Since around 2004 I’ve been a follower of French Football, all started around the game PES 5 and a very knowlegable person called Sina, quickly picked Lille as my team of choice and for the past 6 years have enjoyed watching some fantastic players come through and make it at some great clubs, Drogba, Benzema, Ribery, Nasri to name a few.

For the 6 years I have watched Ligue 1 I have lived in England, and the general consensus seems if you don”t live in France, why are you watching French Football, this usually comes from people who have never watched a French league game in their life, I’m from the school of: If you don’t watch something don’t comment on it, and don’t take your opinions from something you’ve read. Usually the same people that put the league down are the same people cheering on Sagna, Adebayor, Evra, Benzema, Abidal, obviously forgetting where they came from.

Last nights Europa League game between Lille and Liverpool capped off a great fortnight for French football, Bordeaux travelled to Athens and picked up a great 1-0 win against Olympiakos, then on Wednesday, Lyon went up against the Galacticos of Real Madrid and shocked Europe by dumping Real out of the Champions League, and when Eden Hazards free kick curled past Pepe Reina and put Lille 1-0 up I let out a massive cheer, not just because Lille had scored but also because I could go to work the next day with my head held high knowing Lille and the league itself had stood up and shown their worth.

Now Lille could go to Anfield next week and end up going out of the competition however this will not dampen their image at all.

Liverpool are expected to win, so anything but a home win will be a surprise, Bordeaux should join Lyon in the last 8 of the Champions League, and surely then people might think twice about the quality of the league.


A lot of the discussions at work this week have got me thinking, What makes a great striker? After a few conversations about Arsenal’s Niclas Bendtner to varying opinions it got me thinking, how do you class a great striker, then my mind wandered to what players right now would be classed as GREAT, does the conventional idea of the striker still exist or has the role changed to suit the modern game.

I have also had the opinion that to be class as a great striker there are two targets you have to reach, for your club you must average a goal every two games, and for your country 1 in 3 is fine, is that enough of a system to define greatness, right now I am questioning my own system in this Wikipedia driven time, it is far too easy to pick a player, lets go with Adrian Mutu (picked by a colleague) a player with a very chequered past, has played for numerous teams, first came to my attention playing for Verona, then the 21 year old managed 16 goals in 57 games roughly 1 in 4. Fast forward now to his time in Florence, 50 goals in 91 games for Fiorentina better than 1 in 2, in his whole club career he’s played 329 games and scored 130 goals that’s 0.40 goals per game, a pretty good record 29 goals in 67 games, this would put Mutu in my bracket as a great striker, however I wouldn’t put him in the GREAT bracket, he’s a talented player that’s no doubt, however greatness is not a word I would choose to describe him.

My quick method is clearly flawed then players can hit these targets and still not be seen as the greatest strikers around, growing up the first strikers I was drawn to were the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Gary Lineker, and Romario, then getting older Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and going to watch Henrik Larsson for Celtic all 6 players to me can be classed as GREAT, the one thought that combines all of these players is finishing, given 5 chances they would score at least 4, and could conjeur a goal out of less than half a chance, how many of the modern day players can you say the same for.

Throughout Europe these days the players scoring the goals aren’t the out and out strikers, players like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrei Arshavin more of a support striker or winger, these players over the past few years have scored a lot of goals between them, Ronaldo’s 42 goals in the Premiership is unheard of for someone playing as a winger, I think the game is changing and allowing these type of players to be more dangerous in or around the goal area, and on first thought how many penalty box strikers can you think of playing at the top end of European football.

The modern day strikers the likes of Drogba, Eto’o, Villa, Torres, Tevez, Luis Fabiano, all 6 players spanning the global game all very prone to missing chances, I would say out of 5 chances, they would score 2 or 3, most Liverpool fans will be upset with me including Torres in that bracket however before his Liverpool days Torres never scored more than 20 goals in a La Liga season, his first season in England really was his break out year, I have managed to dig up some OPTA stats from May 2008 and from Fernando’s 96 shots on goal he scored 33 goals, this proves my thinking, works out in 5 attempts on goal Torres would score 1.7 goals.

Stats can do a lot to prove and disprove various thoughts, I’m sure I could have found some stats that make an player the greatest striker ever, the hard truth is stats are only worth the paper they are printed on. The real way to judge a players ability is to watch them over a vast number of games and then decide on the quality of the player, usually once his career ends, 2 examples spring to mind almost instantly, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Fowler, Roman came to England after an impressive record in the Russian League, however at Euro 2008 for Russia his performance weren’t as good as previous season had promised, so Spurs and English fans didn’t think much to the latest recruit to White Hart Lane and then a few weeks into the season he was already classed as a dud, I have had the privlidge of watching quite a few Spartak Moscow games 2/3 years before his move, and also the Champions League qualifier against Celtic in 2007, Roman was a constant threat, scoring at Celtic Park, a very opportunist goal pouncing on a defensive mistake, he looked a very talented player, this made me not jump on the bandwagon of doubters after his slow start to his English career which is now showing signs of promise a goal machine of late, he is causing the normal fan to think twice on his opinion and hopefully can keep his place at the London club.

The other example is Robbie Fowler, started out as a 17 year old wonderkid for Liverpool, scoring goals by the bucketload the world was his oyster 173 goals in 236 games for Liverpool is a fantastic record, I still remember the TV pundits swooning over his ability quotes like “If he’s this good at 21, imagine how good he’ll be at 28 in his prime”. The hard truth is when he was 28 he was playing for Manchester City and managed 10 goals that season, only 1 goal the season after, Robbie’s career was plagued with injury from 2002 onwards, and after leaving Liverpool in 2001 he never really reached the same level of success, it is impossible to forget the great results he had at Anfield at the time he was classed as one of the greatest finishers in England, but outside of Anfield the same cannot be said, and at International level again his record is less than impressive, with Robbie for 8 years you could easily class him as a GREAT striker, but after this, Average is the best way to describe him, so how do you classify his career as a whole, impossible really.

Personally I try not to define a player by their “Stats” but in what I’ve seen of the player, a striker could easily have  a 1 in 2 record but when you watch them they need 4 or 5 chances to get 1 goal, or some else with the same record however that players had half as many chances, I know which players I would have in my side, in this world of Sky Sports News and super fast broadband it is very easy for people to take opinions from what they hear around them without judging  the player on what they actually see, this brings me back to the first point.

Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick last night in the Champions League game against Porto, what could be classed as 2 tap in and a penalty, but still 3 goals, his record in Europe this season is 4 goals in 3 games, now if that’s all you look at, then yeah Bendtner looks fantastic, however if you  have actually watched the game or the game  against Burnley, you would not think he was as impressive as his record, the boy is still young, only 22 so he still has time to improve and become a great striker, right now though, no matter what the stats say I cannot put him in this group.


Really quick short post this morning.

Michael Owen it has been announced this morning is out for the rest of the season, after picking up another injury during the Carling Cup Final against Aston Villa, he pulled up in the first half and it was evident that he had pulled his hamstring. After the game Owen said that it didn’t feel that bad, and it shouldn’t keep him out for too long,  obviously now it has been diagnosed in a scan yesterday that the injury is bad enough to force him to miss the rest of the season.

My question is, does Michael call an end to his football career, he has been plagued by injuries most of his career:

December 31 – Breaks metatarsal bone in defeat at Tottenham and is ruled out for ‘several months’.

March 24 – Newcastle announce Owen requires surgery to tighten the screw inserted into his foot during the initial operation.  

April 29 – Makes Premiership return as a substitute against Birmingham but complains of pain afterwards and withdraws from the final game of the season.  

May 13 – Carried from the field suffering concussion after collision with team-mate Matty Pattison in game with Watford.  

June 20 – Injures knee in first minute of group game against Sweden in Cologne and is immediately replaced.  Ruled out for at least nine months and reports suggest he may miss the entire Premiership season to follow.  

July 20 – After featuring in just the final three games of the previous campaign, Owen picks up a thigh injury in pre-season training which rules him out of the first game of the new season.  

September 17 – Owen is substituted early in the second half against Derby with a groin problem.  

September 23 – He is passed fit to line up against West Ham but again the same injury forces him off. Club confirm the striker will undergo further scans to determine extent of the problem.  

September 25 – Magpies boss Sam Allardyce reveals Owen has a 3cm tear in his abductor muscle which will sideline him for three weeks and rule him out of England’s two October Euro 2008 qualifiers. He adds Owen may also require a hernia operation.

November 16 – Suffers a thigh strain during the first half of his side’s 1-0 friendly win over Austria.

January 28 – Ruled out for six weeks with a cracked ankle bone sustained in the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City.

March 5 – Ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury

In the last 6 years Owen has only managed to pay 125 games, now someone like Frank Lampard in the same timescale has played about 315 games, that’s Lampard playing 3 games for every 1 that Owen plays, also how many of those games has Michael been 100% fit, you need games to get match sharpness back and get up to full speed, you could probably take the number of games played when he has been fit to around 70-75.

Now at the age of 30 the body will not recover as fast as it used to, and I think this lastest injury could take it’s toll on the former European Player of the Year, and there is no guarentee that he will be able to return for preseason training, which for a player in Michael’s situation is crucial to get up to speed and get his sharpness back, it is very hard to get match sharpness back during a season if you have been out, you need that pre-season time to get ready.

Now on the top right hand side of my site you will see I have set up a new section, where you can Vote on whether you think this is the end for Owen, I really look forward to seeing what everyones views are, so please let you vote count, I will leave the poll open for 2 weeks.


With most teams having about 10 or 11 games left, every point is crucial in the next few weeks, the title race in the Premier League has come down to 3 teams; Reigning Champions Manchester United, the early favourites Chelsea and Arsene Wenger’s underdogs Arsenal. Everyone of these teams since September has shown Championship credentials, Arsenal were ruled out at the start of the season by pretty much every pundit worth listening to, even talked down for 4th place, they have proved all the doubters wrong, and this without main forward Robin van Persie out through injury.

Chelsea were most people’s early favourites some strong early showings away from home at Sunderland, Burnley and Fulham. Then without 4 of their players off playing in the African Cup of Nations in Angola, Chelsea managed to win all 9 points and score 12 goals in the process, not bad for a team meant to struggle without their main striker Didier Drogba.

Man United have had a very stop/start season, just when you think they have turned a corner and about to kick on, they lose or draw a game you don’t expect them too, would be interesting to see where in the league they’d be if Rooney wasn’t playing the best football of his life, a lot of defensive issues have also not helped their season.

Despite the ups and downs all 3 remain in the title chase and will be battling it out for the chance to lift the Premier League trophy. 10 games remain  for each team, let’s have a look at the run ins.


West Ham (Home), Blackburn (Away), Portsmouth (Away)
Aston Villa (Home), Man United (Away), Bolton (Home)
Tottenham (Away), Stoke (Home), Liverpool (Away)
Wigan (Home)


Burnley (Home), Hull City (Away), West Ham (Away)
Birmingham (Away), Wolves (Home), Tottenham (Away)
Wigan (Away), Man City (Home), Blackburn (Away)
Fulham (Home),


Wolves (Away), Fulham (Home), Liverpool (Home)
Bolton (Away), Chelsea (Home), Blackburn (Away)
Man City (Away), Tottenham (Home), Sunderland (Away)
Stoke (Home)

On paper Arsenal’s run in looks easier, only Man City and Spurs to play from the higher placed teams, but they do have to play 3 teams fighting for survival and at this time of year those games can be harder than against the top teams, 4 home games out of the 10 games and trips to West Ham Birmingham and Blackburn won’t be easy, add to that the Derby match against Tottenham, I would predict that worst case scenario would see Arsenal pick up 22 more points.

Chelsea and Man United have a tougher run-in, Chelsea have trips to Old Trafford and Anfield which could see no points gained, tough trips to Portsmouth and Blackburn could provide slip ups, and Villa coming to Stamford Bridge could be a trick tie, again worst case Chelsea for me could pick up 22 points. For United away trips to Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland then the Derby match at Eastlands against Man City will prove tough, then Home stands against Fulham, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs the toughest of the run-in’s for me, I do think Man United are capable of amassing at least 21 points from the 10 games.

If that all went as I have predicted the final table would be as follows

1. Chelsea – 82 points
2. Man United – 82 points
3. Arsenal – 80 points

Of course one of the best things about the Premiership is that anything can happen, so I’m sure my point predictions will be different to what happens, I am convinced though that this title race will go down to the wire, as I said before Wayne Rooney is playing to football of his life so he will be spurring his team forward, Arsenal now are determined to win the league for Aarom Ramsey after his unfortunate leg-break and Chelsea will want to win take the title back to Stamford Bridge for the first time since Mourinho left Chelsea, another factor which could decide the fate of the title will be how the 3 teams do in the Champions League, Arsenal could easily go out to Porto, 2-1 down after the game in the Dragao, Chelsea also behind with the same score, Man United could face a tricky tie with Milan at Old Trafford, surely a reduced fixture list would help each team out, however the 3 teams will be fighting hard on both fronts, however could a Champions League run hamper the League success.

Arsenal could go on and win all the remaining games, and that would be enough to win the title, with Chelsea and Man United, the games against each other, and of course Liverpool will go a long way to deciding the location of the Premier League trophy.

No matter what happens, it’s going to be an exciting few months of football in England.