Everton are right to sell Theo Walcott if reports are true

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In all honesty when Everton signed Theo Walcott under Sam Allardyce, eyebrows were raised. It felt that the signing from Arsenal seemed too late in Walcott’s career and it also felt that Everton simply didn’t need the player.

Granted his pace has always be the No.1. factor in having such a player in the team and yet it felt that Everton were taking steps backwards to buy the then 29 year old player who ended up costing the club in excess of £20m.

Walcott never reached his potential with Arsenal instead starring in games that had already been won or scoring goals in meaningless cup matches that meant very little against weaker opposition. That’s not to say that Walcott isn’t a good Premier League player, after all he would never have made it at a club like Arsenal with Arsene Wenger in charge. It’s just that much more was expected from a player who looked so exciting when he was at Southampton.

Walcott was never a prolific scorer even for an attacking Arsenal side who were finishing in better positions than Everton so why would he be better for Everton and be older?

So the signing made no sense and he did sign for 3 and a half years, but it seems that he is not in Marco Silva’s long term plans and the club will be looking to offload the player at a loss in the summer. At least it would ease the wage bill at the club because believe it or not Walcott earns the most at Everton and is on a huge £110,000 a week wages.

This was another short sighted area from Everton where much of the blame has to be laid at Sam Allardyce’s feet for agreeing on these fees to get his man. Walcott has also scored just 7 goals in all competitions for the club. That’s from 44 games played and is a shocking return when you think of the money spent.

In selling Walcott Everton  are giving out a positive notice of selling ‘deadwood’ and bringing in younger players. Silva after receiving some pressure this season should be ok now and will have a summer transfer of spending to do. It’s a refreshing moment for Everton who will build their team around youth and aim for a European place next season. In selling some journeymen they are going the right way under Silva, and hopefully the club will not make the same type of mistakes again.

Unai Emery has been a success at Arsenal in his debut season

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While the Premier League still has 6 weeks to go it does seem that Unai Emery has done a very good job if not always brilliant one at Arsenal.

These are still strange times at the club, coming to terms with Arsene Wenger leaving after 22 years, the Frenchman was such a part of the club and its history. So having any new manager come in was always going to be judged, good or bad. But on the face of it Emery has done a great job considering this is his debut season.

Tonight Arsenal will play Newcastle and will start as the favourites to win. They are at home where they haven’t actually lost in the league since being beaten by Manchester City on the opening day of the season- that’s quite a record for a non title challenger. What is significant is that if the Gunners do win tonight they would go 3rd and 2 points clear of Manchester United and their great rival Tottenham, so this would be a statement win.

Emery has done well in the transfer market and has a calmness and assurance about him, which has at times frustrated the Arsenal faithful but he also garners there respect too. We shouldn’t forget that Arsenal also have a realistic chance of winning the Europa League and they have made it to the quarter finals. Emery is of course a specialist in winning the competition, it was his hat trick of successes in it which led PSG to sign him up. How ironic too would it be if Emery won in his first season a competition that Wenger couldn’t in 20 plus years.

What will also be assured this season is that Arsenal will easily past the 64 point mark that Wenger’s Arsenal achieved last season, evidently then an improvement. If Arsenal end up with no trophies at the end of the season but qualify for the Champions League and with more league wins under their belt, then this season has to be deemed as a successful one for the club. Little steps granted but going in the right direction which under Wenger they weren’t.

It will be fascinating to see who Arsenal buy in the summer and to be fair Emery should only be judged in his 2nd season with the club as he gets his feet under the table. The pressure to add to the trophy cabinet will be greater too. For now though Arsenal will be aiming for 3rd place tonight.

Strasbourg and Guingamp the two unlikely giant killers to play in Coupe de la Ligue final

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Strasbourg and Guingamp will contest the final of the Coupe de la Ligue on Saturday and nobody could have seen this as a final match up for France’s secondary cup competition.

Strasbourg will start as slight favourites and they did punch above their weight earlier in the Ligue 1 season, but have faltered of late and slipped down to 10th place. Indeed any chances of finishing in a European spot seem distant so winning the Coupe de la Ligue looks to be the only realistic chance for the club of qualifying for the Europa League. They last won a major trophy in 2005 and the famed club will be looking to secure their 4th title overall.

One man that will be looking on will be former Arsenal manager and great Arsene Wenger, who not only was born in Strasbourg but also played for the club and there is no doubt who Wenger will be supporting come the weekend. Wenger will be in official attendance for the game to be played in Lille.

Strasbourg have done brilliantly well to get to the final where they have had to knock out the likes of Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux, that is no mean feat and whilst the club have had an average season to say the least they have really shone in this competition.

But if you think Strasbourg have got to this final against all odds, think again when we look at their opponents Guingamp. The club have been extremely poor this season in Ligue 1 where they have been rock bottom for the majority of the season. Resigned to relegation months back they are currently in the best form of their season and have decided to fight. They have climbed back up to 18th place but are still 7 points from safety and the next few weeks will be crucial for their chances of playing In Ligue 1 next season.

Guingamp have had to climb their own personal Mount Everest and incredibly went to Paris in the quarter finals and knocked out PSG in one of the biggest shocks of the season. Whilst sceptics could feel that PSG were not taking the competition seriously this is completely far from the truth as the Parc des Princes crowd were left in stunned silence.

Guingamp followed that up with a penalty shoot out win against a rejuvenated Monaco under Leonardo Jardim’s return and the rest as they say is history. In truth both clubs come into the final as winners and this should be celebrated. It is refreshing not to see the likes of PSG, Marseille or Lyon here.

Because of this the final remains wide open and we should see a very entertaining game of football where one clubs season could go from being average to great.

Will Arsene Wenger go out of football with a bang or a whimper?

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Arsene Wenger has been out of football management for nearly a year and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that the former Arsenal manager will be finding a new job in dugout anytime soon.

This seems like a sad state of affairs for the Frenchman who won countless trophies in his career, most famously of course for the Premier League side Arsenal. But is this how the script ends for Wenger or will he take one last management job?

Wenger has deserved his years break and has flown to Africa to support George Weah’s football projects, done some media work and this weekend he will present the Coupe de la Ligue trophy to either Strasbourg or Guingamp in Lille. This is all very well but surely there is a burning desire to get back into managing a team.

After all Wenger seemed all go for his next project six months ago, where he said that he would be back in management by the beginning of 2019- that came and went. There were also links to Bayern Munich, which hasn’t at present come off.

The fear is that with Wenger being 69 he will not manage again which seems unfortunate on a lot of levels. Not least because his time at Arsenal just faded from ultimate glory to a whimper, failing even to qualify for the Champions League, and whilst Wenger remains a successful manager it may just be that it is his final years with the Gunners that will be best remembered.

By taking the plunge to manage again he could reinvent himself and it would feel like a fresh move. By not his thoughts will be loyal to Arsenal which he served 22 years and it just could be his line of thinking. But it does feel as if there is unfinished business with Wenger- the problem is that he may not be able to see it.

In recent weeks Wenger has been linked with ‘upstairs’ technical roles at both UEFA and FIFA- again is this really what he wants? Taking such a job may sound prestigious and hands on but isn’t it just akin to putting a once great horse out to pastor?

Whilst Wenger is pushing 70 he is also a man who has kept good health and looks great for his age and mentally aware, that’s why it is also unfortunate if he is to spend his remaining days as technical advisor and not have one last crack in management, if he takes roles with UEFA and FIFA it will feel like a wasted opportunity.

Arsenal don’t want Mesut Ozil anymore as PSG loan deal falls through

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When PSG reportedly came in for Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil to take on loan until the end of the season, whisper it but The Gunners and in particular head coach Unai Emery would have been delighted, but Ozil turned down the chance to play for the Ligue 1 champions.

It is clear that Emery does not feel the need to keep Ozil and the ex German international who quit the national team has played just 13 games in the league this season. Ozil simply doesn’t work in an Emery team and it seems only a matter of time before Ozil is put up for sale, Arsenal want rid, but therein lies the problem.

Just how can Arsenal shift Ozil who is on a whopping £350,000 a week? Former manager Arsene Wenger made an error it seems in giving Ozil a new contract a few months before he retired, the result is that Ozil is tied to the club until 2021. Why would Ozil leave knowing that most clubs will not match his wages?

Having said that it does feel that Ozil has made an error not accepting to play for PSG until at least the end of the season. He would have been playing more regular time as Neymar is side lined until at least March and he would have won his first league title. PSG are currently 13 points clear at the top with 2 games in hand. So it does seem odd that Ozil didn’t join up with PSG. If the worst came to the worst, he could go back to Arsenal for the beginning of next season.

For Arsenal this is a frustrating time. On one hand they can’t justify paying a player that much money when he sits on the bench, on the other they have to respect the manager who doesn’t see Ozil in his long term plans. The PSG loan deal falling through is a bitter blow to The Gunners. Had Ozil played and shined, interest would have been rekindled in the player and perhaps a transfer to PSG or another European club could have been completed this summer. Instead Ozil won’t go and Arsenal do not want to fully admit that he isn’t needed with the club.

Ozil’s best years are past him, and whilst he is an incredibly talented player, he never really reached his own personal achievements. Bottom line is that he won’t be thought of as one of the Arsenal legends, sorry Mesut but a statue outside the Emirates will not be forthcoming.

For now Emery and Ozil cannot be parted, but one senses that one will be gone in the summer, and it won’t be the Spaniard.

After 19 games unbeaten, has Emery stepped out of Wenger’s shadow?

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Unai Emery is being hailed as the new messiah by Arsenal fans after the club convincingly beat their arch rivals Tottenham 4-2 at the weekend.

The Gunners have now gone 19 games in all competitions unbeaten after losing their first two matches of the season. But still question marks remained over the club because they had not beaten a top 4 side- at the weekend that changed with victory over Tottenham, and it was a win to saviour for the Arsenal faithful.

Not only did Arsenal beat the team they most want to beat every season but they also leapfrogged them into 4th place on goal difference, which has been richly deserved this season. This version of Arsenal, Emery’s version is slick, attacking and determined. Sure there is still some naivety at the back which allowed Tottenham back into the game but the team had fighting spirit circa Arsene Wenger’s team from 2004 and it showed this past weekend.

Every fan at the Emirates seems to have forgotten about Wenger, well at least the last couple of seasons version of him and all praise has rightly been aligned to Emery who has been a massive success for the club given that this is his debut season. The fans wanted change and were finally given it and Emery for now seems like the perfect coach to have been chosen. But have the club really improved this season from last?

It may be surprising to note that at least statistically almost nothing has changed at the club from last season. This time last season after 14 games Arsenal had 28 points under Emery they have 30. If this trend was to continue then Arsenal may finish the season with 5 points more than last giving them 68 points and perhaps missing out on  a top 4 place. But this is simply talk and this Arsenal team look like they will kick on.

But of course it is in how the Gunners are playing, and there is a massive change in how the team approach their games under Emery. The belief has been reinstalled and it was interesting to see how they reacted once going 2-1 down after leading the game. That should tell you everything that we needed to know about how Arsenal are playing now under Emery.

The real tests are yet to come, games such as playing Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United away from home. But for now considering Emery is just 4 months into the job, the man deserves respect and 10/10 for effort. Arsenal look like they are going places and that can only be a good thing for a team that have suffered from a lack of confidence for the past decade.

 

Should Bayern Munich make a move for Arsene Wenger?

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You could be forgiven for having to look at the current standings in the German Bundesliga and take a double look and what you see. Bayern Munich, the great Bayern Munich are not in first place, but their not even 2nd or at a push in third. No try 5th place.

It has been a stunning start to this German league campaign for the Bavarians but not for the right reasons. Under new coach Niko Kovac the side are experiencing one of the most difficult seasons in recent memory. They are 9 points behind league leaders Borussia Dortmund and have only won 50% of their games so far in the league and have not won a game for their past 3 encounters.

Kovac is under serious pressure with many fans and pundits believing that he is a good coach but is simply out of his depth at such a club as Bayern. Kovac got the job mostly through leading Eintract Frankfurt to the DFB Pokal Cup last season. He does have a win rate of 63% this season which would be good for most clubs, but with Bayern you have to be aiming for closer to 70%.

So could Kovac lose his job. To be honest it is surprising he hasn’t already. If he was coach at Real Madrid or Barcelona it would be almost certain that he would have. But Bayern have given him the luxury of some time. And yet surely this form can’t go on too much longer without it costing him his job.

There have been rumours circulating that a one Arsene Wenger could take over at the club. Some media are against it, seeing Wenger as a has been and yesterday’s man, but Bayern do have a tendency to bring in older coaches, like Ottmar Hitzfeld and more recently Jupp Heynckes. Bayern see coaches through years of experience and even Kovac had 9 before joining the club.

Wenger himself has spoken out, not directly about Bayern but by saying that he will return to a managerial position and that his hopes are to do so by the beginning of 2019. He seems very adamant on that which is a surprise, does he know something that we do not? Wenger surely would not coach a team that isn’t a recognised top 4 of 3 club in a major league and would love nothing more than to finish his career on a high with trophies. In that respect Bayern and Wenger could be the perfect match.

 

Why Thierry Henry will fail at Monaco and could be gone by Christmas

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Thierry Henry has had a miserable start to life as coach of Monaco after no wins in his first six games in charge. It wasn’t supposed to be like this and the script was supposed to be written a little better for the French footballing legend, but that isn’t the case and it seems clear why Henry’s time at Monaco is already numbered.

Let’s be clear of course and first focus on why Henry is up against it. And that is easy to answer given the quality that has been sold from Monaco in the past few seasons. That is why the club were in the bottom three when Henry joined and former coach Leonardo Jardim was sacked, even though he won the title in 2017 and broke the PSG stranglehold on Ligue 1.

But the main reason Henry is in trouble is because he is a great player. In his playing days at Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona we remember a player that attacked and scored many fantastic goals. Especially at Arsenal and Barcelona he was encouraged to play beautiful free flowing, quick paced attacking football. And that is his downfall as a coach, because he wants the same from Monaco. With the squad gutted though this is impossible this season, what could have been possible two years ago where indeed Monaco were scoring for fun.

Henry needs to work on defence if Monaco are going to stay in Ligue 1 and if he is going to keep his job. Truth is though is that it isn’t in Henry’s DNA to concentrate fully on this department, after all he was a natural attacking player who was then turned into a deadly striker by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.

It seems that Monaco’s nightmare under Henry will be set to continue because he will have the belief that this team can fight their way out of trouble- which simply isn’t true and they will more than likely continue to leak goals. They have conceded 8 goals in their last 2 games without reply, and both were at home.

Their next game is away against Caen in Ligue 1, a tricky side and a tough task. But then it doesn’t get any easier for Henry as his side will travel afterwards to Spain to play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. With the likes of having to play Borussia Dortmund, Lyon and a derby in December against Nice, Monaco surely look doomed. It may not even be a case of Henry being sacked but of him simply leaving. Henry simply wasn’t ready for such a job that was laced in nostalgia. Recovery at this point would be the greatest achievement of Henry’s career.

Emery keen to banish the last vestiges of Wenger’s regime

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After what appeared to be years of moaning, Arsenal’s long-suffering support finally got their wish.

After 22 years of innovation, change and bringing the Gunners kicking and screaming into the modern era, Arsene Wenger was gone.

What, in the end, was a blind belief in a certain way of working, had become stale as a new, younger and more dynamic breed of coach eased their way into the Premier League. Continue reading

What is next for Arsene Wenger and why has no club come in for him?

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This summer has been a huge one for Arsene Wenger, that culminated in one of the biggest changes of his career- leaving his beloved Arsenal after 22 years. The French coaching legend has been busy since departing, visiting his good friend George Weah in Africa and attending many different football matches. However questions remain as to what Wenger will do next.

Wenger has been linked to various jobs, most have been outside of the major clubs though and the feeling is that he won’t end up with one of the European heavyweights. This is probably more of a reflection on his last 10 years with Arsenal, where he was only able to achieve 3 FA Cup wins and no league titles.

In the summer it seemed that he was favoured to manage in China. Wenger of course has already coached in Asia when he managed in the Japanese J League. But many coaches have chosen China for a lucrative final pay deal that has seen the likes of Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson sign up to go out there.

Or there is the option to coach an MLS team in America. Whilst the salary would be much lower than what Wenger is expected of the football would be more competitive and could serve him up with just the right challenge to keep him motivated.

One idea that does fit is to become the national coach of his country. No one can deny how brilliant France have been over the last 2 years, winning this summers World Cup and finishing as runners up at Euro 2016. The problem he has there is that France have the very capable Didier Deschamps in charge who has obviously done a fantastic job with the side. The only way that could change would be if France have a poor Euro 2020, and even if that happens the French job is still 2 years away, something that Wenger surely couldn’t wait that long to acquire.

There has for many years been a link to both PSG and Barcelona. PSG makes sense in the fact they are of course French and have dominated Ligue 1 football this decade. The team and Wenger were the perfect fit at the beginning of this decade, but at the end,well it isn’t not so sure. Again PSG like France look in a very good position and it seems that current coach Thomas Tuchel is going nowhere fast.

As far as Barcelona are concerned, surely this would be the dream final job for Wenger- a team who empathise with Wenger’s football philosophy to attack. Current coach Ernesto Valverde is under some pressure even though the club are the champions in Spain. The problem is that they have not performed well enough in the Champions League in recent seasons.

Another question must be posed which is, clubs are hardly lining up for Wenger’s signature and it could well be that at 68 the very big European heavyweights will feel that Wenger has had his time.

The link again goes back this week to PSG where Wenger could become a technical advisor with the club, or as some people would put it, the man upstairs. Let’s hope that Wenger does not take this route to end his glorious footballing career on because it would rather feel that the great man is going out with a whimper rather than a bang of which he is surely most deserving.