John Guidetti: Is his future with the Citizens on the line?

Last January, Manchester City starlet John Guidetti headed south to Staffordshire, to join a Stoke City side with misfiring strikers and a lack of goals across the team. Guidetti was brought in to help keep Stoke in the top division, whilst gaining valuable experience under former boss Mark Hughes.

The move itself was Guidetti’s chance to prove himself, the first time he is allowed to get valuable Premier League experience after a wonderful loan move to Feyenoord in 2011/12 before paralysis of the right leg halted the Swede’s career for 18 months.

Guidetti 21, was in fact tipped to start alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Euro 2012 before the dastardly illness shelved his progress and he had hoped to regain that kind of form again when Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini allowed him to leave the club on loan for the rest of the campaign.

Subsequently, in came a host of offers from the likes of Ajax, Internazionale, Feyenoord, Lazio and Real Betis but City chose Stoke, a place where they felt Guidetti would thrive and mature as a player, to come back next campaign ready for the vigours of a top four side.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Guidetti has played just 59 minutes for the Staffordshire club since joining in early January, as the form of Peter Odemwingie and the reputation of Peter Crouch has kept the City youngster out of the starting eleven. In a recent game against Norwich, Guidetti came on, won a penalty and was the player sacrificed as Jonathan Walters was sent off. So much for match experience, eh?

The question really is, why did City sent Guidetti to Stoke? They’d just signed Odemwingie, already had Peter Crouch, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters and therefore didn’t really look light on attacking options.

The likes of Ajax or Lazio may have been better for the Swedish international but instead City chose to send him to Hughes. The same Hughes, you might recall, that whilst at City, chose to play Ched Evans instead of Daniel Sturridge. Make of that what you will.

Next year, Guidetti’s contract is up and there have been rumours of Feyenoord offering £1.2m to take him off City’s hands. However, it is well-known that Pellegrini likes him (he tried to sign him whilst at Malaga) and may give the Swede a lifeline.

Whether City offer him a new deal I don’t know, but another Premier League loan next campaign, this time with opportunities may be the best thing for him. He is a talent, there’s no doubt about that, a talent that most of us City fans would hate to see go to waste.

 

Written by Henry Francis

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William Carvalho: Moyes could finally bolster United’s midfield with the Portuguese powerhouse

After David Moyes’s reign at Manchester hit the nadir of the 0-3 home defeat to Liverpool, the outlook has started to become a lot brighter for the Scottish manager who strains desperately for his team to produce indications that he is worth both the long-term patience and financial backing of the Glazer family.

Olympiakos were batted away 3-0 in the Champions League while West Ham were beaten with what was arguably United’s most cohesive and slick performance since the 50 year old succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson last summer.

The morning after Wayne Rooney’s double did for the Hammers at Upton Park, the Sunday papers were awash with the news United have already begun to plan for the future. Not since May 2007 have United signed a genuine holding midfielder, Ferguson forever on the sharp side of criticism for the folly of losing Paul Pogba to Juventus for free while his midfield problems were allowed to develop to the extent of a desperate call for Paul Scholes to undo his retirement in January 2012.

Scholes finally exited along with Ferguson at the age of 38, Moyes inheriting the uninspiring midfield of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, the bowel-troubled Darren Fletcher and the 40 year old absurdity that is Ryan Giggs. Anderson has been since jettisoned to Fiorentina while Moyes, who spent the summer trawling for an dynamic presence in the form of Ander Herrera, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas, had to settle for Marouane Fellaini who has since struggled to justify his £27.5 million fee.

The Belgian is however more of a box-to-box asset, a player more adept in advanced positions which leaves United short of steel in the engine room, a vulnerability that has been seized upon by more sides than Moyes wishes to remember in his inaugural year at Old Trafford.

Moyes’s other purchase has been the £37 million Juan Mata who adds to the glowing list of attacking options alongside Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, the inexcusably under-used Shinji Kagawa and the exciting Adnan Januzaj.

Against West Ham, in the absence of Van Persie who had on Wednesday scored a hat-trick to steer United into the last eight of the Champions League, Mata, Kagawa and Rooney, together with Ashley Young, conjured up a bewitching attacking display tinted with fluid movement and guile to give United’s travelling fans a warm feeling of optimism that has this season been all to rare. It was an indication that fears United have lost some of their attacking verve during the transition from Ferguson to Moyes may be premature.

The back-pages of Sunday’s newspapers filled its inches with who they believe to be Moyes’s first signing of the summer, Sporting Lisbon’s 21 year old defensive midfielder William Carvalho, the player who will be tasked with holding United’s system together as well as protecting the defence should he complete the mooted £37 million deal which meets his release clause.

The move is rumoured to be completed after the World Cup where Carvalho, who has 2 caps so far for Portugal, is expected to rival Miguel Veloso for a starting spot, testament to the rapid rise of the Angola born midfielder who only made his professional debut for Sporting back in August.

It was in Portugal’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden when he made his first senior appearance for the national team, entering the fray to shore up Paulo Bento’s midfield after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had scored twice in four minutes.

“His quality and recent performances justified the call, which also has to do with his height which could be an influent aspect in the match” said Bento who showed no aversion to thrusting the youngster into such pressure. Carvalho calmly sat and offered his defence protection as Cristiano Ronaldo sent the team to Brazil.

The Leoes are recovering from last season’s disappointing seventh place finish and a recent era of financial mismanagement and misplaced luxury buys, so have now altered their approach to the investment of home-grown talent.

All 3 members of Leonardo Jardim’s midfield trio has been produced by the club, Andre Martins and Adrien Silva operating either side of the anchor provided by Carvalho, who has racked up 23 appearances in his first season at senior level, as Sporting attempt to bring a viable challenge to Benfica’s charge to the Liga Sagres.

The touted fee of just under £40 million may seem hefty for a player whose valuation lies mostly in potential, but for the rate of development Carvalho has seen over the past 18 months, the price will be seen as justified for United who seek a holding-midfielder in the mould of Nemanja Matic or Yaya Toure who are both playing major roles in their respective team’s challenge to the Premier League title.

With a powerful core strength and an imposing six-foot build, Carvalho may be compared to the latter though it is the way he shuffles across his defensive zone, covering areas in front of his own defensive third allowing for team-mates to move up the field, will bring similarities to Matic.

Not a dynamic player who will sprint the ball out of his own half but a more considered one, specialising in the basics and keeping it simple, unselfishly allowing for the more attack-minded players to thrive with the shackles released.

Another young Portuguese prospect likely to go to Brazil with Bento’s OS Seleccao is Cedric Soares, the Lisbon right-back who has benefited greatly from the stability Carvalho has added in playing the neo-holding role where disciplined positional sense is just as important as tenacity.

Knowing Carvalho is able to cover if needed, Soares has often been free to advance down the right to provide another attacking option and that type of link-up will be important to Moyes, who has sent club officials to watch the midfielder over 15 times this season, as he seeks next season to implement a greater conviction in his United when going forwards.

Carvalho’s agent Jorge Mendes, who has previously taken Nani, Anderson and Cristiano Ronaldo as well as Bebe to Old Trafford, has been rumoured to have recently been invited to United’s training complex as a move nears closer to fruition amid a period of major upheaval at the club.

Moyes is said to be targeting a centre-half, a left-back and two central-midfielders as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic head to the exit door and questions still remain over the future of Patrice Evra. Carvalho will usher in the first part of Moyes’s renovation work, the firm holding-midfielder that Ferguson perhaps should have acquired before he passed the reigns over.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Why Some Football Fans Need to Get a Grip During Winter Transfer Windows

At the start of the new year came the mid-season chance for various football clubs to either improve their squads or offload those players that are lacking promise. The winter window is much different in tone from the summer window.

Pressure is often higher to make purchases to add quality to squads, something that is more readily taken advantage of by the selling teams. “Panic buys” occur when teams are so desperate for a player to fill certain roles that they often overpay to an embarrassing degree.

For fans this embarrassment only becomes relevant in the eventual aftermath. At the time, they are hounding their clubs to buy whoever just to say that a sale was made. Somehow the idea of participating in a transfer window at all is more important than the immediate need for a player of quality.

That’s why there are certain reasons these fans must calm down and understand exactly why the winter window should not be clouded by emotions.

 

Real Life is Not a FIFA Video Game

You would be amazed just how many adult fans who comment on the quality and state of their club compare it to their experiences playing a video game. They expect transfers to occur just like how it happened on their PlayStation console. They think hours and hours of gameplay is comparable to the education, experiences and millions of dollars routinely handled between actual football clubs.

It would be the same as a man walking into a business selling heavy duty packer cups and expecting to be able to perform any job based on one’s having read a company brochure.

The reality is that transfer window business isn’t easy. The results are not guaranteed to be satisfactory and during the winter window, it takes a great deal of wisdom and expertise to avoid being cheated.

Fans should trust the wisdom of those who’ve shown themselves capable at their jobs and remember that they are on the outside looking into someone else’s business establishment.

 

A Name Does Not make an Outstanding Transfer 

During the 2010-2011 season, Liverpool FC had an unusual winter transfer window. They sold then star player Fernando Torres to Chelsea FC for £50 million and spent record amounts on players Luis Suarez at £22.8 million and Andy Carroll for £35 million.

Of the three, Torres was the biggest name and certainly the biggest price tag. That would make some fans automatically expect such a player to be an outstanding part of a team. However, Torres struggled at Chelsea and has yet to match the rate of success he experienced as a Liverpool player.

Andy Carroll had a lackluster time at Liverpool, was sent out on loan and was eventually traded. His spell was marred by injuries.

The best money spent out of the three players was Luis Suarez, who despite absences over controversies has managed to settle in as a player and break club and league records. His transfer also involved the least amount of money spent.

What this transfer window showed is that overspending for players based on big names and desperation doesn’t necessarily end well. This is an error that has cost football clubs millions of dollars and resulted in massive disappointments.

Football fans, the winter window is indeed an important chance for your particular club to spend money and get a better player or make money through offloading certain players. As simple as that is to say, however, the process is hardly simplistic. The outcome is also hardly predictable.

Clubs can better benefit from the support of fans who do not attempt to dictate club behavior through what they think they know rather than reality. It is also best to take a deep breath and feel disappointed that your club didn’t spend big money on a big name.

You never know, that immediate disappointment may manifest in relief in a few months when it turns out avoiding a winter window panic buy was the right move.

 

Michael is a full-time blogger who has passions in all corners of the online world. In his down time he enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and blogging on everything from technology, to business, to marketing, and beyond. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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Nemanja Vidic: The Big Serb’s storied career with the Red Devils comes to a close

After attracting the attention of footballing masterminds across the globe, displaying colossal performances in the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifications, after his Serbian national team conceded only 1 goal throughout a 2 year qualification period, and progressively appearing more and more for Russian side Spartak Moscow, the foundations of a fresh faced Nemanja Vidic career had been cemented in place.

After a £7m bid from Manchester United, him and his agent took a U-Turn out of discussions with Liverpool, and constantly deal-delaying Fiorentina, not before long did Manchester United have their man, ending a 2 and a half year chase for his signature.

Vidic quickly imposed his formidable quality onto the team and adapted to life in England well. Creating a strong partnership with Rio Ferdinand throughout his time at Manchester United, which saw him win 5 Premier League titles, 3 League Cups and 1 UEFA Champions League.

Skip forward 10 years, and after 200 odd appearances for The Red Devils, and after an indifferent start to the Premier League campaign after a reshuffle in management Nemanja Vidic announces his impending departure from Manchester United on a Bosman, shortly after, announcing a pre-contractual agreement with Inter Milan had be signed and agreed by the Serbian and his representatives.

Nemanja Vidic is the start of somewhat of a revolution at Inter Milan after long serving president and heavy investor; Massimo Moratti, sold a controlling stake in Inter Milan to Indonesian businessman Erick Thohir for a cool £500m.

Nothing surprises me about the interest in Vidic from the Inter Milan hierarchy, his composure, influence, experience and although declining in age, his agility as a centre back is something to be in awe over.

For Inter Milan to improve their defensive options so much at such little cost, the odds look in favour for the Italian giants, hoping that big, yet strategic investment from Thohir will pay dividends.

Although, in football, where there is a winner, there is always a loser.

Not many can question Vidic’s influence in the Manchester United team throughout the years, becoming a permanent print on the team sheet in his prime, and a leader for the club as seasons went on, forging the youth in a similar mould as himself.

He is the embodiment of the philosophy Manchester United have built under Sir Alex Ferguson.

With his departure agreed, this could be an important piece of the Manchester United jigsaw that, like Sir Alex Ferguson, cannot really be replaced. Always a square peg in a round hole, never quite as good, never anyone with the same attitude, consistency and formidable, concrete like stature in defence.

Money can’t buy you everything in football, and replacing a player like Nemenja Vidic for Manchester United is an astute example of that.

Also, with the decline of Rio Ferdinand and his seemingly bigger interest in his business ventures rather than his football, it seems that the centre of defence is a problem for David Moyes, on top of the underperforming team dynamic and low confidence generally at the club already.

It seems like a bit more than a summer splash of capital at Old Trafford is the cure for Manchester United troubles.

And losing such a talisman like Nemanja Vidic without some sort of financial compensation isn’t going to help proceedings.

 

Written by James Clark

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Aiden McGeady: A Coup for the Toffees?

It was almost a mini English raid on Spartak Moscow this winter. But while Kim Kallstrom’s switch to Arsenal has been laughed at rather than praised, the move of Irish winger Aiden McGeady to Everton is something which has only been welcomed. For a number of years McGeady has been fancied to be snapped up by one of England’s finest, and after a reasonably successful spell in Russia it has finally happened.

But is it too late? At 27 years old he is fast heading to the twilight of his career, and despite starring for Celtic from a very young age only Spartak were willing to give him a chance at an even higher level. McGeady himself though has never made any bones about the fact that he wants to test himself in England, and with Everton he has the perfect opportunity to do so.

At being 27 though he really doesn’t have that many years ahead of him to prove himself. And many British fans had completely forgotten about him while he was out in Russia. For the player himself, he can’t have too many regrets about his time with Spartak. The Russian league offers much more than the Scottish league can, and if it took him a bit of time to acclimatise, he settled in well in the end.

But his British temperament didn’t go down well with the Russians. In last season when he was sent off against Mordovia Saransk he was banned for two games after vandalising the dressing room, and when receiving his first red card in Russia in a derby game against Dynamo Moscow back in 2010, he was caught swearing with words and hand gestures.

And unfortunately, his Spartak career didn’t end very sweetly. Due to poor discipline within the team, he was demoted to the club’s youth side and it soon became quite clear that his Moscow days were somewhat numbered.

For a reported fee of just around two million euros the Russians decided to release McGeady, and for Everton it’s a good deal. Despite being born in Scotland McGeady chose to play international football for the Republic of Ireland through his Irish heritage, and without doubt he is one of the most talented players to play for the country in a long time.

While the stereotype of British players is of them not being able to play anything other than long ball football McGeady goes completely against it. His playing style isn’t anything like the typical British style, and he possesses the ability to beat his opponent one on one with excellent technical skill.

At Celtic this was picked up upon very early and in Moscow he added a real flair to Spartak’s attack with his low centre of gravity, a skill which made life very difficult for all of his opponents in Russia.

Just if he can replicate that in England of course is a very different question. In the Premier League he just won’t have the time to think what to do with the ball like he did in Russia, and if he doesn’t manage to think a bit quicker on the spot, he could become easy meat for defenders. But he certainly has the raw ability to shine.

His experiences of playing in the Champions League for both Celtic and Spartak will give him and Everton a big helping hand, and he will only help push Everton’s bid to compete in the Champions League next season.

Back in Russia and despite their differences, Spartak will really miss him. The Muscovites have a solid if somewhat dour squad, and if they can find a replacement for his trickery and creation is something which I have doubt in. Spartak are for the first time in years firmly in the title race, but McGeady’s departure is only going to hinder them, especially when you see that they have not made any purchases in the transfer window this time around.

McGeady won’t just be given a starting spot in Everton though. Despite seeing their long term manager David Moyes leave for the brighter lights of Manchester United last year the Merseysiders have gone from strength to strength, and under new boss Roberto Martinez they are playing some excellent football which is getting eyecatching results.

McGeady often finds himself on the right flank while being able to cut inside with ease, and if he manages to show what he is really capable of, then he should be able to hold down a starting place. English fans and journalists alike have now for sometime been wanting to see him in England and for the player himself it without a doubt adds pressure, pressure that he might find difficult to deal with.

But it’s pressure that he certainly should be able to shake off, and Everton fans have a real player on their hands if he shows what he is really capable of.

 

Written by Shaun Nicolaides

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Kim Kallstrom: Can the Arsenal loanee be of benefit to the title chasers?

You can’t blame Arsenal fans for feeling just a bit unlucky at times. For almost nine long years they have suffered without winning a trophy of any kind, and just as their hopes of finally finding success are becoming realistic, this happens. To put it lightly, the loan signing of Kim Kallstrom from the Spartak Moscow hasn’t gone down very well, especially when they could have had the young up and coming German midfielder Julian Draxler instead.

So just what was Arsene Wenger thinking of bringing in a 31 year old who’s best days are long gone? To be quite honest, you will struggle to find anyone who knows why, even Spartak’s manager Valery Karpin expressed his surprise when he was told that Arsenal had made an offer for Kallstrom.

But if the Gunners want experience, then he is certainly the man. The Swede made his name with Lyon where he reached the Champions League semi finals just a few years back, and if he can recapture any of his past form, just maybe the Arsenal fans won’t be moaning for too long.

If he can recapture his form of old though is a big question. In the summer of 2012 Lyon were willing to release him for just 3 million euros to Spartak Moscow, and ever since, he has done in truth, very little. In 30 league appearances for the Russian club he has yet to set the world alight, and although he more often than not gets in the starting lineup, he makes absolutely no headlines.

What he does bring however is reliability. He may not be a Mesut Ozil kind of player, but he adds physical strength and solidity to the midfield, and every team needs one of such a player. Attacking wise he doesn’t offer an awful lot of goods. From distance he can strike a ball well, as he showed perfectly in September of last year against Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Russian league, but his statistic of 20 goals in his last 234 club games tells you that he doesn’t pride himself on scoring.

The biggest problem right now isn’t his lack of goalscoring, or actually whatever you want to say about his footballing ability. For at least the next six weeks Kallstrom won’t be able to make his Arsenal debut due to a back strain that he picked up at the mid-season Spartak training camp, and it begs the question: just what were Arsenal doing picking up such a player when they themselves knew he was carrying an injury?

Maybe the fact that Spartak will keep on paying his salary while he’s on the sidelines explains it, but nevertheless it’s certainly a strange move. And just what sort of impact he’ll be able to make when he does eventually get on the pitch is under scrutiny.

If nothing else, he brings stability and toughens up the midfield effectively, and for a team that is very young it’s no bad thing. I myself of course don’t expect that he will have much playing time.

It makes in all truth no difference to Spartak now that he has gone, and he’s the kind of player that without too much trouble you can replace. That’s now, though. Just a few years back at Lyon he really made an impact, so much so that even bigger clubs came sniffing around for him, and his ability with a dead ball drew up resemblances with Lyon’s former fan favourite Juninho Pernambucano.

Kallstorm will most probably be used by Wenger to come on at the latter stages of a close game to shore up everything. And I’m pretty sure that Kallstrom is 100% aware of this fact, but very few players are going to turn down a move to a top European club even if their past days have already been and gone.

Wenger himself though was quoted to having said that if Arsenal would have had just a few more days in the transfer window, they wouldn’t have made a move for the Swede. That kind of comment really doesn’t inspire confidence, and Kallstrom himself can’t have been too happy to see such words even if deep down he knows it himself.

He has barely any time to make Arsenal fans remember him with his loan just being until the end of the season, but if he can help guide the Gunners to their first Premier League title in ten years then no one will be willing to complain about him. It’s already been made certain that he won’t play a major role, but every team needs a player who can help see out a close game, a player who can add some well needed physical strength and solidness.

He has bags of international and Champions League experience that he can pass on to the slightly younger players for sure, and if Arsene knows how and when to use him, this might not turn out to be such a bad deal after all. The emphasis being on might.

 

Written by Shaun Nicolaides

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Arsenal: It should’ve been Kim and another name, Arsène

Position-wise, the deal done by Arsenal is good but also bad. No Draxler? That’s also both a pity and a blessing for us.
It has been revealed. The player we brought in this January transfer window is not 20 year old, raw talent Julian Draxler. We get Kim Källström instead. A player that is eleven years older than Draxler –whose transfer situation is created by the newspaper rather by Arsène Wenger– according to the Professor himself.

While FC Schalke 04 man promises us a great talent, Draxler is not the player we need at the moment. Besides, I’m still with my opinion that Arsenal needs his national side teammate and the player who plays for his club’s local rival, Marco Reus, more than him. However, in the January transfer window where the option is limited and the competition is stiff, the former Lyon man is that good of a deal in my opinion. He, in some ways, will help us cope with the February madness.

Playing the deeper role than number ten but more advanced than the holding midfielder, it is clear that Wenger landed him in order to solve the problem we’re facing in the box-to-box midfielder slot. At the moment we practically only have Tomas Rosicky while Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere are still struggling with their injuries, with the latter hopefully can make it to the Liverpool game.

Källström played his last competitive match almost two months ago, in a narrow win against FK Rostov in Russian Premier League where he only played the last eight minutes of the game. Beyond his golden age and only played 715 minutes in total this season, he certainly needs time to adjust with the English Premier League match fitness.

Let’s say that he’s ready to play in two weeks time. That means the Swedish international will not take part when we face Crystal Palace, Liverpool, and Manchester United. Ideally, the Boss will hand him his debut in the FA Cup against Liverpool. The decision that will allow Rosicky and Wilshere to catch some breath before Bayern München come to town.

My silly mind tells me that the fact that Källström is more left-footed is another reason why Wenger decided to bring him in. Sharing the same point of view with Mesut Özil, Wilshere, Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and both-footed Spanish dazzler Santi Cazorla, Källström will find it easier to blend with the Arsenal attack force.

As crazy as February madness is, he’s not coming to the red side of North London to play for one B-class match. So where is his position in March and beyond?

If Arsenal don’t make it to the next round of both the FA Cup and Champions League, the fixture won’t be so tight that Wenger will need Källström to step in to give Ramsey, Rosicky, and Wilshere some time to rest.

Even if they did advance way further and face another crazy fixture, Källström will find it hard to take part with Ramsey, Rosicky, and Wilshere all fit for the match. The furthest he can go, if Wenger decides to put his trust in him to play in Premier League, is the home match against Swansea City before Arsenal take a flight to München to play the second leg.

It is safe to say that Källström is a panic buy and a real short term solution to the problem Arsenal currently having at the minute. Only time will tell whether this is a good deal or another Wenger flop.

Until the truth is revealed, I choose to put my faith in whatever Wenger does for Arsenal. In Arsène I trust.

One thing still bothers me, though: Why didn’t Wenger add another central defender to the team?

 

Written by Taufiq Nurshiddiq

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Arsenal: The Gunners need Marco more than they need Julian

Julian Draxler – the German Wünderkind who has been heavily speculated to swap shirt from FC Schalke 04’s blue to Arsenal’s red and white – looks likely to prolong his stay at the Gelsenkirchen as Arsène Wenger brought all speculations to a close, as reported by the Metro.

“It looks unlikely that we will sign anyone. We are not close to anything”.

It looks clear that Arsenal won’t be doing business this January. Yet with several days remaining before the transfer window is officially closed, anything can still realistically happen. And as we all know with the Frenchman, anything can happen and has a tendency of (intentionally) misleading the fans when it comes to transfer links.

Often enough Wenger has successfully surprised us by completing the transfers of some virtually unknown young players and making some big name signings on the deadline day. As we start to lose hope, then boom! Wenger makes a miracle happen, and it happened when we least expected it.

When I heard the rumor for the first time, I couldn’t hide my excitement. Draxler is good and he’s still very young. There’s so much room from improvement. No doubt about it. I would love to see him in Arsenal shirt. I really do. But Arsenal doesn’t have the unlimited amount of transfer funds. They can’t just splash big amount of money to get whoever they want.

Let’s say that Arsenal can only do one big-money signing. Rather than Draxler, I prefer to see Marco Reus completing a switch to the Emirates. Yes, Marco Reus of Borussia Dortmund.

As last year’s Premier League campaign closed to its end I wrote an article for an Indonesian website, titled “Mengapa Marco Reus adalah Sosok yang Tepat untuk Akhiri Puasa Gelar Arsenal” or, in English, “Why Marco Reus is the Key to End Arsenal’s Premier League Trophy Drought”.

Marco Reus. Of all the best performers from last season, I picked Reus to be Arsenal’s messiah. The missing piece of Arsenal puzzle. Not Cristiano Ronaldo, not Franck Ribéry, not even the messiah himself; Lionel Messi. I picked Reus because I thought that he fits so well in the way Arsenal play their football. He’s also a humble player who puts the team’s goal over personal achievement. But above all, it’s Arsenal’s and Reus’ tendencies that make him the messiah for Arsenal.

Last season, Arsenal had the tendency to finish the game as a victor if they scored the first goal of the game. Interestingly, in the same time span, more often than not we saw Reus’ name as the game deadlock-breaker.

As I wrote the piece on the 24th of April last year, Arsenal had recorded twenty-six wins and twenty of which was claimed with the Gunners being the first team to score. Wenger’s men suffered eleven losses and in ten of them, their opponents were always the quickest to find the back of the net. It is fair to say that Arsenal didn’t too well on the back foot.

For Reus himself, last season, he scored twenty-one goals in sixteen different games for Dortmund and the Die Mannschaft. In those matches, he broke the deadlock in all but two matches, which could prove to be handy for the Gunners.

Everything’s different now. It really is. Arsenal is no longer that team that plays nervously if they concede first. Reus isn’t enjoying the same season as he did last term. However, if Wenger decided to add Reus to the team he’s currently having, I would still see it as a good move.

Reus is the type of player that can fit well at any big club. His versatility, gifted ability, constant movement, technique, array of finishing options, burgeoning pedigree, Arteta-like perfect hair and great mental strength make him a lovely fit for the North London side.

He, in some ways, can prove to be Arsenal’s messiah.

 

Written by Taufiq Nur Shiddiq

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Keisuke Honda: AC Milan’s gain, CSKA Moscow’s loss

It may have been on the cards for a long time, but finally Keisuke Honda has decided to make the step up from CSKA Moscow to one of the world’s biggest clubs, AC Milan. Honda for already around 4 years has been capturing the attention of many of a big club, but only now has he decided that the time was right to make that move.

And for Milan, the transfer has come at a perfect time. The Italians are currently having their worst Serie A campaign for a very long time and only just squeezed into the last 16 of Champions League, and even if Honda can’t compete in Europe for them yet having already played for CSKA, they will be hoping that he can help turn around their domestic fortunes.

If you think that Milan are having a bad enough season, Honda’s already former club CSKA are not faring much better. Despite being the present holders of all three Russian trophies, the Russian Premier League, the Russian Cup and Super Cup, they have seriously flattered to deceive this time around.

Although they have gained ground on current Russian league leaders Zenit Saint Petersburg recently, in the Champions League they had a group stage to forget. Being drawn in a group alongside Manchester City and Bayern Munich didn’t do them any favours, but losing out to Czech minnows Viktoria Plzen for the Europa League spot was rightly so deemed simply unacceptable. And they still had possession of Honda at that time.

Not that he had been looking himself in the last few months of his CSKA career. As soon as he returned to Moscow from the Confederations Cup in Brazil last year, rumours starting circling that his departure for AC Milan was imminent, even Honda himself came out to the media stating that he had already started learning Italian.

CSKA weren’t willing to let him go, even though they knew full well that they would not make any profit on him at all when his contract ended in the winter and the player would be free to go where he wanted. And when a player knows that whatever happens he’ll be moving on, it’s hard to give 100%.

That’s exactly what happened, with Honda giving pretty poor performances not only in the Russian league but in the Champions League too, where he missed some guilt edged opportunities against Manchester City and Bayern.

That didn’t put Milan off though and why should it, he’s already shown time and time again that he is a playmaker of the highest calibre. Honda can strike a dead ball well as he has shown plenty of times in a Japan shirt, and for Milan he’s a player that can help them a lot right now. Just the thought of Kaka running at them and Honda sitting just behind the forwards ready to make an incisive pass at any moment should start to make their opponents scared of them again.

If it’s going to solve all of Milan’s problems though, it’s a different question. In the last few years Italian football has been gradually slipping further and further behind the rest of Europe, and it doesn’t seem that a repeat of Milan’s Champions League triumph in 2007 is forthcoming any time soon. And with Honda being cup-tied for the Champions League this season, the move certainly doesn’t help them out in that respect.

But in Italy the move could help them out to get back to winning ways. With Stephan El Shaarawy still sitting on the sidelines the Milanese have lacked a bit of star quality in recent weeks and to rely on Mario Balotelli every game just isn’t good enough.

Honda will take up the mantle of being playmaker in chief along with Kaka, and the two should complement each other. While Kaka is at his best when moving at speed with the ball, Honda will get in the right positions either waiting for an opportunity to score himself, or to be in a great position to make a cutting pass.

How long it takes them to build up team chemistry is of course the big question, and also if new coach Clarence Seedorf will trust Honda enough to give him a lot of playing time. Things certainly haven’t started off to badly, with Honda having already bagged his first goal for the club in a 3-1 Italian Cup win against Spezia.

In the long run, despite Honda already being 27 years of age, it should turn out to be a very good bit of transfer market business. Maybe he should have already a long time ago made the move to a supposedly bigger club than CSKA, but his chance has arrived and he will now have more pressure on him to produce the goods than ever before.

Milan may not be the force they once were but it’s a club steeped in tradition, and with such a player on their books, they should look into the future with a bit more optimism.

 

Written by Shaun Nicolaides

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Inter Milan: Guarin for Vucinic switch sees the Nerazzurri’s new owner hit a rocky time

Erick Thohir has not had much to enjoy about his first few months as president of Inter Milan. After seizing control from Massimo Moratti in mid-November he has seen the Nerazurri win just once, a 1-0 victory in last month’s Milan derby. That has been the only victory in a run of 8 games that has seen Inter slip out of the top 4 and 11 points off Napoli who sit in the third and final Champions League qualification spot.

A toothless 1-1 draw with Chievo summoned Thohir into setting out a plan to reduce the average age of the squad in a project that will ease out the lasting members of the 2010 treble-winning squad.

“We have a clear project,” Thohir said,“we want to build a healthy club which is competitive, and this year is a transitional one. We are not starting from scratch; It’s the final year of a fantastic era. From next season, a new era will start.” In the same breath it was no surprise to hear the Indonesian businessman plead for patience as he sets the “project” into motion.

He will quickly learn that patience is a commodity that has to be earned and a slow moving transfer market, Thohir’s first since taking over the club, has attracted some concerns that the owner’s inactivity may be misguided. Fabio Capello, the former coach of rivals AC Milan, has empathised with Inter’s frustrations in the lack of new arrivals despite an obvious need for fresh faces.

“You think that, when a new president arrives at a big club, he could do something to strengthen the side,” Capello said. “Thohir’s not doing this, and that’s the truth. When you arrive at a club like Inter, you can’t say things like ‘it’s best to sell before buying.”

One of the players who are likely to make way before the spending commences is Fredy Guarin, the attacking midfielder who has been linked with Barcelona and Chelsea. “We cannot force a player to stay here when his heart is no longer fully with the club” was Thohir’s verdict on the Colombian who has scored 7 times in 56 matches since joining from Porto in 2011 and has chipped in with 4 assists this term.

Chelsea have been monitoring the situation closely for 6 months, even enquiring about Guarin, who has gone onto create 27 chances so far this season, back in the autumn. Manchester United and Southampton have also been linked with the 27 year old who Inter value at £15 million after a reported dispute over a wage increase pushed him closer to the exit door.

Surprisingly however, it is Juventus that has looked the most likely destination for Guarin as Thohir, sparked into action after Inter’s recent nosedive in form, approved the pursuit of Juve striker Mirko Vucinic to resolve the San Siro outfit’s recent struggles in attack. Mauro Icardi and Diego Milito have just 4 goals between them and 22 year old Ishak Belfodil is almost certain to depart on loan. That manager Walter Mazzarri has had to rely on Rodrigo Palacio, a reserved forward, for the main source of goals with 10, illustrates the scarcity of consistent scorers in the squad.

Yuto Nagatomo, the Japanese left-back, is the next top-scorer with 5. The technically gifted Vucinic, who has 21 goals in two and a half years in Turin, will no doubt add fire-power and a proven potency to a troubled forward line and Thohir, presented with an opportunity to offload the vexing and erratic Guarin, has entertained a part-exchange deal for the two attackers.

Despite the obvious logic, Inter Milan supporters were enraged at any possible deal involving the two players, releasing a statement that expressed their anger over the potential transfer and frustrations over Thohir’s early handling of the club.

“The move that is taking place at this time of one of the most important players of Inter to another Italian side is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” the statement read on their website, curvanordmilano.net. “Inter plays in Serie A and deserves a company fit for Serie A. To Mr. Thohir – we recommend you forget baseball, NFL, NBA or other things that are light-years away from our reality.”

On a value basis it does work out that Juventus will be getting a better part of the deal as Vucinic, 3 years older than Guarin, can be shipped out of Turin after seeing his progress stalled by the arrivals of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. The 30 year old has made just 4 league starts for the Old Lady this term and with time running out on any potential resale of the Montenegrin, Juve have recently showed a reluctance to loan him out to Arsenal preferring instead to negotiate a permanent deal.

In Guarin they would be acquiring a potential replacement for Paul Pogba, linked to PSG, or Claudio Marchisio should they sell one of their current midfielders, or even possess a player they can sell themselves, for profit, a year down the line. “It’s just Guarin to Juve is not acceptable at this current moment. A young player and technically good for one less so? All this leaves us puzzled”, vented the statement from the Curva Nord.

After the two clubs were locked in negotiations throughout Monday and Tuesday, no deal has come to fruition and it looked like Inter’s fan power has held sway as Thohir pulled the plug, admitting that the deal did not make sense.

“After speaking to my closest aides and exchanging views with Massimo Moratti and his son Angelomario this morning, I decided not to continue negotiations with Juventus,” read a statement from the Indonesian media magnate.”I felt it was not possible to reach an agreement on a deal in which the opinions of the two parties differed and which did not offer a clear financial or technical benefit to the club.”

It was always surprising that any deal for Vucinic, whose 30 years of age represents a contradiction to the long-term planning that Thohir is eager to put into practice, was initially mooted, especially in a deal that was balanced so strongly in Juventus’ favour financially. “I have already asked our sporting directors to evaluate other transfer opportunities that will enable us to strengthen the team in line with the financial parameters imposed by Financial Fair Play”

Thohir’s statement continued. “Again, I believe we must all remain united, the fans, the club and the team so that we can get back to the standing we all want for this club and that Inter deserve.” If he is to be granted time to deliver it, the Indonesian is quickly learning about the intense scrutiny in place at a club that is accustomed to extremely high expectation.

If he does not deliver it, he will discover the voices of Capello and the Curva Nord growing louder and louder.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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