Posts tagged Thierry Henry
Posts tagged Thierry Henry
The Premier League was rather flush with fixtures on Saturday, in a schedule that is ever more so controlled by television companies and viewing figures. Eight fixtures were played in total, providing the staple diet for any Premier League fan: there were two six-pointers; Arsenal could break into the top four if they could grab a result against an impressive at home Sunderland side and Manchester United took on fierce rivals Liverpool, in a match that had its own recurring subplots.
1. Ed Sheeran and Luis Suarez have more in common than you may think
Fresh with confidence from defeating their bitter foes in the F.A Cup, thanks to a Dirk Kuyt goal, Liverpool this time faced Manchester United away and in the Premier League. For United, it was all about keeping pace with their inner-city rivals at the top of the table and for Liverpool it was an opportunity to beat Manchester United twice in two weeks and extend their unbeaten run to four.
However, although United got the three points with Wayne Rooney scoring a quick-fire brace, the main attraction was the Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez affair: it was the first time the two had faced each other since the fateful day in October in which the former accused the latter of racial abuse resulting in an eight-match ban and similar to Wayne Bridge and John Terry and Anton Ferdinand and John Terry, there was no handshake. Unlike those two John Terry centred examples, however, it was the villain who refused the handshake and not the victim leading me to think that Ed Sheeran, who sings the line, “I know I can’t heal things with a handshake” has more in common with Luis Suarez than I thought, as does Patrice Evra with Sepp Blatter, who feels a handshake can.
2. Feed the Yak and He will Score
We knew that already right? We did, but it may well prove to be what keeps Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League for next season: during his three-game ban, Blackburn Rovers amassed just a solitary point and furthermore, they struggled to capitalise on the chances they did create, proving wasteful without the Yak.
However, reintroduce the Yak after his three-game, and Blackburn hit three goals just like they did in the last game he featured in and just like in the previous 60 games Blackburn have scored three in, they went on to win with Yakubu getting the decisive goal in a 3-2 victory over fellow relegation candidates Queens Park Rangers. Yakubu is now the fifth highest scorer in the Premier League with thirteen goals in a side that has only found the back of the net 39 times, leaving the Nigerian responsible for 33% of their goals. Luckily for Rovers, Yakubu is the most potent striker in the Premier League with a 39% conversion rate.
3. Chelsea slip to 5th, whilst Capello is linked to the job and Roman’s lurking
Everton’s January really has paid dividends much quicker than anyone could have realistically expected. At one point, it looked as if no transfer activity would take place: however, four signings were made, two on loan and two permanently, and three of them have already returned the favour of a new lease of life, either assisting or hitting the back of the net, going much of the way to ease Everton’s scoring worries that existed for much of the first half of the season.
On Saturday, without Jelavic even featuring, the man signed to “score goals, goals and more goals,” Everton took ten shots, had a 70% shot accuracy and converted their chances twice, with one of their January signings scoring in the form of Steven Pienaar as well as Argentine Denis Stracqualursi. Meanwhile, Chelsea, who are now without a win in four games and have only won two of their last ten, slip to fifth place as Arsenal secured a last minute victory over Sunderland thanks to a Thierry Henry volley, in a week in which Fabio Capello is linked with the club and Roman Abramovich visits the training ground twice.
4. Norwich Head up the table inflicting only Swansea’s second home defeat
Before Norwich City, Swansea’s fellow Championship promotion achievers, the only defeat inflicted on the Swans at Liberty Stadium was handed out by reigning champions Manchester United. That loss, only their fourth league defeat since the beginning of last season, was only by one goal and it didn’t deter Swansea from their free-flowing passing game that is built on from the back.
Norwich defeated Swansea by three goals to two, but before that game, Swansea had only conceded seven goals at home in 12 games - 0.58 goals conceded per game – and furthermore, only Arsenal, 2, had scored more than one goal at the Liberty Stadium. However, considering Norwich City’s aerial prowess this season – they are the most prolific PL side in the air with 14 of their 37 goals coming from headers – and Swansea’s averagely short stature, was it that surprising that Norwich got all three points? Norwich are now up to eighth, leaving Swansea in 11th place and just nine points off of relegation: yet, their home form should be enough to ensure Premier League survival.
5. Harry Redknapp isn’t distracted by England talk as Spurs smash home for five
At 4/11 to manage England for Euro 2012, 5/4 to become the permanent manager of the Three Lions and Harry Redknapp himself describing the post as the “ultimate job,” you’d be entitled to doubt how stable some feel at White Hart Lane now, despite Redknapp’s insistence that he “can’t take [his] eye off the ball at Tottenham at the moment,” declaring that he, “owes it to [Tottenham] to continue to keep completely focused on the job.”
However, if there is any worry that Redknapp might leave his Spurs post permanently, it certainly wasn’t a distraction on Saturday: The Guardian’s Scott Murray expected a “home capitulation to Newcastle at the weekend,” but it was Newcastle who would leave capitulated, as Tottenham ran rampant on home turf, clocking up 18 shots on target, nine of which were on target and five of the on-target strikes finding the back of the net. With a 63% of the possession and over twice as many shots, Spurs never took their foot off the pedal, but it was an impressive first half performance that saw them four goals to the good come half-time that won them the match. Emmanuel Adebayor was particularly delectable, notching up four assists and scoring the game’s only other goal, whilst new signing Louis Saha scored two goals for the first time in a year.
When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left my dear Southampton F.C I was of mixed opinion: whilst I tried to believe all that said £15m (£12m+£3m) was a great deal for the club, considering he was yet to kick a ball outside of the third tier of English football, and I wrestled with the view that we had kept our prized asset in the form of 23-year old Adam Lallana, I couldn’t help but feel disgruntled that Arsenal had taken another one of our own.
Watching him feature sporadically for Arsenal – 43 minutes of Premier League football before the Manchester United game – did nothing to aid my annoyance either; however, his age, the Wenger factor and his incredible displays for the England u-21 side, including a hat-trick against Iceland a month after coming off the bench to contribute with as many assists against Israel, did much to remedy my grievance.
As Wenger had alluded to, “In 2012, at the beginning of the year, [Alex] will play games,” it seems that the next 12 months, for Arsenal – if not England too, or maybe even Great Britain – will indeed be the year of the Ox: in Gervinho’s absence, on international duty with the Ivory Coast, and Thierry Henry side-lined, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain made his first start at home to Manchester United, with a performance deemed by most as man-of-the-match worthy.
Having made his debut back in August, in the 8-2 drubbing at Old Trafford, the Southampton academy product saw his game time limited to the League Cup and the Champions League, scoring in both; however, as Arsenal continued to fail to provide adequate support for Robin Van Persie and a depletion in the striking ranks taking its toll, Arsene Wenger delivered on his promise and Chamberlain played 73 minutes of the 2-1 defeat to Manchester United.
Yet, for many – including Robin Van Persie, who was seen to mouth “no” in disbelief - 73 minutes wasn’t enough: his withdrawal, with just less than 20 minutes left, was met with a chorus of boos as the electronic board was raised by Mike Dean’s fourth official to indicate Arshavin was to replace the u-21 international, and a refrain of cheers and applause in recognition of a stellar display as the 18-year old made his way off the pitch.
The substitution was lamented by all, understandably so, because for much of the game Chamberlain was the only impetus to Arsenal’s attacks, creating more goal-scoring opportunities than any other player on the pitch, 4, with one being converted by Robin Van Persie, which was the equaliser for Arsenal, after a precise and intelligently executed counter attack. His replacement, Arshavin, was at fault for the winner: failing to stop Valencia from advancing up the pitch, the Russian could only look on as the United winger provided the assist for Welbeck’s goal 9 minutes from time.
It was only the third time in Premier League history that Manchester United had done the double on Arsenal and the result meant that The Gunners were on fewer points after 22 games for the first time since the 1995/96 season; yet, for many Arsenal fans, they felt Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s presence until the final whistle would’ve made the difference and his performance was neatly summed up by thisisfutbol editor Harry Cloke, “Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. What a player! Already looking like the player Theo should have become.”
Piers Morgan was deservedly mocked by Twitter newcomer Gary Linekar, “I’m new to this tweeting but already I bow to your superior footballing knowledge!”, for his superfluous reaction to Arsene Wenger’s decision to remove the winger, “That substitution may cost us the League, a Champions League place, £20 million and the departure of Van Persie.”
Yet, amidst most of the drivel that Piers Morgan spouts on all things football, or at least all things Arsenal, this particular tweet, although perhaps rather rash and condemning may well prove to be the measure of Chamberlain’s weight in gold this season.
But, is this what it has come down to: an 18-year old burdened with the task of ensuring Arsenal’s run of successive top four finishes since Arsene Wenger took over continues?
“He is ready to play,” said Arsene Wenger in December, “Alex is just missing that experience at the top level,” he added, “you have to throw him a few games.” With the opportunity naturally arising, and Henry’s injury further clearing the path for his breakthrough, the time for Chamberlain is now: after Aston Villa in the fourth round of the F.A. Cup, The Gunners are hosted by 17th placed Bolton, who have only won two of their eleven home fixtures, and then welcome relegation zone occupiers, Blackburn Rovers, to The Emirates. Performances akin to the one on display at the weekend will surely secure the youngster’s starting XI slot for the remainder of the season.
At a maximum of £15m, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain’s purchase, which, at the time, just provided the accelerant for all that feel English players are overpriced, could prove to be a shrewd one: if Wenger does choose to hand a starting spot to the stocky yet speedy winger and as a result, achieves his 15th successive top four finish, the £20m Arsenal will receive in prize money will pay back the fee that brought him to The Emirates in the first place.
Before Manchester United secured their second victory of the season over Arsenal, Wayne Rooney told the BBC that he, “certainly wouldn’t write Arsenal off,” stating that, “they’re capable of going on a big run.” Yet, having defeated The Gunners, Rooney’s title rivals are 5 points off of 4th place and 8 off of League leaders Manchester City.
Is it too late for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to save Arsenal’s season?
Written by Jordan Florit for www.maycauseoffence.com/
For more articles visit my website or my Twitter @JordanFlorit
Whilst the Premier League gives up faith on the current crop of multi-million pound stars that are unable to find the back of the net, tie up a midfield that boasts international wingers and ball-hungry strikers or manage a team suitably financed by a Malaysian air tycoon: the fans are understandably double-checking their screens amidst a quiet warbling of Rocky Horror’s lyrics, “Let’s do the Time Warp Again.”
At the end of the 2010/11 campaign, football fans across England were understandably right to expect they had seen the last of opposition players flying high up into the air after a Paul Scholes “tackle” and no longer have to be subjected to Mark Hughes bemoaning a lack of ambition wherever he goes, despite spending £17.5m on players like Roque Santa Cruz. The thought of Thierry Henry returning to the Premier League wasn’t even in Richard Dunne’s wildest dreams.
So, when Sir Alex Ferguson managed to finally convince his most favourite ginger to come out of retirement 6 months after he had announced it was the “right time for me to stop playing,” hung-over football fans waking up late Sunday morning to watch Manchester United win 3-2, but walk away like the defeated team, were understandably confused when they saw Paul Scholes named on the bench. Despite the fact that Fergie didn’t want Scholes to retire in the first place and had always offered him the chance to re-join the playing squad, amateur psychologist Nicky Butt informed the world that bringing him back, “was a smart move by the manager,” considering the timing because, “It took all the attention off [City’s] home record and the bookmakers’ odds and switched all the attention to Paul Scholes and Manchester United.” Ignoring the fact that not everything Sir Alex Ferguson does is some kind of mental game of labyrinth, Butt concluded that, “It was a great little bit of psychology.”
If heart palpitations hadn’t been induced by the last-minute surprise return of Paul Scholes, no way eluded to in the English media as early as November, or the clever link-up play he performed with James Milner, then Tuesday night’s love in with Thierry Henry featuring players of lesser ability, probably evoked at least the smallest of emotionally nostalgic twinges of the heart. Having told fans, modestly, that he wasn’t “coming here to be a hero,” instead sympathetically “coming [back] to help,” Henry came off of where he intended to sit for 6 weeks, “ I’m going to be a bench player,” and scored the winning goal, playing up to the magic of the F.A Cup. Having done so, Thierry Henry reacted in a way only previously expected of Paulo Di Canio this season: he rose his arms above his head, showered himself in ecstasy and felt the stupor us mere mortals can only ever dream of experiencing, “Now I know how people feel when they score for the club they support.”
If the strong stench of nostalgia hadn’t quite engulfed your immediate vicinity, then Sunday is a footballing treat: Mark Hughes returns to football management half a season after explaining that he had left Craven Cottage because, he is, “a young, ambitious manager,” who wishes to, “move on to further [his] experiences.” The manager, no stranger to splashing the cash, has shown his ambition already, by supposedly listing Didier Drogba, Darren Bent, Wayne Bridge and Alex among his transfer targets; whether QPR quite possess the same ambition to appeal to such players remains to be seen. Since leaving Blackburn Rovers for Manchester City, where he signed Wayne Bridge – a player he had spent time with during his playing days at Southampton F.C - as well as Shaun Wright-Phillips, Mark Hughes has lived off of expensive foreigners, so should find himself at home QPR.
Although a clash of egos may now ensue at QPR, what with Mark Hughes, Joey Barton and Adel Taarabt now all likely to be on and around the pitch – I can’t see Hughes playing Derry and Mackie over Adel Taarabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips – what he can bring to Rangers is astute signings and mid-table security; albeit among the odd woeful purchase. With the ex-Wales manager, for every Jo he buys, he also brings in a Christopher Samba, a Nigel De Jong and a Vincent Kompany. Among the high-profile names on Mark Hughes’ media-constructed transfer list, is in fact Christopher Samba, the man he bought at Blackburn Rovers for £500k.
Meanwhile, in the world of the fast-becoming Nostalgia League sponsored by Barclay’s, whilst Paul Scholes took to the pitch for Luis Nani with half an hour left on the clock, watching on from the punditry box was Roy Keane; however, more poignant was the presence of David Beckham, who at one year Scholes’ minor, must’ve been bouncing Romeo on his knee thinking he could surely do a job still, too. Even Owen Hargreaves jogged about for a bit.
With Manchester United highly unlikely to provide a route back into English football to David – that really would be admitting defeat if resigning Paul Scholes didn’t – and Beckham surely scarred by the idea of moving to Loftus Road after Warnock stated that he, “personally can’t see where Beckham is going to get in the team at the moment,” (probably where you insisted on playing Derry or Mackie) there seems few options left for England’s footballing Braveheart. However, the wheeler-dealer that isn’t Harry Redknapp – he swears if you call him that – may well provide him with a bus ticket for the O.A.P coach to the Nostalgia League: “Could David play for us? It’s a difficult one, I wouldn’t know about the financial side of all of that. The chairman was dealing with his club last time. But as a fella, to have him around the place every day was brilliant. “
Redknapp, in the same interview, raised an extremely valid point, “People keep saying the players today are better than what they were. Well we keep bringing back 37-year-olds so I don’t know about that. It can’t quite be right,” using his poetic license to full flexibility as he referenced the 36-year old David Beckham, the 33-year old Thierry Henry and the 31-year old Robbie Keane in the same breath as the accurately aged Paul Scholes. Personally, I am enjoying the mini-revival of players in the Premier League that I used to collect as little Panini stickers as a child and it was only today that I was revelling in the memory of a Jay Jay Okocha brace against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup Semi-final, whilst watching Manchester City v Liverpool in their same fixture for 2012.
At the rate at which transfers are moving along at the moment, it may just go down as the January bargain window of 2012. So, as Scholes makes his return, Henry makes his and Keane joins Aston Villa on loan, which other aging former Premier League stars are out there and could still do a job this season?