Yuletide Hoarding: When Stockpiled Loan Players Embarrass their Parent Clubs

Simon Smith looks at the growing examples of loaned-out players outperforming their parent clubs…

This Christmas I will have to contend with a shocking and unexpected horror when I visit my family for the annual yuletide celebrations. As an Arsenal fan, albeit one who always strives for objectivity in my writing, having a cohort of West Ham fans in the family has on occasion provided me with opportunity for many a laugh at their expense. The Hammers have had their revenge on occasion. They were the first team to win at the Emirates Stadium, and their often pragmatic underperformance in the Premier League is at least easier to deal with than the aneurism inducing heartache of disappointment all Gooners know all too well. But nonetheless I have usually been able to content myself with beating them most of the time and generally being the better club.

Barring a series of favourable results this weekend, I will have to arrive late on Christmas Eve knowing that my beloved Arsenal are lower than West Ham in the table. What’s more, they have done so playing largely eye catching and attractive attacking football, and by getting some of the best out of loan signings Carl Jenkinson and Alex Song.

Song has proved to be something of a coup: if his move to Barcelona seemed a little bizarre, a touch above his pay grade, then it should still be accepted that West Ham is a little below the level that the football community might have expected to drop down to. That shouldn’t be taken as any disrespect to West Ham, especially given their excellent form throughout the season so far, so much as an indication that his status as something of a joke figure in English football was misplaced. Continue reading

Premier League Gameweek 16: 5 things that (may or may not have) happened this weekend

As part of his new weekly column, Joe Devine looks back at the things that (may or may not have) happened in the latest Premier League gameweek

1. Manchester United Tactics Uncovered

Commentators, pundits and fans have been pulling their hair out this season, openly confused about the tactics being employed by Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United. Conference rooms have emptied to the word “philosophy” and Dutch football writer Elko Born very nearly drowned last week under a hail of frantic questioning. This weekend, however, it seems like the English are finally beginning to catch on, as Manchester United easily saw off Liverpool in what proved to be their most open-book tactical game yet this season. In a daring and adventurous ploy, Louis Van Gaal has instructed his United team to allow the opposition teams numerous opportunities on goal. “Mo time, mo mistake” as Van Gaal is calling it, is potentially the most daring of tactics used in the Premier League since Kenny Dalglish tried to field only 7 players with his Newcastle side in 1997. The theory relies heavily on the assumption that players with too much time to decide will then make mistakes, and as you can see – it’s been working rather well. In United’s games against Arsenal, Southampton and Liverpool, the opposition teams have had immeasurable numbers of chances, and somehow managed to still lose the games. Lucky? Not Van Gaal – he’s just clever.

2. Leicester Accidentally Fire D.O.F

In what some critics are calling “super fucking embarrassing”, Leicester City have accidentally fired their director of football Terry Robinson. Word came down from King and Queen Power late Saturday evening that Nigel Pearson’s head was for the chop, but in an apparent mix up – in which the words “knock off the big man” were uttered – executives of the club proceeded to the office of grotesquely overweight D.O.F Terry Robinson instead. This comes as a double blow for the foxes, as Terry Robinson is the only one who knows what day the rubbish goes out at the King Power stadium, and is refusing to reliquish the information. Lucky? Yes, Nigel Pearson is lucky. Continue reading

Leeds United: “One step forward and two steps back. Nobody gets too far like that”

With behind-the-scenes shenanigans once again dominating the agenda at Leeds United, Kyle Hulme attempts to make sense of it all…

Recognise those lyrics? I do. I was about 12 years old and my mum actually let me take my Playstation 2 with me when we went to the coast with a family friend for a weekend. Safe to say I drilled the game over that week, being the sociable pre-teen that I was, completing it to the soundtrack of the Country and Western radio station K-Rose, where I heard and sung along to that song more times than I care to admit.

Since then, the phrase has been a constant feature in my life; a few years later it started to describe how I’d make my way home from town; absolutely hammered, when staggering in any direction felt like some sort of progress. Today though? Well, I associate it with my beloved Leeds United. Continue reading

5 Things That (May or May Not Have) Happened This Premier League Matchweek

Joe Devine looks back at the Premier League matchweek that was…

1. Brendan Rodgers lost grip on reality

Sadly for Liverpool fans, it seems that paragon Brendan Rodgers finally lost his grip on reality. A giddy mess at the end of last season, Rodgers’ “couldn’t believe his luck” attitude quickly evaporated as the team got off to a bad start in the 2014/15 season. With an ever increasing run of bad results, Rodgers’ traditional gritty realism has been replaced with a dejected, fancicful spool. Most recently Rogers began discussing folklore at a press conference then reportedly ran off into the woods and hasn’t been seen since. Fingers crossed he gets back in time for Sunday’s United game, as it looks like they’ll be needing all kinds of fairytale luck to get anything from that.

2. Man City opened new ‘Bond villain’ complex

Billed as a ‘training complex’, Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour this week opened the club’s new ‘Bond Villain’ like headquarters in Manchester. Built on a site previously housing a chemical plant, the complex includes a state of the art armoury, a handful of wild sharks and a whole office dedicated to skirting financial fair play rules. Alongside a number of useful facilities, the first team players also have access to a new simulator designed to aid their bid for better contracts. The bill for this centre came to £200m, but it’s already paying dividends. Manchester City Council haven’t been this happy John Lennon died. Continue reading

Sam Allardyce and the Art of Compromise

James Dutton looks at Sam Allardyce’s return to form and the struggle of other Premier League managers to adapt…

“There are two types of coaches. There’s coaches like me who weigh up the opposition and ask the team to adjust. Fergie was similar. Jose is similar. Then there’s Arsène, who won’t adjust. There’s Brendan, who looks like he won’t adjust. There’s Manuel Pellegrini, who looks like he won’t adjust, even in the Champions League.

“Their philosophy is different to ours. Ours is more about who are we playing against. Their philosophy is more, ‘We always play this way’, and they won’t change, they carry doing on the same thing. That’s why you can beat them.”

Sam Allardyce, October 2014

Sam Allardyce is no stranger to talking up his own abilities; in a fairer world where ‘good football men’ are rewarded for their determination, passion and persistence he would be the man sending Cristiano Ronaldo out every week to break record after record in the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

Instead he’s leading the Andy Carroll renaissance and has propelled West Ham United to third place in the league amidst their best ever start to a Premier League season. Continue reading

A Day Out with the Cerezo Osaka Ultras

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TFN’s Alastair Nasmyth returns with a special report from his trip to Cerezo Osaka…

Coming out of Tsurugaoka station you could hear the chanting already. It was an hour before kickoff, but the Cerezo Osaka Ultras were already whipping up the crowd. It was so loud I started worrying the game had started and I’d got my times wrong in my hungover state induced by all you can drink Karaoke (yeah that’s as dangerous as it sounds) the night before.

Cerezo Osaka are one of two teams in Osaka, Japan’s second largest city, the other being Gamba Osaka. This season they have had massively contrasting experiences similar to those previously seen in Manchester before the sheikhs turned up. Gamba have already won one piece of silverware this year (the Yamazaki Nabisco Cup, one of their two domestic cup competitions) and can secure a league and cup double with wins in their last two games of the season. Cerezo on the other hand are staring relegation in the face with two wins needed in their last two games to have a chance of staying up. In fact they are only being saved from the bottom spot by Tokushima Vortis’ Derby County circa 2008 performance and prop up the 17 teams above them with 13 points from 32 games. Continue reading

Et in Arcadia Ego

Jonny Singer delves into the mortality of sport, laid bare by the events of the past week…

It has been a horrible week to work in sport.

When the news broke last Tuesday that Phillip Hughes had been hit on the head and was in a coma, it shook me, but, I hoped, perhaps even assumed, he would survive. People just don’t die playing cricket.

Waking up on Thursday to headlines of his death, it was shocking. The world has paid tribute, and nothing I can say will be as eloquent or fitting as the comments made by those who knew him best.

Continue reading