Arsenal: Beware the Arshavinication of Mesut Özil


Footbalternative‘s Jonny Singer warns of how a certain German sophisticate could go the way of his Russian predecessor if Arsenal fans don’t learn to love his languid style of play…

If you’ve only followed Arsenal in the press this season you may be under the impression that Mesut Özil’s arrival is the sole reason for their current success.

Of course you’d be wildly wrong. There are at least five Gunners who have performed better than the German playmaker this season: Aaron Ramsey, Per Mertersacker, Kieran Gibbs, Olivier Giroud, and Mathieu Flamini have all been excellent. Bacary Sagna, Wojciech Szczesny and Laurent Koscielny also hold decent claims to have been better than the former Real Madrid star throughout the Autumn and early Winter..

In fact, Özil has been ok. He’s drifted in and out of games, given the ball away far too often, and, as in last night’s 2-0 defeat of Marseille, missed chances, but that’s fine.

What we’re seeing is a player adapting to a league, playing at only around 70-80% of his potential. In six months or a year’s time he may well be the best player in the Arsenal team, or even the league, but that can’t be expected straight away. Continue reading

A Ligue 1 XI – the Best of the Rest


In his first piece for TFN, Valentin Boulan selects a Ligue XI – minus the Big 2 of PSG and Monaco…

Following the recent emergence of PSG and Monaco as big players in European football, the French Ligue 1 has received a lot more attention from abroad, both from players and fans. With the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva and Radamel Falcao now playing in a league whose best striker until recently was the agonizingly average Moussa Saw, Ligue 1 has experienced a huge qualitative boost.

However, this has not prevented the mass migration of many talented players (Patrick Aubameyang, Eden Hazard, Loic Remy, Mathieu Debuchy and Lisandro Lopez to name a few).  As a result, the divide between the “Big 2” and the rest is evident, and with Monaco only just promoted this season, this process is unlikely to reverse in the near future. Continue reading

Sandro – England’s Best Brazilian Is At White Hart Lane


The search for the best of Brazil in England is over according to Spooky of Dear Mr Levy and The Fighting Cock podcast…

“Sandro Raniere: the greatest Brazilian to grace the Premier League.”

I’m hoping that’s what Tottenham supporters (and unbiased critics) we’ll be saying in a few seasons time, when the beastly midfielder marshals our midfield to glory. There’s nothing wrong with ambitious desire and this is no day dream. I believe it and more importantly, Sandro has the look of a man who believes it too.

He’s only twenty-three years of age (the same as Gareth Bale) and last season looked set to further elevate his stature and evolution until injury put a stop to it.

Even if he’s yet to fulfil his potential in the real world, within the virtual worlds of football video games at least the Brazilian box-to-box man has become one of the most rated players around, regarded as a potential great packed with potential greatness. Continue reading

Ilan – West Ham’s Brazilian moon landing


Tom Victor looks back at an arrival that made history at The Boleyn Ground…

It might not have the gravity of the moon landing or the Kennedy assassination, but I remember exactly where I was when I learned that West Ham were set to sign Ilan.

I was with a group of friends at the Old Arcade pub in Cardiff, watching the first ever Sky 3D game, consoling my friend Rob, an Arsenal supporter, after his team was soundly beaten by Manchester United in one of those matches you knew was a big game because Sir Alex Ferguson had recalled Park Ji-Sung.

While reflecting on one of many blows to Arsenal’s title challenge that year, the TV in the background brought news of West Ham signing an unknown Brazilian called Ilan, deemed surplus to requirements at Saint-Étienne. Compared to Arsenal’s, ahem, arsenal up front – van Persie, Eduardo, a still-competent Andrey Arshavin – West Ham’s January transfer window business was an example of throwing a load of shit at a wall and hoping some of it stuck. Continue reading

Aitor Karanka, Oscar Garcia and the Globalisation of the Football League


TFN Editor Hugo Greenhalgh argues that the globalisation of the Football League can only be a good thing for the national game…

“This is a real change for our club but football is global now…and we were searching for a first-class coach”

In a year when the future of English football has been debated as intensely as ever, Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson’s comments last week made for interesting reading. Gibson was speaking to the media as he unveiled former Real Madrid assistant Aitor Karanka as Boro’s new manager. By his own admission, he was breaking out of the mould of the “little Englander” in appointing the first non-British manager to the Teesside club.  Gibson carried on, “Greg Dyke’s got his self-interest which is the FA and I’ve got my self-interest which is Middlesbrough Football Club”, referring to Dyke’s recent speech bemoaning the lack of English coaches as a contributing factor in the decline of the national game.

The FA Chairman may have had a point that the presence of foreign players and managers can stifle the progress of their English counterparts. However, if handled responsibly, a foreign influence can surely only bring benefits to England’s archaic football convention. Not only is Karanka an exciting appointment for Boro fans, it is a move that hints at a developing symbiotic relationship in Europe’s football landscape. Whilst the English leagues have much to gain from continental involvement, it would appear that European managers themselves are keen to coach in this country. Continue reading

Rodrigo Possebon: Manchester United’s Bruised Brazilian


Chris Clarke, editor of Can They Score, takes a brief look at Possebon…

Hailed as the real deal upon his arrival from Internacional in January 2008, Possebon was considered a player of immense promise for Manchester United. Eligible to sign so early thanks to his Italian passport, Possebon was considered one of the finest passers of the ball at the club. During his time at the club, he caught the eye of many in the Reserve set up and even earned himself a call up for the Italian U20 side. Continue reading

The Ballad of Afonso Alves


Michiel Jongsma of Opta Johan and BeNeFoot remembers Afonso Alves’ prolific  spell in the Netherlands…

When a player is a Brazilian international, has shown he can adapt in Europe, has racked up 45 league goals in 39 league games for his previous team and, at 27, is entering the summer years of his career, chooses your side to play for and he comes with a price tag of 16m, you’re bound to have expectations. Middlesbrough were a team on the slide after impressing in both national and continental cup competitions and Afonso Alves brought back hope. Hope that they could compete in the top half of the Premier League. One and a half years later, hope was gone.

And so was Afonso Alves. Continue reading