John Terry has looked like Titus Bramble, Frank Lampard has started fewer games than Ali Dia (Google this name if you want a laugh at Graeme Souness…and who doesn’t want to do that), Didier Drogba has been blowing hot and cold more often than Katy Perry and Fernando Torres has just been blowing cold, very cold. What an earth is going on over in the blue half of West London?

Three words, Andre Villas-Boas. Ok, admittedly those words won’t surprise many of you out there and why would it? The former Porto man has come in for more than his fair share of criticism from fans, pundits and journalists alike. Whether it be his confusing tactics, confrontational attitude in press conferences or his choice to defend the impotent Fernando Torres until the cows come home.

So yeah, another generic AVB article right? Wrong. After re-watching the a few highlights from the season so far (because being a student doesn’t allow you to afford a social life on Friday night’s) but this time I was able to watch this time without the bias towards Arsenal, the euphoria surrounding Walcott’s performances and RVP our MVP and as a ‘neutral’ you really do notice a lot more.

I remember Jose Mourinho’s first few press conferences in England and they were very similar to AVB’s confrontational, defensive and borderline aggressive, so perhaps a good omen for Chelsea because the self proclaimed ‘Special One’ achieved great things during his time at Stamford Bridge.

Back to AVB’s press conferences, would a man who should supposedly be scared for his job with Roman Abramovich’s track record really come out and attack the British media and isolate himself further? Whether it be that the Mr Chelski is too preoccupied with his court case, where he stands to lose billions, to really focus on Chelsea but whatever the reason, I can’t help but think AVB knows he has the backing of the 53rd richest man in the world, for this season at least and here’s why.

When a new manager arrives he will obviously want to make his mark and there will be players he will want to move on to pastures new. The problem AVB has is you can’t walk into a club as prestigious as Chelsea and start upsetting the apple cart without good reason,, the Portuguese’s handling of Frank Lampard has caused uproar amongst fans, especially as when the Chelsea ‘legend’ has played this season he has consistently scored and put in some impressive displays. However come January a marquee attacking midfielder signing could finally see AVB get his way with the Englishman.

So the 34 year old’s ‘tactics’ to remove Lampard are still a work in progress however with John Terry the former British Virgin Islands’ manager has managed to achieve want he wanted, and that is for the England international to look vulnerable and replaceable. Twelve months who really could have imagined that Alan Hansen and Gary Linekar would be highlighting a weakness in John Terry’s game on Match of the Day (well maybe Wayne Bridge had hoped.). The high line utilised by AVB has caused nothing by problems for the defensive line of Chelsea and this allows AVB, probably not in January, but in the summer to bring in players he wants, to play the style of football he wants without there being too much uproar due to the inconsistencies in Terry’s performances throughout this season.

A slight kamikaze mission from AVB but sit tight Chelsea fans, twelve months of major overhaul and you could have a man who outstays Sir Alex Ferguson. AVB has a plan and is the man to finally end player power at the Bridge and no doubt bring Mr Abramovich his Champions League.

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Wait. I know you want to close the page already because it is another article about Fernando Torres and we all know the internet is now 99% El Nino articles and the other 1% is articles about Lindsay Lohan’s latest arrest.

When searching through the plethora of articles on the Chelsea striker from newspapers to blog posts the usual conclusions were being drawn; being played out of position, formation doesn’t suit the Spaniard and lacking in confidence. Probably all valid and, to a certain extent, truthful statements however after nearly twelve months on from the £50 million move surely a player of Torres’ reputation could have rediscovered his form? At what point does a player stop being in a bad run of form and just become a poor signing?

What has become plainly obvious to me, yes another ‘armchair pundit’, that the World Cup winner clearly has fallen out of love with the game. Admittedly the time of footballer’s playing with an Ian Wright-esque smile has long gone but the former Atletico Madrid forward cuts a forlorn, disinterested and passionless figure not only for ninety minutes but in all aspects of a modern footballer’s week (press conferences etc.)

Today AVB came out and said that Torres isn’t for sale after rumours suggested that the striker could be available for the knock down price of £20 million but surely saving face and sticking with the 27 year old will continue to add to the media circus that surrounds Stamford Bridge.

The former Porto boss also went on to say that he would wait another year for Torres to recapture his form, waiting 24 months for a player who three seasons ago could have walked into the Barcelona side shows how far El Nino has fallen.

Despite all these positive comments from AVB the former Porto manager hasn’t started Torres since the club’s 1-1 draw with Genk in the Champions League on 1st November. These comments lack substance and perhaps AVB now accepts Torres is a lost cause, I mean Carlo Ancelotti also failed in getting the best out of the Chelsea man so there must be a point where you have to start blaming the player.

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

In recent weeks, Arsenal have been described as ‘a one man team’ and of course this refers to goal machine and captain Robin Van Persie’s influence; so the signs were ominous when Wenger decided to leave the Dutchman on the bench for the weekend’s game against Stoke City. Admittedly, the Gunners didn’t replace the goal scoring threat the former Feyenoord striker brings however, have they have found a ‘Captain Fantastic’ replacement should the obvious happen and RVP and vice captain Thomas Vermaelen get injured?

A very proud Alex Song deputised in the absence of Van Persie and The Verminator. Song described the chance to lead out ‘Arsene Wenger’s red and white army’ as a great way to “show the boss that I am one of the leaders in the team”. Despite an assured performance from the combative midfielder, is Song really the leader Arsenal have lacked since the days of Patrick Vieira?

Like all great arguments there are two sides but drawing up a list of ‘pro’s’ and ‘con’s, well lets face it, is just boring. How about I put Song in different scenarios and see if he is captain material?

If Arsenal (god forbid) suffered the same fate as Chelsea on Sunday and were down to nine men by half time would Song have picked up a deflated side and dominated the second half like Chelsea did? It’s hard to see it. For all his power and steely determination, Song like the majority of the current crop of players, let their heads drop when the team falls behind and don’t dig deep.

Next situation. Cast your minds back to the now infamous ‘Gallas meltdown’ against Birmingham. Ok, it’s not hard to be a better captain then the Frenchman was on that day, but when Arsenal’s season was at a pivotal moment after Gael Clichy conceded a penalty, would Song have composed the team? Can anyone really compose ten ‘headless chickens’?

Although such scenarios make or break captain’s, a real captain will be there for his teammates for the duration of a season. At the moment we don’t have that in Van Persie, let alone Song. However, despite what I’ve said, I’ve always beaten the drum for Song for captain and if the Cameroonian sorts out his lack of discipline with regards to formation as well as cards, then who knows Wenger may just start singing a new song.

In football, the line between success and failure is littered with ‘ifs, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’. However, what is now crystal clear is that Arsenal’s youth set up has definitely failed.

We assume every season that Arsene Wenger will let loose another batch of the next best things onto the League Cup, and every season we throw the usual clichés around about the next Pélé. The fact is that every season it is another eleven players from all corners of the globe we are talking about and suddenly we forget about the previous season’s Carling Cup entertainers. The false pretence in the media among fans and the world of football that Arsenal are only second to Barcelona when it comes to the best youth set-ups is, quite frankly, laughable- especially when you compare it to arch rivals Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson, on a yearly basis, jettisons a boat full of young players that are deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. These players then surface to do the job for other top football clubs.

Phillip Bardsley, Fraizer Campbell, Kieran Richardson and John O’Shea all ply their trade with some distinction at Sunderland. Guiseppe Rossi is one of the most sought after strikers in this transfer window after years of consistently dominating the scoring charts for Villareal; another former United youngster excelling in La Liga is Gerard Pique, three times winner of the Champions League at only 24 years of age. Consider this host of names, then think about the ones I have not yet mentioned, having barely scratched the surface of United academy graduates enjoying fruitful careers around the globe. The likes of Jonathan Greening, Robbie Savage, Sylvain Ebanks-Blake and Ryan Shawcross, and that’s just counting the players who failed to make the grade at United. What about our beloved David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes; the list seems never ending. With Arsenal, the standout names are David Bentley, Ashley Cole and Steve Sidwell; I suppose you can also consider Fabrice Muamba and Jermaine Pennant, who is finally starting to show his worth. Nonetheless, could not Spurs, West Ham, Chelsea and even Fulham boast half a dozen decent youth players? The lavish praise that the Gooner’s youth set-up receives is not warranted when one considers the number of players who have excelled in life after the Emirates. Yet outside that iconic picture of Butt, Scholes, Beckham, Giggs and Neville as trainees, the Old Trafford youth system doesn’t earn as much credit as it quite deserves.

United’s loan deals speak volumes, with Danny Welbeck a huge success at Sunderland and Federico Macheda deemed accomplished enough for a loan move to Serie A outfit Sampdoria. While in North London, Arsenal loaned out Henri Lansbury and Aaron Ramsey to Championship sides Norwich City and Nottingham Forest respectively, and Kyle Bartley to Rangers.

It would be foolish to continue without a mention of Jack Wilshere, one shining example of a player who has thrived under the Wenger way and come out the other side triumphant. Wilshere began his training as a nine year old and is now on the verge of something special, but one shining star doesn’t allow you to forget the Sanchez Watt’s, the Quincy Owusu-Abeyie’s and the Justin (or even Gavin) Hoyte’s of the footballing world; the success of players after their respective spells at Arsenal and Manchester United speaks for itself.

There is clearly something wrong with the Wenger method with regards to youth development. The Frenchman arrived at an Arsenal that had produced David Rocastle, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Paul Merson, Michael Thomas and Kevin Campbell. All the aforementioned players became established first team regulars for the Gunners, having come through Arsenal’s youth system. Yet if you compare this to the starting line up of the Gunners’ final Premier League fixture of the 2010/11 season against Fulham, only Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere can claim to have gone through the Arsenal youth system for a substantial period.

The praise Arsenal receive for such players as Cesc Fabregas is excessive. Wenger and his team do deserve credit for seeing something in the 16 year old Barcelona academy graduate, but Wenger merely polished a rough diamond. Fabregas was already a great prospect after the Spaniard’s training at La Masia. The crux of this debate is clearly very straightforward, unlike Man United, who produce players tirelessly and see them go on to find success; Arsenal merely take players, young players, who have had their footballing education and give them a platform to showcase their talents- Robin Van Persie comes to mind.

Football is a game graded on success, and since Arsene Wenger’s appointment in 1996, Arsenal’s Youth and Reserve teams have won a total of nine honours combined, whereas Manchester United have won 33 titles and various other accolades. These numbers tell the same story as at senior level. Arsenal play attractive football, but have a fairly empty trophy cabinet; perhaps the opposite could be said of the Red Devils, as they continue to defy the critics and win football’s major trophies. The bedrock of the teaching at Man United seems to instil a winning mentality, something Wenger just doesn’t understand how to do with his approach.

I may have been too harsh on Arsenal’s most successful manager, I mean, ultimately the players are in control of their own success on the pitch, whether they be up-and-coming stars or experienced footballers. At Manchester United, the influence of the experienced footballers upon the youngsters who have come through over the years has been huge, and why wouldn’t it be? Fraizer Campbell, Kieran Richardson et al would have grown up watching Ryan Giggs and co, true professionals playing at the highest level of football for their whole careers; who do Arsenal have? The Thierry Henrys, Patrick Vieiras and Tony Adams have come and gone, and since those Arsenal ‘legends’ have departed, the Gunners have lacked experience, they appear to be crying out for a talisman, someone who lives and breathes Arsenal in the same way John Terry does for Chelsea, Steven Gerrard does for Liverpool and Rio Ferdinand does for Man United. Ryo Miyaichi, Emmanuel Frimpong, Henri Lansbury and so many of the youngsters, who are coming through the ranks and hoping to break into Wenger’s first eleven won’t have that calm and assured head to ease the transition, instead they have fellow young professionals who are still finding their own way in the beautiful game.

Youth policy shapes an attitude, mentality and even a perception of a club, and the ultimate irony is that the football world’s ‘Young Guns’ perception of Arsenal is so clearly wide of the mark. What Arsenal actually need is some ‘Old Cannons’.

In a recent interview on SkySports, former Arsenal defender Kenny Samson stated that if Arsenal don’t make drastic changes soon and fast, they could very well find themselves out of the Champions League qualification places for the first time in more than a decade; is this really how bad it has got for Wenger over at the Emirates?

You can’t ignore that Arsenal seem to be a team in reverse; as Ian Wright recently put it, “Arsenal have become Manchester City’s feeder club”. A slight over exaggeration, if ever there were one, however the reason Gael Clichy gave for moving to Eastlands is one that is beginning to gain momentum with the footballing neutrals: “Year after year I have seen this club getting stronger. They have new players in and the names in the team are amazing”. Man City are currently doing what every Arsenal fan has been crying out for Wenger to do for at least three years: spend, maybe not to Roberto Mancini’s extremes, but a signal of intent from Le Professeur wouldn’t go amiss.

Man City aren’t the only team who are very capable of overhauling Arsenal’s ‘top four status’. Liverpool are building a very exciting squad, even if it does mean paying over the odds for players; Tottenham Hotspur have a lot to do this summer but a few of the right transfers could see them back in and around the Champions League spots, and that’s before we even consider the signings Manchester United have made and that Chelsea no doubt will make.

In order to achieve things, you have to be open to a change in mentality. Spurs were when Redknapp took over, Chelsea were when Abramovich started bankrolling the London club and Liverpool are nearing the end of their mentality change under Fenway Sports Group; although Wenger has realised and stated he has to spend to appease fans, you can see the Frenchman’s awkwardness and unease in every press conference at doing this. Despite saying what all Gunners’ fans want to hear, it is clear deep down that Wenger’s philosophies remain intact and are controlling Arsenal’s transfer policy, a policy that could cost them Champions League football. Carl Jenkinson cost £1 million from Charlton Athletic, Gervinho isn’t proven and is hardly formidable and the constant rumours surrounding Southampton’s Alex Oxlaide Chamberlain, although a decent player, is not going to make a massive impact anytime soon. If Wenger were serious about making changes, he should be looking at experience and not another one for the future.

For a good five years or so, the media, pundits and even the Gunners’ own faithful have questioned whether Arsene Wenger’s red and white army will be in the top four come the final Premier League game of each season, yet every time so far Arsenal have proved their critics wrong, even if it has been very close on several occasions. The Gunners’ squad has proven time and time again they have the experience and skill to, at the very least, give Arsenal Champions League football; the problem is that that is a minimum requirement and not viewed as a success by the fans. With every season, that qualification for Europe’s greatest club tournament is becoming harder and harder for Arsenal, so this year, more than the previous, perhaps the critics will be right.

Arsenal: a team in decline, or just in need of some tweaks?

There are a few false pretences over at White Hart Lane, the first one being that Harry Redknapp is the right man for England, the second that Gareth Bale is worth £80 million and the final one is that the Lilywhites’ diminutive Croatian midfielder Luka Modric is irreplaceable and an integral part to Daniel Levy’s grand plan.

Manchester United and Chelsea are the two clubs that have been strongly linked with the former Dinamo Zagreb man, so surely I’m just another ignorant journalist getting it totally wrong if Sir Alex Ferguson and Roman Abramovich see something special in Modric?

I hate football statistics, I really couldn’t care that Dirk Kuyt ran 50 miles in 90 minutes or that England haven’t ever beaten Guadelope when Dave Nugent has been playing. However, the fact that Modric, an attacking midfielder, contributed only four goals and three assists last season paints a very different picture from the one being constructed in the press.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, I mean I know Modric brings way more than misleading stats suggest, but does he bring more than Leon Osman does to Everton? Osman has been an unsung hero for a couple of seasons on Merseyside and despite not perhaps having that natural flare that the Croat has in his game, the Englishman has the ‘Modric Role’ for Moyes’ team and contributes more statistically than the Spurs midfielder does.

If Modric were to go, ‘Arry really doesn’t have to worry too much with regards to bringing in a replacement; I know Redknapp would need to bring in someone in the heart of the midfield, but my point is that the Lilywhites’ manager wouldn’t need to buy a world class centre midfielder to replace Modric. In my opinion, Sandro has the ability to be the complete midfielder, the man to step up and dictate Tottenham’s play and pull the strings, so a signing such as Lassana Diarra could prove a step in the right direction, especially considering the balance of the team with the very much attacking minded players in Bale, Lennon and Van Der Vaart.

Is Luka Modric a great player? Yes. Is he replaceable? Of course.