on the bench, as certain players are picked regularly anyway and Beckham has returned, however debatable that particular point is.

Yet to turn around after coming back from the qualifier and saying you "owe a lot to the Blackburn fans too and they are paying the money to watch me week-in and week-out" is poor mitigation. What does he think the England supporters of the U21s' are doing? He continues:

"I've never come off a 60-game season and then gone straight into another one, I was alien to it. I love playing for England, I love my country; every time I step out on the pitch I give my all for anyone I play for. If you look at my under-21s career I have never not given my all for it. I had three decisions; the club could have pulled me out, I could have pulled myself out or I could have faked an injury.

"Sometimes I get labelled with this arrogant (tag), that I just sort of toss it off now and again. It wasn't a rash decision, I asked senior players at England 'what do you feel like come October or November?' They said 'you hit a brick wall'. They also said 'if you want to be firing and you want to make a push for the European Championships next year then I really think you have got to think long and hard'."

So, what are the implications from Bentley's decision? He said he could have withdrawn from the U21s' squad, Hughes could have done it for him or he could have feigned an injury. It is the last option that would have been preferable for UEFA will only allow an exchange of players for that reason and none other. The deadline for squad names has passed so Pearce is now one player short. I would look for Bentley to conspire with Pearce to fake the injury and allow the exchange. Then again, Bentley said he is an honest lad. Pearce has stated:

"....I spoke with David and he said to me on the back of a long season - and possible burn-out next season - that he would like to pull himself out of the tournament. I tried to say to him and explain the situation, 'Where does that leave you next summer if you get in the full squad and have a full season? 'Do you say then you would be fatigued for the next season?"

My count says Blackburn had 53 games last season unless pre-season friendlies are included too and I'm not sure how long Bentley missed games due to suspension, though I sense he was suspended for the Arsenal game at home and the Man Utd game away. If the senior players said they hit a brick wall in October and November, they need to better their stamina. Talk like that has no room at the top clubs in the EPL, otherwise someone else comes in to take that space. Bentley believes not playing in the U21s' European championship will leave him in better shape to be available for the senior tournament, does he not consider that having recommended he plays in the tournament, McClaren could simply overlook him as he cannot evaluate Bentley's performance? Where does that leave the other U21 players, do they now refrain from the tournament because they want to be in good shape for consideration for Euro 2008?

I think Bentley's omission from the U21 squad will have an adverse reaction rather than a positive one. He requested it in order to be in good physical condition for consideration for Euro 2008 selection but in not partaking in the tournament has left McClaren nothing to evaluate his performance on. The Germany friendly is on August 22nd, the qualifiers thereafter are on 8th and 12th September, a month into the new season. With the league games potentially suspended on the weekends prior to due to the international matches (maybe not for the Germany friendly), that is about three or four league matches to evaluate on. Aaron Lennon should return by then and with Kieron Dyer second to Beckham, Bentley stands little chance of that which he has sacrificed to achieve. Particularly if he feels prone to a mechancial breakdown.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Beckham inclusion inevitable, but is it compulsory?

EFT wouldn't be EFT without comment on the Euro 2008 qualifier of last night. While the media continue to hound around David Beckham's performance like canines, coach Steve McClaren would not confirm whether Beckham would even be in the squad for the next qualifier much less starting on the right again. Of course it is early to say about anyone's selection come the end of August with the friendly against Germany and the qualifiers a fortnight after against Israel and Russia. The friendly is approximately two and a half months from now and Beckham will be an American football league player, some distance more than that of the Bernabeu to London and back.

Beckham's soon-to-be team general manager, Los Angeles Galaxy's former US international Alexi Lalas, pledged that he would drive Beckham to the airport to get to the qualifiers and even release him for the tournament itself if England qualify. With the MLS season underway already since early April, it is not clear whether LA Galaxy will be disgruntled to have Beckham come late July only to disappear late August for a friendly. But let's let them worry about that. The main thing is Beckham put on a better show last night than last week Friday, he was MOTM. The average ratings for the players was 7, with Beckham on 8, the rest more or less simply did their jobs. But it is questionable of their performances against a side without a goal, much less a point, in the qualifiers.

England did what they had to do, three times better than leaders Croatia, and their goal via Eduardo da Silva came fortuitously through a mis-control by another Croatia player. Striker Mladen Petric had an one-on-one with Mart Poom and failed plus left the defence to only hit wide. Perhaps after having to succumb to the Russians 0-2 and playing their hearts out against Croatia, England came along at a good time to Tallinn. Perhaps not. One thing is there is little chance for anyone else on the right wing if Beckham keeps up such a performance. McClaren may not wish to commit himself but if Beckham fails to appear, whilst fit and available, in the starting XI against Germany, it would have to be a tactical reason and nothing else.

While Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard more or less chop and change between going forward and playing defensively (the latter player making an improvement, albeit slight), do we need someone to cover in midfield if under attack? Do we need to worry about both players going forward and leaving the middle unmarked when both players seem to be tracking back to help out anyway? Also a question arose as to why Jamie Carragher was not chosen ahead of both Ledley King AND Wes Brown, much less just Brown. I was hesitant of Brown's inclusion at right-back as I see that as a rare position he plays in for Utd, but he played well nonetheless.

Yet as pats on the back may circulate, the clear tests have yet to come, and with four of our last games at home it is in England's hands whether we prove to be a highly rated international team in the world, much less Europe (how many times will I use 'much less'?). A new stadium, new capacity, first competitive matches within days of each other, we will have no one else to blame but ourselves. Three points separate us from top spot and we can do it, just a matter of who we have to do it with. The Lampard, Robinson, Gerrard, Terry, Owen, Beckham & crew we know well, or the Lampard, Robinson, Gerrard, Terry, Owen, Beckham & crew we grow to watch just fail to make the level when the going gets tough?



Locations of visitors to this page