Adebayor’s comments not helpful as Tottenham toil

It has been another underwhelming start to the season for the White Hart Lane faithful. With a new manager and a couple of initial positive results, hopes were raised sky high that a consistent challenge for the top four might be put forward by Tottenham this season.

Unfortunately for Spurs fans the honeymoon period under Mauricio Pochettino has finished and the hard reality is that the North London club are not showing the form needed to go toe-to-toe with the Premier League’s best teams.

Like last term, home form has been a major issue, with Tottenham struggling to win games that a team with ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League should be winning.

The latest setback came on Sunday as Stoke beat Spurs 2-1 at White Hart Lane; the most disappointing thing for the home support was a lack of energy, some chaotic defending and not many chances to get back into the game.

Emmanuel Adebayor
Emmanuel Adebayor has spoken up about the stale atmosphere at the North London club following defeat to the Potters and admitted that a number of the players would prefer to play away from home than face the expectation of the White Hart Lane faithful.

Although things are far from ideal for Tottenham currently, comments in the media that can be perceived negatively are the last thing that the club needs and especially from a player that is underperforming.

Outspoken, controversial but at times brilliant, Adebayor epitomised the lack of urgency in the Tottenham camp on Sunday when it took him a number of minutes to get his boots on to come off the bench in the second half.

However, instead of making his thoughts on matters known the Togolese forward would be best applying himself fully on the pitch, like he did when he whilst on loan and looking for a permanent move to the club, and leaving talking to his manager.

Tottenham must be glad they kept hold of Michael Dawson

Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday sees them move back into third position in the Premier League and gives the side a boost going into the business end of the season. Despite the much-applauded attacking exploits of the White Hart Lane side this term, their dogged defensive efforts in their derby win must be recognised. Jan Vertonghen stood out with a masterful and assured performance at the heart of the Spurs rearguard, however captain Michael Dawson epitomised the side’s will to win in the encounter.

The England international has been a growing presence in a Tottenham team that have challenged for top-four inclusion over the last number of years, however with Andre Villas-Boas’ appointment in the summer Dawson’s future was unclear. With the Portuguese coach stating that he wanted only four central defenders on the books, it was Dawson who was deemed surplus to requirements, to the raised eyebrows of some of the White Hart Lane faithful.

Michael Dawson

A move to London neighbours QPR in the summer fell through, and Dawson remained at Spurs. Over the course of the season, partly due to injury to Younes Kaboul and a dip in form from William Gallas, he has found himself back in the side. Dawson must receive plaudits for doing the work on the training ground to get back in contention, while Villas-Boas must also be admired for revising his initial negative opinion of the player.

Gareth Bale has been the star of the show in Spurs’ excellent run of form recently, but Dawson, donning the captain’s armband once more, has added steel and heart in the Tottenham defence. He may admittedly lack the poise of Vertonghen or the speed of Kaboul, but countless other positive qualities were on show in the win over Arsenal at the weekend.

Dawson positional play makes up for a lack of pace, and he was in the right place at the right time to make vital interceptions and clearance against the Gunners. His anger at Arsenal’s failure to put the ball out of play whilst Emmanuel Adebayor was injured showed a real passion for the cause, while his jubilant celebration after the match exemplified his sheer will-to-win.

The Englishman’s inclusion also adds a dominant figure at the heart of the side, with his communication, organisation and team-work outstanding. Along with Scott Parker, Spurs had the leaders on the pitch that Arsenal lack in the derby.

Even when Kaboul returns from injury, Villas-Boas now must realise that his first-choice pairing of Dawson and Vertonghen must remain. The pair were a rock at the heart of Spurs defence in the win over Arsenal, and Dawson’s influence critical in a vitally important win.

Drogba, Berbatov and the Premier League strikers up for grabs this summer

With the big clubs looking to strengthen their squads for 2012-13, there is a likelihood that a number of fringe players will be sold on. Here are six Premier League strikers likely to be looking for a new club this summer.

Edin Dzeko

Although experiencing a great start to the 2011-2012 season, scoring seven goals in the first four matches for the Blues, a year spent in the shadow of Argentine team-mate Sergio Aguero has been disappointing for the Bosnian hit-man. Already proving himself as a dangerous Premier League forward, Dzeko will look for new ground come next season and with another big-money forward likely to join Roberto Mancini’s men in the summer, the £27 million forward will want to get first-team football elsewhere and there are many clubs that will want him.

Dimitar Berbatov

It has been a strange season at Old Trafford for the Bulgarian forward, who has experienced a game drought at the beginning of the season, a fantastic December – scoring six goals in three games – and a disappointing finish. The Manchester United outcast will want to find a new club next year after demonstrating his ability when he has had the chance. Valued at around £10 million, the 31-year-old forward would be a great signing for any club in need of a goal-hungry poacher. Although known for his laziness, there is no doubt that many sides will want him come the summer.

Marouane Chamakh

For Marouane Chamakh it has been an awful season, scoring only one goal in 21 appearances for the north London outfit, and although signing on a free transfer from Bordeaux in 2010, the Moroccan forward has been a big disappointment. With the signing of Lucas Podolski, there will be no space for the target man in Arsene Wenger’s plans and it is possible he could make a move back to France very soon. The Premier League has proved to be just too much of a challenge for the 28-year-old striker, who will be frustrated with his unhappy time at Arsenal.

Jermain Defoe

Super sub Jermain Defoe, much like the others mentioned, has had a year spent watching from the sidelines, as Manchester City loanee Emmanuel Adebayor has led Tottenham’s front-line this season. The unsettled 29-year-old has been linked to a £10 million move to Anfield and has also been connected with a transfer to promoted side Reading. Although Harry Redknapp is keen to keep him at Tottenham in the summer, Defoe is dying for first-team football and there will be a number of new options for him if Spurs are willing to sell.

Didier Drogba

With an expiring contract in the summer, 34-year-old Didier Drogba is set to make a departure from his beloved Stamford Bridge after eight years of dedicated service. Scoring vital goals in the cup competitions this season, the Ivorian target man will play a vital role in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich and will be intent on having a last surge for European glory. It is rumoured that Drogba could make a mover to either Shanghai Shenhua – to join former teammate Nicolas Anelka – or possibly back to former club Marseille if a contract extension of two years is not offered by the Blues.

Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt has been a loyal servant at Anfield since signing in 2006 and has proved a important player for King Kenny’s side this term, scoring the equaliser in the extra time of the Carling Cup final and leading them on to win on penalties. There has been much speculation over a return to Dutch side Feyenoord, after admitting that he wants to go back, but for the 31 year-old the deal would be now or never and with a Liverpool team on decline, it looks like the Dutchman is set to make a return to Rotterdam.

By Jacob Tucker

Manchester United, Liverpool and the biggest Premier League losers of 2011-12

Despite a fantastically entertaining season with a raft of Premier League winners this term, it has been a campaign to forget for some teams and individuals. Euro 2012, the Olympics and the summer transfer window are approaching, and for some 2011-12 could not come to an end quick enough. Here are Ninety Minutes Online’s biggest losers of 2011/12.

Liverpool

Despite lifting the Carling Cup with victory over Cardiff, 2011/12 has been the worst campaign for Liverpool for quite some time. The Anfield outfit’s fans expected their side to be challenging for a top four berth, but a eighth place finish, 17 points adrift of Tottenham in fourth, has been a massive disappointment.

From Fenway Sports Group’s ill-fated home-grown transfer policy, to Luis Suarez’s racism ban, defeat in the FA Cup final to embarrassing home defeats to some of the division’s lesser lights, Liverpool fans will want to forget 2011/12.

Andre Villas Boas

After leading Porto to an unbeaten league title and lifting the Europa League in 2010/11, Andre Villas Boas was heralded as the next Jose Mourinho and the man to lead Chelsea back to the summit of the Premier League. However, an at times bullish squad rotation system saw the senior players at the club alienated, the Blues floundering outside of the top four and Villas Boas given Roman Abramovich’s axe.

The £13 million Chelsea paid Porto for AVB’s services was not rewarded, and the young trainer is still out of work after seeing his stock drop in west London.

Wolves

Wolves have been in a fight to stay in the Premier League over the last number of seasons, but Mick McCarthy has led them to survival and commanded the respect of the squad. Steve Morgan’s decision to sack McCarthy, despite a poor run of form, was an ill-sighted one, and the appointment of assistant Terry Connor a disaster.

The Molineux club reportedly interviewed the likes of Alan Curbishley and Steve Bruce for the role, but were reluctant to offer the experienced pair long-term contracts. The appointment of Connor has backfired, with the club finishing bottom with a woeful five wins all season.

Sir Alex Ferguson

2011/12 will be a season to forget for Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. The Old Trafford outfit are known for their will to win and mental toughness at the business end of the season, but the relinquishing of an eight-point lead is sure to give the legendary Scottish manager nightmares for years to come.

A lame Champions League exit in the group stages, a 6-1 hammering from City at Old Trafford and FA Cup elimination to Liverpool have been hard to take for the defending champions’ fans.

Alex McLeish and Aston Villa

Alex McLeish was a shock appointment at Villa Park last summer given his links to rivals Birmingham City, and the club’s supporters have not warmed to the Scot since. A toothless tally of seven wins, weak defending, a lack of creativity and the division’s second-lowest goal tally have had the Villa fans with their heads in their hands.

McLeish’s position as Villa manager must come under scrutiny this summer, but Randy Lerner must also invest in new players if the team are to have a better 2012/13 – Stewart Downing and Ashley Young have simply not been replaced.

Honourable mentions

  • Venkys – With Blackburn relegated this term, Steve Kean has received most of the flack from the media and the club’s fans. However, the Lancashire outfit’s Indian owners Venkys have not given the Scottish coach any funds to spend, and the side are now reportedly in financial trouble.
  • John Terry – Due to stand a court case in July for reportedly racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, the Chelsea skipper has lost the captaincy of his country and there is a train of thought that Terry may be excluded completely from Euro 2012. Add to this a sending off against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals for petulantly kneeing Alexis Sanchez, and Terry has had better years.
  • Jermain Defoe – The diminutive striker has proved time and again that he can score goals at the top level, but has simply not been given enough time on the pitch this season. Harry Redknapp’s preference for Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart could cost Defoe a place at Euro 2012.
  • Jack Wilshere – The talented Arsenal midfielder has not seen one minute of action this season, with consecutive knee cruciate injuries keeping him on the sidelines throughout. Wilshere will also miss Euro 2012 due to injury.
  • Joey Barton – Barton is no doubt talented and able when in the correct mindframe, but stupidity, ill-discipline and a terrible attitude have continued to blight his career. A red card against Manchester City on Sunday cost his team the game and his constant abusive and opinionated Twitter comments should see Mark Hughes ditch his troubled ‘captain’ this summer.

Published – Soccerlens

The Loan Debate: Is it good for the parent club?

With Fifa Financial Fair Play coming into effect and extortionate transfer fees blighting some clubs’ efforts to reinforce, the tried-and-tested loan system is an option can make or break a team’s season. One only has to look at the track record of young players evolving into top-class athletes whilst on loan deals, or a club being boosted by a temporary signing. It’s seemingly good for the player and parent club, as first-team football leads to development, and the smaller team gets the benefit of having a player they most likely couldn’t buy outright.

However, the loan system is not perfect, seems only to work when there is a match between the player and both his clubs and has a number of negative countering factors.

Pros

There is no doubt that loaning a player can make his career, as he returns to the parent club revitalised and improved after a run of regular football. The list of players to have undergone this process is startling, with three recent cases catching the eye:

  • Jack Wilshere – A promising youngster when he left the Emirates Stadium to join Bolton in 2009-10, he returned to the north London club ready to play an important role for club and country. Would he be the player he is now without the six-month spell of regular Premier League football at the Reebok Stadium?
  • Kyle Walker – Bought by Tottenham back in 2009, the young full back was not immediately considered by Harry Redknapp, and spent short spells at QPR and Aston Villa before becoming an ever-present at White Hart Lane this season.
  • Daniel Sturridge – Signed by Chelsea from Manchester City, youthful Sturridge could not get a game under Carlo Ancelotti and was loaned, again to Bolton. Eight goals in twelve games showed that the attacker was ready for regular Premier League inclusion, and he is now a key player at Stamford Bridge.

The list continues; Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans at Manchester United, Jermian Defoe at West Ham, Aaron Ramsey at Arsenal, Joe Hart at Manchester City – plenty of young players have cut their teeth elsewhere and gone on to become international players.

In fact, looking at the England squad for the international fixture against Sweden in November 2011, 16 of the 25-man squad have been subject to loan deals. This spans back years and decades, with David Beckham’s successful stint at Preston North End in 1995 proving this is no recent phenomenon. The case of Emmanuel Adebayor at Tottenham shows that bringing in an experienced head on loan also works. Robbie Keane has looked sharper than ever since joining Aston Villa and inspired Celtic fans by scoring 12 goals in 16 games back in 2010.

The player’s wages are generally taken on fully or partly by the loaning club, so everyone’s happy. Right?

Cons

Despite the advantages of the loan system, sometimes for one reason or another it just doesn’t work. There are also a number of negative factors that must be considered when sending/taking a player on a temporary basis.

Arsene Wenger has strong opinions on the loan system, and despite taking advantage of it in the cases of Ramsey and Wilshere, he has seen the other side of the coin with a number of other players. Brazilian youngster Pedro Botelho was bought by The Gunners in 2007, but since has been loaned out to five different Spanish teams with little or no benefit to Arsenal. Samuel Galindo is a Bolivian defender signed by Arsenal, but was not granted a work permit. He is in his second loan spell in Spain, and struggles to get any regular football, the same is the case with Wellington Silva, who is now at Alcoyano.

It’s not all roses for the club getting the player on loan either.

  • Overdependence – An overdependence on temporary players is seemingly occurring in the lower leagues, as a team can bring in up to five loan players at any one time, almost half a team. Add to that the fact that the parent club can generally recall the player at any point, and it makes for a shaky alliance.
  • Is he ‘our player’? – The fans at times struggle to feel any real loyalty or bond with players who will be leaving in six months, and depart the club after showing any semblance of form or ability. The loanee’s motivations will always be questioned also, as he naturally will be more interested in putting himself in the shop window and progressing with the parent club than aiding his temporary team’s plight.
  • Youth systems – A loan deal may well benefit the parent club’s youth system, but what of the lesser of the two clubs? Wilshere’s loan to Bolton or Walker’s to Aston Villa, although successful for the duo, is stopping another home-grown young prospect from progressing at the Reebok Stadium or Villa Park.
  • Knock on effect – With the sheer number of players on loan, it is only natural that a team’s season can be decided by the actions of a temporary player. This also applies not only to the team the player goes from or to, but others in the division.

Arsene Wenger’s main gripe with the loan system is typified by the example of Adebayor, who helped Spurs challenge for the Champions League spots, but wasn’t available to potentially derail Manchester City’s title charge.

Published – Soccerlens

Tottenham: Review of the last five Premier League games

Tottenham will have been praying for the end of March after a difficult run of fixtures saw them collect only two points from their last five Premier League fixtures. Spurs were comfortably in third place at the start of the month and touted as potential title contenders, but find themselves in fourth place and in a battle for Champions League qualification at the end of it; here’s a recap of the last five games.

Arsenal 5 Tottenham 2

The lowest point of a season full of highs, Tottenham’s capitulation against Arsenal in the North London derby was a throwback to the mediocre Spurs days of the recent past. A two-goal lead against a team that was low in confidence was spurned, due to defending too deep and resting on their laurels. The team and supporters will want to forget this fixture and hope it doesn’t impact the standings come the end of the season.

Tottenham 1 Manchester United 3

A positive first-half display against the English champions would have been rounded off by a goal, but with a lack of clinical finishing, Harry Redknapp’s men were put to the sword by the experience of United. Jermain Defoe came on to score a consolation, but the positives from this game lie with an aggresive start. Redknapp started to adopt three central midfielders instead of two after the Arsenal debacle the week before, which proved successful later in the month.

Everton 1 Tottenham 0

A game of two contrasting halves; Spurs were poor in the first 45 minutes before dominating the second half. Tottenham were lucky to only be one goal down at the interval, but looked much more assured in the second period. Could—and should—have scored to get something from the game; Goodison Park is starting to become a bit of a hoodoo for the north London club.

Tottenham 1 Stoke City 1

A game that the White Hart Lane faithful wanted to win but that Tottenham were very lucky not to lose. Stoke continue to prove themselves as a difficult opponent, at the Britannia or away from home, and Spurs struggled to deal with their physicality and direct approach. A last minute Rafael van der Vaart equaliser salvaged what could be a very important point.

Chelsea 0 Tottenham 0

By far the most positive performance and result of late. Tottenham have not won at Stamford Bridge in 22 years, and after a run of poor results and Chelsea’s rejuvenation under Roberto Di Matteo, entered the fixture as firm underdogs. However, an assured display saw the points shared and the five-point gap between the clubs maintained. Sandro and Scott Parker battled well, whilst William Gallas showcased his experience at the back. With good chances for Emmanuel Adebayor, Van der Vaart and Kyle Walker, Spurs were disappointed not to win the game, but would have taken a draw before-hand.

With a tough run of games concluded in March, Tottenham have played all of the Premier League’s top seven twice, and now have an easier run of games on paper. With Chelsea’s priorities split due to their likely progression to the Champions League semi-finals, and Arsenal still with a couple of tricky games, Redknapp’s men will look to push towards a third-placed finish with a strong run of form in April.

Published – Bleacher Report

Tottenham’s Future: The usual 4-4-2 or an attacking 4-5-1?

Harry Redknapp has recently tweaked his tactics slightly to incorporate an extra defensive midfielder in his line-up against fellow top four contenders. Instead of the usual 4-4-2 system, an extra combative midfielder has been installed to change the format to a 4-5-1, that turns to a 4-3-3 when Spurs are on the attack. This I feel has added extra balance to the side, but it will be interesting to see if Redknapp continues this approach against Swansea at White Hart Lane on Sunday.

This change in tactics and personnel have changed the roles of a number of players. The old 4-4-2 system saw Scott Parker and Luka Modric in the centre of the park, two wingers and two strikers. Against the better teams Tottenham started to get over-run, with Parker’s workload at times unmanageable. However, with either Sandro or Jake Livermore both more than adept at fitting into a three-man central midfield, it makes Tottenham a more difficult team to break down. Additionally, the idea is that with two battlers in front of the backline will hopefully free Modric to get forward a bit more and free the creative player slightly of defensive duties.

Moving forward, Emmanuel Adebayor’s position of frontman does not change, but Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon once he is fit will have to alter their roles slightly. With a three-man central midfield a side can become vulnerable on the flanks, so former left-back Bale and Van der Vaart or Lennon on the right will have to help out their respective full backs. The Dutch forward has previously indicated that he is not keen to play wide and wants to play centrally, but this system may suit both him and the team if he is willing to track back when needed; he did this well against Chelsea.

Finally, the main losers out of the change in tactics however are Jermain Defoe and Louis Saha. With Bale and Van der Vaart certainties to play when fit, there is space for only one out-and-out striker, which for the time being will be Adebayor. An extra midfielder cuts down the second forward’s time on the pitch, with Defoe in particular sure to be frustrated with lack of opportunities.

There is a case for Spurs continuing their three-man central midfield against Swansea, as the Welsh side are fearless away from home and have shown sleek passing this season. Sandro and Scott Parker together would cut down space for the likes Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allan, but with Tottenham in desperate need for three points Redknapp will be tempted to go back to 4-4-2 and play Saha instead.

Published – Bleacher Report

Tottenham and Manchester United have it all to play for at White Hart Lane

Second host third in the Premier League on Sunday, as Tottenham welcome Manchester United to White Hart Lane. With the business end of the season upon us, both clubs need points to wrap up a successful campaign, and a defeat would leave each respective team facing a considerable setback. Spurs have seen their lead over the chasing pack reduced in the race for a top four place, whilst United need to keep pace with cross-town rivals and current division leaders Manchester City.

Tottenham’s excellent form this season hit a massive speed bump last weekend, as a 5-2 north London derby defeat to arch enemies Arsenal brought the side back down to earth. Harry Redknapp’s team missed the chance to all-but-guarantee Champions League qualification, as if they had beaten Arsenal a lead of 13 points between the rivals would have been opened. However, the loss means that the gap between Spurs and both the Gunners and Chelsea is down to seven points, and the White Hart Lane men’s confidence may have been shook.

Spurs’ showing at the Emirates Stadium was disappointing to say the least, as the side in white threw away a two-goal lead and looked a shadow of the team that has enthralled and captivated fans this term. Tottenham’s defence last Sunday was questionable at best, and will need to improve if they are to avoid consecutive defeats. Ledley King was not his usual assured self last weekend, and Redknapp will need to organise his troops to withstand the advances of the champions in this outing.

Redknapp admitted that his team selection was flawed in the derby, and Rafael van der Vaart needs to start this game, either as a second striker or on the right side of midfield. In attack Emmanuel Adebayor was isolated for large portions of the game at the Emirates, and to stand more of a chance this time round the likes of Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart must get closer to the Togolese marksman.

United are notorious for kicking into top gear at this time of the season, but as yet Sir Alex Ferguson’s team have not shown the performances we are accustomed to. A two-point gap at the top means the title race may well go down to the wire, but the game between the Manchester sides at the Etihad Stadium at the end of April could be the decider.

Ryan Giggs scored an injury-time winner against Norwich at Carrow Road last Sunday to mark his 900th appearance for the Red Devils, but it was widely acknowledged that the champions were lucky to escape with all three points against the newcomers. Wayne Rooney did not play against the Canaries and similarly missed England’s international friendly with Netherlands on Wednesday; United just do not look the same attacking force without his invention and energy, and the visitors’ potency going forward at the weekend will depend on the striker’s late fitness test.

The battle in the centre of the park will play a key part in deciding the eventual victor also, with both clubs having midfielders unavailable. Spurs will be without Scott Parker for the match-up, after the newly-appointed England captain was sent off to compound Tottenham’s misery against Arsenal, which will put an added weight of expectation on Sandro to fill the role of shield in front of the back four. Veterans Giggs and Paul Scholes continue to play a pivotal role for the Old Trafford side despite their age, and will look to use all their experience to steer their side home in the absence of Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Darren Fletcher.

This should be an exciting spectacle for the neutral, but both sets of fans will know the importance of the game. United have had the better of the London club in recent meetings, so this fixture will be a real tester to see just how far Harry Redknapp’s men have come.

Published – Soccerlens

The balance of power has shifted between Tottenham and Arsenal

Tottenham’s rise to prominence has been a gradual process, with the white side of north London steadily evolving into a team that can challenge for top four inclusion. However this season, like no other in the club’s recent past, Spurs have looked like a real contender for honours. Meanwhile, Arsenal, who have seemingly been perennial challengers for the Premier League title since Arsene Wenger took over at the club back in 1996, have looked their most vulnerable in years. With the status quo in north London set to be turned on its head, The Gunners may well have to accept that their local rivals are now the dominant force between the two.

Arsenal have had a terrible last ten days, with capitulation in Italy all but ensuring their elimination from the Champions League. Despite the extent of the 4-0 defeat to AC Milan, the most disappointing thing for the club’s supporters was the lack of passion, determination or fight put up by the English side; the days of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit are seemingly long gone. Add to this a 2-0 loss at the Stadium of Light against Sunderland to facilitate an FA Cup exit and there is a gloom hanging over the Emirates Stadium. Bad luck comes in threes, and Tottenham are eager to put the final nail in their adversary’s coffin and compound their misery further come Sunday by denting their rivals’ top four ambitions.

Spurs meanwhile have recovered from their last-gasp defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium a couple of weeks ago, and a comprehensive 5-0 win over Newcastle shows that the White Hart Lane outfit are still confident and flying high. Harry Redknapp has been heavily linked with the vacant England job, but with the seasoned manager appearing reluctant to leave the club before the end of the campaign, the side’s progress and plans should stay on track. Injuries may however improve Arsenal’s chances at the Emirates Stadium, as Rafael van der Vaart, Emmanuel Adebayor, Luka Modric and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are all battling to overcome knocks to play at the weekend.

Pressure is starting to mount on Arsene Wenger, as the north London tide is turning. Football has no room for sentimentality, and despite the French coach’s hero status at the Emirates Stadium, question marks are being asked over his future. With The Gunners in no way guaranteed a place in next season’s Champions League, losing twice to Tottenham in the process of missing out on Europe’s top club tournament may well see the end of one of the Premier League’s coaching mainstays. Add to this Robin van Persie’s reluctance to sign a new contract, and this north London derby has the ability to massively impact Arsenal’s immediate future in a positive or negative way.

Published – The Oval Log

The African Cup of Nations is underway, but does it feel like we are missing a few people?

The 2012 African Cup of Nations kicked off on Saturday, with co-hosts and debutants Equatorial Guinea getting a last-gasp, dramatic 1-0 win over Libya. The likes of Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Demba Ba are chomping at the bit to showcase the quality of football in the African continent, but this year’s edition has a number of recognisable absentees. With Niger and Botswana making their bows in the tournament along with the co-hosts, the likes of Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Egypt have missed out on participation. Despite the sizeable ability of some of the players and teams at the event, there is considerable African talent not competing this year, which could make up quite the team….

GK: Carlos Kameni (Cameroon / Malaga CF) – Once heralded as the shining light of African goalkeepers, Kameni has amassed 63 caps for The Indomitable Lions over his eleven-year international career. The talented shot-stopper had fallen out of favour this season at Espanyol, and secured a move to big-spending and ambitious Andalusian side Malaga during this transfer window. Kameni will look to recapture the form in La Liga that saw him linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs earlier in his career, and have a new start at La Rosaleda.

Back up: Vincent Enyeama (Nigeria / Lille)

LB: Benoit Assou Ekotto (Cameroon / Tottenham) – The sprightly defender has made the left back jersey at White Hart Lane his own in recent seasons, and has increasingly become a more important part of the north London club’s side. Initially slightly unpredictable and nervy after his move from Lens back in 2006, the 27-year-old now has Harry Redknapp’s confidence and has installed a solidarity and consistency into his game. Internationally Assou-Ekotto has made 17 appearances for his country, but will have to wait another two years for the chance to potentially make his African Cup of Nations debut.

Back up – Taye Taiwo (Nigeria / QPR-AC Milan)

RB: Joseph Yobo (Nigeria / Fenerbahce) – Man-mountain defender Joseph Yobo is known for his no-nonsense approach and is currently on loan at Fenerbahce from Everton. The stopper is generally deployed as a central defender but has the versatility to play at full-back; his time at Goodison Park has seen him alternate between both. Captain of Nigeria with 86 caps, Yobo is one of the most experienced and well-respected defenders on the continent; at 31 years of age his chances of playing again in an African Cup of Nations in the future are fading away slightly.

Back up – Ahmed Elmohamady (Egypt / Sunderland)

CB: Sebastian Bassong (Cameroon / Tottenham) – Another Cameroon and Spurs defender, Bassong has failed to live up to his excellent Newcastle form down in London. Despite slipping down the pecking order at the Premier League side and being linked with a move away from the club, the 16-times capped centre half has the ability to compete at a top level if he keeps his head in the game and maintains concentration. Excellent in the air with a turn of pace, Bassong could have enticed potential suitors at the tournament had Cameroon qualified.

Back up – Aurelien Chedjou (Cameroon / Lille)

CB: Stephane Mbia (Cameroon / Marseille) – Admittedly Mbia plays predominantly as an all-action central midfielder, but the 25-year-old has on occasion featured in the backline and has the aptitude to make an excellent defender. The 36-times capped man progressed through the ranks at Rennes, and has made the step up to the Stade Velodrome, where he has looked accomplished and assured for Didier Deschamps’ side.

Back up – Nicolas N’Koulou (Cameroon / Marseille)

RW: Ahmed Musa (Nigeria / CSKA Moscow) – Flying 19-year-old winger Ahmed Musa has announced himself onto the club and international game in spectacular fashion over the last 12 months, staring for Dutch side VVV Venlo before sealing a €5million deal to CSKA a fortnight ago. With pace to burn and a trickery that has tortured countless full backs, Musa will continue his development in the Russian capital and has the potential to be a top-drawer player in the future.

Back up – Victor Obinna (Nigeria / Lokomotiv Moscow)

CM: Michael Essien (Ghana / Chelsea) – The Stamford Bridge battle-axe has not recovered from injury in time to step out with Ghana in the tournament, but has returned to fitness and will start to feature again at Chelsea in January. Persistent knee problems have robbed the Premier League of one of its most dynamic and athletic midfielders over the last two seasons more often than not, but the 52-times capped bruiser will look to get back to the form that made him one of the best players in his position before injuries took their toll.

Back up – Jon Obi Mikel (Nigeria / Chelsea)

CM: Alex Song (Cameroon / Arsenal) – Arguably the most improved player at the Emirates Stadium this season, Song has become an integral member of the north London club’s squad since the summer departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. Excellent in possession, the 24-year-old gets through a shedload of work in 90 minutes, and is at times charged with stopping opposition sides’ midfield advances single-handedly due to the attacking instincts of his team-mates. Already an excellent player, Song has the ability to be as good as Gunners legend Patrick Vieria should he continue his current path of development.

Back up – McDonald Mariga (Kenya / Inter Milan)

LM: Ryad Boudebouz (Algeria / Sochaux) – Similar to Mbia, attacking midfielder Boudebouz is playing slightly out of position in my dream team, and would be tasked with coming off his wing into a more central role (tactical genius). The Algeria international is slowly but surely gaining the recognition he deserves after emerging as a major talent in Ligue 1. Creative, decisive and energetic, it is only a matter of time before the Stade Auguste Bonal outfit lose their star player to a bigger club; he deserves it and is ready for a step up.

Back up – Steven Pienaar (South Africa / Tottenham)

ST – Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo / Tottenham) – So often the solitary threat in an average Togo side, Adebayor is anything but mediocre and has a record of success at every club he has played at. The sometimes temperamental forward has been key in Spurs’ rise to third in the Premier League, as he continues to showcase the ability of being both a target man and an attacker more than comfortable with the ball at his feet. Quick, strong, lethal in front of goal – Adebayor is comfortably his nation’s top ever goalscorer with 18 international goals, despite only being 27.

Back up – Mohamed Zidan (Egypt / Borussia Dortmund)

ST – Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon / Anzhi Makhachkala) – An African idol of a generation, Eto’o remains one of the most accomplished strikers in world football despite opting to swap Serie A giants Inter for Russian oil tycoons Anzhi, and would quite comfortably slot into some of the best teams in the world, nevermind my African dream team. Deceptively strong, Eto’o has been a handful for international defenders across Spain and Italy for a decade; the majority of the competition’s centre halves will have sighed with relief that the 109-times capped Cameroonian is not participating in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Back up – Obafemi Martins (Nigeria / Rubin Kazan)

Published – Soccerlens

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