With the deal having now been confirmed with Nicolas Anelka being pictured outside the Hawthorns with a West Bromwich Albion shirt it appears as though Steve Clarke is attempting to rebuild his strike force which has been left decimated by departures thus far this summer. With Romelu Lukaku returning to Chelsea after his hugely successful loan campaign with West Brom during which the Belgian registering seventeen League goals and Peter Odemwingie expected to be forced out of the club following his post-Christmas exile as a result of his desire to move to Queens Park Rangers, West Brom are in need of a brand new strike force with Steve Clarke desperate to avoid placing too much pressure on Shane Long.
Nicolas Anelka, now thirty four years old and a free agent following the cancellation of his contract with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua is the first addition to the Baggies’ attacking line-up this summer however the jubilation this move has been greeted with by Albion supporters on social networking sites, I fear may be slightly premature and ill-advised. You never quite know what you’re going to get with Nicolas Anelka, his career looked all but in tatters when the Frenchman pitched up at Bolton Wanderers in 2006 however a fantastic spell at the Reebok earned him a surprise move to Chelsea where we saw both the best and worst of Anelka.
Consistency is not one of Anelka’s strong points with the Frenchman having the canny ability to put in an outstanding performance one weekend and then somehow follow it up with a disastrous display the week after, make no mistake however that when Anelka is on form there is very little you can do defensively to stop him. Whilst the pace is no longer what it once was way back in Anelka’s prime the knowledge of when to time runs in behind is as sharp and as useful as ever before with it being unfortunate that Anelka didn’t get more game time in his six month loan spell in Turin with Italian giants Juventus last season.
In terms of quality then there is little you can say negatively about Steve Clarke’s decision to bring Anelka into the club with the former Arsenal man offering not just a boost in quality to West Brom’s dwindling forward line but more importantly in the short term, a boost in depth following the departure of Lukaku. Anelka will not replace the seventeen goals scored by Lukaku last season, simply because I don’t think he will get the game time required to do so but he will offer an option coming off the bench for the last twenty or so minutes in games. West Bromwich supporters cant, at this stage of his career expect and indeed hope for any more than that.
What is also worth a mention is Anelka’s well known ‘attitude’ when things aren’t going his way at a football club, nicknamed ‘Le Incredible Sulk’ after a number of incidents within the French national team set-up, Anelka was most recently caught up in controversy in China when the French striker refused to bow to travelling away supporters causing an altercation with one particular supporter who took exception to this. Furthermore who can forget the infamous French trip to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup where Anelka was sent home in disgrace following a heated altercation with the then struggling boss Raymond Domenech and what is to say a similar sort of thing won’t occur at West Brom should Anelka not be receiving the treatment he feels he deserves?
Steve Clarke is known to be a strict disciplinarian as a coach with the former Chelsea coach being respected for his firm but fair approach to his players, Clarke was tested significantly this past season by one individual in particular and that was Peter Odemwingie, who after an initially positive start to the season on the pitch with a goal in the season opener against Liverpool, made it publicly clear he wanted to leave the Midlands club to join Queens Park Rangers despite the Baggies significantly higher league position.
The frequent requests to leave the club were denied stringently by Clarke and eventually this forced Odemwingie’s hand with the Nigerian forward pitching up at Queens Park Rangers’ training ground on transfer deadline day in January only to be asked to leave by QPR officials leading to a sulking Nigerian forward sitting in the Loftus Road car park for the remainder of the transfer window. Whilst Albion kept their player, Odemwingie was essentially exiled for the remainder of the season with supporters booing him when used as an infrequent substitute.
Whilst Steve Clarke handled this situation as best he could there was no doubt West Bromwich Albion were a weaker side without Odemwingie and were at a disadvantage not having him at the forefront of their attack which was proven by West Brom’s record of registering just four League wins after their Boxing Day victory over Queens Park Rangers which ultimately cost Steve Clarke’s side in their ambition to qualify for the 2013-2014 edition of the Europa League. Now the same scenario that occurred with Odemwingie could quite easily occur with Nicolas Anelka and the worrying thing for me is that with Anelka it could come about as a result of the most miniscule detail as we saw with the aforementioned clash with a Shanghai Shenhua support over his refusal to bow to supporters.
At this stage of his career Nicolas Anelka is not and should not be used as a Premier League team’s main striker and it is likely that Steve Clarke will be aware of this and use the Frenchman accordingly with regards to his age and fellow strikers at the club however what worries me is whether or not Anelka is willing to accept this? Will the Nicolas Anelka returning to the Premier League with West Brom be the same headstrong Nicolas Anelka who has often forced himself out of clubs as a result of his behaviour and attitude and if the answer is yes, then the West Bromwich Albion supporters overcome with glee at today’s signing are in for a rocky few months with Nicolas Anelka at the club.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris Winterburn on Twitter @Chriswin4
After the news broke this morning that Jonjo Shelvey was due to leave Liverpool Football Club for Brendan Rodgers’ old club, Swansea City few expected the deal to be completed so quickly however Liverpool via their official website have late this afternoon confirmed that the deal has been completed. In an official statement on Liverpoolfc.com the club stated, “Liverpool Football Club have confirmed Jonjo Shelvey has completed a transfer to Swansea City.”
Jonjo Shelvey was one of the first signings made by Damien Comolli during his reign as director of football with the Anfield club back in 2010 as the club looked to add a nucleus of home-grown British players to the squad following the end of the Spanish era at Anfield which came with Rafa Benitez’s departure from the club a few months earlier. Along with Andy Carroll and Danny Wilson, Shelvey was championed as the future of the club and a long term successor to Steven Gerrard which even at the time seemed farfetched when you compared the two individuals’ playing styles.
In fairness to Shelvey the young midfielder spent a significant amount of time during his spell with Liverpool on the sidelines through injury and it was only during the 2012-2013 campaign that the former Charlton Athletic midfielder was given a real prolonged chance in the first team. Brendan Rodgers was a real fan of Jonjo Shelvey as was made clear in the American produced pre-season documentary ‘Being Liverpool’. However Jonjo Shelvey’s sending off and immediate reaction against Manchester United was a blow from which the midfielder would not recover.
Shelvey struggled to regain the faith of his manager and didn’t spend a prolonged period of time in the team following the January transfer window where Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge were brought into the club.
Shelvey ended his final season at Anfield with twenty league appearances and one goal and will hope to be much more of a mainstay in Michael Laudrup’s Swansea City side as the Danish coach prepares to send his charges into their inaugural Europa League campaign.
Jonjo Shelvey made sixty nine appearances in total for Liverpool and the club concluded their official statement with well wishes towards the player, “Everybody at Liverpool FC would like to wish Jonjo all the best for the future.”
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4
Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc has claimed Borussia Dortmund are very close to securing a deal to bring St Etienne forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the club with the German club’s representative stating to German media outlet, Kicker, “We are very far in negotiations for Aubameyang.”
With the future of Robert Lewandowski still relatively unclear with Dortmund standing by their decision to straight up refuse to sell their Polish striker to their Bavarian rivals the move to bring Aubameyang to the club suggests a deal to sell Lewandowski may well be in the pipeline with Dortmund showing no real need to add more goals to their side in their performances last season.
Aubameyang was described by Zorc as, “very fast, prolific player” who is, “also versatile so he can adapt to our game.” Aubameyang after a sizably difficult three year spell with AC Milan where the Gabon international struggled to ever really claim a place in the Rossoneri’s first team, spending the majority of his three year stay in Milan on loan with various French clubs including Dijon and AS Monaco. Aubameyang has really exploded onto the European scene in the past two seasons with the forward showing the type of explosive performances on a consistent basis that encouraged AC Milan to sign him as diamond in the rough eighteen year old back in 2007.
Aubameyang during the 2011-2012 campaign registered sixteen goals for St Etienne in Ligue 1 and improved on this by two goals last term which saw him finish the season as Ligue 1’s second highest scorer behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Aubameyang’s significantly impressive performances in the French top flight over the course of past two season’s had previously alerted Newcastle United’s chief scout Graham Carr who was responsible for identifying hugely successful French league imports such as Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sissoko in recent years with the North East club hoping to persuade Aubameyang to join the club however Dortmund’s interest has blown them out of the water.
Borussia Dortmund have reportedly agreed a fee with St Etienne rumoured to be around £13million for the services of Aubameyang with the former AC Milan forward close to agreeing a five year contract with Jurgen Klopp’s side.
So what will Aubameyang add to an already hugely impressive Dortmund side? Well with the future of Lewandowski still undecided with the possibility of a late Bayern Munich bid taking Lewandowski away from Signal Iduna Park not being beyond the realms of possibility, it was important for Dortmund to strengthen their forward line in preparation for the departure of Lewandowski. Aubameyang possesses a great deal of pace as well as good ball control which significantly adds to the Gabon international’s versatility and Dortmund could well utilise Aubameyang either on the wing with Marco Reus moving into the central position just behind the striker or even as a centre forward just behind Lewandowski, should the Polish international stay with the club.
Dortmund’s performance in last season’s European Cup final against Bayern Munich illustrated so clearly the need for Jurgen Klopp to add a wide player to his side with Kevin Grosskreutz showing how he isn’t of the required quality to yet be a regular starter for Klopp’s side. With Reus likely to move into the central attacking midfield position following the loss of Mario Gotze to Bayern then there will be a space on the left hand side of the attacking trident and Aubameyang could fill that position and add a great level of quality to Dortmund’s attacking play. Aubameyang’s pace and willingness to take on and beat a full back will really suit the style of football Dortmund play and will significantly strengthen Dortmund in their bid to reclaim the title from Bayern Munich.
Aubameyang confirmed via his official twitter page yesterday evening that he was travelling for what we expect to be a medical with Borussia Dortmund however there was an air of mischief within the Gabon forward’s tweet, “Aéroport de Barcelone > Destination unknown.” It is expected that Aubameyang will be officially a Dortmund player before the end of the week.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4