Injury Issues present double edged sword to Thomas Partey at Arsenal

Injury Issues present double edged sword to Thomas Partey at Arsenal

One of the main things that stood out amidst the raucous celebratory mood Manchester United fans were in after bagging a 3-1 win over Arsenal was Thomas Partey. New Boy Antony endeared himself to United supporters by grabbing a goal on his debut to get his side the game’s lead and that is and has been the biggest takeaway from the game. He then went on to show enough promise he would play his way to match the $100 million transfer fee from Ajax. Ghanaian midfielder Thomas Partey didn’t play any part in the loss as he nurses a tight right thigh injury but his name trended on social media.

Partey

A section of Arsenal fans lamented his absence and the effect it had on the outcome of the game and a five game winning streak with Partey at the heart of the streak is prime evidence of his importance. Another significant section of fans however was less emotionally subtle towards Partey’s latest bout with injury.

They bashed him over his inability to stay healthy for long stretches over a football season and threw Head Coach Mikel Arteta and Technical Director Edu into the mix by blaming them for failing to sign a replacement. Partey’s injury coupled with Mohammed Elneny’s hamstring injury that is likely a long term one almost a full week before the transfer window closed should have forced the Gunners top hierarchy to sign another midfielder.

Perhaps Edu and Team Director Josh Kroenke believed Arsenal had spent quite a lot in the transfer window already to fork out extra cash for an unsettled but quality midfielder like Youri Tielemans or Douglas Luis. It could be management and perhaps some members of the technical team were confident youngster Sambi Lokonga would step up to the challenge and get the job done prompting them not to commit more resources to get the above mentioned more established pair.

In the loss to Man United, Lokonga was bright as his talent would always get him to be at the very least but he largely struggled in the fine details that dictated the game’s result. Lokonga was slow to close down Christian Eriksen and prevent the Dane from splitting the Arsenal side open to launch an attack that United finished off to score the game’s opener. The young Belgian also lost the ball that United directly scored from via another quick transitional play before getting subbed off in the 74th minute.

Chances are high, Thomas Partey’s presence in the game would have changed the outcome for Arsenal but here is the kicker; he wasn’t there and looking at his injury riddled run at Arsenal so far, what do the Gunners have lined up to fix his absence problems. After breaking through the Atletico Madrid starting unit, Partey played 33, 32 and 35 out of 38 games respectively in three La Liga seasons in a row while playing extensive minutes in other competitions.

At Arsenal, he has played 24 games apiece in two Premier League seasons though it should be noted he missed out on a handful of games in his first season as he engineered his Spanish exit. For a man of his stature, availability for team selection is essential and that is a challenge Partey has yet to surmount.

Fans frustration with Partey is understandable especially in an age where science and technology improvement has elevated the performance of top athletes, extended athletes careers and aided athletes withstand hits and knocks that would ordinarily lead to absences such as the one Partey is dealing with at the moment. His inability to stay fit and perform at his best for 10 straight games is a reason he was flagged as one of the players under the most pressure to excel heading into this season.

It is for these reasons, Arsenal would get forced to sign another established midfielder as early as the January transfer window or wait for Luiz and Tielemans to become free agents and move in to scoop them up or get someone completely new in the main transfer window once the league season closes. A handful of disturbing news reportedly surrounding Partey’s behaviour in the offseason means there is some extra incentive to move off the Ghanaian.

Partey

Lokonga at this point, looks like a prime candidate to get loaned out as many young Arsenal players in recent years have gone through. William Saliba, Nuno Tavares, Emile Smith-Rowe have all gone through this process and with the likely influx of talent in the midfield department, Lokonga is on the outside looking in.

While Partey’s absence showed his importance in Arsenal’s setup that highlights his immense football abilities, his absences give the Gunners more ammo to shoot for another top midfielder and that potentially reduces Partey’s presence in the team moving forward. Consistent injuries have created this double edged sword effect and time is running out for Thomas Partey and Arsenal to stick to a side.

Samuel Boadu under the most pressure in Hearts tenure heading into new season

Samuel Boadu under the most pressure in Hearts tenure heading into new season

There hasn’t been much in promotion and marketing of the Ghana Premier League the sizable budget allocated by the Ghana Football Association (GFA)’s partnership with betPawa suggested. In fact, the football landscape is rife with Black Stars talk ahead of the 2022 World Cup than the commencement of the 2022-2023 season of Ghana’s elite club football competition.

For a million American dollars agreed between the GFA and betPawa to promote the league, the evidence in reality is a far cry from what exists on paper. In the lead up to the opening round of games, there was a pungent smell of controversy brewing somewhere in the football quarters.

Right on cue, Ashanti Gold Sporting Club CEO Dr. Kwaku Frimpong through his legal team placed an interlocutory injunction on the league stemming from the GFA’s ruling on the club’s alleged involvement in match fixing in the immediate past season.

In announcing yet another partner for the Black Stars, the GFA’s position is that of adamancy the league season will start this weekend as planned. Going with this flow, focus on the new season is bound to be directed at the top hitters of the league.

Dr. Kwaku Frimpong

Accra Hearts of Oak, defending champions Kumasi Asante Kotoko and the ever popular Accra Great Olympics who go into the season confident after impressing in preseason will draw the attention of fans. Kotoko’s nemesis, Hearts, face a different kind of pressure and it’s not mainly on the Club’s Boss the way Kotoko’s Nana Yaw Amponsah is under after the controversial nature of Coach Dr. Prosper Nartey Ogum’s exit.

In Hearts’ case, the pressure to succeed is steered mainly towards Head Coach Samuel Boadu who has had his fair share of pressure filled moments in his tenure at the Rainbow Club despite storming to 11 wins, five draws and three losses in 18 games to open his run at the club.

Dr. Ogum

Terrible title defence

The aforementioned stat line vaulted Hearts to the league’s summit to clinch the title for the first time after a 12 year drought. Boadu moved midway through the 2019-2020 season from Medeama to Hearts and succeeded in turning around the club’s fortunes. However, all that top production came crashing last season as Hearts finished sixth in the league after recording 12 wins, 12 draws and 10 losses in 34 games.

The latter part of the campaign was more gut wrenching for the Phobia family as Hearts failed to win a game in five outings losing to King Faisal, Eleven Wonders and 0-3 to city rival Great Olympics. Throwing in very disappointing campaigns in the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup into the mix makes for one of the most disappointing title defense campaigns in recent years.

 On the back of such disappointment, Samuel Boadu will be under immense pressure to deliver success and making matters worse, he needs to get off to a sparkling start beginning with Aduana Stars on September 11. Winning the FA Cup it must be noted did provide a decent conclusion to the season and the bad run in Africa was mainly down to factors beyond his control.

Run-Ins with Top Hearts Officials

For many a club, a head coach comes under pressure when the on field results are terrible but Hearts of Oak isn’t many clubs both in terms of its profound tradition and proclivity to self-destruct over flimsy issues. On the back of winning the League title, FA Cup title and Super Cup little over a year after his March 2021 appointment, Hearts Board Member Dr. Nyaho Tamakloe slammed Boadu and questioned his credentials in a damning interview with Angel FM.

 “I believe the current technical team can’t carry us far” he stated in the interview and touched on the coaching staff’s inability to keep players in check. The timing of Dr. Tamakloe’s statement was flat out wrong as his comments were made after Hearts won the FA Cup title.

Dr. Tamakloe

There have been several reports of Hearts top hierarchy members undermining Samuel Boadu and frustrating his work since taking up the role of head coach. Having a poor start to the new season gives Boadu detractors more ammo and doing the opposite is the only thing that keeps them at arm’s length.

Hearts Filled Black Galaxies Run

After failing to qualify to the African Championship of African Nations (CHAN) three editions in a row, Ghana’s Black Galaxies finally made it and will compete in Algeria in 2023. The competition eligible to players competing in leagues on the African continent will have two time finalists Ghana feature in it. To get there, the team benefited from top Hearts of Oak player performances.

Barnieh

Afriyie Barnieh, Suraj Seidu, Gladson Awako, Dennis Korsah and recently acquired defender Konadu Yiadom starred in the qualification run. Having such a quality mix indirectly puts pressure on Boadu to deliver as he is expected to put them in positions to replicate their excellent run at club level.

A hearts of Oak Head Coach is always under pressure to deliver; its Hearts of Oak Sporting Club after all. However, in Boadu’s case, a mix of factors put him in a position to deliver and deliver in a big way.

Manchester United under Erik Ten Hag; So Far, So OLE

Manchester United under Erik Ten Hag; So Far, So OLE

Antony’s debut goal in all important game even in this early part of the season against an improved Arsenal is bound to grab the headlines. After all, the diminutive Brazilian winger was a surprise starter after completing his high profile move to Old Trafford a few days before and beyond that, there was the obvious issue of the hefty sum of money Manchester United doled out to get him from Ajax to live up to.

Antony not only showed the United faithful that he has the quality and temperament to excel but he repaid the enormous faith Head Coach Erik Ten Hag has in him.

So four wins in six games with all four wins coming on the bounce after two poor losses to open the new season but beneath the shining stat of a healthy goal count and accumulated points is the worrying reality of Man United’s best goal outlet.

In the latest win for the Red Devils that came via a 3-1 win over Arsenal, all three goals scored by Man United came in transition the same way all but one goal scored by the team in the previous wins. Jadon Sancho’s quick feet and composure inside the box before slotting the ball into the net against Liverpool is the only goal Man United has scored without transiting possession quickly.

As long as the wins keep coming is there a problem with that? Possibly so because if United is to play its way through the season this way, the fate that befell former Coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to repeat itself.

While Ole’s Manchester United run through a record setting 28 away game unbeaten record, his side failed to win when teams sat deep. Such failures to get his team pry other teams open minus quick transitional play cost Manchester United the Premier League title in the 2020-2021 season, the Europa League title and for Ole, that inability cost him the job.

Thus far, judging by what Man United has been able to do, the team needs to build the vaunted Ten Hag identity that thrives on playing through teams to score goals and get wins fast before the losses roar back and kill off the renewed confidence of the team.

The Ten Hag style of attacking play as seen at Ajax is heavy on controlling the game but his new team has consistently done the opposite and surprisingly the Head Coach has a hand in it. In the first pair of games that opened the new season, Man United tried to play finesse football Ten Hag’s teams are noted for but it didn’t work and was bound not work against a Brentford side that has speedy forwards with a lot of physicality to overpower a high defensive line.

However, Ten Hag has quickly shown he is willing to switch from his idealist ways to more pragmatic ways to get the job done and having such a perspective to alter his style will serve him well. Four wins into the Ten Hag era, Man United has adopted the infamous “Rope -A- Dope” style that served legendary boxer Mohammed Ali so well in his colossal fight against George Foreman in “Rumble in the Jungle”.

As witnessed against Arsenal, Man United lacked control of the game after grabbing the game’s lead and Arsenal capitalized on it. Ten Hag didn’t help his team by taking off Jadon Sancho and Antony and replacing them with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fred at the expense of Casemiro.

In an individual sport, controlling the level of risk is far less than the risks levels involved in a team sport like football where many factors are beyond the control of individuals in a team. This is why Old Trafford was very uncomfortable until Arsenal’s high defensive line was broken twice by Marcus Rashford who finished off the moves to boot.

In disappointing losses to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford in games where United played the Ten Hag way (pressing high up the pitch, playing out from the back and dominating possession) the results were terrible. While largely blamed and flat out vilified by others for United’s poor state before Ralf Rangnick’s takeover, present results continue to cast a good light on Ole’s style.

Since Tag Hag’s side played like Ole’s, the results have been successful which goes to show perhaps Solskjaer’s ways of getting goals and wins weren’t so bad after all.

Can Ajax’s “Modern” Golden Generation 2.0 live up to expectations?

Can Ajax’s “Modern” Golden Generation 2.0 live up to expectations?

Mere hours short of the most horrific day in Ghana’s football history, Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam was on the precipice of making a Cinderella run to the Champions League Final. Leading 3-0 against Tottenham Hotspurs on aggregate, Ajax’s latest roll out of young, insanely talented players had all but secured a Champions League final ticket booked.

However, a late flurry of goals from Lucas Moura tied the game and got Tottenham into the final thanks to a hitherto rule that placed premium on goals scored away from home venues.

Moura

Ajax’s run to the May 8 collapse late in the game cemented Erik Ten Hag’s credentials that played a key role in his appointment as Manchester United Coach years later. On the part of the playing unit, that brilliant run made the group of youngsters must have talents on some of richest clubs in the world. All but two players (Dusan Tadic and Daley Blind) who played against Spurs are still with the team.

However, the top performers who were labeled as the Next Big Things in world football have thus far missed out on delivering to the level of promise they showed early on in their careers. Hakim Ziyech, Frenkie De Jong, Donny Van De Beek, Mathias De Ligt, Andre Onana and Kasper Dolberg were must have talents off that run.

Martinez-Antony

Sports is a reflection of life and sports is life and just as life isn’t lineal, a footballer’s career isn’t lineal and thus far, the careers of these highly touted players hasn’t matched the earlier projection. Ziyech and Van De Beek have flopped since earning big moves to Chelsea and Manchester United respectively.

While turbulence at Man United and his loan club Everton hasn’t helped his development, Van De Beek is still yet to impress in limited minutes in a more stable environment under his former manager Ten Hag at Man United these days. De Ligt failed to develop into the second coming of Giorgio Chiellini at Juventus and his indifferent form led to his exit to Bayern Munich.

Van De Beek

De Ligt will reunite with his teammate Noussair Mazraoui who lined up as right full back against Tottenham. Striker Dolberg is on loan at Sevilla from French side OGC Nice, Onana is a backup goalkeeper at Inter Milan and De Jong has been good for Barcelona but hasn’t been the transcendent talent he was expected to be.

In his time at Barcelona, his place in midfield has been threatened by fellow prodigious talents Pedri and Gavi and his unwillingness to reduce his salary (fair play to him) has unsettled his stay in the team. In simple terms none of Ajax’s modern Golden Generation has lived up to that billing as the throwback Golden Generation did.

De Ligt

That group had legendary players like Edwin Van Der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert with top level career production from Marc Overmars, Nwanko Kanu, Frank De Boer and Michael Reiziger.

All of this greatness came after winning against the more experienced AC Milan side in the 1995 Champions League final. With the De Jong group moved on quickly, the next wave of Ajax top hitters have been snapped up by top clubs in the just ended transfer window. Lisandro Martinez, Antony, Ryan Gravenberch, and Sebastian Haller were the high profile exits from the team and the biggest question that immediately comes to mind is would this group live up to expectations?

Kudus

It must be noted, minus strong resistance, the above mentioned group of exits would have included fellow talented guys like Mohammed Kudus, Jurrien Timber and Edson Alvarez.  Martinez has made a bombastic start to life in the English Premier League for Man United winning a couple of Man of the Match Awards in the process. Antony joined Martinez at United late after his hefty 95 million Euro transfer fee was agreed on; he is yet to play for the Red Devils while Haller is out for Borussia Dortmund due to a medical condition that required surgery.

Gravenberch has played limited minutes for Bayern Munich but he did score and grab an assist against lower tier side Viktoria Koln in the German Cup. While Bayern got Gravenberch for mainly depth purposes, Dortmund and Man United need their former versions of ex Ajax players to excel and excel as quickly as possible.

Ziyech

Three games into his time at Man United, Martinez has bossed his way into life in the Premier League but the sample size is too small to tag The Butcher a success. Antony has a lot on his plate to deliver to meet the enormous fee chunked out from the brink truck to get him from Amsterdam. The flicks won’t be enough likewise the step overs from Antony to justify his price tag until the Brazilian scores 15+ goals and delivers 12+ assists a season.

De Jong

Dortmund needs Haller to heal quickly to replace Erling Haaland as Dortmund’s fall back option in the Ivorian’s absence Anthony Modeste is at best a backup option at his age 34 stage in his career. The current wave of Ajax golden talents is under pressure to deliver after the last wave’s stuttering delivery on the promise it showed and the valuation of whether they can deliver is a question more expensive than Antony’s fee.

The Last “Black Stars” Dance; A Parody on Asamoah Gyan’s interest in Return

The Last “Black Stars” Dance; A Parody on Asamoah Gyan’s interest in Return

In ideal circumstances, Belgian Pro League Joint Top scorer David Atanga of Oostende should be the talk of the town as much as Red Star Belgrade’s Osman Bukari.

The wingers have put together a stellar collection of top performances to start the young football season while making strong cases to be picked for national assignments later this year. Shockingly, such talk is bound not to happen in the coming days as talk has shifted to an outlandish retro prospect playing out before our eyes.

Bukari

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is a couple of months away but there has been renewed interest in the Black Stars possible setup to take on Uruguay, Portugal and South Korea thanks to Asamoah Gyan. The Baby Jet must have drowned himself over the weekend in the very popular Michael Jordan themed “The Last Dance” Documentary to tease a return.

Like the main protagonist of the 10 Part Documentary Michael Jordan who had trouble leaving the sport he dominated, Gyan has had a difficult time walking away from his shining career.

Atanga

The most accomplished player from the African continent in the history of the World Cup dropped an absolute bomb via an interview with the BBC as he announced his intention to play in Qatar. Having the greatest goal scorer of all time for Ghana announce his readiness to play for the Black Stars should be as obvious an announcement as they come.

However, Gyan hasn’t featured in a competitive football setting since a brief run with Legon Cities in the Ghana Premier League in the 2021-2022 Season. Beyond that, his absence from the Black Stars stretches far out enough to rule him out of contention for a spot in the playing unit. Gyan’s hint has generated a lot of talk and the sharply varied views on the issue reflect what Technical and Administrative Managers of the Black Stars are going through at this moment.

Black Stars Head Coach Otto Addo

Former Black Stars Winger Christian Atsu has thrown his weight behind the call for Gyan to be included in Ghana’s playing unit for the Qatar trip as a way to “Honour” the legendary striker. However, this doesn’t bode well for the young group Coach Otto Addo has primed to make a statement on Ghana’s return to the World Cup since a handful of budding talents have to make way to accommodate Gyan (who turns 37 in November) and his cohorts who also deserve an “honourable” send off.

Atsu-Gyan

Laryea Kingston

Despite being 41 years, Bra Laryea is the first name on this list as it should be, considering the dire circumstances that led to him missing out on not one but two World Cups. In 2006 and the famous 2010 run, the former Hearts of Oak and Hearts of Midlothian winger was dropped in the final cuts despite being a popular figure with fans and in the dressing room.

Ghana’s Laryea Kingston (front) tackles Australia’s Michael Beauchamp during their international friendly football match in Sydney on May 23, 2008. Australia defeated the top-ranked Africans 1-0. AFP PHOTO/Torsten BLACKWOOD (Photo credit should read TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

Fans would love to see Bra Laryea finally step on the pitch of the biggest football stage of all with his braids, flamboyant substitution entrances et al many believe was cruelly wrestled away from him. Despite venturing into coaching for a while, improvement in science and technology plus a little discipline should whip Laryea back in shape in time to play in Qatar alongside Gyan.

Sulley Muntari

Muntari

Muntari is still an active player who is still capable of competing with youngings as demonstrated by his lead role in Accra Hearts of Oak triumphs in the FA Cup in the past season. The former Inter Milan player’s international career came to an inglorious end by falling out with the Black Stars handlers at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Per Christian Atsu, Muntari qualifies for an honourable send off at the World Cup; considering his solid outing with Hearts of Oak and in line for a reported move to arch rival Kumasi Asante Kotoko, Muntari overly qualifies to play in Qatar.

Ghana’s midfielder Christian Atsu chases down the ball during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) football match between Ghana and Benin at the Ismailia Stadium on June 25 , 2019. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Stephen Appiah

El Capitano played at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and was on the verge of making history as the first African Captain to lead his nation to a World Cup semifinal matchup. Had Baby Jet converted the last minute penalty against Uruguay at the quarterfinal, Appiah’s last World Cup memory wouldn’t be filled with hurt. Unlike Gyan, who has quite a way to go to get in shape physically, 41 year old Appiah is still jacked at least judging by his looks in commercials. Considering his immense contributions to get Ghana to the elite stage, it is only fair Appiah gets the chance to have a proper farewell tour in Qatar.

Uruguay vs Ghana – Mondiali di calcio Sud Africa 2010 Quarti di finale – Soccer City Johannesburg

Anthony Annan

Ghana’s Pablo Aimar is in the Muntari category as an active player for TPS in Finland after playing out the past season for fellow Finnish side Inter Turku. His last involvement with the Black Stars at a major competition was the 2013 AFCON. The 36 year old expressed his interest to feature for the Black Stars again in 2020 and with the South African edition as his sole run in the World Cup, it is time to get Mikel Obi’s Best Friend back in the Black Stars.

Joet Gonzalez Rematch more plausible for Dogboe than title fight in 2022

Joet Gonzalez Rematch more plausible for Dogboe than title fight in 2022

This past weekend had former World Champion Teofimo Lopez get back in the ring and claim a big knockout win over Pedro Campa after falling flat in his first title defence against George Kambosos last year. Losing for the second time in a row would have dealt a massive blow to the career of one of Boxing’s highest profile young talents. Lopez became an undisputed champion thanks to a shock win over Vasiliy Lomachenko but lost it all after falling to Kambosos.

Lopez dominated Campa en route to the knockout win

His latest win didn’t come at the Lightweight Division but at 140 Pounds in the Juniour Welterweight Division. Judging by the natural feel to his game at that weight and subsequent comments in the post-fight interview, the vaunted Lightweight Division’s collection of talent is sure to be a man short. Like Lopez, Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe has needed to win all four post Emmanuel Navarrete fights to get back in contention for a second title shot.

Dogboe did acknowledge after getting a close win over Joet Gonzalez recently he wants to fight for a title in his next bout. A second bout this year is likely to come late in November or December and getting the title fight in the first place is a tricky prospect considering the possible fighters involved and the simple fact that this is BOXING.

A lot of varied schedules and plans for fighters across different stables who are aligned to different promoters and television networks make it very difficult to get fights fans really want to see. In this spirit, fans of The Royal Storm shouldn’t be surprised that his dream title fight in his still young career would come a bit later in 2023.

For starters, the close and entertaining win over Gonzalez could get a rematch made in an attempt to create “real” separation between the two Junior Featherweights. Dogboe scored a split decision win over Gonzalez after taking several body shots thrown from close quarters in the final rounds of the fight. One Judge scored the bout 96-94 for Dogboe, another scored the bout 96-94 for Gonzalez while the third Judge scored the fight 96-94 in favour of Dogboe.

Had the bout been a boring dull event, chances of a rematch would be slim but an entertaining 10 Round Bout isn’t hard to arrange even if the fighters are in different promotion stables. Dogboe is with Top Rank while Gonzalez is with Golden Boy Promotions and as long the money is right, another fight between the two to see out the year can’t be ruled out.

Navarrete beat Dogboe in back to back fights

Another factor that is likely to hold off a title bout till next year is the availability or otherwise of the title belt holders, Navarrete and Josh Warrington. Nemesis Navarrete has two dominant wins over Dogboe and holds the WBO title while Warrington holds the IBF title belt. Navarrete is set to fight Eduardo Baez on Saturday, August 20 and likely to move up in weight and vacate the title should he score a win.

The vacant title would have Dogboe as a prime candidate if he had a dominant win over Gonzalez considering there is still doubt about Dogboe’s title credentials looking back at how bad he looked against Navarrete. Bagging a win over Gonzalez in a rematch or another opponent will land him that spot for the likely vacant title belt.

On the other hand, Warrington is looking to fight Leo Santa Cruz next after bagging a knockout win over veteran Spaniard Kiko Gonzalez in March. Beyond avid Boxing fans, casual fans are quite familiar with Santa Cruz thanks to the brutal knockout he suffered at the hands of Gervonta Davis that went viral in 2020.

Gary Russell Jr. is another option for Warrington even if the bout won’t have much buzz as Russell lost his last bout against Mark Magsayo on top of being a guy who rarely fights frequently to generate much interest for the fight.

While he represents Ghana, Dogboe has a strong connection to British fans due to deep ties to the base and fighting fellow Brit, Warrington, is sure to sell out. While not at the level of an Anthony Joshua Heavyweight fight at the O2, having Warrington fight Dogboe gives the latter a great chance to land his first big money fight.

Dogboe’s former Promoter Alex Ntiamoah Boakye in an interview, believes it is time for Dogboe to cash in on his career that is undergoing a fine rebuild and fighting Warrington in England will get him the financial windfall Boakye points to.

However, due to Boxing’s historically frustrating resistance to give fans the fights they want, Dogboe’s close win over Joet Gonzalez and a potentially the big pay day of his career, Isaac Dogboe is likely to get that second title shot in 2023.

Deciphering the KUDUS Conundrum at Ajax Amsterdam

Deciphering the KUDUS Conundrum at Ajax Amsterdam

As one of the brightest spots for the Ajax Amsterdam side in the lead up to a new Eredivisie Season, many believe the 2022-2023 campaign is the Take Over Year for Ghana’s talented midfielder Mohammed Kudus. Heading into his third year at the Dutch club, not dealing with lingering injuries and scoring an eye candy of a goal against PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Super Cup fueled optimism the 22 year old Ghanaian international will torch opposing teams and move on to a richer, stronger league.

However, that hope took a battering in the opening week of the new season as Kudus made a cameo appearance in Ajax’s 3-2 against Fortuna Sittard. Kudus replaced Steven Bergwijn in the 90th minute to the disappointment of many leading to major questions about the hand Mohammed has been dealt at Ajax.  Such questions are legitimate considering Kudus Mohammed is the brightest creator on a Black Stars team that has so far struggled to consistently create sustained goal scoring opportunities under new Head Coach Otto Addo.

Bergwijn

His influence is crucial to Ghana’s quest to either match its best run in the history of the World Cup via a quarterfinal appearance or go a step or two steps further when the 2022 edition commences in Qatar. Mercurial players like Kudus barring indulging in nefarious activities see the field a ton especially for clubs that believe in young players like Ajax. So why is the former Right To Dream Academy standout youngster still struggling for game time at his club?

The basic denominator at Ajax is top level quality and all players on the four time European Champions payroll are quality. All advantages, no matter how slight they could be could end up being the deal clincher for players to earn minutes for the team. In the case of Kudus, he is in a fight against Dutch Football’s Grand Establishment and that is no mean beast to conquer in spite of Kudus’ immense talent. 

For Dutch football, Ajax is what Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan are to Italian football, what Bayern Munich is to German football, what Barcelona and Real Madrid are to Spanish football and what Manchester United and Liverpool are to English football.

Every detail is scrutinized to fall in line with ideals started by Rinus Michels and propagated by Johann Cruyff with the Dutch National Football Team’s success always eyed in the broad scheme. There is always a “me first /nationalist” twist these clubs deal with and this trait is ubiquitous in all leagues. In the just ended Ghana Premier League, a strong contingent of Ghanaian football fans pushed for Yaw Annor, a native of the land, to win the League’s Goal King Race ahead of Cameroonian Franck Etouga Mbella.

Mbella

Ajax lined up in a 4-3-3 formation in the win over Fortuna, while fielding nine Dutch players in its starting unit with only Brazilian Antony and Serb Dusan Tadic as the exceptions. Out of the nine Dutch players in the starting lineup, five including Daley Blind, Jurrien Timber and Steven Berghuis) are regulars in Louis Van Gaal’s National setup. 

Antony

The remaining quartet is primed to move into the national setup at the senior level in a couple of years after starring in the junior national teams. Kenneth Taylor and Right Full Back Devyne Rensch fall into this category after starring in the Netherlands European title winning team at the Under 17 level in 2019.

The midfield trio that started against Fortuna had Blind, Taylor and Berghuis in it; Blind operated as a Defensive Midfielder a role Kudus isnt suited to play and Taylor is highly regarded by the Ajax rank to make way for Kudus. Mexican Edson Alvarez mans the middle of Ajax’s three man midfield but missed the tie due to suspension.

AMSTERDAM , 12-12-2020 , Johan Cruijff Arena , Dutch football , Eredivisie , season 2020 / 2021. Ajax Player Kenneth Taylor during the match Ajax vs PEC Zwolle Ajax – PEC PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxNED Copyright: ToonxDompeling

In attack, Tadic is the Captain, Antony is untouchable and Bergwijn is Ajax’s high profile signing this offseason. This essentially means there isnt room for Kudus in the starting lineup barring an injury to a player manning a position either side of Blind/Alvarez in midfield or a player manning the laterals in attack. 

20 year old Taylor worked his way into the Ajax setup from the team’s junior outfit Jong Ajax at a time where Kudus dealt with a knee injury that kept him out of action for months.  The tables could turn in Kudus favour later this season but Kudus’ best shot at landing a spot in the starting unit or moving on to see extensive playing time at a top team goes through the dunes of Qatar.

Mohammed needs an excellent tournament at the 2022 World Cup to push his market value up and give him an easier path to claim a prominent role in his club career as he did at Nordsjaelland in Denmark. 

Patience, a bit of luck and timely performances is what Kudus needs to have that career defining moment all the greats have; whether that moment comes immediately at Ajax or another team is to be determined in the coming months.

Arsenal Players under most pressure heading into the 2022-2023 Season

Arsenal Players under most pressure heading into the 2022-2023 Season

Arsenal Football Club isn’t part of the mock top four ranked teams in the 2022-2023 English Premier League Season with Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspurs and Chelsea making up the elite quartet. Even in the face of Arsenal spending north of $120 million in new signings this offseason, Arteta’s team is not widely expected to improve its fifth place finish in the immediate past season mainly due to fellow London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham’s similar top level act of purchases.

Arteta

The Gunners brought in Oleksandr Zinchenko, Gabriel Jesus, Marquinhos, Fabio Veira and Matt Turner and are still in the market to get Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans. Arsenal bringing in a top Brazilian forward like Jesus was met by Spurs bringing in one of their own in Richarlison. Zinchenko was roped in earlier in the offseason but Chelsea has matched that by bringing in Marc Cucurella. Arsenal is under immense pressure to deliver the promise that has been baking for three seasons since Arteta replaced Unai Emery to undertake not a rebuild but some variant of a retooling of the playing unit.

Richarlison

The former Manchester City Assistant Head Coach has shown a ton of promise but with three seasons of EPL Head Coaching experience under his belt and a new three year deal, the time to deliver a Champions League spot and another domestic title is here.  “Bad teams, no one leads. Average teams, coaches lead but Elite teams, players lead’ is the famous quote from American Football Coach PJ Fleck. For Arsenal to take the next step into the vaunted space of the Best League in the World, the Gunners group of top tier players needs to step up and the following three members of the playing unit are under the most pressure to do so:

Gabriel Jesus

Arsenal’s new front man has big shoes to fill considering the Gunners boast a history of legendary front men in Thierry Henry and Ian Wright for starters. While his time at Arsenal ended in bizarre fashion, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did produce at a top level before his exit and this reflects in 68 goals and 16 assists in 128 Premier League games registered across three full seasons and two half seasons combined.

Aubameyang

While Gabriel Jesus doesn’t have quite the extensive minutes as a starter in the EPL as Aubameyang due to a crowded frontline at previous club Manchester City, his production (58 goals and 29 assists in 159 games) needs an upgrade for Arsenal to thrive at the elite level. Aside from being on the hook to improve his stats, the 25 year old has a big curse to break after picking the “Number 9 Jersey”. Chelsea’s version of this curse is well chronicled through Fernando Torres, Mateja Kezman and Romelu Lukaku’s disappointing runs at Stamford Bridge.

Lacazette

However, flying under the radar is Arsenal’s version of the curse that has had strikers fail to live up to expectations with the jersey number on their back. Davor Suker, Lukas Podolski, Lucas Perez, Alexandre Lacazette, Eduardo and Julio Baptista have suited up for the Gunners wearing the jersey number and have produced average at best performances or flat out flop performances. Jesus is on the watch by picking up the jersey number after his move from Man City.

Thomas Partey

Heading into his third season at Arsenal and in the EPL, Partey has a simple mission to accomplish; deliver and deliver well. After his big money from Atletico Madrid in the 2020-2021 season to the London Club, the world is still waiting to see the best of Thomas Partey. In his first season, injuries, COVID 19 related issues and settling in process made for a frustrating debut campaign but made way for an improved string of performances in the following season.

By taking those positive steps, Partey is in prime position to play his way to the level that made him a must have talent for elite teams. As the second highest paid player on the team behind Gabriel Jesus, it is only fair the pair occupy the top spots in this list. That aside, reported off the field issues involving the Black Stars Deputy Captain have put a big target on Partey’s back ahead of the new season and consistent slip ups in production would worsen matters.

William Saliba

Saliba

Arsenal’s Center Back pairing of Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White proved to be a very good combo with room to grow into an unbreakable unit considering last season was the first time the two joined forces at the heart of Arteta’s defence. 21 year old Saliba was touted as “a can’t miss” talent from Saint-Etienne in the Ligue 1 Arsenal beat off tough competition from the likes of Totttenham to get him. However, Saliba is yet to consistently get a good run of games at the Emirates Stadium after spending a season and a half playing on loan at Nice and Marseille.

White

Thus far in his career, 6 foot 4 inch Saliba has proven he can produce in the French League (a league famed for its conveyor belt of talents) but this is the time to step up and play with the Big Boys. A failed season would be a huge indicator Saliba might just not be good enough to play in the big leagues for a win-now team hence the pressure on him to deliver this season.

EPL 2022-2023; Time for Jeffery Schlupp to throw down a reminder gauntlet to Ghana

EPL 2022-2023; Time for Jeffery Schlupp to throw down a reminder gauntlet to Ghana

With Arsenal taking on Crystal Palace to open the much talked about 2022-2023 English Premier League Season later tonight, much talk and attention from a Ghanaian perspective is on Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew and Arsenal’s Thomas Partey. However, there is another high profile Ghanaian player in the mix who doesn’t get enough credit from natives of the motherland or handlers of Ghana’s National Men’s Football Team.

Heading into his eighth season in the English Premier League, Jeffrey Schlupp is a veteran midfielder who has a Premier League title on his CV as a member of the shock title winning Leicester City team of the 2015/2016 season.

Fair enough, Jordan has won Crystal Palace Player of the Season Award, scored an absolute worldie of a goal against West Ham in 2019 and has the infamous surname Ayew on his CV to bank on. For Partey, he is Ghana’s Black Stars Deputy Captain, grabbed the headlines on the back of his move from Atletico Madrid to Arsenal and scored the decisive goal that secured Ghana a spot in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

With these kind of accolades going for him plus some not so pleasant reported news this offseason, it isn’t surprising Partey is one of the most talked about players in the Premier League.

Jordan Ayew

Schlupp has flown under the radar for several years despite carving up a solid role at Crystal Palace to feature in 32 games last season in the EPL. As a solid contributor on a team competing in the Best League In The World Schlupp ought to be a shoo in for a spot in the Black Stars but since making his debut with the team after completing his international switch from Germany to Ghana in 2011, the 29 year old has made just 20 appearances for the Black Stars.

Injuries have contributed to this shocking dearth of international caps but Schlupp has been Ghana’s Forgotten Man for quite some time. He has fallen off the radar so much, several reports have indicated he is next in line to announce his resignation from the Black Stars in the wake of Alfred Duncan and Bernard Mensah’s exits. The announcements of fellow EPL players Tariq Lamptey and Salisu Mohammed’s into the Black Stars pool of talent hasn’t helped improve this situation either.

Lamptey

The start of a unique season for most European football leagues offers the German born left footed player a big chance to remind Ghanaians and especially the Black Stars selectors how good he is and perhaps provide a preview to what he can add to the team in Qatar. Palace Coach Patrick Veira has made mainly defensive additions to his team this offseason further bolstering a squad that conceded 46 goals last season’s defensive chops.

Salisu

Out of six signings made this offseason, two are goalkeepers, a defensive midfielder (Cheick Doucoure signed from Lens) and Chris Richards (signed from Bayern Munich). Such signings are indicative of Veira attempting to free attack minded players like Schlupp of defensive duties to prop up an attack that produced 50 goals in the immediate past league season.

Richards

After bagging four goals last season, Schlupp is likely to get more chances to improve his goal count this season as he is expected to spend more time up the pitch. Football has grown to become all about goals in the social media era and a string of goal scoring exploits prior to November is sure to get more people to back calls for Schlupp’s inclusion in the Black Stars.

As a versatile midfielder with very good speed, Schlupp can line up as a starter or direct replacement for Kamaldeen Sulemana on the left side of a three man front line. With Kudus Mohammed virtually an untouchable talent, Schlupp can serve as a direct replacement for Kudus on the left side in a three man midfield for the Black Stars.

National team aspirations aside, the 2022-2023 season marks the final year in Schlupp’s contract with Crystal Palace signed in 2017 meaning the 29 year old needs to have a big season to put himself in line for a new lucrative albeit short contract extension from Palace.

While Partey battles for a place in the Champions League with Arsenal, Salisu continues his improved form that gets him closer to a move to possibly one the Manchester Clubs and Lamptey improves his assist numbers, be on the lookout for Schlupp to push his way from the Black Stars fringes to a main spot in the team. The time for Schlupp to throw down the reminder gauntlet happens this season and it starts tonight.

Don’t shoot the messenger (Joel Embiid) for choosing France over Cameroon; listen to his message

Don’t shoot the messenger (Joel Embiid) for choosing France over Cameroon; listen to his message

The 2023 Basketball World Cup will be co hosted by Japan, Philippines and Indonesia and there is a high possibility Cameroon won’t be there as one of five African representatives though they have made it through to the final round of qualifiers with 11 other African nations.  Their chances are slim though after winning just one of six games to qualify just ahead of Rwanda due to having a superior goal difference.

Brice Bidias of Cameroon in action against South Sudan Photo Courtesy: FIBA

Joel Embiid could have been in this mix too but he ended it recently by committing his international career to France instead of the country of birth. His decision has left many disappointed the immensely talented 7 footer has effectively chosen the easy way out to chase titles on the international stage.

Mbah a Moute played 12 seasons in the NBA and represented Cameroon internationally

There is a solid argument to be made about the impact of having Embiid gut it out with the Indomitable Lions on the hardwood can have on basketball development in Cameroon. Former Cameroonian NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute voiced this out ahead of the 2017 African Basketball Championship (AfroBasket) stating, “It would be great for our team, our country” when talking about the prospects of Embiid competing in the tournament.

Conversely, Nigeria’s leadership crisis cost the National Women’s team a place in next month’s Women’s Basketball World Cup though D’Tigress qualified to compete in Australia. Mali will represent Africa instead of Nigeria as a result of an ill advised decision to ban the West African nation from competing in international basketball. Mali’s Men’s team recently got disqualified from participating in the Men’s World Cup qualifiers due to players’ failure to show up for qualification games against Uganda and Nigeria over unpaid bonuses.

Nigeria Guard Ezinne Kalu

Coupled with acute infrastructure challenges, Embiid is following the path charted by Hakeem Olajuwon who played for USA at the 1996 Olympics despite being a native of Nigeria, Serge Ibaka (born in Congo but played at the 2012 Olympics for Spain) and many others before him. The Philadelphia Sixers star isn’t the first to make such a move and quite frankly, he won’t be the last because of these reasons:

Ibaka (14) in action for Spain

 Money Issues

Money makes the world go round and it should be the first point of call when addressing Embiid’s situation. By signing a four year, $196 million contract extension with the Sixers, Embiid has secured for himself generational wealth on top of the generational wealth he has acquired in his seven year career thus far. However, this doesn’t mean Embiid is cleared to play international basketball without insurance cover for injuries and such cover for world beaters like him run into high dollar rates; NBA Money is Different Money.

Embiid- Ben Simmons

This takes Cameroon out of contention as the Federation simply can’t foot the bill (the government can though as it does with football). Dennis Schroder missed out on previous 2023 FIBA World Cup qualification games for Germany while under contract with Houston Rockets but played in the last round of games when the NBA season concluded and the Point Guard became an unrestricted free agent.

Schroder

Dominican Republic would love to have Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns but Towns hasn’t played for the Central American nation since his High School days. Embiid battled with injuries a lot earlier in his NBA career and putting his career on the line without any cover is hard to see play out knowing how short the shell life of a professional athlete is.

Towns attempts shot

Ego fuelled Scheduling Conflict  

At some point, basketball’s world governing body FIBA and basketball’s richest, powerful and most recognized basketball organization (NBA) need to do away with egos and find a schedule that mirrors what exists in football. At various points in the FIBA calendar, the NBA season is in full swing and prevents several international players from competing for their national teams. This robs several nations of the chance to have their best players in qualification games and in most cases, such nations end up missing out on the big tournaments like the Olympics and World Cup.

By aligning the FIBA calendar to what the NBA has to offer, FIBA qualifiers stand to gain tremendously from having NBA stars competing in qualification games unlike what usually exists presently where qualifiers aren’t big draws. Football qualifiers are big draws because FIFA and club football league calendars are aligned to ensure top stars are available for their countries.

Demand and supply factor

As much as the talent gap between the USA and the rest of the world is closing, there is still a gap to be filled by other nations before catching up to the US and surpassing them. This was played out in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Men’s Basketball final where France lost to USA 82-87. France had Guerschon Yabusele as its starting Power Forward in the game but barring injury will have Joel Embiid in the next World Cup in Yabusele’s spot. That is a massive upgrade and gives France a strong chance of winning the title.

Kevin Durant in action for USA against France in Tokyo 2020 Final

France offers Embiid the best chance to win at the international level minus all the distractions African nations like Cameroon tend to grapple with. On the flip side, France needs Embiid to become World Champs as he meets the criterion for France’s Article 21.19 Paragraph 6 of the Civil Code that states French nationality may be granted to “a foreigner…whose naturalization is of exceptional interest”; A win-win situation for player and country.

Embiid will likely partner Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt for France at the 2023 World Cup

By switching to France, Embiid is the messenger sending a message to many African Sports Federations to get their acts together and do better and shouldn’t get shot for doing so.