Ink & A Stick

The ramblings of a man who should know better.

Archive for the tag “Football”

Tottenham v. Liverpool: The choice of a new generation

By George Ogier

The corner of Twitter in which football blogging exists is an easy world to get caught up in. It is slightly removed from the real world and the word “news” has a different meaning. The rest of the planet is dealing with horrific scenes from Egypt and a desperation of certain people to have complete transparency in government.

Over in the football blogging suburb of social media we’re laughing at a terrible song from Spurs fans and an irate Gooner having a breakdown outside the Emirates stadium whilst nearly crying at the mention of John Cross. The central theme of this odd but hilarious outpouring is Arsenal’s lack of activity in the transfer market.

Once more pressure is being heaped on Arsene Wenger as his side looked ill-prepared for another season in the Premier League. Wenger himself recently asked assembled journalists who he should buy. The master of the transfer bargain appears to have run out of ideas.

FIFATransArsenal and Wenger are far from the only ones having transfer trouble this season. David Moyes seems to have adopted a buying strategy straight out of the FIFA 13 coaching manual whilst Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers is finding himself in a fight with rival clubs for the same players and losing out.

The problems facing these three coaches and in particular Rodgers and Wenger are being met with frustration and disappointment, particularly from the fans who worry that their clubs are stagnating. This is brought into sharper focus by the dealings of the board at Tottenham Hotspur.

So far this summer Spurs have added to their squad in impressive style. Midfielders Paulinho and Etienne Capoue have been a clear upgrade on the departing Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker. Attackers Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado give a Tottenham side too reliant on Gareth Bale some diversity up front.

One could argue that all four of Tottenham’s signings would have strengthened both Arsenal and Liverpool so why wasn’t there more competition for the contracts of these new arrivals? In the case of Arsenal it appears to be purely down to money and the reticence to part with it. As for Liverpool it seems that the reds simply aren’t the draw they once were.

Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs currently all have the same ambition. They are fighting for the fourth Champions League spot and of the “also-rans” outside the top three they seem the best equipped to get it. This means that the clubs have similar transfer targets. They can’t attract the real blue chip stars so are scrapping for the players just below that level.

This Supermarket Sweep-style bun fight has led to the clubs being in direct competition for the services of certain players. In recent times the short arm, deep pocket approach of Arsene Wenger has left Spurs and Liverpool competing in the name of player acquisition. Last summer it was Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey. This year’s tug-of-love centre piece is Willian, the playmaker/winger from Brazil.

As in the case of Sigurdsson and Dempsey it looks like Spurs are in position to win the race for Willian. This has prompted some Liverpool fans to accuse Spurs of hijacking transfer deals and lazily poaching prospects from the reds’ scouting policy.

Both claims are ludicrous. Regular viewers of Match Of The Day during the 2011/12 season would have noted the abilities of Sigurdsson and Dempsey. Similarly you only had to be vaguely aware of the Champions League over the last two years to have heard of Willian. The fact that Liverpool keep missing out on potential buys does send reality crashing through the doors of Anfield. History is not enough to attract big name players.

Nobody with any sense would suggest that Spurs are bigger than Liverpool. Indeed, the 18-time champions of England are one of the two biggest clubs in the country alongside Manchester United. However, recent transfer dealings have left the club open to questions about Liverpool’s standing in the game.

WillianAnzIt isn’t just Tottenham that are beating Brendan Rodgers to the punch. Earlier this summer the Armenian sensation Henrikh Mkhitaryan chose Borussia Dortmund over Anfield when a move to the north-west seemed almost nailed on. A side who once took Champions league football for granted now don’t even have the diminished allure of the Europa League with which to tempt players.

In fairness to Liverpool this summer has been an almost perfect storm for Spurs. They have been sitting on money that chairman Daniel Levy didn’t trust Harry Redknapp with and there are funds from the inevitable Gareth Bale deal to push further purchases forward. Deals that might have been carved out over two or three seasons are all happening in one window.

Spurs are currently a far more attractive proposition for players looking to join a team with potential. Tottenham have finished above Liverpool for the past four seasons and twice in the top four during those years. Liverpool may have countless league titles and European cups but that means little in the eyes of a modern player. If history was a lure Nottingham Forest would have beaten Manchester City to the signings of Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo.

As with most sports, football is cyclical and no doubt the order of things will change again. Not so long ago Liverpool were signing Fernando Torres, one of the most sought after players in Europe. At the same time Spurs were buying Darren Bent and the rubbish Gilberto.

As it stands Spurs and Liverpool are 5th and 6th favourites to finish fourth this season. Brendan Rodgers is building a more than capable side at Anfield and Stoke City won’t be the only ones leaving the red half of Merseyside empty-handed this season. The reality of the situation is that currently Spurs are simply a better team and that alone is reason for players to choose Tottenham over Liverpool.


Jack Wilshere: “King” of the Arsenal?

By George Ogier

Wilshere1With less than a week to go until the new Premier League season kicks off we are deep in to preview territory. Speculation as to how the season will unfold is rife as everyone rushes to make predictions. Some will be looking at a wider picture of the league and others will be searching for fantasy football gold. Either way, opinions are everywhere.

Many clubs have made wholesale changes ahead of the new term but at Arsenal they’re playing a familiar tune. Fans want big name transfers and so far all they’ve got is a youth international from France. However, a quick trawl through newspapers and websites shows that one name appears to make or break Arsenal’s season. Jack Wilshere.

There is an almost mythic quality to the tales of what Jack Wilshere will add to an Arsenal side. He missed the entire 2011/12 season through injury and was only a sporadic team member last term. Despite that, Wilshere has attained a reputation as someone holding the fortunes of the club in his rather young hands.

In recent times Arsenal Football Club have had in their ranks some of modern football’s greatest midfielders. Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Cesc Fabregas have all been integral to the way Arsenal play. It is a testament to the abilities of 21 year-old Wilshere that fans at the Emirates appear to hold the boy from Hitchin in similarly high regard.

There are just four days until Arsenal’s campaign begins at home to Aston Villa. The season hasn’t even begun and already Arsene Wenger is speaking of keep Jack Wilshere “wrapped in cotton wool”. It must be incredibly frustrating for everyone connected with the club that a player so talented seems so fragile, a talismanic figure laid low by perpetual injury.

There is a danger that Jack Wilshere risks turning into something of an excuse for Arsenal. Surely the club is simply a victim of circumstance without their best player. A quick glance up the Seven Sisters Road provides a quick exercise in “could have, would have, should have”. In Ledley King, Spurs fans have the ultimate caveat for the struggles of seasons gone by. “If Ledley had remained fit we’d have been a different team”. Is Jack Wilshere becoming the “King” of The Emirates?

In terms of footballing ability, Ledley King is many people’s pick for the most talented English centre back of his generation. Similarly, people have rushed to anoint Wilshere as the next truly world-class midfielder and the parallels between the two men don’t stop there.

Both King and Wilshere came through the youth teams at their respective clubs and each man was the heir to a throne vacated by a departing hero. In the case of Ledley he replaced Sol Campbell at Spurs when Campbell joined, ironically, Arsenal. It was Jack Wilshere’s lot in life to replace Arsenal club captain, Cesc Fabregas.

When talking about Ledley King two things generally stand out. Firstly the 2006 testament from Thierry Henry –

I don’t like defenders who hold the shirts of other players. The only defender here who doesn’t do that and sometimes still gets the ball off my feet easily is Ledley King. He is the only guy who doesn’t hold players. He will get the ball off you without you even noticing. For me, that is a good defender. He plays without any contact yet is somehow still strong and gets the ball without doing any fouls.”

Secondly there is that tackle on Arjen Robben –

In the same vein, Jack Wilshere already has a career-defining moment to his name. In February 2011 Arsenal beat Barcelona 2-1. It was at the height of the Catalan giant’s powers and Wilshere bossed a midfield including Xavi and Iniesta. People were mentioning Jack in the same breath as the Pauls, Scholes and Gascoigne. Wilshere was to be the saviour of the England national side.

That game should have been a launchpad for a glittering career. Sadly, it appears that the stellar showing against Messi and co. is turning into a tale of “what might have been”. It was more than two and a half years ago now and Wilshere hasn’t played a full season since.

Spurs fans like to hold Ledley King up as bastion of one club integrity and loyalty and Wilshere is making similar noises about remaining at Arsenal. Make no mistake about it though, had King stayed fit he eventually would have left Spurs. A fully fit and reliable Jack Wilshire would be hard to keep at The Emirates.

We have seen it unfold time and again with the likes of Berbatov, Van Persie, Modric and Fabregas. The true super powers of football make it almost impossible to resist and North London are getting left behind in football’s arms race. It is easy for the likes of King and Wilshere to publicly devote themselves to one club. There simply aren’t alternatives when you spend more time in the treatment room than on the pitch.

There is every chance that Wilshere might well overcome these injury troubles and go on to have a long and illustrious time in football. As it stands though he is fast becoming a crutch for Wenger and Arsenal supporters to lean upon. As a Spurs fan I maintain that Tottenham Hotspur spent too long getting hung up on the possibility of Ledley King rather than the reality. With Jack Wilshere there is a danger that Arsenal are going the same way.

Sympathy For The Devil: Why Brendan Rodgers makes it easy to side with Suarez

Respect and loyalty are difficult themes in football at the best of times but if you had to pick a man to fight their corner then it should never be Brendan Rodgers.

By George Ogier

Suarez1The summer months bring many things to the lives of people in Britain. A two-week love of tennis, a complete inability to use sun cream and the sight of grown men who feel it’s acceptable to wander around Tesco with no shirt on. A rise in temperature also brings another steadfast tradition, that of the drawn out football transfer.

In years gone by there has generally been one deal that drives people to complete distraction. However, this year we have hit the saga jackpot and there are three or four deals – or lack of – that are dominating the sports pages. The situation threatening to go nuclear this summer involves Liverpool and Luis Suarez.

Suarez wants to leave Liverpool and unsurprisingly Liverpool aren’t keen to let him go. Players that talented are hard to replace and Suarez recently signed a contract extension which puts the club in a slightly stronger bargaining position.

The general consensus appears to be that Luis Suarez is a ne’er-do-well who is holding a fine institution to ransom. The Uruguayan is an easy chap to take against with his mean reputation and history of race relations and general bitey-ness.

Chief football writers across the land are proclaiming that Liverpool are in the right and that Brendan Rodgers is simply trying to uphold the few values the game still has left. Henry Winter has called Suarez a “toxic cheat” and the Mirror’s David Maddock says that Suarez is a “spoilt man-child” who is “disrespecting Liverpool”.

Personally, I dislike Luis Suarez as much as the next person – as long as the next person isn’t a Liverpool supporter – but I am reaching a point where I’m beginning to side with the South American. It’s not a stance I’m particularly comfortable with but the alternative is almost too much to bear. The reason for this? Brendan Rodgers.

It is hard to find many redeeming qualities in Luis Suarez and it is almost as hard to take Brendan Rodgers seriously. From his role in Channel 5’s comedy caper Being: Liverpool to the relentless management gabble and incessant bum touching of Jonjo Shelvey, Rodgers is a difficult man to warm to.

As daft as those things were, Rodgers’ conduct over this Luis Suarez issue has sent the Antrim man into a whole different league of nonsense. We are treated to daily diatribes on the subject of loyalty and respect from the Liverpool boss. Another manager spinning these lines would make the story slightly more palatable but a quick look at Rodgers’ past shows a lack of self-awareness that is truly staggering.

You’re immediately on shaky ground if you put the words football and loyalty together in a sentence. Add players to that sentence and you will find yourself on a linguistic fault line. If you’re Brendan Rodgers and you talk about football and loyalty you should really expect to laughed out of the room.

When looking at the shortest managerial reigns in football you’d have to go a long way to beat Leroy Rosenior’s ten minutes in charge of Torquay. However, on the Dario Gradi scale of longevity Brendan Rodgers’ 192 days in charge of Watford is definitely at the Rosenior end.

Rodgers1Why did Brendan Rodgers leave so abruptly? He wasn’t sacked for under-performing, Rodgers had his head turned by an – at the time – more successful club. Jimmy Russo – then the Watford chairman – told local press, “once Brendan had confirmed his desire to discuss the opportunity and Reading had met the contractual compensation figure we were powerless to stop him doing so”. Well, isn’t that quite the familiar situation. In the weeks before Rodgers jumped shipped for the, ahem, bright lights of Berkshire he had assured Watford fans of his “100 per cent commitment” to the club.

Brendan Rodgers also likes to bang the proverbial drum when it comes to the subject of respect. Respect is a two-way street which Rodgers clearly didn’t fancy taking a stroll down as he agreed to loan Pepe Reina to Napoli recently without even discussing it with the goalkeeper.

It is hard to disagree with the notion that Luis Suarez has behaved poorly over his desire to leave Liverpool. However, the sympathy one might feel towards the club is diluted when we look previous departures in Suarez’s career. Liverpool bought him presumably knowing this background.

Agreeing with Brendan Rodgers on the issue of Luis Suarez is probably the right thing but Rodgers’ past conduct just makes incredibly hard to do. It’s a little like a man who has been imprisoned for violent crimes moaning that he’s been beaten up in the prison yard. You know it’s wrong but it is hard to get upset about.

Twitter: Careful what you wish for

It’s a dance as old as time, or perhaps just as old as autograph hunting. Wide-eyed fan approaches sports star/film star/pop star and is met with a barrage of hurtful and utterly unexpected abuse. Everyone has story or knows someone with a story of being unceremoniously snubbed by a hero.

Me? I was once told to “fuck off” by a star of Emmerdale in a nightclub in Leeds. She wasn’t a hero of mine and I certainly wasn’t after an autograph but to a degree I wear my “abused by a celebrity” badge with pride.

It is perfectly normal to be shocked in those situations. The personality of well-known individuals can often be just a media construct but as is the way these days, we often feel as if we know each of them personally. Twitter has broken down barriers even further and has been a remarkable tool in public relations.

Many “stars” from various fields of achievement now use social media to interact with their fans. It allows the famous to build a never before seen rapport with those that love them. In marketing terms it can be a dream too. Fans feel far more connected to their idols and are far more likely to buy into the idea of brands surrounding the object of their affections.

However, as recent events have shown, this can be a two-way street. Twitter has created a world where the disgruntled or the merely plain stupid can directly address someone in the public eye and be pretty sure their remarks will be read.

Olympic diving star Tom Daley was the subject of trolling on Twitter after failing to secure a medal at London 2012. The boy responsible for the abuse of Daley was arrested and received a formal warning for harassment.

Every day seems to bring a new “Twitter storm” and yesterday’s happened to involve the football club which I support, Tottenham Hotspur. We are currently in the midst of the usual pre-season transfer quagmire. Every team is trying to improve their squad are Spurs are no different.

One of the ongoing soap operas of the summer is the “will he, won’t he?” tale of Emmanuel Adebayor’s move from Manchester City back to Spurs, a club he played at on loan during last season. The major sticking point appears to be Adebayor’s wage demands.

Last season, the player’s parent club subsidised an enormous pay cheque. Adebayor was reportedly on £170,000 per week, £100,00 of which was being paid by Manchester City. It is no secret that Tottenham employ a rigid wage structure and fitting the Togolese striker into that as a contracted Spurs players has been tricky.

Understandably there are many Spurs fans that would love to see Emmanuel Adebayor sign permanently for the club. At times last season he was excellent and the club is currently down to Jermain Defoe and teenager Harry Kane as their only recognised strikers.

However, there are also fans that think Adebayor’s wage demands are too high and that the player who scored 18 goals in all competitions last seasons should take a huge pay cut to join the club. One fan, Dan Cohen felt so strongly about this matter than he decided to contact Adebayor directly via Twitter.

@Sheyiadebayor why don’t you u come to work with me for a few ‘years’ to really see what it’s like to earn your weekly wage #greed #COYS”

Rather than just ignore this seemingly inoffensive request, Adebayor fired back with a less than refined response.

@DCSuperSales because u shit and stupid that’s why you earn that!”

Taken at face value this would seem like another footballer acting like a complete moron but I’m not entirely convinced that’s fair on Adebayor.

Had Mr. Cohen merely suggested that Adebayor join him to see how fans get by on much less money there would have been no response. As soon as he accused Adebayor of being greedy there was an element of “baiting” about the tweet. Lo and behold, Mr. Cohen gets a rise.

Suddenly there is a sweeping “we don’t want Adebayor at our club” sentiment from Spurs supporters. “Look how he talks to Spurs fans!” some wailed. Adebayor’s sentiments might have been crude but he was merely responding to an unsolicited remark about the way he chooses to act within his professional life. It’s not really anyone’s business what he gets paid.

Football fans are always at a disadvantage in situations like this. Primarily because of a love for the club involved. Most fans care little what a player earns turning out for another team. Conversely, when it comes to their beloved outfit there seems to be an assumption that anyone would and should crawl across broken glass to don this particular shirt.

No football club is unique or special on a wider scale. Of course it appears that way to its supporters but the rest of the world couldn’t give a rat’s . I love my daughter very much and think that she might be the most amazing addition to the human race, ever. Nonetheless, it is just me and her mother that think this, nobody else is obliged to care. The same applies to supporting a football club.

Why shouldn’t Emmanuel Adebayor hold out for as much money as possible? He’ll be long time retired and once he is, in the minds of those who praise and abuse him now Adebayor will be a distant memory. I’m not particularly fussed either way if he rejoins the club. I trust in Daniel Levy to do what is best for Tottenham Hotspur, I’m certainly not going to get my undies in a bunch about wages and loyalty

However, Adebayor’s wages are not the issue here. The issue is social media and how fans choose to use it. This episode can be summed up in one sentence. Fan baits Adebayor, Adebayor responds, fan runs off whining about mean old footballer.

If you address someone directly, whether it be face to face or on the Internet you clearly intend for them to be aware of your opinion. If you make derogatory remarks about a person in the same circumstances it is churlish to then complain if they react in a way in which you find distasteful.

Twitter has been fantastic at opening up avenues of discourse in ways we could never have imagined and we have a responsibility to use those avenues carefully. By all means criticise someone but don’t be surprised if one day they bite back.

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