Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Being a Modern Day Football Fan

If transfer silly season has taught us anything, and for the most part it hasn’t, it’s that football fans are the currency of media more than ever.

It is in the interest of news websites to get views. That is the long and short of it, and the best way to get that is through sensationalism. 

French and a striker? It's a lifetime of Arsenal transfer
links for you Mr Benzema!

Every football fan wants to believe their club has a chance of signing a top player, so the media will latch onto tenuous information to create a sensational rumour. Of course, deep down in our hearts we know that about 1% of transfer rumours have any credibility, but if someone is suggesting Benzema to Arsenal is on, I am sad enough to want to believe that information. Once I’ve clicked, the credibility of the article is almost irrelevant.

Pedro to Chelsea is a fine example.

A lack of game time will surely make you a prime
candidate for transfer speculation. Add to that a team's
rumoured need for a player of that position, and you've
got yourself a transfer rumour!

Once it had been established that Pedro might not be happy with his playing time at Camp Nou, and that Manchester United were open to bringing an attacker in, it served media interests to attract United fans with stories of Pedro and Woodward enjoying a romantic meal before the Spaniard agreed to come to Old Trafford and bring back the glory days. Or something similar.

‘Surely a winger will make United title challengers!’

I’m sure United fans, who are by no means the first to get carried away by such talk, thought it was on.

When it turned out United had not signed Pedro, the media turned pretty nasty. ‘Foolish United, missing out on Pedro! Woodward’s let another one slip through his fingers!’

I am no stranger to this as an Arsenal fan. The number of players I’ve been told Wenger has let slip through his fingers, knowing full well that either A) He was never in for them, or B) He decided he didn’t really want them, is a great many.

Of course, the media has built this story up for a week now based on very little, so there is an anger there that United have shown them up.

Ultimately, this doesn’t damage United so much as it damages their fans.

They are the ones on Twitter, desperately searching, like all fans, for possible transfers. They are the ones who will feel the sting of the memes, the derision. The new brand of media outlet is the worst for this, where vines and memes poke fun at any team depending on the prevailing wind.

Certainly it helps to be able to laugh at one’s own fortunes, but football ‘fandoms’ are filled with those who, media outlets know only too well, take their club very seriously. The constancy of these vines and memes, a stream of football consciousness, serves to stir fan rivalries, and while supporters argue armed only with bare statistics, the designers of this madness watch as the likes and shares pour in. 

It’s pretty irresponsible, but it is the perfect representation of the internet age.

The fan-blog is therefore the saviour of the modern supporter. Like taking refuge from dismal weather, these fan-penned websites offer the warming embrace of honest and surprisingly self-aware assessment.

Fans are the harshest critics of their own team, but the criticism comes from a good place. On these blogs the team’s interests are the sole currency, rather than the ire of fans. Of course this isn’t the case for all fan blogs, but many I have come across seem to have admirable sentiments.

I have been reading Nick Hornby’s ‘Fever Pitch’, and above all, what struck me was the hopelessness of it all. Supporters go through so much disappointment and joy in equal measure it is hard not to feel sympathy for them. I don’t consider myself a hardcore supporter by any stretch. An hour after a disappointing result I have usually simmered down, and equally I can put a win into perspective.

But for some football means a great deal more, and to me it seems greatly unfair to emotionally manipulate a group of people made vulnerable by an unbowed belief that things might get better.  

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Arsenal 0-2 West Ham - Vlog Reaction

Something I'd like to make clear is that I am not all for new signings. I'm very much of the mind that team unity is the most important thing in a squad, and I would LOVE to see Wenger win the league or even the Champions League with what he has. Results like this will do little to reinforce my opinion, but remember Madrid and Barcelona lose games with Messi and Ronaldo. Now is the time to sit tight and wait for Arsenal's response next week against Crystal Palace, who have started the season in fine fettle. Would Benzema or someone like Samper in centre mid give us a better chance at the title? Who knows. The only thing I would say is that a big signing could rejuvenate some of the guys out there. We'll see what Wenger does in the next few weeks, but for now I refuse to be pessimistic about the forthcoming season based on one game. BRING ON THE WALL.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Premier League returns as it does every year

The powers that be said ‘let there be football on August the eighth.’

And there was football, and it was good.

Ever wonder if Fergie has a fantasy team?
I bet he gets the best out of them if he does.

The 2015-16 season is tantalisingly close. Optimism abounds, transfer speculation takes a back seat, and we all remember that the reason we follow football is, well, for the matches.

The fantasy football campaign has become an integral part of the pre-season build up as well. Will your hilariously named team, assembled off the back of weeks of pre-season analysis and transfers, soar like an eagle or flop like a seal?

There’s been more build up than an extension on your parents’ semi-detached home, so let’s get to the crux of the matter – 5 questions that everyone wants answered this season.

Mourinho, waiting for a decent title challenger to emerge..

Who can challenge Chelsea?

Chelsea’s league victory left little to the imagination, and gave us the unparalleled drama of who might finish second.

This year however, there are many looking to challenge for the throne.

Arsene Wenger rides on a chariot of continuity, pulled along by a raft of diminutive midfielders. The addition of Petr Cech will offer a level of professionalism which will spread through the team, and with Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil tipped to shine after full pre-seasons, Arsenal have arguably their best chance in years to challenge for the lion-bedecked trophy.

Louis van Gaal meanwhile means business. Robin van Persie, Falcao and a number of others have been shown the door at United, Rooney looks set for the striker’s role, and Memphis Depay will be expected to produce the magic as LVG looks to build on a solid first season at the Theatre of Dreams. With the £750 million Adidas deal kicking in, United might well make one more marquee addition as well.

Manchester UnAdidas

Finally, Manuel Pellegrini appears to have been written off this year. The signings of Delph and more prominently Sterling are full of promise, but the spine of the team looks less robust than two years ago. Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure will have to get back to their best if they are to challenge.

Can the new boys make their mark?

Bournemouth, Norwich and Watford will dine at domestic football’s top table this year; but will the food prove too rich for their taste buds?

It'll be a pleasure to have Norwich's Holiday Inn back in the PL
- only 2 adults per room on matchdays I hear

Bournemouth will look to star players Matt Ritchie and Callum Wilson this season, with Wilson providing speed and goals in abundance last year. The Cherries have been heavily invested in, but they’ll need tactical nous to survive the cash-rich Premier League.

Norwich have three recent seasons of PL experience, and have afforded themselves the chance to make right their latest relegation. Can Nathan Redmond make the difference for the Canaries?

Finally it’s Watford. Having not quite made it with Gianfranco Zola, the Hornets will look to their strike force to prove itself this year. Troy Deeney and Matej Vydra, it’s time to step up.

Who can break into the top six?

In recent years the Premier League has taken on a different look, with a top six forming of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham. A peloton has formed behind the leaders however, consisting of Southampton, Swansea and Stoke. Should Everton perform like they can, the Toffees will join that group as well. Do any of these teams have the ability to make the step up, or is the Europa League just The Man’s way of maintaining the status quo?

GOAL! AND ANOTHER! Who will grab the golden boot?

'Lynn, I'm not signing Christian Benteke. I will talk over you.'

The top two strikers in the Premier League are Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, but can anyone challenge them for the golden boot this year?

Wayne Rooney might be your best bet. With RvP and Falcao leaving, Rooney is undoubtedly United’s main attacking option. Turning 30 this year, the former Everton player will be focused on securing his place in van Gaal’s plans.

Elsewhere, Christian Benteke will look to add to three impressive seasons of Premier League football. The Belgian will have the likes of Firmino, Coutinho and Adam Lallana behind him, and with his price tag and Daniel Sturridge’s lack of fitness, might this be the chance for him to elevate himself to world class status?

Finally: Harry Kane. His was the fairytale story of last season, scoring 21 goals and increasing his fantasy football price considerably. The question is whether it was all a dream, or if the young Englishman will continue to stick the ball in various onion bags across the country.

Will the Premier League experience success in Europe?

England’s UEFA coefficient is under threat!

The Allianz Arena, one of many stadia you won't be able
to watch on terrestrial TV this season.

Relax, it’s not quite that bad, but England’s cushy fourth Champions League qualifying spot may be given to someone else if clubs from these shores fail to perform in the Champions League and Europa League this season.

After last 16 CL exits for Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City, as well as our poor showing in the Europa League, Italy have moved into a good position to take that fourth qualifying spot over the next couple of years.

Not that it matters, only about five people will be able to watch it this season anyway... LASAGNE.

Enjoy the season!