Monday, 18 September 2017

Dropping Özil is the key to Arsenal's future success

A little while since my last blog, I've decided to delve back into the realms of my old passion, sports journalism, this afternoon, to quickly brush on my beloved Arsenal's tactical decisions yesterday afternoon.

I won't bore you with the facts - you all know the drill. Arsenal have a mental block away from home against the big boys, and tend to get pummelled on a regular basis. That is, in no part, down to the tactical ineptitude of our dinosaur manager, whose stubborn nature will no doubt cost the side time and time again.

But yesterday, in securing a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, I saw a different Arsenal. A sign of how far we have fallen in the past decade can be viewed in most fan's relief/celebration at nabbing a point against Chelsea, and I refuse to stoop that low. But tactically, this was the most un-Wenger display in years.

I'd made a point in the week leading up the match, on why I'd sacrifice Mesut Özil in favour of a 4-1-2-3 style formation, similar to Jose Mourinho's original Chelsea side with Ramsey and Xhaka taking the Lampard and Tiago roles, and on this occasion, Mohamed Elneny performing the iconic 'Makelele role' in the anchor of midfield.

My main cause for such thought came from the clearly unstable pairing of Xhaka and Ramsey - neither of whom can operate in a true 'destroyer' role, with the latter bombing forward into the 'Number 10' position on any given opportunity, and the former much more of a deep-lying playmaker in the Pirlo/Xabi Alonso mould, than the Gattuso-style terrier we first thought we were receiving upon arrival in summer 2016.

Arsenal's main problem is that they do not, and have not since the departure of Gilberto Silva almost a decade ago, possess a defensive midfielder technically superior enough to pull off this role. Mathieu Flamini gave it a go for a few years, whilst Francis Coquelin has since stepped into those shoes, matching his French compatriot in terms of shouting and organisation the team, but proving very little in terms of an upgrade on overall ability.

The one wizard whose deep-lying playmaker abilities perfectly compliment the destruction of Coquelin, unfortunately rest at the ambidextrous feet of Arsenal's crippled Spaniard, Santi Cazorla, whose time on the treatment table in both 2015/16 and 2016/17 (non-coincidentally) coincided with the Gunners' severe slumps in form. And so we come to Ramsey.

Undoubtedly a player of supreme quality, Rambo's performances in a Wales shirt have looked of sharp contrast to those in the red and white of Arsenal, and much of that is down to the attacking freedom he is afforded by Chris Coleman. When we look at Aaron's best season in an Arsenal shirt, it is noticeable that he was playing alongside an anchorman in Mikel Arteta, and deep-lying playmaker in Jack Wilshere. With Xhaka playing the Wilshere role (or perhaps even the comeback kid himself, provided Jack can prove his fitness this term), Arsenal are in need of a defensive midfield lynchpin to allow Ramsey to bomb forward. For now, Elneny or Coquelin (upon return from injury) may have to suffice until next summer's transfer window reopens, but where this leaves Özil is quite obvious; the bench.

I'll first start by adding that I'm not one to downplay the quality of the German. I regularly hear pundits and ex-professionals down-playing his importance, labelling him a 'passenger' or (in the infamous case of Neil Ashton) accuse the playmaker of 'nicking a living'. That's bullshit. And in reality, these 'experts' are talking out of their arse. Mesut Özil is the most technically gifted player I've seen in the famous red shirt since the days of Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry. He creates more chances, and provides more assists per season than not just any player in the Premier League, but in all of Europe's major leagues.

His issue, is that in modern football, especially with the rise of the wing-backs system made so successful by Antonio Conte's Chelsea, there is simply no room for a classic 'Number 10' anymore. Mesut's former side have enjoyed unrivalled success under Zinedine Zidane since dropping (and shipping out) James Rodriguez in favour of the more defensively minded Casemiro, alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, and several of Europe's top sides are following suit. The days of the Rivaldo, the Kaka, the Totti, are over. And no side can afford such a luxury in an evolving tactical landscape. Just as the flat 4-4-2 died died in the mid noughties, three at the back is now all the rage, and those who don't adapt, will be left behind.

Which brings us on to the most unadaptable manager of them all. Despite appearing unconvinced with his defensive trio (resorting to his favoured four when trailing at home to Koln last week), Wenger was forced into a tactical reshuffle on Sunday as a result of his star pupil's 'injury' and the result paid dividends, with the hard-working Alex Iwobi, and Danny Welbeck, tucking in, and giving Chelsea no room to thread killer through-balls through the fragile Xhaka-Ramsey pairing.

When you look at big games, and big sides, the inclusion of such players has been a common theme to success over the years, with Sir Alex Ferguson favouring Darren Fletcher and Park Ji Sung to do his side's dirty work. Liverpool utilised Dirk Kuyt in a similar way, as did Roberto Mancini with James Milner in his title-winning Manchester City side. Once upon a time, Arsene Wenger even had his own Milner in the shape of Ray Parlour, a vital cog in his double winners of 1998 and 2002.

Time and time again, Mesut Özil has proved his inability to play wide with a series of ineffectual performances, and though Alexis Sanchez was left on the bench for this particular fixture, his own explosive unpredictability will see him restored to the starting XI by the time the Gunners' next fixture (at home to West Brom) comes around. With both the Chilean and Özil expected to leave the club on free transfers next summer, Wenger could do a lot worse than beginning to plan for their departures, with Ramsey the natural heir to the German's throne, and their freed up wage bill spent on some proper defensive midfield reinforcement.

It is perhaps a damning indictment of the scant need for a 'Number 10' in modern-day football that not a single club chased the German this summer in the same way of his soon-to-be Bosman counterpart, and though Mesut Özil no doubt has the ability to tear apart the likes of Brighton, Huddersfield, and Bournemouth at the Emirates, when it comes to trips to Old Trafford and the Etihad, dropping Özil is the key to Arsenal's future success.

Jake Gable.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Why Francis Jeffers and Julio Baptista were actually QUITE good

Having snapped up Alexandre Lacazette last week, much has been made of Arsenal's decision to award the Frenchman the "cursed" number 9 shirt.
You may have seen various clickbait-type websites listing articles on why this means the French striker is instantly doomed in North London, but in reality... were those who previously wore this shirt actually that bad?

Let's take a look at the 9 before the #9 who wore the number 9, and examine if his pre-predecessors are REALLY so terrible!


Signed for absolute peanuts (around half a mil' to be precise), the French teenager dislodged all-time top goalscorer Ian Wright from the team, netted a debut winner against Manchester United, and sealed the final goal of the 1998 FA Cup Final, as he, and Arsenal, claimed the double in Wenger's first full season at the club.

Having finished just 1 goal shy of the Premier League Golden Boot the season after, Anelka's agent kicked up a financial stink and the rest is history as 'Le Sulk' went on to become football's biggest club-hopping whore. On talent alone, here was a man that who'd have smashed Wrighty's record - and had he stayed, we'd never have needed some bloke called Thierry.


Growing up in the 90's, I always had something of a fetish for Suker. The Croat pulled off an outrageous impudent chip over Peter Schmeichel at Euro 96 and then beat Brazilian Ronaldo to the Golden Boot at the 1998 World Cup in France. Signing from Real Madrid, he should have been our fox in the box, the perfect partner for a pacy, young, King Henry.

I feel Suker's time at Arsenal is unfairly remembered. A penalty miss in the 2000 UEFA Cup Final was hardly ideal, but there were flashes of real brilliance, including this effort at Coventry. Suker was a much-needed experienced head during a time of change at Highbury.


Please don't section me for this, but, Franny Jeffers was a decent striker.
(I can hear the sniggers at the back!)
Having knocked them in for fun at Everton during his teenage years, hopes were high for the English poacher, and a goal every 3 games in his debut season is certainly not the worst of records we'eve ever seen at this football club.
(HELLO Kaba Diawara!)

Jeffers' issue, like so many at London Colney over the years, was more his woeful injury record. But if the jug-eared Scouser (who, by the way, has a glorious England record of 1 cap, 1 goal) had stayed fit, then the goals would have rained in with the likes of Bergkamp and Pires laying up 6-yard box assists on a platter.


The Spanish whippet, who had terrorised the Zinedine Zidane-led Galacticos from the left wing for Sevilla, arrived in the January transfer window of 2004. Giving The Invincibles' title push the fresh charge of impetus it needed, the playmaker scored crucial goals for the Gunners, including a debut double over Chelsea in the FA Cup.

Before becoming homesick and wishing to depart home to Spain, mainly on account of the grizzly Neville brothers kicking lumps out of him, Reyes played a key role in the Gunners squad, netting in 6 consecutive league games early in 2004/05 and starting all matches during our run to the 2006 Champions League Final.


Nicknamed 'The Beast' for his brute strength, as Reyes eventually departed for the Bernabeu, Baptista came the other way on a season-long loan. Another who is remembered with negative connotations due to his bulky frame and lack of mobility, it's easy to forget the 4 goals he netted at Anfield, or the double over Tottenham in the League Cup Semi-Final.

At a time when Thierry Henry spent most of his first and final Emirates season on the treatment table, and Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor were both still highly young and inconsistent, Baptista helped carry an Arsenal front-line which was otherwise forced to succumb to the lure of Jeremie Aliadiera.


It perhaps tells how much of a large shadow he cast over all future Arsenal strikers, that this is the 5th mention of Thierry Henry. Arriving in summer 2007 to replace the club's biggest ever legend, Eduardo always had his work cut out. But what followed was promising, as the Croatian started to bang them in from all angles, looking like the most natural finisher we'd had at the club in a decade.

You don't need me, or Martin Johnson, to tell you what happened next. And unfortunately, he was never the same player. Once more, an Arsenal #9 robbed by injury, as opposed to a lack of talent.


Okay. I've got no defence for this one. To be fair to the lad, he scored on his debut with a classy finish against Bolton, but overall, one of the most baffling signings ever.


A firm fan favourite thanks to his jackhammer left foot and incessant social media mocking of Tottenham, Poldi's stay in Ashburton Grove was short lived, with only 2 seasons under his belt in a red shirt. The German hit double figures in his first season and averaged close to 1 in 2 thereafter, with piledrivers against West Ham and Southampton both living long in the memory.

Despite not fulfilling Arsene Wenger's requirements defensively, few can deny the fact Podolski had real quality and was one of the most supremely talented players to have pulled on the shirt in recent years. Now plying his trade for Vissel Kobe in Japan, 49 goals in 130 appearances for Germany points towards a pretty nifty player.


The second 'LP' to pull on the #9 in a row, this particular Lucas has been maltreated at Arsenal to the point where the writing now seems on the wall for the nippy Spaniard. Having been cast aside to the number #28 shirt to accommodate the arrival of Lacazette, the former Deportivo striker, who hit 17 league goals in 2015/16, just can't seem to get any game time.

Despite a debut brace, and a Champions League hat-trick, Perez found himself grounded to the Arsenal bench last season, despite scoring or assisting every time he played. Another not short on talent, my own personal preference would be to keep the Spaniard at the expense of the rapidly rotting Theo Walcott.

How many of the former Arsenal number 9's do you hold in high regard?

And how do you think Alexandre Lacazette will fare at the Emirates?

Let us know in the comments below!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

10 reasons why France 98 was the peak of Football

10) The City

If you're going to host a World Cup in the peak of summer, few cities can compare with the spendour of Paris. The location meant a central hub for all European fans, and saw the Champs-Elysees lined with French fans following the home nation's success - with the Arc De Triomphe lit up in the colours of the national flag. The country also spawned the finest World Cup song ever, Dario G's classic football anthem "Carnival De Paris."

9) The Video Game

Honestly, if you didn't play this game as a kid, it was basically child abuse. From the singalong intro theme tune, to the stodgy graphics which looked revolutionary at the time, World Cup 98 was one of the finest football games ever made on any console. And if rain stopped play out in the local park, chances were you were trudging indoors with your mates instead, picking up your controllers on the now defunct N64, and whacking out some multi-player mode.

8) The Ball

A true classic, this little beauty was belted around endlessly during those long summer nights of 1998 as you screamed the names of your favourite players with your friends, and argued over whether it was "post and in" on the jumpers you'd laid down on the grass. White, with flashes of blue and red, the leathery beaut was a homage to the colours of the French flag, and hence obtained its name (The "Tricolore") in the process.

7) The Kits

From the ravishing Romanian red above (complete with matching bleached barnets), to the tablecloth effect of the Croatians, and the bright green of the Nigerians. 1998 was a time when kit snobbery was yet to exist. All we had back then were bright, brash, in-your-face designs that looked like the the multi-coloured insides of a cat's stomach. The best? Arguarbly the yellow and green of the never-ordinary Jamaicans.

6) The Drama

Using the Second Round clash in St Etienne as a prime example, the matches at France 98 were never dull. England and Argentina's epic 120-minute battle saw two penalties awarded, a red card shown, four goals, (five if you include the disallowed "golden goal"), and a penalty shoot-out so tense it made an episode of "Deal or no Deal" look like Emmerdale. In the end, England lost on penalties because... well, they're England.

5) The Phenomenon

See Number 6, The Drama. For many, France 98 will be remembered for the controversy surrounding the inclusion, and exclusion of a Ronaldo who was deemed the greatest before his Portugese namesake had even turned professional. The Brazilian striker was rumoured to have suffered an epileptic fit on the eve of the final, but for the rest of the tournament, sparkled, with numerous goals, and stunning performances. "The Phenomenon" as he was nicknamed, was truly a joy to watch.

4) The Underdogs

A country only formed shortly before the tournament, Eastern Europeans Croatia proved a frenetic force in France, en route to a sensational 3rd place finish. Driven on by their inspirational talisman, Davor Suker, the Croats dumped reigning European champions Germany out in the Quarter-Finals with a 3-0 thumping. Their unforgettable journey came to an unlucky end in the Semi's courtesy of two rare Lilian Thuram goals. So rare in fact, he never ever again for his country, during his 142 caps.

3) The Youngsters

Whilst France 98 was full of several established international stars, ranging from Gabriel Batistuta to Paolo Maldini, it was perhaps the impact of the younger stars that will live long in the memory. Juan Sebastian Veron impressed for Argentina, as did David Beckham for England (whatever happened to him?), but it was 18 year old Michael Owen who really put himself in the spotlight, following up an equaliser against Romania, with this stunner in the following round:

2) The Goals

Aside from Owen's mazy sprint and finish, this World Cup saw goals of beauty more frequently than any other. Sunday Oliseh's piledriver against Spain was special, but was made to look fairly ordinary by the brilliance of Bergkamp. Taking the ball down with his first touch in the final minutes of a Quarter-Final clash in Marseille, Dennis the menace used his instant control to bamboozle the defender before flicking home. Pure genius.

1) The Hosts

A country divided for so many reasons as the tournament began, France's victory united a nation as Les Bleus swept past all before them, including a highly fancied Brazil side. From the defensive heroics of Fabien Barthez and Marcel Desailly, to the midfield dominance of Emmanuel Petit, and the sourcery of Zinedine Zidane. The iconic French no. 10, scored a brace in the final, and was by far the standout player of the tournament with his tricks, flicks, and mesmerising ball control.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Top 10: Dance Acts in 2017

As we bid farewell to 2016, it's time for the yearly look at those artists who are set to take the dance music world by storm in 2017! With much prestige behind this blog - previous winners include Avicii (2010/11), Alesso (2011/12), Disciples (2012/13), Tchami (2013/14), Oliver Heldens (2014/15), and Marshmello (2015/16) - it's fair to say the names you're about to read about will be names you'll be hear MUCH more of in the coming months!

So let's get on with it....

10. Matt Nash

With his feet firmly planted on the musically driven streets of London, Matt has fast become the talk of the electronic road, unveiling tracks across a plethora of dance music labels.
‘Starlight’ with Don Diablo released on Axtone took the throne at Beatport finding its cause at #5, peaking with over half a million eager views online. Luminous and in demand, the remix duties aren’t far behind, and this year his track “Know Your Love” was championed by Tiesto regularly on ClubLife. One to watch for 2017!

9. Shaun Frank

50% of the brains behind Oliver Heldens’ 2015 floor-filler “Shades of Grey”, Shaun Frank is a Canadian DJ, singer-songwriter and producer, who has so far notched up impressive collaborations with renowned artists of international EDM scene such as Borgeous, KSHMR, DVBBS, and The Chainsmokers. A remixer of real quality, with a fresh future-house vibe, Frank entwines grimey deep key twists, with refreshing melodies to give his tracks a truly unique flavour. Already becoming a popular name within the genre, this next year or so will catapult Frank and his talent into the mainstream in a truly fast and furious manner.

8. Snavs

Still a relative unknown within the dance genre, Snavs is currently doing a fine job of protecting his identity, with little known about the producer other than his massive Autumn smash “Wolves”, which was quickly snapped up by Tiesto’s Musical Freedom label. I wish I had more to say on this mystery man, but with not even an internet biography available, 2017 could well be the year we get to know him a whole lot better!

7. Kideko

A vibrant UK producer who is best known for his huge club hit “Crank It” with George Kwali, Kideko is bringing that true house vibe sound back to the genre with heart-thumping basslines, and a great metronomic beat running through the heart of his tracks. A firm favourite with Radio One’s Danny Howard, vocals were later added it to “Crank It” as Spinnin’ Records and Ministry of Sound went to war over the track, but it’s this original instrumental that will really get you shakin’ it…

6. Shapov

The Russian youngster, perhaps best known as one half of “Hard Rock Sofa”, hit the big time in 2016, securing a collab with Axwell on the former Swedish House Mafia member’s label, titled “Belong” – The track took off instantly and catapulted Shapov into the big time, with DJ’s worldwide supporting the track and playing it out during their sets. Already a dance music classic, 2017 is likely to herald more top class bangers from this hot piece of EDM property!

5. M22

A British-German DJ and producer duo consisting of Matt James and Frank Sanders, the pair initially met on March 22, hence the reason for their stage name. After being spotted by dance legend Sebastian Ingrosso, the pair played alongside Axwell Λ Ingrosso at the Refune Label Night at Ushuaia Ibiza in August 2016, and were consequently signed to Ingrosso’s Refune label, where they released single “Good For Me” - a track regularly used by the Swedish pair in their humongous live sets.

4. Will K

Fresh off the back of a ground-breaking 2016, where he was signed to Axwell’s legendary Axtone label, and had his tracks “Let Me See You” and “Café Leche” supported by huge artists such as Steve Angello and Alesso at the likes of Tomorrowland and Amsterdam Music Festival, 2017 promises to be the huge follow-up year for this Liverpool-based Aussie producer, and his regular collaborator friend, Corey James.

3. Slushii

A main fixture of the trap-house movement currently sweeping the States, Slushii (real name Julian Scanlan) is very much a pioneer of the unique sound currently being led by his good friend, and winner of this very same list in 2015, Marshmello.

With huge remixes this year for the likes of Chainsmokers, Alan Walker, and Mello himself, Slushii is only destined for even greater stardom in these next twelve months!

2. Throttle

The man who first burst onto our radar as chief collab on Oliver Heldens’ massive track “Waiting” has been churning out productions by the bucket load recently, as he gears up for a sensational 2017. A long-time friend of Oli’s, and support act for his recent UK Tour, it would be no surprise to see Throttle share many B2B performances with the Heldeep superstar this year.

“Oliver has given me the best advice and been the one who’s been guiding my career. I’m constantly learning from him.” , says the Aussie, who was first discovered in 2013 by Avicii after winning a remix contest of his track “You Make Me”

1. Mike Williams

Dutch? Huge drops? Incredible chord based build ups?
It’s easy to see why Musical Freedom’s Mike Williams, is a chip off the old block.
Since being championed by Tiesto earlier this year, Williams has had a number of huge hits, including his collab “I Want You” with the King himself. And was even chosen as the only warm-up act for the big man’s incredible 6-hour set at the Amsterdam Ziggo Dome in October to celebrate the 500th episode of ClubLife.

Having only just turned 20 years old, the future is shining brightly for this incredibly talented young protégé, as he looks to tread the same path as his fellow countrymen Hardwell and Martin Garrix, in becoming the next #1 DJ in the world.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Life: An ode to modern society

We work too much. We make ourselves ill.
Horrifically early mornings are spent jam packed like sardines into the same tube carriages and buses.
Our heads bowed in mourning to our crippled hands bent round iPhones and technology we’ve become slaves to.
Who cares about the luscious beauty whizzing past your window when you might have received a like on your status?
We seek approval, from those we don’t really care about.
Lucy who you met in Magaluf 2011, or Dave and the boys from Malia 2014.
‘Friends’ so disposable that one thumb click and they are eradicated from our lives forever.
And yet, our dark voyeuristic nature compels us to keep an watchful eye on the movements. To judge their life decisions.
We neglect our friends, our families. Cycloned into a self-fulfilling social tornado of self-obsession and thoughts that only direct inwards.
Each stranger dare not look up in a fear of making eye contact with enough.
We brustle past them, squeezing through the doors as the fibres of our coats and scarves brush, the same glum look upon faces.
We pay, knowing we are being ripped off, for our fix of morning coffee.
The shallow injection of caffeine the only comforting boost to drag us through the same mundane routine ahead.
And then we sit. Watching the clock until we are free again.
Caged in by the human zoo we were all born into, but never had a choice in.
We make small talk to our colleagues, crippled by the fear of appearing anti-social or rude.
We agree to post-work drinks, when we spend the whole time subtlety checking the time. Is it “acceptable” if I leave yet?
We waste away the day, further checking our social media, an addictive disease causing you to glance constantly, checking, hoping, you have a new text.
That someone likes you. Remembers you. Wants to interact with you.
Perhaps the contour-clad strangers you follow on Instagram are posting more narcissistic selfies.
Their idols are Jenners and Kardashians. Icons as shallow as the genitals they aspire to own.
Through their endless evening routines of squats, hoping they’ll find a mate to elope with, yet blissfully ignorant of the voided shells their personalities are unable to fill.
Gone are the days of real heroes.
You shovel down your lunch, knowing your day has now pipped the half-way mark. The inevitable lazy afternoon follows.
Look busy. And forget about the hours’ wage you just spent on an over-priced Quinoa wrap that was more plant than food. Be honest.
You don’t even know how to pronounce Quinoa.
Or worse. You were victim to last night’s leftovers. The same bland, tasteless micro meal that tasted shit last night. And only tastes soggier and more lukewarm today.
Even the sun leaves you. The darkness dawns. You check the clock. Time is not moving.
And when it does, you say the same half-hearted farewells. And repeat the process as you climb aboard the exhausted commuting bodies.
Like a corpse pile in ties, and slightly scuffed shoes that were once shining this morning.
And as you return to your home, that you’ve spent all day paying for. You spend whatever tiny disposable income you have left on another bland meal.
Slopping it into your face as you numb your mind further with lifeless television full of fame-hungry psychopaths.
Entertainment produced by lazy corporate coked-up suits getting their cocks sucked in the city by work experience girls behind their wife’s back.
She has a similar routine. Except punctured by the screams of the school-run and the crayons up the walls of their two snotty brats.
The endless, mind-boggling melodies of repetitive children’s song’s and programmes presented by adults sniffing class A to get through the experience.
Or most likely even the same PVA Glue they’re pasting on to a glitter-based badger collage.
You alternate between the screen you’re half-arsed in your attention to, and the same small screen that captivates you.
Swiping aimlessly, as you hope to seek someone to boost your ego, or most likely just use like a piece of meat in the human cattle market we’ve grown accustomed to.
Laura, 26, from Dagenham, likes Bombay Bicycle Club. She won’t tell you at first, she’ll play hard to get. One word answers and a series of “Haha”’s.
But get her to Whatsapp and by Wednesday her blank expressionless eyes will be looking up at you as she sets up basecamp at the crotch.
Desperately seeking approval for the same daddy issues that run her sub-conscious.
And then, like, the pierced lid of tonight’s lasagne from the local conglomerate exploiting the poor and weak in its warehouse, she’s disposed of.
And you prepare to repeat the process all over again.
For this is life now. This is the world in which we all live. Whether we like it or not.
Though, truth be told, the concept of liking anything is one that died inside us a long time ago.
It’s 2016.
And that’s the way it is.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

2016: The year the world got angry


It’s a word we hear frequently but what does it actually mean?
Well, as we wake up this morning to the news that Hillary Clinton was unable to foil Trump at his final Mexican border wall-like hurdle, one thing has become as transparent as the metaphorical glass ceiling he has pushed through, and should have ended up concussed from.

The vibe of 2016 has left a sour taste on more than just the tip of one’s tongue.
When we talk of a “vibe” we talk of the atmosphere surrounding a situation. But 2016’s atmosphere has been less walking-into-a-glam-nightclub at the start of a big night, and more am-I-being-followed-by-a-rapist-on-my-walk-home-from-work?

It seems that Planet Earth was sent spinning into an early frenzy of discontent (long before Attenborough warmed our cockles again), by the deaths of several iconic celebrities early on in the calendar. No sooner had the leaves started to regrow on trees for spring, and we had already lost Messrs Rickman, Prince, and Bowie.

Call me heartless but it’s never really something I had much sympathy for. I appreciate a candlie-lit Brixton-based vigil as much as the next man, but to mourn for someone you’ve never even met whilst poor old Carol from down the road slips away silently into her cancer-induced Grim Reaper on a Tuesday night in Scarborough… well it seems a little shallow, truth be told.

Alas, as a species, ‘tis in our nature to adorn superior beings, to elevate those in the public eye to a higher status than our own. In a society where more and more turn to atheism, it seems all we’re ironically truly crying out for is a God after all.

And with the angered scent of these losses still lurking in the nostrils of the public, the spawn of their frustration began to spill out into the public domain. More than ever, the general public felt that change was needed. That we needed to take things “into our own hands” – but evidently, the political protests were being carried out by an army of baseball-wielding thugs with blindfolds still firmly tied around their flickering eyelashes.

First came Brexit. And whether or not you agree with it, or how you voted, this result was the bi-product of clear idiocy. With the state of the economy as it is now, and the record-breaking fall of the pound, not one single voter can confidently announce that they voted for change whilst assured of a greater financial future. In fact, quite the opposite.

These people “gambled” and in placing everything they owned with the Queen’s face on red, and the roulette wheel of the UK’s financial future landed resoundingly, with a heart-shuddering rattle, on black.

If this was to serve as a warning for the rest of the world, the people of the self-proclaimed “land of the free” were desperately trying to reverse this tag, with hoards backing a man who wished to take the freedom away from its Latin contingent away completely.

In the end, the furore of a media campaign awash with misogynistic claims and skeletons rapidly appearing from Donald’s closet almost put pay to his chances, at a time when he had sneaked ahead in the polls for the very first time.

The influence of the media can never be under-estimated. Try to argue it and simply witness how Rupert Murdoch has single handedly swayed our little island’s thinking over the course of the past FIVE general elections, stretching back to Blair’s “Brit Culture” moment in 1997 and the iconic “It’s the Sun wot won it” headline, all the way to the paper’s 2009 reversal in publicly denouncing its support of Gordon Brown, and now almost treacherous return to the dark side of Tory policies.

The likes of “Steve” and “Phil”, the red-top’s main white-van-driving, bacon-roll-munching, tea-swigging demographic were picking this filth up daily and believing what they read. Oblivious to the fact Darth Cameron and later, Kylo May, were plotting to slowly privatise their NHS and increase their tax rate.

As it occurred, Trump’s “Grab her by the p*ssy” became the complete viral opposite of 2014’s Aussie who wanted to “f*ck her right in” the same place, and as swaying voters began to turn to Hillary (who, let’s face it, is not whiter than the whitehouse that Trump will now be the proud incumbent of), the thought of his spiteful cocktail of his hateful bile was still left wafting through the air. Though worryingly, was still being glugged heartily come vote night.

How a man like this, with views so radically out-dated and frankly dangerous, was allowed to elevate himself to the most powerful position in the world, shows that the vibe of 2016 was simply one of anger. In 2008, the election of Barack Obama marked such a key watershed moment in world politics. For a country still so openly-racist in many areas to make such a huge step, it was a refreshing glimpse of the future.

Don’t let Trump’s beaming face fool you. We have regressed as a society. Anger, frustration, and prejudice loom large. We can only hope that love conquers once more in 2017 and successfully ushers out 2016: the year the world got angry.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Batman Vs Superman: REVIEW

Everything that shines ain't always gonna be gold.

Three years in the making, the title in itself shon brighter than any predecessor of the "superhero boom" of the last decade. It's a saturated market, by like any, the saturation is caused by the want. "Supply and demand" is the term usually used.
And "Batman vs Superman" was a glittering beacon shining so brightly in the distance. Though, as the climax of its release came to dawn, there were perhaps vague sirens slowly flashing to warn it may not deliver justice to its adorning faithful.

A trailer that revealed major key plot elements was a concern. And from the movie's opening long finger of the dark end of the Hans Zimmer-led piano, the sense was very real that this was a production intent on keeping akin to its score; brooding, and at times rather menacing.

Though keeping with the theme of "darker superheroes" in recent times, (Monsieur Deadpool aside), DC perhaps fall flat at the charge of no comic relief in the slightest. Nobody is yearning for a return to the slapstick "Kapow" days and shiny Madonna-esque leotards of 80's Batman and his faithful chum Robin. But whilst Marvel can cut open its greasy steak sub of tension with a spongy wholemeal layer of typically charismatic Iron Man quip, DC can offer no such character to offer viewers restbyte.

And so, to the plot. Which is perhaps the problem.
"The red capes are coming", whispers a Jesse Eisenberg portrayed Lex Luthor, but it's easy to see why the rotten tomatoes have not been as forthright in arriving as these so-called red-capes.
Within an the first 90 minutes of this 150 minute movie, I was tempted to call local police in order to issue a search warrant for this movie's plot.

Slow is perhaps an understatement, as we are force-fed a vastly convoluted yearn about a kind of under-running tension between our two noble heroes, and Lex himself is at the centre-point of all meddling. I'm keen to point out, at this stage, that Eisenberg is clearly a very talented actor, in the right role.

He can pull of a nerdy socially-awkward arrogance in a way Michael Cera can master that constantly confused facial expression, or how Jonah Hill can play the comedic side-partner to a more handsome and charismatic lead role. (Think DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, Russell Brand as Aldis Snow etc). And in his Social Network casting as Mark Zuckerberg, or even his "Now You See Me" character, it was a role he performed with aplomb.

Yet this portrayal was one so intent on mimicking the eccentric mental deficiencies witnessed by Batman's arch nemesis' of past and present, he may as well have drawn the white foundation and bright-red lipped smile upon his cheeks.
Stronger in his role, was Henry Cavill, who has really grown into his role as Superman since 2013's "Man of Steel."
Though his romance with Amy Adams' Lois Lane still has a bit too much of the "Thor & Natalie Portman" about it for my liking.

As for the much maligned Ben Affleck, it would be cruel to argue his performance was not sturdy at the least. But it was more one of Affleck clearly dressed as the caped crusader, than a real character association with the role of Batman. In the same way Daniel Craig was initially criticised for his mindless rogue showing in Casino Royale where critics argued he was "more Bourne" and lacked the suave of Messrs Connery and Brosnan, we can only hope it's a role Batfleck can stamp his branded batwings on in time. It's certainly clear to see he has a prominent part to play for DC in future from the film's ending, which expectantly leads us into the temptations of a Justice League movie as DC attempts to finally battle the monopoly of Marvel's much-loved Avengers. (Good luck with that!)

Though perhaps unfair to compare and contrast with previous Bat-films, Bale's instant adaptation to the suit was as much down to his repertoire as it was the directing or Christopher Nolan. And though the argument is more than adequate that Nolan intensifies a real fanboy reaction, Zach Snyder's distinct lack of fanboys in comparison tells its own story. His directing is strong in spurts. The trademark slow-mo freeze frames before Superman engages in any piece of particular violence have become synonymous with the duo of Khal-El movies he's tried his hand at thus far. But when you have the two biggest superheroes in your fist, and the toll of dice produces nothing more than a "fairly strong" hand, it's difficult to not feel as though full potential has not been realised. Much in the same way that man Nolan milked every drop of toothpaste from the tube in his masterful Dark Knight trilogy, Snyder seems content to give the Colgate a decent fisting before nipping to Tesco to start again.

A crumb of solace is at least, the final 45 minutes or so of the movie, which bob their head above the murky waters in the shape of several highly impressive action scenes. Fight combos seem like sequences from the much loved Arkham PlayStation games, as buildings crumble and heroes fumble to get to grips with eachother, before launching one another into violent crash landings. This is only perhaps soured by Batman's now non-existent aversion to killing.

Once the moralistic dark knight of Gotham, never personified more than during his various battles with the Joker over the years, Master Wayne now parades himself round the city like "Bruce the Ripper", stabbing, slaughtering, and brutally devouring every criminal he can find. This new-found obsession to fisticuffs resolution is at least peppered by a fantastic slow-mo shot of our three heroes (Hi there Wonderwoman!) side by side in a scene more than reminiscent to the 360 degree pan of the Avengers in Manhattan during their first film, and battle with Loki.

Overall, Batman vs Superman is not the unqualified disaster many critics are happy to portray it as. It's a decent action movie with some entertaining fight scenes, but when the title features not just one, but two superheroes, that's sadly not good enough. They say the night is darkest just before the dawn; a sunrise is now needed before the much anticipated Justice League follow-up.

Verdict: 6/10

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

All Time Top 10: Premier League Strikers

10. Robin van Persie

Not many players have made the switch from Arsenal to Manchester United, and yet when Dutch striker Van Persie did in controversial circumstances in the summer of 2012, it was little surprise when he propelled his new club to the Premier League title the following season. Sir Alex Ferguson's last ever "big" signing, the Netherlands all time leading goalscorer averaged 1 in 2 at both United, and former club Arsenal, where he single handedly dragged them to Champions League qualification as club captain in 2011-12.

9. Luis Suarez

These days he's busy scoring goals for fun alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi in La Liga's most fruitful trident. But it barely seems like yesterday that Luis Suarez was grabbing hat-tricks and braces on a weekly occasion in the Premier League. His stay in England was short, just three years in total, but powerful. The golden boot in 2014 seemed like an unfortunate consolation prize for what should have been a Premier League winners' medal as he fired Liverpool to within an inch of their first ever Premier League title.

8. Sergio Aguero

A double-title winner, and current Golden Boot holder, Argentinian striker Sergio 'Kun' Aguero will forever be immortalised in City history for his title-winning goal in the final seconds of the 2011/12 season, at home to QPR. Undoubtedly the finest player in the league right now on ability alone, Aguero's speed of thought, movement, and anticipation make him a nightmare for defenders in the league, and nobody has yet found the answer on how to stop him.

7. Gianfranco Zola
Quite simply, a magician. Pint-sized Italian Gianfranco Zola lit up the Premier League on his arrival from Parma in 1996, scoring the vital winner in Chelsea's 1-0 victory over Stuttgart in the 1998 Cup Winners' Cup Final. As much a creator as he was a goalscorer, Zola enjoyed a classic "big man little man" partnership with Norwegian Tore Andre Flo, before later teaming up with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Upon leaving the club in 2003, he was voted as Chelsea's greatest ever player.

6. Didier Drogba
From one Chelsea legend to another, it's no exaggeration to say that no man has ever changed the course of one club as much as Didier Drogba. Arriving from Marseille in 2004, the Ivorian striker was the figurehead for the 2005 and 2006 Premier League title wins, and once again in 2010, where he clinched the golden boot. Most definitely a "big game player", the battering ram of a centre-forward went on to score in four successful FA Cup Finals, and then the winning penalty in the club's first ever Champions League final win, over Bayern Munich, in 2012.

5. Andy Cole
Perhaps an unusual suspect to appear so high on this list at first glance, but only two strikers have ever scored more Premier League goals than "Goal King Cole", and we'll come onto those shortly. What Cole lacked in all-round play, he certainly made up for in raw goalscoring instinct, and netted 187 times during an illustrious career with the likes of Newcastle, Blackburn and Fulham. Though it's Manchester United where he's remembered most fondly, as one half of the legendary 'Cole and Yorke' strike partnership that won the treble in 1999.


4. Wayne Rooney
Love him or loathe him, there's no denying Wayne Rooney is a Premier League legend. The Manchester United and England captain has smashed just about every record going during his decade or so at the top level, becoming his country's all time top goalscorer in the process. Now second in the all time Premier League goalscorers list behind Alan Shearer, the multiple Premier League winner has won everything at club level and will have his eyes on the Newcastle legend's tally of 260. (*NB* Rooney is on 192 at time of writing)

3. Dennis Bergkamp
A master, a genius, a legend. It can be argued that Bergkamp's arrival in the mid-nineties changed the Premier League forever, and paved the way for more A-List foreign signings to come to England. Idolised at Arsenal, where he scored over a century of goals, and created even more, never has the English game witnessed a striker with such guile and intelligence on the ball. A key member of three title-winning Arsenal teams, Bergkamp's ability can be (get ready to YouTube it!) personified by his turn and flick past Nikos Dabizas against Newcastle in 2002.

2. Alan Shearer
The greatest goalscorer in Premier League history, Newcastle no.9 turned Match of the Day regular "Big Al" was the epitome of a fox in the box. Having first hit a over century of goals for Blackburn Rovers in their 1995 title winning campaign, Shearer finally got the dream move he craved in 1996, for a then world record £15m fee. Having rejected Manchester United's advances to sign for his boyhood club, the ex-England captain went on to become the side's all time leading goalscorer, and signed off from the Premier League with a since untouchable tally of 260 goals in total.

1. Thierry Henry
Not just a great goalscorer, but a scorer of great goals, Thierry Henry changed what was expected of a centre-forward following his arrival in 1999. Then just a skinny winger signed after an insipid spell with Juventus, Henry went on to become the world's most featured striker, propelling Arsenal to multiple FA Cup and Premier League title victories, including the unbeaten season of 2004. He ended life at Arsenal as the club's all-time leading goalscorer, with several PFA Player of the Year, and Golden Boot awards to his name. Le Magnifique.