Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Is Arturo Vidal The Most Complete Midfielder In The World?

Chilean born Arturo Vidal plays for Serie A side Juventus.  He originally signed for a bargain price of 10.5 million from Bayer Leverkusen  in 2011, spurning interest from Bayern Munich in the process.  His final season at Leverkusen was very impressive, in 29 appearances he scored 9 made 10, averaged 4.97 tackles and 2.69 interceptions per game.  He has come on even more at Juventus and was named their player of the season in 2012/13, which was his best season to date.  He scored an impressive 14 goals over the course of the season and was hugely influential in the sides success.  It has been an upward trajectory for him, his first season at Juventus was very good and the one just gone, outstanding.  The Italian press nicknamed him Il Guerriero (the warrior) due to his style of play and tenacity.
Vidal is a joy to watch, he has drive, technique, strength, pace, power and a lethal shot.  His energy levels are outstanding, with a side featuring the glorious Andrea Pirlo- energy is a necessity. A box to box player in style, he offers and does so much more. This season he has been playing in a more advanced role for his club. Playing further up the pitch has instantly translated into more goals. He has three so far in six appearances, which includes the Super Cup. Linking well with new signing Tevez, Juventus are looking strong and believe they could do well in the Champions League. There are not many midfielders in football at present that are as complete as he is. There is a rich abundance of specialist midfielders, particularly attacking ones.  It is probably why he stands out so much.  Box to box midfielders seem to have gone by the wayside due to modern changes in tactics and formations.  Have heard some fans draw comparisons to Roy Keane, albeit a more skillful version.  But you can definitely see characteristics such as drive in Vidal that Keane had in abundance.  Due to his reputation, Keane's qualities as a player can be too easily overlooked.  He was a top player, leader, energetic and underrated passer.  Vidal's character looks strong, he leads by example and puts everything into games.  Over the summer he often lead training sessions in pre-season.  It was a suggestion by manager and fitness coach that players should volunteer themselves to keep training more interesting.  His ability is there too see, but that he can and does have the power to motivate and drive those around him for club and country.
Up until recently it was always my favourite German, Bastian Schweinsteiger who I believed unequivocally to be the most well rounded midfielder.  Having watched a great deal of Juventus in recent years, the form of Vidal has made me re-think it a bit.  Schweinsteiger, played a significant part in Bayern Munich's incredible successful 2012/13 season.  The German has consistently done it for years, both for his club and country.  He is versatile, energetic, a greater reader of the game, leader and has everything you would want a midfielder to have.  It is certainly true that Vidal has more to prove and needs to continue playing at a high standard to be considered above Schweinsteiger.  Feel that Schweinsteiger is the better footballer, he generally makes more passes in a game and his passing is much superior to the Chilean's.  Vidal in comparison is more mobile and has a better eye for goal (crackers they are too).  He also covers more ground than Schweinsteiger as the stats prove.    
Over the summer it was reported that Real Madrid were very interested in signing him.  Being Madrid, they were also prepared to pay big money to do so.  Juventus fans will be pleased to hear that he is set to sign a new contract, which should keep him at the club beyond 2016.  Reports also suggest that he is very happy at Juventus and life in Italy.  Not too long turned twenty six he has plenty of years ahead of him.  One of the best games seen this season was not a club game but an international- Spain vs Chile friendly.  It was  a fantastic match to watch.  It is a given that the midfield and possession is going to be dominated by Spain, often heavily so.  However, Chile did very well in disrupting Spain and outplayed them for much of the game.  Vidal played a big part in that.  Akin to the above mentioned Schweinsteiger, Vidal's form also translates onto the international stage.  His importance to the national side his increased significantly over the last year.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Manchester United vs Liverpool Preview

United are desperately needing to bounce back after a humbling weekend defeat versus Manchester City.  It made for frustrating and sore viewing.  Plenty of subsequent panicky reactions from United supporters have followed.  After a tough run of fixtures, an nice easy one was what was hoped for.  Unfortunately for United, they drew at team that pretty much always plays well against them in Liverpool.  The match on Wednesday has another edge to it, due to the return of a certain rat toothed striker Luis Suarez.  The script writers will have their pens poised, it is his first game back following his ban.  Liverpool fans are optimistic that he can have a similar impact as Eric Cantona did upon his own return from an even more lengthy ban.  Cantona, came on as a substitute in a League match at Old Trafford versus Liverpool.  He was hugely influential in the game, scoring the penalty to draw 2-2 it was a great result for United, who weren't at the races that day.  That season he went on to score the winning goal against them at Wembley to secure the FA Cup.  In his press conference, Rogers hilariously said that Suarez is "champing at the bit" to get back playing.  Fine choice of words there!  Laughter aside, he is a quality player and he'll be feeling confident having a go at a United defence that has been leaking goals.  There is something a bit personal for him when it comes to facing United too.  Liverpool fans are still angry with him over his behaviour and wanting out over the summer but that will very much be put aside if he plays a part in beating United.  Two want-away strikers vs another, who is going to come out on top?  You would certainly expect the pair to be hugely influential in the match and for their respective sides.  Rooney has been in excellent form and without wanting to jinx it, is looking a bit more like the Rooney of old. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Weighing in on the Gerrard, Scholes and Lampard Debate

Last week, Jamie Carragher made the claim that Steven Gerrard was a better player than Paul Scholes.  The debate rolled on, on Sky Sports Monday Night Football Show and Frank Lampard came into the mix also.

  The three are undoubtedly amongst the best midfielders England has produced.  Also three of the greatest and most memorable midfield players of the Premier League era.  They have all had impressive careers in which they have been part of winning teams and trophy wins.  It is not an entirely fair comparison as they are all very different players with their own respective strengths and weaknesses.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Football On The Big Screen

The Damned United
  It charts legendary Brian Clough's tumultuous tenure managing Leeds United.  Following success with Derby County, Clough arrives at a Leed's United formerly coached and fiercely loyal to previous manager Don Revie.  Revie's style was certainly not for Clough and the Leeds team had a number of dirty and bad habits despite being successful.  

Clough attempts to revolutionise but struggles with the characters in the team who dislike their new manager's ideas.  It is very funny in places, the film.  Iy also gets across well the dislike Clough and Revie have for one another, included in the film is footage from that famous interview between Revie and Clough.  Clough and his ahead of the times ways come across well, as does his reliance and relationship with his assistant Peter Taylor.

  There are some factual inaccuracies and embellishment in the film.  I didn't know any of the details around that Leeds side, apart from them being dirty.  Not much of a stickler for those things personally so it did not affect viewing in any way.   Also, it is a film, not a documentary.  The highlight of the film is the fantastic cast including Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney and Stephen Graham.  It also starred Jim Broadbent, brilliant character actor- so adaptable.  A superb film and Michael Sheen excelled in his portrayal of Clough.   

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Random Footballing Stories This Week


Love on Horizon For Marin? 

Sevilla Fans Turn matchmaker in a bid to keep loanee Marko Marin at their club.  Presently at loan from Chelsea, Marin has enjoyed a good start in Seville and has quickly become a fans favourite.  So much so that they're trying to find him a wife- Full Story

Monday, 2 September 2013

Transfer Window Conclusion & Thoughts

Well, thank god that is over...  It is not something I really get excited about, deadline day.  The whole process of transfers is so drawn out.  It is quite frustrating, particularly in those barren months when club football takes a break.  It dominates and the rise of social media has only made the whole thing 100 times worse.  Media frenzy, constant rumours and attention it gets is all too much.  Can see why people love it and the whole excitement of it.  From the prospect of your club landing a star name, to the hope of addressing weaknesses in the team with new blood.  It is the time too that the transfer muppets come out in force and it often brings out strong reactions.  That side can be fairly entertaining.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Great Footballing Nicknames

Often affectionate and always with an edge of humour.  Most nicknames attributed to players are from the fans themselves.  Others are personal and some even come from the media.  The most comical nicknames tend to be based on dominant physical features and quirks of players personalities.  There doesn't appear to be as many characters in the game or big personalities as there seemed to be in the past.  Despite that, it hasn't stopped fans and the players themselves donning unique names.
Calamity James- David James

David James, as famous for his haircuts as his goalkeeping.  He has had many a blunder and innumerable crazy moments between the sticks.  It fits very well.  A cowboy film called Calamity Jane and a character from the popular comic strip The Beano are possible origins of his nickname.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Manchester United vs Chelsea Preview

It is only the second week into the Premier League season and frustratingly there is no Manchester United game this weekend.  Curse the fixture computer.  Monday night will be David Moyes first match at Old Trafford and it will be the first time in twenty seven years that Sir Alex is not leading the team out.  It also sees the return of a never forgotten foe in Jose Mourinho.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Four From Four

This is a bit of an idea I have had for a regular piece.  It will be an opportunity to catch more football and to focus on specific players/teams.  I have decided to pick one newly transferred player from the four leagues I mainly watch- Premier League, Serie A, La Liga and The Bundesliga.  As well as watching them, I will also look to fans forums and each countries made to gauge the players progress and importantly what the fans think.  I have decided to do posts once a month to overview how they've been doing. 

 Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund) - Bundesliga
The German league is already underway.  Caught Dortmunds impressive win vs Ausburg yesterday.  They took a little while to get going but when they did, they were very entertaining.  It was a dream debut for Aubameyang, scoring a hat-trick.  Mkhitaryan is currently injured and therefore needed to sit out Dormund's first match.

The highly rated midfielder transferred from Shakhtar Donetsk for what is believed to be in the region of €25.75 million.  In purchasing him, he is the most expensive player the club has ever bought.  Price tags come with pressure.  He just enjoyed a very successful club season, scoring 25 goals from midfield and therefore must be feeling full of confidence.  It is a step up certainly, but he is coming into a good team boasting plenty of talented players.  With the loss of Mario Goetze and he being a mature player at 25. Dortmund, will be looking for him (once fit) to have an immediate impact.  Looking forward to seeing this player as he is one I have never watched, only heard of.  As ever, it will be enjoyable following and watching Dortmund play- could be a tricky season for them given the sheer strength and talent of the present Bayern side.

Friday, 16 August 2013

England vs Scotland

It had certainly been a long time in coming this fixture.  The two sides, which form the oldest of footballing rivalries have not met since 1999.  The rivalry itself dates back to 1870 and the first match officially played between the countries was in 1872.  Though a friendly it was much more, the tie means a great deal to players and fans alike.  The Tartan Army as usual took plentiful support.  Descending upon London in their kilts, tam o'shanter hats and armed with fairy liquid in some cases!  The match at Wembley kicked off at 8pm and the starting lineups were as follows:-

Hart; Walker, Cahill, Jagileka, Baines; Gerrard, Wilshere; Walcott, Cleverley; Welbeck, Rooney

McGregor; Hutton, Hanley, Martin, Whittaker; Forrest, Morrison, Brown; Maloney, Snodgrass, Miller


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Manchester United vs Wigan Preview

The Night Before.....

Manchester United have not enjoyed the best pre-season results wise.  Coming into the game, Wigan are certainly in better form.  They already have a competitive game under their belt, which was an impressive 4-0 win vs Barnsley away from home.  A team full of confidence they still have most of the players they had last season.  They have some decent players, particularly James McCarthy who has caught the eye on a-few occasions.  There have been a number of clubs in for linked with him this summer but he is yet to move.  They have been known for their nice attacking football under the now, Everton man Martinez.  This often meant that they leaked a-lot of goals.  Hopefully United's attack is on form to exploit that.  The way that United themselves, have been defending over pre-season has not been encouraging.  Hoping that Vidic is sharp tomorrow as he has had limited preperation due to a niggling injury.  I am feeling a little nervous but very excited to have proper football back.  It is a meaningless game in the grand scheme, but as it is Moyes first competitive match it is a bit more important than usual.  Should United lose, panic buttons should not be pressed.  However, with a tough start the team needs to get out of the blocks quick- no room to be slow starters this term. 

More Football Book Reviews


The Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro- Joe McGinniss

This is a really charming book about football at a lower level, about a team who plays with a deep passion and love for the game.  The team Castel di Sangro, is based in a smallish Italian town called L'Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy. The team had a meteoric rise to the second division of Italian football- Serie B.  The author, McGinnis is most known as a writer of true crime novels and more recently, the biography of Sarah Palin.  He is a big sports fan, laterally a football fan.  He writes with humour and takes you, the reader on the journey with him.  It is clear that he is not a lifelong football fan but it does not have too much of an affect (well apart from perhaps he thinking himself an expert).  He travels to Italy and becomes the clubs chief writer.  He has fantastic access and in time becomes part of the club and with that part of the local community.  He gets to know the players, management and other associates at the club.  He encounters and introduces you to some great characters.  He also provides a fantastic insight into Italian football and culture of both the game and Italy as a country.  A football season is a rollercoaster ride, it is the 1996/97 season which he follows them.  There is so much in the book, it seems like it is about more than just one season. 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Football Stadium Foods From Around The World

I love food and cookery.  It is a real interest of mine.  Football is the most popular and watched sport in the world.  Food traditions and culture varies enormously from country to country, climate of course plays a big part too.  Around the world there are traditional snack foods eaten at matches.  Alcohol is a popular drink, but in some countries such as Argentina's there are bans and others it is not consumed for religious/cultural reasons.  In this post I will take a look at the foods served up to matchgoers from England to Africa and beyond. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Summer Football- Confederations Cup Matchday 1

There is some summer football, though not a big tournament such as The World Cup or the Euro's it is still welcome all the same.  The tournament opened on Saturday, the first match a mouthwatering tie between Brazil and Japan.  Hosted in Brazil it is very much a warm up for next years World Cup for both the team and the country.  There is no doubt that the Brazil team is packed full of talented youngsters, very much a work in progress but you do get the sense that they have something to make up for with regards to the disappointments and lack of flair and fantastic football you normally associate for the last few years.  Many Brazillians admit they've been unhappy with how the team has been managed and how defensive their teams play was in the World Cup three years ago.  A new era now and it is certainly exciting, really hope to see the Brazil I remember as a child/young teen again.  Some oversights with regards to player selection, Ramires not picked apparently due to attitude but will be a miss having lit up Stamford Bridge and the Premier League last season.  Similarly Rafael da Silva is still in the dog house due to the Olympics, he's just enjoyed an outstanding season and can't see how it is justified leaving out such a talented player.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

2012/13 Football Highlights

Unlike last season it was a great season for the cups.  Was a really enjoyable Champions League, Dortmund in particular contributed to make it so.  Bayern for their quality too, quality of players and that they played a part in an entertaining final.  Due to the draws it was even a good watch at the usually dull group stages.  Celtic and their early heroics were also fantastic.  No mean feat what they did vs Barcelona in particular.  Though they will likely be in danger of losing players over the summer, hopefully their success will give them confidence and encourage them to make Europe more of a prioity.  It has got to be really as with the loss of Rangers in the SPL they do not have much competition.  

Similarly, the English domestic cups have been good too, brilliant finals and some very good ties along the way.  It was brilliant seeing Wigan and Swansea win their respective finals.  A fitting reward for Laudrup whose Swansea side play with style.  Wigan winning vs the money rolling City is always going to be the sweetest of victories and they were well worth their win. City players seemed to think they could just turn up.  Credit to Wigan, highlight was definately seeing what it meant to their fans.  They did so well to stay up in the league so long, they must have used up all of their luck and could not pull of yet another hoodeniesque escape.  Their manager Martinez deserves a-lot of credit for encouraging his team to play good football.  He is of course in talks with Everton, a good manager it will be interesting to see how he does elsewhere.


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

It's Carrick You Know!

So just what did someone do with Michael Carrick this season?!  Carrick has just enjoyed, what was for me his best season at the club yet.  Seems very much that he has taken the mantle and stepped up, his game has gone up a level.  It has not only been limited to his play but other aspects too.  Very influential and such a  vital player for Man United this season.  At the beginning of the season, Sir Alex Ferguson said that he was United's most important player.  

He was excellent in his first season, striking up a wonderful understanding with Paul Scholes.  He was influential and an ever present in the fantastic 07/08 season that the team won the European double.  He had a bit of a slump and a spell he really seemed to struggle.  Quite off his game, it later emerged he had been playing through injury.  That night in Rome vs Barcelona is one most United fans will want to forget, it wasn't nice seeing the team you love brushed to one side like that.  Can't but respect Barcelona though, what a phenomenal side and Guardiola's revolution was something else.  Most admirable, was that their side was built around players they had developed in their youth system.  Unlucky timing that their brilliance, coincided with when United had really got it right in Europe.  However, looking back to that night in Rome it was only really Fabio that came out of it with some degree of credit and Carrick was particularly picked upon for his performance.  A fairly recent interview revealed he played that one with a broken foot.  Some fans even blamed him and there was some discontent, reading around murmurs some wanted him sold.  Last season he looked like he had got back to his best and was putting in some good performances, but the consistency was still not there and too often the United team crumbled under the pressure teams put them under.  It was certainly then, a valid criticism of him that he struggled when teams pressed intensely. He seemed to just shrink in those games and was very easily bullied by strong and physical opposition players.  Was it a mentality thing was wondered.  It is also important to remember that his ride wasn't always easy as United's defensive injury woe's for two seasons meant he had to fill in at CB at times, hardly ideal.  It did look like he had lost his confidence and did wonder if he'd get it back.  Not just that, whether he'd be able to get back to the level he was before.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Football Funnies

There have been a whole host of shows with a comedic element relating to football.  Whether it be Baddiel and Skinners covering of International Tournaments, impressions from the likes of John Culshaw, Alistair McGowan and Harry & Paul or features such as 2 Good 2 Bad, which used to be on Match of the Day.   Would always look forward to Only an Excuse on Hogmanay, this is a long running Scottish sketch/impression show that takes the mick out of important members from Scottish football, the national team and other events in that years football.  Also stereotypes and takes the mickey out the fans of the clubs, especially Celtic ones.   Kevin Bishop's portrayal of David Beckham in Star Stories was hilarious, hope he does another football themed one in the future.  The humorous puppet show, "I'm on Setanta Sport" is due to return to the screens.  Check out the following tasters Here and  Here .  Very funny, Mourinho as host and it has a range of player/managers featuring and phoning in.  Talksports channel is full of funny videos including masterfully edited interview clips.  Not such a fan of theirs but youtube channel has some great vids and it is well worth checking out.

From Irish radio on the Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show, also a podcast.  An impressions feature called Gift Grub I believe does these brilliant skits of players/managers.  Only came across on youtube.  If you like this one check out their other vids, especially of Mourinho.  Impressions of both Keane and Beckham perfect in this as are the words, so clever.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Man Utd 1995/96 Double

A continuation from the previous post, a new season and United do it again the double, double!  Fantastic achievement winning it in back to back seasons.  The season of 1995/96 was certainly a memorable one, particularly famed for the emergence of a very special group of players.


Monday, 20 May 2013

Looking Back- Manchester United Double Winning Season 1993/94


(Have had a bit of a clear out of my documents and found a couple of pieces that would fit well on this blog. Following posts will detail and review the double winning seasons of 1994/95 and 1995/96. I have done a fair bit of research/watching old games just hope no one finds it strange me writing about this as it is a period I certainly couldn‘t remember due to age and things like are probably better written by a fan who lived through that time. Feel free also to point out any inaccuracies, there’s bound to be a-few!)



Winning the FA Cup and the Championship in the same season, was up until 1994 something that only three other teams had succeeded in achieving in the 20th Century. Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool were sides who had won the double, Manchester United became the fourth. United were the first team to win a domestic double to include the Premier League and the first team to do so  since Liverpool in 1986. It was, the 1993/94 double winning season a historic achievement as it was the first time it had been done in the clubs history.