Piers Barber profiles the man charged with keeping Fulham up – Felix Magath…
“The English are already trembling” read the headline in the German newspaper Bild, just hours after it became clear that Felix Magath, a three times Bundesliga-winning coach also known as the toughest of disciplinarians, had been appointed as the new manager of Fulham.
Dimitar Berbatov will be overjoyed that he got out of the club when he did. For the languorous Bulgarian striker – now lounging next to the bluest sea in some sunny neighbourhood of Monaco, occasionally having a kickabout with Falcao – Magath is the pure embodiment of his worst nightmare. Continue reading →
TFN’s Piers Barber on the Premier League players who will be fighting desperately to make it into their national squads before the season is out.
The Spanish contingent
Spain, current defending World champions and winners of the last two European Championships, are extremely strong contenders for the title of Best Team To Have Ever Played Anywhere In The World Ever, or something like that. Their embarrassment of midfield riches has meant they are once again one of the favourites to walk away with football’s biggest prize in Brazil, yet their strength in depth has also laid on a substantial challenge for some of the nation’s most talented players to even make it on to the plane to South America. Juan Mata, who scored in the Euro 2012 final, felt his place in the national squad under such threat that he recently initiated a move from Chelsea to Manchester United in a quest to secure some playing time in the lead up to the tournament. Jesus Navas at Manchester City and Santi Cazorla at Arsenal, meanwhile, will have to ensure they are on top form throughout the rest of the season if they hope to figure in Brazil.
The suffering Man United players
It’s been a calamitous start to 2014 for Manchester United, who have lost five of their nine games since the turn of the year. Their dramatic post-Alex Ferguson slump has not only put the Old Trafford club in serious danger of failing to qualify for European football next year, but has also threatened to jeopardise several of their highest profile players’ international careers. Marouane Fellaini, for instance, desperately needs to find some form if he is to make the starting line-up for highly fancied Belgium, whilst Nani – who, through a combination of bad form and injury, has barely figured throughout 2013/14 – must also improve if he is to feature for Portugal. Elsewhere, whilst an excellent season last year put Michael Carrick in contention for a starting berth for England in Brazil, a dire first half to the current campaign has cast even his spot on the plane in substantial doubt. Continue reading →
Josh Dishman returns to The False Nine with some thoughts on the Premier League’s Danish arrivals and departures…
The beginning of this Premier League season held great hope for followers of the Danish Superliga. The summer transfer window saw three of its standout players make their first strides into the ‘Best League in the World’, and I was interested to see how Andreas Cornelius, Nicklas Helenius and Jores Okore could adapt to the more demanding rigours of the Premier League. The fact that all three players possess the requisite physicality gave me every confidence that they would represent Denmark proudly after the shambles that was Christian Poulsen in Hodge-era Liverpool. Yet things have not gone according to plan.
On the face of it, it’s fair enough to assume that none of the signings have paid off. Record signing Cornelius returned to FC Copenhagen with his sole contribution being as collateral in the sackings of manager Malky Mackay and Head of Recruitment Iain Moody. Despite being bought for comparatively meagre sums of money, Aston Villa’s Danish signings have had a nightmare start to English football. Helenius’ only telling contribution thus far has been as a viral hit after his shorts fell down whilst shooting against Tottenham, and his team mate Okore, who had made a promising start to his Aston Villa career, has been sidelined since suffering a season-ending knee injury back in September. Continue reading →
Host Greg Johnson and regulars Hugo Greenhalgh and James Dutton are joined by Andi Thomas and Ben McAleer for the second of The False Nine’s live “Pubcast” events at The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub, in Angel.
They discuss the continued failings of David Moyes and Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool’s title chances, the place of stats in the football discourse and their favourite goal celebrations of all time.
Listen to it below on SoundCloud or download it now on iTunes.
TFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh picks five young Belgians who could yet find themselves on the plane to Brazil this summer…
1. Thorgan Hazard (Zulte Waregem, on loan from Chelsea, 20)
As Eden continues to cement his reputation as one of the Premier League’s brightest stars, brother Thorgan is making waves of his own. Indeed, Francky Dury, his coach at Zulte Waregem, declared last week, “He is no longer Eden’s brother. He is Thorgan Hazard in his own right”. Now in his second season on loan at the Belgian side, Hazard was recently awarded the Golden Show Award for the best player in the League. Continue reading →
With the Christmas rush of games now long behind us, Chris Francis takes a look at how the promotion chasers are settling into 2014…
Leicester have built up an enormous lead with many pundits now declaring them as certainties to go up. They are 10 points clear of second and—more importantly—13 clear of third. Their 1-0 win over Bournemouth saw them break three club records: longest number of games won in a row (nine), most away wins achieved in a row (five), and oldest goalscorer (Kevin Phillips). The margin of victory should have perhaps been larger yet despite registering 22 shots (seven of which were on target), the Foxes found themselves denied by an inspired Lee Camp in nets for the Cherries.
Watford are up next for Leicester, a side they have beaten already this year away from home, but who still hold something of a hoodoo over the men in Royal Blue following the end-of-season scenes at Vicarage Road last year. After that they play local rivals, Nottingham Forest.
Valentin Boulan returns to TFN with some reflections on former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb…
The date is September 11th, 2012. France entertains Belarus in one of those routine qualifying matches – you know, the type of games in which out of form strikers love to get their confidence back? In the fixture’s turning point, Belarus playmaker Alexander Hleb finds himself through on goal, a golden opportunity as his team still had all to play for.
As the attacker runs through, TF1 commentator Arsene Wenger, as usual the quietest and brightest man on the panel, whispers, “He won’t shoot”. And, of course, he didn’t. The chance was gone, and the opposition went on to win.
Aliaksandr Hleb doesn’t score, because he doesn’t shoot. Instead, he symbolises this lost Arsenal generation which played beautifully, and lost even more beautifully. Young, talented, technical and creative, he was part of a glamorous midfield alongside Rosicky, Fabregas and Flamini (version 1.0).
Gifted with fabulous ball control and vision, Hleb was the perfect fit for Wenger’s possession obsessed side. A master of short passing and one touch football, he could also easily get past his direct opponent, making a difference and creating gaps on his own. A versatile attacker, he was comfortable playing on either wing or in a more central position. Continue reading →