20 Years of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

TFN editor Hugo Greenhalgh returns to reflect on Arsène  Wenger’s 20 years at Arsenal and share a couple of personal memories…

“Ready or not, here I come…”

So sang Lauryn Hill on The Fugees’ “Ready or Not”, the U.K. Number 1 single on September 22 1996 – the day Arsène Wenger was unveiled as Arsenal manager. English football probably wasn’t ready for Wenger, whose methods and managerial style have had an unrivalled influence on the game over the past 20 years, in a career that is unlikely to ever be repeated.

A look at some of the other Premiership managers at the time of his arrival reveals much about the football landscape. Ron Atkinson, David Pleat, Jim Smith…many of Wenger’s rivals were of the old school and he came in as an unknown outsider. Not only did his nationality mark him out as different, his last job had been at Grampus Eight in Japan, a role he’d taken to challenge himself and to experience a change of culture.  Continue reading

FLASHBACK: Germany 1-5 England

15 years after a 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, James Dutton looks back at the greatest result in England’s recent history and the lessons that have not been learned…

‘It’s Neville to Campbell, Campbell to Rio,

Rio to Scholesy, Scholesy-Gerrard,

Gerrard to Beckham, Beckham to Heskey,

Heskey to Owen, it’s a goal, 5-1!’

It is perhaps a sign of the times that Ant and Dec soundtracked the greatest moment of the English football team in the last 15 years. Ignoring the fact the lyrics are incorrect – Michael Owen did not score the fifth goal – ‘We’re on the Ball’ reflected the fresh optimism that had been injected into the national side at the start of the Sven-Goran Eriksson era.

It was England’s official song as they travelled half-way across the world to Japan and South Korea for the 2002 World Cup, a journey that had looked a remote fantasy when Kevin Keegan resigned in the Wembley toilets after a 1-0 defeat to the Germans in October 2000. Continue reading

TFN Returns

Four years ago this week, we started The False Nine in the hope of creating an alternative platform for football writing.

There were several blogs out there already proposing a similar purpose – sites like In Bed With Maradona, The Inside Left and A Football Report were doing interesting things and we took inspiration from them.

Four years on though, it’s fair to say that the football writing landscape has changed significantly. There’s been a greater demand for quality, long-form writing that goes beyond the bread and butter of match reports and transfer rumours.

Publications like the Blizzard have gone from strength to strength, and have even published work by writers from this very site.

We’ve also seen greater recognition for tactical writing and statistical analysis, with sites like Squawka and WhoScored boasting coverage to rival the football supplements of broadsheets and tabloids alike.

With these trends in mind, we’ll be revisiting some of our old articles from over the years and looking at where we got it right – and wrong. What do our observations since 2012 tell us about the direction the game is taking?

Named as we are after the tactical trend that saw Spain soar to a third successive tournament triumph, the overwhelmingly possession-based dogma of that summer has become outdated and largely given way with counter-attacking again on the rise.

A promising but unproven young French midfielder left Manchester United for Juventus that summer, and has returned to Old Trafford four years on as the most expensive footballer in world football. The biggest deal of that transfer window saw Robin van Persie trade Arsenal for United, and with it inspire Sir Alex Ferguson to his final Premier League title in his 27 years at the helm.

This summer the Premier League’s window spending has surpassed £1b for the first time. Much has changed, and yet we endeavour to carry on.

As well as this, we’ll be dishing out our usual share of TFN nostalgia and looking back at some of the key events in our footballing memories, while keeping a watchful eye over the current trends in the modern game.

‘Slight Return’ Pato’s lost weekend in Brazil

As former Brazilian wonderkid Alexandre Pato prepares for his highly anticipated return to European football with Chelsea, Tim Stillman looks back at his wilderness years in his homeland…

After a dizzying succession of injuries and a controversial relationship with Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter, Alexandre Pato returned to Brazil in January 2013. He signed with São Paulo club Corinthians with the intention of rebuilding a career that had once promised so much. The short term aim would have been to rediscover his touch and his fitness with Corinthians and attract European suitors.

This would very much have been in Corinthians’ financial planning when they sanctioned the purchase of the Pato Branco born forward. Whilst ‘Pato’ is indeed Portuguese for ‘duck’, his nomenclature derives from his city of birth. His actual name, Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva, is a string of very popular and widely used Brazilian names, so ‘Pato’ is used to identify him in the same way that Ronaldinho is called ‘Ronaldinho Gaucho’ and the two famous Juninho’s are known as Juninho Paulista (of Middlesbrough fame) and Juninho Pernambucano (who played for Lyon). Continue reading

Three Caribbean stand-outs at 2015 Gold Cup

Nathan Carr of Caribbean Football looks back at three of the standout Caribbean performers from the recent Gold Cup…

Duckens Nazon – Haiti – 21 – Striker

Haiti scored two goals in the tournament and Duckens Nazon got both of them. The 21-year-old, who was born in Paris but has Haitian roots, came off the bench against Panama in Group A’s opener and made an instant impact: latching onto a long pass, turning his marker inside out and finishing with aplomb. It was a lovely individual goal and made people sit up and take notice. Six days later Nazon was given a starting spot against Honduras and he rewarded manager Marc Collat with another goal, a less clean strike this time but just as important. Les Grenadiers subsequently advanced to the last eight, albeit they lost to eventual finalists Jamaica 1-0. Nazon’s achievements at the Gold Cup are doubly impressive considering he was on the verge of quitting football altogether a year ago, when he was playing at amateur level in France. Receiving a call-up to the Haitian U-21s gave him hope and then in March 2014, he made his senior international bow in a 0-0 draw with Kosovo. Nazon has developed at a rapid rate ever since. At the moment he is contracted to Stade Laval having only recently put pen to paper with the Ligue 2 club. Speaking on securing a place in the Laval first team, Nazon explained: “These two goals [at the Gold Cup] are a bonus for me.” It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his Gold Cup form for the World Cup qualifiers, which begin in early September. Continue reading

Nenê – a forgotten artefact of Allardyce’s West Ham dynasty

Charles Pulling profiles Nenê, West Ham’s already forgotten Brazilian from the 2014-15 season…

In 2011, workmen expanding a road in eastern China discovered the mummified remains of a woman dating back 700 years. It was, in terms of the quality of the find and its location one of the most stunning Ming-era discoveries in recent times, a perfectly preserved echo of a long fallen dynasty.

Also in 2011, another altogether less lauded dynasty began in east London. The Allardyce-era at West Ham United may not have stretched over centuries, but for many of the Upton Park faithful the all-too-often turgid, grinding performances may have felt something close to a lifetime in length. And so, with the ominous boos reverberating around Upton Park, ‘Big Sam’ was afforded no reward for securing West Ham’s Premier League status for a third season running and the sun came down on the Allardyce dynasty.

Now, with optimism, a new manager, an impending move to a fancy new stadium and Europa League sojourns West Ham seems a happier, more contented place, despite a ball barely being kicked in anger. But what of the relics of the past four years? What do they tell us?

One of the more rarer finds whilst sifting through the wreckage is the name Nenê, a name that stands out in contrast to the more ‘meat and potato’ Allardyce players such as Nolan or Downing. The name is barely a footnote. Understandable considering the man from São Paulo spent little over three months parking his car at the ‘Academy of Football.’ Continue reading

Fernando – Manchester City’s ponderer from Porto

Stephen Tudor of The Daisy Cutter looks back at Fernando’s difficult first year at Manchester City…

Manchester City’s swoop for Porto’s midfield enforcer Fernando Francisco Reges was long mooted so there was little surprise when he eventually put pen to paper on a £12m switch in the summer of 2014.

What was surprising was finding out how many Blues regularly enjoyed Primeira Liga games, foregoing Sky’s domestic Super Sunday offering or a marquee La Liga or Serie A clash in favour of sourcing Vitória de Guimarães v Porto on a jumpy stream. Let’s be quite clear here: these honest folk did not simply watch a few highlight reels on YouTube. They were ardent aficionados of Portuguese football which, by default, made their assessment of the 25 year old Brazilian worth listening to. They definitely didn’t just watch YouTube clips.

What they told us was here was a serious upgrade on Javi Garcia, City’s popular but slow-as-ketchup midfield anchor who was in the process of being shipped off to Zenit. Fernando was a ferocious combination of Latin nous and bruising endeavour and, considering our FFP restrictions, we had landed ourselves a real bargain. Continue reading