Monthly Archives: March 2011

Big Money Flops

Recently the Premier League’s two cash kings clashed in a must win game for both teams. Instead of their league table position, my main concern was the amount of money each team has spent in the past transfer period. Leading the team’s front line were two attackers who have lost their infamous striking form, Edin Dzeko and Fernando Torres.

In times where we talk so much about recessions does it make any sense that clubs should be allowed to spend money so frivolously? Between the two sides who walked out at Stamford Bridge, the total value came to over £500 million. In terms of transfer fees and wages paid per player, this was the most expensive game of football ever played. In the January transfer window both teams spent vast amounts on strikers who are currently failing to hit the back of the net. Manchester City broke the bank with their purchase of Edin Dzeko for £27 million, while Chelsea broke the British transfer record of £50 million on Fernando Torres.

At the start of the season I asked myself a question, ‘Will Man City’s past two summer spending spree’s pay off or will they fail 2 compete on the big stage again?’ Many people argue that spending vast amounts of money on players doesn’t win games; it’s about the team’s chemistry. This is something that Roberto Mancini and his bosses clearly seem to have ignored. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, on the other hand, has expressed passionately that for the past couple seasons his lack of activity in the transfer market is down to his ideologies, he believes that this will pay off as he would rather his team gel together.

Will Manchester City’s big spending pay off anytime soon? The deep pockets of Chelsea’s Roman Abramovic and Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour seem to have changed football. In Roman Abramovic’s era as Chelsea’s owner there have been a number of big money flops, one of whom Andriy Shevchenko, reached out to Fernando Torres backing him to end his run of poor form in front of goal. It has now been seven appearances in all competitions for the World Cup winner and he still hasn’t managed to score a goal for the Blues. Similarly to Edin Dzeko who has still to hit a Premier League goal since his January arrival.

Both teams are known for vast spending power yet they’re both struggling to compete in this season’s title race. With a £50 million price tag you are obliged to start him ahead of the likes of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, even though he’s lacking form. After all the money that has been spent, both teams should wonder why they still struggle to entertain.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

It All Falls Down…

Following Arsenal‘s departure from The Champions League, defeat in The Carling Cup Final and now The F.A. Cup there has been a large amount of discussion about where Arsene Wenger’s team fall short. The idea of Arsenal’s season ending trophy less for the sixth consecutive year is now looming larger, when an unprecedented quadruple was possible. In just the space of a fortnight Arsene Wenger has let three trophies slip from Arsenal’s grasp, now they seem to be just about hanging in for contention of the Premier League title race.

As I watched Arsenal crash out of the F.A. Cup at the hands of bitter rivals Manchester United, one phrase came to mind ‘it all falls down’. This phrase summed up how I felt at the fact that Arsenal, who were at the top of the world just two weeks ago, had now fallen in their challenge of winning silverware and completing a possible historic quadruple. In the space of these two weeks it seems that they didn’t take hold of any of the chances they seemed to have had.

Usually Arsene Wenger uses the Carling Cup as a stepping stone for some of his younger players to gain first team football, but with increasing pressure from fans to win trophies it was clear that his intent this year was to win everything possible. When Manchester United were knocked out of the Carling Cup by West Ham nearly everyone thought that Arsenal had their best chance at winning their first cup in six years. Yet they failed to capitalize on this BIG opportunity against arguably easier competition.

Another big opportunity arose and Arsenal crumbled, they let chances go begging in the Premiership. When Manchester United dropped points in their two fixtures with the other members of the ‘Big Four’, Liverpool and Chelsea, Arsenal had the chance to capitalize on yet another glorious opportunity to get ahead of league leaders Manchester United but they failed.

One of the only accomplishments in club football that Arsene Wenger hasn’t yet achieved is the Champions League. With Arsenal claiming they are good enough to beat anyone and Theo Walcott shouting “Bring on Barcelona!” they were drawn unluckily against the hardest opponents possible, the best team in the world… Barcelona. Having come out of the first leg with a good 2 – 1 victory things were looking promising for the Gunners but there was a different outcome at the Nou Camp.

There has been a lot of debate amongst Arsenal fans for a long time centred around all sorts of issues from the need for a new goalkeeper, more experience in the team, a commanding centre back, etc. Although these points are valid, I think there is another issue that has been overlooked, the fact that Arsenal lack attacking penetration. It is clear to see that replacements are needed in all departments on-field, from the form of a goalkeeper all the way through to the services of a top striker.

Many critics hail Arsenal’s play as ‘beautiful football’, but even with this great accolade they still simply cannot compete on the top stage with the likes of football giants Barcelona, who booted them out of the Champions League last Tuesday. This problem could be down to Arsenal’s lack of finishing off their goal scoring chances in games. In comparison with a team like Barcelona, who have plenty of deadly finishers in front of goal like Lionel Messi and David Villa, Arsenal fall short in this department with only Robin Van Persie who seems to be constantly injured. Arsenal is in no shortage of playmakers though as they have many like minded playmaker players such as Samir Nasri, Andrei Arshavin and captain Cesc Fabregas but playmaking means nothing if there is no end product.

After six barren years hunting for trophies, you would expect that Arsenal would dig into their wallet to fund at least one of these requirements. Since David Seaman left there hasn’t been a consistent goalkeeper in Arsenal’s team. In this 2010/2011 season Arsenal have swapped goalkeepers three times and have had to try to lure Jens Lehmann out of retirement. Arsenal has been without defender Thomas Vermaelen for this whole season and has had to make do with the new partnership of Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny. This new partnership started off rocky but they both grew into each others company and started to play well together but they always seem vulnerable against top opposition.

In my opinion, Arsenal has lacked leadership since the exit of former captain Thierry Henry in 2007. In losing Thierry Henry, they lost a huge amount of experience. Henry has won the World Cup, he won Euro 2000, he’s played in numerous major Champions League matches and he’s won the double with Arsenal. Since his departure no one has been able to take his place as a true captain who commands the team. ‘The Invincibles’ who were able to hold an unbeaten run for a whole Premiership season is now just a distant memory from the Arsenal archives.

With pressure increasingly piling on manager, Arsene Wenger, would it seem that now is the time for him to adopt different tactics? Arsene Wenger never seems willing to stray away from his set philosophy of nurturing then utilizing players from his youth academy. Questions will now be asked about Arsene Wenger’s players’ mental fortitude but will they be up for the task like he claims they are?

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)