Archive for the ‘Player profiles’ Category

Arjen Robben returns to the Bernabeu tonight, looking to knock his former club out of the Champions League.

He will have every right to feel aggrieved at his departure from Real Madrid; after all, he played a huge role in winning them the league in his first season.

He joined Los Merengues from Chelsea for a fee mooted to be around £24m in 2007, and his impact, while not immediate, certainly cannot be underestimated.

He scored five goals that season, but all of them came in the last four months of the campaign.

Corey Fiske, of Real Madrid Football Blog, said: “The fact that he almost single handedly brought Real Madrid to a league title after an awful start to the campaign…speaks volumes of his talent.”

Madrid narrowly missed out on a league title in his second season, one that would prove to be his last. That was despite another string of fine performances individually, which saw him score eight goals in 37 games.

The second coming of Florentino Perez, and with him Los Galacticos II, meant that Robben, in his view, forced out. By his own admission, he “didn’t want to go” but “the club wanted to sell me.”

He has a remarkable habit of winning the league title in his first season, having done so at PSV and Chelsea as well as Madrid, and a move to Bayern Munich saw that trend continue.

He scored 16 league goals that season, 23 overall, to help propel Bayern not only to the league title but also the Champions League final – albeit one they lost.

His second season was partially derailed by injury, and it was clear to see as Bayern lost their grip on the league to Borussia Dortmund, and were knocked out of the Champions League – by Inter, the same team who’d beaten them in the previous final – in the last 16.

This season, he has been instrumental in the progress to the Champions League semi final, and his importance has become plain to see.

Edson Karimi, of Red Robbery, said: “Is Robben better now? The stats say yes; 0.6 goals per match for Bayern as opposed to 0.2 for Madrid.

“He certainly is more important for Munich and any hope for a FCB win can only come true if Robben plays at his best.”

Fiske, however, has a slightly different view. He said: “[Robben] is a great player, but maybe he should have been more, on level with a Messi or Ronaldo, but because of his physical frailty, and I dare say his mental frailty, he will never be one of the best. His selfish play can affect a team, and its no question he can have an adverse affect on games.

“He has done well at Bayen too, but would anyone say he is an important player of the club, or merely an excellent player that is on the squad? That’s how I viewed his time at Real.”

Tonight, the stage is set for Robben to prove Madrid wrong. Only time will tell if he’s up to the challenge. Whether he is or not could well decide who wins.

Below is a reminder of what Robben is capable of in the Champions League:

 

He’s overshadowed in the Bundesliga by Mario Gomez, while at international level the spotlight falls on Robin van Persie, but is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar the best striker in the world?

This does not include Lionel Messi, nor Cristiano Ronaldo. Firstly, because neither are what you would class as an ‘out-and-out’ striker. Secondly, because they are out of this world.

The five top scorers across Europe, with the two mentioned above taken out of the equation, are van Persie, Gomez, Huntelaar, Zlatan Ibrahimovich and Wayne Rooney.

The table below shows their games and goals in their respective leagues, cups and European competitions this season, as well as their goals per minutes and the percentage of their team’s league goals they have scored.*

PREMIER
LEAGUE
DOMESTIC
CUP
EUROPE
NAME APPS GOALS APPS GOALS APPS GOALS GOAL/MINUTE % of team goals (league)
Van Persie 33 27 2 2 8 5 107.2 40.90
Gomez 30 25 4 2 11 12 88.6 36.23
Ibrahimovic 26 23 4 2 8 5 107.9 37.09
Rooney 30 24 2 2 7 5 106.4 29.26
Huntelaar 29 24 4 5 12 14 91.4 36.36

As demonstrated in the table above, only Gomez and van Persie have scored more league goals than ‘The Hunter’. Huntelaar also has more goals in domestic cups, and has scored more in Europe – although all of his have came in the Europa League, as opposed to the more prestigious Champions League.

Only Gomez has a better goals per minute ratio, and both players have considerably better ratios than the rest of their ‘rivals’. While the Bayern man scores more often, it is the Dutchman who has contributed more – albeit marginally – to his side’s league goals tally this season.

At international level, it would appear Huntelaar is again more valuable. He has scored 31 goals in 50 appearances for Holland, compared to his fellow countryman van Persie’s 25 in 62. Wayne Rooney has 28 in 73 for England, while Gomez has played 51 times for Germany, scoring 21 times. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has the worst goals/game record at country level, with 29 goals in 75 appearances for Sweden.

Stefan Bienkowski, of Bundesliga Football and Four Four Two, said: “The only out-and-out striker I could perhaps see above him would be Gomez, but Huntelaar does seem to have more strings to his bow. The Dutchman is often found cutting back and can fit in to the build-up play as well as any playmaker.

“His form and goals have been pivotal for Schalke this season. The club rest very comfortably in third place, which can be put down entirely to the amount of goals the team have amassed this season. Alongside Raul, the Dutchman has flourished and their ability to score certainly saves a rather average defensive record, from any blushes.”

*Stats courtesy of Soccerway.

Podolski: Gonna be a Gunner?

Lukas Podolski is all set to leave the comforts of Koln for life in London this summer.

If reports are to be believed, then Podolski will join Arsenal for approximately £10.9m and £100k+ per week.

The big question is not necessarily whether he can cut it in the Premier League, but whether he can cut it at any club that isn’t FC Koln.

This is because a move to Arsenal won’t be the first time ‘Poldi’ has moved to a ‘big’ club; they won’t even be the biggest side he has left Koln for.

In 2006, following Die Geißböcke’s relegation to 2.Bundesliga, the frontman moved to Bayern Munich in a deal reportedly worth €10m.

At the same time, he was bursting on to the international scene, with some standout performances at the 2006 World Cup – including thee goals – helping Germany to third place and himself to the Best Young Player award.

While many struggle to replicate their club form for their country, it was the opposite for Podolski, as he failed to repeat his efforts for Germany in the colours of Munich.

Despite his poor form with Bayern, he continued with his contrasting performance for the national side. Germany finished as runners-up at Euro 2008, with Podolski scoring three goals for the second major tournament in a row, and being named in the 23-man squad of the tournament.

His three-season stint in Bavaria ended with a very poor return of 26 goals in 106 games in all competitions (15 in 71 in the Bundesliga), and he moved back to Koln for a similar fee to the one they originally sold him for.

His move back to Koln should have been the return of the king, but in his first season it was more like the clown prince than Prinz Poldi (as he is known in Cologne) as he scored just three goals in the entire season.

Despite that, he was still selected for Joachim Löw’s 2010 World Cup squad, scoring two goals from his now familiar position on the left to help Germany reach the semi-finals.

Since then, though, he has looked better than ever, and is currently enjoying his best season in the Bundesliga. He so far has 16 goals, which is his highest tally, and one that will surely be added to.

At 26, he is at somewhat of a crossroads. He is, domestically, in the form of his life, but at international level his place has perhaps never been under greater threat – such is the rise to prominence of the likes of Mario Götze and Marco Reus.

A move to Arsenal will give him the chance to prove the doubters wrong, that he can do it not only outside of Cologne but outside of Germany as well. And it could just be the thing that keeps him ahead in the national team pecking order.

He will fit well into Arsenal’s system, presumably playing on the left of the two or three behind Robin van Persie (if he stays), in the role that has been occupied by Gervinho this season.

He certainly has the ability to succeed. Whether he does or not will all come down to his mentality. He’s shown signs of maturing this season; next year will be the time for him to prove it.

“Poldi can lack tactical discipline and is used to being number one at Cologne. If he can settle in North London, accept that he is a cog in a larger wheel and do as he is told then he has the ability to make a significant contribution to the Arsenal team.” Terry Duffelen, German football blogger and co-host of the podcast Bundesliga Show. Twitter: @bundesbag.

The video below shows Arsenal fans exactly what they’ll be getting:

 

It could have been an England shirt.

Every club makes mistakes when it comes to young players. Lewis Holtby was Borussia Monchengladbach’s.

Having joined their youth team at age 11, he was told at 14 that he was “too small and too slow.”

Holtby made the move to Alemannia Aachen, and following their relegation from the Bundesliga, he made his debut at the age of 17, although he was far from a regular.

He did establish himself in the first team the following season, and it wasn’t long before scouts from many a Bundesliga club were looking at him. The side that did get him was Schalke 04.

After half a season with The Royal Blues, he was sent out on loan to VfL Bochum to gain more experience. Gain experience is exactly what he did, playing 14 times, scoring twice and showing a lot of potential.

That potential began to turn into something substantial and consistent with a second loan move, this time to Mainz 05 for the duration of the 2010/11 season. It was, ultimately, the making of him.

Given plenty of freedom and with little expectation, he shone at Mainz, playing 30 games and establishing himself as something of a creative force, in particular one with an eye for a pass.

His form didn’t go unnoticed by the national side. He was handed the captain’s armband of the U21 side, and a full cap came at the end of the 2010/11 season in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Azerbaijan.

The ended any aspirations the English FA may have had of persuading Holtby to pledge his allegiance to the country of his father’s birth. However, we may yet see Holtby in England, as like his father (a soldier from Liverpool, who was stationed in Monchengladbach) he is an Everton fan, and has made no secret of his desire to play for them.

As it stands at club level, he is progressing very nicely at Schalke, with the only criticism being he needs to add more goals to his game. At international level, his biggest problem is competition – with the likes of Gotze, Kroos, Ozil et al chances are going to be few and far between. Next time he gets one, he needs to take it.

Dynamic operator in the midfield who brings out the best of those around him. Terrific work-rate. Fast-tracked into the national side to keep him out of the clutches of the dastardly English – that’s how highly he’s rated.” John Dobson, journalist. @dopsonjp

The video below shows some Holtby highlights…

Draxler: winner of 2011 Fritz Walter U18 gold medal

Julian Draxler became the (then) fourth-youngest Bundesliga player ever when he made his debut.

That was January 2011, when he came off the bench against HSV. A week later, and he became the second youngest outfield player to start a Bundesliga match – behind only Nuri Sahin. To add context to that, Sahin won the title with Dortmund and now plays for Real Madrid, so second to him isn’t bad.

He worked his way through the ranks at Schalke before his celebrated debut, having been born in the close-by district of Recklinghausen. His fact track to the first team shows just how highly he is rated.

In 2011, he won the gold Fritz Walter Medal at U18 level, an award that recognises the outstanding talents at U17, U18 and U19 level of German football. (Marc-Andre ter Stegen, profiled here, won gold in U19, while Emre Can did so at U17).

His star continues to rise, and this season has seen him make sixteen appearances already for Schalke, during which time he has scored three goals – equaling his total for the whole of last season.

He has also broken into the Germany U21 side, and although a debut for the Nationalmannschaft looks some way off at the moment, he could well be a fixture come the World Cup 2014, and certainly Euro 2016.

The defensive side of his game has been spoke about as a weakness, but he is very much seen as an attacking playmaker, evident in the fact his strengths lie in his shooting and passing, while he possesses a good technique and plenty of flair.

Never overawed, he’s a rugged, hard-working midfielder with a maturity way beyond his years.” John Dobson, journalist. @dobsonjp