Five-a-side TOTW: February 14th 2017

Picking an eleven is hard; picking just five is even harder.

It’s time for our TOTW! Chelsea were held at Burnley, while their nearest challengers, Tottenham Hotspur, were beaten 2-0 at Liverpool. Leicester City lost for the fifth time in a row against Paul Clement’s resurgent Swansea City, a result that leaves the champions just one place and one point above the dreaded drop zone. Elsewhere, Anthony Martial scored a fine goal as Mourinho’s side maintained their top-four challenge. Sunderland were comfortably beaten at home by Southampton, and Arsenal recorded a fortuitous win over Hull City at The Emirates. But who impressed us enough to make it into the Internet’s most coveted five-a-side football team?

Keeper – Willy Caballero

This was not an easy choice – I can’t recall any keeper being particularly outstanding this weekend. I’ve gone with Willy Caballero because I think he has an unenviable task as a Manchester City keeper playing under Pep Guardiola. The City boss is desperately keen for his keepers to play out from the back – something that I don’t think comes particularly naturally to Big Willy. Despite starting the season as City’s first choice between the sticks, he knew that he was going to be likely replaced by a keeper that Guardiola considered to be better suited to the style of play that he wanted to implement. The subsequent signing of Claudio Bravo has proven to be a disastrous piece of business and Caballero has found himself back in the side for each of the last four games, keeping three clean sheets in the process. He deserves a place in this team merely for his patience, fortitude, and the fact that his name is Willy!

The Stopper – Alfie Mawson

I really thought that Swansea would go down. I even wrote an article about how Paul Clement was not the right man for the job and how chairman Huw Jenkins should be referred to as the Swansea Slayer. How wrong have I been proven? Clement, the Premier League’s choice of January Manager of the Month, has masterminded Swansea victories at Selhurst Park, Anfield, and now at home to the reigning champions. They are one of the in form teams in the league and now lie in fifteenth place and four points above the relegation places. Mawson, and his fellow defender Martin Olsson were the scorers as Swansea comfortably won at home for only the fourth time this season. The Swans have been heavily reliant on their Icelandic talisman Gylfi Sigurðsson in recent weeks, so it would have been a welcome surprise to see two defenders chip in with goals. Mawson’s was a sweetly struck volley that left Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal flapping at thin air. The ex-Barnsley man more than merits his five-a-side TOTW debut.

The Ball Winner – Joey Barton

I don’t care what anybody says – Joey Barton can play. He and his fellow midfielder Ashley Westwood were up against N’Golo Kanté (and his twin brother), yet more than matched their more illustrious opponent. Burnley’s performance was industrious, and was built on the solid foundations of hard work, discipline and concentration. Nobody exemplified those traits more than Barton. Burnley are a different team at home and have picked up a staggering 29 of their 30 points at Turf Moor this season. Three more victories should see them secure their survival – a feat few of us thought possible at the beginning of the season. As for Barton, this performance completes a remarkable turnaround. Just three months ago he was deemed surplus to requirements at Rangers and was under investigation by the FA for some fairly ill-advised betting offences. He really did look like he was destined for the football scrapheap. Nevertheless, that well known football adage “bounce-back-ability” is one that can very much be attributed to Barton. Whenever people think he has well and truly messed it up, he seems to some how find a way to prove them wrong.

The Free Role – Sadio Mané

Liverpool are a different team when he is playing. People will go on about the Firmino, Coutinho and Lallana, but Mané really is the main man. When he was away on African Cup of Nations duty Liverpool looked static, one dimensional and void of any pace. He is so direct, so strong, and so unpredictable that defenders simply don’t know what he is going to do next. Tottenham certainly couldn’t handle him on Saturday, as his two goals sealed a first league win of 2017. His first was an excellent finish after he had managed to outpace the hapless Ben Davies. His second was more of a poachers goal but it really did finish off a Spurs side that were well below par. The win keeps the Anfield side in the hunt for a Champions League place and reignites a season that, after recent results, looked to be crumbling apart.

The Finisher – Manolo Gabbiadini 

I once signed this guy on one of my Football Manager games – he was a great signing for me then and he looks like a great signing for Southampton too! His two goals helped his new side to a resounding 4-0 away win at Sunderland and took his own personal tally to three in just two games. His first was a smart near post header from a lovely Ryan Bertrand cross and his second came after a wonderful turn that left Sunderland defender Lamine Koné completely bamboozled. With the League Cup Final against Manchester United coming up in less than two weeks, Southampton fans will be hoping that the Italian can maintain his good form until then at least.

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French flop five-a-side

Only 20 miles separates Britain and France at their closest points, and apart from the Republic of Ireland, no other foreign country has been more represented in the Premier League. Whilst you could count on two hands the number of British players to have crossed the Channel, the number of French players to have made the reverse trip is well into three figures. Since the Premier League’s creation in the early 90’s, some of France’s greatest ever players have graced its grounds. Players like Ginola, Vieira, Petit, Desailly, Deschamps, and Henry to name just a few have had huge impacts. However, not all those who have arrived on these shores have had quite the same level of success. Here is our list of five French flops who failed to live up to expectations.

Goalkeeper – Fabien Barthez

Apart from Iker Casillas, Barthez probably has the best CV of any other goalkeeper in the last 25 years. A Champions League winner with Marseille, twice a Ligue 1 Champion with Monaco and of course a World and European Cup winner with France, there really were great hopes for him when Manchester United snapped him up for just shy of £8 million in 2000.

In many ways Barthez’s stay in Manchester was not as unsuccessful as is often made out. He did win two Premier League titles and even made it into the PFA Team of the Year at the end of the 2000-01 season. Yet despite these successes Barthez is often remembered for high profile errors and an inability to dominate his area. His diminutive frame was perhaps not cut out for the weekly rigours of the Premier League. Despite his undoubted talent, Barthez’s three year stay in Manchester will always be considered a disappointment.

The Stopper – Sébastien Squillaci 

Squillaci was 30 when he joined Arsenal for £4 million in the summer of 2010, and was seen by many as an impulsive signing. Indeed Squillaci’s time at The Emirates was pretty much a disaster from start to finish. Despite being a regular in his first season, playing in 32 of Arsenal’s 58 games, his poor form forced Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, to once again dip into the transfer market. The signing of Per Mertesacker, coupled with the emergence of Laurent Koscielny, meant that Squillaci’s first team opportunities were greatly restricted, and he appeared only seven more times for the Gunners over the following two years.

Widely regarded as one of Wenger’s worse ever signings, Squillaci left Arsenal on a free transfer in 2013 to join Bastia in his native country.

The Ball Winner  – Jean-Alain Boumsong 

This guy is perhaps one of the most famous failed Frenchmen in English football history. Outside of football Boumsong holds a degree in financial control and has forged a career as a respected pundit on French TV. Yet on the pitch at Newcastle United the defender could hardly have looked more out of place.

Newcastle United manager, Graeme Souness, the man behind the worst signing in Premier League history, Ali Dia, spent £8 million in order to bring Boumsong from Rangers. Boumsong’s career in the North-East was not far short of a catastrophe. He only lasted 18 months in the Premier League before Juventus, yes JUVENTUS, decided to try and make a success of the 27 time France international. Newcastle made a £5 million loss on Boumsong and his transfer was later part of Lord Stevens’ inquiry into corruption in football. An unsavoury episode all round.

The Playmaker – Florian Thauvin

The most recent addition to the team. Although Thauvin’s career to date has failed to live up to expectations, at still only 23 he has time to recover. When he joined Marseille for €15 million in 2013 there was a feeling that the winger could be one of the great French players. His two years at the Vélodrome were a success, he scored 15 goals in just shy of 80 games and looked to be developing into a decent player.

His performances prompted Steve McClaren, the then Newcastle United manager, to fork out £15 million in the summer of 2015. His displays in a struggling Newcastle side were underwhelming to say the least and he featured only 13 times and scored just once before rejoining Marseille on loan after half a season on Tyneside.

The Finisher – Stéphane Guivarc’h

Who do you think Stéphane Guivarc’h turned out for in the Premier League? Yep, you guessed it, Newcastle United. It seems the North East of England is a graveyard for French footballers – perhaps it is just that little bit too far from home? Anyway, Guivarc’h is one of those players that will constantly appear in football trivia questions. You will almost certainly come across questions such as who started up front for France in the 1998 World Cup final? or who wore France’s No.9 shirt during the 1998 World Cup? For those of you who did not know the answer already, you do now!

Guivarc’h is very much the forgotten member of that victorious French team. He started four matches in the tournament, but failed to score in any. Despite this disappointment, his performances had clearly done enough to convince Newcastle United to splash out something in the region of £4 million later on that summer. His arrival from Auxerre was seen as a major coup and many believed that he could go on to form a formidable partnership with Alan Shearer. However, it was not meant to be. Although he scored on his league debut he did not find the net again for the St James’ Park outfit and after just six further appearances, he crossed the border to join Rangers.

Six of the worst Joey Barton misdemeanours

Joey Barton has had a chequered career to say the least. In fact, it was difficult whittling down his list of indiscretions to just six. The much travelled midfielder has been caught up in rows, fights, and Twitter arguments with many of his peers. Now plying his trade in Scotland with Rangers, Barton has, surprise surprise, yet again managed to find controversy. Here’s six times that Joey Barton got it wrong.

 

1. Chill out, have a cigar!

To kick off we thought we’d go back to Barton’s Manchester City days. Work Christmas parties always have some form of controversy; who kissed who, so-and-so cried, Jamie Tandy got a cigar stubbed in the eye. Hang on – what? Yes that last point did indeed happen during City’s 2004 festivities.

Barton stubbed a cigar in Tandy’s eye after taking offence at the youth team player’s attempt to set fire to his shirt. Tandy’s indiscretion was daft, if not dangerous, yet Barton, the more ‘grown-up’ of the two, should have known better.

An eye for an eye is rarely justifiable, and neither is an eye for a failed attempt to set fire to a shirt.

Barton did apologise, but the damage was already done. He was fined £60,000, equivalent to six weeks’ wages.

2. Blue Moon to Full Moon

On September 30th 2006, Barton and his Manchester City teammates visited Goodison Park. Barton, an Everton fan, managed to rile the Everton faithful by unceremoniously pulling his shorts down to reveal a rather pale backside.

Whilst Barton would have been familiar with Blue Moon ringing around The City of Manchester Stadium (as it was then called), the midfielder decided he would treat Everton fans to a full moon.

Barton’s bottom landed him with a hefty £2,000 fine, a police investigation, and he was warned over his future conduct. A warning he sadly did not heed.

3. The Dabo incident

Just nine months after ‘bumgate’ Barton once again found himself at the centre of controversy. Ousmane Dabo, a teammate at City, felt the full swing of Barton’s now notorious temper.

Instead of giving Dabo a light dab, he decided to go full-whack. Dabo was allegedly knocked unconscious and had to go to hospital after injuring his head in the fracas.

The Frenchmen decided to press charges, and Barton eventually pleaded guilty to the assault.

Barton was fined £100,000 by City, given a six game ban and £25,000 fine by the FA, a four-month suspended prison sentence, and 200 hours of community service. This sorry incident paved the way for his exit from City.

4. McPrison

Seven months after the Dabo incident Barton again found himself in trouble. Now playing for Newcastle United, Barton went on a post-Christmas night out in his hometown of Liverpool. In the early hours of December 27th he became embroiled in a fight outside McDonalds.

CCTV showed him punching his victim 20 times, before also attacking a teenager. This time there would be no reprieve and no suspended sentence. Barton served 77 days in prison before being released and being allowed to resume his career.

5. In for a penny, in for a pound

Barton now found himself playing for Queens Park Rangers. His former club, Manchester City, were on the verge of claiming their first title in 44 years.

Barton and his QPR team visited The Etihad on the final day of the 2011/12 Premier League season. This game will be remembered for many things, including Barton’s outrageous sending off.

City needed to win in order to prevent their Manchester rivals, United, from claiming yet another title, whilst QPR needed at least a draw and results elsewhere to go their way in order to avoid relegation. With the score finely balanced at 1-1, Barton saw red – literally. First he elbowed Carlos Tevez in the face. A red card was promptly shown. Not content with this, the ex-City man kicked Sergio Agüero, attempted to head-butt Vincent Kompany, and finally tried to square off with Mario Balotelli.

Thankfully for Barton, QPR avoided relegating despite conceding two last-minute goals. Barton tried to justify his actions by saying that after elbowing Tevez he wanted to provoke a City player into reacting and also being sent off. His ingenious little plot failed quite spectacularly, and once the dust had settled, Barton was hit with a mammoth 12 match ban and a £75,000 fine by the FA.

QPR also punished him; stripping him of the captaincy and fining him six weeks’ wages totalling an eye-watering £600,000.

6. Complete Nonsense

After his Etihad meltdown, the following four years were relatively quiet for Barton. Bar the odd Twitter dispute (something that is obviously inevitable), and a couple of red cards, Barton’s behaviour had looked to have drastically improved.

Playing for Burnley in the Championship, the 2015/16 season was a successful one for both him and his team. Promotion to the Premier League was achieved, and Barton received the Player of the Year trophy.

Despite this Barton chose to head north and sign for newly-promoted Rangers in Scotland. As soon as he arrived in Glasgow he was up to his old tricks. He deliberately tried to antagonise Celtic captain, Scott Brown, and accused Celtic’s manager, Brendan Rodgers, of going through a midlife crisis.

All of this preceded the first Old Firm game of the season. When Rangers arrived at Celtic Park many neutrals were relishing the Barton vs Brown midfield battle. On the day Barton was useless; slow, off the pace, and poor with the ball. His Celtic counterpart completely outplayed him in a 5-1 win for The Hoops.

The fallout from this defeat was a throwback to Barton from years gone by. After having a heated discussion with Rangers teammate Andy Halliday, Barton was banned from the club for 3 weeks. At the same time, he was publicising his new book, No Nonsense.

It remains to be seen whether this episode will spell the end of Barton’s Rangers career. Whatever happens, we can be almost certain that this won’t be the last we hear from Joey.


Sam Simmons