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Arsenal, a club in turmoil

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lately, you can't look in the papers without seeing something about North Londoners, Arsenal. The problem for them is, the news has not been very good of late. Some might say Arsenal are a club in crisis, and I would have to agree.

We all know about Cesc Fabregas' high profile move back to him first club Barcelona, but to be honest that move was coming and any Arsenal fan who didn't predict it, was frankly, clutching at straws. With the sales of Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy adding to the departure list, it's safe to say there is something not right in the Emirites stadium this summer.

Who is to blame? I don't think its problem with the board, otherwise we would have heard it from some source. Most of the blame has been put on Wenger, which in my opinion, is fair enough. He has been told over and over again where he needs to strengthen his squad, and instead he buys a mediocre right-back from Charlton, a 17 year old wonderkid who although screams potential, is not the finished article. His only other signing was Ivory Coast international Gervinho, who signed from Lille. A good player yes, but the type of player Arsenal need? No.

Perhaps the most worrying thing for Wenger and his staff is the astonishing lack of support from the fans, but can you blame them? Last weekend during their 0-0 draw with Newcastle a chant from crowd could be heard ''Please spend some money''. There was also some abuse for want-away midfielder Samir Nasri, with Arsenal fans letting there feelings towards his lack of loyalty to the club be known. Tonight's game against Udinese is perhaps one of the most important games of Arsenal's season. A two legged affair. Victory could win back the fans, defeat could see more empty seats at the Emirites for games to come.

So with Fabregas gone, Nasri seemingly destined to make a switch to Manchester (the blue side) and the fans getting sick of Wenger's procrastination in the transfer market, it's safe to say Arsenal are not having their best period. Your
move Mr Wenger, your move.

Why have England fallen short in major tournaments?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

At this time of year, the prospects of the national side are firmly on the back-burner of many fans minds, and rightly so, it’s the exciting start of the new season, full of hope and expectation, which carries many fans along until they meet their more familiar friends of despondency and ennui as their team squanders yet another half-time lead, the referee robs them again of 3 points for 4 weeks on the trot etc, etc, etc…

Yet come the end of the season, attention will turn to the national side as they struggle to qualify out of their group and barely make it to the knock-out stages, normally to be dispatched by a far fitter, energetic, enthused and committed side.

Why is this? Why has England not really turned up to a tournament in any meaningful way since 2002? If we look at other countries, the winter break is an obviously identifiable feature that football in this country lacks and would probably benefit from. But the heart of the problem is something deeper.

The effect of European football’s expansion since 2000 to 2 leagues, the Champion’s (ironic since the last true champion’s league was in 1999) and Europa leagues, that sit above the premier league and have turned the season into not one marathon, but something akin to a triathalon that features a marathon.

The result of which is that a large amount of the games in the premiership are being played in front of reduced crowds, by players who are operating at 80-90% peak performance.

If the FA were serious in setting about winning England’s 2nd major international trophy, perhaps they ought to take a leaf out of the governing bodies of other UK sports?

The England cricket team had similar struggles in international tournaments until recently. They failed to qualify out of their group during the world cups of 1999, 2003 and performed abysmally in 2007. Since 2009 though, England have reached the knock-out stages of every tournament they’ve played in, culminating in that 2010 Twenty20 World cup win in Barbados.

How have they achieved this? Well in part the ECB (the game’s governing body) have made ‘Team England’ their top priority. England players are salaried not to their clubs, but to their national team.

This means that the ECB can direct players to rest and ensure that they arrive at tournaments fit, and hungry for international success.

Whilst those looking at football betting tips don’t doubt the current England side’s desire to perform to the best of their abilities, the current set up of English football is not designed around producing the best quality national side, and it’s been showing for a long while now.