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Gunning For A Title

Gunning For A Title


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Can Captain Cesc lead Arsenal to glory?

Can Captain Cesc lead Arsenal to glory?

After Stoke City’s Ricardo Fuller nodded in two goals last weekend to send the Britannia into euphoria, Arsenal are now in contention for only two major trophies this season and that could be a blessing for them. The distraction of the FA Cup would certainly be a pleasurable one to have, but I’m curious to see them go at the English title with everything they’ve got. If they can remain injury free and manage to stay clear of letdowns against underdog opposition, this fiery bunch of lads could challenge at least for second place and give the favorites something to think about.

The next two weeks will go a long way in determining the Gunner’s BPL fate. Starting with Manchester United this morning, Arsenal go on to face Chelsea and Liverpool in their next two league matches—a daunting task indeed. United present the challenge of stopping Wayne Rooney (he of the 13 goals in his last 13 matches), while Chelsea welcome back their African Nations Cup stars, and Liverpool is always a tough match—regardless of their league position.

Today’s match against United should be a humdinger and if Arsenal doesn’t want their title aspirations dashed, they need to continue the fine defensive form they have recently displayed against Sir Alex’s squad. William Gallas and his merry men have only conceded ONE natural goal in open play to United in their last THREE league meetings. That should prove to be a little more difficult with Gallas’ running mate Thomas Vermaelen out injured, leaving the ancient Sol Campbell to fill his boots. And those who saw Campbell’s performance against Stoke should not be filled with confidence.

And it isn’t just in defense that the Gunner’s have suffered injury. Robin Van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, and Samir Nasri have all missed extensive time this season. But it doesn’t matter. Arsenal has one thing no other team in the league has—Cesc Fabregas. Believe me when I tell you that I’m about as partial to this kid as Michael Vick is to French poodles, but it’s near impossible not to admit his improvement since the summer break. Last season, I thought the Spaniard was just another overzealous youngster with nothing more than an occasional eye for the crossbar. But this season, he seems to have come out from underneath his big brother’s ball box to play Geppetto in the Arsenal midfield. His goals have been crucial and his pinpoint passes have provided his non-injured teammates excellent chances on goal.

There’s a lot of good to be said for this talented bunch of lads. In fact, I’d go as far as to wager a second place bet in favor of the Arsenal. I believe they’re going to continue to score goals and as long as the rocky back four that played against Stoke City in the FA Cup are never again assembled on a football pitch until the day an Avatar is President, they should be fine defensively. So going into this very difficult couple of weeks, every Gunner should be excited, but they should also be aware that a loss to United tomorrow could lead to another trophy-less year at the Emirates.

M. Junia Stainbank

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Beach Balls And Nightclubs


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While I’ve been recovering in my sick bed from my recent accident, people in the football world seem to be having, um, well, a ball. But it’s not just unnamed Liverpool supporters (who might want to follow my lead and drop out of sight for a while) who have embarrassed themselves, some of the games elder statesmen have also been found looking foolish. (And I’m not talking about you Rio Ferdinand.) So for those who have missed it, the Daily Thought rundown has returned.

I’m not going to get into the whole beach ball debate or make another ‘life’s a beach joke’ (besides I already did that on Twitter), but it seems the lads at Leeds United haven’t had enough of it. And I’m pretty sure Liverpool should be more than ready for a Beach Ball Blanket Bingo party at Anfield this Sunday.

On the subject of Club Crisis, Daniel Agger makes the ‘no-shit’ observation of the week by announcing that Liverpool isn’t the same side without Steven Gerrard. To quote Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler, I ask ‘Really?’ As if anyone who watched Sunderland completely outplay them without Stevie G didn’t notice that.

Last season after more than a few nightclub incidents involving his players, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp issued a nightclub ban. I guess old Harry won’t be too happy to see these pictures of Peter Crouch and Jonathan Woodgate busting moves (if you can call it that) on the dance floor late last Saturday night.

At least those two young men were able to get into the club. After being denied entrance into a nightclub Cheltenham manager Martin Allen (on the job all of one month) decided to racially abuse the bouncer and challenge him to a fight. Not exactly a good way to endear yourselves to the club staff or your employers. The 44-year-old wannabe party boy has been suspended from his job until further notice.

Perhaps with his time off he can call up former English legend Paul Gasciogne. Gascoigne—who’s no stranger to drunken outbursts—has gotten himself into further trouble by head butting a bouncer at a Newcastle snooker club. (I assume that’s a fancy pool hall.) Maybe these two old timers should just take a cue from Crouchy and Woody and just learn to enjoy themselves on the dance floor.

Happy Birthday, Arsene Wenger. The Arsenal manager turns sixty on Thursday and claims he wants to be in football until he dies. And I’m sure you won’t see the football focused manager celebrating his special day at a nightclub. Actually, it’s a lot lamer than that. He plans on a dinner with the wife and exciting Europa League action. I’m sure the wife can’t wait. I can picture her calling Mad Dog and Gazza to see what they’re up to that night.

I’d like wish a fond farewell to Sweden and Celtic legend Henrik Larsson. The 38-year-old has decided to hang it up November 1. If only I could tell him how much I enjoyed his career in person.

It’s also the end for legend in name only Dean Windass. If only I could tell him in person how much I enjoyed making Windass jokes.

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So Long Sol


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Sven Goren Eriksson’s Notts County revolution has taken a hit as Sol Campbell has decided to leave the club—after only one match. No reason has been given for Sol’s departure, but maybe the fourth division reminded him too much of playing for Portsmouth.

Unfortunately, allegations of racism have tarnished the third round of the Carling Cup. Blackpool’s Jason Euell was the victim of verbal abuse while El-Hadji Diouf, now of Blackburn, claims to have had bananas tossed at him. Unlike Euell, nobody believes Diouf…hmm, I wonder why.

Avram Grant is back…well sort of. The former Chelsea manager has agreed to a coaching role in the remote Russian republic of Komi. What a fall from grace for a man who was one John Terry missed penalty from winning the Champions League. Football really is a fickle bitch.

On the subject of remote coaching outposts, Bryan Robson has agreed to coach the Thai national team. He replaces another Englishman, Peter Reid. The English might not rate their own managers, but apparently they’re more than good enough for Thailand.

You might remember Joe Cole. Plays for Chelsea, had a great goal in the 2006 World Cup, and has been injured for the past two seasons. Well he’s recovered and he’s ready to be the point in Chelsea’s new diamond formation, or what Joe refers to as the ‘sausage roll’ position. Seriously folks, he’ll be here all week.

And in economic news, season ticket sales are down in Italy. And no club has been hit harder than AC Milan. Looks like an aging Ronaldinho isn’t as big of a draw as fan favorite Kaka. And to add insult to injury, no one has sold more season tickets than cross town rivals Inter Milan. Ouch, that’s got to hurt.

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Did I Do That?


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FAMILY MATTERS

Do you remember the early 90s sitcom Family Matters? You probably remember it as the Steve Urkel show. And you may remember his catch phrase ‘Did I do that?’ Well, that’s what’s the news is like today, a bunch of people making some bad decisions.

French club Rennes has been charged with poaching teenager Tongo Hamed Doumbia from Châteauroux, a Ligue 2 side. It wouldn’t be so funny if they hadn’t accused Manchester City of doing the same thing to them. Maybe someone needs to translate the old adage about people in glass houses into French.

It looks like there’s been a little bust-up at Aston Villa between manager Martin O’Neill and disgruntled midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker. Some reports say that Reo-Coker got physical and pushed and choked O’Neill. The manager denies Reo-Coker went all Latrell Spreewell, but he did give the hot-headed midfielder the weekend off.

Liverpool may be sitting in fifth place and seven points behind BPL leaders Chelsea, but that doesn’t worry Steven Gerrard. Captain Liverpool feels the club is starting to heat up and that the African Cup of Nations will work in the Reds favor. There’s nothing like back-to-back victories over powerhouses Burnley and Debrecen to fill up one’s cup of confidence.

Arsene Wenger might want to move on from ‘Manu-Gate,’ but it’s still fresh in Cesc Fabregas’ mind. The Arsenal captain claims the out-of-control Adebayor made a reckless tackle that left him with stud marks and a three inch gash on his shin. I don’t think this story will ever die—unfortunately.

On the subject of hot-heads, the real reason for Wayne Rooney’s temper tantrum after being substituted during Manchester United’s 1-0 win at Besiktas mid-week has been revealed. Apparently he was spat on by some Besiktas fans. It’s a good thing we’ve nipped this potential ‘Gate’ in the bud.

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Fun Facts About Fabio (And Other Newsy Stuff)


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I’ve been known to read a Cosmo or two in my day, and I thought other men did likewise, but who knew so many men read ladies’ magazines? The reason I bring this up is that Fabio Capello’s interview in the latest Italian Marie Claire is the biggest news story going. And why exactly is a man who coaches football getting interviewed in a women’s fashion magazine? Maybe he was talking about his swimwear.

In this apparently wide-ranging interview, Capello tells us he would have been an airplane pilot had he not been in football, his wife has a crush on David Beckham and Real Madrid overpaid for Cristiano Ronaldo. I’m sure Italian women were dying to know all of these fascinating things.

Speaking of the ‘overpriced’ Portugueser, Ronaldo says his blistering start for Madrid is due to keeping a low profile. I guess that’s true, I haven’t heard an ex-prostitute talk about his sexual prowess for days now.

It would be best for South African criminals to keep a low profile during the World Cup. New police commissioner, Bheki Cele, wants to enact a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy during the tournament. Unfinished stadiums, kidnappers and trigger happy cops, yup, it looks like that’s gonna be one hell of a World Cup to attend.

It looks like UEFA president Michel Platini is serious about forcing clubs to balance their books. The French legend has brought in former Prime Minister of Belgium, Jean-Luc Dehaene, to be the chairman of the new Club Financial Control Panel. This can’t be particularly good news for English clubs, who have the fifth-highest losses amongst clubs in England.

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Place Your Bets


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Thank G*d! After weeks of the new season being dominated by the various ‘Gates’, we’ve got stories of all varieties today. People leaving, people throwing tantrums and some people’s deity status in decline. It’s like a great episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta or at least Real Housewives of Orange County.

Let’s start in Argentina where the national team and its legendary coach Diego Maradona are in more than crisis mode. Juan Sebastian Veron, he of the red card in last Wednesday’s loss to Paraguay, has sounded off against Maradona, blaming him for Argentina’s struggles. Meanwhile, it seems the stress is getting to the 1986 World Cup hero, reports have Maradona checking into a weight loss clinic in Italy. Why do I get the feeling that Maradona won’t be in charge of the Albicelestes for the last two qualifying matches?

Don’t expect Liverpool to go all Manchester City with their newfound shirt sponsor riches (surprising, eh?). Owner Tom Hicks claims that, financially, ‘they have never been stronger.’ He also calls City’s method of operation unsustainable. That might be true if they weren’t backed by an oil sheik, and I don’t see him running out of money any time soon. Unless, of course, everyone starts driving solar cars in the next ten years (sound of muffled laughter).

In other Liverpool news, UK betting house Paddy Power has scrapped a plan to place odds on which Reds’ house will be broken into next. Just in case you care (and I know you do), Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres were the favorites at 12/1 odds.

It looks like Hull City’s in serious financial trouble. And it not just the cost of Phil Brown’s spray-on tan that’s to blame. Of course the club denies it. But we did see chairman Paul Duffen slipping into a Paddy Power and placing ten grand on Steven Gerrard.

On the subject of betting, German betting site mybet.de has released its Bundesliga managerial hot seat oddsFIVE WEEKS INTO THE SEASON! It wouldn’t be so sad and funny if two managers haven’t already left their clubs. Talk about results now.

I was beginning to think he had mellowed since moving to Italy, but Jose Mourinho is back (unfortunately Special 1 TV isn’t). The Special One has told England national team manager Fabio Capello he ‘knows nothing about football.’ If only we could see them fight it out in puppet form.

Let’s give the Harraby Athletic under-14 squad a big round of applause. The youngsters beat the Edenvale Hawks 3-2 to put an end to a small 90 game losing streak they’ve been on. No word if Alan Pardew was managing the club during the streak.

In some other feel good news, 24-year-old Danish footballer Christian Nielsen has quit football to travel the world and work in an orphanage. The life change came after witnessing teammate Jonathan Richter struck by lightning during a match in July. I wish him luck for such a bold move.

It’s Dr. Paul Morris, of the University of Portsmouth, to the rescue. The good doctor is an expert on the embodiment of emotions and intentions and claims to know when a foul is a foul and a dive is a dive. He calls the number one tell the ‘Archer’s Bow.’ Well now that that’s been settled, I’m sure we won’t see another dive in a competitive match.

And yes, we will end with the latest coming out of ‘Manu-Gate.’ Arsene Wenger continues to rip Mark Hughes for defending Adebayor. I find this hilarious considering the Frenchman has been known to vigorously defend his own players, sometimes even going as far as claiming temporary blindness.

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‘Manu-Gate’ Part 2: Enough Already


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On a day we should be excited that the Champions League group stage is underway, the news is still dominated by ‘Manu-Gate.’ Have people become overly sensitive? I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be punished for stomping on Robin Van Persie’s head, but people act like it’s the first time a player wildly celebrated after scoring against his former team. Now we have Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, claiming that Adebayor has damaged the League’s image. Are you f*cking kidding me? I’m sure people will stop watching because one player got a little over-exuberant. If that’s the case, I’m surprised the Champions League is being played after Chelsea’s actions in their semi-final loss to Barcelona in the last competition. And now, for some reason, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate is getting involved and defending the Manchester City striker. Why is he involved? Who asked him? Can’t we just suspend him his three games and get on with it?

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The Latest In Controversy Is ‘Manu-Gate’


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As we discussed last week, this young season has been full of controversy. First, we had ‘Eduardo-gate’ (now resolved), then ‘Kiddie-gate’, and now ‘Manu-gate’. Yes, I am over-using the ‘Gate’ thing, but can you over-do something that’s so overdone? And if you can, I don’t care, adding ‘Gate’ to things is fun to me.

In case you didn’t notice this weekend, ex-Arsenal and current Manchester City ‘star’ Emmanuel Adebayor took on his former team. And let’s just say that he had a full game. He scored a goal, kicked ex-teammate Robin Van Persie in the face and taunted the Arsenal fans with his goal celebration. And for all of this, he’s facing some serious suspensions. This story has it all, Adebayor is confused by all of the furor over his actions, manager Mark Hughes defends his player’s actions, Van Persie doesn’t accept Manu’s apology and even Roy Keane has given his two cents. La Liga might have the world’s top players, but the BPL has all of the drama. F*ck the new Melrose Place, this is must see TV.

In non-face stomping Arsenal news, Andrei Arshavin has put a gag order on his wife’s loose lips. Just thought you’d like to know.

Good news for Liverpool fans. After reporting on Liverpool ending their sponsorship agreement with Carlsberg, the club has reached an agreement with Standard Chartered Bank for an astounding £80m for four years. Word is the deal will enable the club to build their long rumored new stadium and even buy a player or two. Why do I think neither of these things will happen? Oh, right because it’s the Hicks and Gillett run Liverpool.

Roman Abromovich isn’t one known to be shy to splash the cash, but apparently all the money in the world won’t help you tackle Mount Kilimanjaro. After reportedly suffering from altitude related sickness, Chelsea has released a statement refuting that. Why they felt the need to do so, I have no idea. But in a world of 24-hour news coverage, ‘Altitude-gate’ is a story.

In some more money-related news, English clubs have pocketed nearly twice as much Champions League money as Spanish sides over the past six seasons. In fact England’s ‘Big Four’ hold the top four places among all Champions League clubs. Now those are some figures to make one dizzy, and then distribute a press release saying that you weren’t.

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A Bolt Of Lightning Everywhere


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Well it’s the last day of the international break and let’s hope our favorite players don’t get Tevezed before they return to their clubs. While club football may have been on a break, conspiracy theories and over-inflated egos didn’t. Nor did we take a break (don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.)

The world’s fastest man and, apparently, the world’s number one celebrity football supporter, Usain Bolt, will be a guest of the English FA as England take on Croatia in a World Cup qualifier. Not that long after palling around with best mate Cristiano Ronaldo in Madrid last week, he’ll be at Wembley rooting on England. The Jamaican sprinter is such an England fan he even used the word ‘we’ when talking about today’s match.

He may not be as fast of foot as Bolt, but Didier Drogba is quick to pat himself on the back. The former want away striker, who has now declared himself Chelsea-for-life, claims that he’s an unselfish player who doesn’t, ‘look at my scoring statistics.’ I agree with him. The way he got himself red carded during the 2008 Champions League final so that John Terry could be forced to take a penalty was definitely soulless selfless.

Another man who doesn’t mind taking one for the team is Manchester United midfielder and Scottish captain Darren Fletcher. The hard-nosed player has encouraged his teammates to question their opposite number if they’re ‘up for a battle?’ He also goes on to say he’ll be ‘in your face and kicking at your ankles.’ I’m sure those are comforting words for Arsene Wenger after he questioned Fletcher‘s role on the pitch during the last Manchester United v. Arsenal match.

Wenger’s problems with the Scottish aren’t restricted to the playing field. He blames the Eduardo diving suspension on, ‘Scottish people working at UEFA.’ David Gold, former chief executive of the Scottish FA and current UEFA general secretary, has come out and explained that, ‘It’s not all pals together’ at UEFA. No word if he was having a glass of red wine with Sir Alex Ferguson at the time of the statement.

Old pal Juande Ramos has been tipped for a return to football. After resurrecting his reputation at Real Madrid after his Tottenham debacle, the Spaniard is rumored to replace Leonardo at AC Milan. Like Martin Jol (now at Ajax after a successful stint at Hamburg), Ramos is finding that being fired from White Hart Lane might be the best thing to happen to a manager.

And let’s end on a truly joyous note (for once). Liverpool fan Michael Shields, who was incarcerated four years for a crime he didn’t commit after Liverpool’s Champions League victory in Turkey in 2005, has been released from prison today. Congratulations Michael.

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To The Professionals


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I have to say that this season football journalists are up and ready to go. First we had the Eduardo dive saga that dominated the headlines for the better part of two weeks and now we have ‘Kiddygate.’ It seems every club who’s lost a teenager to a larger club is lodging a complaint and the papers can’t get enough. I have to say I’m impressed by the willingness of some news outlets to over report on certain topics. I’m especially impressed by some hardworking papers who will report on things that haven’t yet happened. So this article is dedicated to the professionals.

Two professionals who may not be appearing at next summer’s World Cup are current and soon-to-be named FIFA Players of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. While this may take the luster out of the tournament for some, it won’t bother John Terry at all. The Chelsea and English captain would actually prefer it. I guess JT doesn’t believe in wanting to test yourself against the best. There’s that fighting English spirit.

One man who doesn’t mind facing the best—since he is the best—is Bjorn Helge Riise. Fulham’s latest signing and John Arne’s younger brother doesn’t lack for confidence. In an interview with Norwegian magazine Avisenes Nyhetsbyra (my personal favorite) he declared that his teammates haven’t ‘done well’ and he’s ‘better than Damien Duff.’ That should endear him to his new teammates. But wait a minute…Bjorn has come out and claimed he was misquoted. Ah, saved by the misquote. Now that’s a journalist who wasn’t working hard enough.

David Beckham—who knows a thing or two about hard-working journalists—has come to the defense of diving poster child Eduardo. He claims enough is enough and to ‘lay off’ the boy. Becks is so behind the times; doesn’t he know we’ve moved on to ‘Kiddygate?’

We now know why Bacary Sagna has those stupid bleached braids of his. He scored them by losing winning a bet with his father. It seems Papa Sagna was smart enough to be against the braids in the first place, but made a bet the boy could win. Of course this all happened about eight years ago when he was a teenager. You think he would be out of the rebellious stage by now.

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