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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Aston Villa: Good luck & best recovery to Bouma: has O'Neill gone too far over Barry?

At this moment there is a hostile atmosphere between Liverpool and Aston Villa fans over the protracted transfer negotiations regarding Villa skipper Gareth Barry. Martin O'Neill had pointed his finger at Rafael Benitez for leaking the interest to the local Merseyside publication The Liverpool Echo, without proof. Since then communications between AVFC and LFC fans have been somewhat scathing of each other, and I found O'Neill's outbursts publicly unwarranted and eventually due to be effective to his players.

Regardless, Wilfred Bouma suffered another injury in the game slightly similar to that of Arsenal's Eduardo against Birmingham last season, a dislocation of the right ankle, during the Intertoto second leg with Danish side Odense yesterday. Despite what is or has been said and done, I wish all the best to Bouma on his recovery. I dislike the injuries in the game and the injuries to Jimmy Bulard and Eduardo were very bad.

Bouma's injury may have some reflection on Barry as Villa used him as cover for the left-back position in the game. O'Neill has come out and said he wishes for more news from LFC as to our interest in Barry, as surely now Villa will be more determined to secure Barry's presence at the club, possibly at least until Bouma has recovered or until they have a left-back. Or indeed for good.

The thing is having made his outbursts, fined and banned Barry from training over his News Of The World interview over the issue, and Barry's opinion over the issue that was stated in the interview, has O'Neill pushed Barry over the threshold of moving so far that the former captain has made his mind up without any going back? I have maintained that O'Neill would regret his outbursts and that could well be the case now, if Liverpool were to come back once again with an alternative to their previous offers.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Nasri v David Silva - plus Hleb will be better to watch at Barca

Samir Nasri is Arsenal's most expensive signing this summer. His arrival, as of that of Robert Pires - who also joined from Marseille - has been treated as low-key by the media. My hope is that Nasri can similarly become as effective and influential a player as the most underrated player in football in recent years.

I also hope that Nasri can be as good to watch as a player of similar slight physical stature who was part of Spain's magnificent technical midfield in Euro 2008 - David Silva.

I have been really impressed with Silva over his last two seasons at Valencia and given his excellent technique I had little doubt he could translate his play at the international level - which was proven this summer.

Silva is a superb creative midfielder, loves to take on a player, very rarely loses possession of the ball, and is happy to get a shot in on goal. His link up with Cesc Fabregas was great to see and had me thinking it would be nice to see them together in the Arsenal midfield.

But with the arrival of Nasri this is not going to happen. So my question is: can Nasri be as impressive looking a player as Silva?

I don't watch French football and therefore have very little observation of Nasri. Two things however gives me a lot of hope about the young French-Algerian.

First is that Arsene Wenger has selected him as a player he wants - and there is not a much better judge of a great footballing talent than Wenger.

Second is that from what I have seen from various YouTube clips he possessess similar-looking ability to that of David Silva - and I particularly like what appears to be an ability to shoot hard with both feet (which after the frustration of the 'Hleb-years' is something I look for from a potential replacement).

If there are any Nasri-watchers reading this article that can tell us about his potential and similarity to David Silva that will be great. This will be what I look for when I watch Nasri next season and I wish him all the best in the Arsenal shirt.

P.S. A couple of lines on Alex Hleb's departure to Barcelona.

He is a player that is excellent to watch and I will enjoy seeing him in the Barca shirt. Ironically, I will enjoy this more than seeing him in the Arsenal shirt because for all his magnificent close control and ball skills in the midfield area his reluctance to shoot and lack of shooting ability was a source of frustration for even the most sympathetic of supporters, as was his evident mental fragility when playing a pass in the eighteen yard box.

For me Hleb will come to symbolise the last few years when Arsenal played great-looking football but lacked the added killer instinct to achieve tangible success - and now that he is gone I hope this image/reality will depart with it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Spain winning Euro 2008 is a victory for football

Congratulations to Spain from the team at EFT for playing superb technical, cohesive, integrated and stylish football on their way to being crowned European Champions.

This is a team to believe in. A team fitting to bear the mantle international champion. With all respect to defending champions, Greece, there is no doubt after these championships that indeed the best footballing team walked away with the title.

And with all respect to current world champions, Italy, it is great that the team that won the final won it in open play and not by grinding out a stalemate and taking the trophy on penalites.

Spain are the antidote to the past few years in football where pragmatists like Mourinho, Rehhagel, Bentiez have projected their philosophy of grinding 'winning' football over the ideal of winning through pure, stylish, attacking football.

When the pragmatist wins, the pure football fan is indifferent. When Spain won last Sunday, the whole of football celebrates.

Credit goes to Spain coach, Aragones, who produced a perfect 'five-five' balance in his team and set them out to dominate teams through excellent possession and quick passing attacking football built on a solid defensive unit.

Senna playing in front of an organsised four man defence set the defensive solidity for the five out of six of Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, Fabregas, Torres and Villa to attack and overwhelm teams with their abundance of technique, skill, interplay and footballing intelligence.

And behind them in goal is the goalkeeper who is already an all-time great at 27 years old - captain, Iker Casillas. It was fitting that he lifted the trophy - a great figure for Spain.

Spain have set the template for all footballing teams to emulate. They are the international team to follow and to aspire to. I hope England international footballers watched Spain and decided that they must aim to meet their standard.

Before the tournament I thought Spain has what it took technically to be champions - but I had doubts over their collective mentality to go all the way through the tournament. What this tournament proved to me is that when a team comes together with excellent unity, organisation, technique, attacking ability and intelligence any doubts over mentality within the team are cast aside - and they can become champions.

Well done Spain for winning playing fantastic football - football should celebrate when this ideal is achieved.


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