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‘Martinez Deserves Credit’: Everton Fans Rave About Midfield Sensation

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It was a positive evening for Everton in the Europa League tonight, as they comfortably defeated Lille 3-0- but one player had everyone talking on Twitter.

Steven Naismith, now dubbed the Merseyside Iniesta, put in a brilliant performance once again to aid his side’s victory. The Scotsman added a third after Leon Osman and Phil Jagielka got on the scoresheet, whilst creating a brilliant partnership with James McCarthy.

The Toffees are now on the brink of sealing their place in the next round of the competition, which has the added incentive of a Champions League place for the winners this year.

‘He Must Be Sacked’: Man City Fans Lose Patience With Pellegrini

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It hasn’t been an easy few weeks for Manuel Pellegrini and his Man City side, and last night it got even harder. In recent weeks, City have drawn to CSKA Moscow and lost to West Ham and Newcastle, having put in some very lacklustre performances. In their must win home clash against CSKA in the Champions League last night, ill discipline and an utter lack of fight saw them lose to a team who had never won in England before.

Manuel Pellegrini said after the game that he doesn’t understand why his team struggle so much in the Champions League and to be honest, who can blame him? One fan at the game became so bored and disinterested in the match that he took the time to prepare himself a sandwich in the stands.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the game:

‘Can You Retire?’: Arsenal Fans Tell Defender To Leave The Club In Twitter Takeover

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Arsenal fans took advantage of another Twitter takeover on Thursday afternoon by telling defender Nacho Monreal to leave the club. It may have been a little harsh..

The Arsenal defender has been asked to fill in at centre back with the likes of Laurent Koscielny out injured. With Arsene Wenger failing to add a fourth choice centre back in the summer, he had little choice but to move Monreal into an uncomfortable position. The criticism has come off the back of a poor performance against Anderlecht. But who should be blamed, Monreal or Wenger?

I think it’s not Monreal’s fault that he is being forced to play in this position and in truth, his error against Anderlecht aside, he’s done well. The Spaniard was part of a defence that managed back-to-back clean sheets in the league and he has made no other notable errors. Wenger is the one to blame for me, he’s been poor tactically and it’s his fault that there isn’t a real centre back to take Koscielny’s place in his absence.

The official Arsenal account asked fans to send in their questions for Monreal using the #AskMonreal hashtag.

‘At Last Roy Has Done Something Right!’: Fans React To Midfielder’s England Call-Up

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Stewart Downing has been called up to the England squad by Roy Hodgson following his good form for West Ham.

The Hammers fans were delighted that his form had been recognised and felt the call-up was definitely deserved. It has been 894 days since his last call-up. It’s fair to say it is deserved.

In the past three Premier League seasons Stewart Downing has created 156 chances in the league, only two more Englishman have managed more.

Andy Carroll has just returned to fitness and he could be in for a call-up in the future if he can re-discover his best form. With the West Ham strikers in such good form, you can expect Carroll having a tough enough time getting into the West Ham team.

Jake wasn’t full of quite as much praise for the 30-year-old.

‘He Should Start!’: West Brom Fans React To England Squad Announcement

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Saido Berahino’s fine form in the Premier League season has been rewarded by England manager Roy Hodgson, as the U-21 striker was awarded his first senior call up this afternoon.

The West Brom hit man has hit seven goals in the league this season, which is more than the other three strikers in the squad combined- Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Rickie Lambert. The decision has gone down well with England fans up and down the country, whilst Baggies fans were understandably over the moon.

Berahino has represented England’s youth team set-up from U-16 all the way to U-21 and will be a key part of the squad taking part in the U21 European Championship next summer.

‘Never Thought I’d Say This’: Newcastle Fans React To Shock Announcement

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Newcastle United fans have been coming to terms this morning with the news that unfenced manager Alan Pardew is a candidate for the Premier League Manager Of The Month Award.

The Magpies boss was favourite to be sacked three weeks ago after a poor string of results but after two league wins and a draw, Pardew is considered to be the favourite by some for the award. He’ll battle with Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho, West Ham’s Sam Allardyce and Hull City’s Steve Bruce for the honour.

Numerous Newcastle fans have been forced to eat a substantial portion of humble pie but not every member of the Toon army is convinced just yet.

— ® ruilin✞ (@Maacarons) November 6, 2014

freshfootball.co.uk goes LIVE!

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So, we are finally here. Whilst Fresh Football was actually the first site we made, it never really had a unique place in the crowded blogging market.

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We decided to go club-specific and that has been a success. But we spotted a gap and wanted to bring back this site to fill it. Social media is huge right now, and the current articles we post are just the start of what we have to offer. We hope to implement more content related to social media in the future.

‘He Deserves A Start!’: Manchester United Fans Call For Youngster To Start Against Crystal Palace

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With Manchester United struggling to find their feet this season, fans have been calling for Louis Van Gaal to shake things up ahead of the clash with Crystal Palace this weekend.

Radamel Falcao is struggling for fitness and numerous fans are now calling for young James Wilson to be given his chance in the Premier League, after tearing it up in the U-21’s recently. Robin Van Persie is reported to be axed from the starting line-up to accommodate the young English striker, which is going down well with Red Devils fans.

Manchester United host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford this weekend, where they’ll be looking to bounce back from a derby day defeat against City last weekend.

‘Never Thought I’d See The Day’: Chelsea Fans React To Shock Champions League Draw

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Chelsea suffered a shock result in the Champions League last night after they drew with Maribor 1-1, after previously thrashing them 6-0 at Stamford Bridge in the last round of fixtures.

The result means that Chelsea will have to wait until at least the next European encounter to secure their passage to the Round of 16 in the competition, which left the Blues with egg on their face as it was a game they should’ve won comfortably and could’ve easily lost.

Slovenian champions Maribor took a shock lead in the 50th minute through Agim Ibraimi’s fantastic curling effort, which required Nemanja Matic to pull the Blues back into the match with a strike 17 minutes from time. The stand out moment of the match came through Belgian sensation Eden Hazard, who’s horrendous penalty miss ensured the Blues would have to share the results.

Given Hazard’s tremendous penalty record, Twitter was taken aback by the failure of Chelsea’s start-player as many fans couldn’t believe what they just witnessed.

— Daniel Frost (@Danielfrosty_) November 5, 2014

freshspurs.com goes LIVE!

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We are delighted to announce our third club blog, FreshSpurs.com.

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The site offers a slick magazine feel with regular Tottenham updates. These include transfer news, team news, blogs and more.

It will follow the trend of our other blog sites FreshManUtd and FreshArsenal.

‘A Special Kind Of Idiot’: Man Utd Fans Angry At Defender

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Manchester United fans were happy with their performance, but not with a certain defender. Chris Smalling received a red card when Manchester United were playing well, and the Red Devils only lost 1-0 despite playing over half the game with 10 men.

If it wasn’t for Smalling’s ridiculously stupid red card, United could – and probably would – have left the Etihad with all three points. Smalling received a yellow early in the first half for obstructing Joe Hart, which is stupid enough. But to then go and lunge in at a player ten minutes later is just too daft to comprehend. United were already short on defenders and Smalling’s poor decision making now leaves United with two fit defenders who have ten first team appearances between them.

‘Mourinho Needs To Shut His Mouth’- Chelsea Fans React To Manager’s Comments

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Chelsea continued their tremendous start to the season as they picked up their eighth victory of the season with a 2-1 win against Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge.

The win maintained the Blues four point lead at the summit of the Premier League table, whilst also keeping them six points ahead of defending champions Manchester City.

Brazilian midfielder Oscar opened the scoring but it was not to be a comfortable day for Chelsea, as Charlie Austin equalised in the second half- which left them requiring Eden Hazard to score a late penalty.

However, in true Jose Mourinho fashion the big talking point came after the game as the Portuguese manager hit out at the Blues faithful, stating that playing at Stamford Bridge was like playing in an empty stadium- which caused outrage on Twitter.

‘What Was Rodgers Smoking When He Signed Him?’ Liverpool Fans Respond To Newcastle Defeat

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Liverpool’s season went from bad to worse this weekend as they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United, who secured a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from Ayoze Perez.

In all the midsts of frustration, one man was isolated for criticism once again after another less than stellar performance from £16m striker Mario Balotelli. The Italian failed to find the net once again and returned late for kick-off in the second-half, all of which accumulated in frustrated Liverpool fans across the globe.

That said, there was also a lot of anger vented at manager Brendan Rodgers as the pressure begins to mount upon the Irishman.

‘Maybe We Should Have Replaced Vermaelen?’: Fans Blame Wenger After Anderlecht Collapse

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It’s fair to say that the Arsenal fans weren’t best pleased with Per Mertesacker or Nacho Monreal after the teams 3-3 draw with Anderlecht.

The Spaniard was poor for the Gunners, and his error yesterday meant that Arsenal only took one point from a game where they were leading 3-0 with 30 minutes to go. He’s not a centre back, but his decision to haul down Anderlecht’s forward in the final moments was a really really silly one. Mertesacker also missed his header late on to allow Anderlecht to jump in and score the equaliser. It could even cost us qualification altogether if we continue to collapse in the last two games.

Whilst the defenders were poor, the fans were not sure where to place the blame. It is Wenger’s fault Monreal was at centre back in the first place..

Punner reminded us that Monreal has actually done quite well at centre back in the scheme of things

‘Drop Chadli And Start This Youngster!’: Spurs Fans React To 2-0 Win Over Brighton

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Tottenham cruised to victory at White Hart Lane, progressing to the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Brighton. Mauricio Pochettino made some important substitutions that changed the game as Erik Lamela and Harry Kane got the two Spurs goals.

In the next phase of the Capital One Cup, Spurs face Newcastle at home. Here is how the fans and players on Twitter reacted to the win.

‘Great To See Passion’: Spurs Fans React To 2-1 Win Over Aston Villa

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Tottenham snatched a late win over Aston Villa at Villa Park. It took an 83rd minute goal from Nacer Chadli to cancel out a 17th minute goal from Andreas Weimann. Then Harry Kane found a late winner from a free-kick on the 90th minute to give Spurs a late three points.

The fans spoke of their happiness to see the passion from the players, despite the poor performance. I think it’s great to see the team fighting right until the end to gain a vital away win. The performances need to improve though! This is how the fans reacted on Twitter.

‘Any Hope Disappeared With That Team Selection’: Liverpool Fans React To Madrid Defeat

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When Brendan Rogers’ team sheet was released before Liverpool’s game against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, many fans, and pundits, feared the worst. Rogers decided to rest a number of his first team regulars, including Steven Gerrard, Mario Balotelli, Raheem Sterling and Glen Johnson. Many predicted that Liverpool were going to be in for a rough night, and that for Madrid, it would simply be a matter of how many they scored. Rogers’ men, however, put in a gritty performance to restrict Madrid to a 1-0 win and leave with minimal damage done.

The result is in no way a ‘success’ for Liverpool, as the line-up showed no real ambition, but it could have been a much worse night had Ronaldo and co. had their shooting boots on. Not all was negative at the Bernabeu though, as Liverpool fans made sure Adrian Chiles knew they were there after the final whistle.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the game:

‘The Naivety Is Staggering’: Arsenal Fans React To Dismal Anderlecht Draw

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Arsenal threw away a 3-0 lead last night at home to Anderlecht. As you can expect, the reaction from the fans wasn’t exactly the most positive after the game.

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The fans blasted the lack of focus and maturity of performance that the Gunners put up for the last 30 minutes. As many fans have said, this is unacceptable and the Gunners need to find more resilience to see out these kind of games. In truth, I would be angry about this collapse, even if it came against a team away from home like Chelsea or Bayern Munich. The fact it was at home against Anderlecht just makes it more frustrating.

Perhaps it is karma for what we did to them in Brussels? After all the maximum we deserved that night was a point. Being that they deserved a point from the two ties, I’m not annoyed about that, I’m just worried about the future if that’s how we can collapse.

The bookies saved a few quid..

On a positive note:

freshmanutd.com gets an upgrade!

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Our club blog Fresh Man Utd (freshmanutd.com) has been given a makeover! We hope you like the changes.

CEO of Fresh Football, Oli Price-Bates said: “Fresh Man Utd is the second club blog from Fresh Football. It has been hugely successful since it’s launch, so we felt it was time to re-invest and give it a new lick of paint”

The site is designed on the Sahifa theme which provides an excellent, slick magazine style look and also gives great functionality on all platforms. We hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more.

freshmanutd.com

5 Ways To Celebrate On Your Sofa This World Cup

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There have already been some memorable goal celebrations at this summer’s World Cup, from Joel Campbell’s pregnant lady to the Colombian team’s choreographed dance.

The entertaining displays have delighted millions of spectators around the world and ScS Sofas want to see the same enthusiasm from the fans watching at home on their gloss tv unit.

The UK sofa and carpet specialists are offering prizes for the most creative celebrations that can be done whilst sat on or using a sofa. All you have to do is take a photo or record a video of your celebration and post it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Vine with the hashtag #SofaCelebrations.

Check out ScS’ own #SofaCelebrations for you to use as inspiration below:

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All entrants will be in with a chance of winning a brand new La-Z-Boy sofa and chair set worth over £3,000, a big screen Samsung TV, an unforgettable game of Bubble Football for you and your mates, or tickets for Alton Towers, among other prizes.

So, whether it’s a simple Peter Crouch robot, or a re-enactment of Gazza’s iconic Dentist’s Chair, it’s certainly worth submitting your photo and getting involved in the trend.

You can submit as many different celebration ideas as you can think of, provided each individual picture or video is your own material and includes the competition hashtag #SofaCelebrations.

The competition closes shortly after the world’s new football champion has been crowned on Sunday 13th July. Full terms and conditions for entries and prizes can be found on the ScS website here.

The Curious Case Of Thomas Eisfeld

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Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten, they say in Germany. In English, someone who can be right about parts of an idea, can still be absolutely wrong about another part of it. Thomas Eisfeld joined the club in rather underwhelming circumstances. In fact, Arséne himself took considerable convincing in making a move for the young German that was being encouraged stick out a relatively unrewarding stint with Dortmund, despite 6 goals and 6 assists for U19s.
‘A poor man’s Gotze’, some pronounced. ‘Another child’, others griped. Der Hund bellt und die Karawane geht vorüber, meaning the dog barks but the caravan moves on, thought Thomas. After taking some time to find his feet in London, Eisfeld is slowly starting to make Dortmund regret the day they allowed him leave the club. “Since I’ve been at Arsenal I’ve learnt how to play the ball quicker and to pass and move with more effectiveness. I have become stronger too.”
Another goal in the U21 league match against Bolton, amongst the fireworks on show illustrated to fans watching what many of whom who watch the player week in, week out, knew: Eisfeld is an intelligent player, capable of operating in various positions across the middle, and has a keen eye for goal. His has been the firework for the U21s, who have seen a return of 5 goals from 8 starts.

“He’s a very intelligent footballer and arguably plays better with better players because he is intelligent. He gets in good positions and, as you saw again tonight, he’s got excellent technique and can finish things off.” Burton spoke of Eisfeld recently.

A quiet, hardworking player, Eisfeld is starting to silence his original critics. Some are even proclaiming that the young German could be a key to Arsenal kick starting their faltering season again. Eisfeld’s progress hadn’t gone unnoticed at Arsenal either. Despite not making the grade at Arsenal, Fulham have now signed up the German youngster. There was also interest from Aston Villa.

A drop to the Championship will be hard to tackle for him, but he has the ability to still go far. Good luck, Thomas. Beharrlichkeit führt zum Ziel, patience is a virtue.

Meade Poses Wenger Further Problems

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Arsenal’s left back position has been one of continuous debate since the start of the season. A fully fit Kieran Gibbs made the position his own following his role in three convincing consecutive clean sheets against Sunderland, Stoke & Liverpool.

Gibbs spent the majority of his youth-team career as a winger, and he displayed his attacking qualities against Liverpool in particular provided a genuine outlet on the left flank with his energetic protruding runs, parallel to those seen frequently by Gael Clichy and Ashley Cole before him.

Gibbs’ prominence in the role is no surprise. He was considered the most natural and economical heir to the role left void in Clichy’s sale. He is also a player that grew up in the club, knows the set-up and is extremely hard working. Few fans will argue that Arsene Wenger needs to buy a left back to specifically replace Kieran – the issue lies with backup for a player who struggles to get a consecutive run of fitness.

Andre Santos, the backup left back is in the peak years of his career, however his poor performances this season have irreversibly tarnished his Arsenal career beyond repair. His indisciplined forward runs, have time and time again left Arsenal defensively frail on the counter, his weight issues appear to have hindered his fitness and his defending has been far from comforting for fans.

Whilst many fans are crying out for money to be spent on a player who will not replace, but complement Gibbs, fans must realise the failure of Arsenal recently looking for squad players such as Santos, Squillaci, Chamakh & Park. These four players alone equate to over £200,000 on wages being needlessly drained from the club’s wage budget. Players will never get the £60,000 p/w or so they now receive, and their refusal to take wage cuts (Squillaci in talks with Bastia) means they cannot be sold. Fans reaction? Blame Wenger. Releasing these players means less money for the already tight transfer budget.

Should Santos be sold in January (albeit unlikely), the club need look no further than Jernade Meade, the 20 year old who has looked far from out of place in the left back role against Reading in the League Cup and more recently against Olympiakos in the Champions League.

Whilst the vast majority of fans (Piers included) may not be familiar with Meade, the youngster has been making waves in the academy set up consistently this season – consistency not evident in the first team set up. His 10 starts in the U21 set up has brought a handful of assists from a left back role. The player is fast, has very quick feet and has a final ball to rival any up and coming left back in the country. Most importantly, he has the hunger.

Meade became the 811th footballer to represent Arsenal when he featured against Reading, and should be one of several internal replacements to the first team squad as soon as the academy season wraps up after Christmas. Gnabry, Meade, Miquel, Angha, Martinez & Eisfeld should directly replace Arshavin, Santos, Squillaci, Djourou, Mannone & Diaby respectively. Diaby simply cannot stay fit.

Provided the rot of inconsistent players now being heavily relied upon are moved on in January, the U21 players could kick start a refreshingly competitive atmosphere in the club not evident for several years, and on realistic wage packets. This mentality could be key in undoing the damage inflicted by a hopeless start to the season. The infamous war chest may not need to be plundered yet.

Wenger Says Akpom Is Close To First Team Involvement

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Chuba Akpom is close to playing for the Arsenal first team according to Arsene Wenger.

“He has personality [and] he has quality,” Wenger told the official Arsenal website. “I wanted him to be with the first team, taste what it is [to be involved] in a Champions League game, and hopefully he will join us very quickly. It could happen very soon.

“He’s more a guy who likes to participate in the build up, a guy who is brave, a guy who makes good runs and is not a typical goal chaser.

“Where he must improve is to finish things off. But he creates for others, he creates for himself, and just needs to be a bit calmer for the finishing. That’s something he will get easily.”

Can’t wait to see Chuba in the first team, Wenger is right he loves to be involved, the perfect Arsenal striker, just needs to work on finishing that off.

Akpom has the ability to become a first team player at Arsenal due to his prowess in front of goal, and determination to succeed.

The English forward is a hard worker and has plenty of pace. He is starting to find the back of the net more frequently, and this is not going unnoticed by the watchful eye of Arsene Wenger.

Feature: Özyakup Defies Arsenal Academy Myth

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The vast majority of Arsenal youngsters looking for first team football very rarely find it at any level that can equate to what could have been at Arsenal. In more recent times, Quincy Owusu-Abeyi, Arturo Lupoli, Fran Merida have seen their impatience in the Arsenal youth set up met with dismal decline in their football careers, despite being originally dubbed the next big thing at Arsenal.

Quincy at 26 has seen his nomadic career take him to inconsistent stints in England, Wales, Russia, Spain, Qatar and Greece. Arturo who was simply scintillated at underage level has rarely if ever experienced a competitive top flight game. Fran failed to get games on loan from Athletico Madrid and has since been moved on to Hercules.

Another talent left the club last summer in search of ever evasive first team football. Oğuzhan Özyakup has began to really find his feet at Beşiktaş. The player has filled in effectively for Manuel Fernandes. Özyakup has started six times in the last seven matches, and Beşiktaş have won the last five matches in which the youngster has played. Two goals and two assists to his name this season have also suggested the positive impact of the player on the starting XI.

Özyakup played a major role in Arsenal’s Under-18s side that won the Premier Academy League title in 2009 and captained the Dutch side to the final of the 2009 Under-17 European Championships before switching allegiances to the Turkish national team. “My dream was to play for Arsenal or Barcelona, Arsenal signed me.”

Having only signed a new deal at the club a year beforehand, reports from the Turkish media unfolded that Özyakup was in talks with Beşiktaş in a deal believed to be somewhat around £600,000. “Leaving Arsenal was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it was really upsetting. However, Beşiktaş made me an offer which was hard to refuse, one of the biggest clubs in Turkey was promising me first team football. I consulted Van Persie and he agreed that it was in my best interests to make the move.”

Beşiktaş surged to a point within league leaders Galatasaray following a 2-1 win over Orduspor and a long range strike to seal the win from Özyakup suggests that the notions that academy products at Arsenal cannot forge a successful career after Arsenal are not true. Furthermore, £600,000 may have been quite a bargain, despite whatever player sell on clause may have been implemented.

Analysing Pardew’s Time at Newcastle

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December 6th 2010, Newcastle’s board to the brave and hugely unpopular decision to sack Chris Hughton as manager, fans, players, pundits and the media were in shock and familiar chants of “sack the board” were beginning to arise once again. Three days later, former Reading, West Ham, Charlton and Southampton manager Alan Pardew was appointed. He was given a torrid reception upon his debut against Liverpool, yet he overcame what some would say unfair (due to him not being at fault for Hughton’s dismissal) criticism by beating Liverpool 3-1. A lot has happened since the day he took charge, but no one can argue against the fact he has taken the Toon army to a heights not seen since the likes of Keegan was in charge, Pardew has changed system, style, personnel, coaching and most importantly, results.

2010/2011

Due to his appointment taking place before the January transfer window, for the first few matches Pardew was in charge, he had to make do with what he had inherited. His squad was built towards a more direct game with the likes of Carroll, Ameobi and Best being the 3 front line strikers at his disposal, with the likes of Lovenkrands and Nolan making for effective second strikers/attacking midfielders.  In the January transfer window, there were two pieces of business that were made that would affect Newcastle in the long term, firstly the permanent signing of Hatem Ben Arfa who missed the season with a broken leg, this show of faith would be returned the following season, the second piece of business is the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool, the fee of £35 million was too much to turn down, and although a replacement wasn’t acquired immediately, Pardew managed to adjust the side accordingly in order to see out the season in best form possible.

This is the first squad that Pardew chose for his debut against Liverpool, by opting for a safe forward line of Carroll and Ameobi, he ensured that he would always have an aerial outlet, it may not have been pretty, but it was pretty effective. Pardew had to make sure that the team gained a hard working mentality before results would come in, by choosing a midfield of Gutierrez, Tiote, Nolan and Barton he would be choosing 4 players with a mix of work ethic, profressional tactics, experience and enthusism. His continued confidence in Krul would also show that talent would also be a defining factor in selection. The 3-1 win over Liverpool was a great start to Pardew’s already controversial appointment.

By the end of the month, Pardew was beginning to utilize his squad to a much better ability. The results were at times inconsistent but every match was a build-up to the season 2011/2012 season. In this match Pardew played a 4-3-3 formation but played Barton much closer to Carroll, with the protection of Tiote and Smith, both fullbacks continuously overlapped the wingers and caused problems for Tottenham despite the defeat, playing variations of this system would become more common throughout Pardew’s reign. The match against West Ham was another example of Pardew implementing the 4-3-3 system. With Barton on the right providing a more traditional form of wide play, and Lovenkrands playing off Best, it gave allows for more fluid play and the build-up play allowed for Nolan to make his classic late runs into the box with Tiote covering. This was a fine example of team confidence growing and perhaps more importantly in the long term, confidence in Pardew’s ability to handle a managerial position known for instability.

Without question the most famous game of Pardew’s reign as Newcastle manager was the 4-4 draw with Arsenal, this was the first match since Carroll was sold and there was an air of fustration at St. James Park. Going 4-0 down at half time was a nightmare for the Geordie faithful but somehow managed to pull off a 4 goal turnaround in the second half; tactics did not play an important part due to Arsenal’s structuring after Diaby’s sending off and Newcastle’s commitment to attack with numbers due to knowing they have nothing to lose. This game banished memories of Carroll, at least for a while.

Although the result was negative for Newcastle, this match showed Pardew’s bravery in deploying a system that was unfamiliar to him and the team. Due to Stoke’s direct approach, Pardew wanted to best equip himself with 3 central defenders in order to cope with the threat. Tiote and Barton provided aggression and tenacity in midfield which was required. The problem came from Nolan who naturally drifts towards the box and be on the end of service provided by others, however due to Stoke neutralising Newcastle’s wingbacks with brilliant wide play of their own, Nolan failed to adapt and stay deep to take advantage of the numerical superiority the 3-5-2 allowed them, this in turn starved the strikers of the ball and Stoke dominated proceedings.

The final match of the season saw Pardew give chances to the likes of Guthrie and Ferguson as well as squad player Ryan Taylor. A 3-3 finished Newcastle in 12th position, a stable position for a club who were still suffering from relegation. This was a season of much needed realism and stability and the summer that ensued showed that Pardew and head scout Graham Carr were ready to take Newcastle to a level not seen in years.

2011/2012

During the summer transfer window, fans began to see the shrewd but effective approach Pardew was implementing into his playing philosophy, he wasn’t buying a team full of stars, but a team full of talented, humble and hardworking players who could adapt to the differing situations that could arise during the season. The key players brought in were Cabaye (£4.3m), Demba Ba (Free), Santon (£5m), and during the January window Papiss Cisse (£8m). Campbell, Nolan, Barton, Routledge and Enrique all left for varying fees but indicated a clear out of personalities and a change in style, less direct, more patient and penetrative.

These three examples are once the window had closed and Newcastle had finished their transfer dealings, each show differing combinations such as the two central midfielders, the common factor being Cabaye is the ever present. His influence on the team was a big factor on Newcastle’s success and showed incredible passing ability, dictation of varying tempos as well as a superb free kick. Newcastle changed their striking combination often during the first few games but Ba became a regular with Leon Best providing support till Cisse arrived in January. The Best Ba combination favoured a more direct approach and so Pardew stuck with a 4-4-2 formation, two deep central midfielders allowed the fullbacks to create width and utilize the aerial ability of both strikers and Ameobi who would often be the first call off the bench. The direct approach of Newcastle was shown in full when they defeated Stoke at the Britannia, Demba Ba’s goal coming from a direct build up from the back, by passing midfield and Ba finishing swiftly.

This match was the first time Pardew would see his team thoroughly out done, by playing Ben Arfa off Ba, he placed too much emphasis on staying forward but didn’t cover Romeu who was a free man in midfield, by leaving him free, Chelsea were given numerical superiority and were allowed to dominate the match. This would influence Pardew’s tactics further down the season.

During this period, Newcastle was suffering from the loss of Tiote due to the African Cup of Nations. The loss of Tiote meant the loss of Pardew’s effective aggressive pressing system in midfield and lessened the protection of his defenders. However in the match against Tottenham, Pardew would come to realise a tactical flaw that would change his approach for the rest of the season. His deployment of a 4-4-2 system against a Tottenham team playing a similar system but with far greater fluidity meant consistent overloading in midfield, Newcastle were simply unable to cope with Kranjcar moving infield. By doing so he would cause one of two problems, either take Gutierrez inside with him and effectively eliminate the best outlet Newcastle possessed, or exploit space in midfield due to Perch and Guthrie beyond already occupied by Modric and Parker. This would lead to Pardew changing formation to 4-3-3 for most of the remainder of the season.

For the most part, this was the best team Newcastle could put out, the change in shape meant greater stability in middle of the pitch where Newcastle felt they were overrun in previous games. This stability allowed freedom for Ben Arfa to come off the line and 1) Allow Simpson to overlap and move into the space that Ben Arfa left behind and 2) Do what Kranjcar did to them previously and create an overload in midfield by becoming a penetrative threat by combining with Cisse much more centrally. Ba unfortunately was the player that would benefit least due to the change, not only was he fatigued due to the ANC, his duties now play in providing width on the left hand side which meant less combination play with the other two attackers. This was due to Santon having to defend deeper to facilitate the right hand side of Newcastle’s attack.

These are two examples of Newcastle’s change in formation, and improved results due to the change. Although Ba was struggling to score, Cisse was on fire and gave Newcastle an added threat of pace behind the defence, with Ben Arfa’s movement coming in off the right, onto his favoured left foot, it allowed for blind side runs by Cisse to be found in a fluid motion.

This example taken from the Stoke match shows the difference in movement between Ben Arfa and Demba Ba. Ba is playing deeper and much more restricted to the left hand side of the attack; however Ben Arfa is given the freedom to roam and combines with the midfielders and moves centrally. This intrinsic movement was fundamental to Newcastle’s success towards the final third of the season. Ben Arfa plays with a hunger, desire, willingness, drive and determination, combine that with incredible talent and you have someone who can change not only a match, but a season.

The match against Wigan was seen as more important to Wigan due to survival rather than Newcastle’s mostly secure European ambitions. Newcastle deployed their now usual 4-3-3 system but were tactically outdone by Roberto Martinez and his 3-4-3 system which you can read about (and others) here. Following this match, Pardew decided to go back to a 4-4-2 formation which would see Ba and Cisse continue to develop a partnership and understanding.

When Pardew played Cisse and Ba up front as a partnership, the result showed how effective they could be. Cisse was the star of the show with two superb goals (one of which was nominated Goal of the Season), however upon analysis of Ba’s shots on goal, the angles of the shots are much more varied than previously when he was deployed on the left hand side of the attack.

In conclusion Pardew, along with the help of his coaching and scouting staff, gave Newcastle and their loyal fans the belief to soar to new heights. Finishing is an incredible 5th place showed how much progress was made in such a short period of time, and for once critics could not put it down to quick spending and panic buying, Pardew was efficient with the money given and clever with the players he brought in. The 2012/2013 season has already brought Newcastle shrewd purchases in the forms of Vernon Anita and Amalfitano with the likes of Smith, Guthrie and Best leaving. An opening day win over Champions League spot rivals Tottenham was a great start but unfortunately lost to Chelsea in their second game, the season is long and the challenges are many but the fact that many fans, managers, and pundits alike predict a high finish for Newcastle is testament to everyone involved at the club, considering they were relegated, and gained promotion only 3 seasons ago.

Thanks to ESPN Soccernet for providing stats and figures, This11.com for the pitches and most of all FourFourTwo StatsZone for all the diagrams, line ups and information.

Written by Zaheer Shah, I’m on Twitter! @ZazooShah

Gunners Gear Up For Anfield Clash

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Arsenal go into the third game of the season having not scored a goal, not conceded a goal and not won a game, this despite signing three attacking players during the summer.

Of course the settling in period is an issue for the new forwards and they have come close, with Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla all going close with efforts on Sunday afternoon at the Britannia.

But now all the attention turns to Sunday at Anfield. Last season the Gunners could consider themselves somewhat lucky to come away with three points, two goals from ex-captain Robin van Persie rescued them after a first half bombardment from Liverpool. A much better midfield performance is required them not to get overrun again.

Arsenal lined up against a midfield that looks somewhat weaker than Rodgers’ new engine. ‘Adam-Spearing-Henderson’. Arsenal named Rosicky, Arteta and Song. Mikel is the only player who will start from the two midfields which met last season. This is a key area for the encounter on Sunday. Lucas Leiva will be a loss but Nuri Sahin, Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen step in. In Sahin and Allen Liverpool will be able to take more possession than they did in last years fixture, whilst Arsenal will look to play through Santi Cazorla, a weapon they have only recently acquired.

With no real defensive midfielder in either side (bar a late signing), both clubs will look to get Steven Gerrard and Santi Cazorla into good positions, whilst they will most likely use Joe Allen and Mikel Arteta as makeshift holding midfielders. Because of these midfields it is unlikely to end how the Gunners first two ties have ended, in stalemate.

A big positive for Arsenal this season has been a noticeable defensive improvement following the appointment of Steve Bould after Pat Rice stepped down as Arsene’s right hand man. In particular for me we have seen a marked improvement on Keiran Gibbs. The left-back has been defensively sound and if he can put his injury days behind him, he has a real chance to become a top English International. Per Mertesacker has done well in the absence of Laurent Koscielny, but I feel it is key that Laurent returns for the Liverpool game. Despite scoring an own goal in this fixture last season, Laurent has the reading of the game and pace that not many centre backs can boast. Against the speed of Sterling, Suarez, Borini and the likes, Per is more than likely to be caught out. Having Koscielny back is a key element in keeping Liverpool at bay.

So on to my main point for the game. How should the Arsenal midfield line-up? For me this game is going to be a lot about keeping the ball and about pace. Rodgers is in the process of implementing a style similar to Arsenals and the match could throw up some attractive football. Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla are obvious must-haves in the side, and the Spanish duo could be assisted in a midfield three by a few different players. The first is Abou Diaby. He has started the opening games, but after a poor showing at Stoke, I’d drop him. He is not used to playing so many games and after being called up to the French squad, I’m sure Wenger shares my concerns. Next up is Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman has looked drained of confidence since mid-way through last season, Arsenal cannot afford for him in a midfield with Arteta and Cazorla as there would be little of a defensive shield. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would provide a bit more energy in the middle, as well as a very creative option which could unlock Liverpool; he is my second choice for that third slot. Lastly and the player I’d choose is Francis Coquelin. A young energetic and versatile player, 21 year-old Coquelin has a big chance to step up this season. Coquelin can sit alongside Arteta and allow Cazorla a free role high up the pitch.

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In the forward line I would drop Gervinho for Walcott. This all depends on what happens with Theo in the next 48 hours, but some direct pace on the right looks a better option to start the game with. I’d stick with Podolski on the left and Giroud down the middle, again, pending any further changes to the squad.

Let me know your thoughts on the game, what team you’d like to see and your predictions in the comments below.

Oli Price-Bates [@OliPriceBates]

The Premier League XI To Watch Out For This Season

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With the Premier League season just a day away, I (Oli Price-Bates) am going to give you my Premier League XI to watch out for next season. I’ve stuck down 3 defenders, 5 midfielders and 2 strikers.

David de Gea – Manchester United
After an opening season of criticism, De Gea started to show some of his Atletico Madrid form, and has now built up a confidence which will make him hard to be beaten. Still a weakness for him is his ability to deal with crosses, but that will come with the more Premier League games he plays.

Jan Vertonghen – Tottenham
The ex-Ajax defender will not only be a dominating presence at the back, but will score a good amount of goals for Spurs, too. Similar to Vermaelen, the two ex-teammates will have to lock horns in the massive Arsenal v Spurs derby.

Davide Santon – Newcastle
Not a centre half I know, but the full back is set for a big season. Showing glimpses of his best, Santon is expected to open the season at left back for the Geordie club. I think this is his season to really come out of his shell and fulfil the massive potential he has.

Ashley Williams – Swansea
The Swansea centre half had a great debut season in the Premier League, and with Kyle Bartley signed for the Swans, they will look to cement a solid partnership.

Lucas Leiva – Liverpool
Often a scapegoat for Liverpool fans, Lucas showed glimpses of top form before his long-term injury. With a solid pre-season behind him, I fancy Leiva to shine and be a contender for team of the season.

Michu – Swansea City
This lad has signed from Rayo in La Liga and is a very shrewd buy from the new Swansea boss. Michu is known for his goal-scoring a only cost the club a few million, a good passer of the ball too, he will fit right in at Swansea.

James Milner – Manchester City
This one will raise a few eyebrows, but I think Milner has a big season to come. He often comes under criticism but his work-rate is second to none. In Manchester City’s new formation he can be used wide right or in the centre of midfield.

Santiago Cazorla – Arsenal
The new superstar at Arsenal following van Persie’s departure, Cazorla brings a Cesc like quality to the Gunners, which they never directly replaced until now. Santi brings more experience to the side as well, and knows how to win. If you haven’t heard much of this guy, it won’t be long before you do.

Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United
As a Dortmund follower I am gutted to see a player of such quality at Manchester United, but there is no doubt he will do very well there. The only problem I see for him is game time. With Robin van Persie signed, opportunities down the middle of the park (where he thrives) will be limited. If Fergie treats him right, they have a real gem on their hands.

Carlos Tevez – Manchester City
What more can we say about Tevez? Two seasons ago he had a fantastic year, and with the Mancini bust-up last season, we thought we’d never see him again. However a good pre-season later, Tevez is gearing up to fire again with Aguero in City’s powerful looking strikeforce.

Fernando Torres – Chelsea
The £50million striker was heavily criticised due to his lack of goals, but even during a barren spell, he managed to link up well with teammates, and created many chances. With Drogba gone and a quality midfield behind him, I think Torres can get a few goals early on in the season and if he can do that, don’t expect him to look back.

fresharsenal.com goes LIVE

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On June 5, fresharsenal.com has officially launched and become the first individual club website from Fresh Football. Site editor Oli Price-Bates launched the site and he sees it as the best way to go:

“We found visitors didn’t enjoy freshfootball trying to cover all teams but not quite doing it, and preferred a more focussed club approach. This gave us the idea to create unique club websites individually, one by one, assembling a team that was capable of providing everything the fan wants”

The site is designed on the Sahifa theme which provides an excellent, slick magazine style look and also gives great functionality on all platforms. We hope you enjoy it and stay tuned for more.

fresharsenal.com | fresharsenal.net | fresharsenal.co.uk

Damián Martínez: Striving For Glory

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For the past month or so, the Gooners have found new hope between the sticks thanks to the stunning displays of Vito Mannone. Long gone seem the days of Manuel Almunia and that dreadful game against Olimpiakos in Piraeus in last year’s Champions Legue group stage where both Lukasz Fabianski and the aforementioned Mannone had such a dreadful display, Arsenal supporters were left fretting over the consistency and good health of Wojciech Szczesny. There is no doubt that Mannone’s loan at Hull City has given fruit, and that the keeper is currently going through his best spell in an Arsenal shirt.

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What many Gooners may not have noticed over the past few fixtures is that a relatively unknown name has turned up in the substitutes’ bench. Ever since Szczesny and Fabianski have been injured, 20-year old goalkeeper Damián Martínez has taken a place on the bench. The young Argentine, who arrived at the team in August 2010, and was immediately sent to Oxford United on an emergency loan, rose to prominence in the Arsenal Reserves squad earning himself a call-up to the Full Argentina National Squad in August 2011, barely a year after his transfer from Independiente. Albeit, he is yet to play for the team, the young Gunner still has plenty of time.

So, can Gooners really rely on this young lad? After all, if something happens to Don Vito, the boy would be part of the Starting XI.  Plus, the past seven years haven’t just meant a trophy drought, they’ve meant a crisis on the goalkeeping position that has seemingly just been solved last season. The answer is probably yes. I’m not saying he’d step up and take Szczesny’s, Fabianski’s, and Mannone’s place, after all, there is a reason he is still a Reserve goalkeeper. Nonetheless, the boy has proven more than once that he has what it takes to become a star for the Gunners. The most recent display of his talents came this past month in Arsenal’s Capital One Cup fixture against Coventry City, which resulted in a resounding 6-1 victory for the Gunners. Although Martínez did let one goal in (some might argue it was due to a defensive mistake) the game proved that the lad has the potential to become a star between the sticks. Last season, Martínez featured thirteen times for the reserves squad, helping the young team manage a comfortable third spot in the Reserves League.

Speaking to Arsenal.com last April, the young Argentine emphasized on his desire of reaching the level of the first team, and thus, mentioned the possibility on going on loan this year:

“Gerry [Peyton, the goalkeeper coach,] said to me that I would be on the bench for the Carling Cup and then I was there for the FA Cup too. He said to me: ‘If you have to come on, are you ready?’, and I said ‘Yes, I am ready’.

“I am still looking forward to being on the bench for a few more games, trying to do my best in the reserves and then be ready for the first team. These are my ambitions for the next two months.”

“[Wojciech Szczesny] said he wasn’t ready for the first team yet so he went out on loan and learned so much there, Then he came back to Arsenal and played in the first team as he was ready.”

“Next season a loan spell could be an option for me.”

Due to the recent injuries in the goalkeeping position, Martínez’s first full team debut might come sooner than expected. I personally believe that, although the lad may not be the squad’s top performer in his position, he has the potential to be a great keeper in the future. Plus, he seems grounded and striving to improve his game. The way I see it, Damián Martínez’s desire isn’t just to play for the first team squad, but rather to reach the level in which he can shine there, and that can only be a good thing for the Arsenal.