Archive for the ‘La Liga’ Category

The majority of plaudits from White Hart Lane this season have gone to Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart and there is no denying both players deserve all the praise they get. However for me, it is Spurs’ Luka Modric that has been the ‘heartbeat’ of everything positive the Lilywhites have done this season, with his determination, range of passing and the odd goal scored, the diminutive Croatian has been a star performer this Premier League season. It is such attributes that have caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, who is looking to replace the now retired Paul Scholes and the Manchester United boss is reportedly readying a £25 million bid for the former Dinamo Zagreb player. If Modric were to leave North London, are there any natural replacements for the influential midfielder?

Charlie Adam

The Blackpool man was subject to a failed deadline day bid by Tottenham in January and Harry Redknapp is supposedly still keen to bring the former Rangers man to White Hart Lane, especially if Modric does seek pastures new. Adam has a more attacking presence to his play than Modric, with Adam’s twelve Premier League goals for Blackpool last season being one of the main things preventing them from being relegated sooner. The Blackpool man was the driving force behind the Tangerine’s play, much like Modric is for Tottenham, and cold easily slot into the Spurs team (with a slight formation adjustment). Tottenham play a 4-4-2 but Adam’s style of play is more suited to a diamond formation, with the Scot playing just behind the forwards, which would mean Sandro playing as an out and out defensive midfielder (much like he does already).

Scott Parker

It seems weird to say but this has been Scott Parker’s ‘coming of age’ season, despite being 30 years old; he has received the international recognition he deserves as well as being named FWA Footballer of the year. The former Charlton midfielder has been praised throughout this season, not just from West Ham fans, for his tenacious style of play and unbelievable work ethic. The midfielder would add a much needed bite to the Tottenham midfielder, something that Jenas, Sandro and Huddlestone don’t bring in abundance, or if any at all. The former Chelsea man is a leader, a fighter and could influence games in the same manner that Modric does.

Lassana Diarra

The Real Madrid midfielder is reportedly available for transfer as Jose Mourinho looks to raise funds for his own transfer spree this summer. I know with the Arsenal and Chelsea connection, many will slate me in the comments below but for me Diarra would be a huge assest to the Spurs side, with his strong play and ability to break up the play. Many believe selling the Frenchman was one of Wenger’s biggest mistakes in recent years, after impressive seasons and performances for Portsmouth and Real Madrid. Diarra is hardly a ‘like for like’ replacement with his more defensive mentality but the former Pompey player can play higher up the field, however my argument for signing Diarra is the balance it would bring to Spurs formation. Last season ‘Arry played a ridiculously attacking formation, at a huge cost to defensive duties, with Diarra in the middle alongside Sandro and Jenas (still think he is useless), would allow Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart more attacking freedom (not sure Bale needs anymore) but VDV carely demonstrated last year his unwillingness to track back, such a formation wouldn’t require him to as much.

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Everyone is predicting the usual Arsene Wenger transfer activity, making promises that there will be changes but come the final minute of deadline day, Le Professeur will either sign an unknown and lets face it pointless squad player or no-one at all. Like so many transfer windows before, there are potential signings that are ideal for Arsenal and staring Wenger in the face, with fans, ex-players and pundits all calling for the Frenchman to open up the cheque book, but in his usual stubborn way Wenger refuses and Premier League rivals snap up the perfect signing for the Gunners instead. Here are the five players I think the Frenchman should sign, to which he will reply “I did not see them”.

Scott Parker

The West Ham midfielder has stated his desire to return to the Premier League following the Hammers relegation and will face no shortage of admirers, including Tottenham Hotspur. Surely the pleasure of getting one over your fiercest rivals in the transfer market is incentive enough, before you even consider the positives Parker would bring. The former Chelsea midfielder would add all the attributes this current Arsenal squad has been criticised for not having: experience, passion and strength in the middle of the park.

Gonzalo Higuain

Reportedly available for £15 million as Mourinho looks to fund his own transfer spree, Higuain is the perfect striking partner for Robin Van Persie. The Argentinian has an impressive goal scoring record for Real Madrid and has all the attributes of a world class finisher, something Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh seriously lack. The forward would happily share the goal scoring burden that has rested solely on Van Persie in the second half of the season.

Maarten Stekelenberg

Many believe Wojciech Szczesny is the man for Arsenal between the sticks for many years to come, but for me I’m undecided. Making a move for current Ajax goalkeeper Martin Stekelenberg would give Arsenal that world class keeper that have tried to find since Seaman. All the keepers since the Englishman have hardly been household names, Arsenal fans are crying out for a Iker Casillas or Gigi Buffon, someone who has pedigree behind their name, and the Dutchman can offer them that.

Yoann Gourcuff

With Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri widely expected to leave this summer, the Lyon midfielder could step in to become that playmaker Arsenal will need. The Frenchman has earnt comparisions to Zinedine Zidane for his passing style and all round ability, with David Ginola claiming that Gourcuff is the best French player of his generation. The former AC Milan player can play in the attacking midfielder role but also as a withdrawn striker, something Arsenal could find very useful with regards to finding the ideal striking partner for Robin Van Persie.

Miguel Veloso

Although Arsenal have Alex Song as their strong defensive midfielder, more than one occasion this season the Cameroonian has gone missing. Veloso would bring consistency with regards to crucial interceptions and forceful tackles, as well as that leadership quality Arsenal have lacked for several seasons. Another bonus of signing the Portugese international is, rather surprisingly, he is a very accomplished left back, so should Gael Clichy leave this summer, the former Benfica player could be a candidate to replace the Frenchman.

Who do you think Wenger should sign http://www.facebook.com/pages/Daniel-T-Blazer/185495024836102

 

The end of era is well and truly upon the horizon of Old Trafford, Gary Neville has retired, Edwin Van Der Sar is retiring and Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are contemplating hanging up their boots. The four mentioned players have been the spine of the Red Devils success over recent years and Sir Alex Ferguson has acknowledged that he needs to make three signings in order to replace the departing players. Aston Villa’s Ashley Young, Atletico Madrid’s David De Gea and Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder are thought to be the three possible acquisitions, but should the United faithful be excited by these potential signings?

A Goalkeeper is Ferguson’s main priority this transfer window with second choice Tomasz Kuszczak signalling his intent on leaving and the jury is still out on Anders Lindegaard ability. David De Gea is now deemed to be Fergie’s number one target after losing out on Schalke 04 shot stopper Manuel Neuer. The heir to Iker Casillas number one spot for Spain, is highly rated within the world of football and is an exciting prospect for the United manager due to him only being 20 years of age, however youth is something of doubled edged sword for managers in football, especially when it comes to goalkeepers. It would very much be a case of ‘sink or swim’ for the current Atletico Madrid keeper and a club of Manchester United’s stature cannot afford for De Gea to sink. Although the future is bright for the Spaniard, Fergie would do well in securing his services but perhaps also look to bring in an experienced understudy, I’m not exactly sure who but if I did, I would probably be as successful as SAF.

We all know what an exciting and phenomenal talent Wesley Sneijder…was, this season has seen the Dutch play maker fail to live up to the heights of 2009/10 season but I suppose eclipsing being named UEFA midfielder of the year was always going to be hard. Despite not being as influential the former Ajax man is still a genuine talent and would offer Manchester United that extra dimension in their defence of the Premiership crown next season. Sneijder is quick, strong on the ball and has a impeccable passing accuracy and range, many of the attributes that Paul Scholes possess. The Red Devils must be licking their lips at the prospect of Sneijder donning the Manchester United colours next season.

Ashley Young has seen his value rocket this season after impressive performances for club and country, but would Fergie be overpaying for a classic media hyperbole player or would this investment in years to come be seen as one of the Scots greatest signings? There is no doubting the former Watford man can make the step-up (Watford to Villa and then Villa to England), so I doubt there is any cause for concern about whether the winger would struggle to make an impact at Old Trafford, the problem lies in where do you accommodate the England international? Luis Nani and Antonio Valencia have both been hugely impressive when they have played this season and Young is very much a similar style of player to the two players. There is obviously, room on the bench for Young but clearly this wont satisfy the current Villa player’s aspirations, however should SAF move for the England ace, the Red Devils faithful should be very excited indeed.

No one knows who came first: the chicken or the egg? But one thing is certain; Peter Schmeichel came first, before a long list of keepers that finished with egg on their face after trying to replace the Great Dane. Eventually, Edwin Van Der Sar was the man to hold down the fort and was a perfect replacement. Like all good things though, they come to an end and so, with the Dutchman retiring at the end of the season, I’m having a look at the reported replacements.

1. Pepe Reina
Not one to upset the red half of Merseyside, but this move isn’t as unthinkable as it might seem to Liverpool fans. Reina’s fiercely competitive nature is evident throughout every form of his play and not only does he want to win trophies, he deserves to; he has been a consistent performer over the seasons for Liverpool and is arguably one of the greatest shot stoppers ever to grace the Premier League. Furthermore, with Fernando Torres’ turbulent exit from Anfield due to the conclusion that aspirations of silverware were best served by leaving Liverpool, Reina will no doubt be thinking about perhaps moving onto pastures new.

All is not lost for the Liverpool faithful yet, though, as there is under Kenny Dalglish a rapid revolution underway on Anfield Road. Liverpool’s recent resurgence is too late to mount a serious title challenge or even get in contention for a ‘top four’ berth. However, ‘King’ Kenny’s momentum is building and this may make the Spaniard consider holding tight for one more season with the promise of further investment in the next transfer window.

You have to remember that Reina is only 28 and in the peak of his career. Numerous goalkeepers still hit top form into their thirties, so if Reina doesn’t move this window it doesn’t mean that he won’t in the not-to-distant future. He could have a long and successful spell at Old Trafford. If he were to move, Reina would most definitely be ‘walking alone.’

2. David de Gea

If you can’t have Iker Casillas, then why not sign his heir to the throne of Spain’s number 1 custodian. David de Gea is at the forefront of the generation and purely in terms of talent has exactly what it takes to succeed in the Premier League, with the potential for further improvement. He could well excel for Man Utd, but youth is something of a double-edged sword.

Snapping up someone so young could have dream like conclusions, filling the space between the Man U sticks with someone possessing proven talent and experience for at least a decade. De Gea himself, though, is reported to have qualms about moving abroad at such a young age, which could see him stay on at Atletico Madrid for a couple more seasons to further his development. As well as this, and with all due respect to Atletico, much of the media attention is on Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga, whereas moving to Old Trafford would thrust the young Spaniard into the limelight. Being there and handling the spotlight are two different things all together.

3. Manuel Neuer
Neuer would be a great option for the Red Devils, but with reported interest from Bayern Munich coupled with his desire to win a Bundesliga, a switch to Old Trafford may be ‘off the cards’.

He has been highly rated throughout his fledgling career, but it is this season that has seen Neuer make a name for himself. Errors have fallen by the wayside and been replaced by commanding, assured and ‘safe’ performances by the German number one. At the age of 25 and with six seasons of first team football under his belt, his experience is vastly greater than anyone else his age, but it is his age that provides the problem for Sir Alex Ferguson. Neuer can stay in Germany to win his title and then in a couple of years discuss a move, as he will still be young for a goalkeeper. Ferguson, however, doesn’t have time.

4.Martin Stekelenburg

‘Double Dutch’ now means to me the comparison between Edwin Van Der Sar and Martin Steklenberg. Firstly you have the Dutch connection; as well as both tall in stature, technically good and physically robust. A like-for-like swap would be on the cards for Sir Alex and one that could very well materialise. The current first choice for the Oranje would take the move to Old Trafford in his stride.

5. Gianluigi Buffon

Buffon’s departure is a huge possibility this summer, with Juventus reportedly in major need of balancing the books. The world’s most expensive goalkeeper is now 33 and despite still being a class act, would Buffon’s transfer fee really help Juventus’ financial situation in such a deflated transfer market? All signs point to Buffon remaining at Juve, having already followed them down to Serie B a few years ago and being in the twilight of his career, wherein he will presumably want to just enjoy his football. On top of this, Sir Alex is ideally looking for a long term replacement, and with the Italian’s age and proneness to injury, is he really a long term replacement?

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Norway gave us the music band ‘A-Ha’, and I am sure we are all very grateful for this, however, when it comes to the world of football Norway has never produced the world’s best superstars. Admittedly, players such as Tore Andre Flo were very talented and loveable characters, but they haven’t given us fans a ‘Pele’ or a ‘Messi’. This may all be about to change though, if the talk of Rosenborg’s Midfielder Markus Henriksen becomes legacy rather than Viking myth.

The Norwegian international has been playing for Rosenberg since 2009, and by the beginning of 2010 Henriksen was a first team regular, despite only being 17 years of age at the time. The midfielder is a box-to-box player and can be utilised in numerous positions within the middle of the park; this, coupled with precise passing, a powerful shot and an understanding of the game that belies his years, with excellent positional sense and mature decision-making, makes him a very handy asset for Rosenborg.

Scouts from all over Europe have been making numerous trips to the Lerkendal Stadion this season and have been reporting back very positively on the young Norwegian, with Werder Bremen, AC Milan and Real Madrid reportedly paying close attention to the young starlet. Whether Henriksen moves onto one of Europe’s elite or continues to ply his trade in Norway, one thing is for certain, the teenager will get to the very top.

If all this wasn’t enough for you, then on Football Manager 2011 my Assistant Manger says, “he has the potential to become a leading Premier Midfielder and I believe with right training he could become a top midfielder for any European team.” Surely a sign of things to come?

A good performance become “one of the best ever”, a 25 yard free kick becomes “one of the greatest goals ever seen” and a nutmeg becomes “Unbelievable Tekkers”. Throughout the years, so many players have had fantastic debut seasons or even in some cases just a good couple of months but this doesn’t stop a sports journalists using hyperbole deliberately and unapologetically, linking them with Europe’s biggest clubs. Fleet Street’s elite have done this with the likes of Kieran Dyer, Leroy Lita and Francis Jeffers and where are those players now?

So, without further ado, I give you my opinion of the top 10 footballers from this season that are just classic media hyperbole.

Marouane Chamakh

The Moroccan made an explosive start to his Arsenal career with 10 goals in all competitions by the end of November. This then had the media and fans alike, raving that Arsenal had finally found the heir to Henry’s throne, high praise indeed, especially when you consider that since then Chamakh has scored only one goal…against Leyton Orient.

Charlie Adam

The Scotsman was an average player at Rangers but, after dropping down to a smaller ‘pond’ with Blackpool, now looks like the bees knees. Any attacking midfielder was going to thrive within a team that doesn’t comprehend the idea of defending and I just feel that moving on to either Liverpool, Man United or Tottenham will be a big mistake for Adam.

Gareth Bale

Harry Redknapp stated that Bale is worth £80 million, but I find myself struggling to comprehend this over exaggeration; the Welshman managed to destroy a depleted post-Mourinho Inter Milan defence, but when Nemanja Vidic is left spellbound by the former Southampton man then I will take notice.

Scott Parker

We all know Scott Parker is a very good player, but hype has turned this accomplished box to box player into West Ham’s very own Zinedine Zidane.

Connor Wickham

Apparently has the ability to be as prolific as a young Michael Owen, but then again, so did Francis Jeffers.

Adel Taarabt

Admittedly he had limited chances at Tottenham Hotspur, but that doesn’t stop him being a flop. Lets just stop these £10 million rumours to Chelsea now and realise the Moroccan has found his level as QPR’s attacking talisman.

Rafael Van Der Vaart

He had a blistering start to his Spurs career, but in recent months has gone off the boil and struggles to finish a full ninety minutes; £8 million for a 75 minute man isn’t the greatest bit of business after all.

Andy Carroll

If David Seaman can’t pull off the ponytail then Carroll has no chance, but obviously this isn’t the Premier League’s worst haircut. Does scoring 11 goals for Newcastle United really warrant a £35 million transfer? You can nearly get six Javier Hernandez’ for that and he has 19 goals in all competitions this season.

Lionel Messi

Calm down, breathe…right, are you ok? Yes I have put the Lionel Messi in this list. When the little Argentinian scores more goals than games played in the Premier League, then I will be considerably more impressed with ‘Maradona’s heir apparent’.

Nicklas Bendtner

No one is raving about the very self confident Dane, but try telling that to Bendtner himself; such is the Big Dane’s ego that he believes he is amongst the game’s greats. Bendtner is on the list because he has somehow single handed turned himself into a demi-god in his own mind and yet does nothing for the media to warrant such praise.

Real Madrid, Arsenal, AC Milan, I could go on. All these teams are without a doubt ‘giants’ of the footballing world. What makes these teams entitled to the title of ‘giant of the footballing world’ though? Real Madrid, for example, haven’t dominated La Liga or rivalled Barcelona for a good three to four years now; Arsenal haven’t won anything for six years (and with each Premier League fixture that passes it is looking more like seven years), and AC Milan have recently been humbled by Champions League débutantes Tottenham Hotspur, not the best advertisement for footballing ‘titans’.

Despite the obvious shortcomings of these teams, they’re still referred to as some of the best teams on the planet with the likes of Barcelona, Champions League Holders Inter Milan and Manchester United. So how are these teams, like so many more, still viewed as great teams despite no recent success?

Numerous teams on the elite ‘list’ have very illustrious and successful histories. Liverpool have won the same amount of league titles as Manchester United, Real Madrid have won the most European Cup titles and Arsenal are still talking about their Invincibles season, but all these clubs still speak of such stats and achievements for two reasons; they have a supreme pride in them, but mainly it is to relive the ‘glory days’ of a bygone era. Surely being great ‘once upon a time’ doesn’t allow you to maintain your superior and elite status amongst the all the footballing clubs out there? Leeds United, for instance, used to be giants of the game, but in more recent years they find themselves flirting with promotion and relegation in the lower leagues on a yearly cycle.

The likes of Liverpool, Real Madrid and Arsenal all have stadiums over 45,000 capacity and week in, week out have full houses; a terrific fan base is instrumental in maintaining elite status. The fans are at the core of any club, they represent what a club is about. Liverpool supporters create a remarkable noise at Anfield, creating an amazing venue, but then again so to do Celtic fans, and no one ever really classes a Scottish team as one of footballs elites, despite their remarkable past accolades as well.

Nothing can work without solid foundations; a good set-up from pitch-side right down to the tea lady is instrumental in helping a club make a name for itself. A youth system has to be successful in bringing through new talent; Liverpool have recently seen the emergence of Martin Kelly and Jay Spearing, while Arsenal reap the rewards so regularly from their youth set up, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere come to mind. But of course the best example of this is in Barcelona’s La Masia, the youth academy which, year after year, brings through great footballers and which produced no fewer than nine of Spain’s World Cup winning squad. Helping blood the team with future stars is key in maintaining high status in the footballing world.

All the ‘big’ clubs have huge investment; Chelsea and Manchester City have, in recent seasons, propelled themselves on to the elite stage with huge takeovers and are now being bankrolled by billionaires. Despite not having the most illustrious of histories, such teams are being classed as ‘big’ clubs; perhaps the saying is true, ‘money talks’. With UEFA’s new fairplay rules coming in over the money being spent by clubs this may all change, but for now, money is the ultimate divide between being a ‘big’ club and not.

You thought I was finished didn’t you? Well I sort of was, but I haven’t really said anything different or ‘out there’; we all sort of knew these things really. So I got thinking some more; does it ultimately boil down to location? Blackpool are a joy to watch but will never house 60,000 weekly because of where they are. Similarly Celtic won’t ever reach the ‘elite’ standard simply because they play in a country that isn’t huge on football and doesn’t have the strongest league. The same with the likes of Santos in Brazil or Suwon Bluewings in Japan; yet the beauty of these teams is in quite the opposite vein of Man United’s global business, it is in their local meaning being truly embedded in their community; and that my fellow fans is what built football teams from the ground upwards.