Monday, 21 May 2012

History suggests that Van Persie will leave

Another season has come to an end and yet again Arsenal are facing the prospect of losing their best player. Their captain and talisman Robin van Persie has one year remaining on his current contract and as expected the vultures are circling for his signature.

Initial reports suggest that he is contemplating a move away from the Emirates this summer after talks ended in stalemate last week. Having witnessed his great friend Cesc Fabregas leave the club last summer few could blame the Dutch striker for wanting to leave North London.

Unfortunately for Arsenal their lack of success in recent seasons has seen many of their top stars leave the club to seek silverware elsewhere. Interestingly most of the better players have gone on to win various trophies at their next club and this is something that will not escape RVP’s attention (or his agent’s). Even though Barcelona have failed to win La Liga or the European Champions League this season Fabregas has still already won three trophies this season (and should compete for their fourth against Athletic Bilbao on Friday).

There were of course another two high profile departures last summer with Gael Clichy and Samir Nasri deciding that Manchester City offered a more realistic chance of silverware than Arsenal. After considerable criticism from the fans both players were vindicated with City’s Premier League triumph this season. It is easy to see why many of the Arsenal players view the club as a stepping stone to future success.

If you go back even further there are even more examples. Thierry Henry enjoyed initial success at Arsenal but when the club began to stagnate he left for Barcelona where he won seven major titles as a player in three seasons. Of course there is then one of the chief protagonists in the Van Persie saga; Patrick Vieira.

After years of transfer rumours Vieira finally departed Arsenal for Juventus in 2005 after scoring their decisive penalty kick against Manchester United in the FA Cup, which was their last trophy. He enjoyed considerable success in Italy where he won six titles during his spells with Inter Milan and Juve. He is of course now working at Manchester City and will be involved heavily with attempting to lure Van Persie to the newly crowned Premier League champions.

This situation must be incredibly frustrating for Arsenal fans and everyone associated with the club. However, it is a situation they seem to continually find themselves in every year and when you look back at history it suggests RVP will leave for pastures new this summer. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Barcelona need Pedro

The reaction over the last week to Barcelona losing to Chelsea and Real Madrid has verged on the ludicrous at times. It appears almost beyond the comprehension of most that this glittering club could lose two such important games in such a short space of time.

There is no doubt that Barca are not quite right at the moment. Having witnessed their performance first hand last Wednesday at Stamford Bridge it is clear to see where and why. One of the keys to Barca’s unbelievable attacking play in recent years has been the explosive moment of their players between the opponent’s lines of midfield and defence. For many parts of this season this movement has been severely lacking and it is why they seem so impotent at the moment.

Movement between the lines makes it incredibly difficult for defenders to maintain their shape and to mark their opponent. Any sudden burst of movement will then have to be imitated in order to remain with the player moving towards goal. The next problem is that usually one of your team mates follows the movement too which then leaves a Barca player free.

Two of the key exponents of this type of movement have been missing for extended periods this season; Pedro and David Villa. Indeed the one player Barca are really missing at the moment is Pedro; his knowledge and understanding of Guardiola’s methods make him such an integral part of the squad. Although he may not be the most talented forward at the club his game is based almost entirely on this type of performance.

Another one of Barca’s key weapons is the ball played from inside their own half through the line between the centre backs and the full-backs. The pass is intended for the winger who has started his run on the touch line. When possession is gained the Barca player will run inwards and then dart between the full-back and the nearest centre back. A precise pass will then take out an entire defensive line and leave the forward bearing down on goal. Yet again, one of Pedro’s trade mark runs.

Messi has become too isolated in attack and it was only the introduction of Alexis Sanchez that gave him the extra space with which to work. Once Pedro too had been introduced hugging the right touchline Barcelona finally began to resemble the threat we know they can be.

The fact that Barcelona have won everything and the fact that Lionel Messi plays for them Pep Guardiola does not always get the credit he deserves. In the modern game you cannot win knock-out tournaments by having a couple of great players; you have to have a system. The system implemented and developed by Guardiola is what made them the force they have been and returning to that tonight will serve them well. What they also require is those that know, trust and excel in that system, and for tonight that means Pedro.