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Paulo Dybala nears Palermo exit as bidding war begins

Paulo Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A and has attracted both Arsenal and Juventus.

Paulo Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A and has attracted both Arsenal and Juventus.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Paulo Dybala is set to be the subject of an intense bidding war between Arsenal and Juventus with Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini claiming a sale will take place in April with Dybala’s representatives having been given permission to travel to both London and Paris to seek offers for the 21-year-old forward.

We will sell Dybala by the end of April, Pierpaolo Triulzi has the green light from me and is going to Paris and London to listen to offers, then we’ll evaluate them together.

Dybala has enjoyed a prolific season in Serie A netting thirteen goals in twenty nine appearances attracting the interest of Arsene Wenger who may eventually be put off by Palermo’s £30million asking price.

Palermo have found the crux of their business model in identifying talented young players from South America and presenting them with a pressure free environment to begin their career in Europe before selling them to a major force for a sizable profit. The names Javier Pastore and Edinson Cavani spring to mind as two of the more recent examples of Zamparini’s business model.

It is difficult to see just where Dybala would fit in at Arsenal given the wealth of attacking talent already at the club.

There is a real fear that Theo Walcott may leave the club sooner rather than later with the club’s hierarchy believed to be particularly unenthused at the prospect of dealing with the 26-year-old’s representatives in contract talks once more which would perhaps present an opening for Dybala.

The futures of Joel Campbell and Tomas Rosicky are also in doubt as we approach the summer transfer window with the Costa Rican World Cup star having been unable to impress at the Emirates before being loaned to Villarreal as part of the Gabriel Paulista transfer.

The move itself would represent a significant shift away from Arsenal’s prudent transfer policy over the past decade. Of course the London club have shown their ability to part with huge fees to attract the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez over the past two summers yet spending such a significant figure on a player with just two seasons of top-flight experience is a certain risk which doesn’t entirely fit with Arsene Wenger’s ethos.

The Frenchman has been known to take a chance of players over the course of his spell with Arsenal but never at such a sizable fee with only Francis Jeffers and Jose Antonio Reyes being expensive disappointments at the club. Wenger has often had much more success when taking players for very low fees and moulding them into first-team stars for example Alex Song and Kolo Toure.

It is believed that Juventus remains the player’s first choice with Dybala himself having publically spoken of his admiration for the Italian Serie A and its teams,

As I child I followed all championships, but always chose Italian teams on the PlayStation. I love all the championships for their diversity, but Italy remains the best choice for players from Argentina, especially because of the importance given to tactics.

AS Roma hold an interest in the player too but following last season’s expensive pursuit of Juan Iturbe it would be a surprise if the club were able to commit financially to Dybala and Palermo.

Juventus themselves may well be facing a summer of change with the club expected to reshuffle their forward line. The long pursuit of Fernando Llorente from Athletic Club has ended up being a disappointment with the Spaniard having not replicated the quality shown with the Basque club in Turin.

Carlos Tevez may also leave Juventus this summer with the former Manchester United and City striker believed to desire a return home to Argentina with former club Boca Juniors. Tevez’s contract in Turin runs until June 2016 however the Italian giants may well allow the 31-year-old to leave a year early especially given the quality he has provided in European competition with Juventus set to reach their first Champions League semi-final for over a decade.

If Juventus were to part with the £30million required to sign Dybala it could well be the deal which kick-starts the transfer market in earnest with the futures of Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza then becoming an issue.

Berardi is currently on loan at Sassuolo from Juventus and with the 20-year-old forward having twenty six Serie A goals in his two seasons with Sassuolo it is expected the Italian champions will bring him back to the club. If Juventus were to sign Dybala then there would have to be numerous departures in the forward line to avoid a bloated squad.

Zaza on the other hand is a player who was sold to Sassuolo outright by Juventus on the condition that Juve could buy him back for £11million this summer. Zaza has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Sassuolo scoring eight league goals along with being handed his first Azzurri cap by Antonio Conte. If Dybala was signed it would make such a deal wholly unlikely and could bring Tottenham Hotspur back into play with the London club holding a strong interest in 23-year-old Zaza.

Paris Saint-Germain are a club on the periphery of the Dybala transfer saga with it seeming more likely that the player’s representatives are attempting to drum up interest from the French giants. PSG may wish to rejuvenate their forward line this summer with Zlatan Ibrahimovic approaching the end of his career and Edinson Cavani enduring a second straight difficult season in France.

However given the Financial Fair Play restrictions placed upon the club last year, they have to be very careful in monitoring their spending and with home-grown players regulations always a worry it could be the case that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette would be their preferred option.

Palermo would welcome the cash injection from the sale of Dybala with it still as yet unclear as to whom may replace the skilful Argentine. Former Real Madrid youth prospect Alberto Bueno, now plying his trade with Rayo Vallecano, has been muted as one possible target for the Italian club who sit eleventh in Serie A, just three and four points behind Internazionale and AC Milan respectively, in their first season back in the top-flight.

Palermo may also have to contend with another departure this summer with Dybala’s partner in crime Franco Vazquez also muted to be heading towards the exit door at Renzo Barbera.

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My appearance on WorldFootballDaily talking Premier League transfers and midweek fixtures. 28.01.2014

Hi Guys,

Just a quick update today, I was a featured guest on the acclaimed WorldFootballDaily  show (http://www.worldfootballdaily.com/) to talk about all things Premier League in a week with a full midweek fixture card. I am delighted to say the link to my interview is now live and you can listen to it by clicking the following:

http://www.worldfootballdaily.com/pg/jsp/charts/audioMaster.jsp?dispid=307&pid=20434

 

Be sure to let me know what you think.

 

Thanks Guys!

How the game was won – Napoli vs Arsenal

December 11, 2013 Leave a comment

Napoli 2 – 0 Arsenal

Both Napoli and Arsenal put a 4-2-3-1 formation to use this evening in a Champions League group which went right down to the wire much to the eventual dismay of Napoli. This choice of formation made for a match which in the first half appeared an end-to-end contest courtesy of the gaps a two man midfield cannot legislate for which we saw in even greater evidence during last season’s Champions League final between Dortmund and Bayern Munich.

Olivier Giroud missed Arsenal's best chance of the night which may prove to be a bigger miss in the latter stages of the tournament.

Olivier Giroud missed Arsenal’s best chance of the night which may prove to be a bigger miss in the latter stages of the tournament.

Arsenal’s first half ball retention was impressive with Mathieu Flamini’s mobility being key in Arsenal being able to keep possession away from Napoli for reasonably long periods, furthermore Flamini was able to get across and cover for Mikel Arteta who did not enjoy the best of nights prior to being sent off 10 minutes from time.

Napoli’s play throughout the game was reminiscent of the English sides which surprised the rest of Europe in the late nineties with their rip-roaringly energetic attitude to both sides of the game, Napoli pressed in numbers at pace across the whole of the pitch and they went forward in attack with up to six players at one time due to Armero and Maggio’s wing-back role. Napoli’s attacking play however was lacking in the final third and the craft of Lorenzo Insigne was missed significantly until his second half introduction.

Arsenal could have made the match a very different one near the climax of the first half when Olivier Giroud had an opportunity to have a shot on goal only for the Frenchman to fire straight into the hands of Rafael. These are the golden half chances which you have to make a better use of when you go away from home later on in the Champions League, if you are to stand a chance of winning the competition.

The game changed for Napoli early in the second half when Rafael Benitez introduced Insigne and the young Italian turned the match on its head. The Naples born attacking midfielder just added the final element of craft to the many profligate Napoli attacks which had been lacking a finishing touch up until that point. Insigne’s direct style of play coupled with the Italians rejuvenated pressing game caused the visitors problems and Arsenal struggled to hold onto the ball as they had throughout the opening forty five minutes, and this gave Napoli the impetus to go forward and open the scoring twenty minutes from time.

Arteta’s clumsy red card whilst harsh was indicative of his evening and it should have given Napoli a base to try and score the two further goals they needed to ensure progression at the expense of Arsenal however no such wave of attack came and it was such that a late Borussia Dortmund goal in France put the Italians out of the competition with just minutes left. Jose Callejon’s late chip over Wojciech Szczesny in injury time was too little too late but once again highlighted the talents of Insigne and how he turned the match in Napoli’s favour.

Insigne’s introduction panicked what had been an assured Arsenal side up to that point and Arsene Wenger’s men never really recovered and the importance of Olivier Giroud’s chance may have been highlighted further in a more important fixture. Had Napoli introduced Insigne earlier or at least pushed harder for a goal in the first half and not missed so many chances the Italians had more than a good chance of scoring the three goals required to knock Arsenal out.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

 

Is it time to consider Everton genuine top four contenders?

Written by Chris Winterburn

Everton for the latter half of the David Moyes era were the perennial ‘Will they, won’t they?’ team in the Premier League with regards to qualification for the UEFA Champions League. Many times Everton were discounted by people courtesy of their regular poor starts to campaigns only for performances to pick up to a consistent level after the Christmas period or because of the perceived lack of star quality in their squad in comparison to the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and more recently Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City.

Oviedo, standing in for the injured Leighton Baines, celebrates his winning goal at Old Trafford.

Oviedo, standing in for the injured Leighton Baines, celebrates his winning goal at Old Trafford.

One of the most impressive characteristics the David Moyes Everton sides had was work ethic, Leighton Baines when he was prised away from Wigan Athletic was not the outstanding defensive and offensive full-back he is today, nor was Seamus Coleman when David Moyes took a chance on the young Irishman. They both worked ferociously hard to get to the level they are at today and much of that sat comfortably with the David Moyes ethos.

This work ethic often led to fans and media alike genuinely believing that Everton would go and get a point at Stamford Bridge through gritted determination, or even recently go and win at Eastlands and usually the team did not disappoint in that regard however when you would ask the same people if Everton had a realistic chance of Champions League qualification the answer would nine times out of ten begin with a scoff and a resounding no to boot.

One of the things Everton were guilty of under David Moyes was not going out and winning games, Moyes wasn’t cautious but he was reactionary, as pointed out by Michael Cox in his excellent piece on Moyes’ perceived lack of identity published yesterday, there was and still is no set David Moyes philosophy like say for example a Pochettino or a Laudrup. This in turn meant Everton often reacted to match situations rather than having a preset plan on how to dominate a match and make the result their own so to speak.

What we are seeing this season however is completely different. There is an identity within Roberto Martinez’s Everton team, the ball retention and ability to make clever decisions when on the ball as individual players is very reminiscent of the football you so often see in the Champions League. Many will say Martinez has merely carried over the principles by which he worked both at Swansea and then Wigan Athletic but for Everton it is something completely new.

You still have the incredible work ethic instilled by David Moyes within certain players and positions, for example Leighton Baines, Seamus Coleman and the central defensive partnership of Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin however now with Everton you have a preset identity, you know they are going to retain possession when possible, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley will be able to split opposition teams with a pass and then you have the individual brilliance of players like Mirallas, Deulofeu and Pienaar who can feed off the physical presence of Lukaku up front.

We saw the perfect illustration of just why it might be time to consider Everton as possible top four contenders last night at Old Trafford. It is all too easy to forget but this is an Everton side that has lost the least amount of matches in the league this term, with their solitary defeat coming at Eastlands. They have conceded fewer goals than Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United yet they are not a defensive team, they look to control matches through possession.

Manchester United were out-passed, out-thought and ultimately out-worked by an Everton side that deserved nothing less than the three points they took back to Merseyside. Yes, United did have chances to go one, two or maybe even three goals to the good but that has been a recurring theme throughout the season. At no point could you have really said United were in complete control of the match, Everton on the other hand were.

The visitors kept the ball in midfield through the trio of Barkley, McCarthy and the unassumingly impressive Gareth Barry, they were allowed to keep possession in midfield due to United’s lack of urgency with regards to a pressing game and the Everton team looked more likely to make something of their possession than United did, Martinez’s side were never short of ideas. There were numerous options on every time they broke forward, whereas for United if the initial idea of passing the ball to Rooney, who it must be said had a poor game, failed then the attacking move invariably broke down.

Everton have kept everything that was so impressive about themselves during the Moyes era and have adapted it within a preset playing style, Everton are no long waiting for things to happen in matches anymore, they are outwardly looking to control proceedings from the outset and Everton’s approach is characterised no better than through the image of their lone forward Lukaku.

For an on-loan striker Lukaku’s work rate is and has been throughout the campaign, astounding, he chases every loose ball and puts opposition defenders under pressure through his physical presence, a prime example coming last night when the Belgian brushed off the imposing figure of Nemanja Vidic with relative ease albeit Martin Atkinson deemed it to be a foul. Whereas a forward normally polishes and refines the look of a team, Lukaku is the burly presence, who can score goals yet bring Everton’s technically gifted players into play and that is why the system works so well, the team are adaptable to most situations yet still the main principle of retaining possession remains.

With this preset idea in place at Everton on most occasions it won’t take the team long to get into the tempo of a match as happened so frequently in recent years and whilst there will still be shock results there probably won’t be as many draws, particularly at Goodison Park. This is why Everton have to be taken seriously as top four candidates this season, if you were to match them up with a Tottenham or a Liverpool for example in years gone by you would probably suggest Everton just didn’t have enough to overcome those teams in particular but now you look at it and think well they are going to have a lot of the ball, that’s half the battle, and with Lukaku and a couple of the creative players in tow then Everton are in with a chance.

Of course Martinez has delved into the transfer market and pulled off some excellent deals but there hasn’t been too much wholesale charge in terms of personnel from the squad last season yet you would be far more eager to suggest this is Everton’s best chance of sustaining a charge to the Champions League places merely because of the type of football that the club are playing.

There is still a long way to go in the season and there will be times when Everton’s squad size is called into question particularly as the fixtures pile up throughout the festive period but Everton head to the Emirates on Sunday with every chance of claiming a draw or even three points as they have in years gone however this season when Everton host Fulham the week after it is fully expected they will dominate possession and ensure they win that match whereas last year, would the same have been said? These are the key differences which make a side capable of a top four finish and this year Everton certainly fit into that category.

Follow Chris Winterburn on Twitter @Chriswin4

Ramsey runs the show yet again

Arsenal, on their first away trip in the Premier League this season, comfortably beat a Fulham side bereft of midfield strength by three goals to one with Arsene Wenger’s side creating even more chances than the score-line suggests. Aaron Ramsey continued his impressive start to the season with yet another standout, Man of the Match performance which has left many of his doubters questioning their stance on the Welsh midfielder.

Aaron Ramsey put in another impressive display which should only cement his place in the side upon Arteta's return.

Aaron Ramsey put in another impressive display which should only cement his place in the side upon Arteta’s return.

Ramsey partnered Tomas Rosicky in the midfield two of Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation at the start of today’s match with Jack Wilshere given a rest after playing two full matches in the space of a week and it was a decision that would prove to be the difference between the two sides over the course of the ninety minutes.

Fulham went with a very straightforward 4-4-2 system with Pajtim Kasami being the stationed partner to Dimitar Berbatov in Fulham’s front two however Kasami would drop off just behind the Bulgarian and roam the space across the width of the pitch in what then became a 4-4-1-1 formation. This however provided very little protection for the slight in build midfield duo of Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker which showed.

Fulham despite being the home side showed very little desire to press Arsenal when the Gunners had possession in their own half and to a degree even in the first ten to fifteen yards of Fulham’s half. Sidwell and Parker were content to just sit in their positions and invite the midfield two of Rosicky and Ramsey onto them.

Arsenal being very methodical in their approach utilised Santi Cazorla’s ability perfectly in this situation and just passed the ball between the three of Rosicky, Ramsey and Cazorla. The ball would be moved between the trio with Rosicky covering Cazorla on the left hand side when the Spaniard dropped deep into Arsenal’s half to receive a pass and vice versa. Throughout the first half this worked splendidly albeit with a little assistance from Fulham’s unwillingness to press when not in possession.

Ramsey with plenty of time to think on the ball could receive a pass from Rosicky and then break into the space in between Sidwell and Parker with the Fulham midfield still unwilling to close down, Ramsey then had time to pick a pass to either Lukas Podolski in the middle of the pitch or Theo Walcott on the right hand side, however Walcott was having significantly less success than in midweek now he was up against a competent, experienced Full-Back in John Arne Riise.

Now you would expect with Parker and Sidwell sitting so deep it would benefit Fulham’s defensive line with the addition of two bodies to help defend against Arsenal attacks, however it was very much a case of the game passing the two midfielders by. By the time they addressed the danger created by an Aaron Ramsey forward run, the ball had already been moved on into a different area and Parker or Sidwell were taken completely out of the game.

This is the situation created by the unwillingness to press from Fulham's midfield pairing. Sidwell and Parker just sat in an area of space inviting Ramsey to maraud forward as well as giving the Arsenal midfielders so much time on the ball. When Ramsey did run at them they got pushed further and further back and on the odd occasions they did make an attempt to close Ramsey down he would simply move the ball on to Walcott and Sidwell and Parker would then be out of the game. This is where Martin Jol went wrong for me, giving Arsenal time on the ball is an absolutely suicidal mistake with the quality in that midfield.

This is the situation created by the unwillingness to press from Fulham’s midfield pairing. Sidwell and Parker just sat in an area of space inviting Ramsey to maraud forward as well as giving the Arsenal midfielders so much time on the ball. When Ramsey did run at them they got pushed further and further back and on the odd occasion they did make an attempt to close Ramsey down he would simply move the ball on to Walcott which would leave Sidwell and Parker out of the game. This is where Martin Jol went wrong for me, giving Arsenal time on the ball is an absolutely suicidal mistake with the quality within that midfield.

This was the problem for Fulham however Arsenal were struggling to make best use of this advantage with chances not being converted and Lukas Podolski looking slightly like a rabbit in headlights at the initial prospect of playing in a more central role from the start with the German international being used to being deployed on the left side of the attacking midfield trio throughout his career with the Gunners. Still despite Arsenal’s profligacy in front of David Stockdale’s goal they were in comfortable control of the game and when the first goal inevitably came it was through a man in encouraging form. Olivier Giroud netted his third goal in three straight competitive matches with a fine, deft chip over Stockdale after picking up on a deflected Aaron Ramsey effort inside the penalty area.

For me Fulham should have approached the match differently from the start. You know you aren’t going to dominate a match against Arsenal simply due to the fact they have too good a team in terms of keeping the ball and moving it around the pitch at a good tempo. Unfortunately as once said by Arsene Wenger, “To stop Arsenal, you have to kick Arsenal” and there is an effective way of stopping Arsenal and that is putting them under pressure.

Fulham should have gone with a three in the middle of midfield who were prepared to press when not in possession and really get amongst the Arsenal midfield when Ramsey and Rosicky had the ball. Sidwell, Parker and new signing Derek Boateng put in a midfield three would have been able to really press Arsenal and force a mistake, yes it would leave the potential for a defence splitting pass to Walcott in behind but it would have stopped Ramsey dictating the tempo of the game and perhaps given Fulham more of a chance.

This is how Fulham could have approached the game, with a midfield three of Sidwell, Parker and Boateng. With the additional body in midfield there would have been a greater freedom to press Arsenal in the middle of the pitch. Sidwell and Boateng could have cut out any forward runs made by Rosicky and Ramsey as well as pressing them deeper in Arsenal's half when they received the ball in order to force a mistake. This midfield three would have given Arsenal far less time on the ball which would have resulted in them finding it harder to break Fulham down. I feel Boateng's physical presence would have really given Fulham an edge over the slender Rosicky and Ramsey this afternoon.

 With the additional body in midfield there would have been a greater freedom to press Arsenal in the middle of the pitch. Sidwell and Boateng could have cut out any forward runs made by Rosicky and Ramsey as well as pressing them deeper in Arsenal’s half when they received the ball in order to force a mistake. This midfield three would have given Arsenal far less time on the ball which would have resulted in them finding it harder to break Fulham down with intricate passing. Boateng’s physical presence would have really given Fulham an edge over the slender Rosicky and Ramsey this afternoon.

Even after the opening breakthrough there was still something missing in Arsenal’s attacks, Lukas Podolski was really struggling in the middle and just began to drift onto his favoured left hand side which crowded the space occupied by Cazorla, who was then forced to drop deeper and it left Arsenal imbalanced in the final third. Olivier Giroud found himself more and more isolated with no regular service from the central areas and as such it was also very difficult for Theo Walcott to get into the game. It wasn’t until straight after the second goal, which incidentally was scored by Podolski in a central position, that the problem was addressed by a very subtle system change.

Arsenal have been known to play in a very fluid 4-2-3-1 formation over the past two seasons and with the fluidity of this formation and the individuals utilised within the system, comes an ability to ever so slightly tinker with positioning on the fly and this is exactly what Arsene Wenger did just after the second goal. Arsenal went from 4-2-3-1 to a very comfortable 4-3-3 with Lukas Podolski being repositioned on his favoured left flank and Santi Cazorla forming a three man midfield sitting just ahead of Rosicky and Ramsey in order to contribute to Arsenal’s attacks through the centre.

This is how Arsenal set up in the 4-2-3-1 system. Podolski was positioned as the central point of the attacking midfield three with Cazorla on the left however you can see Podolski kept drifting out to the left flank. This meant Cazorla's space became crowded and he was forced to drop back into the middle very close to Rosicky and Ramsey. The result of these two factors was Giroud became isolated, illustrated by the blue circle, due to the fact there was no linkman just behind him in the number ten role to bring the Frenchman into the game, and this is why Arsenal's attacks were breaking down and not creating too many chances.

This is how Arsenal set up in the 4-2-3-1 system. Podolski was positioned as the central point of the attacking midfield three with Cazorla on the left, however you can see Podolski kept drifting out to the left flank. This meant Cazorla’s space became crowded and he was forced to drop back into the middle very close to Rosicky and Ramsey. The result of these two factors was Giroud becoming isolated, illustrated by the blue circle, due to the fact there was no linkman just behind him in the number ten role to bring the Frenchman into the game, and this is why Arsenal’s attacks were breaking down and not creating too many chances.

Arsenal responded to the difficulties they were having with the 4-2-3-1 by quickly changing to a 4-3-3 which utilised Cazorla as a central midfielder just slightly in front of the Rosicky/Ramsey pairing. This allowed Podolski to play on his favoured side and attack Riether at Full-Back. Cazorla being in the central role also meant Giroud was not totally isolated and the Spaniard ended up playing as a box to box midfielder for the majority of the second half which he was able to do well courtesy of the anchoring role Aaron Ramsey was having just behind him. This also gave Rosicky the freedom to make the occasional forward run however it was a much more reserved performance in that respect for the Czech international this afternoon.

Arsenal responded to the difficulties they were having with the 4-2-3-1 by quickly changing to a 4-3-3 which utilised Cazorla as a central midfielder just slightly in front of the Rosicky/Ramsey pairing. This allowed Podolski to play on his favoured side and attack Riether at Full-Back. Cazorla being in the central role also meant Giroud was not totally isolated and the Spaniard ended up playing as a box to box midfielder for the majority of the second half, which he was able to do well courtesy of the anchoring role Aaron Ramsey was having just behind him. This also gave Rosicky the freedom to make the occasional forward run however it was a much more reserved performance in that respect for the Czech

international this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ‘tweak’ as it were, for me, changed the game. Arsenal were still able to dominate the midfield battle through Rosicky and Ramsey however they now had more stability in the final third with Cazorla drifting from the middle of midfield to a central attacking midfield role whenever the situated desired it. It is this sort of fluidness which has made Arsenal sides so successful in the Wenger era and Fulham had no answer to the change with David Stockdale having to pull off a number of high quality saves to keep the score at 2-0.

Many will say Cazorla was the best player on the park this afternoon with the Spaniard doing a fantastically impressive job dropping into the middle of midfield and orchestrating Arsenal’s attacks, as well as getting forward into areas where he could supply Walcott, Giroud and Podolski with a pass in behind. Make no mistake he was instrumental in Arsenal’s success but it was Ramsey’s performance which gave him the time and space to do this. The Welsh midfielder was comfortable on the ball and efficient in his distribution, never have I seen an Aaron Ramsey performance where he gave the ball away so infrequently and that is no slight on the player but merely an observation of a regular spectator of Ramsey both for Arsenal and Wales.

The Aaron Ramsey we have seen thus far this season is a very different Aaron Ramsey to previous years. This is a fit Ramsey who appears to have put his injury problems behind him and in the absence of Arteta it is an Aaron Ramsey who is able to be the main man in midfield as it were. He can really stamp his authority on matches through forward runs and clever passes, which he did against Fenerbahce to great avail midweek with his surging runs causing sizeable problems for Emre and Raul Meireles in the middle of the pitch as they were forced deeper and deeper.

The third goal came through yet more impressive Arsenal football with Cazorla finding himself in a far forward position inside Fulham’s penalty area before cutting it back to Podolski who fired home past Stockdale from the left hand side of the penalty box. It was a game plan that worked perfectly however you can’t help feel yet again, like in Turkey on Wednesday night, that Arsenal were helped somewhat by a poor display in a key area from their opponents. Tuesday’s second leg being the formality it should be is a chance for Wenger to rest key players with it not being a huge surprise should Serge Gnabry play a part.

The real test will come next weekend at the Emirates with Tottenham Hotspur the visitors in the first North London derby of the season, and with Paulinho and Etienne Capoue in tow you would think Aaron Ramsey will have to continue his stellar form if Arsenal are to have a successful third Premier League fixture.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

Fenerbahce’s feckless Full-Backs

Make no mistake, Arsenal were very very good last night and fully deserved their 3-0 win away in Istanbul with a particularly impressive performance being put in by Aaron Ramsey who dictated the match from the middle of midfield, however all of Fenerbahce’s problems, in both halves, were of their own making with respective full backs Bekir İrtegün and Michal Kadlec having noticeably poor evenings.

Aaron Ramsey put in a Man of the Match performance last night, dictating the tempo of the game from midfield as well as scoring Arsenal's second goal. Arsenal are still light in midfield though with Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to be out for up to six weeks.

Aaron Ramsey put in a Man of the Match performance last night, dictating the tempo of the game from midfield as well as scoring Arsenal’s second goal. Arsenal are still light in midfield though with Arteta and Oxlade-Chamberlain expected to be out for up to six weeks.

Bekir was stationed on the right hand side whilst Kadlec was entrusted with the task of shackling the quick Theo Walcott on the left with it being clear right from the off that Arsenal were looking to get at Fenerbahce via Walcott down the right hand channel. Walcott ably supported by Bacary Sagna were very effective down the right flank and gave Kadlec a really tough opening spell with Arsenal’s central midfield pairing of Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere focusing the majority of their passing through to Walcott.

Over on the opposite flank, Bekir was having great difficulty staying in position with the Turkish fullback being far too often drawn into the middle of the defence which caused an element of confusion for Bruno Alves in the middle. As a result of this, a huge gap was left in the right back position which had to be filled on numerous occasions by Dirk Kuyt who as we all know isn’t the most competent defender, being a centre forward by nature. Bekir made Kuyt’s night all the more difficult with his poor passing, when the Fenerbahce fullback did make inroads into the Arsenal half it looked as if he was passing it with his eyes shut, every single pass was going wayward and not reaching its target. Dirk Kuyt was left having to do the work of two men down Fenerbahce’s right hand side and unfortunately for Ersun Yanal’s side the Dutchman was having enough trouble doing the work of one to start with.

At left back Michal Kadlec in the first half was getting away with his poor positioning due to the fact Walcott was drifting inside on too many occasions which gave Bruno Alves the opportunity to track his movements and stop him breaking into the penalty area. Alves did this well and Arsenal, near the end of the first half, were becoming slightly frustrated at their own inability to break through the Fenerbahce defence down the right hand side. Sagna would be overlapping Walcott and receive the ball whilst Walcott would want the one-two return ball yet found himself running into the brick wall that was Bruno Alves. It was Bruno Alves’ ‘mopping up’ if you like, for Kadlec’s mistakes that kept Fenerbahce level heading into the break.

This is a look at Bekir's positional incompetence in the first half. The red dashed lines indicate how he strayed into the middle of the pitch which left Dirk Kuyt an almighty gap to fill. Notice how Kuyt not only had to fill the gap left by Bekir's 'roaming' but also had to track Santi Cazorla down the left flank. The red circle indicates the position where Bekir was constantly giving the ball away when he did actually break into Arsenal's half, it was often when attempting a difficult cross field pass to Meireles or Emre which was picked off by one of Wilshere or Ramsey. The ball would then be taken down the left hand side with Kuyt yet again having to cover Bekir's mistake. You have to feel had Walcott been on the left hand side of midfield rather than Cazorla he would have had far too much pace for Kuyt and Bekir and been able to break into the box more.

1ST HALF-This is a look at Bekir’s positional incompetence in the first half. The red dashed lines indicate how he strayed into the middle of the pitch which left Dirk Kuyt an almighty gap to fill. Notice how Kuyt not only had to fill the gap left by Bekir’s ‘roaming’ but also had to track Santi Cazorla down the left flank. The red circle indicates the position where Bekir was constantly giving the ball away when he did actually break into Arsenal’s half, it was often when attempting a difficult cross field pass to Meireles or Emre which was picked off by one of Wilshere or Ramsey. The ball would then be taken down the left hand side with Kuyt yet again having to cover Bekir’s mistake. You have to feel had Walcott been on the left hand side of midfield rather than Cazorla he would have had far too much pace for Kuyt and Bekir and been able to break into the box more.

At half time with the clear lack of positional awareness and confidence, I was of the belief that Arsene Wenger should switch Walcott to the left side of midfield in order for him to run at Bekir and make life even more difficult for Kuyt. However Ersun Yanal had also spotted the glaringly obvious weakness in the Fenerbahce first half performance and replaced Bekir with the experienced Gokhan Gonul who had just completed his recovery from a shoulder injury suffered way back in May. Gonul entered the pitch and instantly there was a greater sense of not only positional awareness but also authority in the right full back position and in truth there was very little joy to be had for Arsenal down the left hand flank for the rest of the match.

At left back however Michal Kadlec carried his dreadful first half form into the second period only in the second half he was given no help by Bruno Alves. Walcott had been smart enough to recognize he was getting little to no joy in trying to run through the experience Portuguese centre half and the former Southampton man began to hug the touchline and directly run at Kadlec with the former Sparta Prague full back having absolutely no answer to Walcott’s pace.

With Alves now out of the equation, Theo Walcott had far more success in the second half. Kadlec appeared scared of Walcott every time he was in possession down the right hand side and this just gave Walcott the confidence to keep running at him. The problem was that Kadlec had at no point either before the match or over the course of the ninety minutes taken into account the speed of Walcott and as such he didn’t adjust his positioning to suit marking a player quicker than himself.

It is common sense if you are up against a winger who is so much quicker than yourself you don’t want to be too tight to him, because if he turns you or the ball goes over your head then you are basically out of the game, you have to just take a couple of steps back and give yourself a chance to get into a position by where you can win the ball or force the opponent out of play. Kadlec completely ignore this common sense and was touch tight to Walcott all evening long and it proved to be his downfall when it came to the third Arsenal goal.

Cazorla’s crossfield pass was a thing of beauty, it was inch perfect for Walcott however he was given a huge boost courtesy of Kadlec’s starting position. The Czech full back was so tight to Walcott that they were almost starting their run in a level position, there was only going to be one winner of this footrace and Walcott broke away and got directly in front of Kadlec. This is the point where as a defender the alarm bells start going off in your head as you realise “I’m in trouble here” and Kadlec was in serious trouble. The instant Walcott controlled the ball there was only going to be one outcome with Kadlec unsurprisingly bringing Walcott down from behind with referee Gianluca Rocchi having no choice but to award a penalty which Olivier Giroud duly dispatched to effectively secure Arsenal’s progress into the Champions League Group Stage for a sixteenth successive year.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

This is Walcott against Kadlec in the first half. Kadlec again was very tight to Walcott as indicated by the black circle however Walcott tucked inside to be up against Alves. With Kadlec so tight against Walcott this left a significant gap down the flank for Sagna to move into which is where most of Arsenal's first half attacks came. Bruno Alves marshalled a very small area in Fenerbahce's penalty area well which stopped Walcott getting inside him and receiving a return pass from Sagna.

1ST HALF-This is Walcott against Kadlec in the first half. Kadlec again was very tight to Walcott as indicated by the black circle however Walcott tucked inside to be up against Alves. With Kadlec so tight against Walcott this left a significant gap down the flank for Sagna to move into which is where most of Arsenal’s first half attacks came. Bruno Alves marshalled a very small area in Fenerbahce’s penalty area well which stopped Walcott getting inside him and receiving a return pass from Sagna.

Now let's take a look at the move which led to Arsenal's penalty. Cazorla plays a wonderful pass however we see Kadlec is far too close to Walcott indicated by the blue circle. Walcott then has an easy run on him indicated by the dashed line and ends up just in front of Kadlec when he brings the ball down in the penalty area. Kadlec should have been deeper, he should have been positioned where the small red circle is to give him a couple of yards head start on Walcott to adjust his body position and get into an area where he was favourite to win the ball.

2ND HALF-Now let’s take a look at the move which led to Arsenal’s penalty. Cazorla plays a wonderful pass however we see Kadlec is far too close to Walcott indicated by the blue circle. Walcott then has an easy run on him indicated by the dashed line and ends up just in front of Kadlec when he brings the ball down in the penalty area. Kadlec should have been deeper, he should have been positioned where the small red circle is to give him a couple of yards head start on Walcott to adjust his body position and get into an area where he was favourite to win the ball.

Twitter and the Transfer Window

The transfer window, the three month period where a football team has the opportunity to add to, take away from or even slightly develop their squad, be that through the removal of the so called ‘dead wood’ or the arrival of a megastar on a multi million pound contract in order to just propel said club into a title winning position.

The transfer saga involving Thiago Alcantara and the way it appeared to change so quickly resulted in many troll like responses to Football Writers.

The transfer saga involving Thiago Alcantara and the way it appeared to change so quickly resulted in many troll like responses to Football Writers.

The transfer window was once a place of rather secretive dealings, almost like the Speakeasies of prohibition filled 1920’s America with nobody quite knowing who was going to be sold where or who was unhappy at a club aside from the parties directly involved, i.e. the two clubs and the player himself. Nowadays we are in a time when we as a society find ourselves enslaved to social media, I make no bones about the fact I too fall into this category and to a certain degree there is little wrong with this, moving forward and keeping up with the times is a necessity if one desires to progress. However one common, widespread gripe with social media is the sense of freedom in creates within the everyday human being.

Since the introduction of Twitter we have seen an emotive new term created by the media to categorise those who perceive a sense of freedom within social media and then abuse said freedom, this term is the ‘Twitter Troll.’ A Twitter Troll is no different to the definition of an actual mythical troll, something which seeks to harass or disturb only via the new technology involved in social media and with Twitter in particular, they can harass or disturb on a very public platform.

Just, for example, take the events of last summer, Tom Daley had just missed out on an Olympic medal in the Synchronised men’s 10m diving event and immediately received a Tweet from an individual who I probably cannot name  suggesting that Daley had let his deceased father down by not winning a medal. Now this is not somebody who knows Tom Daley personally, this is not somebody whom Daley has ever come into contact with, no it is an individual sat behind a computer, tablet or mobile phone screen on the other side of the country who is seeking to bring attention to themselves by harassing an individual who is well within the scope of the public eye, simply because they can.

This moves me onto my next point, the as ever useful ‘Urban Dictionary’ has a definition of their own for the term/act of ‘Trolling’ and it is one that describes the crux of the problem with freedom on social media in under ten words, Being a prick on the internet because you can.” Just look at those last three words for a moment, people gain some sort of self justification for their actions simply because there is no means in place to either prohibit them from doing so or punishing them after. Yes methods have been brought in over the past two years to counteract the ‘Trolling’ of celebrities and public figures on Twitter with several high profile cases, including the aforementioned Tom Daley incident leading to an arrest. However it is still going on.

Just last week we have seen a high profile incident of Twitter trolling which specifically targeted women. Female MP Stella Creasy and Female Historian Mary Beard were threatened with rape due to their public backing of a campaign headed by Caroline Criado-Perez which lobbied for banknotes to feature the faces of women and not just men. This is an individual sending a threat of one of the most violent and life damaging acts that can happen to anyone just because they have the freedom to do so, and what did it lead to? Yet an ever fiercer battle held within Twitter with certain users of the social media website taking part in a twenty four hour boycott of the social media site entitled ‘Twitter Silence’ to essentially make a stand against such public and abusive ‘trolling.’ This was then met by a backlash from individuals who felt it was ‘shirking’ the problem or a pointless act to gain attention, yet again the troll had got what it wanted, attention and on a sizeable scale.

Now, after reading the title of this piece you are probably wondering what on earth all of the above and the serious nature of those examples have to do with the transfer window, well I will attempt to clarify that now. With the freedom that has come with having your own social media profile on Twitter or Facebook there is also a degree of entitlement that comes with it, to the end which people think they are owed information by certain individuals who also share Twitter space. Football is known to be one of the most tribal sports with every match being a direct battle between two sides so to speak, you are either with one side or you are against one side. This tribalism mixed with a sort of freedom of speech if you will that is provided by social media creates a rather newfound drama surrounding the Transfer window.

Football writers have, as the media has grown in importance to football, long been fed snippets of information by clubs during the transfer window and this information was relayed to the public via a newspaper article or interview. As social media has developed however these snippets of information have become much more readily available to the public via the single touch of a button and this allows supporters to be constantly kept in the loop and updated as events occur.

We see it every summer, a transfer saga involving usually one of England’s bigger clubs as in my experience supporters of non English teams tend not to get too involved in transfer tittle tattle on Twitter, however these sagas are usually started by a report in a newspaper which is probably based on a reliable tip they have received, however what happens now and what didn’t before Twitter is these reports are almost instantly passed on and twisted by people, almost like a much wider scale game of Chinese whispers and before you know it football writers find their personal Twitter feeds inundated with questions like ‘Is Thiago going to sign for United?’, ‘How close is Isco to Manchester City?’ and my own personal favourite ‘Why did Sir Alex Ferguson lie about Wayne Rooney’s transfer request?’

The majority of football writers to their credit attempt to answer these questions, some feel it is part of their job whilst others enjoy dispersing the information they have at their disposal.  This information is then lapped up by supporters and is yet again passed on and twisted  before the transfer saga eventually comes to an end with a different outcome to the one stated by a particular football writer. The aforementioned football writer then finds his Twitter feed littered with abuse and personal attacks which I find completely unnecessarily and in as serious and pitiful a way as possible, rather laughable.

The supporters who target football writers with abuse when a transfer deal doesn’t go the way they want it to are those who yet again act by the unwritten rule I previously alluded to in those three words, ‘Because you can.’ They feel the freedom given to them by social media websites propels them to a state of entitlement to information, they feel as though they are entitled to be given information on transfers by football writers when it actual fact they aren’t and never have been before.

Transfer negotiations are no business of anybody but the two clubs involved, the player and unfortunately in the modern game, the player’s agent. It wasn’t so long ago that supporters knew nothing of transfers until a player was picture on the back page of their local paper holding up the club’s new shirt, everything before the internet and particularly high speed broadband took off was much more secretive and whilst many yearn to return to this era you can’t, you have to move forward with the times.

The advancement in media coverage of football has been excellent for supporters, we can now be kept abreast of rumours involving our club’s negotiations as they are happening and the introduction of Twitter has opened up even more positive avenues for both news reporting and discussion. You ask most football writers and they will tell you the discussions they have with fans on Twitter are on the whole something they enjoy and welcome, it is this link between the media and the supporters that in a way brings the supporters closer to the club which is what we have always wanted, however it is something which must not be taken for granted by supporters and must not lead to a feeling of entitlement which eventually leads to trolling simply because you have the free platform upon which to do so.

Technology is going to keep advancing, we are going to be given even more information about transfers as the years go on and that is excellent but don’t let that ‘power’ lead to feelings of entitlement, just embrace it, trust you own judgement on how to differentiate fact from fiction in transfer stories, don’t target football writers who are attempting to do their job and you will end up enjoying the transfer window a whole host more. The less of a whirlwind created by people’s reactions to transfers then the less falsities will be put out by people, no reaction means no attention and no attention means for the troll no reason to do it.

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4