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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Why a Tough Midfielder Is Really The Last Thing Arsenal Needs

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Why a Tough Midfielder Is Really The Last Thing Arsenal Needs

I'm sure you've heard it all before. Arsenal's midfield lacks bite. Arsene Wenger never replaced Gilberto, Flamini and Vieira, and as such, there is a gaping hole in the midfield that needs to be filled with a tough-tackling, gritty player.

Is there much truth to the above statements though? My opinion is that while a tough-tackling midfielder would fit into most teams, this is a type of player that Arsenal does not really need.

Judging by performances from this season and last, Arsenal has two big problems. One of them is that they cannot unlock teams that play all 11 men behind the ball and scrap for a draw as if their lives depended on it. The other problem is that they tend to be bullied aerially, especially in defence.

The first problem can be solved in two ways. The first way is the Arsenal way, that is, find more creativity, somehow, either by buying a new player, or promoting someone from the reserves. By introducing a new threat that teams are not quite sure how to prepare for, this increases the number of goalscoring chances, and in turn, the number of goals. Our struggles were clear this season, when they failed to get chances against the likes of Fulham, Wigan, Sunderland, and many more. It is no coincidence that Arshavin's arrival has sparked Arsenal back into form, as he has opened defences up with his unpredictable running and passing.

The second way is to bypass the packed defence by lumping the ball into the area, and hoping a big man up front wins the ball in the air. I think this is a style totally unsuitable for Arsenal, as they do not have the personnel required for this.

So, assuming Arsenal go by the first way, which is to find more creativity within the team, a tough midfielder is really the last thing Arsenal needs. As of now, Wenger usually plays Adebayor/Bendtner as one of the striking pair, and both of them don't really add to the creativity department. That leaves Van Persie, Arshavin, Fabregas and Denilson as the sources of creativity. Should Arsenal get a tough midfielder, then this reduces their creativity, as Denilson is the likely one to be replaced. In most of their games, they are knocking on their opponents' door for the duration of the 90 minutes, and their opponents rarely venture forward, so I do not see any use for a defensive midfielder to shore up the defence.

The other problem Arsenal has is at the defensive end. They tend to be bullied aerially, as evidenced against Stoke City and any other team with tall players. This is obviously a problem with the centre-backs, who are both not tall enough to cope with such a threat. Gallas and Toure are both good covering defenders, but they desperately need someone who can win more battles in the air.

Once again, it's difficult to see how having a tough-tackling midfielder will help here, as teams often bypass Arsenal's midfield by thumping it straight up to their burly strikers.

I think what Arsenal really need is a centre-back tall enough to improve their aerial presence at the back, and I honestly do believe that is the final piece of the jigsaw to make them a regular contender for top-spot in the coming seasons.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Hull City started the 08/09 season so promisingly. Victories at White Hart Lane and more notably, the Emirates Stadium underlined the fact that they were a force to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately for them, the word "were" is the most important word in that sentence. Once flying high in the league, they have now won 1 of their last 13 games. If that isn't relegation form, I don't know what is.

Their desperation can also be seen from their manager Phil Brown apparently clutching at straws after their recent FA Cup defeat to Arsenal, trying to deflect attention from his team. He accused Cesc Fabregas of spitting at his assistant manager (a claim which has not been backed up by any solid proof), and said that Arsene Wenger refused to shake his hand in the two league fixtures prior to the FA Cup encounter. The latter of the claims has since been proven to be false, as video footage of the two matches clearly show Wenger and Brown exchanging handshakes at the final whistle.

Although Hull City seem to be well-positioned in the league, safe in 13th place, a closer inspection of the table will reveal that they are actually only 4 points from the relegation zone. With 40 points being usually enough to guarantee safety, Hull City should be safe if they can get at least 7 points from their remaining 8 matches. However, that is a very big "if". Here's why:

April 4th

Hull City vs Portsmouth

Portsmouth are themselves not out of relegation trouble. With 32 points and a game in hand over the other relegation candidates, they need the points as much as Hull do. The big difference is that Portsmouth are on their way up, while Hull are in free-fall. Man-for-man, Hull are no match for Pompey. Peter Crouch, Glen Johnson and Sean Davis are all playing very well at the moment, and their performance against Everton last week certainly shows they are up for the battles. Even with home advantage, the most I can see Hull getting is one point.

Prediction: 1 point

April 11th

Middlesbrough vs Hull City

Another relegation candidate. Middlesbrough have to win their home games to try and stay in the Premier League, and home games do not come much easier than against Hull City. This is a crucial match, as anything other than a Boro win will see the likes of Plymouth and Crystal Palace visiting the Riverside Stadium next season. I fancy Boro to win here, but the best Hull can manage away from home is a point.

Prediction: 1 point

April 18th

Sunderland vs Hull City

Another away game, another relegation candidate. Sunderland are right below Hull, and with home advantage, the situation again looks bleak for Hull City. With Kenwyne Jones back to full fitness, Sunderland have a decent strikeforce of Djibril Cisse supporting Kenwyne Jones. This should be bad news for a defence that is the second-worst in the league, letting in 52 goals in 30 games. I fancy Sunderland to pick up a home win here.

Prediction: 0 points

April 25th

Hull City vs Liverpool

Is any analysis really needed here? Liverpool need the points to push Manchester United to the wire. The 2-2 draw back at Anfield will also mean Liverpool are likely to take Hull seriously this time. 3 points for the Reds.

Prediction: 0 points

May 2nd

Aston Villa vs Hull City

Aston Villa have way too much quality and pace for Hull City to handle. The midfield of Barry, Petrov and Sidwell will totally overwhelm whatever combination Phil Brown can think of. Away from home as well, Hull City don't have a ghost of a chance.

Prediction: 0 points

May 9th
Hull City vs Stoke City

Another relegation candidate. This time, being at home, Hull City will be thinking of getting a win, and will probably look to attack Stoke. However, Stoke City just seem to be made of sterner stuff than Hull, and will definitely make use of the long throws to unsettle a leaky backline and an unconvincing goalkeeper. I do not see Stoke getting beaten here.

Prediction: 1 point

May 16th

Bolton Wanderers vs Hull City

Usually, this would be a walk in the park for Bolton, who do seem to be distancing themselves from the other relegation candidates with some of their players being on fire at the right time. Kevin Davies is the 2nd-highest English scorer in the league, and Bolton just seem to be pulling themselves together at the right time. By May 16th though, Bolton might already be safe, and if complacency creeps into their game, Hull City might sneak a point.

Prediction: 1 point

May 24th

Hull City vs Manchester United

This match depends on whether the title has already been sewn up. If it hasn't, then Hull City will be on the end of a heavy beating, as there is no way Manchester United will let Hull City prevent them from a title. If it has been sewn up, then Hull City might well sneak a draw, but will it be enough?

Prediction: 1 point

Total tally: 5 points + 33 points = 38 points

Overall, I certainly do not see Hull getting enough points to stay up, and I think they will go down. You can count them unlucky, as Jimmy Bullard would have added steel and creativity to their midfield, but then he got injured for the rest of the season shortly after signing for them. The truth is, though, that their team is just not good enough to stay up. Their performances early on in the season were probably possible because opposing teams had not viewed them as a threat, and their confidence spurred them on to victory after victory. Once the league's teams sat up and took notice, they began to get outplayed regularly.

To end this off, I recommend you consider a punt on Hull City to get relegated. Odds for this to happen are very good, at 3.75 at bet365.

Eddy's prediction: $10 on Hull City to get relegated at 3.75 = $37.50

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