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Yet More Excuses for English Clubs Failing



So Chelsea have been knocked out of the Champions League by Paris St. Germain amid much opinion and controversy. According to Sam Allardyce, who is the master when it comes to making excuses for defeats, the reason Chelsea lost was because their precious players are tired because they didn’t have a two week holiday over Christmas.

This whole issue as to whether or not there should be a Christmas Break in the English game has become a trendy topic of debate over the last few years. Sir Alex Ferguson was the first manager to broach the subject on these shores, and other managers have picked up the baton in his stead since he retired.

The long and the short of it is this, Chelsea lost because their manager insists on making his players play one of the most negative brands of football I have ever seen. Chelsea is awash with talented and technically gifted footballers. Footballers who should have a little more faith shown in them than Mourinho currently does. By making them play such negative football, Mourinho is essentially telling them, “I don’t believe that you can play freely against Paris and still win”.

The thing that makes it all the more frustrating is that when other teams play against Chelsea the same way that they did against Paris last night, Mourinho is the first to criticise them. He moans about their “anti football” and how their tactics are preventing Chelsea from playing a beautiful and free flowing game. The man’s hypocrisy is breathtaking.

For years now, when the England national team have lost at major tournaments, the same old tired excuses have been churned out, and it is rare that the management and players hold their hands up and admit that they lost to better teams filled with better players. It seems as though the same thing is beginning to happen at club level, or at least when Sam Allardyce is involved.

As already mentioned above, Chelsea lost because they got their tactics horribly wrong. It had absolutely nothing to do with the players being tired or because there is no Christmas break in England. It’s not just Chelsea either. Take a look at the other English sides who have struggled in the Champions League this season.

Arsenal continue to falter in Europe, and it isn’t because their players are tired. Any Arsenal fan who knows anything about football will tell you that Arsenal are missing a world class goal-scorer, a midfield powerhouse to protect their back four, and a centre-half of true quality who has pace. Arsene Wenger’s stubbornness in accepting these shortcomings in his playing squad coupled with his hesitant dealings in the transfer market have resulted in Arsenal becoming predictable, staid and spineless. If these issues were addressed, then Arsenal would once again be a force to be reckoned with, both domestically and in Europe irrespective of whether or not there is a Christmas break.

Manchester City are currently facing the same issues that Chelsea encountered when Roman Abramovich arrived on the scene. It is all well and good filling your squad up with two teams’ worth of outstanding talent, but there is more to it than that. You need to keep all the players happy. The modern day professional footballer tends to have an enigmatic mix of giant ego but fragile self esteem. They love to show how brilliant they all are, but if they are substituted, dropped or don’t have a birthday cake given to them by the club’s hierarchy, then they start to rock the boat. Clearly things are not well at City right now, and the manager has struggled to keep all the players happy or develop a style of play that can be associated with City.

Indeed, if you think about Manchester City’s style of play now, what comes to mind? Are they a team that plays possession football? Are they defensive minded? Are they a counter attacking team? I don’t know, and at times it seems as though they don’t know either. For the time being, it seems to be a case of City getting results by relying on the individual brilliance of the Yaya Toures, David Silvas and Sergio Agueros of this world. City still play like a group of eleven individuals rather than as a team, and they will continue to struggle until a manager comes along and does for them what Mourinho did for Chelsea first time around. Hopefully they’ll do it with a little more style though, rather than just ruthless pragmatism.

Liverpool struggled this season in the Champions League for several reasons. It was Rodgers’ first time managing in the Champions League, and a lot of the players’ first experience of playing in it. That inexperience, along with a lack of squad depth resulted in Liverpool falling at the first hurdle. Rodgers does seem to be heading in the right direction at Liverpool though, and I genuinely believe that if they finish in the top four again this season, then they will fare better in the Champions League next season. Rodgers, unlike Wenger, Mourinho and Pellegrini, seems to have more than just a Plan A. For the time being at least, he allows his team to play without restraint. His more experienced and illustrious counterparts ought to take note, instead of complaining about Christmas breaks!

Norwich City supporting, Anglo-Brazilian football fanatic. Pursuing a long held dream to become a football journalist. Husband to one, father to three


Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Tottenham Hotspur fans react to Danny Welbeck dive

Tottenham Hotspur fans were not pleased with Danny Welbeck’s dive v AC Milan.



Arsenal successfully knocked AC Milan out of the Europa League last night with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. The hero of the night was England forward Danny Welbeck. The striker scored two goals as Arsenal completed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory over the Rossoneri.

But Milan had taken an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu’s bamboozling long-range strike. Arsenal, at that stage, were looking on the ropes. Welbeck though won and then dispatched a penalty to level the scoring. The word ‘won’ being the optimum word.

Welbeck dived for the penalty, there is no doubt about that. Ricardo Rodriguez barely breathed on the Arsenal man, who tumbled to the ground hopefully. When the penalty was given, he looked in disbelief.

Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli (2L) is booked for a dive during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

For Tottenham Hotspur fans it was a moment they did not appreciate.

Spurs have seen Dele Alli victimised throughout the season, and some would say rightly so, for his diving. There is no doubt that the England midfielder has dived this season and not many Tottenham fans would suggest not.

But the anger here lies with what Tottenham fans believe is hypocrisy. There is also a certain level or irony given a thinly veiled dig by Arsene Wenger against Spurs’ players this season.

After the highly controversial 2-2 draw at Anfield, where Harry Kane was accused of diving v Liverpool, Wenger had this to say, as reported by the BBC:

“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it.

“But English players have learned very quickly and might be the masters now.”


“Sometimes players play a little bit with the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees.”

With Arsenal their next Premier League opponents, Arsene Wenger’s barb was not hard to see.

When that statement came out Tottenham fans quickly pointed out occasions when Arsenal’s English stars had been caught diving. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were prominent examples. Now, in Welbeck, Tottenham have seen another.

Arsenal fans will be happy that their team have booked a place in the next round of the Europa League. On balance it was more than a fair result as over two legs Arsenal outplayed the Italian giants.

But the Welbeck moment certainly put an asterix on the game for Spurs fans.

Here is some of the best reaction from Twitter…

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AC Milan

Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.

They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.

These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.

Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.

The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.

Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.

Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.

Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.

The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.

It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.

When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.

If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.

There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.

Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.

It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.

It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.

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