Ink & A Stick

The ramblings of a man who should know better.

Archive for the tag “Premier League”

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.

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