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Will Jack Wilshere’s injuries threaten his World Cup place?

Jack Wilshere’s fledgling career has been full of ups and downs to date, with the Arsenal midfielder showing incredible ability, but not as often as Arsene Wenger would like.

The Emirates Stadium club youth graduate has been heralded as one the brightest prospects in the English game, and when fit and on form has been a great player for club and country.

However, despite the playmaker’s tender age of 21, Wilshere has had a number of serious injuries blight his career so far, which have held him back considerably.

This season Wilshere seems to have picked up innocuous ailments and has struggled to complete 90 minutes on regular occasion. Wenger has admitted that he wants to wrap the midfielder in cotton wool, and it is clear that the French coach is concerned that another serious injury could derail the player’s career.

Wilshere should consider new methods of conditioning, and the use of bcaas could boost his fitness and increase his physicality.

Jack Wilshere

With England qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil next summer, Wilshere is expected to be a key man for the Three Lions in the tournament.

With the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard ageing, the Arsenal man will be needed to provide stamina, energy and hard work to the English midfield.

However, in hot conditions, the games will come thick and fast over the space of the tournament. With Wilshere’s injury concerns at club level still apparent, whether he can play at his best every couple of days at international level remains to be seen.

There is no doubting the midfielder’s ability, and if he was fully fit and firing he could be the driving force in the England midfield for years to come. However, this looks far from assured at the moment.

Club team-mate Aaron Ramsey suffered a leg break earlier in his career, with the Welshman on the sidelines for a long period as a result. However, he has returned to action and looks as sharp, fit and able as ever. He never shirks a challenge and is one of the most-rounded midfielders in the British game.

Wilshere on the other hand has been held back by the physical nature of the English game and has struggled to show his best form consistently due to injuries.

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Five players Arsenal should sign this summer

Under Arsene Wenger Arsenal’s transfer policy has ebbed and flowed. When he first arrived he signed players in their early 20’s that he could develop on from where they were. This saw him mould the likes of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires from really good to world class. Next, he began the phase that has seen him maligned, by signing mostly very young players that weren’t ready for immediate deployment in the first team. Although some of those, like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie came good, the list of those that didn’t is much longer. He has recently stumbled in to a half way house situation where he has grabbed ready-made players to cover to dearth of young quality with much less frequent young signings. He most commonly signs from France and likes the £8-15m price range. With this all in mind, here’s who he should be looking at;

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – St. Etienne

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Scout Report Aubameyang is an able striker who has already scored 16 goals in Ligue 1 this season leading a relatively unfancied Verts to the fringes of the Champions League spots. His main assets are strength, pace and finishing, a heady mix for a striker. He is well-balanced and very direct carrying more than a hint of the only man ahead of him in the goalscoring charts, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Where does he fit? Arsenal have twice previously signed strikers from France but unlike Marouane Chamakh and Olivier Giroud, Aubameyang has already logged one excellent goal scoring season before this one so he has shown consistency. Also unlike those two, he brings an added physical dimension, adding some much needed pace and power to a fairly lightweight Arsenal front line.

How much? St Etienne have already turned down bids in the £10m region for him so it would take at least that, if not £15m which is right on the edge of Wenger’s historical high watermark.

Stefan De Vrij – Feyenoord

Stefan De Vrij

Scout Report
De Vrij is already captain of Feyenoord at just 21. A big, strong and elegant central defender, De Vrij is an elite prospect who has already received caps for the Dutch national side. Comfortable with the ball at his feet and battling in the air, De Vrij is a calm player in the best Dutch traditions of the ball-playing centre half.

Where does he fit? The Arsenal central defence needs a make over. Per Mertesacker just isn’t quick enough to play in England and Thomas Vermaelen has regressed over the last year or so. One criticism regularly levelled at those two is that they don’t seem to be able to tough things out. Well, De Vrij is a tough boy from a tough town and you don’t get made captain of Feyenoord unless you put everything on the line. Arsenal fans would lap that up.

How much? Again, right on Wenger’s spending boundary of about £15m.

Kevin Strootman – PSV Eindhoven

Kevin Strootman

Scout Report Strootman is an imposing all-action central midfielder. He is is 6’1′, strong and very tough. He ranges around the midfield asserting his will onto proceedings. He is comfortable with the ball at his feet but his main strength is a driving force, a dynamo. He is also capable of popping up with goals and assists, totals of which are increasing every year.

Where does he fit? Arsenal haven’t had his like since Vieira and he would bring something very different to the middle of the park. Bullied by no one and capable of standing toe to toe with the likes of Yaya Toure or Sandro, he would add some much needed bite and leadership to the midfield. His presence would free up Jack Wilshere to continue to play further forwards. He is the same sort of age as Vieira was when he arrived from Milan, and that worked out pretty well.

How much? This might depend on PSV winning the title but likely to be in the £15m range again.

Steve Mandanda – Marseille

Steve Mandanda

Scout Report An athletic and agile shot stopping goalkeeper, at 27 he is reaching prime form. One of the best shot stoppers in Europe and is currently in the form of his career having shaken off his reputation for big mistakes. The captain of Marseille, he would bring a vocal presence and passion to win.

Where does he fit? Arsenal need a goalkeeper, because the incumbent Szczęsny just isn’t good enough. He’s shown flashes but no more. Mandanda is a commanding influence from his goal and would not be shy about organising the sometimes shambolic defence.

How much? Around about the magic £15m mark once more.

Dusan Basta – Udinese

Dusan Basta

Scout Report
A ferociously relentless right back, Basta gets up and down his wing with insatiable endeavour. He is strong and quick enough, but his prime asset is his mentality. He really is a never give-in, never stop running type and is also capable of putting in quality crosses.

Where does he fit?
Bacary Sagna is not the player he once was and I’m not convinced Carl Jenkinson ever will be. Basta has that quality that Arsenal fans desire so much; work rate. He would make up for whatever lack of protection he gets further forward with sheer force of will. Arsenal need grit, and Basta would add that in abundance.

How much? Udinese are always willing to make a deal, and a bid of £7-8m would be hard for them to turn down.

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal: Last hope or no hope?

Following last week’s eliminations of Manchester United and Celtic, Arsenal are now Great Britain’s last remaining representatives in the Champions League. Fans not susceptive to tribalism may, for one night only, cheer on a club simply for being close to home. But should they bother?

Gunners fans will point to the absence of Franck Ribery through injury and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng through suspension as causes for optimism. Add to that the potential absence of Arjen Robben due to a calf problem and Bayern are without some key ingredients in what has been an outstanding season to date.
But with the German side already holding a 3-1 advantage, with three away goals to boot, everything points to an Arsenal exit.

Theo Walcott

The current Bundesliga leaders have lost only one league game and one European game all season. In short, the team who were once called “the invincibles” are facing their (almost) modern day equivalent. And in order to overcome them, Arsenal require three goals without reply. This against a team that has conceded only nine home league goals all season, and only one away!

With statistics like that, it is no wonder football observers are wondering what will happen when Pep Guardiola takes charge next season. It is a scary prospect when they are already near-perfect without him.

Arsenal’s last outing was their 2-1 league defeat against Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsene Wenger will be hoping for the perfect response from his team. The only downside is that the perfect response may still not be good enough against a side that almost invariably score. Should they do so, the pressure on Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla will be huge.

Bayern Munich celebrate

Their only hope is to score first, keep it tight at the back, and play the game on their own terms. The speed of Theo Walcott on the counter-attack could be crucial, but against a side that don’t need to leave gaps, it may be in a set-piece – at least for the opening goal – that Arsenal’s best hope lies.

With Jack Wilshere ruled out for three weeks and Lukas Podolski also missing, Arsenal will hope the players they can call on will prevent it being a hat-trick of last-16 eliminations. But with Manuel Neuer in goal, the likes of Philipp Lahm and Javi Martinez in front of him, and Thomas Muller and Mario Mandzukic a constant threat up front, it will take an almighty performance from the London side.

Anything is possible in football, but some things are more possible than others.

Jack Wilshere: A victim of Arsenal mismanagement or just bad luck?

Jack Wilshere is injured again. And with that news, Arsenal fans everywhere hold their breath. Because hindsight says that a Wilshere injury is rarely as simple as the headline diagnosis. Arsene Wenger says “inflamed ankle”. He mentions three or four weeks. But with each fresh setback, and each extended absence, fans of both the Gunners and the England national team must start to wonder if we will ever see a fully-fit, consistently-played Jack Wilshere.

This isn’t an article intended to rile, or a headline eying a thousand clicks. It is one person wondering out loud what goes through the head of many when we hear “Wilshere” and “injured” in the same sentence.

Jack Wilshere

Arsenal fans may tell me I am overreacting. They may say I know nothing about the game or the boy who is now a man. But I do know he is exceptionally talented. He shows it in every game he plays, from being the only player who refused to give up against Bradford City in this season’s League Cup, to his man-of-the-match performance against Brazil in February. And perhaps most notably as a 19-year-old against Barcelona, his stats only bettered by Xavi and Iniesta, his performance on a par with those talked of as the very best.

His showings this season have suggested he is making up for lost time. After 14 months out with a persistent ankle and latterly knee problem, he was the player to pin hopes on, whether your allegiance was red or white. And if it was neither, you probably wondered what all the fuss was about…until you watched him play.

To blame mismanagement for an injury would be wrong. An injury is a chance occurrence. And yet, Wilshere could have been managed better. There is no doubt of that.

He could have been part of a team rather than its fulcrum. This season especially, after so long out, he could have played less. He wouldn’t have liked it. But his body may have said otherwise.

Having made 49 appearances in his breakthrough season there is a call, however easily dismissed, that he has played too much too young. As combative as he is, as box-to-box, with such a style comes risk.

The best managers, those hailed as knowing how to handle youth – they rarely throw a teenager in at the deep-end; not for the whole race. They give them experience, they manage them, and with it comes years of rewards.

Jack Wilshere has everything to be a true great. Perhaps most importantly, he has time.

In a sport where the here-and-now is crucial, where the next result is more important than the next five years, it is no surprise that Wilshere is overplayed.

But he is only 21. And his body is telling him something. Surely it is better to listen now, if we want any chance of replacing something that happened nearly 50 years ago with something that happens in our lifetime.

Team GB: What are their chances at the Olympics?

With the current campaign over, all eyes are turning to the summer’s international tournaments to fill the off-season void. Euro 2012 comes first in June, before the exciting prospect of Team GB competing for gold at the Olympics. With some of the traditionally bigger nations not present at the competition in London, the home representation will be one of the favourites to claim gold medals, but who will be playing and can they go all the way?

Firstly it should be stated that Team GB manager Stuart Pearce has been in contact with potential players about their interest in competing at the games, with a shortlist of a whopping 80 players being compiled. The squad must be completely 23 years old or under, with leeway for three overage players. Team GB will be comprised of athletes from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and any player who represents England at Euro 2012 will not be considered.

With such a wide span of players to pick from, predicting the Team GB squad is difficult, but there are a number of players who have been mentioned and are seemingly eager to compete. David Beckham has been a high-profile name mentioned as a possible captain, however Pearce recently admitted that the LA Galaxy midfielder’s inclusion will be decided on form and fitness. Welsh midfielders Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey have both been raised as possible candidates for inclusion, and the north London duo would add much-needed quality to the side. From Northern Ireland, Manchester United defender Jonny Evans had been touted to be included but this has been ruled out by the Red Devils, whilst the likes of Barry Bannan and Grant Hanley are potential Scottish inclusions.

The majority of the squad will be comprised of English players, with youngsters on the verge of the senior squad for Euro 2012 potentially taking part. Jack Wilshere has not been ruled out by Pearce in playing, despite the Arsenal man’s long-term injury concerns. The likes of Daniel Sturridge, Kyle Walker, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tom Cleverley will wait to see if they are needed in Ukraine and Poland, and if not could feature. Finally, Jack Rodwell has been ruled out of Euro 2012 through injury, but could well play in the games as part of his rehabilitation and recovery. With Pearce as manager, former or current England under-21 players could make up a bulk of the 18-man squad.

But can they lift the gold? One of he factors working against the side will be lack of preparation time, and the fact that most of the players will never have played together. However, along with Spain and Brazil, Team GB will be one of the frontrunners for victory, as the rest of the 16 teams seem beatable on paper. Team GB have been drawn in Group A alongside Senegal, Uruguay and the United Arab Emirates, with their first game against the African nation on July 26th.

All-in-all, glory for Team GB at the Olympics would be a real milestone for the game in the United Kingdom, and an excellent collective and personal achievement for the players. With a raft of Premier League talent likely to make up the squad, there is no reason why the hosts will not celebrate glory in the final on August 11th.

Published – 2012 Olympics Blog

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

Arsenal’s ideal 2012-13 line up: The men Arsene Wenger wants for his starting XI next term

Arsenal have been through something of a rollercoaster season, starting very slowly before a revival has the north London side 90 minutes away from a respectable third place. Ensuring that the Gunners qualify for next term’s Champions League, Arsene Wenger should be able to bring in a number of new faces this summer, which could see the Emirates outfit challenge for the Premier League title in 2012-13. But what is Wenger’s ideal starting XI for next season?

GK – Wojciech Szczesny

The Polish goalkeeper has stepped up to the plate this term, and finally the Emirates faithful have a man between the sticks that they can trust. Wenger will look for Szczesny to continue his development in 2012-13 and become one of the most consistent stoppers in the division. Rumours have linked Swansea’s Michel Vorm with a move to Arsenal, and the north London club will need a backup with Manuel Almunia on his way out of the club.

LB – Thomas Vermaelen

The Belgium international is an important member of the Arsenal set-up, and Wenger will hope to have the vice-captain fit and available for the bulk of next season. With a raft of central defenders, Vermaelen may well end up at left-back, with Andre Santos a solid backup.

RB – Bacary Sagna

Despite the prominence and potential of Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna is the first choice at right-back and is an excellent defender. The France international has recently broken his leg for a second time, and Wenger will be keen to have the 28-year-old back in his starting line-up for the start of next term.

CB – Jan Vertonghen

The Ajax captain is in the last year of his contract with the Eredivisie giants, and is reportedly being chased by Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United. Wenger will hope his side can win the race, as the centre-back would be an excellent addition to any of the leading Premier League sides.

CB – Laurent Koscielny

The French centre half has shown maturity and doggedness this season, and will most likely get the nod over Per Mertesacker if everyone is fit and available.

CM – Jack Wilshere

The Gunners have missed their home-grown hero Wilshere this term, with the England international not kicking a ball in anger all campaign. The Emirates faithful will hope to have their favourite back available for the start of next season, which will be as good as a new signing.

CM – Alex Song

The Cameroon international has been one of the standout performers for the Londoners this season, and is now a majorly important member of the team. Song’s combative nature in the centre of the park is complemented by a surprisingly excellent range of passing and boundless energy.

CM – Yann M’Vila

Wenger’s number one transfer target this summer, M’Vila has been imperious for Rennes this season and forced his way into the France international set-up. A £17 million deal has been touted, but Arsenal must fight off interest from Inter to get their man. If the battler does arrive in England it may limit opportunities for the likes of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey.

AT – Lukas Podolski

The vastly-experienced Germany international has ended a long-running transfer saga by agreeing a move to north London this summer. Podolski will take some of the goalscoring responsibility away from Robin van Persie, and is a feisty and passionate forward.

AT – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

The young starlet has shown glimpses of brilliance in his debut Premier League season, and will be in line for a regular first-team place next term. Fast, skilful and with an eye for goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain is a star in the making. Wenger will also have Theo Walcott, Gervinho and potentially Clint Dempsey to choice from.

ST – Robin van Persie

The PFA Player of the Year has been unplayable at times this season, and has on occasion single-handedly dragged the side to results. With one year left on his contract, the Netherlands international’s future will have a major bearing on the club’s fortunes next season.

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

London 2012: Should the Olympics be higher on a footballer’s priority list?

With an exciting end to the Premier League campaign, the Champions League last four and the upcoming Euro 2012 championships in Poland and Ukraine this summer, football fans can be forgiven for forgetting about the Olympic Games and football’s involvement at the London event.

Attitudes in football to the Olympics are in stark contrast to how modern sports in general perceive the Olympics; they are the moment for professional sportmen and athletes to compete and prove yourself at the highest level possible. For many sports the Olympics are a defining showcase moment, and for many sportspeople they are the ultimate test.

Football, however, is different. Club football has changed the dynamic to the extent that international football seems like an unnecessary luxury, reserved only for countries who lack a strong domestic league. You can even argue that the best football club could easily beat the best football team in the world.

For track and field athletes the Olympics, held every four years, are of a similar importance as the football World Cup or Champions League (or indeed, Premier League survival). Football however is spoilt with one important game after the next, challenges spread out throughout the season and with more opportunities to succeed. As such, the Olympics has been tagged as just another tournament and from a club football perspective, lacking any benefits in an already- packed football calendar.

There is no doubt that the sheer amount of football played by the professional footballer in the modern day is startling, with their domestic leagues, cup competitions, European football, international friendlies and competitive national fixtures all taking their toll physically and mentally. More than the quantity of football is the intensity – playing at full tilt for 90 minutes 50 times a season will take it’s toll on you (just ask David Silva).

For most other sports the Olympics, held every four years, is the pinnacle and the culmination of countless hours on the training ground and gym. Modern-day players are as professional as the game has ever seen, and therefore should want to play at the highest level possible, strive for victory and be the best that they can be. This attitude will be adopted by other sports represented at the Games, and should be treated as such by football.

The age limit on participants in Olympic football ensures that young players – whose footballing output needs to be managed far better than the case of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere – get an early chance to appear in a major tournament and hone their skills against competitors of the same age group, if not always the same technical level.

A raft of leading Premier League players such as Jack Rodwell and Gareth Bale have been rumoured to be keen to represent Team GB this summer with clubs fuming over the possibility of losing star players in pre-season. The FA has had to assure Premier League clubs that players who take part in the Euros will not take part in the Olympics, there will undoubtedly be athletes who prioritise Euro 2012 and the upcoming 2012/13 Premier League season over involvement at the Olympics.

Despite this, Pearce has issued the rallying cry for all interested parties to come forward, and the modern day competitor should jump at the chance. Admittedly the Olympics will not carry the same following in football as Euro 2012, but the unique chance to play in the Great Britain team, at the sporting summit of the Olympics, on home soil, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The fact that the majority of competitors need to be 23 or under (there are three overage players allowed in each squad), should mean that up-and-coming superstars like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tom Cleverley, Phil Jones and Daniel Sturridge to name but a few should be clambering over themselves to be involved at the Olympics. With some of the higher-profile and older players not eligible or interested, a young prospect could shoot themselves to super-stardom with strong performances, and join a very small group of players to have an Olympic medal in their trophy cabinet.

The likes of Lionel Messi have competed in the Olympic Games before (against the wishes of his parent club), and won the gold. If you ask Messi, despite is embarrassment of titles he will still remember the Olympic gold and what it means to him. Most of the players likely to head to London 2012 under Stuart Pearce can only dream of getting close to Messi’s trophy count – and if the world’s best footballer wants to win everything on offer, if a football tournament at home presents your country’s best chance of international success in football for ages – then it’s only right that players and management (FA) make it a high priority.

Football fans in England tend to say that the Olympics don’t matter. They do to the people taking part, and especially to the people who give it their best shot, and win.

Published – Soccerlens

Seven stars on the verge of missing out on Euro 2012

With only a couple of months before Euro 2012, and the teams and groups decided, the last thing to be confirmed are each nation’s squads. With the tournament only being played once every four years, it may be some players’ last chance to feature, with all the major superstars keen to playin Ukraine and Poland. However, some more than others are in danger of missing out through injury, poor form or selection issues at club level; here are the top seven sitting on the fence.

Fernando Torres

The World Cup winning striker has lost his way since the last major international tournament, and is no longer guaranteed a place in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad. With a barren spell at Chelsea blighting El Nino’s career, the likes of Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado and Fernando Llorente could get the nod ahead of Torres.

Jermain Defoe

One of the most clinical strikers in the Premier League when given an opportunity, Defoe has had a frustrating season in and out of the Tottenham side. With Emmanuel Adebayor and Rafael van der Vaart ahead of the Englishman in Harry Redknapp’s preferences, Defoe may well miss out on the competition due to lack of playing time.

Mario Balotelli

During the qualifiers Cesare Prandelli used the Manchester City forward on a regular basis, and Balotelli started to lead the line towards the end of that campaign. However, the national selector recently left Super Mario out of his squad for a friendly against the United States, claiming Balotelli’s immaturity and indiscipline as the reason.

David Villa

Spain and Barcelona star Villa would have been a certainty had he been fit, but a broken leg in the Club World Cup in December has the Camp Nou man cutting it fine. Villa should make it back to club action before the end of the season, but with the number of Spanish attackers available, is not guaranteed participation.

Giuseppe Rossi

Another star to pick up a serious injury, Rossi ruptured knee ligaments in October, and has been through a strenuous rehabilitation process since. The Villarreal forward was in Prandelli’s preferences before the setback, and has targeted April for a possible return to action.

Raul Albiol

With Jose Mourinho using Sergio Ramos in the centre of his Real Madrid defence alongside either Pepe or Ricardo Carvalho, Albiol is a serious doubt for Euro 2012. The ex-Valencia man has only made five appearances in the Primera Division this term, and with versatile Javi Martinez and Sergio Busquets also being able to play at the back, Albiol needs a miracle to be included.

Jack Wilshere

The Arsenal playmaker has not played a minute of football this season due to a knee injury in pre-season, although Arsene Wenger has promised that his star will be available before the end of the Premier League campaign. However with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Tom Cleverley, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick and maybe even Paul Scholes in contention for a place in the centre of the park, Wilshere needs to hurry up.

Published – footylatest

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