PFA Young Player of the Year

Following from my look at the PFA Player nominees, here is my look at the Young Player nominees! Now, shout outs this time though unfortunately!

Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea

At the age of 22 Courtois has managed to dislodge Chelsea’s former number one and in my opinion the best goalkeeper of the Premier League in Petr Cech. He is one of a handful of goalkeepers who are challenging Manuel Neuer as the world’s best and I feel that the Belgian is Neuer’s closest rival in terms of not just his ability, but also his potential.

Courtois came straight into the Chelsea team this season after several excellent seasons and showings on loan at Atletico Madrid where he made his name as one of the world’s most promising stoppers. Aside from his incredible shot-stopping ability and athleticism, Courtois’ mental ability and composure help put confidence into the back four in front of him, as well as his imposing 6″ 6 frame.

David De Gea – Manchester United

The first of four players who are on the Young Player of Year shortlist as well as the Player of the Year shortlist, as well as being the second goalkeeper on the list. To read my full inspection into De Gea’s inclusion then read my bit on him in the PotY shortlist review. The one part I will say here is the Spanish internationals performances this season are the only set which have not been consistently scapegoated by United fans, a testament to the amazing season De Gea has had, he is a lot of the reason why United occupy such a high spot in the table.

Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

This seems to be the year where all the young players take over the Player of the Year category as well, with Harry Kane being the second on this shortlist to occupy a place in both lists and personally he is my favourite to pick up the Young Player award. Kane’s surge to prominence has been a shining light ins dull season for Tottenham who are battling for a Europa League spot as a much-coveted Champions League spot has fallen slightly out of their reach. The question on everyone’s lips will be if the 21-year-old can replicate his excellent form over the coming seasons.

Phillipe Coutinho – Liverpool

If people doubted that Coutinho deserved a place on the Player of the Year shortlist then. His inclusion in the Young Player of the Year shortlist can’t be in question. The Brazilian has been one of two Liverpool players who have been consistently excellent over the course of the season (Jordan Henderson being the other) and who can really hold their heads high despite overall team disappointment. Coutinho will be another hoping to kick-on next season and really make an impact in the Premier League and try and push his team if not to a title then a Champions League spot.

Raheem Sterling – Liverpool

Finally, another player who is only up for the Young Player of the Year award. After a blistering start to the campaign, carrying on his form from last season, Sterling needed to have a break and after the 20-year-old winger returned to action we saw much of the exciting play return with him and he was back to his best, interchanging with his team-mates as part of an exciting Liverpool attack.

Sterling has returned his best-ever goals tally so far of his career this season netting 11 so far. Despite contract talks stalling and wage demands becoming astronomical there is no doubt in my mind that Liverpool would prefer to keep Sterling, who if he can keep his feet on the ground will have an excellent career and Liverpool will want to come to some sort of compromise to keep the prospect.

Eden Hazard – Chelsea

The Belgian is the last player on the list, he however is also up for both awards. He is my favourite and the bookies favourite to pick up the Player of the Year award with Spurs striker Kane being the favourite to pick up the Young Player award. But don’t be surprised after his best season so far in West London if Hazard picks up both gongs like Gareth Bale in 2012-13.

PFA Player of the Year nominations and David Luiz

Firstly I’m going to start off by giving a shout out to David Luiz. It is not your fault that PSG decided to fork out a monumentally stupid sum of money on you, man. It meant Jose Mourinho and Chelsea were laughing their way to the bank, €50 million wasn’t it? Even so, when Luiz has a defensive rock like John Terry or Thiago Silva next to him he has the heart of a roaring lion, it goes with his permy mane of hair that envelops his cranium, a cranium where defensive knowledge and solidity doesn’t seem to inhabit. Now I like Luiz, I think he’s a good footballer but defensively he can be so slack. With Germany, Luis Suarez and Barcelona being the most notable beneficiaries of such mistakes. Suarez loves a nutmeg on the poor guy doesn’t he?

Now onto the real business; PFA Player of the Year nominations, and here’s my take on them:

Diego Costa – Chelsea

The Spaniard arrived at Stamford Bridge at the start of the season with a rough reputation and equally as high expectations. But his goalscoring exploits and all-round play have more than justified the hefty price that Chelsea paid for him. His strong and robust style of play have helped the Brazilian-born frontman in the Premier League with a lot of opposition players also trying to get under his skin, but Costa has risen above any negativity drawn towards him and scored goals for his new club.

His great start to the season saw him combine with fellow new signing Cesc Fabregas to devastating effect. He scored seven goals in his first four games and now currently stands on 18 in 22 in the league, which looks set to have contributed to firing Chelsea to their first league title since 2010.

Harry Kane – Tottenham Hotspur

21-year-old Kane has had an incredible breakthrough season in his first full season in the Tottenham first-team. He was initially restricted to cup and Europa League games but his good goalscoring form saw him usurp Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor and demand a place in Spurs starting 11 where his rise to prominence has been a shining light in a mediocre season for Tottenham. 

He is currently the joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 20 goals and he became the first Spurs player to get 30 goals in a season in all competitions since Gary Linekar in 1991-92. His fine form was recognised with a call-up to the senior England national team where he scored on his debut after 79 seconds of being on the pitch after coming on as a substitute.

Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal

The Chilean winger joined from Barcelona in the summer for a fee of £35million, making him Arsenal’s second most expensive signing ever. After being a consistently good player for Barcelona and Chile (especially during the World Cup) there were initial doubts as to whether Sanchez could adapt to the Premier League but he quickly dispelled any doubts by producing moments and goals of class and ingenuity for Arsenal consistently over the course of the season.

Sanchez’s work-rate and determination are just as vital in his repertoire as his South American flair.  It is these traits which have endeared him to Arsenal fans just as much as his 22 goals in 45 games in all competitions this season. 

Eden Hazard – Chelsea

Personally, I think Hazard is the favourite for the Player of the Year crown and it’s a long-time coming as it’s the second time in a row he has been nominated. He is the current holder of the PFA Young Player of the Year award and has been the main component in Chelsea’s title chase.

He’s a vital part in the fluid attacking unit that Chelsea possess with his brilliant dribbling skills, balance and touch which have helped him wreak havoc among defences this season. He has scored 18 goals in 45 appearances in all competitions this season as well as laying on heaps of assists for his Chelsea team-mates. In my opinion he has consistently been the best and most exciting player in the Premier League this season and him winning Player of the Year would be a just reward for his efforts.

David De Gea – Manchester United

The Spaniard used to be a scapegoat for Man United’s failings but his talent and potential was never in doubt. After a bad start to his career in England he is now regarded as one of the best goalkeepers not just in the Premier League but in the world.

The Red Devils had a poor start to the season by their high standards and many fans were rightfully frustrated with the team. Even when they did manage to win fans were still disappointed with their play, one player they were never disappointed with was De Gea. He has produced countless match-winning saves and on occasion looked unbeatable between the sticks and is one of the main reasons why United sit so pretty where their early and mid-season form suggested they wouldn’t be so well off.

Phillipe Coutinho – Liverpool

The 22-year-old playmaker has been a controversial inclusion in the shortlist but he is in the shortlist nonetheless and there are obvious reasons as to why. He has been a standout member of the Liverpool team this season producing brilliant goals and moments while consistently playing well to help their push for a coveted Champions League spot.

Countinho’s pace, vision and dribbling skills have allowed him to influence games like no other Liverpool player has been able to do. He has produced important goals in big games and has really stepped up in the eyes of not just Liverpool fans but his Premier League peers as well, which despite the disagreements as to whether he should be in the shortlist or not, justifies his inclusion.

Top ten most disappointing players in 2014/15 – Premier League

Here is my list of ten players who great things were expected of this season but they’ve failed to deliver.

1) Yaya Toure – Manchester City

Last season the Ivorian powerhouse was a key factor in City winning their second Premier League title. He scored 20 goals in the league campaign, only the second midfielder ever to do so, and was shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award. He was also included in the PFA Team of the Year as he helped guide City to the league crown, having his highest scoring season in the process with 24 goals in all competitions.

This season, Toure has disappointed City fans with his lackadaisical approach to matches, he has only scored nine goals all season but his impact in games has faded away from the dominance he has had in previous seasons. In the Manchester derby he registered just over 11 kilometres travelled in the game which was the fourth highest of everyone on the pitch, the problem for City and Toure was the slow, lumbering pace at which he travelled. 

2) Adnan Januzaj – Manchester United

Last season Januzaj was one of United’s best players but in all honesty I think he was such a phenomenon because of the Red Devils, quite frankly, awful season. Januzaj scored four goals in his first full season in the first team but it was his exciting play which made the fans buzz about their new teenage sensation. A brace in a 2-1 win away to Sunderland in his first start gave Januzaj the confidence to express himself in what was a new era without Sir Alex Ferguson and he certainly gave the United fans hope.

Summer signings of Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and the emergence of fellow Belgian Marouane Fellaini in the United squad have limited 20-year-old Januzaj’s chances and his appearances to just 18 so far this season, mostly from the bench, and he has notched no goals. His off-the-boil performances have been questionable, just like his ability to stay on his feet as his tendency to dive has given him a reputation among opposition teams, fans and match officials. He has picked up four yellow cards for diving in his short career so far, the same amount of first-team goals he has scored.

3) Tim Howard – Everton

The American international had a good season in 2013/14 which is what he has become renowned for since his move to Everton, steady if unspectacular. He has kept over 100 clean sheets for Everton and was just two games short of Neville Southall’s record of 212 consecutive Premier League in 2013; he accumulated 210 consecutive appearances which dated back to 2007 and he was behind the third-best Premier League defence last term. Howard’s real excellence came in the World Cup where he broke the record for most saves made in a World Cup match with 15, in a 2-1 loss to Belgium.

Evertonians would have hoped that Howard would have come back from the World Cup in fine form continuing from his quarter-final heroics and last season’s consistency. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case as several high-profile mistakes, injury problems and only keeping four clean sheets mean that Howard has failed to deliver for the Toffees. At 36 years old, Everton may start thinking about a replacement for their stalwart.

4) Per Mertesacker – Arsenal

The BFG (you know what it stands for) was in good form last season, forming an excellent partnership with Laurent Koscielny. His influence was cited as a factor behind Arsenal’s excellent start to the season and he was club captain in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta. Mertesacker was an essential part of Arsenal’s defence as they kept the joint most clean sheets in the league, conceding the fourth least amount of goals. Mertesacker also went to the World Cup with Germany and returned a world champion.

Mertesacker’s form this season has been less than convincing, his early season form saw people question his ability and assume a World Cup hangover. His poor form lately has seen him briefly replaced by January signing Gabriel Paulista to ease the pressure on the 30-year-old German’s shoulders. Some Arsenal fans have called for Mertesacker to be sold at the end of the season as his shortcomings this season have often led to Arsenal conceding goals and invaluable points.

5) Dejan Lovren – Liverpool

The Croatian centre back had an outstanding season last year with Southampton after signing from Lyon, even scoring the winning goal at Anfield against Liverpool in a 2-1 win. His partnership with Jose Fonte was one of the most impressive in the league and he was the fifth highest ranked player from the Premier League in 31st position in Bloomberg Sports’ Power 50 list.

Lovren moved to Liverpool after much speculation about his future, becoming the third player to move from Southampton and Liverpool in the summer transfer window. He cost Liverpool £20million and Liverpool must have wished they bought Fonte instead after some questionable performances from Lovren who instead of being the commanding, no-nonsense centre back to replace Daniel Agger has made some high-profile errors which have compounded Liverpool’s struggles at the back this season.

6) Rio Ferdinand – QPR

After leaving Manchester United last summer following a 12-year stint at Old Trafford where he forged a name as one of the best centre backs of the Premier League era, not to mention becoming one of the most decorated centre backs too winning honours including six Premier League titles, one FA Cup and a Champions League. His contract expired with the Red Devils and he moved to QPR where he was expected to give some high-level experience at the heart of a defence that was expected to be shaky.

Ferdinand’s season has been awful and he has looked every bit of his 36 years of age. He has had a couple of spells out injured and his partnership with Steven Caulker was meant to be a successful one but it had been anything but with QPR languishing in an around the relegation zone for most of the season. Ferdinand also announced in October 2014 that he expects to retire at the end of the season. 

7) Mario Balotelli – Liverpool

The Ghanian-born Italian has always been able to show his talent at past teams and there’s no doubting his ability but there have always been question marks over his attitude and discipline. In his time at AC Milan, Balotelli went through a streak of scoring 12 goals in 13 games, he also started off his time with AC by scoring four goals in three appearances equaling Oliver Bierhoff’s record. Balotelli’s form with Italy was also good in this time giving him many suitors across Europe.

Balotelli signed for Liverpool for £16million and was expected to help fill the boots of the departing Luis Suarez but the 24-year-olds past problems have caught up with him again with his attitude and work-ethic being called into question many times. He has only scored four goals in 21 appearances, with just one of those coming in the league; even that took him 13 appearances.

8) Elaquim Mangala – Manchester City

24-year-old French centre-back Mangala was bought for £31.8million, making him the second most expensive defender in Premier League history and a lot was expected of the Frenchman after he shone at FC Porto, winning consecutive Primeira Liga titles. Reported interest stemmed from Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City before the blue half of Manchester pipped any would be rivals to the signature of the promising defender.

Mangala’s City career started well with a performance described by BBC Sport as “colossal” against title rivals Chelsea on his debut. However, six days later against Hull he conceded a penalty and scored an own goal and his performances have disappointed the City faithful ever since. The physically imposing central defender has failed to make much of a positive impact in the first team, failing to permanently hold down a starting spot alongside captain Vincent Kompany.

9) Falcao – Manchester United

When United signed Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco the Premier League stood up and took note of the sleeping giants. For years, the Colombian has been one of European footballs hottest properties; from his time with Porto to his stint in Monaco, the lethal frontman has always scored goals having a scoring record of 155 goals in games in Portugal, Spain and France combined. 

Falcao has endured a torrid time in Manchester having only played 23 games all season and only finding the net four times. His injury troubles have given him lengthy spells on the sidelines and he found himself playing for the under 21s which is a step down from the player who fans thought was going to fire them back to greatness. For £350,000-a-week and a substantial loan fee the fans and the club would have expected more, I can’t see United making his loan move permanent at all, let alone for the fee reported. 

10) Vincent Kompany – Manchester City

Another City player to make it onto my countdown, not very surprising considering their extremely disappointing season so far. Kompany was back to his dominant best last season as he captained City to his, and their, second Premier League crown in three years. He was included in the 2014 Premier League Team of the Year which was a reward for his fine form during the season.

The Belgian has had a season to forget at the heart of the City defence as he has failed to consistently produce the dominant displays which became so synonymous with his style of play. Injuries and inconsistent form from the captain have been replicated across the City squad who have been in and out of form in their attempted defence of their Premier League title and I think Kompany’s form  has personified City’s failings this season; back to their dominant best on occasion, but not often enough.

23 reasons why I love Arsenal

Recently I posted 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me. I thought I would balance out the scales a little bit and give you 23 reasons why I love Arsenal. I said this would happen after something more positive had happened in the season; what better way to light the fuse than knocking Man a united out of the FA Cup at Old Trafford with Danny Welbeck scoring the winner and winning in Monaco? Albeit in vein.

Here’s my 23 reasons!

1) History

It is a matter of fact that Arsenal are the third most successful team in English footballing history, behind Manchester United and Liverpool who have a richer history than John D. Rockefeller. Arsenal boast a wealth of excellent achievements in their past; three league and cup doubles, the Invincibles, the players who Arsenal have had play for them, Herbert Chapman, Highbury. Arsenal are a team who have a lot to be proud of in both their history and their traditions.

Arsenal have a trophy-haul which boasts 13 league titles, a joint-record 11 FA Cups, two League Cups, 13 Community Shields, one European Cup Winners’ Cup and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (European competition, abolished in 1971 but we still won it, okay?). The Emirates Stadium has a trophy room which isn’t exactly heaving but overall, Arsenal’s trophy room is the third largest in England so overall, we make a good name for ourselves.

2) Arsene Wenger

The Frenchman is all I’ve ever known at Arsenal. Taking over in 1996 when I was four to the cries of “Arsene Who?” He quickly made a name for himself as he won the league and cup double in just his second season. Wenger has had so much longevity that Arsenal have changed stadiums in my lifetime but not managers, this shows not just the longevity of Wenger but the loyalty, which you will read about round about…

.. Now. 

Wenger had offers to go to pastures new with Real Madrid, PSG, France and Barcelona among others. Clubs who had the money and the players that Wenger could use as he pleased and dominate European football along the way, but Wenger had a plan and project at Arsenal which he is determined to finish. Whoever takes over after Wenger has left (or retired) will be envied as he inherits what will be a good squad, no debt and a big stadium. All put into his hands by Mr Wenger.

Another reason why you have to love Wenger is because of his impact not just on Arsenal but English football. Not only did he develop his own style of play and philosophy which became synonymous with his team, but he also changed diets of players and stressed the importance of nutrition by bringing in dieticians managing to get the very best of his players and their bodies. He is given credit for helping to revolutionise training and diets in the highest level in English football.

3) The Invincibles

What a brilliant time this was to be alive. Arsenal went the whole league campaign unbeaten, the first time since Preston had gone the whole league season unbeaten in 1889. The thing which made Arsenal’s achievement even better was the fact that Preston only had to play 22 games, whereas Arsenal had to go 38. Won 26, drew 12, lost 0.

The following season, Arsenal stretched their unbeaten record to 49 games when they ultimately succumbed to a controversial loss against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but history had been made already. Arsenal went unbeaten in the league from May 2003 to October 2004, an amazing achievement in anyones eyes.

Arsene Wenger predicted that Arsenal could go a season unbeaten but was a season too early in his predictions, making himself look foolish at the time. But Le Professeur had the last laugh when his team led by the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires went on to become arguably the greatest team ever assembled to play in the top flight. 

4) Firsts

Arsenal are a team of firsts; first team to go a whole 38-game season unbeaten, first English team to beat Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalonstadion, first English team to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, first English team to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, first English team to beats AC & Inter Milan at the San Siro. Arsenal’s pedigree in not just the league but also the Champions League is of an enviable stature to most clubs in the country.

5) Thierry Henry

This man gets his own spot. My favourite player ever to grace a football pitch, let alone the Premier League or an Arsenal shirt. The Frenchman was a player that opposition fans couldn’t hate because he was simply that good. Pundits, fans, managers and other professionals will also argue that Henry was the greatest player ever to play in the Premier League, and he was ours!

228 goals in 376 games for the club meant he went down in history as not only the clubs top scorer but he was voted the clubs greatest ever player. The fact I got to watch him in my lifetime is something I am immensely happy that I have seen.

He went from promising striker to failed winger to deadliest striker in the world in the matter of five years and under Wenger’s tutelage he became a legend both for Arsenal and English football. Two Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two Community Shields in his spell at the club. Ladies and gentlemen, Thierry Henry.

6) Alexis Sanchez

From the best player of the clubs past, to the best player in the clubs current squad. I haven’t been so excited or happy that we have a player in Arsenal’s team since the aforementioned Henry and Sanchez is a player who demands the best from himself week in, week out.

His attitude is second-to-none, if he loses the ball he will chase back and try to win it back which is the attitude our entire squad needs to take up, which some have in recent weeks/months. 

His endearing mix of power, skill and heart has made the Chilean winger an instant hit with Arsenal fans and with 19 goals in 40 games so far in his first season he is up for the signing of the season award as well as breaking records held by Henry if he carries on in the same vein of form.

7) Faith

I mentioned in my previous 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me post that Wenger put his faith in deadwood and an all too familiar story was brewing that players weren’t quite what was expected of them, but Wenger has produced world class players time and time again through just having faith in them when signing them, or alternatively, when they have come through being a youngster.

Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere and Ashley Cole, to name a few, were players that came through the ranks as youngsters and Wenger backed them. Pires, Henry, Vieira and Robin Van Persie (again, to name a few) were all players who came to Arsenal with wavering reputations that Wenger backed and he bore the fruit of their talents through all of them becoming world-class players.

As a player if everyone is against you, you need to have the backing of someone and Wenger put faith in them even at their worst, which is why he was able to get the best out of the majority of players he has worked with. It can take one person to turn your confidence, and who better than the boss who delegates when you play? 

8) Star Players

A couple of which I have previously mentioned, but Arsenal’s past (and present, sort of) has a plethora of established international players and world class footballers. From players in the past like Liam Brady and Kenny Sansom, to Henry and Bergkamp to the current squad in Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have always boasted world class players in their prime who have made a difference at the club.

9) Emirates Stadium

The Emirates Stadium is the second biggest club stadium in England with a capacity of just over 60,000. The seats are designed to give maximum comfort to everyone inside and there is not a bad seat in the house in terms of view. The design of the stadium and everything behind the scenes has been built with the specific purpose of giving Arsenal the edge over opposition both pre and post-match.

The truth is that The Emirates is just starting to feel like home, after the move in summer of 2006 Arsenal had a good home record and things were starting to fall into place but there was always something missing. Now that Arsenal have settled the debt to the stadium, claimed their first piece of silverware since the move and completed the “Arsenalisation” of the stadium things can really begin to take off. 

We should be proud of the stadium and start to make more effort to make teams fear going there – make noise, don’t leave before 90 minutes and please, please, please.. NO empty seats.

10) The 10 Year Plan

 A sturdy economic plan which would be stuck to and seen out until the clubs debt had been wiped out. In today’s game usually that would mean a Sheikh or Russian billionaire taking over, but not for Arsenal. With his masters degree in economics and the backing of the board, Wenger would draw up the blueprints for our clubs future which would consist of the 10 year plan, not spending over the odds on wages or transfers, consistently bringing in money and maintaining their stature challenging for trophies and being in the Champions League while being a self-sustained modern club, a truly rare spectacle among the top teams.

The trophyless period was unfortunate , but it was also a time of transition. Arsenal had just lost the greatest team in their history due to moving on, old age etc, but under Wenger it has been as predicted, a success. Deals with Puma, Fly Emirates and other smaller commercial benefactors as well as increased ticket and merchandising sales since the move have meant in falling back behind other competitors in terms of on the field success and trophies, they have propelled themselves ahead of their rivals in terms of revenue and self-sustainability. Which was exactly the point.

11) New Finance

Touched upon in the last point, they go hand-in-hand. Arsenal’s new found finance in the last couple of seasons has seen them be able to spend big on Ozil (£42million) and Sanchez (£35million), which Arsenal fans were crying out for, we wanted marquee signings and we got them. 

We had to see the pain of selling big players; Robin Van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure all left for a minimum of £15million each and that was to see the 10 year plan through. Now Arsenal are reaping the rewards as they are able to spend more freely due to having no debt, and no debt means no worries. 

Arsenal were able to record £301.9million turnover from 2014 alone. Driven by improved broadcasting income, commercial deals and FA Cup success this can be only a foundation for things to come. In 2014 Forbes estimated the club as the fifth most valuable association football club in the world, with the value at over £1.3billion.

12) Champions League

Yes, Arsenal have never won the Champions League. Yes, I still cry about that night in Paris in 2006. But Arsenal have consistently been in the competition, delighting us with epic European nights (and upsetting us) for 17 consecutive seasons, a feat only surpassed by Real Madrid and Manchester United.

We have had the revenue which Champions League football brings, as well as the type of player it attracts when it comes to signings for that entire period – sometimes it’s like we’re spoilt when we complain that we’ve only got in the Champions League. Yes, we’re used to challenging but we consistently are seen as one of the top teams in Europe, a major footballing power and it’s something we take for granted.

We also hold the record for most consecutive clean sheets in the competition with ten, so it’s not as if we’ve only been there making up the numbers this whole time.

13) Never had debt problems

Arsenal have never been a team with major debt problems. So it’s a good basis to becoming a self-sustainable club right? Before the signing of Ozil, Arsenal’s biggest spend on a single player was Andrey Arshavin at £15million, which is a relatively small fee compared to other clubs at the time. The wages were never astronomical so Arsenal were always spending within their limits.

The move to The Emirates did produce a debt of £370million but Arsenal adjusted accordingly, balanced the books and now with the debt wiped off things continue to look up for the Arsenal accounting team.

14) Pre-season hope

Because what is better than false hope, right? It is hope nonetheless after all and without hope you can’t create a dream. Arsenal will always do well in pre-season with fringe players and younger players having a promising campaign, signings made and Wenger’s usual words of optimism. It always gives you a nice little warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t it? Which is usually eradicated by February, but we have the hope nonetheless.

15) “Arsenal goal”

This term was used whenever a team would score a goal with multiple team members getting involved in a team move, or a fast-paced counter-attack. This term was used because of Arsenal’s fast flowing attacking play which is a philosophy brought in by Wenger which has brought the manager and his teams a lot of plaudits.

Goals in recent seasons from Jack Wilshere (vs Norwich) and Olivier Giroud (vs West Ham) have rekindled the type of play which Arsenal were renowned for, I just hope it can continue and lead to more silverware on a regular basis!

16) Good Squad

The fact is this probably the best squad we’ve had since 2007/2008, and it certainly has a lot more depth than that squad did! The fact is that every single member of the Arsenal first team is an established international and all back-up and rotational members are still of good enough calibre to be good replacements. Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin have come into the squad as replacements and staked claims to make their spots their own.

For the first time in years Arsenal have multiple good options in every position and that is going to be an excellent advantage going into this summers transfer market with only a couple of players needing to come in.

17) Club Stature

Eluded to earlier. Arsenal are the third most successful club in English footballing history. The only team ever to go 49 league games unbeaten, joint record FA Cup winners with 13 league titles too and a fan base of over 100 million supporters – making them the third lost supported team in the world. Yes, we have faltered since our dominant period but we are still regarded as one of the biggest clubs in the world, something we should be extremely proud of.

We have one of the best records in the top flight, having accumulated the second most wins and the second most points and We would be placed first in an aggregated league of the entire 20th century. 

18) No-one can say we’re glory hunters

After a nine-year trophy drought no-one in their right mind can say we’re glory hunters.

19) Three League and Cup doubles

Arsenal have the joint-most league and cup doubles with Manchester United with three each. We are one of two to achieve it in the 20th century and one of two to achieve it in the 21st century. We are the only team to achieve it in two different centuries. Arsene Wenger is responsible for two of the doubles which Arsenal have won and he won his first in just his second season in charge of the team.

20) Highbury

It was unfortunate that Arsenal had to move away from Highbury but for the clubs future it was the best thing to do, but the history ingrained at the old stadium is one we can be proud to carry over to The Emirates. Parts of Highbury have been reinstalled at The Emirates Stadium as part of the “Arsenalisation” of the stadium – the clock which has been at Arsenal since 1930 was repositioned on the south stand. The marble halls were reinstalled along with the bust of Herbert Chapman.

Arsenal were at the old stadium for 93 years and it would have been lovely in the final season to bring the Champions League as a curtain call but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way, but the history that Highbury holds is no doubt a huge part of Arsenal Football Club.

Highbury has now been developed as a residential development known as Highbury Square with parts of the East and West stands being incorporated due to their listed status.

21) At least we’re not Tottenham

Imagine a club moving from South London onto your doorstep in North London and building a richer history and greater stature than you. Congratulations, you are now Tottenham.

No matter how bad a season goes for Arsenal, you can almost guarantee that a season has gone worse for Tottenham. Tottenham haven’t finished above Arsenal since 1995 and it’s starting to annoy them somewhat, even coming to within a matter of goal difference a couple of times since. Arsenal also hold the cards in terms of results with Arsenal winning 77 ties and Tottenham winning 55. So there you go, we could have it worse.

22) English core

Now I don’t feel that an English core is key, but I do feel that having a core of a particular nationality is vital for communication and harmony in a dressing room. The English core is able to give the media what they want and keep the critics quiet but with Aesenal’s core of English players there really is an excitement that follows the talent on show. 

Gibbs, Chambers, Wilshere, Welbeck, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain are all extremely talented players and with the oldest being Theo Walcott at just 26 years old, you can’t help but feel that as this squad gets older they will get closer and ultimately Arsenal will profit when their talent and maturity bears fruit.

23) Nurturing young talent

Arsenal, and more specifically now Wenger, have become renowned for finding young, talented players and nurturing them into something world class.

Henry, Fabregas, Van Persie, Vieira, Nicolas Anelka and Marc Overmars, to name a few, have all come to Arsenal and left after getting success at the club and leaving for fees astronomically bigger than those which they were signed for – a trend which has carried on unfortunately but Wenger’s penchant for finding talent in youngsters is second-to-none.

23 reasons why Arsenal upset me

The reason why I started this blog initially was because I had a lot of football opinions and Twitter doesn’t provide me with enough characters to put across my opinions in the depth I want, that and a University module. Now I simply post a link where you lovely people can see my opinions and I don’t need to write 1,000 tweets about the subject in question.

As you know I am an Arsenal fan (if you don’t, you do now) and this season has proved to pan out upsettingly similar to the rest – it starts off with much promise and slowly (or in the case of this season IMMEDIATELY) starts to go downhill.

I have listed 23 reasons why Arsenal upset me. Now I could probably list you 23 reasons why Arsenal make me happy, but after a 3-1 home loss to Monaco that one isn’t likely, so keep an eye out and that one could come out soon when I’m feeling more optimistic. 

1) Unfulfilled Potential

Arsenal are a team a lot like the players they have at their disposal, one that has/had buckets of potential yet has failed to live up to that potential through one way or another, whether it be through injury or lack of form etc. The one which is currently sticking out in my mind is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox has had many injury setbacks in his time at Arsenal and we are still saying he could be one hell of a player, which there is no doubt he can, but it’s something that we’ve been saying for the last two or three years. 

Arsenal are of a similar mould. Injuries and lack of form have meant that they have failed on multiple fronts. In the league since they last won it in 2003/2004, they have held a leading position many times yet always seem to lose grip and bottle it with many of the key players ending up injured for a long period or out of form at crucial times. 

Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all players in the current squad who have been hindered by injuries, cutting short their progress. Obviously there is still time but fans patience is running thin as we have seen it all before. The point can be summed up by Arsenal’s trophy drought – one trophy in nine years when in fact it could and should have been so much more.

2) Injuries

I saw a stat the other week which shocked me. Arsenal players missed a combined 1716 days through injury last season alone. This stat was published the same time that it was announced Aaron Ramsey would miss more time out with his third hamstring strain of the season – I’ve seen the Arsenal physios and medical team so I do know they exist, but due to the amount of injuries suffered by players in the club it’s hard to see whether they do anything. 

I believe a lot of it does come to Wenger and how the players are pushed further than their bodies can take.  Last season, Walcott missed six weeks with a muscle injury, he was pushed back into competition and last January picked up a knee injury which saw him miss 10 months – a renowned German expert claimed that this injury was one which could have been avoided had Theo not been rushed back.

This season it’s the same old injury story. Koscielny, Debuchy, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud (to name a few) have missed chunks of the season through injury. Also, don’t get me started on Diaby, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve forgotten he’s an Arsenal player.

3) Selling big players

Arsenal have sold one of their best players in each of the last ten years. Last summer they did stick to another trend too, the trend where we sell the club captain. I’m starting to think that the captaincy means nothing at Arsenal anymore (more on that later). 

Joining the “captains” who were sold despite being key players in the team were Alexander Hleb (remember him?), Bacary Sagna, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Alex Song among others. Arsenal were never going to build a successful team when there are so many incomings and outgoings of key players in the squad.

4) The Wenger Hokey-Cokey

Now you may think I’m drunk due to the way I’ve worded this, but trust me, it’ll make sense when I say this – #WengerIn #WengerOut – are you with me now?

The social media age (particularly Twitter) has spawned the introduction of hashtags and the amount of people who switch allegiances between Wenger In and Wenger Out is astounding. He is a manager who has not just changed Arsenal, but has also changed English football, so can we please show the man who is behind the Emirates Stadium, an Economics Masters Degree, six languages and the Arsenal Football Club as you currently know it a little more respect please? His tactics and selections are a little off at times but it would be better to just stick by him until he leaves because what he has done for Arsenal deserves the utmost respect.

5) Inconsistency

Arsenal are perhaps the most inconsistent team out of the top teams. This can be summed up as such – Arsenal go to the Etihad Stadium, a stadium where they lost 6-3 the season prior, a stadium where nothing was expected due to their inability to beat top teams away from home (let alone at home) and beat the reigning champions of England 2-0 in a brilliant display, just over a month later and they are outplayed and beaten 3-1 at home by Monaco. 

This is just a flash into the inconsistency of Arsenal as a team, an inconsistency which means over the last ten years they haven’t been able to effectively and consistently challenge for the big trophies in a serious manner, always falling short (FA Cup 2014 aside). You can’t be inconsistent in a 38 game league campaign or in a competition with the quality of opposition as in the Champions League and expect to win it. 

6) Poor Discipline

It has taken until Francis Coquelin for Arsenal to find a defensive midfielder that will keep his discipline and sit in front of the back four – I’m not asking for Claude Makelele (OK maybe I am) but it would have been nice to have a good and mobile out-and-out defensive shield for multiple seasons prior. 

Arsenal defenders sometimes seem to forget that their main job is defending, there was a graphic of player heat maps I saw from a couple of seasons back and our full backs were predominantly further forward than our midfielders – a problem which has become frighteningly familiar meaning we’re susceptible to counters. We have Steve Bould as an assistant manager, a no nonsense defender in his day, surely he’s been giving support and advice? Had it been heeded? Another story.

Now onto the defensive midfield problem. Arsenal’s attacking full-backs (which has been a symbol of Arsenal since the dawn of Wenger) means that the defensive midfielders should do just that, defend the midfield. But all too often they have been caught too high up, their lack of pace and legs exploited and goals conceded, games lost. 

7) Poor tactics

This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point; Wenger’s tactics can be a little questionable at times. I thought that we’d started a new chapter in Arsenal against Man City, Wenger got the tactics spot on in a big game, however a few weeks later against Tottenham in the North London derby he got them horribly wrong again.

Wenger has to take tips from big game managers and know when to stick with what we have and when to really go for it, also if we are 1-0 down in a big game, don’t go gung-ho in the 53rd minute and be caught on the break to go 2-0 down. But we’ll come onto that later… All I’m saying is a little bit more tactics and patience would go a long way over 90 minutes.

8) Poor performances in big games

This is a point which has plagued Arsenal for years. The big teams in the Premier League always seem to relish encounters against Arsenal. In recent years Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all beaten Arsenal comprehensively. Arsenal used to be a fixture which was feared by the fellow big teams but it’s now a fixture that they seem to look forward to because it usually means easy points. 

I point at last season as the main culprit; 6-3 loss away to Man City, 6-0 away to Chelsea and 5-1 away to Liverpool which had carried on a poor run of form against big teams years prior. Let’s have a look at stats from a team who were considered Arsenal’s main rivals for much of their most successful period, Manchester United. Arsenal have only beaten United once in their last 12 meetings which was way back in 2011. Even recently when Man United visited the Emirates in November with their worst team in recent memory they performed well and ran out 2-1 winners.

Until Arsenal beat Manchester City they had gone a remarkable 14 games in a row against fellow Premier League members of the Champions League that season without a win. Hopefully the win against City was a turnaround in mentality otherwise Arsenal’s no longer surprising deficiency against top teams will become an even more worrying habit.

9) Susceptibility to counter attacks

Arsenal used to be the Kings of the counter attack, with Henry, Pires, Ljungberg or whoever it may be turning defence into attack in a matter of seconds resulting in a goal. Now it has become all too familiar of a story when Arsenal have a set piece or possession in the attacking third and the opposition break to score, making The Gunners look a little bit foolish.

Firstly, it always seems to be our slowest midfielder or defender (that isn’t Mertesacker) who is on the halfway line guarding. How many times have I seen Arteta, Flamini or Monreal looking horribly exposed and their lack of pace taken advantage of. Back to the Arsenal vs Manchester United game in November, where the point is proven. Wayne Rooney’s goal where Arsenal lose possession on the edge of the United box and a matter of seconds later are 2-0 down, a sight which has now become too familiar to fans for too many years.

10) Poor set pieces

Zonal marking, ZONAL MARKING!! Zonal marking is a format which is only best utilised when a team of physically robust headers of a football attack the zone which they have been assigned. A leader barks orders and the orders are heeded and carried out. When Arsenal concede from a set-piece, every single player in the box looks around in confusion as if to say “Whose man was that?” then fingers are pointed and blame passed.

Recently Harry Kane (who is currently on form one of the best strikers in the country) was left unmarked at the back post to slot in a relatively easy finish to level the North London derby – if you want to be winning the Derby then do not, I repeat DO NOT, leave their best striker unmarked from a set piece. All too often I have seen players not jump with a player or not clear a cross because they believe it to be someone else’s duty or not in their zone. Take responsibility! 

It must just be Arsenal marking from crosses in general because they have conceded 10 headed goals, 2nd most in the Premier League. 

The weirdest part is that Arsenal have scored the second most goals from set plays in the league (16) yet can never seem to defend a set piece!

11) Poor defending 

Pretty much everything I’ve said about Arsenal’s defending summed up in one point. When Gael Clichy left for Manchester City back in 2011, he came out and claimed to the press that Arsenal simply did not practice defending in training. As the years have gone by I’m slowly starting to think that he was right and it should have been some kind of premonition and warning to us Arsenal fans.

Steve Bould became Arsenal assistant manager in 2012 when Pat Rice retired. Bould, in his playing days, was seen as a no-nonsense defender and was a member of one of Arsenal’s most formidable back lines in their history. So how can a man whose history is so good, who has so much contact with the team in training, make little to no difference in regards to how they perform? The answer: Steve Bould is not utilised to his maximum potential as a defensive co-ordinator.

All Arsenal defenders seem to have a weakness whereas most teams will play defenders to their strengths Arsenal seem not to. Too many times I have seen Mertesacker, who has the turning circle of a cruise liner, up against the fastest member of the opposing teams attack – could we please leave the foot races up to Bellerin, Koscielny or Gibbs and not leave Mertesacker isolated?

12) Poor boardroom 

Stan Kroenke is the largest shareholder in Arsenal Football Club and I have not seen the man speak about the club once; forget that, I’ve never seen the man speak at all. So his nickname “Silent Stan” starts to seem very appropriate. 

A man who is sorely missed at Arsenal since his departure in 2007 is David Dein. Dein is former vice-chairman and his role saw him take part in football matters such as player contracts, transfer negotiations as well as the hiring of staff – which saw him appoint Mr Wenger who at the time of his arrival was relatively unknown. Dein’s extensive range of footballing contacts and influence made Wenger’s job a hell of a lot easier, not to mention the backing that Dein gave Wenger in the transfer market.

Arsenal miss someone like Dein, someone who is known to really get involved with the day-to-day running of the club because Ivan Gazidis (who overtook Dein’s roles) doesn’t seem to have quite the same impact.

13) Faith and backing of deadwood players

Arsene Wenger is a manager who is known for his (sometimes blind) backing of his own players (“I didn’t see it”). But his relentless faith in players who had rarely ever shown themselves to be good enough became tiresome. 

Everyone remembers Nicklas Bendtner. A player whose insufferable arrogance became the butt of ironic jokes everywhere, he became the scourge of Arsenal fans. To his credit, Bendtner did score some important goals for Arsenal, but his terrible attitude and maxed out potential soon meant it was too late. The man who claimed he was off to Barcelona or Real Madrid when his Arsenal contract was up is now playing for Wolfsburg. Bendtner’s story is one of many, one that started with great potential boom but ended with a comical ability fart. Denilson, Djourou and Senderos are all other names who stick out in my mind – at one stage made some great performances and could have made a name for themselves, but now are just whinces in an Arsenal fan’s memory.

As for Abou Diaby, I’m not sure why he still has a shirt number. 16 league appearances in four seasons is awful reading for anyone and unfortunately his injury problems mean he will soon be released but it is a couple of seasons too late.

14) Fatigue of players

In recent years, Arsenal’s thin squads have meant that come February time (a.k.a the business end of the season) all of their star players are either knackered or so burnt out they have picked up a two or three month injury lay-off. The first eleven has rarely been the problem, it has just been the sheer fact that there was never any strength in depth. It was sort of the same story this season. Due to Arsene’s reluctance to buy any more defenders, Arsenal were forced to play makeshift back fours week after week early on, which fortunately has now subsided despite yet another injury to Mathieu Debuchy but we now have the cover after the emergence of Hector Bellerin, Calum Chambers and now, more centrally, Gabriel.

Last season, Mesut Ozil became an enigma in the Premier League. Signed for £42million and renowned as one of the best playmakers in the world, Ozil made a good start to his Arsenal career. But after a few months, not used to the physicality and relentlessness of the Premier League schedule, poor old Mesut burnt out. He was running the highest rate of any Arsenal player but when he got the ball he could barely ever do anything with it. Why? Mesut was fatigued and burnt out. He needed a break, he had never played without a winter break before. He then went to the World Cup with Germany and failed to set the league alight again upon his return. Since coming back from a three month injury layoff and putting on double his body weight in beef, Ozil has recorded three goals and three assists since his return from injury and looks to be picking up both form and confidence.

15) 11 years ago, we were Invincible

Remember those days? The glory days. We had the best striker in the world in Thierry Henry, a supporting cast including Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires and we were the best team that England had ever seen. Arsenal went 49 league games unbeaten between May 2003 – October 2004. An achievement higher than any other in English league football.

Now we celebrate finishing above Tottenham. 

16) Failing to build on star signings

If you had told me in July 2013 that within two years we would have had Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in our team then I would probably had asked you who else, with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. But the fact is that if you look at true world-class talent, Arsenal don’t have anyone else.

I’ll admit that we do have good players in our squad, players who given the opportunity could be world class. But as an Arsenal fan I’ve grown impatient of would and could, I’m looking for world class now. So the marquee signings of Ozil and Sanchez are obviously most welcome, but we still need the major signings in key areas before we can mention anything on the Champions League or Premier League. 

17) Mismanagement and playing players out of position

Do you remember poor old Emmanuel Eboue? Here was a right-back who showed a lot of early promise in his career, also one of the most popular characters you will ever see in a football dressing room. But Wenger, for some reason only he would know, would go on to deploy Eboue in both left wing and centre midfield. Go figure. Andrey Arshavin lit up the world as a creative midfielder, given a free role to wreak havoc. His future? Shunted out on the wing and made to look out of place and extremely poor. 

The buck doesn’t stop there as it has recently happened to Podolski, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla and many more who have been pushed out of position and made to look half of the player they are. Arsene needs to stop trying to plug gaps and must put players where they are most effective consistently, otherwise more talent will go to waste.

18) Mockery of the captaincy

The sale of Vermaelen to Barcelona (Which I admit was good business due to his injury problems) was the latest in a line of captaincy sales which means the idea of a captain and the role itself has diminished. Prior to Vermaelen’s departure; Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Vieira and Robin Van Persie have all been sold while under captaincy, meaning Arsenal have sold five of their captains in the last nine years.  This doesn’t bode well for current club captain Mikel Arteta whose contract runs out in the summer.

Arsenal’s mockery of the role of captain can be summed up as such – club captain Vermaelen was an unused substitute in last years FA Cup final. Could you imagine Chelsea playing a cup final without a fit John Terry? Or Man City without Vincent Kompany? Absolutely not.

19) No leadership

My main problem here is Arsenal haven’t had a proper leader or general since Patrick Vieira. Someone who really has the ability to change a game and drag Arsenal through hard games with true grit and determination – the captains since Vieira have all been star players/the most senior player in the squad, but none with the same leadership qualities as the Frenchman.

In Arteta’s absence, Per Mertesacker has covered as his deputy but Mertesacker has nowhere near the qualities to even be a vice-captain. In December, when Arsenal drew 2-2 against Liverpool at Anfield, Arsenal were 2-1 up in the closing stages of the game. Martin Skrtel jumped up and beat a cowering Mertesacker who seemed to be afraid of the aerial challenge to equalise and claim a point. Mertesacker was rightly berated for his part in the goal as for someone who has made over 100 international appearances and played in three World Cups, winning one in the process, he looked very faint-hearted to go for a ball which could have been the difference between one point and three.

20) No desire or passion

In every big game I have seen (bar Man City), Arsenal always seem to lack desire and passion when it comes to the rougher side of the game. 50-50’s, second balls and loose possession always fall in favour of the opposition and the reason why is simple: Arsenal just don’t want it as much. It even happens in games against the smaller sides a majority of the time too.

It was all too apparent in the recent game against Monaco which summed up the lack of passion. Whenever a ball was given away, hands went on hips, heads looked to the sky and crowds groaned in anguish. There was no desire to win the ball back, no desire to undo the mistake and keep us on the front foot. In defence there was no desire to make tackles or blocks, it’s like we didn’t even want to take our best chance of getting to the quarter finals in five years.

21) Repeated mistakes

Imagine seeing points 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, as well as others, once or twice. Then you don’t learn from them because of stubbornness, so you get punished by them TIME and TIME and TIME again. So much so that the fans start to lose patience in you, let alone start to question your entire reign and legacy. Come on Arsene, you’re much, much better than that.

22) Pre-season buzz

For Arsenal fan’s pre-season buzz is  the likes of which you will see at no other club, but it quickly turns to mid-season despair and this season is no different. Arsenal mostly signed the players they needed (apart from defensively), there was a marquee signing in Sanchez, striker in Danny Welbeck, Debuchy and Ospina to replace the outgoing Sagna and Fabianski and a bonus of Chambers. But early season form quickly meant that Arsenal slipped down the table and were out of the Capital One Cup, now they look to be going out of the Champions League too and the FA Cup looks bleak with a tough trip to Old Trafford. 

Arsenal fans would have wanted to build on the FA Cup of last year (which should have been so much more after 120+ consecutive days at the top of the table last season) but at the moment, it is looking very unlikely and they will no doubt get the same pre-season buzz this summer.

23) Some other Arsenal fans

Mainly here I’m talking about the people who booed Wenger at the Stoke-on-Trent train station, I’m also talking about the idiots who appear on Arsenal Fan TV who have made other clubs fans enjoy our dismal displays even more, so much so that people who aren’t even Arsenal fans have subscribed to Arsenal Fan TV. 

Arsenal’s stadium is a 60,000 seater stadium, the second largest club stadium in the country, yet our stadium has garnered the reputation of being a library. This needs to change, opposition players should be nervous to come to the Emirates but they’re not because opposition fans usually cheer louder.

Arsenal fans also seem to be serial offenders in leaving matches early, even in situations where the game is incredibly tight – you’ve paid to watch 90 minutes, so watch them.

It’s been a while…

Ok.. So after recently becoming unemployed I stumbled across this blog which I used to run quite regularly. Now I have the time and opportunity to start posting again – which is exactly what I’m going to do. Now I understand that the top five posts I was doing, the form and players will have changed so please bare that in mind!

However, anything from now on will obviously be my current views on the players in question.

I hope you enjoy the forthcoming posts.. Like I’m enjoying my six week holiday to see my girlfriend.

Watch this space!

Top five players of the 2013 Confederations Cup

The Confederations Cup was a nice little break from the agony of no football which we have had to put up with since May. Here are my top five players from the tournament and why they impressed me.

Neymar – Brazil

This is probably the most blatant name on the list. Neymar entered the Confederations Cup still with a lot of doubters due to only really making a major name for himself in his homeland of Brazil. But after a recent big money move to Barcelona people were intrigued to see the lightweight Brazilian maestro.

He didn’t disappoint; during the opening game he hammered in a terrific half volley from outside the area in just the third minute. The rest of his performances followed suit as he scored four goals in six games as well as winning the golden ball for best player of the tournament.

His performances helped guide Brazil to victory, putting a man of the match performance in for the final. He played a big part in two goals and also grabbed one of his own, one of his trademark skilful bursts also saw the sending off of Spain centre back Gerard Pique, further compounding Spain’s misery.

Emanuele Giaccherini – Italy

One of the surprise packages of the Confederations Cup was Italy’s Giaccherini. He wasn’t really in favour at club team Juventus but it is well documentede that Italy manager Cesare Prandelli doesn’t take club form into account.

Giaccherini is a shining example of Prandelli’s policy as his performances were hard-working but most importantly, a key part to Italy’s play. Deployed in a role just behind the striker meant Giaccherini could shift across in his attacking midfield role offering support for strikers or popping up on either wing.

He scored one goal over the tournament but that doesn’t reflect the hard working nature of Giaccherini’s overall play for the Italian national team – one of the major reasons Prandelli uses him so readily.

Jordi Alba – Spain

Despite being on the losing side in the final, Jordi Alba can walk out of this competition with his head held high after another set of dazzling displays which only helped further his reputation as one of the finest left backs in world football.

Alba’s constant running and blistering pace up the left hand side were a key component of Spain’s attacking play. Defensively he’s no slouch either as he played a part in two of Spain’s three clean sheets.

Alba finished the tournament with two goals of his own after a set of performances in which he flourished with his pace, stamina and defensive attributes which were more than assured.

Andres Iniesta – Spain

If there was a player anyone would want for the big occasion in centre midfield it would be Iniesta. Like Alba, he was on the losing side in the final but he was one of few players who fought until the final whistle and that added to the qualities which the playmaker no doubt possesses.

Iniesta registered no goals at the tournament but his importance to Spain’s play going forward was paramount as he consistently dictated the tempo of matches he played in. He completed 337 passes of the 390 he attempted in the entire competition.

The creative midfielder was voted man of the match during Spain’s first game of the tournament in a 2 – 1 win over Uruguay which the Spanish dominated.

David Luiz – Brazil

His defensive attributes are usually questioned at Chelsea but while playing in his home country for his national team, David Luiz seemed to turn into a defensive genius.

His time at Chelsea has been inconsistent, he can go on forays forward from the back leaving gaps, or make mistakes which get exploited but Luiz became a defensive wall with the heart of a lion for La Selecao, his tournament being encompassed in one moment by his goal-line clearance in the final against Spain.

His popularity for both club and country though will never seem to waiver as he is a fans favourite among both Chelsea and Brazil fans, his popularity even more so following his performances in this competition.