Thoughts on Hector Bellerin’s Injury and Reviewing Arsenal’s Options at RB

Image result for hector bellerin injury

*removes cobwebs*

*evicts Spiderman – his rent was overdue anyways*

So I haven’t published a post on this blog in four months…

For a guy that has written over 1,500 posts in nine years, it’s simply not good enough, and for that I apologize. I’ve always longed for someone to hold the fort while I am away but that didn’t happen, but it’s not enough not to write in four months. But it’s cool – I’m back like Hector Bellerin would be after six to nine months.

It’s really sad to see our best right back suffer such an injury that could be career threatening, but I take some solace in the fact that he would be given the best medical assistance required for a speedy recovery. His surgery is scheduled to take place in Spain while he would return to London to start the grueling rehabilitation process.

Hector Bellerin had regressed as a footballer in recent seasons but he picked up some form under the tutelage of Unai Emery. With five assists to his name, he beefed up his creative numbers and you can’t underestimate his importance to the way we play our football under the new gaffer. After hitting a good streak of form, he suffered a setback with a calf injury that sidelined him for a while and he was eased into action by the manager, only to sustain this latest injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season, as well as some chunk of the 2019/20 campaign.

So where do we go from here? With Bellerin no longer available for selection, Emery has only two options – work with the other lads at his disposal or delve into the transfer market to probably get a short term mitigation. A loan deal for Nathaniel Clyne some right back.

Let’s explore Option 1 – using the lads at our disposal. In the hierarchy of right backs in the club, Emery has Stephan Lichtsteiner, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Carl Jenkinson as able deputies for Hector Bellerin.

Lichtsteiner, that just turned 35 recently by the way, has seen that life in the Premier League can be a struggle, even if you’re Methusalah’s age mate and have won a truckload of titles in the Serie A. I was one of those fans that had a poker face when he was the first signing in the Emery era and to be honest, I didn’t expect him to light any fireworks, but from what I knew about him, I expected him to put a shift in the games he gets selected. Early on in his Arsenal career, he had it all peachy and creamy, scoring against some farmers in the Europa League and having fun with some lower league folks in the Carabao Cup but Bellerin got injured and he was selected to play with the big boys in the EPL. We all know how that panned out – there were the shite fests away to Liverpool and Manchester United then that header to Brighton’s Jurgen Locadia that cost us three points. As an elder statesman, I didn’t expect him to get that much minutes at the Premier League and with Bellerin injured, he could become a liability in an already shaking backline.

Verdict – I hope he features in only FA Cup and Europa League games.

Then there’s Carl Jenkinson, the forgotten true and true Gooner that has plied his trade in several clubs but still finds himself with us. He’s certainly not a world beater by his fair standards but Jenks gives you 100% commitment and heart, which compensates for his lack of ability. He possesses a nice cross on him though, with his assist in the Blackpool game a reminder of what he can do when selected. What I do love about him is the fact that he doesn’t whine about not playing consistently, and will do his bit when selected, but there’s a reason he’s our fourth choice right back. With his contract expiring this summer, Jenks will certainly try pastures anew but he still has a role to play for us between now and the end of the campaign.

Verdict – He will only remain a last gasp option when the injury crisis deepens

AMN – one of the nicest acronyms you’d ever see till you find out what it means and then you’d wish you didn’t like the acronym initially, as you expected a bit more. That’s how I can relate to his footballing ability as well. With Maitland-Niles, you have to first of all commend him for playing out of his comfort zone to help his team – he’s not a full back by trade (had a strong midfield showing for England in the triumphant U20 World Cup campaign) but he has been deployed as a left back, right back and even right winger, like your modern day John O’Shea. However, the only challenge of being a jack-of-all-trades has the potential to make you a master of none. AMN has the physical qualities that can make him a decent full back, but he still needs to do some work on his defensive side, as there’s room for improvement.

Verdict – Deploy as Arsenal’s make-shift right back and hope he builds some consistency

Now we are at Option 2 – signing a player, or maybe securing a loan deal, from the transfer market. Well, this is not Football Manager 2019, where you have the luxury of clicking on a tab and all the right back options appear for you. In real life, it’s a lot complex. For starters, the manager has already mentioned that there are no funds to sign players in this transfer window, so this already limits our options to loan deals, which it’s not as easy as going over the counter to get an item. In the Premier League, I can think about maybe Matteo Darmian, Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne that would be the noteworthy options, but everyone isn’t like Arsenal that enjoys strengthening their rivals.

In conclusion, the onus is on Unai Emery to make the best decision for his team and as an Arsenal supporter, I’d give my err, support, to the option he decides to take.

Sayonara.

Bonus Reading: https://arseblog.com/2019/01/bellerins-injury-could-be-an-opportunity-for-maitland-niles/

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Ighalo: The Man on Fire and German Football on an All Time Löw

Joachim Low.

The thing about international football is that you can choose to really concentrate on watching each game, or you can do something else and just listen to the commentary in the background. I never pass on a chance to play my beloved Football Manager 2018 (can’t wait for FM 19 to come out next month) or more recently, Uncharted: Lost Legacy on my PS4, but I looked at the fixture list and decided to focus on two games – Libya vs my Nigeria and of course, France vs Germany.

With the Libya vs Nigeria game starting by 7.00pm local time and the France vs Germany starting by 7.45pm, I figured I’d combined both games while enjoying some of that FM goodness. Just before I could get settled into the Libya vs Nigeria game, the red hot Odion Ighalo stepped up again with another well taken goal following some good passing interplay from Alex Iwobi and team skipper, Ahmed Musa. That was Ighalo’s sixth goal in his qualifying fixtures – a brace away at Seychelles, a hat-trick at home to Libya and of course, the match opener in Sfax, Tunisia, against the same side.

Ighalo turned from scorer to provider when he teed up Musa at the edge of the area, but the Saudi-based winger still had a lot to do as he danced his way past some Libyan defenders before scoring the most scrappy finish you’d ever see. Knowing fully well that South Africa were playing a Seychelles side they spanked 6-0 over the weekend, Nigeria sure needed every kind of goal they could get. Taking a 2-0 lead into halftime would have been very ideal in the grand scale of things but knowing African football, there were more surprises around the corner, and that happened when Libya pulled two back but Ighalo was on hand to score his sixth goal in three matches to give Nigeria all three points.

Elsewhere, Joachim Low and Germany are still struggling and one must wonder how they can get out of this slump. Following a disastrous World Cup, Germany was still the top seed for the UEFA Nations League and were paired with France and the Netherlands, but it has turned out to be a disaster as Low’s side has lost two games in the group, as well as a poor draw at home to France.

They sure managed to end the rot of not scoring in three games with Toni Kroos penalty but it wasn’t enough as Antoine Griezmann stepped up the plate to put the Germans to the sword.

I hope they can come out of their current predicament as they are still regarded as one of the best footballing nations but things aren’t just working out for them at the mo. Really Sad

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England’s Triumph and the UEFA Nations League Explained

Image result for sterling spain

Just like me, many folks haven’t gotten the full hang of this UEFA Nations League tournament but I use it as a good opportunity to watch some quality international football, as European nations field their best sides with the aim of qualifying and avoiding relegation (yes, I’m still confused on how it works but bleh).

Ok, there’s Wikipedia right. Aha! It says that there are four leagues (A – D) which are assigned based on the UEFA national teams coefficients but from this tournament, things are going to change. “League A” serves as the elite league in the competition with each league having four groups of three teams each. The winners of each of the groups in League A qualify to the Nations League finals, which is a semifinal clash between the four group winners of League A, while the last placed teams in League A are relegated to League B, with their places taken by the four group winners in League B. Same way there are promotions and relegations in League C and League D.

Germany for instance, were the highest ranked team in the competition with a coefficient of 40,747, so they were the seeded team in Group 1. The other seeded teams in League A were Portugal (38,655), Belgium (38,123) and Spain (37,311). This meant that they were going to be paired with Pot 2 League A teams like France (36,617), England (36,231), Switzerland (34,986) and Italy (34,426). The teams in the League Pot 3 were Poland (32,982), Iceland (31,155), Croatia (31,139) and the Netherlands (29,866). From these 12 teams, four groups of three teams were formed.

Thanks to Germany’s recent shitty form, they are currently last in their group behind France and the Netherlands which essentially means that they can be potentially relegated to League B, even though they still have a home clash with Holland and an away clash with France to go. Two League A teams have confirmed their relegations to League B, with Iceland suffering three defeats and a whopping -10 goal difference from their clashes with Belgium and Switzerland as well as Poland, whose last gasp defeat to Italy in their home turf sealed their fate. So this essentially means that we will not see the Viking clappers and Robert Lewandowski’s cohorts till they get promotion from League B in the 2020/21 season.

Now that you’ve gotten the drift of how the UEFA Nations League works, let’s talk about last night. Or wait, let’s step back a bit – remember when Spain made a 1,000 passes against Russia and still crashed out on penalties at the World Cup? Or when their then manager, Julen Lopetegui, wanted to literally eat his cake and have it? The nation that has given so much to the beautiful game was a far cry of the dominant force they used to be. Suffering elimination at the Round of 16 stage of both the World Cup and European Championship was not something you’d associate with Spain but the appointment of Luis Enrique as the head coach was certainly a step in the right direction.

In his first two matches of the Nations League, he defeated England in their coveted Wembley ground and made light work of the World Cup finalists, Croatia, so when the Three Lions arrived in Seville for their second leg clash with Spain, confidence was certainly high from the home team.

What we witnessed, in the first 45 minutes at least, was a masterclass from England that coincided with a shitefest from Spain. Marcus Rashford found Raheem Sterling at the edge of the area with only David de Gea to beat and the Manchester City forward finished aplomb with a belter that left the Manchester United goalie flat footed. This was followed by a lovely Rashford goal that came to fruition from a lovely Harry Kane pass. De Gea again was found wanting as his Man Utd teammate dispatched the ball past him with consummate ease. Two goals became three when Ross Barkley’s dink over the top to Kane was laid on a platter for Sterling to allow him score his second of the night and put England three goals up in Andalusia. The home crowd were certainly stunned as you’d expect but I can’t take anything from what was a brilliant England team performance.

The second half saw Spain go for broke and who would blame them? Losing 3-0 at home wasn’t going to go down well with the Spanish faithful, so the boss summoned the red hot Paco Alcacer and Dani Ceballos to contribute to an attack that was barraging England. Gareth Southgate’s response was to bring on Kyle Walker and switch to a back three. I wasn’t really convinced by Walker playing as a center back in the World Cup but my only managerial experience is at Football Manager level, so I can’t really question a man that finished in fourth place in the World Cup, can I?

Anyways, Alcacer reacted well to a beautiful Marco Asensio inswinger and Jordan Pickford couldn’t do anything to save such a lovely header. It was just 3-1 and certainly not enough. The onslaught from the home side continued that English lads put up a valiant show at the back. Finally, they cracked in the 97th minute from a Sergio Ramos header, but it was also the last moment of the game as the Polish ref blew his whistle afterwards. A largely entertaining game in every sense of the word.

This result put England with two points behind Spain, and it’s now evident that Croatia holds the key to the destiny of that group. Luka Modric’s army have two games left – against Spain and England, and if they win both, they will finish the group in an astonishing seven points, above Spain that has six and England with four. However, if Spain manages to get a draw against Croatia, they will relegate them to League B and earn a place in the semifinals.

No pressure lads.

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