February 19, 2013
Posted: 1227 GMT
I first said it three years ago and I will say it again now: Arsenal need a new manager. Arsene Wenger had a great run, but all good things must come to an end. Eight years without a trophy is not acceptable and the fact the club’s best players keep leaving is a clear indication they no longer believe in the Frenchman’s philosophy.
Let me make one thing clear. My opinion has nothing to do with this past weekend’s FA Cup defeat to English second-tier side Blackburn Rovers. And it wasn't Arsenal’s elimination from the League Cup - the lesser of England's two domestic knockout competitions - to lowly fourth division side Bradford either, though even now reading that statement tests credulity.
More that, for years now I have seen him lose the Midas touch that delivered so much glory to the proud North London side at the start of his tenure. Unfortunately, the time has come for the owners to recruit a new man with a new plan.
The trophy drought is indeed worrying, but if I were an Arsenal fan, what would really concern me is the fact that most of the team’s best players don’t want to work with Wenger anymore. Just look at some of the stars that have abandoned Arsene’s ship - Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Alex Song and Robin Van Persie. Together, over the last eight years, all the players who have left the Gunners have gone out and won a combined 75 trophies. While Arsenal, as you know, have won none.
Obviously, many of those players I mentioned left because of money. The club has a strict wage structure and the owners deserve part of the blame by refusing to compete with some of Europe’s big spenders.
But the current situation is the culmination of a strategy that has been wrong for a long time. Wenger acts surprised when his best players leave in each close season and then stresses over the little time that remains to sign quality replacements. It happened in 2011 with Cesc and Nasri. It happened again last summer with Song and RVP. This has become a club that hopes for the best in the face of the brutal reality that money talks in the modern game.
The final indication that Wenger’s time has come at Arsenal is his loss of composure. Tired of seeing his team fail time and again, cracks have started to appear in his rusty armor. Earlier this season the 63-year-old was seen snarling at journalists’ persistent questions about failure, and on Monday he simply lost his cool. In the press conference before Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Bayern Munich, Arsene went into attack mode and reacted aggressively to suggestions he had not taken the Blackburn game seriously and he was about to sign a new two-year contract.
This from the man dubbed "The Professor" by adoring fans in his Gunners heyday for his suave sophistication and delivery of silverware via swashbuckling football to the Highbury faithful.
All the signs are there. The song is coming to an end, and Wenger and Arsenal have to stop dancing together. The coach deserves credit for building one of the greatest teams in Premier League history since he arrived from Japan's Grampus Eight in 1996 and he has led the Gunners into the Champions League group stages year in and year out.
However, finishing fourth cannot be a satisfactory objective for a club of Arsenal’s stature. Trophies have to be won, and it seems they will have to be won with someone else sitting in the dugout.
Don’t forget to tune in to the CNN Football Club on CNN International at 1700 GMT on February 21.
February 13, 2013
Posted: 1722 GMT
Why, Zlatan? Why did you have to do it? Your team was winning, there were just a few seconds left in the game, so what possessed you to stamp on Andres Guardado?
A lot of football fans are asking those questions today. It is difficult to understand why Zlatan Ibrahimovic lashed out at an opponent with Paris Saint-Germain in control of a European Champions League match against Valencia, earning the Swedish international a red card.
However, you shouldn’t expect an answer from the star striker, his teammates or his manager Carlo Ancelotti. I’m not sure anyone can comprehend some of the things the Swede does on the pitch. Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2013
Posted: 1857 GMT
The winter transfer window has now closed and there are various famous faces in different places. I have taken a look at a lot of the deals made and picked my top five. Do you agree? Let me know…
1. David Beckham to Paris Saint-Germain for free.
I know he is 37 years-old and I would agree with those who say he has been somewhat overrated at times during his career, but David Beckham is a great signing for PSG. The English midfielder brings a lot of experience and influence to the table and will become an important piece of the puzzle that Carlo Ancelotti is building in Paris.
Whether you think he is the most gifted player on the planet or not, one thing you cannot take away from Beckham is that he has won trophies everywhere he has been. Yes, his lifestyle off the field can be a little overwhelming, but he works his socks off every time he is on the pitch.
Will he play every minute of every game with PSG? Definitely not, but I expect him to play an important role in the team’s season, especially in the Champions League. He could form quite a solid partnership with Thiago Motta or Blaise Matuidi in midfield, allowing the likes of Lucas Moura, Jeremy Menez and Ezequiel Lavezzi to do some major damage further upfield.
All in all, a shrewd piece of business from the new giants of Paris Saint-Germain. Getting Beckham for free is a great deal.
2. Wesley Sneijder to Galatasaray
He may be moody, he may be high maintenance, but Wesley Sneijder is one of the top creative midfielders on the planet. At the peak of his talents, the Dutchman can run a game with his passing and vision. He is a joy to watch on the ball and my only regret is he didn’t join a higher profile league.
Galatasaray will pay a lot in wages, but the $12 million transfer fee is peanuts for a player of Sneijder’s standing. If you take into account that the Turkish giants also got Didier Drogba, they could be a dark horse in the Champions League.
3. Demba Ba to Chelsea
There aren’t that many pure finishers in the game right now so when a team gets one for less than $16 million, it is always going to be a good deal. The Senegalese striker has proven his credentials as a matador and is giving Chelsea a different dimension up front. The only question is will Rafael Benitez have the courage to drop Fernando Torres in favour of a player who cost less money and earns less money as well?
I see Ba as a real predator around the box and if given a chance he will bang in plenty of goals for the Blues. With such great creative players like Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard behind him, there will be no shortage of balls for the former Newcastle man to pounce on.
4. Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool FC
The deal was reportedly worth around $18 million and I think that is a bargain for a player with great potential and skill. I had watched him play various times for Chelsea and wondered why he wasn’t given more chances at Stamford Bridge. Some fans in England have criticized Sturridge for showboating a bit too much, but in my book, if you have the skills, flaunt them!
The 23 year-old striker will form a great partnership with Luis Suarez and could help Liverpool finish in the top four. With someone like Phillippe Coutinho coming in to help create chances, Sturridge should have plenty of service up front. If he continues to play like he is right now, I expect him to be a regular England international by the end of the season.
5. Mario Balotelli to AC Milan
Is he problematic? Yes. Is he controversial? Yes. But Mario Balotelli is also incredibly talented and he deserves another chance. Even though Roberto Mancini tried his best to control Super Mario at Manchester City, I don’t hink he ever succeeded. Balotelli never felt loved in the north of England and I don’t think he ever got the guidance he needed to mature.
When I think about the 22 year-old striker, I think about the way in which he tore Germany’s defence to shreds during Euro2012. I think about the way he terrorized Spain’s defence during a group game in the same tournament. This guy has a lot of potential and all he needs is the right environment to blossom into a star. I hope for his sake that he gets the support and the nurture he requires to become a top player in the world of football.
Is over $30 million a lot to pay on someone as volatile as Mario? Maybe. But it could turn out to be one of the biggest bargains of the decade!
January 24, 2013
Posted: 1338 GMT
It was a surprise, but it made sense. That is how I can best describe my reaction to Pep Guardiola’s decision to sign for Bayern Munich.
After months of speculation which linked him with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the 42-year-old manager decided to turn his back on the bright lights of the English Premier League, opting instead, to ply his trade in the burgeoning German Bundesliga.
I genuinely thought Pep was heading to Manchester City. The English champions had recently hired two of his former colleagues at Barcelona, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Beguiristain, and in my mind Guardiola was next in line. Read the rest of this entry »
January 16, 2013
Posted: 1036 GMT
It feels like only yesterday that Zambia stormed to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations title. The Chipolopolo beat the likes of Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast to become the 14th African nation to win the tournament.
No wonder I can remember the competition so well. For the first time, it is being held in consecutive years. Organizers decided to change the calendar so the tournament would not clash with the FIFA World Cup due to take place in Brazil next year.
So as Africa’s top players prepare to take to the field for the 29th edition of the competition, what or who should we look out for? Below is a look at some of the stories I will be following: Read the rest of this entry »
January 7, 2013
Posted: 1046 GMT
I could feel the frustration in his voice. Kevin-Prince Boateng had decided to make a stand. It wasn’t the first time he had faced racial abuse and he wasn’t going to take it any more. The AC Milan midfielder took a stand and, in my view, became a hero.
During our 15-minute phone conversation, an exclusive interview for CNN, I could tell Boateng was not only frustrated, but also upset that football authorities have not been doing enough to combat racism. Read the rest of this entry »
December 28, 2012
Posted: 1606 GMT
As the end of 2012 draws near, it's time to look back on the players who dominated world football this year.
These are my picks for a fantasy XI that would conquer all, but I also want to know your dream team. Is there anyone you think deserves a place in this line-up?
Have your say in the comments box below. Read the rest of this entry »
December 20, 2012
Posted: 1051 GMT
On Wednesday the football world was saddened by news that Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova suffered a relapse of a cancerous tumor which had been removed last year. He was due to have surgery on Thursday and is facing chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment for the next six weeks. I hope he makes a speedy recovery and returns to the Barca bench as soon possible.
The question now is, what happens to Barcelona? They had set a new club record by winning 15 and drawing one of their opening 16 league games. But what now? Can they keep their run going and continue to dominate Spanish football? And what about the European Champions League? Read the rest of this entry »
November 21, 2012
Posted: 1642 GMT
So here we go again. Another manager bites the dust at Stamford Bridge. Even considering Roman Abramovich’s record when it comes to sacking managers, I have to say I was very surprised he dropped the axe on Roberto Di Matteo.
I am aware of the numbers: two wins in eight games. I am also aware that Chelsea are close to becoming the first European Champions League winner to be knocked out in the group stages of the competition the next season.
However, I am not convinced changing managers at this point in the season is going to accomplish much, especially when whoever comes in will only have until the end of the season to work with these players. Read the rest of this entry »
November 15, 2012
Posted: 1458 GMT
Wow. WOW. Wow.
That word was on repeat in my head as I watched Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s spectacular bicycle kick sail past Joe Hart on Wednesday.
That goal against England in Stockholm epitomized everything the Swedish striker stands for. It was audacious, outrageous and even a bit cheeky to boot.
I won’t enter into debate on whether it was the best goal of all time, because I definitely don’t think it was, what I will discuss is Zlatan’s standing in the game and his legacy. Read the rest of this entry »