Sacking Arsene Wenger may not be Arsenal’s wisest decision

arsene-wenger

If not for Arsene Wenger and the sacrifices he’s made, it’s hard to imagine where Arsenal would be today. The stature, the reputation or even the identity Arsenal have as a club among all other European giants is all down to the Frenchman’s contributions. Compare the club’s state prior to Wenger’s appointment and the state thereafter, and you’ll get an idea. The most one can say of what Wenger has done to Arsenal is that he has transformed the north London club into one of world soccer’s biggest, most richest brands that has an identity not powered merely by the trophies they’ve won but the kind of soccer they play. It’s been quite a journey from a compact Highbury to the Emirates Stadium that speaks a lot of what the club is at present – powerful and rich. It is “The Arsenal.”

For anyone who has ever been privileged enough to pay a visit to the home of the Arsenal, the deafening silence there tells the truth about a club that has constantly underachieved for more than a decade. And among that silence, particularly over the past two to three years, are the shrill voices pleading for Arsene Wenger to be kicked out of the club. “Arsene, thanks for the memories, but it’s time to say goodbye” is a famous line in Islington these days among the Arsenal faithful, and rightly so to some extent because of the repetitive nature of Wenger’s failures at the club.

To some extent, the fans are right in demanding for Arsene Wenger to be sacked. They have every right to raise their voices regardless of whom are they being raised against, but, it may well be that the fairyland they keep dreaming of post Wenger’s departure could be a disaster in disguise. Just take a look at what has happened at Manchester United with a change of manager. When Alex Ferguson left, there wasn’t one person who could see the Red Devils finishing in seventh the next season. David Moyes didn’t do much wrong. It was just that the pressure of the expectations of the world’s biggest club that got to him, and he simply crumbled under the pressure. He never got to terms with what Manchester United as a club was all about and failed miserably. Louis Van Gaal’s case is no different.

SEE MORE: Schedule of Arsenal games on US TV and live streaming

Any person aware enough of the roots of the modern Arsenal knows the consequences that could follow if Arsene Wenger’s philosophies and ideals – the foundation stones of Arsenal as it is today – are tampered with. Mind, not anyone and everyone can realize what Arsenal Football Club is about. Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola were both of the Wenger league, but with both of them being appointed elsewhere that means there isn’t an ideal candidate on the market to replace Wenger. Truth be told, any manager in the world is an apparent ersatz when tried to replace the Frenchman. The fact that Arsenal under Wenger have never finished below the top four regardless of how poor a side they’ve played tell us how tough it will be to replace Wenger.

Just imagine if a possible replacement such as Diego Simeone, with his more defensive-minded tactics, manages Arsenal to an eighth place finish in the league? Not only will that harm the club on the financial front but it could also mean that the club loses its identity both on and off the pitch. It’s this identity that makes Arsenal one of Europe’s top guns.

The bottom line here is that Arsenal need to stick with Wenger for the time being until they can find someone exactly of his ilk, someone like Joachim Low for example. Yes, the Arsenal manager is past his best, but even a disappointing Arsenal under Wenger is better than what most of his friends could do at the club. That’s how good Wenger is. The choice is Arsenal’s. Don’t regret telling Wenger to step down.

5 thoughts from MLS gameweek 3

vancouver-whitecaps

Major League Soccer’s week 3 was another that showed anything can happen in the league. Here are 5 things we learned from Major League Soccer’s week 3.

Penalty!

After three weeks of MLS fixtures, the league has seen 12 penalties given by referees. Of the 12 penalties awarded this season, all but two have been converted. Four penalties have been given each week, which either shows an eagerness by referees to whistle for a spot kick; or poor, overly eager defenders. In Seattle Sounders’ 2-1 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night, Mark Geiger awarded two penalties to the Canadians. The first was due to Joevin Jones tripping Vancouver winger Christian Bolanos in the 18-yard box. While the first incident was a penalty, thanks to Jones’ clumsiness, the second wasn’t so clear cut – unless you are a Whitecaps’ supporter. Chad Marshall, while lumbering, fairly beat Blas Perez to a 50/50 ball. Contact was made, but after the ball was away and itt was both players’ momentum that caused Perez to fall over Marshall. Geiger’s immediate penalty call changed the game, and kept the Sounders pointless in 2016.

Sporting KC off to 100% start

Peter Vermes has built something special in Kansas City, and it has shown over the last few years as Sporting KC won the 2013 MLS Cup and a pair of US Open Cups in 2012 and 2015. This season, Vermes has Sporting off to the best start in the league. The team has conceded a mere one goal, keeping two clean sheets. The attack may not be scoring at will, but Sporting have found timely goals when needed. After a week off, Sporting will host their arch-rivals Real Salt Lake, which will test Sporting’s credentials as the best team in MLS.

Seattle Sounders need a change

At the end of the 2015 season, there were rumblings of Sigi Schmid’s possible exit from Seattle Sounders. In charge since the club’s inaugural MLS season in 2009, Schmid has taken the Sounders to four US Open Cup triumphs. Yet, the team have failed to replicate that in the MLS Playoffs. This season he and the team have got off to a terrible start with the Sounders losing their three opening matches. Most significantly, Seattle sold striker Obafemi Martins in January to Chinese Super League side Shanghai Greenland Shenhua. Martins had scored 40 goals and tallied 23 assists in 72 matches. The club failed to address the striker’s exit and thus far have paid for the sale in 2016. The hype around rookie Jordan Morris has been just that, and designated player Clint Dempsey has made little impact for the team in their opening three fixtures. It’s too early in the season to change coaches with the parity that runs through the league, but a trade or transfer is needed immediately. MLS roster rules in 2016 allow for trades or transfers until May 11th. The club need to shake things up.

Strike power

Seven players currently sit atop the MLS goal scoring chart on three apiece according to WhoScored.com. Two names immediately jump out: Chris Wondolowski and Will Bruin. Wondolowski is off to a great start with San Jose Earthquakes as the striker has tallied three of San Jose’s four goals in 2016. The 33-year-old has notched 11 or more goals in each of the last six seasons, and barring injury, this season should be no different. However, having 75% of the team’s scoring shows just how dependent the ‘Quakes are on Wondolowski this term. While San Jose is reliant on one man, currently, Houston Dynamo have got scoring from different areas. However, Bruin’s three goals have him as the team’s leading scoring in the young season. Bruin has scored in or assisted a goal in each of the Dynamo’s three matches. Since joining the Dynamo in 2011, Bruin has been a consistent player, tallying 49 goals in 150 games. While the Dynamo are still looking for stability under coach Owen Coyle, Bruin has been fantastic as the team’s lone striker, and is benefitting from the likes of Giles Barnes, Andrew Wenger and Cristian Maidana playing behind him.

Odds on favourites

According to UK betting website Bet365, the LA Galaxy are favourites to win the MLS Cup at 4/1 odds. This is far from surprising after the offseason signings the Galaxy had. In addition, the Galaxy’s notoriety is far reaching compared to other MLS sides. Chicago Fire currently have the longest odds at 125/1. Currently, Eastern Conference leaders Montreal Impact are 16/1, a good value for those MLS fans in the UK looking to put down a bet.

Arsenal, Barca and Bayern among clubs set to fight for Ousmane Dembele

Ousmane Dembele

Rennes midfielder Ousmane Dembele is quickly making a name for himself in the French top division.  Despite having just made his season debut back in November, the 18-year-old has already racked up 10 Ligue 1 goals, as well as five assists.  The impressive goal tally in the short amount of time (just 19 league matches) has made the big boys perk up a bit.  In fact, France Football reported last week that Barcelona had a €35 million bid for Dembele rejected by Rennes.

Following the breaking news, Badou Sambague, the player’s agent, denied a bid taking place, but fueled the fire by refusing to rule out a possible transfer to the Nou Camp.  ”There is absolutely nothing, but I also confess that if Barcelona call you, you cannot say no,” Sambague told Mundo Deportivo.  “We know there were scouts not only from Barcelona, but also some from several English clubs, as [Rennes] explained to me.”

Two of the aforementioned English clubs are apparently Arsenal and Manchester City.  The Gunners have been so impressed by Dembele that they are reportedly sending chief scout Steve Rowley to watch the 18-year-old forward/attacking midfielder play in person.  Also perhaps working in the north London club’s favor is the fact that former Gunner, Mikael Silvestre, is working as an executive for Rennes.

Manchester City, on the other hand, are thought to be extremely interested in Dembele as well.  Incoming manager Pep Guardiola is looking to make the youngster one of his first signings with the Citizens when he makes the switch from Bayern this summer, according to ESPN FC.  The website also claims, however, that Guardiola’s current club are the actual frontrunners to complete the signing of Dembele come June.

As one of the most sought after teenage prospects in Europe, Dembele possesses blazing pace, quick feet, and quality finishing.  Because of his speed and ambidexterity, he is mostly deployed out on either flank.  However, the tricky youngster has also made a few appearances in a more central role just behind the central striker with Rennes as well.  According to whoscored.com, Dembele has actually scored the same amount of goals out wide as he has in the number 10 role.

With 10 goals and five assists in just 1,542 total minutes during the current campaign, Dembele’s minutes per goal/assist beats many superstars around Europe.

Minutes per goal/assist
Ousmane Dembele 103
Douglas Costa 115
Alexis Sanchez 123
Isco 135
Lucas Moura 168
Willian 180

Wherever Dembele ends up plying his trade next season, he will have to continue to progress as a player.  The speedster is still a bit raw and his decision making will have to improve if he were to make it with a big club. Nevertheless, Dembele certainly appears to worthy of the recent interest from Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Manchester City.  It will be interesting to see what teams are willing to enter a biding war for the 18-year-old.

Man City vs. Man United ranks as most-watched Manchester derby ever on US TV

manchester-derby

Sunday’s derby between Manchester City and Manchester United shown on NBC in the United States scored an average of 1.17 million viewers, according to The Nielsen Company.

Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Manchester City was the most-watched Manchester derby in U.S. history. Plus, the game was the most-streamed NBC Premier League game on NBC Sports Live Extra with 4.4 million minutes. To date, the 2015-16 Premier League season has totaled 2.1 million unique users and 462 million live minutes on NBC Sports Live Extra, up 19% and 65% respectively compared to the same point last season.

Since kicking off its Premier League coverage in August 2013, NBC Sports Group has televised eight of the 10 most-watched live Premier League telecasts ever in the U.S.

Meanwhile, here are the 10 most-watched live Premier League matches in U.S. television history:

Date Match Network Viewers
1 11/22/2014 Man United vs. Arsenal NBC 1.41 million
2 2/5/2012 Chelsea vs. Man United FOX 1.38 million
3 1/31/2015 Chelsea vs. Man City NBC 1.35 million
4 10/26/2014 Man United vs. Chelsea NBC 1.29 million
5 1/22/2012 Man United vs. Arsenal FOX 1.26 million
6 9/12/2015 Man United vs. Liverpool NBC 1.25 million
7 2/8/2014 Cardiff vs. Swansea NBC 1.24 million
8 3/20/2016 Man City vs. Man United NBC 1.17 million
9 10/24/2015 Everton vs. Arsenal NBC 1.15 million
10 4/12/2015 Man United vs. Man City NBCSN 1.13 million

Newcastle United’s Rafael Benitez looking for more after first point

Photo credit: AFP
Photo credit: AFP

Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez warned his side that they need to start better in matches, after Aleksandar Mitrovic rescued a 1-1 derby draw against Sunderland on Sunday.

The Serbian striker headed in an 83rd-minute equalizer as the Magpies ended a four-match losing streak.

But Benitez, who was in charge for just the second time since taking over from Steve McClaren, knows that despite the boost of the late goal, further improvements are needed if his new side are to beat the drop.

“It was really important for everyone here — from the first fan, to the last one. Everybody needed a goal like this and a reaction like that. Hopefully we can keep this momentum for the next games,” the Spaniard said.

”We know the players can do better. We had to make substitutions in the second half which worked well.

“Hopefully next time, I won’t have to do so many changes and the team will be good from the beginning until the end.”

Mitrovic, who suffered a head injury in the closing stages, could emerge as a key player in the final weeks of the season, according to Benitez.

“I said before that he has the potential. We have to help him a little bit with better crosses, better deliveries, and being closer to him. He will score goals if we can do that,” he said.

The North East rivals remain in the Premier League’s relegation zone behind Norwich City and Crystal Palace, who were the chief beneficiaries of the stalemate at St James’ Park.

– ‘Four points thrown away’ –

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce admitted: “It makes life difficult for us. Norwich and Crystal Palace will look at this and think it’s a good result for them.

“We are now in a position where we must have wins; draws are not going to be good enough for us, so we have to win four of our last eight games.”

Sunderland, who had won the last six Tyne-Wear derbies, have lost only once in six league games, but have been involved in too many draws and, to the frustration of their manager, have been deprived of wins by late goals in their last two matches.

“It happened at Southampton in our last game and has happened again here, so that’s four points thrown away,” Allardyce said.

“Put those points on the board and we would feel safe. Now it’s going to go to the wire. That’s the bottom line.”

Allardyce feared the worst after Sunderland lost their attacking edge in the closing stages and tried to hang on to the lead given to them by Jermain Defoe’s 44th-minute goal, and they paid a high price.

”When you show you can handle the pressure like we did here, you have to take full advantage and score more goals from the chances created because we know we will concede goals. It’s a nasty habit we have got,” the Sunderland boss admitted.

“We were in control of the game and putting Newcastle under pressure, so to sit back and let them come at us is a real crime to me. We know we need more than one goal.

“We didn’t get the second one, though, and ended up trying to protect what we had got. There were a lot of things we could have done to stop that cross for their goal and ended up with one point instead of three.

“The consolation for me is that we’ve been in a position to win every game we have played recently. We are doing most things right and taking the lead, but we need to see it through to a victory. That’s what we have to change.”

Allardyce is also unhappy that league games have been cancelled next weekend because of internationals.

“Now we have another two weeks to wait to play our next game to let stupid Football Associations make money from friendlies,” he added.