Posts tagged ‘Arsenal’

I’ve Changed My Mind – Man U For the Title

Okay, here’s a quick quiz.  No looking online for the stats.  Just give a quick answer within five seconds.

The EPL’s top four teams in order are, Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea and Man City.

  • Which team has the fewest wins?
  • Which team has fewest losses?
  • Which team has the best goal difference?
  • Which team has scored the most goals?
  • Which team has conceded the second most goals?

If you answered Man U to all of them, you are correct.

After just five games, I was ready to give the title to Chelsea hands down.  Since then they have lost 4 of 11, which some quick math shows they have lost over one third of their games since a 5-0 start.  Now, it looks like a toss up.  All of the top four teams look like they are doing their best to give the title to one of the others.  None of them are dominating.

But I did find the Man U statistics interesting.  They haven’t lost a game.  That’s right, not one loss.  Yes, I know they have only won 8 games out of 15, but not losing is pretty important I think.  More important than drawing instead of winning at least.

So I am looking at Man drawing seven games instead of winning them as something that is positive for the future.  To me, it’s not a sign of a bad team, but more a sign of a good team that isn’t on top form yet, a team that isn’t firing on all cylinders so to speak.

This fits when you consider the tear that Rooney was on this time last year compared to his below form and injury plagued start to this season.

Now the question is, will Rooney, now that he is rested and once over his injuries, be able to hit the form of the first half of last season?  And if he can, will this make the difference between Man U winning games or settling for draws?

It’s an interesting scenario but I can’t come up with any other reasons to think Arsenal, Chelsea or Man City can go on to win the title.

So as of now, my pick for the EPL is Man U.  But this could change again…watch this space.

Can Arsenal Finish Strong? Liverpool – What Problem?

Liverpool are only one win away from a European spot (3 points behind 5th place Tottenham).  Is all the hoopla about their poor start way overblown?

Will this be a different season for Arsenal?  Here’s what I’m getting at. Arsenal typically start the season playing well.  The weather is nice, playing surfaces are pretty good early in the season, players are fresh and there are not many injuries at this time of the season.

They usually are a buzz machine for the first 6 games or so and then settle into a rhythm.  Then when the weather gets nasty and the pitches start tearing up, they have sometimes struggled.  A lack of the depth of Man U or Chelsea can also play a part with injuries later in the season.

I know we are only 10 games into the season, but Arsenal didn’t start off too well in their first few games but all of a sudden seem to be getting into their stride and putting in some pretty impressive displays.

The point I’m trying to make, and admittedly it’s early to make this point, but maybe Arsenal are going to manage this season better than the last few and last longer rather than dying at the end.  Maybe they will hit their stride a little later, settle in to a good rhythm in December rather than struggling and hold things together in the new year.

It’s a long shot, but it would make for an interesting season if they could do this.

Man U on the other hand seem to be doing just the opposite.  Last year, they started the season playing extremely well.  Rooney was on fire scoring goals almost at will and playing the best of his career.  But this year they have struggled somewhat.  Their performances haven’t been great and I wonder if they made a mistake not making a major acquisition.

I wrote a blog earlier asking if the season was over when Chelsea won their first five games.  They are now five points in front and look like they won’t make too many mistakes.  Whereas Man U and Man City look like they will make more than their fair share of mistakes.  So the title race might only be close if Arsenal can finish the season strongly.

Too Early To Judge

I wrote a blog post last week about whether the EPL title race was over already.  Chelsea had won all five of their games and by big margins.  I guess it was a reasonable question to ask.  But, in my excitement at how well Chelsea had started, I didn’t give enough attention to the teams that they had played to get their five wins.

No disrespect to West Brom, Wigan, Stoke, West Ham and Blackpool, but I would doubt if any of those teams would finish in the top half of the EPL.  So I have to admit, I jumped the gun with my blog post and the question.  I should have waited until Chelsea had played a stronger team, and that’s exactly what they played this weekend with their loss to Man City.

So, now we go back to a wide open title race.  Except that the other contenders seem to be throwing away their chances.  Only Man City who beat Chelsea won out of the main contenders with Man U drawing and Arsenal losing at home.

I think I will give it a rest trying to figure out how the season will end up until more games have been played.  But for some reason, I still think Chelsea will walk away with it and Man U, Arsenal and Man City will not take advantage of any mishaps by Chelsea.  Kind of like how this weekend went I suppose…a microcosm of the season.

Maybe next weeks game between Chelsea and Arsenal will at least give us an indicator as to how things might shape up.

Is the EPL Title Race Over With Already?

Today’s blog is a simple question.

After just five games, is the EPL title race over?  Are Chelsea a step ahead of the others – Man U, Arsenal, Man City, Spurs, etc.

Yes, I know it’s ridiculously early to even think about this, but I can’t help it.  Chelsea are producing some good performances and excellent results.  Five wins from five games.  21 goals scored and only one conceded.

Arsenal have conceded four goals and Man U seven.  Yes Man City have only conceded two goals, but they’ve only scored six.  None of them seem to be on the same planet as Chelsea.

I know in the past teams have started the season looking invincible and ended up faltering along the way.  Am I getting too far ahead asking if the title race is over, or can one of the contenders make a push?

EPL – Top Four Predictions

It’s that time of year again to figure out who will take the top four spots in the English Premier League. Let’s start with a few questions.

1. Will Totenham repeat their feat of last season with a fourth place spot?

2. Can Liverpool be considered one of the Big Four anymore?

3. Are Man City now one of the Big Four?

For what it’s worth, here are my predictions.

Champions - Likely between Man U and Chelsea. I can’t see Man City being strong enough or consistent enough – yet. I love watching Arsenal play and when they are “on” they are incredible. But I think things will be a little unsettled with Fabregas and they might be a bit too young to make a long enough run. I don’t see anyone else really competing for the top spot.

Top Four – One spot will definitely be taken by who doesn’t win the title, so either Man U or Chelsea. That leaves two spots being fought out by Arsenal, Man City, Liverpool, Totenham, Everton and maybe another suprise team like Fulham or Aston Villa. Arsenal and Man City would appear to be favorites.Liverpool are a bit of an unknown after last season’s disappointment and with a new manager. They could do well or struggle so they are hard to predict.

So let’s hear from you. Put your predictions on the line where everyone can see them. Make your comments below and we will take a look at things around the New Year and the end of the season to see who was close and who was way off.

My picks are:

1. Chelsea

2. Man U

3. Arsenal

4. Man City

5. Liverpool

6. Everton

7.Totenham

To Cash In or Not Cash In?

Years ago, a contract was a contract.  If a player was in the middle of a contract with his team, he stayed there.  If he wanted to leave and go elsewhere, it only happened if his team allowed it or wanted it to happen.  But over time, things have gradually changed to a point where I’m confused.

Last year we had the Ronaldo move from Man U to Real Madrid.  Man U didn’t want to let him go and Ronaldo was under contract.  But he moved.  So what happened?

Now we are in the middle of an identical situation with Fabregas at Arsenal.  Arsenal don’t want to lose him and he his under contract.  So why is there a good chance that he could move to Real Madrid?

Both these situations highlight the power that the top players in the game have gradually acquired over the years.

Let’s try and break it down, looking at the Fabregas situation.

Arsenal don’t want to lose him.  They don’t want to let him go.  They have invested about six years developing him from a raw, talented 17 year old.  He is now one of the top midfielders in the world and they have him under contract.  Now obviously, when his contract runs out, he becomes a free agent and can leave.  But while under contract, he is obligated to stay…right?  Maybe not.

If the player (Fabregas) shows he is unhappy and wants to leave, that puts Arsenal in a tricky situation.  Any or all of the following could happen.

1.  Fabregas might not play well if he is unhappy.  He might not have the motivation to give it 100%.  So do Arsenal want to risk this sub par performance?

2.  I believe Fabregas has one more year on his contract.  If he is saying he wants to leave now, then chances are he will definitely leave at the end of his contract in a years time.  If that is the case, he becomes a free agent and Arsenal won’t get a penny for him.  If they decide to let him leave now, they will get millions…figures of about $50 million have been mentioned.

3.  If they let him go now and cash in, they get rid of a discontented player, but then set a precedent for other players to do the same.  And they without doubt, upset their fan base.  If Arsenal want to be one of the elite clubs in the EPL and Europe, cashing in on their best players while they are in their prime is not the way to do it.

So what is a club like Arsenal to do?  It’s extremely difficult to try and replace players like Fabregas.  It would hard to turn away $50 million just to keep him for one more year, but it would also be hard to disappoint your fans and get a reputation as a club who can’t keep its players happy.

In the NFL and MLB there are “tampering” rules that forbid teams or agents from contacting players at other teams who are still under contract.  I admit it would be extremely difficult to mandate this and police it with clubs from different countries, but it would certainly stop the likes of Real Madrid unsettling players at other clubs just so they can sign them.

The Importance of Team Chemistry

Over the years, I have begun to realize the importance of “team chemistry” as being a major component of a successful team.  Over the weekend, I saw an article about William Gallas of Arsenal and the conflicts he has with some of the Arsenal players.  Teammate Samir Nasri, says that there are 4-5 Arsenal players that don’t talk to Gallas.  Kolo Toure, revealed that one of the reasons he moved to Man City last summer was because of problems he had with Gallas.

I found this very interesting because over the last 19 years, I have coached an average of about 3 teams per year…we do this in the U.S.!  And the most successful team I coached, also had the best team chemistry.  I also coached other talented teams that, although did reasonably well, they didn’t reall reach their potential or do as well as their talent level indicated.

I started the 87 Dynamos (girls) when they were U8′s.  By the time they were U10′s, we had nucleus of about 5-7 girls who were not only pretty good players, but they were pretty good athletes, loved playing soccer, and were very competitive in nature.  Of all the teams I have coached, it was the only one that had a strong nucleus of such players that possessed all those attributes.  Other teams were close, but maybe lacking in one area.

Over the years, the 87G Dynamos got used to being successful.  As a coach, I worked hard at creating a culture and environment that made them feel good about their success and got them to understand that it came from their hard work at practice and their dedication.  Fortunately, the nucleus of players loved the team and loved playing soccer and worked their butts off at practice and in games.

So what happened was that whenever a new players joined the team, unless they worked hard like the nucleus of players did, they were the odd ones out.  So to fit in and become an integral part of the team, they had to be as dedicated as the nucleus.  This was great for me as a coach, as it made my job tons easier.  Basically, the nucleus of girls who had been on the team for years were the driving force to be successful and other players either joined in what they were doing if they wanted to be part of the nucleus or just became “fringe” players.

Even though the 87 Dynamos were very talented, looking back, we were successful in many instances not because we were more talented than the opposition…there were some pretty good teams we played from across the nation…but because we were better prepared, in better shape, or outworked them.

On the other hand, 2-3 other teams come to mind that I have coached who have had the same talent level or maybe more talent than the 87 Dynamos that have been nowhere near as successful as the 87 Dynamos.  For certain spells, they played extremely well and up to their talent level, but it never lasted.  In every single one of these teams, there was something lacking.  Either, the nucleus wasn’t as dedicated, or worked as hard or prepared as well.

Here are two simple examples.  When doing conditioning work, I was constantly amazed at the effort of the 87 Dynamos players who used to push themselves to the limit.  Sometimes I used to say to them that we would have an easy session tonight as they had done well over the past week or so, but they would insist on doing the conditioning work as they knew it would help them for upcoming games.  On the other hand, other talented teams I coached, would dog it when doing conditioning work.  The better players would take it easy and therefore, other players would follow suit.  Or players would show up late for practice and slowly make their way from the parking lot to the field even though they were late.

These might seem like small incidents but they really made all the difference between the team being successful, reaching their potential or not being successful and not reaching their potential.

It might not be the case, but it was only a few weeks ago that Arsenal had a chance to win the EPL…they controlled their own destiny.  But they fizzled out and lost some critical games.  I can’t help but wonder if their team chemistry isn’t what it should be with the Gallas situation and whether that played an important role to their poor finish to the season.