TOUCHLINE UI :CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MATCH DAY FIVE:THE TALKING POINTS

Can anyone stop Bayern Munchen?

Bayern Munchen won a record breaking 10th game with ease and it does not look anybody can stop them from reclaiming their title. Real Madrid seen by most pundits as the Bavarians closest challengers still look very susceptible at the back and certainly would not fancy playing a team from Germany no thanks to the “German curse”, Barcelona’s woes at the back have been well documented and need no further introduction and most players will still have the scars of the humbling 0-7 aggregate defeat inflicted by their German rivals. With due respect to the teams from England and Italy, none of them are on the wavelength of  the Die Roten .Paris St Germain still looks very much like a team in progress; trying to find its feet on European soil. They have strength in depth in all positions and Pep has done well to instill his ideas into his players after a fairly difficult start. The fact that Pep plays with a single holding midfielder might excite some opposition coaches but the use of Javi Martinez as a Forward Destroyer against Borussia Dortmund shows that the opposition coaches will be in for a surprise unless of course there is a leak in the BLID. Munich have an excellent chance of becoming the first side in the UEFA Champions League and that the moment it would take some beating to stop them from achieving that feat.

Barcelona Still Lacks That Cutting Edge without Messi

Barcelona slumped to a 2-1 loss against a 10 man Ajax and even the single goal came from a Xavi penalty. Although they won Granada 4-0 the previous weekend without the services of a certain Argentinian, there is no doubt that the Catalan side missed his services against the Dutch side .His ability to drop back and force defenders to play a highline which in turns creates pocket of spaces which he or his teammates can exploit is something which is missed when he’s absent. Fabregas the player who replaces him is no doubt capable of playing there but does not have the pace to run at defenders and is easier to mark out and Neymar, his anointed heir is one who prefers to run at defenders or run behind them and not drop back the way the extraterrestrial Leo does with little fuss. Against Ajax, despite being a man up for more than 40 minutes, they never really looked like getting back into the game .They would survive the smaller sides without him but against the bigger sides. phew!

Manchester City will have a tough second round

Barring any miracle of Dammam or any capitulation on the part of the Bavarians at the Allianz Arena, Man City will finish second In Group D .Statistics show that, of the last 32 semifinalists in the Champions League, only seven did not top their groups. Should the other English teams top their respective groups as expected, then City would be in danger of facing the following teams in the last 16: Paris Saint Germain, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona. City would do well to reach the Quarters let alone the Semis.

man city

 

 

 

 

 

KAKA is not a finished article

Prior to the clash at Parkhead between Celtic and AC Milan, the Diavolo had embarked on a terrible run and found themselves 13th in the Serie A which got to the necks of the ultra-fans who turned against the players after a 1-1 against Genoa. The tension ahead of the game was high and the nerves were certainly showing. They needed someone to step up to the plate and guess who rose up to the occasion, the forgotten man, the man everyone thinks has passed his peak, a model professional, former world best player, the man from Brazil, Ricardo Kaka. He’s no doubt being one of the few bright spots of a very sorry looking Milan team. He might no longer possess the devastating change of pace but he’s still got the football brains. His early goal (header) helped calm the nerves of his teammates. He is a beacon of hope, an icon of happier days. He might not have the form of 2007 when he won the world’s best player but his class is permanent. If his team is to see off Ajax next week at the San Siro and move up the ladder in the Serie A, more of such performances will be needed. If he can keep delivering, who knows we could get to see one of football greats wow us at the FIFA World Cup next year.

ricardo

 

 

 

 

 

  TIME TO DROP RVP?

Against a bruised Tottenham, Moyes simply cannot afford to drop points and lose more ground on the league leaders. Unlike Leverkusen, Spurs do boast of some powerful midfield players who could easily overrun United’s weak midfield. Playing with one upfront and three in the middle is the solution. Rooney is currently the in-form striker and Kagawa the in-form number ten which leaves Robin Van Persie on the bench unless of course David Moyes decides to play the Japanese out wide and tell  Rooney to drop back when not in possession of the ball which I feel is what he would do.

FBL-EUR-C1-LEVERKUSEN-MAN UTD

 

 

 

 

 

OZIL NEEDS REST

The euphoria surrounding Ozil’s arrival is long gone and reality has set in. After a great start to his Arsenal’s career, his performances over the last few games have tailed off. It reached an all-time low against Marseille where he looked out of sorts and to compound his woes missed a penalty (which was poorly taken) though he still assisted Wilshere’s goal. This is no doubt due to fatigue as he’s barely had a rest since he joined. It’s only against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup that he didn’t emerge out of the tunnel as a starter. Thankfully, his teammates are still in good form and the injured ones back but it would be good if Wenger rests him  for a couple of  games to get him  back to his sharpness as they approach the festive period with lots of games, something the bug-eyed player has never experienced.

Written by Chike Umeike

Follow the writer on twitter @chyk11

Advertisements

TOUCHLINE UI: CAN THE EAGLETS RESIDE IN THE NEST OF THE EAGLES?

 CAN THE EAGLETS RESIDE IN THE NEST OF THE EAGLES? NO!!!!!

BY UMEIKE CHIKE

A big congratulations to the Manu Garba led Golden Eaglets team on winning the Under 17 FIFA World Cup title. This tournament not only saw the team end up as champions but also helped discover a number of talented players. This is not the first time that Nigeria would win this competition nor is it the first time that the country would parade such bright potentials at this level but very few of these bright potentials ever get the chance to don the Super Eagles jersey. For those hoping that we get to see a change this time around, there will be none and as for most of these budding stars, this is the peak of their careers. We’ve read newspapers and have seen quotes like ‘a former Golden Eaglets winning captain…’ and that’s all. No talk of the fact that he represented the Eagles or even moved to the next step (Under 20). I submit that this winning squad will suffer the same fate and my reasons are not far-fetched.

One of the reasons for organizing age-grade competitions is to provide a platform from which young prospects replace those at the Senior National teams. Players who have represented their countries at age grade competitions and have ended up justifying their potentials include Ronaldinho, Kanu, Aguero, Xavi, Kroos, Messi, etc. In Nigeria however, this is not the case as the sole aim for participation is to win the event which is laudable but defeats the main purpose of building future stars that would one day represent their national teams. Has it ever crossed our minds that we always perform well at age grade competitions but flounder at the FIFA World Cup? Though we can’t attribute that to lack of progression alone, it nevertheless plays a role as players who play together at age-grade competitions develop the bond, understanding and unity that gives them an edge over a team that was hurriedly put together.

Out of all the players who have ever featured at this level since 1985, only 19 have got to play for the Senior National team. Out of the nineteen, only four players – Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi (2003), Mikel Obi (2003), Lukman Haruna (2007) and Kenneth Omeruo (2009) – have played World Cup matches (qualifying or finals) at the U-17, U-20 and the senior levels. The others who have played the Under-17 World Cup finals and the senior World Cup (qualifying or finals) are Nduka Ugbade (1985), Jonathan Akpoborie (1985), Christopher Nwosu (1987),  Godwin Okpara (1989), Benedict Akwuegbu (1989), Victor Ikpeba (1989), Mobi Oparaku (1993), Celestine Babayaro (1993), Pascal Ojigwe (1993), Nwankwo Kanu (1993), Wilson Oruma (1993), James Obiorah (1995), Henry Onwuzuruike (1995), Femi Opabunmi (2001) and Ogenyi Onazi (2009).The win at all cost mentality means that whenever these lads do not end up winning the title, the team is disbanded and the players are not properly integrated into the senior team.  Toni Kroos for example, who won the best player at the 2007 Under 17 World Cup which Nigeria won and Chrisantus finished as top scorer, now stars for European Champions, Bayern Munchen and would hope to lead Germany to glory at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In Spain, promising players like Isco, Koke and De Gea who all played prominent roles at the Euros Under 21 have been earmarked as the big thing of a new Spanish generation. Let’s come home (Africa) and just some miles away, 21 players who have represented Ghana at age grade winning championships have ended up playing for the Black Stars with the likes of Essien, Muntari, the Ayew brothers, Samuel Inkoom and Derek Boateng still in the national team. In the current Eagles team only Mikel, Nsofor, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi and skipper Yobo can ever boast of having played at age-grade competitions. Though it’s impossible for all of them to eventually make it to the Senior Team but the rate at which the Football Federation discards them is disturbing and the sad thing is we start complaining of dearth of talent. I understand that there might be the argument that the coaching crew and players are going to be drafted into the Flying Eagles team which no doubt is a welcome development. I applaud this move but it takes a bad performance at either the African U-20 World Cup or the FIFA U-20 World Cup for this team to be disbanded.

It is no gainsaying that a beautiful lady would always have guys flocking around her hoping to win the ‘prize’, more so a winning team like this one would no doubt have foreign clubs trying to lure the very good players with mouth-watering contracts. While one cannot fault the want for greener pastures, records have shown that most of them end up in parts of Europe that have little or no footballing pedigree. In the name of leaving Nigeria for Europe, most have ended up in countries like Malta, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, which is not the same as playing in the top leagues. Playing in such low quality leagues means the end of a career which has barely begun as no scouting system could reach such leagues. How such a player would be called up to the Super Eagles beats me. Selfish and hungry agents also deserve the stick for the way they have ruined the budding careers of these players, placing agent fees ahead of the players’ careers. The ones who end up moving to decent leagues and clubs like Chrisantus who moved to Hamburg never end up proving their worth for whatever reasons and thus fade off.

In addition, there is the age factor. This victorious Under 17 team is one of the youngest to have ever represented the country at this competition and while I won’t want to doubt anyone’s age, it’s still literally a slap on my face to find out that I’m older than a couple of them. A 22 year old man who claims he is 16 would have passed his peak by the time the whole world is expecting him to reach his peak. Documents lie, MRI scans may not detect, but the body will show tell-tale signs of ageing. It is such coupled with the other factors that have always hindered progression to the Super Eagles and would  hinder the chances of these highly talented crop of players from eventually making it to the nest of the Eagles.

Golden Eaglets

 

 

 

CAN THE EAGLETS RESIDE IN THE NEST OF THE EAGLES? YES!!!!

BY OMISAKIN AYOBAMI

In blessed memory of Macaulay Chrisantus, Haruna Lukman, Chinedu Obasi, Taye Taiwo, Dele Aiyenugba, Ambrose Vanzekin, and the list goes on. This is not a list of dead men or a list of footballers who did not make it from U-17 level to the National team; rather it is a list of footballers who are yet to fulfill their potentials. These and many more Nigerian hot prospects have faded even before they could shine. Rather than cast aspersions, it is germane to consider the cause of these still births; what could be responsible for these cases of cruel mirage? Could it be a lack of continuity or a result of age falsification or a lack of proper development?  Perhaps, the problem is a combination of all these.

Instances abound of footballers who graduated from the age-grade competitions to become world class players but the case has not been the same in Nigeria. A very good example that perfectly illustrates this point is the case of Messi, Mikel Obi and Taye Taiwo. These three players were once chosen as the most valuable players in an age-grade competition, but now, the difference between these 3 is so wide that they cannot be named on the same list anymore.

While many would blame the lack of continuity, progression from U-17 to U-20 to Olympic Team to Super Eagles, I choose to toe the road not taken. This is because I believe that the National team must comprise the best players and that most of the stars of these age-grade competitions do not turn out to be the best players. In other words, it is not a lack of continuity but a lack of proper development and maturity. The question we must ask ourselves is this; if our youth prospects are so good that they deserve a place in the National team, why are they not in the top clubs in the world? The truth is that there are no proper training facilities and development personnel that will guide these players from being hot prospects to world class players. As the saying goes, “whatever goes up must come down but whatever grows up cannot come down”, we need players that will grow and not go up. In addition, the uncanny habit of age falsification, that is prevalent among Nigerian footballers, contributes a great deal to this problem of still births. The result of age falsification is that players would have reached their decline when the world expects them to be at their peak.

Although it is not my role to discuss the reasons why the title-winning U-17 team will not be the future Super Eagles but to state the reasons why they would, I have recognized the truth in these words that “a problem known is a problem solved”. I know the problems that cause this dis-continuity and fortunately it is not just me, the N.F.F is also aware of these obstacles. The N.F.F has named Manu Garba, the one who coached the victorious U-17 team, as the head coach of the U-20 team; in the same vein, Amunike, who was an assistant to Garba, has been named the head coach for the next U-17 team. Thus, I can express hope that the story will change this time around.

To the pessimists among us, it would be wise to recall that once upon a time, the National team comprised only foreign based players. But now, we have an integration of both foreign and local based players; an integration that brought us the African Nations Cup. It would also be wise to remember that only foreign coaches were preferred for the National team but now, Stephen Keshi not only has the support of the N.F.F but also that of the nation. Even a blind man would see that Nigerian football is experiencing a major turnaround, a revolution that has started from the national team and will engulf the whole footballing circle.

Furthermore, we have seen that the U-17 World Champions are the youngest crop of players that have ever represented the nation at the tournament. This is a testament to a change in attitude and focus. Now, it is not just about winning the U-17 World Cup, but also about building a team that will dominate the world in years to come. The victorious U-17 team is not only younger and better; it has also been blessed with a more conducive environment for complete metamorphosis, and these are facts that its predecessors could only wish for.

Therefore, having considered the truth that the present U-17 team is in a different set of circumstances when juxtaposed with former U-17 players who failed to fulfill their potentials; I strongly believe and submit that because the circumstances are different, the result will also be different. This time around, there will be no still births.

 

TOUCHLINEUI: ARSENAL: TITLE CONTENDERS OR PRETENDERS?

ARSENAL ARE TITLE CONTENDERS

By Chike Umeike

Seventeen years at the helm of affairs at Arsenal; one of the darkest days for Wenger was on the 17th of August when his side  3-1 to Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the season. Arsenal fans were up in arms; some were calling for Wenger to be sacked. Arsenal had barely spent a pound in the transfer market and were written off by a lot of people-fast-forward and you now have an Arsenal team who are one of the in- form sides in England playing beautiful football and are 2 points clear at the top of the Premier League. However, despite this brilliant start to the season, a lot are still divided as to whether they can keep up this title charge till the end of the season. I believe they can.

With Sir Alex retired, Wenger is now the longest serving manager in the league. He’s been there for 17 years and that is no fluke. Although Arsenal has not won a trophy since 2005, this does not make Wenger a bad manager. Wenger is a brilliant tactician and a man who copes well under pressure. It was he who created the greatest Premier league team, “The Invincibles”. Both Wenger and Mourinho are the only Managers in the division to have won a Premier League title. This experience will prove vital if they are to win.

In addition, Arsenal’s main contenders to the Premier League Crown- Chelsea, Spurs and the Manchester clubs have experienced managerial changes or an influx of new players which has led to inconsistent displays by these teams. On the other hand, Arsenal with an experienced manager and a settled pattern of play has so far taken advantage of their rivals’ slip-ups. The likes of Ozil and Flamini have fitted in seamlessly into the side and have emerged as key components of the team. All areas of the team look assured and the players are showing perfect understanding of one another. Should Arsenal steer clear of injuries at crucial times of the season, it may be these established relationships that will give them the edge over their rivals in the race to glory.

Arsenal is known for its attacking, slick-passing football which has won over critics and even attracted fans to its side. This urge for attacking and beautiful football has over the last few years led to the ability of the defence to concede comic goals. However, the defence this season led by Mertesacker and Koscielny has formed a partnership of real quality. What Mertesacker cannot offer in terms of pace, his positioning and reading of the game covers for that. Koscielny, on the other hand, with his aggression and pace, complements Mertesacker. With a player of the quality of Vermaelen on the bench and probably another defender to come in January, the riddle to Arsenal’s backline problem looks solved. Other players like Sagna and Gibbs have equally been impressive in this early part of the season. Another player worthy of mention is Wojciech Szczesny who has equally put in some impressive performances this season.

article-2016913-00E926601000044C-570_634x422

Furthermore, Arsenal has the talent needed in the middle of the park to dominate most teams in the League. With the likes of Cazorla, Wilshere, Arteta, Rosicky, Chamberlain, Podolski, Ozil shouldering the attacking responsibilities and Flamini offering protection to the back four, there is for once a balance in the midfield. Arsenal still has bright prospects like Gnabry, Miyaichi and even Diaby to call upon when necessary. Many league titles have been won and lost by the quality of the midfield engine room and this season Arsenal have quality in depth to rival most teams in the world.

This Arsenal team has in the past been accused of failing to come up with the goods when they don’t play well. They’ve been said to lack the ‘mentality’ of teams like Manchester United and Chelsea who know how to nick three points even when not at their very best. This season, however, the Gunners have been able to get the points against such teams like West Brom and Crystal Palace. Yes, defeats against Chelsea and Manchester United raise doubts, but this Arsenal side has shown that they are capable of winning even at their very worst.

We are still in the month of November right and while Arsenal will not win the league in November, they have certainly not lost it. Manchester City are still struggling away with a leaky defence and of course Hart who is breaking everyone’s heart; United still undergoing some sort of transition, its weak midfield now weakened by Carrick’s injury, they also look dependent on RVP and Rooney; Mourinho and AVB yet to know their best eleven and their strikers still misfiring; Liverpool are over-reliant on SAS, a couple of signings away from Premier League glory and would be very much happy with a top four finish. Who knows it could just be the Gunners’ year. Do not be surprised if at the end of the season, we all get to see Vermaelen hoist the Premier League Crown for the first time at the Emirates Stadium.

ARSENAL ARE TITLE PRETENDERS

 

By Omisakin Ayobami

I am not a soothsayer, neither am I Prophet T.B Joshua. But, one does need a crystal ball to see that Wenger’s boys are too shy to lift a trophy in the public. It is apparent that all the people drumming up support for the team’s Premier league triumph are all Arsenal fans, and I do not blame them because they have to support their team. It is beyond denial that the Gunners have had a fantastic start to the season. They are on top of the pile and they have been the there for quite a time. But, reality check, 38 matches make a season not 11. Followers of the Premier League will agree with me that Arsenal F.C has always enjoyed a fantastic start to the season but fizzle out towards the end; so I ask, why should this season be different.

It is a universal truth that football cannot be correctly predicted, I am not predicting. I am merely stating facts that have been firmly established on the foundation of past performances. Thus, let us examine their performance this season. Arsenal’s performances can be summarized thus, devastating against porous defences but lacking purpose against organized defences. Yes, they were successful against a Tottenham side that lacked cohesion and a depleted Liverpool side that has always at struggled at the Emirates; but, what about against a second string Chelsea side and an unfit Van Persie in a resurrected Man. U side. Ah, you finally got the picture.

Arsenal pic

The million dollar question is this- “what makes this Arsenal team different?” Did I hear you mention a Mesut Ozil? Oh, I am sure you did not. Undoubtedly, Ozil has been great since he signed on to this pipe dream but we cannot expect more from him. He was average against Man.U and Liverpool; his signing can be likened to giving Paracetamol to a patient suffering from malaria, it will only reduce the pain not flush out the malaria!

Once upon a time, they boasted an arguably better team with the likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Song, and so on, but they failed to deliver. This team’s problem is not in possessing a strong starting XI but it is actually its squad depth that brings worries. In the defence, there are only 3 strong centre backs and replacements for the full backs are weak. In the defensive midfield; injury to Flamini, as we’ve seen, could spell doom for the team. In addition to that, the other defensive minded midfielder-Arteta, cannot offer the solidity that Flamini readily provides. Just imagine an Arsenal with an injured Flamini and a suspended Arteta. Further up, Giroud is the only recognized senior striker in the team, and with all due respect, a player like Giroud should be back-up in a team that intends to win the Premier League. Just compare this attack with that of Man.U (V.Persie, Rooney, Welbeck, Hernandez) or Chelsea (Torres, Eto’o, Ba) or Man.City (Aguero, Negredo, Dzeko) or even Liverpool (Suarez, Sturridge, Aspas); even Wenger is chasing Ba who is not even in Chelsea’s second team. Perhaps, with another marquee signing in the no.9 position, we can consider them for the title.

In addition, Wenger and his boys are only up there because teams like Man.U, Man.City and Chelsea are adjusting to life with new managers and as we have seen; that adjustment is almost done.

Do not get it twisted, Arsenal is a good team but good teams do not win the Barclays Premier League, it is the best teams that do. So I agree that Arsenal FC is a contender for the title, in the same vein, I also agree that Southampton will secure qualification for the Champions League.