Sunday, 30 October 2011

Case For The Defence.

Well, I may be an eternal Arsenal optimist but even I would not have predicted that.   My prediction was 2-1 to the boys from North London, but obviously I forgot about both teams complete inability to defend.

Although it must have been a great game for those who are not fans of either side, for those involved it was an emotional rollercoaster.  I for one had to take a siesta after 94 minutes of screaming, shouting and jumping around the living room like a mad woman.  We've got new neighbour moving in downstairs and they must have thought someone was trying to murder me!

But back to the game. As brilliant as the attcking was, the defending was abysmal.  Neither team will win anything if they carry on playing like that and we all know how happy that will make Mr Abromovich.

Regarding Chelsea, it's good to see them with the shackles off and Andre Villas Boas has clearly given his forward players free rein.  Juan Mata looks like he has a good eye for a pass and a goal and we all enjoy watching Daniel Sturridge, as he starts to fulfill his potential.  But all this will be irrelevant if they carry on defending as if they don't know each other.  Ashley Cole had clearly decided to target the Arsenal full-backs as he bombed down the wing, which is fair enough but when he later played Robin Van Persie onside, he didn't even bother to track back.  He just stood there and watched the player bore down on Petr Cesh's goal.  Surprising, given that he is normally far more alert than that.

There is no denying there was a time when John Terry was rated as the best defender in England, although some felt this was by default, due to Ledley King and his knee problems.  He was never the quickest of men and as he ages, what little speed he had is disappearing.  Even if he hadn't slipped on the pitch, it's highly doubtful he would've kept up with Van Persie as he scored his 2nd and Arsenal's fourth.  In a team where most of the star players are the wrong side of 25, they seriously struggled against the pace of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.

When Makelele was there, it gave Chelsea that extra line of defence, something they crave now.  Frank Lampard is an attacking midfielder and we have seen from England's experiments that he struggles to commit to that type of restrictive position.  And it's clear that Mata is not the sort of player to sit there and clean up the mess, plus it would be a complete waste of his talents.  

Raul Meireles is probably the most natural candidate for the defensive midfield position bu he hasn't played as much as executed since his deadline day transfer from Liverpool.  I'm not sure he's the best man for the job but it's clear the team is struggling with the organisation and execution of defending.  Cech is a great goalkeeper but the law of averages means he won't save more than half the attempts when he is stranded one-on-one with a world class striker.  A weak defence just makes his job ten times harder.  Just ask Wojiech.

But it's not all Terry's fault, Bosingwa left his team to hang out to dry on more than a couple of occasions.  Drifting infield and leaving his man in miles of open space behind him.  I heard a suggestion that the hyperactive David Luiz could play the Makelele role but I personally don't think he has the level of concentration required.  In fact, I have no idea what his best position would be.  Although it is clear after recent games, that he's not exactly anyone's idea of an outstanding right-back.

But don't get me wrong, Arsenal are no better.  The only positive was that they haven't got any worse since 'the game that shall not be named'.  That and the fact they conceded two less goals than the hosts

The youngster, Carl Jenkinson, started on the bench which was nice for him considering he's been fed to the Premier League sharks too many times already in his debut season.  But at least he has the excuse of youth and inexperience, I have no idea what Johan Djourou's excuse is.  Before you all start, I know he's not a right-back and I know he hasn't played there often.  I don't expect him to come in and be the best right-back in the world, but what I do expect is some common sense and a sign of some basic defensive abilities.  Cole turned him so many times in the first 30 minutes, he must have thought he was playing Twister!  If you know you are going to be playing in an unfamiliar position then surely you spend extra time practising in the week and more importantly, you keep things simple.

Andre Santos doesn't escape either, regardless of the fact he scored. As I remarked earlier; it was less a game of two halves, more a case of two Santos'.  His first-half performance was the worst I've seen since the days of Pascal Cygan and his big fat shiny head.  Bad positioning, bad tackling and lack of awareness just for starters.  I'm not saying he's a bad defender, but if he hadn't scored he may well have found himself left in West London with the recycling labeled unwanted wood.

But the biggest weakest link in the Arsenal defence has to be Per Mertersacker.  The shortest tall man I've ever seen.  He can't head the ball, he can't tackle and he runs slower than my Mum; and she's got a back full of metal!  His whole involvement in Chelsea's second goal epitomised why he is not exactly being taken to the hearts of the Arsenal faithful.  Yes, the fans were screaming for a defender who looked like a defender all summer.  But I think they would have preferred one who actually played like a defender!  The fact that the teenage Wojiech Szczesney had to come out and move the experienced German into position prior to a Chelsea free-kick, pretty much says it all.

Let's be honest, neither Sir Alex nor Roberto Mancini will be quaking in their boots after watching these two play a game of who can make the lowest number of mistakes.  Mr Wenger and Villas Boas are both blessed with great attacking talent, but they will both be aware that their strikers won't always be able to save the day. 

Trophy winning teams are built from the back to the front.  The success of each teams seasons will depend on which manager manages to fix his problems first.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Coverage of Football Black List Awards 2011

The annual Football Black List Awards held their ceremony on Wednesday night at the LOCOG offices in Canary Wharf. As it was my first time at the event I wasn't sure what to expect, but I have to say I wasn't disappointed.

Those that know me, know I can't turn down a good event, especially one with free food and drink so I was well in my element. But on a serious note, these awards weren't just about me stuffing my face. They're about the good that can come from such a simple game played by 22 men with a ball.

Leon Mann and Rodney Hinds have created an event that recognises those in the Afro-Carribean community whose work isn't just on the field of play. But is equally important nevertheless.

Natasha Meets... Chris Powell

People such as Lord Herman Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out. A man who remembers a time when racism and bigotry was far more prevalent in the game, and has used his influence as a FA councillor to encourage them to take the matter seriously and become part of the solution. This year, Lord Ouseley won the Keith Alexander Award; named after the former Lincoln City and Macclesfield Town manager who sadly passed away last year. His son Matt, a former agent, now Chief Scout at Notts County FC, presented the award.

The Community Award went to Lincoln Moses MBE for his work with the Continental Stars in Birmingham. CS is now a social enterprise which aims to help those in the community who others feel are hard to reach, and after meeting Lincoln, I'm not surprised he has made such a difference to so many lives. What started as simply a football club, now also runs a Homework Club and a Women's Help Group. The club also acts as Grassroots B.A.M.E (Black & Asians Minority Ethnic) advisers to the FA and the Kick It Out campaign.

Tottenham Hotspur player, Benôit Assou Ekotto, won the Off the Pitch Award. As he was unable to attend, it was collected by his team-mate, Sebastien Bassong. Benôit has used his own experiences of gang culture while growing up in France, to become an ambassador for charities such as the Evening Standards Dispossessed Fund. He has spent time with youngsters at Croydon's Potential charity, set up by Les Persaud after his 16-year-old son Stefan was murdered by a gang in 2005.
Mr Persaud said: "Benôit coming down to Croydon off his own back has been really important for these kids."

Natasha Meets... Sebastien Bassong

A Special Thank You Award was given to, Howard Holmes, of Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) in Sheffield. Following racist attacks in the area in 1995, the charity was created to 'do something' about the growing problem. Howard has recently taken semi-retirement after being at the helm for 15 years and was recently rewarded with a commemorative shirt by Sheffield United's, Kevin McCabe. Their aim is to ensure everyone who watches the game can do so in a safe environment. Pele attended a FURD event while visiting Sheffield and said: “Today's event shows how football brings people together and I am proud to be part of that."

Attendees included Sir Les Ferdinand, Ian Taylor, Chris Powell, Paul Elliott and Alex Song, and we all cheered these men and I know I personally, felt humbled just being in their company.

At a time when football regularly receives bad press for the ludicrous amount of money floating around; it's nice to remember that there will always be some, who are just in it for the love of the game.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Is it me, or do some people seem to be enjoying Mr Wenger's current predicament a little too much?

The irony is none of this bile is coming from his fellow managers in the game. It's coming from ex-players, the media and a growing section of Arsenal fans.

Admittedly, not all ex-players, journalists or fans are part of the Wenger-out brigade. I'm not gonna start generalising.

But I find it slightly ironic that someone like Sam Allardyce can come out in support of the Frenchman but former players cannot.

No-one is infallible and maybe it is the fact that he has always been a media darling for so long, that makes recent events all the more interesting.

Not a day goes by when there isn't another article referencing his faults, coaching errors and failings in the tranfer market.

And I agree, the man has made mistakes. But which one of us hasn't?

But should these mistakes allow people to belittle one of the best managers, the Premier League has ever seen?

15 years ago, he came to North London and when he won the double he was the first non-British manager to do so. Since then he has won seven trophies and taken his club to numerous finals. He averages one trophy, every two seasons. Not too bad in a country where we regularly laud managers just foor keeping their club in the top flight.

Let's not forgot his two trophies each at Monaco and Grampas Eight, in France and Japan, respectively.

Without him players like; Robert Pires, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Freddie Ljundberg, may never have graced these shores. Not to mention how he extended the careers of Tony Adams, Steve Bould and David Seaman. As well as the numerous clubs that have benefitted from players who came through the Arsenal youth system.

With his passion and idealistic view of football, we started to see the game played in a majestic way, something not common in England.

His attention to detail helped the club build the magnificent, Emirates Stadium, as well as turn Colney into one of the best training facilities in the world.

Yet some feel it is acceptable to ridicule him and make a mockery of all he has and WILL achieve in the future.

I believe that respect is something that is earned.

And Mr Wenger has earned his, by working a hell of a lot harder than most.

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Foul Mouth of the North London Derby

North London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have come together with the aim of capturing those involved in offensive chanting, during last weekend's North London derby.

There has been much press coverage of the chants; some aimed at Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor were in relation to the gun attack on the Togo national team bus on the way to last years' African Cup of Nations.

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna was rumoured to have been spat on by the home fans as he waited to be stretchered off the pitch following a collision with the advertising boards, that resulted in a fractured fibula. Along with the usual bile that is aimed at the both managers from the rival fans.

The clubs have now released a joint statement condemning the actions and encouraging others to 'shop a moron' if they know someone who was involved. If the information is confirmed with video footage the clubs will take action that may involve the person being banned for life from both clubs' the stadium.

This is not the first time this season, fans chants have been in the spotlight. Fans of Leeds and Manchester United were also caught on camera singing songs about the Istanbul and Munich tragedies respectively, in the Carling Cup last month.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Football Black List Awards 2011

Football's Black List awards are back with a star-studded event taking place at London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games & Paralympic Games Limited (LOCOG) in Canary Wharf on October 26th.

The awards celebrate achievements by those in the black community at all levels of the game with supporters including the Football Association, Professional Footballers’ Association, Kick It Out and the Black Collective of Media in Sport (BCOMS), and Horizon with The Voice Newspaper as a media partner.

They were created in 2008 by BBC Journalist, Leon Mann and The Voice sports editor, Rodney Hinds and despite struggling to find funding, they have worked hard to bring them back for the fourth year.

                                                  Paul Elliot, Spoony and Darren Lewis

“The Black List Awards is very special as it brings different parts of the black community together.” said Mann.

The initiative isn't just about the players on the pitch, the aim is also to recognise the acts of those at a grass roots and administrative level. The categories at the awards will be media, commercial, administration, community and coaching/management. There will also be awards for off-the-pitch, grassroots and the Keith Alexander award.

“It is not right that our community can have more than 25 per cent of players on the pitch but not have the same representation in other areas, in particular administration,” continued Mann.

“You can expect to see a number of new names on the list that people aren’t quite familiar with, but will be very impressed with their achievements.”

SB.TV will be there this year, to bring you the best of the action with exclusive coverage of the night. Guests will include Premier League players, London 2012 Olympians and black managers and coaches.

This years nominees include: Manchester United and England star, Rio Ferdinand; ex-player/manager and now Sky Sports commentator, Chris (Kammy) Kamara; Daily Mirror sports journalist, Darren Lewis, and England Ladies manager, Hope Powell.

For a full guide to all on the list, go here