La Liga Preview: Matchday 21

After first leg games in Copa del Rey quarter-finals which saw wins for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid amongst others, the action returns to the league.

La Liga action this week kicks off with Celta Vigo hosting Real Betis in a bottom of the table clash. Betis, languishing at the bottom of the table will play their first game under newly appointed manager Gabriel Calderon after Juan Carlos Garrido was sacked just 48 days into his tenure. Celta Vigo who have lost three of their last five games are only three points from going down into the drop zone.

Top three of La Liga are separated by a single point with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on 51 points and Real Madrid on 50 points. Madrid had a comfortable outing against Espanyol in mid-week as they won 1-0 courtesy a Karim Benzema goal. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have had a powerful start to 2014 and are yet to concede this year. They host tenth placed Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on Saturday.

Barcelona are also at home on Sunday (Monday morning) when they face former Barcelona player managed Malaga at the Camp Nou. FC Barcelona have seen a lot of action this past week on the pitch and off of it. Xavi reached 700 games for the Catalan club last week and Messi reached 400 games in the Copa del Rey game in mid-week which the Blaugrana won 4-1 at Levante. Off the pitch, Sandro Rosell stepped down as president due to the impending legal proceedings against him for Neymar’s transfer. Malaga currently sit at a lowly 14th position in the league table, something one wouldn’t have expected to see when they were soaring under the managerial reign of Manuel Pellegrini.

Atletico Madrid make a short trip to Vallecas to take on Rayo Vallecano on Sunday night. Diego Simeone’s men have had a splendid campaign in all the competitions so far and their ability to match Barcelona two weeks back proved to all the critics that they are no pushovers. In a topsy-turvy game against Athletic Club de Bilbao in Copa where Diego Godin scored to give a slender 1-0 lead in the first leg, the rojiblancos would most likely have an easier task against Rayo who sit 19th in the table despite pushing their opponents till the very end. Four losses in last five games isn’t the record one would like when facing a gritty and powerful side like Atletico.

In a battle for the fourth and final Champions League spot, Athletic Bilbao, Villarreal and Real Sociedad are separated by six points. Athletic travel to face Osasuna and Villarreal are also away to Valladolid while Sociedad are at home to promoted side Elche.

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Australian Open: Braving the sun…and the rain

RAIN RAIN COME AGAIN!

After three days of searing heat in Melbourne for the Australian Open, fourth day started the same way. The mercury touched 39 degrees when play began at 11 AM local time, certainly not ideal conditions for gruelling Tennis action. And it only got worse as play progressed. By 2 PM, the thermometer read 42 degrees and the authorities finally paid heed to the players’ protests of “inhumane” playing conditions.

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Premier League: Week 18 Recap

Week 18 in the Premier League saw a bit of different scheduling, with the matches being played on Thursday the 26th, in place of the ordinary weekend slate of matches. As such, Week 18 didn’t seem to garner quite as much attention, and to be sure the holidays likely kept many fans and spectators a bit distracted. However, Week 18 was filled with results that have significant bearing on the league tables, and therefore deserves a close look.

In this post we’ll be taking a quick look not only at the match results from Thursday, but at how they affect the outlook for Premier League. For an outlook a bit more official than mere speculation, we’ll turn to the Betfair online sports betting platform, where odds are updated following each round of matches. These odds are beginning to paint a clear picture of which clubs have top standing moving forward, and who will be competing for the league title. So without further ado, here’s the Week 18 recap.

Hull City 2-3 Manchester United
Man U desperately needed a win – any win – to keep pace in the standings, and a 3-2 come from behind win at KC Stadium was a much-needed bit of fortune. Man U are clinging to 14/1 odds – 5th best overall – to win the league.

Everton 0-1 Sunderland
This was a rough loss for Everton, who now have 50/1 odds to win the league. They remain at 5th in the standings overall, but blowing a home match against Sunderland was not a strong sign.

Newcastle 5-1 Stoke City
Newcastle, on the other hand, made a strong step forward with an emphatic win. 500/1 odds still aren’t encouraging, but the fact is this team is ahead of Man U in the standings, and playing quite well!

Norwich City 1-2 Fulham
This was a match between middling opponents with little bearing on the league tables, but Fulham will be happy with the away victory.

Aston Villa 0-1 Crystal Palace
Aston Villa has been a bit unpredictable this season, but a home loss to Crystal Palace was a low point.

Chelsea 1-0 Swansea City
Making a move toward the top of the standings, Chelsea managed a gritty win to keep pace, and are now 3rd in the standings. With 9/2 odds to win, however, Chelsea are the 2nd betting favourites behind mighty Man City.

Tottenham 1-1 West Bromwich
Tottenham could have used the 3 points, and isn’t completely out of the points race. However, West Brom – which has shown a propensity for upsetting and disappointing opponents – managed the draw.

West Ham 1-3 Arsenal
Arsenal made a strong statement following a few relatively down weeks, and are back alone atop the standings with 39 points. They’re tied with Chelsea at 9/2 odds to win the League.

Cardiff City 0-3 Southampton
Southampton are slipping a bit following an early jump up the standings, but this victory kept them at 9th in the standings – though still a 500/1 long shot to win it all.

Manchester City 2-1 Liverpool
The marquee match of the week saw Man City take care of business against a surprising, scorching hot Liverpool team. City, with 1/1 odds to win the League, are now within a point of Arsenal’s top ranking.

It seems that the overall trend is for the strong to get stronger – and we may be seeing the league standings solidify a bit, with Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal starting to vie for favourite status.

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You’ll never walk alone


Stiliyan Petrov played his last ever football match on Sunday. The 34-year old former Bulgarian captain, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012, said goodbye to the game and the fans in a charity match played at “Celtic Park”.

His testimonial, a game between Celtic XI and Stiliyan XI, saw a crowd of around 60 000 turn up to “Parkhead”. It was an emotional day for everyone involved, but most of all for Stan and his family.

The match itself finished 5-3 for the Stiliyan XI, but I don’t think anyone cared about the result. Dimitar Berbatov, Martin Petrov, Paul Lambert, John Terry, Gareth Barry, Henrik Larsson and many others took part in the event, but it was the fans who made it really special.

I’ve watched lots of testimonials, I’ve even been to some. But nothing compares to the scenes we saw at “Celtic Park”. When Stan stepped out on the field, the supporters started singing “You’ll never walk alone”. Then, in the 19th minute, the ref stopped the game so that the fans can applaud Petrov. After the final whistle “You’ll never walk alone” blasted out from the stands once again. Stan’s kids ran out to him on the pitch. He started crying. Then his wife, the wonderful Paulina, also started crying. So did I. So did everyone at “Parkhead”. Nobody left for another 10-15 minutes.

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Stiliyan has come a long way. From the fair-haired kid who made his debut for CSKA Sofia during the 1996/97 season, to one of the most loved men in world football 17 years later. From the scared 20-year old who went to Scotland without knowing a word in English, to a Bulgaria and Aston Villa captain.

He has always shown amazing character and outstanding strength. He overcame a horrific leg-break injury in 2001 to become one of the best box-to-box midfielders in British, if not European football. He has been battling with a scary disease for the last 18 months, yet managed to play some 40 minutes in total on Sunday, albeit in a charity game. Not many players have his work rate and determination to succeed.

But above all, Petrov has proved many times what a great human being he is. A man who is always ready to help those in need, even if they’re total strangers. It might not sound like a big deal, but he’s never taken advantage of his position and has always paid for tickets and souvenirs for his friends, although he could’ve had them for free. A man who has always put the needs of others before his own. A true leader on the pitch, and a gentleman off the field.

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The least he deserved was a special farewell. And he got it. The supporters have been incredible during the last year and a half, they were incredible on Sunday too. ‘I said I wouldn’t cry but I couldn’t hold it. It was an absolute privilege,’ Stan told BT Sport. ‘I’m just happy to see my family every day.’

You know what? I was happy to see him on the pitch one last time. And for me, as a Bulgarian, it was an absolute privilege to have Stiliyan captain our national side, to watch him from the stands of the “Vasil Levski National Stadium” time and time again. Once again Captain, thank you for your leadership, your goals, your dedication. Thank you for the wonderful memories. You’ll never walk alone.

Photos courtesy of  SNS Group and the PA.

Froch v Groves

Why Carl Froch vs. George Groves is an excellent fight for all concerned

Froch v Groves

It seems that everything Eddie Hearn touches turns to gold right now. Although in terms of experience, he is still a fledging prospect in the promotion game, he’s quickly established himself as Britain’s premier boxing promoter.

2013 has been filled with a series of high quality shows presented by Matchroom. The year looks set to climax with arguably one of the most exciting to date as the two best British Super Middleweights come together in the form of Carl Froch and George Groves.

Here’s an assessment as to why I believe this fight is a great match up for both competitors.

Positive for Froch

Carl Froch’s most recent outing was a classic for the ages.  Boxing fans were treated to two warriors engaging in a full on war against each other. Froch’s unanimous points decision over Mikkael Kessler avenged one of only two previous defeats on his resume and in doing so, cemented his place as Britain’s best (in my eyes) champion.

In the aftermath of that victory, the burning question amongst boxing writers was: Where does Froch go from here?

Talks of a rematch against Andre Ward surfaced. Having avenged one defeat from Kessler, the only other defeat came from the hands of Ward.

However, Ward’s reluctance to defend his title beyond the borders of the United States of America is and will continue to remain a stumbling block should Froch want to avenge that defeat. The other problem with this is that he is not a massive commercial draw. His talent is unquestionable but in terms of box office sales and interest, he doesn’t command much of a following. Froch is still the bigger name of the two.

But geographical and commercial issues aside, this would have been a bad fight for Froch. He would go into the fight very much an underdog. He was soundly beaten when the two first met in the final of the Super 6 Super middleweight final. Ward is a smarter, more effective and frankly better fighter than Froch. It was to the Nottingham man’s credit that he took Ward the distance when they first met having been so comprehensively beaten.

Froch is an exceptional boxer and his chin is lauded as one of the best in any weight division. He has tremendous heart and has the power to match that.  But there’s only so far these attributes can take you.

Age is also against Froch. At 36 years old, he is firmly in the Autumn of his career. A defeat against Ward would draw serious questions on whether the Cobra should retire from the Sport.

As stated earlier, Froch has only lost twice in his professional career. As such, his record stands at an impressive 31-2-0 (22 KO’s)

What makes this record even more impressive is the list of names on his resume. He’s never swerved or ducked out of a fight. No opponent has been too daunting or no destination too far for Froch. Throughout his career, he has been more than willing to go toe to toe with any obstacle put in his way and over the years, has proven himself time and time again to be a fearless, gutsy and powerful champion.

Who can forget the fight against the very dangerous Jermain Taylor and the famous knockout victory he secured with just 16 seconds left on the clock? Or the heart to go to Denmark to fight Kessler on his home patch? Or his demolition of the previously unbeaten Lucien Bute just months after the crushing defeat at the hands of Ward?

The match up against Groves is a perfect solution for Froch. It keeps him fresh and ready in the boxing scene and by beating the mandatory challenger, even with his age against him, he still proves he can cut it with the best up and coming youngsters in the division.

Few could blame him if he’d decided to turn this chance down. An unbeaten up and coming fellow British fighter with nothing to lose, it’s a massive risk on Froch’s behalf.

In global terms, despite being the IBF mandatory challenger, Groves’ name doesn’t command a fraction of the respect that Froch’s does. It would have been easy for Froch to relinquish his IBF belt in search of one or two bumper pay days before his retirement, but that’s not the way Froch has conducted himself throughout his career. The Cobra will see off any opponent he is charged with facing before making his next move and will certainly not relinquish a title he worked so hard to win in the first place.

Should Froch win this fight, I believe that the next step would be to negotiate a third Froch vs. Kessler. In some instances, PPV fights tend to lead to disappointing bouts with many failing to live up to the billing they are given. This can be perceived as naivety from a supporters perspective or excellent work by the promoters from a professional perspective. The truth is that some PPV fights leave fans underwhelmed.

However, this was not the case in May. There are no other word to describe the second encounter between Froch and Kessler other than a classic. Both men went to war, testing the other’s resilience and chin like never before. Froch won the fight which sparked scenes of wild jubilation within the O2 Arena and in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham.

Would a rematch interest fans? Yes, I believe it would but give it time. Repeats against the same opposition can get tedious for supporters. Seeing both men in action against different opponents will have fans salivating for a rematch as they fondly reminisce about both the previous encounters. Personally, I’d love to see a decider in perhaps in the Summer of 2014 or Autumn 2014.

Should he win that fight then he could have one last shot at Ward. At 36 years old, serious questions have to be raised as to how long Froch has left in the sport. A defeat at this stage in his career would propel these concerns further into the mire. A fight against Ward at the right time would interest both parties. Froch would have nothing to lose and victories in

But this is how Froch has fought throughout his career. He’s never one to shy away from any opponent; a point to which I alluded to earlier.  The acceptance of this dust up is further testament to this quality and will further solidify his legacy

A victory against Groves gives Froch the ammunition to negotiate a bumper deal for the future.  Kessler or Ward, it doesn’t matter. Froch will be sure of a massive pay day from whatever fight he takes. Personally, I believe should he win, it will be Kessler next and should he prevail there, then Ward in one last hurrah for the Cobra.

 

Positive for Groves

George the Saint Groves has been demanding a shot on the World Title Scene to anybody that will listen to him for some time now. His impressive record stands at 19-0-0 (15 KO’s).

With Groves the mandatory challenger for Froch’s IBF belt, Froch’s acceptance to take on Groves means that the Saint finally has the chance to win the world title he so desperately craves.

So what do we know about Groves? The 25 year old from Hammersmith, London is the Current British and Commonwealth Super middleweight champion and has been slowly making forging his name as a promising super middleweight since turning professional in 2008. He boasts an undefeated record which includes impressive victories on both sides of the Atlantic.

Despite his relative inexperience, Groves is no stranger to headlining a PPV event. Arguably, his career highlight came arguably when, he headlined the Best of Enemies bill alongside 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist James De Gale;a man he’d previously beaten in their days as amateurs together in November 2011.

It was not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a fight boxing purists enjoyed. Groves frustrated De Gale, fighting impressively on the back foot to record a famous majority decision over his adversary. This was all under the intense scrutiny of the British Media and was a fight many neutrals had expected him to lose.

His career to date has been impressive but there can be no denying that this is a step up in opposition for Groves. He’s leaving behind the safety blanket of the British, Commonwealth and even to a certain extent European title stage and is about to embark on the global scene. Froch will be a very dangerous opponent for Groves and is in a different league to any foe he’s come up against in his fledging career thus far, but the time has come for him to step up to the ‘major leagues’ after his promising start to his professional career.

Whilst the odds are stacked against Groves, a victory in this fight could propel Groves into a household name in both British and world terms.  Whilst he is ranked the IBF mandatory challenger, the likes of Ward, Bute, Kessler, Froch and Dirrell lie ahead of him. He’s currently ranked 13th on Sky Sports’ Super Middle weight rankings (http://www1.skysports.com/boxing/news/12183/8147935/super-middleweight-rankings: 12/8/2013).

The war of words has already started between the two Matchroom stable mates with Froch accusing Groves of boring fans into submission with his style and tactics. It can be argued that Froch’s claims certainly have substance. Groves is quite a conservative fighter. While some fighters enjoy close and explosive combat, Groves likes a more methodical approach, picking and choosing his attacks.

Yes, you can accuse Groves of boxing on the back foot, but this sensible and conservative approach could work in the challengers favour. Groves’ trainer Adam Booth was the mastermind behind David Haye’s finest victory against the much bigger and more fancied Nikolay Valuev in Germany.

With Booth in his corner, Groves has a chance of being able to pull off a surprise victory. He must box on the backfoot and not get drawn into a brawl. Froch’s power is too effective and his chin is iron clad. He must be disciplined and fight sensibly and choose his punches wisely. Should he do this, it may not be the most thrilling of contests but it could cause the champion some problems.

This is a massive opportunity for The Saint. He’ll do well to grab it with both hands. At just 25 years old, age is on his side. A defeat certainly wouldn’t catapult Groves into obscurity.

But if anyone thinks for one minute that Groves will be a glorified jobber to make Froch look good are in for a surprise.

 

Positive for Both

This fight will undoubtedly stimulate the interests of both the casual and ardent boxing fans. Benn/Eubank will go down in British sporting history as one of the greatest rivalries this country and sport has ever seen.

For further proof , just look at David Haye. Haye has become a household name thanks to a victory over Enzo Maccarinelli at Cruiserweight level and further domestic success over Audley Harrison and Derek Chisora at Heavyweight. Its proof that sometimes it doesn’t matter the opposition, nothing stirs the senses quite as much as a domestic dust up

Both fighters will benefit from increased exposure and a bumper pay day from this dust up with both fighters look set to be considerably heavier in pocket in the aftermath of this fight.

With Sky Box Office showing the fight, pressure will be on both to advertise in order to increase PPV purchases and which in turn will increase the money both will make from the fight.

Groves in particular will benefit from an increased profile as a result of the fight.  To the casual boxing fan, Groves is not a household name as yet but being

Surprisingly, Froch still has not won all his doubters over. I myself was a Froch doubter until very recently (his demolition of Bute changed my opinion). While there’s no doubt his victory over Kessler did this to a certain degree, a comprehensive victory over Groves could be influential in doing this (although I do admit some will never be won round to the Cobra’s ability)

 

Conclusion and Prediction
This is undoubtedly in my eyes the British fight of the year. Haye vs. Fury will attract as much if not more attention due to the high profile of both fighters and the weight they are both fighting at but neither fighter is in the global leagues that these two are.

Personally, I feel this fight is too soon for Groves. He will undoubtedly give a very good account of himself and surprise people expecting an easy victory for Froch. The key for Groves to stay competitive is to fight sensibly and for him to dictate to Froch the fight he wants to fight.

Should Groves fail to do this and get drawn into a brawl, then I cannot see anyway that Groves will be able to live with Froch’s power or do substantial damage to Froch’s chin to hurt him.

I see Froch gaining a late stoppage in the 9th in a very intriguing match up. This will then set Froch up for either a decider against Kessler or one last shot at Andre Ward. November 23rd looks set to be a great night.

Picture courtesy of The Daily Mail

Don’t retire Clev! But you got it so, so wrong on Saturday

It was supposed to be Nathan Cleverly’s coming of age. It was supposed to be the night the Cefn Fforest man entered the big leagues. It was supposed to be a night where the Welsh Gladiator was to dazzle and wow the expectant Welsh crowd in his home amphitheatre.

Instead, barely 10 minutes after the first bell sounded, Cleverly was slumped on his stool with his corner surrounding him. Not only beaten, but spectacularly beaten by his Russian counterpart Sergey Kovalev.  Clev was stunned and so to were his legions of adoring fans at the sold out Motorpoint arena in Cardiff.

So how did it all go so badly wrong on Saturday night? Continue reading

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Bulgarian starlet on the verge of signing for Tottenham

Todor Nedelev, one of the brightest young stars of Bulgarian football, is on the verge of signing for Tottenham, according to the biggest newspaper in the country “Trud”.

The publication goes on to say that Spurs are ready to pay 5 million pounds for the 20-year old, who can play both as winger and attacking midfielder.

Representatives of his current club, Botev Plovdiv, are said to be in London. Negotiations are ongoing, but there’s information that an informal agreement has been reached.

A couple of days ago Nedelev made his debut for the men’s national team in the friendly against Macedonia. The Bulgarians lost 2-0, but the youngster was one of the best on the pitch. He started the season in a promising way, and already has 4 goals in 4 games in the local Premier League. He also scored 3 in 5 matches in the Europa League, before The Canaries were knocked out by Stuttgart on away goals (1-1; 0-0).

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Nedelev has also played 3 games for the U19’s national side, scoring twice, and has appeared 4 times for the U21’s, banging in 3 goals in them. Recent transfer speculation had linked him with moves to various teams, including Leeds United, Werder Bremen, Besiktas and Rostov.

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Arsene, where are the new signings?


In early June it was announced that Arsenal will have a large transfer budget this summer. Various reports suggested that manager Arsene Wenger will have between 70 and 80 million pounds at his disposal, in order to bring in reinforcements. It’s been a month and a half since then, and the only player The Gunners have signed so far is Yaya Sanogo. The France U-21 forward came to London with a free transfer from Auxerre. So, what happened to all the money, and is Wenger planning on using any of it at all, or should the fans start getting ready for yet another long and woeful campaign?

While it’s true that Arsenal have never finished outside the Top 4 since the Frenchman arrived in 1996, it’s also fairly obvious that he needs to improve the squad in order to start winning trophies again. The last time the team won one was in 2004/05, when they actually lifted both the Community Shield and the FA Cup. Eight seasons have gone by since then, and in that time Arsenal reached two finals in the League Cup and one in the Champions League. They lost the 2006 European Cup final against Barcelona (1-2), although it has to be said that they got there without losing a game and conceding just two goals on the way (both in the group stage).

Then, in 2007, a very strange Arsenal with the likes of Justin Hoyte and Jérémie Aliadière in the starting line-up almost shocked Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the League Cup final, but eventually lost 1-2 again.

Four years later it was the same story – 1-2 in the 2011 League Cup final, this time against Birmingham City, who were later relegated from the Premier League.

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After so many disappointments, it seemed that Wenger is at last ready to invest funds in order to make Arsenal the team they used to be in his early years in charge (The Gunners finished either 1st or 2nd between 1997/98 and 2004/05). There were rumors that the manager was interested in signing players such as Swansea duo Michu and Ashley Williams, Wayne Rooney and Nani from Manchester United, Celtic’s Victor Wanyama, David Villa and Victor Valdes from Barcelona, Montenegro international Stevan Jovetic, Marouane Fellaini, Luis Suarez, Christian Benteke and Gonzalo Higuain among others.

Most of these names might have been just rumors, fair enough. But even so, the fact is that Villa went to Atletico Madrid, Jovetic joined Manchester City, and Wanyama was bought by Southampton. Fellaini will probably join David Moyes at United, while Rooney, although seemingly set to leave Old Trafford, would more likely go to another London-based club – Chelsea. Higuain travelled to the English capital and was thought of as Wenger’s first marquee signing this summer, but now might end up teaming with Rafa Benitez at Napoli. According to The Mirror Online, Arsene Wenger has been given the go-ahead to spend £40million on Luis Suarez. Such a bid will meet his release clause, but Brendan Rodgers might be able to convince the Uruguayan star to stay at Anfield. Liverpool have at least shown ambition to improve, after spending almost £25 million on Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Simon Mignolet, as well as landing former Arsenal captain Kolo Toure on a free transfer.

The latest reports said that Wenger is keen on getting Bernard, the 20-year old Atletico Mineiro winger. The manager himself denied them, stating that they “aren’t true”.

It’s been a mass exodus from Arsenal this summer, with no less than 20 players heading for the exit. While most of them were from the Reserves or the Academy, some first team players were also either released or sold. Andrei Arshavin returned home to Zenit St. Petersburg, Vito Mannone was sold to Sunderland, Sebastian Squillaci went to Bastia, and Brazilians Denilson and Andre Santos went back to their country, joining Sao Paulo and Flamengo respectively.

The Gunners need at least one player in every line. Buying a new goalkeeper is a must, as there are only two in the squad right now – Wojciech Szczęsny and Łukasz Fabiański, the latter not being particularly reliable. Defensively things don’t look too bad, but getting a new central defender is essential. Thomas Vermaelen is decent, as is Laurent Koscielny, but Per Mertesacker is slow and a bit gawky. In midfield, Jack Wilshere, although great, is injury-prone, Tomas Rosicky is not exactly young, while Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Frimpong and Ryo Miyaichi are not what you’d call “world-class footballers”. This leaves Wenger with Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla, who are all good, but won’t be enough to help win a trophy. The Daily Star says Wenger made a bid for Michael Carrick, which was rejected, so that’s his latest failure. Looking at the attacking options, Aresenal have quite a few awesome wingers, such as Theo Walcott, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Up front Olivier Giroud had an alright first season, but none in-between Marouane Chamakh, Park Chu-Young and Nicklas Bendtner seem up for the job, should they all stay at Emirates, of course. New boy Sanogo is just 20, so miracles shouldn’t be expected of him either.

All in all, Arsenal have a squad that needs strengthening badly, if they’re to challenge for silverware. Manchester City and Liverpool have been spending profusely, Chelsea welcomed Jose Mourinho back, Manchester United have some cracking players, especially Robin Van Persie, and promising youngsters such as Phil Jones, Wilfried Zaha, Rafael and Tom Cleverley. Tottenham have been active as well, securing the services of Paulinho and Nacer Chadli for a combined £24 million. If they keep hold of Gareth Bale and get a new striker, they might do better than last year, when they finished 5th.

Having said that, if Wenger doesn’t start spending soon, The Gunners will probably finish outside the Top 4 for the first time since 1995/96. The team is decent, but by no means spectacular. Arsenal don’t have any financial difficulties, on the contrary, they’re in a very secure position. So, what happened to all those money that were there for the spending? Or is it just that no big names want to come to a club, which hasn’t won anything for 8 years?

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WENGER’S SUMMER TRANSFERS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS

Season    Player    Fee  Signed from

2003/04   Philippe Senderos  N/A  Servette

2003/04   Jens Lehman   £1,500,000    Dortmund

2003/04   Johan Djourou Free Etoile Carouge

2003/04   Gael Clichy   £250,000  Cannes

2003/04   Cesc Fabregas Free Barcelona

2004/05   Manuel Almunia N/A  Celta Vigo

2004/05   Mathieu Flamini    N/A  Marseille

2005/06   Nicklas Bendtner   £75,000   FC Copenhagen

2005/06   Vito Mannone  £350,000  Atalanta

2005/06   Armand Traore N/A  Monaco

2005/06   Alexander Hleb N/A  Stuttgart

2006/07   Alex Song £1,000,000    Bastia

2006/07   Tomas Rosicky N/A  Dortmund

2006/07   Julio Baptista Loan Real Madrid

2006/07   William Gallas Swap Chelsea

2006/07   Denilson  £3,400,000    Sao Paulo

2007/08   Łukasz Fabiański   £2,000,000    Legia Warsaw

2007/08   Eduardo   £7,500,000    Dinamo Zagreb

2007/08   Havard Nordtveit   N/A  Haugesund

2007/08   Bacary Sagna  £6,000,000    Auxerre

2007/08   Lassana Diarra £4,000,000    Chelsea

2008/09   Aaron Ramsey  £4,800,000    Cardiff City

2008/09   Samir Nasri   £12,000,000   Marseille

2008/09   Amaury Bischoff    Free Werder Bremen

2008/09   Mikael Silvestre   £750,000  Manchester United

2009/10   Thomas Vermaelen   £10,000,000   Ajax

2010/11   Marouane Chamakh   Free Bordeaux

2010/11   Kyle Ebecilio Free Feyenoord

2010/11   Philip Roberts Free Norwich

2010/11   Laurent Koscielny  £8,500,000    Lorient

2010/11   Sebastien Squillaci £3,500,000    Sevilla

2011/12   Carl Jenkinson £1,000,000    Charlton

2011/12   Gervinho  £10,500,000   Lille

2011/12   Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain £12,000,000   Southampton

2011/12   Joel Campbell £900,000  Deportivo Saprissa

2011/12   Park Chu-Young £1,800,000    Monaco

2011/12   Andre Santos  £6,200,000    Fenerbahce

2011/12   Per Mertesacker    £8,000,000    Werder Bremen

2011/12   Mikel Arteta  £10,000,000   Everton

2012/13   Lukas Podolski £11,000,000   FC Cologne

2012/13   Olivier Giroud £13,000,000   Montpellier

2012/13   Santi Cazorla £16,500,000   Malaga

Photo Simone Pierotti

The Zidane-Materazzi Incident Becomes a Bronze Statue

Football fans have always gazed at monuments dedicated to strikers as well as to goalkeepers, mainly outside the stadium of the team that mostly marked their career. Probably, they have never seen a statue representing a foul or a goal celebration, though. They could not imagine that a bronze sculpture depicting the famous Zidane-Materazzi incident at the 2006 World Cup final now stands in central Piazza del Duomo in Pietrasanta, a 25,000-inhabitant town on the coast in northern Tuscany.

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Slaviša Jokanović appointed new Levski boss


Slavisa Jokanovic is the new head coach of Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia. The former Chelsea midfielder succeeds Nikolay Mitov in the hot seat, who was fired after The Blues were shockingly eliminated by Irtysh Pavlodar in the First qualifying round of the Europa League (0:0, 0:2).

Jokanovic has previously managed Partizan Belgrade and Muangthong United in Thailand. In December 2007 he became the head coach of Partizan, replacing Miroslav Djukic, who left to take the reins of the national side.

In May 2008, under Jokanovic’s management, Partizan won the double. He was also selected as the year’s “Best Coach in Serbia” by the Serbian FA, but refused to receive this award due to Partizan’s poor results in the UEFA Cup group stage.

In his first full season Jokanović led the Black and Whites to another double, winning the league 19 points ahead of former club Vojvodina; thus, he became the first coach in the club’s history to successfully defend the accolades.

On 28 February 2012, Muangthong United F.C. introduced Jokanović as their new head coach, and he signed a one-year contract with an option for a further two years. In his first season he led the club to a third Thai Premier League title in its history, remaining undefeated throughout the whole campaign.

The new season in Bulgaria begins on the 20th of July, but Jokanovic won’t be in charge of Levski’s first game – against Botev in Plovdiv. He will sign his contract on the 22nd of July, announced director Nasko Sirakov.

“I know that the club hasn’t won any trophies for the past four seasons. I want to have a look at the squad, but I know that the team must be strengthened”, said the Serb.

According to reports in local media, Levski are desperately looking for a decent central defender, as the team lacks quality in the back.