Editor’s Column: Is Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero the best in the Premier League?

The False Nine’s editor column returns as James Dutton assesses the true value of Sergio Aguero, and looks back at a fascinating international break…

The Premier League has undoubtedly lost a little of its stardust over the last two seasons. The departures of Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez to La Liga have shorn the country’s greatest export of its two most globally acclaimed star players.

The summer arrivals of Angel di Maria, Radamel Falcao and Alexis Sanchez were welcome steps in the right direction for a league which prides itself on being The Best In The World™. But perhaps the league’s shining light was already staring us in the face?

Is it time to recognise that Sergio Aguero is the best footballer in the Premier League? This is not just in response to the four goal burst on Saturday that blew away Tottenham Hotspur away from home yet again. The regularity of injuries that curse the Argentine striker mean it is very easy to overlook his outstanding ability. Continue reading

This Blessed Plot (or: Meanwhile, in England)

TFN’s resident academic John Guillem dissects Roy Hodgson’s England. Set your brows to high! 

The accelerated qualities of the contemporary mediascape make international football something of an oddity. The cliché runs that international football, in spite of the best efforts of FIFA to reduce it to the same robotic fare as club football, remains something of a bastion for the core values of the game: passion, unpredictability, honour; a certain sense of pride connecting to the sport’s working class roots.

FIFA are obviously reprehensible types of the most reptilian of bents, but in spite of the unsavoury commerciality of the World Cup and other tournaments1 some of the above rings true, if only incidentally. The relative lack of cohesion and preparation compared to club football lends the scrappier proceedings a romantic aura, whilst the lower quantity of games (particularly when you factor in the fact that there are many fans who only show an interest in tournament, playoff and crunch qualifying games) means that upsets appear to possess greater magnitude and resonance than a domestic cup upset. Continue reading

Football transfers, new signings and the importance of being liked

Ally Moncrieff is back with some more heartfelt football writing. This time on why football transfers need to make the right impression with fans…

‘We need a box to box midfielder’, ‘if we don’t sign a striker I’m not renewing my fucking season ticket’, ‘I’d swap members of my immediate family for a half decent centre back’. These are not uncommon utterances amongst football fans, a version of them may even have fallen from your own mouth, it’s understandable, you see an obvious problem with your football team and logic dictates there must be an obvious solution.

Everybody loves a new signing, their arrival is filled with nothing other than the promise of goals and glory. It’s worryingly easy to spend hours poring over the strengths and weaknesses of your new addition, YouTube videos and the rise of in depth blogging mean that before your next no.9 is pictured draped in the club colours, standing on the edge of the pitch you will already know that he has a tendency to drift into wide positions which can confuse the opposition defence but also leave the attack without a focal point, it’s the age of information and it pays to do your research. But one crucial attribute is almost always overlooked, the players likeability. Continue reading

Crisis? What crisis? Life in Leeds under Massimo Cellino

TFN Columnist and Leeds United fan Kyle Hulme takes stock of the season so far…

Whilst chaos clings to everything around Leeds United – a chairman with “elusive intent”, accusations of breaking United Nations Security Council resolutions and player complaints to the PFA – the squad has quietly being making progress on the pitch, with Neil Redfearn and Darko Milanič rubbishing Dave Hockaday’s claim that he could get “more out of these players than anyone else could”.

For the first time in a while, we actually look pretty good. Really good, even. Form has stuttered in the last few weeks since Milanič took the job yet this is no real cause for concern – it’s the first time he’s managed in England, and this is the first season in English football for seven of the starting XI. Not only are they adapting to the tempo and demands of the Championship but to the playing style of one another as well. Continue reading

What is the international break?

Alex Stewart ponders the true meaning of the international break…

Break, n. among other things: 6. An interruption or a disruption in continuity or regularity: television programming without commercial breaks.

7. A pause or interval, as from work: a coffee break.
8. A sudden or marked change: a break in the weather.
(From the free dictionary on the internet)

The international break, as a thing, provokes a variety of responses. A quick and in no way scientific survey conducted on social media earlier by yours truly revealed an array of responses which ran from the wholly positive to the suicidally inclined (injuries, etc etc). A quick trawl of internet-based relevant content shows a predisposition for mordant articles on the impact of said break, the opportunities it creates for club/country schism, luxated joints, and general fatigue (With football itself, even? Is there too much of a good thing?).

Actual fans, not thrallish hacks, seem to run contra-narrative and quite enjoy the change, though some express a genuine and understandable lack of interest based on: aforementioned ‘too much of a good thing’; partisan loyalty to club outweighing country; England not being as good to watch as [insert team of your choice here]. Without doubt, though, the ‘international break’ provokes a myriad of responses and a range of conflicting emotions/thoughts (is emotion too strong a word for this? Not if you’re Brendan Rodgers).

The origins of the phrase ‘international break’ are themselves murky. Wikipedia merely states that it is a “period of time set aside by FIFA for scheduled international matches per their International Match Calendar. Continue reading

Hypothetical XI #25: The Ryder Cup

Jonny Singer imagines a Ryder Cup hypothetical XI of the US and European teams…

Whether you’re a regular golf follower or a casual observer once every two years, the Ryder Cup seems to capture the imagination of sports fans everywhere each time it comes around.

For three days, as a sporting community, we’ve put putts first, prioritised foursomes over four-four-two, and generally made matchplay golf the centre of our world.

But football is now well and truly back. A week packed with Champions League showdowns and Europa League snore-fests, followed by a Premier League programme with nothing to distract from it. No more applauding good play from either side. No more will a polite question of tactics be seen as a crisis. We return to blissful, tribal, perpetually ‘crisis’-ridden football. Continue reading

Podcast: Episode 12 – Beef

Greg, James and Elko welcome Alex Stewart onto the pod after a week of prime beef to talk Southampton, England’s Ajax, defensive issues at Liverpool, the trend of top clubs doubling up on goalkeepers, problems at Manchester United, defensive midfielders *AND TO FINISH OFF* the two most pressing questions in the game today.

Listen on iTunes.