Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Olympic Football: Previewing Team GB

With the football season still a matter of weeks away, football fans have the opportunity to fill their time with the Olympic football that is taking place right on our doorsteps. With the games being hosted in Britain this year, some of the world's best teams will be competing for the coverted gold medal. Fixtures are to be played in a variety of stadiums in the country, including Wembley, Old Trafford and St. James Park.

picture: mirror.co.uk
Having released the squad only recently, Stuart Pearce is leading the British side for the games. With the exclusion of David Beckham from the squad being met with disappointment, Pearce's squad still contains a lot of talent with a good mix of experience and youth. With the likes of Brazil and Spain involved, chances of a gold medal will be difficult.

Qualifying as hosts, this will be the first time since the 1960 games in Italy that Team GB will compete in the games in the football event. Having failed to qualify for the games between 1964 and 1972, the Football Association stopped recognising the difference between professional and amateur footballers in 1974. This ending the existence of the English national amateur team which was the basis of the Olympic team and because of this, the FA stopped entering a British Olympic side.

The team this year, will be led by Manchester United winger Ryan Giggs who is joined by Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards who all qualify as the 'over age players'. The rest of the squad are all under the age of 23 following the rules of the tournament that all squads must have a mix of experience and youth in their squads.

Despite losing key man Gareth Bale to injury, Team GB will enter the games with a promising squad. Goalkeeper Jack Butland was called up to the England Euro 2012 squad as a replacement for the injured John Ruddy and he is set to be GB's number one. At 19, the Birmingham City stopper is rated very highly. Despite missing out on a Euro 2012 place for England, Micah Richards, Adam Johnson and Daniel Sturridge all take their place and will be key figures if Team GB are to do well. Promising midfielders Joe Allen and Jack Cork get their chance to shine at the games having had good seasons with their respective clubs.

picture: thefa.com
Pearce's side were drawn in Group A alongside Senegal, UAE and Uruguay. With the likes of strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, the South Americans will be tough opponents for Team GB. Senegal will represent in the games for the first time ever and bring a squad containing Mohamed Diame and Magaye Gueye who both play their trade in England. Final opponents UAE will also be representing at the games for the first time after failing to get through the qualifiers on all previous attempts. Out of the ten games they played in the qualifiers, UAE won seven and drew three.

Team GB's games don't start until the 26th July where they begin their campaign by playing Senegal at Old Trafford. They play their next game three days later where they face UAE at Wembley and finish their group games by playing Uruguay at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on the 1st August.

Stuart Pearce's team will fancy their chances of going far in the tournament especially with Argentina missing this time and only Brazil and Spain as the only other teams that may offer some sort of difficulty. With a promising and youthful squad alongside the leadership of Ryan Giggs, Team GB must expect themselves to achieve a medal by the end.

Team GBR squad: 

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland, Jason Steele, Alex McCarthy

Defenders: Neil Taylor, Ryan Bertrand, Danny Rose, Steven Caulker, Craig Dawson, James Tomkins, Micah Richards, Ryan Bennett

Midfielders: Tom Cleverley, Joe Allen, Ryan Giggs, Jack Cork, Aaron Ramsey, Scott Sinclair, Adam Johnson

Strikers: Daniel Sturridge, Craig Bellamy, Marvin Sordell, Jordan Rhodes

Friday, 6 July 2012

From Hero to Zero: Robin Van Persie

Having seen the likes of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas leave last season, Arsenal are set to lose their next big star with captain Robin Van Persie announcing that he won't be signing a new contract with the club. The Dutchman scored a mammoth 41 goals in 53 games for club and country last season, as well being chosen for the Professional Footballers' Association and Football Writers' player of the year last season.

picture:  smh.com.au
The announcement comes after constant speculation in the media debating whether RVP would commit his future to the club. Van Persie released his statement on his own personal site stating that: 'in this meeting is has again become clear that we in many aspects disagree on the way Arsenal FC should move forward'  Releasing the statement in the way he did, Van Persie has erased the great memories he once gave to his loyal fans.

Despite saying that he is again meeting Wenger and Gazidis, it very much looks like the statement will end his career at the Emirates. The tone of his statement will be what angers fans, having questioned the clubs challenge and aspirations for silverware. It must be said though, that Arsenal have not won any silverware in the last seven years. However without the goals of RVP, this wait could easily continue.

As well as the lack of silverware, the number of high profile signings the club has made over recent years has been minimal. Aside from Mikel Arteta for £10million last August, Wenger has shyed away from spending big money. However already this season, the Frenchman has spent big bringing in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, who have both arrived under double figure fees. However with only the likes of Chamakh, Park and Gervinho remaining with the new arrivals, losing Van Persie would be a huge blow to Arsenal's front line. 

picture: thesun.co.uk
Having stuck by Van Persie during the years the Dutchman was injured, Wenger's next move will have to be looking to sell the Dutchman unless RVP makes a dramatic U-turn. This possibility can't be ruled out having seen both Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard remain at their current clubs having made similar announcements in the past.
So where does Van the man go from here? There are a number of potential suitors for the Dutchman, with Manchester City in the driving seat. The spending power of City will wave off any other potential suitors and the fact they go into the new season as current champions will make them more appealing. Former team mates Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy were lured from the Emirates last season and having seen them pick up winners medals, Van Persie would be temepted to join them if the offer came around. As well as City, it has been known that Sir Alex Ferguson is an admirer of RVP, and with Owen gone and Berbatov likely to leave, the addition to United's front line of Van Persie would certainly add more goals to their team. 

Juventus recently offered £8million for Van Persie but if they are to capture the Dutchman, they will be expected to fork out a lot more than that. Real Madrid and Barcelona are also potential suitors, but with David Villa set to return, and the goals of Leo Messi, the Catalans could do without Van Persie. Madrid could be a good move for both parties, but again with Ronaldo and Benzema both firing in goals, like Barca, the need for Van Persie isn't that necessary. 

If Captain Vantastic does move on, then he will be only remembered for his statement and not the wonderful contribution to the London club. The way he went about it was wrong and had he handed in a transfer request, or allowed the club to make a statement, then the reaction may have been completely different. But instead, Arsenal will have to sell Van Persie this summer as long as he doesn't change his mind, to make sure they receive a big fee for the striker, and not let him see out his contract allowing him to leave on a free.