Like your football opinions hard-hitting, ill-thought-out and ceaselessly xenophobic? Good. You're in the right place. Because ALEX NETHERTON is here to SHOUT the FACTS the others don't even have the balls to whisper.
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Another weekend in the Premier League and there’s been the usual nonsense from the broadsheet hacks lording it up on the Sunday Supplement. These poshos with their ‘toast’, ‘croissants’ and ‘orange juice’ would not know a real opinion if it hit them. These are the people who discuss La Masia as if, like Britain’s prisons, it were anything more than a holiday camp. Somebody has to break through this guff, and that’s me. It’s time to call a spade a spade.
ARSENE WENGER, KING OF THE TRANSFER WINDOW
Like Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal did their business early. Before the World Cup finished, they moved for the Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez and negotiated his release swiftly, and with the minimum of fuss. Mathieu Debuchy was a sensible and well-priced replacement for Bacary Sagna, and Calum Chambers was added to make it six defenders at Arsenal for the season. A sensible streamlining of the squad.
In midfield, the £30 million spent to strengthen the wings when he had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott was obviously the priority. Getting this completed so soon into the summer allowed Arsene Wenger to relax, and referee a charity game in Rome on transfer deadline day - a really classy touch, a stand against the immediacy of modern life. When Danny Welbeck became available, and when you compare how many games he’s played in the Champions League compared to Radamel Falcao (signed from a footballing backwater), you have to say Welbeck looks the better deal. Olivier Giroud and Welbeck will be some line up in 2015 - the season starts then for Arsenal, and what a calendar year it could be.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR - DIEGO COSTA
I’ve watched enough football in my time to know how the season will play out. Everyone knows that each year in my column I have correctly identified the year’s Premier League winner. That this cannot be verified on the internet is simply coincidence. After waking on Saturday morning ready to write Diego Costa off as a feckless wastel for succumbing to a hamstring injury, I was then doubly wowed by his recovery in time for the match. I think what impressed me even more than his technical ability, goalscoring, pace, passing and movement, was the fact that he got in couple of fights - no wonder the Spanish World Cup squad couldn’t make the most of him, they were too cowardly.
The most important thing is not what evidence you are presented with over the course of the season, it is what strikes you in the gut before the chance you get to rationalise or examine. In the game against Everton, with those two goals, with the fights and insults with Seamus Coleman, there can be no doubt that Diego Costa is a worthy successor to Luis Suarez as player of the year. I’ve already sent my nomination. Fair play, Diego, fair play.
POCHETTINO SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF DEFEAT
I also experienced a similar change of heart on Sunday. Having watched the Sunday Supplement and caught up on the press, I was fairly confident that Mauricio Pochettino had transformed Spurs from Tim Sherwood’s days. Gone were the blood-and-thunder theatrics, here was the focus on technical abilities above old-fashioned concepts like passion and desire - there were too many fights last year, and that got in the way. This was a modern head coach, not a manager, capable of getting the best out of a relatively unchanged squad.
And then they lost three-nil at home to Liverpool, and I realised. Pochettino has a habit of speaking to the press with the aid of a translator, or in garbled English. No wonder his teams collapse at the first hint of trouble if they’re being managed by someone who does not speak the God’s own language. The Second World War was won in English; it wasn’t even lost in Spanish.
BALOTELLI FINALLY GIVEN A SAVIOUR
Mario Balotelli has always struggled. He buys Scalectrix, sets off fireworks, and sometimes he gets sent off. In essence, he is an absolutely uncontrollable monster who is on the very verge of destroying his whole career and finding himself in the abyss. Thank God, then, that he has Brendan Rodgers. It's possible, going on the hour Balotelli played at White Hart Lane, that Rodgers has prevented him from becoming an Italian version of Paul Gascoigne.
And how did he do it? Well, Rodgers is a maverick thinker, and Balotelli, with his funny hats, is obviously a maverick player. Rodgers, though, is schooled in rehabilitating reckless madmen. And aren’t Suaresz and Balotelli essentially the same? Under his management, Suarez became good enough to move to Barcelona and play with Neymar and Lionel Messi. It was typical, then, of his brilliant, enigmatic, and superbly human qualities - typical of Liverpool football club - to bring Balotelli down to earth.
Rodgers said at the weekend: "We were practicing corners, and [Balotelli] said to me, 'I don't mark at corners.' I said, 'You do now'. Just treat him like an adult."
Rodgers has said he got Balotelli to mark at corners for the very first time in his life. Isn’t that the most authentic and poignant story you have ever heard?
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- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- Danny Welbeck
- DIEGO COSTA