Arnie x China

Arnie x China. Nǐ hǎo.

It’s been a whirlwind week in the life of a West Ham fan, as one time crowd-favourite Marko Arnautovic handed in a transfer request before being sold to the Chinese Super League for a figure reported to be around £22million.

The move sees the Austrian’s 6 year stay in England come to an end. A period that saw him spend four years at Stoke City before making a £25million move to the Hammers.

It was July 2nd when the news of Arnautovic’s transfer request broke, but it will have of no surprise to Hammers fans and hierarchy alike. The enigmatic forward has form in this area, having done the same at Stoke forcing his move to the London Stadium, before repeating it in January of this year when rumours of a £35million bid from Guangzhou Evergrande came to light.

Arnautovic uses his brother as his agent, an approach much lamented by Stoke and West Ham fans alike, with many predicting that Danijel (the brother) is behind the immature nature of the transfer negotiations with only his own financial interests at heart.

He played a total of 210 games in England, with 145 for Stoke and 65 for West Ham scoring 48 goals. A goals per game ratio of one goal every 4.3 games, a lacklustre tally for such an arrogant forward.

It does however mean West Ham are left with only two out and out first team strikers in Jordan Hugill and Javier Hernandez. Andy Carroll was released at the end of the season when his contract expired and Lucas Perez joined Arnautovic in gaining a move abroad when he moved back to Spain.

A move for Celta Vigo striker Maxi Gomnez fell through over the past few days. Manuel Pellegrini looked set to add the forward to his ranks for a club record £45million, but the clubs failed to agree a payment structure and now Gomez looks set to move elsewhere.

Messi x Argentina

Messi x Argentina. Unlucky.

Lionel Messi is one of, if not the, greatest footballers to have ever graced the game. His personal achievements and club achievements with Barcelona make an eye watering read, yet on the international stage; Messi has very little to celebrate.

With an amazing 29 trophies in Spain, Messi has certainly conquered the domestic game and set his name in legend. But with Argentina, the forward is still trophy less following last nights defeat at the hands of Brazil in the Copa America semi-final.

Messi was left furious following the defeat, launching a scathing attack on the match officials and VAR.

“Because we did everything to try and advance but [the officials] stacked the deck against us.

“I don’t believe they will do anything because Brazil controls everything, so it is very complicated. But I don’t think we should feel bad for anything. It didn’t happen and we had bad luck.”

Since his debut in 2005, the Barcelona man has made over 100 appearances for his country and scored a staggering 68 goals.

After 14 years in international football, Messi could be excused for giving up hope on a trophy with his home country. With rival Cristiano Ronaldo excelling with Portugal having won the Nations League and the Euro’s, Messi has opted to continue playing for Argentina in hope he can carry them to a major trophy.

Zaha x Palace

Zaha x Palace. Goodbye, again.

In an unsurprising move, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has told the South London club he wants to leave and Arsenal are the front runners for his signature.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the mercurial talent said “I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it.”

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the Gunners are interested in the Ivory Coast international. In fact he was 1st in the Premier League rankings of forwards for dribbles attempted (224) and penalties won (6).

However, for Zaha it would be a brave move. Having left Palace in 2014 for pastures new at Manchester United, it turned sour for him. The winger only made two appearances for the Red Devils before returning to Palace in 2015.

In the season just passed, Zaha scored 10 goals in 34 appearances for Palace. His best goalscoring season in the Premier League to date.

With a £100million price tag on his head, it’s. difficult to see Zaha moving anytime soon unless Crystal Palace loosen there resolve on the price. It’s reported a £40million offer from Arsenal has been rejected by the powers that be at Selhurst Park.

Lukaku x United

Lukaku x United. Forza.

The rumour mill keeps on churning and a prominent product of its work this summer is the rumour of Romelu Lukaku swapping Manchester for Milan and joining Antonio Conte at Inter.

The Belgian, who joined United from Everton in 2017, hasn’t had the best of luck at Old Trafford and fans of the Red Devils are quickly losing patience with the big man. In fact 15 goals in 45 appearances last season makes it one of his worst seasons in recent history. A stark change in fortunes from his first season in the North where he scored a staggering 27 goals in 51 appearances.

Perhaps his form with Belgian shows what big Rom can do when he is given the correct service, he’s scored 48 goals in 81 appearances for his country, more than one goal every two games.

It’s easy to blame Lukaku for his poor form but are his teammates and manager just as much to blame? United are crest-fallen since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson from the dugout and not even the ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho, could bring the Premier League title back to the red side of Manchester. Instead only managing a second place finish during his time in charge, which ended earlier this year.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revived United, at least for a short time, and with that came a confidence boost for Lukaku and his team mates. Rom got nine goals in 16 games under Solskjaer , as oppose to his measly six in 22 under Mourinho. Transforming his minute per goals involvement from a sky high 234, to an impressive 84.

Had Lukaku have kept up the 84 minute stat, he would have scored double what Sadio Mane scored. The Senegalese international had an impressive goal every 150 minutes of football he was involved in, meaning he scored in at least every other game.

If Lukaku is to depart United, then it could be a chance for Rashford to step into the main forward role. Or maybe the overly disappointing Alexis Sanchez could show Manchester United fans even a glimpse of the form that once saw him carry Arsenal on his own back.

Milan x San Siro

Milan x San Siro. Ciao.

The San Siro is set to close its doors for the final time in 2026 with its replacement being built on the car park adjacent to the iconic sporting venue.

Both Inter and AC Milan announced that their new stadium is set for completion come the end of the 2022/23 season, but the Mayor of Milan has said the stadium that dominates the skyline of the Italian fashion capital won’t be demolished until 2026.

The stadium shared by the Italian powerhouses has hosted a plethora of memorable games. In 2010 the 80,000 capacity stadium witnessed Inter put the groundwork’s in places for their treble. A Champions League semi-final victory over Barcelona (3-1) providing a great memory on the canvas of the ground.

Many a derby has been held within the four stands. One in particular to be reminisced upon is the Champions League quarter-final between AC and Inter in the 04/05 season. A game that provided an iconic image of Materazzi and Rui Costa watching as flares being thrown onto the pitch. Said flares hit Milan keeper Dida in the head, injuring him and giving the referee cause to abandon the match, that was already 3-0 to Milan and that’s how it would finish.

Who can forget the real introduction of Gareth Bale. October 20th, 2010. Half-time saw Spurs down 4-0 but what would proceed shocked the world. Bale did what he would do so often in years to come and took the London outfit on his back and carried through the second half. A second half that saw him get a hat trick and keep the deficit to one goal.

At 94 years old and still going, the San Siro has been an icon in football for as long as its foundations have been down. They say everything comes to an end, and its true but for such an overwhelming and historic venue to be lost will ultimately be a very sad day.

Non-League x Altrincham

Non-League x Altrincham. Passion.

I joined Altrincham Football Clubs media team in 2017 and have been an integral member ever since From my own experiences I couldn’t recommend a better starting block for aspiring journalists than Non-League.

Now you may think that Non-League footballers are just overweight workmen that just turn up on a Saturday to kick a bit of ball around, but it is almost the opposite in terms of commitment and fitness.

In fact, the two training sessions a week seem measly compared to that of the professionals but it does require a certain level of commitment to train and play upwards of 50 games in a season (dependent on how far you get in various cup competitions.)

Altrincham are a massive club in the Non-League game having a proud record of the most ‘Giant Killings’ in the FA Cup for a team that has never seen the dizzy heights of the Football League.

Playing football that is very unlike the traditional Non-League ‘punt the ball up to the tall striker so the small striker can score’ style, Altrincham play along the floor, using the pitch’s greasy surface to their advantage. An approach that saw them reach the play-offs in the 6th tier of English football last season.

Non-League can be more engaging for fans, with the stands rarely more than a couple of metres from the goal line; a nightmare for shot-stoppers as there is little you can do to avoid the tirade of abuse, something Premier League ‘keepers will rarely have to deal with.

The connection between the players and fans is too a commodity of lower league football, with some fans often choosing to travel with the players on the coach to away games. Perhaps keeping the players grounded and close to their roots.

Players and staff take time to thank people for their support in post-match interviews, showing their gratitude to them after the final whistle and sitting in the Community Sports Hall with them after the game.

Gripping games last season including Altrincham vs Blyth Spartans in the play-off quarter finals that saw the Robins (Altrincham) victorious on penalties. Games like this can show that Non-League can be even more gripping than derby games in the Premier League, tension is part of football no matter what league you are in.

If you are a fan of a Non-League football team you keep the players families fed, the club from going into administration and adding to the managers transfer budget just by the mere fee you pay to watch the game.

Clubs like Altrincham have ‘Patron Schemes’ which mean you give a small fee every month which goes towards running the club and adding to Phil Parkinson’s (manager of Altrincham) budget to bring in the players he identifies as transfer targets, something he’s been fortunate to achieve since joining Alty, with major scalps including Nathan Arnold being in Parkinsons repertoire of signings.

In my opinion a team in the 6th tier of English football is more fulfilling to be a part of than those in the Premier League, you matter more to the club because they rely on your business. 

A club like Manchester City won’t miss out if you don’t turn up to a game, but it is more noticeable in Non-League grounds, with small attendances the norm, as they strive to get people interested in the game and supporting the local team. 

Non-League football is on the way up, more and more people are going to games each season, with a New Years Day fixture between Altrincham and Stockport County having an attendance of 3383.

Go and support your local club!

Finley White

Benitez x Newcastle

Benitez x Newcastle. Adios.

On Monday (24th June), Newcastle United announced that manager Rafa Benitez is set to leave his role as manager upon his contract expiration on Sunday 30th June.

Understandably, Magpies fans are distraught with the news. Benitez is undoubtedly one of the best managers the Toon army have seen in years. He managed the difficult task of navigating Newcastle back into the Premier League at the first ask, a feat rarely achieved.

He then went on to secure their top flight status and all under extremely different circumstances. With owner Mike Ashley always rumoured to be selling the North East club.

So, just how well did Benitez perform under the circumstances?

  • Games: 96
  • Won: 40
  • Drawn: 21
  • Lost: 35
  • Win Percentage: 41.67%

Benitez’s win percentage is the best in 10 years, where Chris Hughton managed a 55.71% win percentage, which also saw him get Newcastle back into the Premier League.

It’s a sorry state of affairs up in Newcastle at the moment, with fans and staff alike seemingly still in limbo about the club of the future I would argue that the managers job won’t be an attractive proposition. In fact, I would go as far as saying at the moment with a lack of direction, little to no transfer budget and an atmosphere as negative as you’ll see anywhere else following the announcement; the job is a poisoned chalice.

Citizens X Money

Citizens x Money. Ballers.

Back to back Premier League champions Manchester City have accumulated a staggering 198 points in two seasons, but we all know that isn’t enough for the perfectionist Pep Guardiola.

From the outside looking in, one must think that you don’t need to improve and add to a squad that won the first ever domestic treble in England, however watching the Blues closely you can see a couple of areas that could easily benefit from improvement.

Here are my suggestions on who Manchester City should sign this summer.

RODRIGO

According to various sources the transfer is just days away from being confirmed, as City look to trigger the Spaniards release clause of £63million.

Rodrigo is a tall central midfielder currently playing for Athletico Madrid and after just one season in the Spanish capital he could be on his way out already.

‘Rodri’ is just 22 years of age and could be the perfect direct replacement for the ageing Fernandinho (34) in that holding midfield role, directly behind the likes of De Bruyne and David Silva.

If he is to join City he has big shoes to fill with Fernandinho being a first team regular since he arrived in 2013 and judging from his track record so far with club and country Rodrigo Hernandez seems the perfect pick for Pep.

Guardiola is rumoured to have beaten his former side, German champions Bayern Munich to the signing of the central midfielder.

ANGELINO

Manchester City are reportedly just moments away from announcing the signing of one of their old academy players, Angelino, who has a £12 million buy back clause in his contract.

The Spaniard left for Manchester for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven for just £5 million in 2018, and since then has been included in the Eredivisie team of the season two seasons on the showing glimpses of the player City expected him to be when playing on loan at various clubs in Europe.

Left back is clearly a problem area for the Citizens; Benjamin Mendy joined from AS Monaco in 2017, but having only played 17 games for the club many of City’s fans are starting to get tired of his off-field antics and injuries.

Then there is Oleksandr Zinchenko who filled in for Mendy for most of the 18/19 season. A season that saw the once central-midfielder transition to the left-back position and impressed us all massively and some might say he deserves that spot for good. However, the signing of Angelino could provide a much needed headache for Guardiola.

JOAO CANCELO

City seem nailed on to sign Portuguese right-back Joao Cancelo from Italian Champions Juventus for around £50 million.

It is perhaps a surprise to most that City are linked with Cancelo as both Kyle Walker and Danilo. Already occupy that position with enough quality.

But, it seems it will be Danilo who will make way for Cancelo which would make sense given that Kyle Walker has just signed a contract extension and Danilo is reportedly desperate for more playing time.

The issue with this transfer is I don’t believe either Walker or Cancelo will be happy with being on the bench for most of the season, but with City competing in the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League there are plenty of games for both players to feature in.

City want to include Danilo as part of the deal to lure Cancelo to Manchester but new manager Maurizio Sarri isn’t keen on Danilo, instead he wants the £50million to bolster his squad.

A CENTRE BACK

After club captain Vincent Kompany left this summer to become player-manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht, there is set to be a Belgian shaped hole in the back line of the Blues.

City are now lacking that one player who got them through the hard and times and cropped up with very important tackles and goals, but who could possibly replace their long time captain?

For me it has to be Maththijs De Ligt of Ajax. A young, strong centre back who is hungry for success.

At just 19 years of age he captained Ajax to the Dutch Eridivisie, Dutch Cup and the Champions League semi-final in the 2018/19 season.

De Ligt won’t come cheap though, with Ajax reportedly demanding no less than £60 million, which, considering the amount of years he has to play, his leadership qualities and his undeniable talent are enough to persuade me that it’s a long term investment.

Finley White