Just a bit of this and that in the world of the Barclays Premier League on tap for you in today’s installment – hope you enjoy
England call-ups v Denmark
I woke up this morning and saw my Bleacher Report notification light up my phone with some fantastic news – Raheem Sterling and Luke Shaw have been included in Roy Hodgson’s side that faces Denmark on March 5th at Wembley. They have been bright spots for both their club sides and with their tender age, should they impress before the World Cup, it would provide valuable experience for the pair of them which they could hopefully build upon and take with them once the qualification campaign for Euro 2016 is in full swing. My mood was then immediately ruined when I saw that Frank Lampard was recalled. With Steven Gerrard having the arm-band for England, surely you do not need Lampard in the side then as his presence potentially takes time on the pitch away from other players who the future of the national team will be built around, such as Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson. The further continued inclusion of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert will no doubt have England supporters feeling positive when Morton Olsen’s Danes pay the Three Lions a visit next week. In case you missed it, here is the England team in full:
Frasier Forster, Ben Foster, Joe Hart, John Ruddy; Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Steven Caulker, Ashley Cole, Glen Johnson, Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker; Ross Barkley, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere; Jermain Defoe, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez, Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck.
BPL form on the continent
It has not been a bright start for England clubs in the round of 16 in Champions League – Chelsea drew 1-1 with Galatasaray, United fell 2-0 to Olympiakos, City were dropped by Barcelona 2-0 and Arsenal lost to current holders Bayern Munich by the same score line. These results instantly kicked the naysayers into gear, questioning if this means that the BPL is actually not the best league in the world, if it is just over-hyped and over-priced – but lets take a quick look at this for a minute.
Arsenal fell 2-0 to arguably the best club side in the world and gave a very good account of themselves, one that the supporters could be proud of. City ran into a Barca side that was bolstered by the recent return of Leo Messi. Chelsea earned an away point and a valuable away goal against a Gala side that are notoriously tricky at home, while United only lost 2-0 away and have plenty of times in the past reversed the result at Old Trafford in the second leg – it is by no means doom and gloom. Results aside, it must be taken into account that English clubs do not receive a winter break like most continental leagues provide. There is no rest for BPL players apart from squad rotations. On top of that, Bayern, Barca, Gala and Olympiakos are the cream of the crop in their leagues and those leagues comparatively are not nearly as competitive week in and week out as the BPL is.
Bayern are all but assured to take the Bundesliga title yet again as they are 19 points clear of second placed Bayer Leverkusen with just 12 matches left. Barca are second place in a three-horse race in a league were, with respect, they can play at 50% and still win half the matches on their fixture list without breaking a sweat. Galatasaray are comfortably in second place in their push for yet another Super Lig title and lastly Olympiakos are twenty points clear. The combination of these factors will always hamstring English clubs for continental glory as by the time the knockout stages begin, most sides are truly starting to feel the effects of fatigue of such a long and demanding domestic campaign. Look for United to have a good shot of bouncing back and Chelsea should progress, however I feel it is curtains for Arsenal and City – however that will aid their title hopes as Chelsea will still be distracted by their quarter-final commitments.
Was Mesut Ozil an over-priced waste of money?
No, no and no – it’s that simple. I have been in this debate countless times with many a Gooner over the past few weeks and by no means was this a bad buy, or an over-priced one. Over the last three seasons before the current term, Ozil has the most assists of any player in Europe – he is a true number 10 in every sense of the word and it is no coincidence that nearly everyone before his move to Arsenal has called him the best at his position in the world. On top of that, he is the German player of the year for three years running. His accolades and his praise are well warranted.
Let us remember that Ozil previously when with Real Madrid and with Werder Bremen played in leagues that have a winter break from matches. Coupled with the fact that Ozil is new to the BPL, a league that has much higher physical expectations and is more fast paced, there was always going to be a period of adjustment – it takes time for a new player to adjust, some more than others for sure and it must be noted and remembered that Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires were not all instant hits, in fact it took Pires a full season to adjust.
The biggest factor that people must understand about Ozil’s seemingly sub-par performances, is that tactically, Arsene Wenger is not only not deploying him properly, but the personnel around him as well as the style Arsenal are accustomed to playing is not suited to him and thus, he will not be as effective as he is able. When at Madrid, Bremen and even currently for the German national team, Ozil is in the true number 10 role. He is used to having strikers that make runs through the channels for him to use his fantastic vision to provide through balls for. He is used to having wingers that can run down the flank or tuck into the central channels to give him multiple passing options. He is not expected to track back and play defense, as he usually is the main outlet pass going forward where he can then pull the strings like the puppet master that he is. At Arsenal however, he has a striker who prefers to come deep and hold up the ball, he has wide players that constantly want to play centrally and he has midfielders behind him always pushing forward – all of these factors limit his space and force him to go out wide to find it, or, the center of the park becomes cluttered and his effectiveness diminishes substantially.
For Ozil to work as he is intended, tactical adjustments must be made or else he will never help Arsenal to reach another level in terms of football – let us be honest, he is that good that he singlehandedly can raise Arsenal another level on the pitch. Gunner supporters just need to stick behind their man and have a little faith in the talent and skill level everyone knows he has, he will come good and when he does, Arsenal will reap the benefits.
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