Monthly Archives: December 2012

Video Scouting: Eredivisie forwards, de Jong, Bony, and Finnbogason

There are three main strikers in the Dutch Eredivisie that everyone in the Netherlands is talking about: Bony, Pelle, and Finnbogason. Outside of the Netherlands it’s Bony, Finnbogason and Siem de Jong.

De Jong bolted to fame with his three goals against Man City in Champions League play, but his haul in the Dutch division is a mere 7 goals. He’s a big player who physically resembles Bolton forward Kevin Cyrill Davies but he doesn’t really play that target man role for Ajax, rather drops a bit deeper and provides for his teammates the way that Robin van Persie did for Arsenal. Actually, come to think of it, the Ajax formation is weird. Your guess is as good as mine for what position he plays. How about… Forward-ish? He’s listed at 76kg and I find that about as believable as me weighing 76kg.

His highlight reel shows that he’s physical and maybe lacks a little bit of that flair needed to be a top forward. But he’s a solid player who is versatile and plays in midfield-ish for Ajax.

The Dutch press, though, are in love with a young Icelandic striker named Alfred Finnbogason and the battle between him and Ivorian Bony Wilfried for golden boot has been fun to watch. Finnbogason plays for Heerenveen and has 14 goals in 16 games. He’s a bit of a slight figure at 78kg and he is a hard-working forward who shows flair and just gets goals. “Bony” Wilfried on the other hand is just a handful. 1cm shorter than Finnbogason but weighing 85kg the Ivorian uses his size to great advantage in the Eredivisie and has scored a number of his goals off headers. He’s not as consistent as Finnbogason in hitting the back of the net but when he is on form he gets groups of goals and as a result leads the Dutch division with 16. The ironically named Bony has the physique to make it in the Premier League and big spenders Chelsea and Liverpool are reportedly sniffing his jock. Still, his transfer fee is rumored to be in the “mere” £15m range which is easily a price that a club like Arsenal could pay. Personal terms might be a bit different, though.

Bont reminds me of a cut-rate Cavani or Falcao who are also on Chelsea’s supposed transfer list.

The Eredivisie have put together a highlight reel of the two of them duking it out for golden boot. It’s a pretty good example of the two players in action.

Please, let me know via the comments if you like, hate, etc this type of report. Thanks.

Oh and one more video for you, just because I could watch this woman eating this popsicle on constant loop for the next 24 hours straight.



Fergie may be spitting dummies but there’s no law against it says President Obama

In today’s press conference, Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about his conduct with officials during his team’s narrow win over Newcastle on Boxing Day. And naturally he played the incidents down as a press issue rather than an issue with his actual conduct. When the topic turned to Alan Pardew’s thoughts on Fergie harassing the officials, the United manager lashed out at Pardew, calling him “the worst” and then had a go at the press saying that they have covered every possible angle, except perhaps getting President Obama’s reaction.

I happen to know President Obama (all Americans know each other) and had a chance to talk with him last night over a few beers in the White House beer garden.* As it turns out he has quite a surprising take on this whole incident.

7amkickoff: President Obama, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to have a chat with me about this important issue. Was that whats-his-name the Republican speaker, Cliff Fiscal, who just walked away in a huff? Is there some kind of impending financial thing you need to deal with?

President Obama: It’s nothing. At least not nearly as important as football!

7amkickoff: Cool, you have by now heard about the disgraceful actions of Sir Alex Ferguson in Man U’s win over Newcastle, where he literally spit a dummy while haranguing the officials on the touch line. Then at half time he continued the tirade and had a furious row with the lead official Mike Dean. What are your thoughts on this?

President Obama: First, one man’s “disgraceful” actions are another man’s “passionate exchange”. As you know, Tim, the United States is a country of laws. And as a country of laws we always have to ask what law was broken? And in this case, it seems like Sir Alex Ferguson broke no laws. As an Arsenal fan you should respect that, because what you don’t want is for the Premier League to go around randomly punishing people whenever someone is strung up by the media. After all, if Arsenal fans are right and their club is more persecuted than others, then the League might just decide to make an example of Arsene Wenger.

7amkickoff: The problem is that his actions seem to give credence to the widespread belief that Fergie intimidates the officials and in so doing gets preferential treatment for his team. The League has a global audience and surely they don’t want to hurt the reputation of the League’s competitiveness by seeming to let Fergie get away with this?

Obama: The League isn’t really competitive and we all know that. Manchester United have won 12 of the 20 titles in Premier League. And in the last eight years, when United’s monopoly has been most challenged, it’s been challenged by teams who are willing to spend obscene amounts of money to buy the title. Clubs like West Ham, my club, have not gone into a Premier League season hoping to win the League title in a long time. So, this is not a competitive League.

This is a three-tiered League with a small group at the very top who spend the most, buy the best, and compete for the top honors followed by a group of also-rans who are trying to either hold on to or achieve Champions League football. Below that are the clubs who are just trying to hang on. The competition, then, is among those peers and not across the League.

That said, this is about rules and following the rules. If the League wants to stop managers from harassing officials I’m all for it but they need to make the rules clear first. They need to publish a guideline for managers, officials, and the hacks in the press so that everyone knows what to expect the next time Alan Pardew or Fergie have a go at an official.

Personally, I’m in favor of a “dissent” model. Officials could warn a manager with a yellow card in the same way they treat players who are yelling at them. Two yellow cards in a game and the manager would receive a one-match ban and some kind of fine. Three yellow cards in a season would also result  in a one match ban and a fine. You could change the punishment to make it harsher or looser, but the point is that there must be agreed upon rules before they start punishing people.

7amkickoff: But Dean was the same official who sent Arsene Wenger to the stands for kicking a water bottle, surely there’s precedent and surely there’s preferential treatment for Fergie who was far more demonstrative than Wenger?

Obama: Yes, there is precedent but it’s not Wenger being sent off, it’s Dean having to apologize to Wenger for sending him off. Again, there’s a lot of confusion about the rules here which is the real problem. Wenger was apparently sent off for “improper conduct” but then the officials apologized to him for not handling the situation well. There is no question that casts doubt in the minds of the officials. That’s why I think the rules need to be clearly defined for managers, punishments outlined, and judgments followed through on.

But this highlights another problem with English officiating and that is that the official’s match report is the law. Once an official makes a report of an incident the League will not “re-officiate” the games and hand out punishments where they probably should. Major League Soccer does this and it works very well. Leg breaking tackles are no longer forgiven simply because the official saw it and didn’t think it was a red card. That’s a good thing for the game and the players. But again, this needs to be implemented as a rules change and not just applied capriciously.

Major League Soccer also uses that foam for officials to draw a line on the pitch and set the wall back 10 yards and that works exceptionally well. In the Premier League matches I’ve watched the wall is usually set at about 6 to 7 yards and the officials seem disinterested in doing anything about it. One official in an Arsenal game couldn’t even march off 10 yards. It was crazy. For me, this is a much bigger problem in English Football than the fourth official taking abuse.

7amkickoff: President Obama, I know you need to get back to your negotiations with Cliff Fiscal so I have just one last question, Arsenal play Newcastle led by Alan Pardew tomorrow in the late game, who do you think will win?


Obama: I’ve been a huge fan, Tim, of Alan Pardew since I first fell in love with West Ham under his guidance. In fact, I do the Pardew Shuffle every time I win any victory against Congress. And honestly, thought Man U were very fortunate to win that game — van Persie got away with an ugly slap to Coloccini’s face in the build-up to Chicharito’s winner (something I think MLS would have had a look at and possibly banned van Persie for). Newcastle’s game plan was to press the United midfield and it’s the same plan they should probably take with Arsenal. But the problem is that they seemed to start flagging toward the end of the game and that’s when Man U won. I have to wonder how fresh Newcastle are for this game?

And just as important, Arsenal sometimes play like a “zombie team” just sort of slowly recycling the ball at the top of the box. To counter this, the Gunners really need Cazorla and Wilshere to attack the channels and get onto the end of Giroud’s knock downs and that means increasing their work rate in midfield — something that I think you pointed out has dropped  significantly in the last two games, despite winning.

So, I think Arsenal’s fresher legs will carry the day and you might even see one of those rare sparkling games that Arsenal produce. But they will need to weather the pressure from Newcastle in midfield and be wary of Ba and Cisse, both of whom are auditioning for roles at top clubs.

I’m going with 3-2 to The Arsenal.


*No I didn’t. Do I really need to say that? Probably.

Djourou looks like a muppet, seriously, like one of Jim Henson's creations

Deadwood is a gilded cage with no locks: you’re free to leave but why would you?

Deadwood: a tourist trap in South Dakota, USA; a fictional television series aired on HBO; a footballer who is under contract to Arsenal FC who no longer plays but occupies a roster spot, handsomely compensated for his lack of efforts.

I’ve been to Deadwood, South Dakota and it’s a horrible place. It’s horrible because of its history: Deadwood was an illegal settlement in Lakota territory spawned by the Black Hills Gold Rush. But what makes Deadwood even worse is its modern incarnation, a town that glorifies a mythical past where the saloons have sawdust floors, the women dance the can-can, and man can get two fingers of rot-gut from the barkeep.

Deadwood is the kind of place where they have staged shootouts and you can see the Shooting of Wild Bill inside Saloon No.10 at 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 7:00 pm. He’s shot four times a day just to make sure he’s dead. After that, there’s a street shootout at 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm, and 6:00 pm in front of various hotels. And the day’s festivities wrap up with the big trial of Jack McCall at 8:00 pm sharp, after which he is hung by the neck until dead, dead, dead. Bring the whole family.

Deadwood is the kind of place where the roads are paved with bricks that are designed to make a horse clopping sound when cars drive past. The kind of place that celebrates outlaw culture with paeans to Wild Bill Hickok at every turn but which, due to the proximity to Sturgis, every building carries a sign stating that outlaw bikers are not allowed to wear their colors. And the kind of place where, for $8.99 you can fill up on all you can eat at the Old Country Buffet conveniently situated just at the end of the main strip.

Deadwood is a gilded cage, with no locks. You’re free to leave if you want but why would you when the 1950′s fantasy of Cowboys and Injuns is so enticing?

Arsenal’s very own Deadwood is somewhere in Hertfordshire, UK and just like Deadwood, USA is a gilded cage; players are free to leave but why would they when the pay is good and the workload is light.

The population of Deadwood, UK has experienced a population boom over the last few years and not just at Arsenal. It once was a place where just Silvestre parked his goods but over the last few years Arsenal have seen the addition of Chamakh, Denilson, Park, Bendtner, Arshavin, Diaby, Squillaci, Santos, and Djourou.

Each player’s reason for moving to Deadwood is unique. After six months of good play, I’m convinced that Chamakh went “lilly livered”. I remember remarking about how brave he was when he first came to Arsenal, he seemed to be willing to put life and limb on line to get his head on the end of crosses. That Chamakh no longer plays for Arsenal and whether that’s down to him just not getting much time on the pitch or whether he took a lump is unknown. What is known is that if Chamakh wanted to play football, not just practice but actually play, he could find plenty of teams that would take him. He may have to take a pay cut but teams would want him: he’s easily as good as Carlton Cole.

Denilson is a good example of exactly what Chamakh could be doing. He’s back in Brazil playing for his boyhood club and by at least some accounts doing well there. I have it on good authority that Arsenal subsidize his wages, along with several other players who are on loan. At some point Arsenal have to decide whether subsidizing a player to play elsewhere is worth more than keeping the guy around to play head tennis at practice. How, exactly, that calculus is solved I’m not sure.

Perhaps the most contentious names on my list of Deadwood residents are Arshavin, Santos, Diaby, and Djourou. Arshavin is the most contentious, I’d guess. You could point to the fact that he has 6 assists for Arsenal this season and you’d be correct. You could also point to the fact that he is “being played out of position” and again, I suppose we could agree on that. Though what exactly any player’s position is at Arsenal would be a major debate. What’s not debatable is that he’s made 8 appearances for Arsenal in the two major competitions this season, all as a sub, and all without getting an assist or goal. Arshavin still has talent and as a result there is real interest from Reading to bring him on and see if he can help rescue their season. He’s not bought a house in Deadwood, but he does seem to be a frequent visitor.

Santos is another who has been shunted off. Officially he’s injured. Unofficially, he was dropped after a torrid performance against Man U and Thomas Vermaelen was preferred as left back through Kieran Gibbs’ injury period. Santos is like Arshavin in that I think he is only a temporary resident and could still have a role to play this season. It’s up to him to grab any chance he gets and make the most of it.

What can you say about a player who is supremely talented but who has only started 18 League games over the last two and a half seasons? That’s 18 out of a possible 94 matches. If it was for any other reason than chronic injury, Diaby would be considered Deadwood. But because it is injury, there are those who hold out hope for his Arsenal career to be resurrected. And unlike Chamakh, Diaby is not in his gilded cage because of a lack of application but rather because he’s just not built right for football. Because of his injuries, Diaby can’t even be moved. He’s not just a resident of Deadwood, he’s the sheriff.

And then there’s Djourou; fourth choice center back, third choice right back and a player who should be more. Who, at age 25, would accept those terms? I can completely understand Squillaci not agitating for a move, because he’s nearing retirement, but Djourou is about to turn 26 and if he doesn’t start playing regularly, he may never play football again. But there he is, Arsenal’s longest serving player, and under contract until 2015, when he will be 28 years old. If he finishes his contract he will have been with Arsenal for 10.5 years. Do you think they’ll give him a testimonial? And if they do, they can hand him the key to the City of Deadwood and make him honorary Mayor for life.

Djourou looks like a muppet, seriously, like one of Jim Henson's creations

The problem is that moving any of the residents of Deadwood is nearly impossible and every big club has them these days. Nani is apparently Deadwood at Man U and only the accountants know how many players are on the books at Man City and Chelsea collecting a paycheck but not playing. Fans seem to think that transfers happen like they did 15 years ago. When a manager like George Graham could say “pack your bags, you’re off to Aston Villa.” Those days are gone, players have all the power now. So, just like Deadwood USA I think we need to get used to the idea that there will be a number of players hanging around, like a carbuncle on the ass of this team, collecting paychecks and gaming the system.

If Arsenal are lucky, they will move one or two of those players I listed above. The most likely would be Arshavin to Reading, but only if Reading will pay for him. No sense in giving away the cow for free when he could still produce some milk. But other than him, I think we might do best to just stop all this talk of clearing out Deadwood. They ain’t going no where while the buffet is hot, the casinos are open, and there’s a hanging at 8:00 pm every night.