Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Rise of Norwich City

Welcome, I’m Callum Rivett and in this weeks blog for The Football Front I’m going to show you just how far my beloved Norwich City have come in these past few years. And it is really quite astonishing if you hadn’t heard it before.

At the moment, Norwich are sitting pretty in the Premier League, mid-table, safe by Easter and everything is going to plan. But look back two and a half seasons and we were 23rd in League One, having just been hammered 7-1 by Colchester on the opening day. That was inexplicably the turning point in the Canaries fortunes, as the club soon went on to overturn an 11 point deficit to beat Leeds United to the title by 9 points, then gain promotion to the Premier League a year later.

3rd May 2009.

A terrible day in Norwich’s history, yet one that set off a remarkable chain reaction. Norwich City lost 4-2 to a Charlton side on the final day of the season and were relegated to League One, the third tier of English football for the first time since 1960. A lacklustre performance by the yellows summed up our season. A lot of new signings were made by Bryan Gunn during the summer, one of whom was Grant Holt, a legend at the club. At that point, City were very, very close to going into administration and possibly liquidation, a truly dire situation. But we were bailed out, and look where we are now.

Paul Lambert was hired on the 18th of August, 2009, and we have never looked back since. He took a team low on confidence, of relatively poor quality and turned it into a back-to-back promotion winning team. Ironically, Norwich were promoted when they won 1-0 at Charlton, the same place they got relegated the season before. Football can be ironic like that. He made a lot of signings in the summer before the return to the Championship, one being midfield maestro David Fox who is so unbelievably underrated by the media it’s unreal. Without him in the team, Norwich lack the cutting edge needed and he keeps us ticking over in midfield, playing brilliant passes and winning vital duels.The 2nd of May, 2011, is the date that will go down in Norwich City’s history. When Cardiff lost 3-0 to Middlesbrough earlier in the day (we are indebted to you, Middlesbrough, and we thank you very much!), Norwich just needed a win at Fratton Park against Portsmouth to guarantee Premier League football next season. Elliot Ward went close, chances were missed, and it looked like that goal would never come. But, on the fiftieth minute, a delicious David Fox cross was met with a superb diving header by Simeon Jackson to send the 3,000 Norwich fans behind the goal into raptures.

At the start of this season, I predicted Norwich and Swansea to stay up comfortably, with QPR to be relegated. That looks like it may happen, and I’ll tell you the reasoning behind my predications.

Team Spirit.

Look at Norwich and Swansea, indeed they play good football, but they are also playing with confidence and looking like a team. Whereas QPR on the other hand, look like individuals playing for a move to a bigger club. Joey Barton and Djibril Cissé are names that are too big, I suppose, to play for a team that are fighting for survival. Norwich and Swansea have stuck with players that have a point to prove in the Premier League, and look how well we’re both doing.

It’s a pleasure being a Norwich fan, and I hope it continues.

Follow Callum on twitter: @calriv97

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Benfica vs Chelsea: A Tactical Preview

Chinmay Pandya gives The Football Front a tactical preview of Chelsea's trip to Benfica. crisis.

Chelsea head to Portugal for the first leg of the CL quarter finals as they take on Benfica at the Estadio da Luz, where they have been undefeated in 39 of their last 42 home games in the Liga Sagres. Benfica had a tremendous start to their CL campaign as they managed to top their group, a run of results which saw the tournament favourites Manchester United go crashing into the Europa league. The Portuguese side managed to earn a draw both home and away to United and that too, very impressively. Their last CL game at the Estadio da Luz ended in a convincing 2-0 win over a very strong Zenit and had also managed to score 2 crucial away goals in Russia which aided their victory over the two legs. While Chelsea, who have been quite poor on the road this season which reflected in their 3-1 defeat to Napoli at the San Paolo stadium in the first knock out round. Chelsea’s defence, especially under AVB looked very shaky although after his departure, things have looked somewhat solid again at the back, which has been evident in their impressive rum of 4 straight wins before defeat against Manchester City in the league. Their dramatic win over Napoli was seen as the turning point of their miserable season Yet once again, they failed to capitalize on this momentum and ended up with back-to-back poor performances against Manchester City and Tottenham. Two late goals conceded away from home after failing to hold on to a 1-0 lead and then failing to score at home aren’t the best signs heading into this fixture.

Benfica generally line up with a 4-2-3-1 formation which is quite fluid as it changes when in possession of the ball, normally to a 3-3-1-3 with the holding midfielder Javi Garcia dropping in between the two central defenders changing it into a back 3 with the wing backs pushing on and against in the knock out stages. However, it is quite different. Napoli’s back three weren’t very mobile, were very vulnerable to fast break situations and also defending crosses whipped into the box. Benfica’s back three has a lot of variety. The midfielder who drops between the central defenders is very quick across the turf, can tackle and make last ditch challenges and also provide a lot of energy in the midfield when not in possession. Luisao, the bedrock of the Benfica defence and Jardel is the weakest of the three - a weakness the Londoners should try to exploit, especially at set-pieces, as against Napoli.
When in possession, the back 4 changes into a back 3, the wing backs start acting as the wingers and the positioning of Gaitan, Cesar/Aimar, Rodrigo and Witsel are very fluid. Cardozo acts as the target – man who’d be up against Terry, also very good in the air. This system, however, isn’t flawless. During fast break situations, Witsel, the only remaining Midfielder stays rooted and creates a big hole in the midfield which might mean Chelsea, with the likes of Lampard and Essien might dominate the midfield. In another situation, when Chelsea’s full backs push up, which they normally do, the game can be won or lost on the wings itself because of the spaces these full backs might leave behind. Benfica’s right wing back, Pereira is known for his goal threat and his superb service to Cardozo but is susceptible to be caught napping.

A pressing game from the part of Chelsea, could prove very effective, given Benfica may lack in personnel in the centre of midfield.

However, the move would not make much sense, if Rodrigo does go on to pair up with Cardozo as the latter with his raw pace could cause terror in a high Chelsea back-line. To sum up, this match could me won or lost in the midfield or the wings, as Benfica’s complicated system might leave them with less numbers in the miefield and Rodrigo’s raw pace, Witsel’s passing ability and some trickery from Gaitan might give the Chelsea backline a nightmare.

Prediction: Benfica 1-1 Chelsea

This article was written by Chinmay Pandya, you can find his work at and you can follow him on Twitter: @_thesoccerist

Thursday, 22 March 2012

How Mourinho indirectly saved Muamba’s life

I’m Callum Rivett and welcome to my first blog on The Football Front. As you would have probably guessed by the title and recent events, this will be about Fabrice Muamba and his cardiac arrest during Saturday’s FA Cup tie against Tottenham.

First, let me take you back to October 14th, 2006. It was Chelsea v Reading at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. It didn’t start well. Just moments in, Petr Cech dived at a through ball to ensure a clean take, but the chasing Stephen Hunt caught Cech with his trailing leg, scans later revealed that Cech had fractured his skull. His replacement Carlo Cudicini was also carried off injured late into the match, forcing John Terry into goal for the remaining few minutes.

After the game, Chelsea’s manager (back then) José Mourinho criticised the reaction time of the medical crew, it took four minutes for Cech to be carried from the pitch and ten minutes for Cudicini. Mourinho was disgusted by the challenge, claiming: “The Cech one, the challenge is a disgrace. He is lucky to still be alive.”

These complaints brought about many changes in the medical procedure in a football match, some of which have possibly saved Muamba’s life. The response times are now quicker, more medical staff and vehicles are available, and better equipment is available and at hand in case of a situation like the unfortunate Muamba found himself in.

Let’s not forget about the physiological effects to the crowd, the players and the staff. Some were crying, others praying and some couldn’t bear to watch. All Tottenham players after the game stated that they wanted screening for any possible heart problems, just to reassure themselves.

Some facts were released about the Muamba incident, a doctor saying, “It was 48 minutes when he collapsed to reaching hospital and a further 30 minutes after that. He was, in effect, dead at that time.”

Bolton physic Andy Mitchell was the first person to spot that Muamba had collapsed, he then screamed to the medics: “Get on the pitch! Get on the pitch!” It showed the desperateness of the staff and players to see that Muamba was okay and alive.

Muamba’s heart stopped beating four times say doctors, and he was given two defibrillator shocks on the pitch, another one in the tunnel, and a further twelve in the ambulance. A fan in the stands called Andrew Deaner who was a consultant cardiologist at London Chest Hospital ran on the pitch to lend his expertise.

Luckily, reports now are that Muamba is talking English and French with visitors, having a joke with team-mates and recognising people. He can breathe without medical assistance and move his limbs, so he looks well on the way for a good recovery. Whether he will ever play football again is unknown, but every football fan out there wishes him the best of luck in rehabilitation and a quick and faultless recovery.

Follow Callum on twitter: @calriv97

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Chelsea: The Impossible Job?

So, another one bites the dust. Chelsea sack yet another manager. Another Chelsea manager was quickly ushered in and before you know it, he is hastily ushered out. The uncompromising trigger of Roman Abramovic has been pulled yet again.

Chelsea’s have had all sorts of managers under Roman Abramovich reign of the club. The Blues have had Champions League winners, mediocre unknown managers, a World Cup Winner, then an international manager, then back to Champions League Winners, and then to a young, up and coming manager, Andre Villas Boas.

So many have arrived at Chelsea, yet so many managers have failed to deal with huge expectations of the Chelsea owner.

There is a beautiful irony surrounding Chelsea. On one hand you have a selection of fine players, some of whom are arguably world class. While on the other, Chelsea have huge transfer funds, meaning the club can attract the finest players around the globe.

But there is a sting at Chelsea which has caught so many managers out.

There are three elements to this ‘sting’ which make Chelsea the impossible job in club football.
1) The players mentality – (especially the senior players at Chelsea) - It seems the players feel so secure at the club that they feel it is their way or the highway for the manager.
2) Roman Abramovic – The Russian’s susceptibility to pull the trigger when the going gets tough make the job impossible for Chelsea managers to make a real impact on the club.
3) Jose Mourinho (Chelsea’s most successful manager) and his shadow – Whoever comes in at Chelsea will be compared to the great Jose Mourinho. Not only this, people will compare the rapport the new manager has with the players in comparison to the rapport Mourinho had with the Chelsea players.

The Chelsea players should be embarrassed with their application towards Andre Villas Boas. Some of the players put their own interests ahead of the club and the Chelsea fans. The likes of Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole made their frustration very clear to the press. How a legend like Frank Lampard thinks informing the press of his frosty relationship with Villas –Boas is in the interests of Chelsea Football Club is beyond me. These unneeded comments by an experienced international only poured more fuel and cranked up the pressure on Chelsea and Villas –Boas.
Lampard’s unhappiness at being dropped for various Chelsea games lead to him publicly questioning Andre Villas-Boas’ management. But the reality is Frank Lampard is 33. He is no longer the future of Chelsea.

Frank Lampard should do his talking on the pitch, rather than vent his anger to the media. Lampard already has ammunition to do his talking on the pitch. Frank Lampard has created the second highest amount of chances for Chelsea (41). While the 33 year old is Chelsea’s top goal scorer in the Premier League with 10 goals. Lampard statistics prove his value to the Chelsea side. The stats show Lampard is contributing and does make a difference to the side.

One can’t deny Villas-Boas didn’t handle some of the senior players brilliantly. He seemed to alleinate and unsettle a number of them. However, did the Chelsea players really make an effort to warm or conform to the Portuguese manager’s philosophy? Perhaps we will never know. But it seemed the players were incredibly unwilling to conform to his ways.

But it seems the Chelsea players have this mentality whereby they know they will outlive their manager at the club. This poor mentality has unfortunately lead to some of the players being unwilling to adhere to the new managers style of management, if it doesn’t suit them. This is what’s sad about Chelsea. The mentality of some of the players typifies everything what’s wrong with player power in the modern game. As Chelsea’s player power hasn’t led to sustained success, it has led to hefty pay outs and abrupt seasons.

Whoever becomes the next full time manager at Chelsea, face the same the issues Carlo Ancelotti and Andre Villas-Boas faced. The same arrogant players control and dominate the dressing room. While restricting the new manager from being able to fully implement their own style and mentality on the club.

The problem at Chelsea is that the managers aren’t given time, and if they try to change things too quickly, it can lead to serious decline, as the team have to develop cohesion and understanding, without unsettling and alienating the existing players . Another crucial point, especially at Chelsea, is most players have been at the club longer than manager, meaning they will oppose the changes as it would be against their interests and their way of doing things. Perhaps this was Andre Villas-Boas mistake at Chelsea. Changing too much too quickly.
Andre Villas –Boas is a talented manager. He is a manager who will go onto achieve great things. The sad thing is it is reported Villas-Boas often slept at Chelsea’s training ground. Its regrettable, a man this committed, this passionate about his job was not given the time to see the job through. It’s also a shame that the former managers determination didn’t rub off with his players.

Chelsea is the impossible job in club football. The shadows of Jose Mourinho are still ever dominant, no matter whom the manager is.

Look at Carlo Ancelotti. In his first season, he won the double. While in his career overall, the guy has won four European cups. Yet he was shown the door for coming second. This demonstrates the sheer monstrosity of the job. It shows the magnitude of this gig. It shows how fine the line is between success and failure at Chelsea.

The impossible nature of the Chelsea job has and will continue to put off the finest managers across the globe. The likes of Pep Guaridola have quickly distanced themselves away from the job. While former Chelsea coach Brendan Rodgers when asked if he was interested in the Blues job, he said wisely he wanted to ‘build’ his career, rather than ‘destroy’ it. Rodgers comments superbly define the issues surrounding the Chelsea managers job. It doesn’t lead to great success, it leads to condemnation, it leads to humiliation and it leads to utter emotional pain.
For the Chelsea job to be viewed as possible, the culture surrounding the club’s hiring and firing policy must change. Changes have to be made at Chelsea. There is no other way around it. The Chelsea team needs fresh players, fresh ideas and a fresh mentality. At the moment, the old guard’s mentality is rife at the club and instead of improving the club, it is actually leading to the club’s decline.

What’s sad is Andre Villas-Boas often insisted Chelsea’s needed to be rid themselves of the club’s existing culture of sacking and the players controlling the dressing room. Villas Boas spoke of his desire to create a new cultural identity at the club.

Regrettably, the same culture Villas –Boas was looking to eradicate, ended up getting him the sack.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Does Robin van Persie owe it to Arsenal to sign a new contract?

Jordan Florit evaluates whether Robin Van Persie owes it to Arsenal to pledge his future to the north London club.

His scoring form has been nothing short of sensational, banging in 25 Premier League goals in 27 appearances; his ability to assist too, playing as part of an attacking triumvirate based on fluidity, raw pace and direct running, has seen him have more involvement with goals than any other player in the Premier League this campaign; and, above all, he’s remained fit all season and has thus played at least 80 minutes in every single Premier League game this season bar one – and then, with 25 minutes left, he was brought on to take a game heading for a 1-1 draw with Stoke, to a 3-1 victory netting twice.

It is his richest vein of form since joining Arsenal in 2004 and he has already beaten his previous season’s best return of 22 goals by ten. In the past twelve months, van Persie has been quite frankly unstoppable in front of goal. Firstly, he kicked off 2011, continuing to do so all the way to the end of the season, by breaking the record for the number of consecutive games in which a player has scored a goal away from home, by collecting one on the road for nine successive games. He then carried his exploits in front of goal into the next Premier League campaign and by the New Year, RVP had joined an elite group of players that had scored over 100 career goals for The Gunners – he currently stands as their seventh highest goal scorer of all time – before becoming the fifth player since the Premier League was formed in 1992 to score at least 30 goals in a calendar year.

Yet this isn’t a player who is simply a late bloomer, hitting his finest form at the age of 28. Year upon year, since occupying the role as the main striker having seen Thierry Henry depart for Barcelona, van Persie has improved his potency up front. At the end of the 2007/08 season, the first without Henry, van Persie had a goal to game ratio of 0.39 goals per game (gpg). During the current season, the Dutchman’s ratio has increased to 0.86 gpg. Not only has his potency more than doubled at an increase of 120.51% over the five seasons, but it has increased year upon year at an average of 22.55%.

This is a man who has constantly been improving, but doing so in the face of extreme adversity. The extreme adversity? Injury. Just how extreme? So extreme that since joining Arsenal he has only been able to start 58% of their games.

This is a man who has been held back by injury, but not stopped by it.

Many say that Arsenal are a one man team and looking at the statistics – he’s scored 45% of their goals this season, the highest percentage of team goals scored by any single player in the Premier League – they have a case. Furthermore, the aforementioned example of van Persie’s only non-start still requiring him to come off the bench to win the game for The Gunners only strengthens their claim.

However, this season is Robin van Persie’s first at Arsenal without any significant absence enforced through injury since the 2008/09 season and even that was an anomaly, with the Dutchman missing large chunks of seasons at a time dating back to 2005/06. Gunners fans have always known the quality they had in Robin van Persie – the past 12 months has been his uninterrupted time to show it to the world. He ceased the opportunity, and the superlatives, as well as the speculation, followed.

His contract is up at the end of next season, having signed an extension back in July 2009 at which point, he was described as “a big part of Arsenal’s future” and Arsene Wenger himself stated that he “has the potential to become a true Arsenal great.” Undoubtedly, both statements have been realised: he stands, three years later, as their most important player and provider of goals and has cemented himself in the top ten Arsenal goal-scorers of all-time.

He may well have earned the title of “a true Arsenal great,” but can he do more to secure legendary status at The Emirates?

When he signed the deal, the number 10 announced his love for the club and it was a love tinged with the humility so often used synonymously with another great – Lionel Messi: “My heart is with Arsenal and I just can’t picture myself in a different shirt. I just can’t see it now because I love this Club so much.”

Three years have nearly passed and the club he adores so much hasn’t had quite the “bright future” van Persie stated that he wanted to “be a part of.” You could forgive him for wanting to move on now. He’s in his peak flow, he’s 28 and the clubs that consistently find themselves among the silverware are sniffing about like grotty pensioners on a morning bus in January.

However, does van Persie owe it to Arsenal to sign a further contract extension?

Over his Arsenal career, the striker has started in just 58% of Premier League games because of injury and since he joined The Gunners from Dutch side Feyenoord, Arsenal have won just one trophy – The F.A. Cup in the forward’s first season. Imagine if Robin van Persie hadn’t endured such an injury plagued career at the club? How much more success could’ve Arsenal achieved?

Lukas Podolski will join Arsenal in the summer at which point his new strike partner will have just one year left on his contract. If he stalls his decision over signing an extension and a club come in for him, he could leave for nothing. If he signs prematurely and another wave of Arsenal transfers fails to deliver, silverware may continue to elude him as he approaches his 30th birthday next summer.

Does Robin van Persie owe it to Arsenal to sign a new contract or will much the same happen with Podolski taking the van Persie role and the Dutchman leaving akin to Henry? The only difference is, the Frenchman left with a vast trophy collection – how much does van Persie want the same?

This article was written by Jordan Florit. For more of Jordan’s work, take a look at his website: Jordan is also on Twitter: @JordanFlorit

Friday, 2 March 2012

Search for the Premier League's best Left Back ( not left back in the changing rooms)

The left back spot is probably one of the most underrated positions in football. Often a good left back isn’t recognised at all, as he does his job quietly and solidly. But in world football, talented left full backs are a rare commodity, finding a left back who can defend exceptionally and attack well is one of the biggest challenges a manager can face.

Indeed, the Premier League is blessed with many talented, but different left backs. But who is THE BEST LEFT BACK? Is it possible to put your finger on one left back and think, ‘yep that’s the best left back in the Premier League?’ Maybe, we shall have to wait and see.

Defensive Duties


click to enlarge

Defensively it’s clear some defenders are better at certain defensive duties than others. Take Newcastle’s Ryan Taylor, he has won only 47% of his ground duals. But conversely, a tackling win ratio with 76.32%. The contrast in statistics is due to various aspects, such as the players playing style and the way the player is tactically asked to his job also has an effect on their statistics. For example, if the player is asked to close down often from full back position, this could mean his ground dual ratio will be higher than left backs who are told to not close down as often.

A player whose defensive statistics stand out quite vividly are Maynor Figueroa’s. The Wigan left back has won 67% of his ground duals. He also has a high dominant aerial dual success rate too. It’s clear physically; Figueroa dominates his oppositions and he is tough to get past. But the Wigan man’s reading of the game is impressive too. Figueroa has a considerable interception rate within the season too (67 interceptions). If Maynor Figueroa moved to a bigger club, and a club with better defensive players around him, I’m sure he will be a player whose defensive work will be more recognised. But at the moment, his defensive statistics are amongst the best in the division for left backs.

The left backs at the bigger clubs in the Premier League are intriguing to compare. Jose Enrique really dominates. The Spaniard has the highest tackle success ratio with 82.35%. While the Spaniard also has the third best aerial duals percentage (56%) and an impressive ground dual win percentage (58%).

Jose Enrique’s opposite number at Man United Patrice Evra, has the second highest tackle success ratio, with 75.81% of his tackles being successful. But like Jose Enrique, he also has the third highest ground dual ratio. Perhaps this is a sign Patrice Evra is still a high quality Premier League left back. Evra has been subject to much criticism this season for his defensive performances. But the reality is, as the stats show, he is still one of the leading left backs in the division. It comes as no surprise given his defensive showings that he’s still highly favoured by Sir Alex Ferguson.
England’s first choice left back and the often tagged Premier League’s ‘best left back’ Ashley Cole’s defensive statistics are relatively decent. However, if one thinks Cole is the outright best left back in the Premier League, it has to be seriously reviewed. The Chelsea man has won 72.41% of his tackles, which is the third worst.

But in comparison to Cole’s direct competition in the England team, Leighton Baines, Ashely Cole’s defensive statistics are actually quite decent. But for Leighton Baines, his defensive statistics are very poor. The defender has the second worst tackle success win percentage. Furthermore, his aerial dual success ratio is utterly woeful. Baines has won a mere 39% of his aerial duals. It’s clear defensively, Baines must improve if he is to be seriously considered as good enough to fill the shoes of Ashley Cole. But, one must consider Baines is probably the most offensive left back in the division. This means it more likely that his defensive stats will not be as solid as the likes of Figeuuroa, as he is continuously flooding forward continuously, because of his attack minded mentality. But it is crucial Baines masters the balance between the two.

Offensive Duties


click to enlarge

Now, what makes a full back fantastic is what he can offer offensively as well as defensively. In the modern game there has been a huge demand for full backs that can both attack and defend competently. However, finding talented left backs left backs like this on a global scale is very hard. A modern full back needs great technical strength, great physical strength and great stamina.

A majority of the left backs show great competencies going forward. All of the left backs have created 10 or more chances for their sides. However, some have created far more and have been more offensively influential for their respected side.

Take Leighton Baines, the Everton man has created 53 chances which is the best . Furthermore, Baines has the best crossing accuracy. But on the flipside, Leighton Baines has crossed a staggering 191 times, which is far far more than all the others. This isn’t surprising, given how attack minded Baines is, along with the fact he takes most of the set pieces for Everton.
The left back who has been the most efficient going forward is Chelsea’s Ashley Cole. The 31 year old, has created 15 chances with 6 becoming assists. He is by far the most productive offensive full back . But what’s odd is that he has created the joint fewest. Perhaps this shows, Cole’s fantastic decision making, whereby he knows when the time is right to roam forward and create chances. Furthermore, Cole has a very decent crossing accuracy with 23% of his crosses being accurate. It’s clear that although Ashley Cole is getting on in terms of age, he is still one of the most complete left backs in the division.

A player whose offensive work has been criticised quite a bit this season is Patrice Evra’s. However, the reality is, his work offensively hasn’t been that bad. The Man United left back has assisted twice this season, which isn’t terrible nor incredible. But the Frenchman has made the most successful dribbles. This shows Evra is still a tricky full back who can get past his opponent and exploit space. Indeed, it can’t be denied, Evra’s crossing accuracy has been rather poor this season. Evra has crossed 52 times with 13% being accurate, which is the worst.

On the contrary, Gael Clichy has attempted one less cross than Patrice Evra, yet Clichy’s crossing accuracy. Clichy hasn’t been given much recognition in Man City’s star studded side. But this is probably because he’s only played 17 games. But Clichy statistics paint a picture of a left back that is very effective when he chooses to go forward. In addidtion, the stats show the prominence of Clichy defensively too. However, a criticism of Clichy is that he hasn’t created many chances at all this season. The Frenchman has created 15 chances with is the least along with Ashley Cole. But Clichy’s poor chances created statistic could be due to Roberto Manicni’s tactical set up. Mancini may restrict the occurrences of Clichy straying forward due to Manchester City’s heavy attacking talent, such as Balotelli, Dzeko, Aguero and Nasri.

As we talk about Gael Clichy’s well roundedness going forward and defensively. Ryan Taylor is a player who shows clear strength in attacking. Taylor has created 28 chances for Newcastle. Only Leighton Baines has created more out. Taylor has assisted three times this season, which isn’t bad at all.
The Full back which has really grown in dominance this season for me is Benoit Assou –Ekotto. The Spurs full back has been exceptional this season. Offensively, Assou –Ekotto has assisted the 4 times and has created an impressive 27 chances. His defensive statistics may not stand out, but they paint a picture of a left back that is comfortable and strong defensively.

Is there a best left back in the division?

To answer the question, the simple answer is no. It’s all a little philosophical. It comes down to what you what in your full back. Do you want them to be more dominant going forward or more dominant defensively?

However, thinking logically, the best left back is the one who is solid defensively and offers something stringent going forward. Without a doubt, Ashley Cole is a leading contender. His stats over the past few years have proven his great comfort in both departments. However, former Arsenal defender Gael Clichy is a leading contender too. Clichy’s technical attacking skills and his defensive stats prove he is one of the best full backs in the division.Some may argue Jose Enrique is the best left back in the Premier League. It is a reasonable shout, but his work offensively could be better. Sometimes his crosses can be wasteful and he can often make the wrong decisions in the attacking third. Furthermore, in the 6 weeks, his positioning has been suspect for Liverpool, with some big goals being conceded via his left hand side (take Park Ji Sung’s goal v Liverpool in the FA Cup and Cardiff’s Joe Mason’s goal in the League Cup Final.)

The player whose statistics have left me in absolute awe are Maynor Figueroa’s. The Wigan man is by far the best defensive performer. But in contrast, going forward he hasn’t created sufficiently enough. Wigan fans may point out that the Wigan man’s crossing accuracy is better than Ashley Cole’s, Evra’s and Assou Ekotto’s. But Figueroa’s apparent unwillingness to go forward makes it hard for him to be considered one of the best. However, it will be interesting to see if the player moves to a bigger club and whether this has a positive effect on the attacking side of his game.

If someone asked me, which left back out of the players selected I’d pick for my team, I would pick Gael Clichy. The Frenchman offers great variation going forward through his accurate crossing and incisive passing. Not only this, his pace, positioning and reading of the game allows him to venture forward. Clichy also provides great stability defensively too, which is crucial for a full back. His statistics show he’s competent in the air and can efficiently win the ball back from his opponent.

For me, the best left backs are those who are the most rounded in terms of offensive and defensive duties. The Premier League is blessed with a handful of brilliant left backs. The likes of Clichy, Cole, Enrique and Baines too an extent, are all wonderful left backs. But it cannot be denied, finding a left back who is hugely competent defensively and offensively is a great great challenge.

Statistics from EPL Index. (Stats taken on 24/02/12)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The curious case of Fernando Torres

Chinmay Pandya explains to The Football Front why Fernando Torres may not recover from his confidence crisis.

Fernando Torres has been struggling. Yes, we’re all aware of that story, We’ve heard it like a million times, haven’t we?

Has he lost his mojo?

Or is it just a temporary drop in form and confidence?

Is he a double agent who’s SO loyal to Liverpool, that he’s come to Chelsea and deliberately destroyed his own career? Has losing a yard of pace affected his game so much? A million questions can be asked, and some unrealistic too.

What has happened to him?

Has someone had a plastic surgery, kidnapped the real Torres and replaced him at Chelsea? Well, whatever it is, it surely gives us, journalists something to write about. Well, for starters, we all would agree that he surely has lost a yard of pace. Let’s face it, he isn’t 23 anymore. He’s had a major injury right after the World Cup and has been playing with little niggles since then. Torres barely looks a shadow of his former self. He was brought in with a vision to replace Drogba in the near future but who is he replacing? The “Le Sulk” role recently vacated by Anelka?

During a soggy night in Naples, Under-fire manager André Villas-Boas saw his team give away yet another lead to slump to their 2nd defeat in the last 5 games. After Chelsea went 3-1 down, AVB made a double substitution introducing Essein and Lampard in a hope to give his team a glimmer of hope in progressing to the Quarterfinals of the Champion’s League. Needing a goal or two, the most obvious option would have been Fernando Torres, once one of the most feared strikers on the planet, but AVB opted to bring on the Chelsea veterans instead.

This may just be one substitution during one match, but this overlook of Torres signalled rock bottom in what has been possibly the greatest collapse of talent ever witnessed. This gesture by the Chelsea manager represented a tremendous loss of faith in the abilities of his 50 million man and also saw Torres’s career hit a new low. The saddest part is a majority of the Chelsea fans and Torres admirers would not question that decision.

People claim about his lack of confidence in front of goal, his reluctance to shoot or some even blame the midfield for their lack of creativity or service. Robin Van Persie has been the top scorer in the league. Which might mean Arsenal’s midfield is more productive than Chelsea’s. Well, these stats below are a total of the Average key passes and accurate crosses made per game by Chelsea and Arsenal’s midfield respectively.



Avg Key Passes PG

Acc. Crosses PG

Juan Mata



Frank Lampard



Raul Meireles



Florent Malouda



Daniel Sturridge



Jose Bosingwa



Ashley Cole











Avg Key Passes PG

Avg Crosses PG

Mikel Arteta



Aaron Ramsey



Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain






Tomas Rosicky



Theo Walcott



Alexandre Song



Andrey Arshavin






Arsenal edge Chelsea in terms of key passes made per game, while Chelsea are well ahead in terms of the crosses made per game. To sum up, we can imply that Chelsea’s midfield (including the full backs, as they are involved in the build up equally) and Arsenal’s midfield are equally creative.

We can now officially rule out lack of creativity as the reason behind the drought. Fernando Torres has admitted, his lack of goals might be a result of Chelsea’s style of play, where he has to be involved in the build up, while at Liverpool all he did was get on the end of some amazing balls. However, during the game away at Man United in September, Chelsea were losing 3-1 but were playing well: the feeling was that they could go on and maybe get a draw the game. Torres found himself with the ball at his feet and only the goalkeeper to beat, which he did. Now all he had to do was tuck the ball into an empty net, which he of course, did not manage to do.

Torres fell to the ground; his head fell between his hands. A wave of laughter echoed across the old Trafford, most of it coming from the home fans, of course. This is not the Fernando Torres who Chelsea paid a record English transfer fee of £50 million.

When Fernando Torres blames Chelsea’s style of play for his failure to score and denies the obvious lack of confidence evident in the incident against Man United. One cannot help but conclude that Fernando Torres is in denial, the worst situation he can be in right now. Accepting his lack of confidence would be a step in the right direction as he’d begin to get over his denial.

One of my psychologist friends I spoke to, seemed to agree with me when I said a lack of confidence was the reason behind his failure. He was suffering from a certain situation that every athlete goes through at least once in his or her career, an inexplicable dip in form. One of the main reasons being over-thinking or trying too hard, training twice the amount you used to, earlier and forgetting the most important aspect of your game that made you who you were, enjoying your game like you used to do when you were a kid. While some recover from this, some don’t.

In Torres’ situation, judging by the severity and the amount of elements combined that Fernando Torres has to go through every second of this Chelsea situation; the chances of him recovering are very slim.

Stats Via: WhoScored.

This article was written by Chinmay Pandya, you can find his work at and you can follow him on Twitter: @_thesoccerist

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