Posts tagged France
Posts tagged France
His contribution to Arsenal Football Club was recognised this weekend with the unveiling of a bronze cast of himself in his iconic sliding celebration that he had the option to do 226 times for Arsenal after each one of his Gunner goals. He stands as Arsenal leading goal scorer of all time with 226 goals in 369 appearances for the Gunners over a period of eight years. His goals to game ratio, 0.61 gpg, exceeds Arsenal’s current hit man, Robin Van Persie’s 0.45, by 0.16; however Robin Van Persie could be set to break Henry’s record for most Premier League goals in one season for Arsenal, 30, if he’s left to do the job alone. He’s already on 15.
So far this calendar year, Robin van Persie has scored 33 goals in 32 Premier League games and he still has four games in which to increase that tally; there is no denying that he is on fine form in front of goal for Arsenal and this has led to many questions over how they’d cope without him: after all, he is responsible for half of Arsenal’s Premier League goals this season and has further contributed with five assists. He’s arguably the world’s best striker, at current.
However, the pressure on him is sizable and with Chamakh seemingly not fit for purpose and Gervinho joining him for the African Cup of Nations as it is, in January, anyway, could Wenger do with moving for Thierry Henry in the January transfer window?
“As for Thierry Henry, I would say ‘No’,” said Arsene Wenger, when quizzed over the possibility of bringing him back. Yet again, the Gunners boss is looking to the youth to carry Arsenal forward, “we have players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ju Young Park to come in,” stated the Gunners’ boss. But for once could Wenger do with breaking a habit of a lifetime, by bringing his former protege back?
Yes. Although his last rule-breaker hasn’t particularly paid off yet, the 6ft 6’ Per Mertesacker who broke Wenger’s rule of signing no player taller than himself, Thierry Henry has proved he can deliver everywhere he’s gone since his transition from the wing to front man; Arsenal, Barcelona and now New York Red Bulls. His scoring ability has built him a, “ sensational career simply down to his class,” - Wenger’s words. At 34, some may stand by Wenger’s decision not to look back - but this is a striker who is still slamming goals home, he scored 14 goals in 26 games in his recently finished campaign with NY Red Bulls, and an experienced proven striker that Arsenal may well need during January.
The alternative has been stated by Wenger himself, “we have players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrey Arshavin and Ju Young Park.” However, Arsenal are relying on these three men to fill a void of what Wenger describes as “one of this year’s top signings in the Premier League,” a player who has scored 3, assisted 5 and has had 24 shots on target, already this campaign and a performer who Wenger describes losing in late January, as a “concern.” It is a big ask. It is, however, no ask for a man that Wenger says is “at home here,” and is as competent in Van Persie’s role as he would be in Gervinho’s role. He isn’t just someone who could fill in for RVP when the flying Dutchman needs a rest; in three seasons during his Arsenal career, Henry provided 55 assists - a rate of 0.37 a game. Gervinho’s current rate is 0.38; it’s almost a like for like stop-gap.
Of course, Wenger pulls no punches when it comes to blooding the youth and with Alex Chamberlain being earmarked for game time in Gervinho’s absence, Arsenal fans can expect it to be the case again. However, the four games in the Ivorian’s absence are, by no means, easy fixtures: Manchester United & Blackburn at The Emirates and Bolton & Sunderland on the road. Even as a Saints fan, therefore with a natural allegiance to our former academy product, I know who I’d rather have tormenting Smalling and Evra down the wings; the Frenchman.
Despite eluding to more game time for Andrei Arshavin during Gervinho’s African Cup of Nations campaign with the Ivory Coast, which will please the diminutive Russian who has stated that he, ” still wants to play for 90 minutes, but now I am glued to the bench,” talk of his departure has been rife. According to The Daily Mail, Arsenal are set for a January clear out and Arshavin is among the five-player shortlist.
Playing a player that knows his days are numbered may prove to be just as disastrous as placing the weight of victory on the shoulders of an 18-year old yet to start a Premier League game and when their is a player with “absolutely everything you dream to have — physical potential, technical level, super intelligence and dedication,” it would seem ignorant.
So, should Wenger give in when it comes to signing this Ex-Gunner?
Tottenham are flying high at the moment and their form in unparalleled. Over the past 6 Premier League games, Tottenham have picked up all available 18 points. No other team in the Premier League can match that recent unbeaten streak and it has, of course, drawn plaudits. Since a condemning start to the Premier League campaign, which saw Spurs on the wrong end of a 3-0 and 5-1 loss to Manchester City and then their rivals Manchester United, Harry Redknapp’s men have only conceded a further eight goals. This means that half their total goals conceded came in those first two games. Since then, Tottenham have been unbeaten, winning 10 of their 11 since United and only Manchester City have gone unbeaten for longer this season. Rightly so then, Tottenham will go 2nd if they win their game in hand, leapfrogging Manchester United.
Missing those first two games of the season, in which Spurs let in 50% of their total conceded goals, was Ledley King. The Tottenham centre-back, a one-club man and club captain, missed his club’s pre-season tour of South Africa after yet another knee operation. Initially just a doubt for the planned season opener against Everton, King missed the first two games of the PL campaign, even though he was given an extra week due to the London Riots enforced postponement of the Everton clash. It was an all too familiar story for King and his fans. His recurrent lingering knee problems had again infringed his season, but come the third game of the season, he was back and so were Tottenham’s winning ways.
In Ledley King’s 9 starts this season, Spurs have conceded 5 goals. Comparable to conceding 13 without him in 4 games and 60 minutes of football, it is clear when Tottenham are better. When their captain is in the back four, they only concede once every 150 minutes of football; without him they let in a goal every 32.92 minutes. Their 428 minutes of playing time without King, are 428 minutes of poorer defending. His defensive ability and leadership of the back line is essential. Simply put, they’re defensively five times better when King is playing.
So does Tottenham’s skipper deserve a plane ticket to Poland & Ukraine next summer? Well, yes. Unfortunately though, his international career has arguably been even more hampered by injury than his club career. Along with his ever-present knee condition, King has suffered a fractured foot bone and a groin strain, which have both resulted in untimely departures from England camps. His regularity at the physio’s table has limited, “without doubt one of the best central defenders in England,” in Capello’s opinion, to a meagre 21 international caps.
In Ledley King’s 21 appearances for England, since his debut against Italy in a friendly on 27th March 2002 aged 21, they have conceded 13 goals. Therefore, when the Tottenham centre-back is featuring for the Three Lions, they concede on average 0.62 goals per game. Since his debut, England have played 127 games and in the 106 without King, England have conceded 80 goals. Comparably put, England have conceded 0.75 goals per game, when King isn’t participating. The country’s defence is 0.13 goals better off when the Spurs skipper is in the back four.
Despite the stats clearly showing both club and country being better off with Ledley King in the starting XI, the former may well show reluctance when it comes to calling the 31-year old up. In the 4 international competitions that England have qualified for since King made his debut, the centre-back has only featured in 2. He wasn’t part of Sven Goran-Eriksson’s 2002 World Cup squad, but was in his Euro 2004 squad. For the World Cup 2006, King was left at home, having fractured a bone in his foot and four years later, his World Cup in South Africa only lasted 45 minutes after pulling his groin in the first half against U.S.A.
A lot of the weight of the decision will fall on King’s fitness come next summer. He is unlikely to play in any games for England between now and the European tournament, with Harry Redknapp stating that as much as he’d, “love to see him play for England, he simply cannot play two games in a week.” He said that back in 2009 and with the story being no different two years later when it comes to fixture congestion and Ledley’s knee, it is likely to still stand. As it is, King only trains with his team the day before a match, spending the rest of the week training alone, in the pool or on a bike.
At current, he is enjoying a rare run of consistent games in the Premier League and the talk of a new contract is in the air, with his current one set to expire in the summer. A string of performances that reads unbeaten for almost 16 months, with 12 wins out of 13, should warrant himself another extension, meeting Redknapp’s expectation of 2009, “I hope we can get another four of five years out of him - and maybe for England.”
But does Ledley King deserve another reward in the summer of 2012 - a place in Capello’s 23-man squad?
Having watched various blonde women and blond men spin, dance, hop and spin further still round a well illuminated stage in Kiev, the draw for Euro 2012 started. Well, it did after the Ukrainian President overran his allocated time for his FIFA-approved speech, viewers were treated to a slideshow of the venues accompanied by jittery string music, a woman participated in a performance akin to karaoke with a catchy bridge Capello may adopt for his pre-match team talks, “never give in,” and numerous other loose forms ofentertainment took place.
Several best and worst case scenarios for England were mocked up by varying websites and pundits and the general consensus was that a Group of Spain, Portugal and France would prove England’s toughest possible test. Capello made it clear who he wanted to dodge, “I think you need to avoid the first pot, so Spain and Holland,” declared the Italian, “After that there is also Portugal and France in the third and fourth pot, and these are the teams I would prefer to avoid in the group stage.” According to the stats, number geniuses Opta revealed England’s best case scenario as Greece, Ukraine and Denmark, because England are most likely to win against these teams based on previous results. Capello also made a point out of wanting to veer clear of his countryman Giovanni Trapattoni in the group stage and he’d be wise to; England’s third worst win ratio against the 16 teams is indeed against the Republic of Ireland.
The draw eventually got underway and the arduous process churned out perhaps the easiest group first; Group A. Group A features joint hosts Poland alongside Russia, Czech Republic and Greece. Group B chucked up Germany and Holland in the same group as well as Denmark and Portugal and Group C is made up of current holders Spain, Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland. England were the last team out of the numerous hats and their rivals for getting out of Group D are France, Ukraine and Sweden.
Fabio Capello’s 23-man squad, having been placed in Group D, may want to reassess their base. They’ve located themselves in Krakow for Euro 2012, and having been drawn in the last group, they aren’t in the same country as their fixtures. This means that, unless they relocate, they face round trips of nearly 2000 miles to and from their Group D fixtures. Furthermore, being in Group D takes up even more precious time for Capello’s men; as well as having to rack up more air miles than Steve Kean during his regular trips to India, England will have the least amount of time to prepare for games if they make the latter stages of the tournament. Teams in Group A & B have two extra days’ rest than their semi-final opponents from Group C or D. If England somehow manage to guide themselves to the final, their eventual opposition will have between 3-4 days more recovery time than the Three Lions.
If dates, times and travelling doesn’t provide England with enough excuses to underwhelm in Poland & Ukraine, perhaps the form book will; England are yet to win a competitive fixture against Sweden, losing twice and drawing the remaining five and France are unbeaten in their last 5 games against England, winning four of them. The only game you’d put money on England winning is their last in the group, Ukraine. It may well be the decider for England and luckily for The Three Lions, their history against the co-hosts is their second best in the tournament. England have won 75% of their games against Ukraine, only beating Greece more frequently. However, having the game on home turf may well be enough to shut out England.
It will be Capello’s last games in charge of England having confirmed today that he will not be staying on further than his current contract, “as an England manager, this is it for me,” said the Italian. Hopefully, it will be a case of so long farewell for England fans and not a case of good riddance. Here’s hoping Fabio can impress and go out on a high.