Chirivella a Canary?

Liverpool midfielder Pedro Chirivella looks set to sign for FC Nantes on a three-year-contract in what would be a fantastic coup for Les Canaris.

Chirivella, who spent nearly a decade in hometown Valencia’s youth set-up winning 15 Spain under-17 caps for good measure, would add significant quality to an at best mediocre Nantes team.

Chirivella has had to content himself with a couple of loans to the Netherlands during his time in (Or out of) Liverpool. Despite impressing in some cup showings last season he has the likes of Curtis Jones and Harvey Elliott to compete with let alone current first team players.

As a Nantes fan who’s a little underwhelmed by the standard of the current squad, the addition of a midfield string-puller such as Chirivella would be most welcome. He’ll be 23 shortly so needs to make a break. Fingers crossed that Ligue 1 is all go later this year and Chirivella is at the Stade de la Beaujoire wearing canary yellow.

Bundesliga is Back!

One week today the Bundesliga will be back. If Belarus hasn’t been sufficient for your European football fix then the Bundesliga should quench your thirst. The big names will be there, the likes of Jadon Sancho, Serge Gnabry and Brit Erling Haaland but here Left Back Footy takes a look at some alternative players to keep an eye on…

Jean-Phillipe Mateta – Mainz 05

22-year-old French striker Mateta has notched up an impressive 16 goals in 38 league games since joining Mainz 05 in 2018. He previously tallied an equally impressive 17 in 35 whilst on loan at Le Havre from Lyon. Mateta made only two Ligue 1 outings for Lyon but hit the back of the net 5 times in 15 games for the B team. He’d previously averaged one goal every two appearances (13 in 26) for Chateroux having totalled 7 in 13 for their B team. That’s 58 goals in 129 games. Those are some mightily impressive stats!

Mateta has been capped at under-19/under-21 level for France but aged 22 has played for four different clubs both at both senior and youth level. He doesn’t have a record of staying in one place too long, has been vocal about wanting to leave and Premier League clubs have been sniffing around. Mainz sit just above the relegation zone so will need Mateta firing on all cylinders. With the global football following fully focused on Germany, Mateta will aim to put himself in the shop window for a big summer transfer.

Jeremiah St. Juste – Mainz 05

Mateta’s Mainz teammate Jeremiah St. Juste is another who could catch the eye courtesy of his blistering pace. Centre-back St. Juste, who can also play at right-back, has featured 17 times in his first season in the Bundesliga having previously clocked up over 100 league games in his native Netherlands at Heerenveen and Feyenoord. He’s capped at youth international level right through from under-18s to under-21s and has been known to pop up with the odd goal. He’s destined for have a bright future and should Mainz fail to avoid relegation the 23-year-old won’t be short of suitors.

Dennis Geiger – 1899 Hoffenheim

21-year-old Geiger is still in the infancy of his senior career at 1899 Hoffenheim but the midfielder has notched up 36 youth international caps for Germany from under-15s to under-21s. German table toppers Bayern Munich as well as Manchester City have both previously displayed an interest in Geiger, a man who’s contributed three assists this season despite not playing the full ninety minutes very often. Some solid performances during the Bundesliga’s return could earn the Mosbach native a move from Hoffenheim and really propel his career.

Marko Grujic – Hertha BSC

Serbia international Grujic is actually a Liverpool player but has spent the last two seasons impressing whilst on loan at Hertha BSC. He’s contributed 8 goals in 42 league showings which is a serious contribution for a player who’s been compared to goal-shy Nemanja Matic. 24-year-old Grujic was Livepool boss Jurgen Klopp’s first signing at Anfield and following some more strong showings in Germany, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could yet add to his eight Premier League appearances.

Philipp Max – FC Augsburg

Olympic silver medallist Max has been a mainstay of the FC Augsburg team since 2015 and has complimented his 129 league games with a more than useful 11 goals. Max actually went goal crazy this season before the enforced break. The 26-year-old has 7 goals and 5 assists in 23 league games to date. That’s not bad for a left-back! Max desperately craves international recognition and if he can pick up where he left off then he could yet gatecrash the German squad for Euro 2021.

Jerome Roussillon – VFL Wolfsburg

Another left-back with international ambitions is Frenchman Jerome Roussillon. The 27-year-old is, like Max, a player not shy of popping up with the occasional goal. He’s registered 4 in 49 league appearances since arriving in Germany having totalled ten in his Ligue 1 days. Roussillon is still in the Europa League with Wolfsburg but they’ll need to overturn a first leg deficit should said competition be completed. Age isn’t on the France under-18/under-20 cap’s side when it comes to international recognition but it could be that in his mid-late twenties the former Sochaux and Montpellier player is peaking and can take it to the next level.

Rather aptly if not intentionally, there were a couple of left-backs on that list which is more than appropriate given the name of the blog!

Who are you looking forward to seeing in action come next weekend?

Ravel Morrison – Your Time is Now!

Ravel Morrison has a history of failing to deliver on the pitch. In fact, he has a history of failing to get on the pitch. He has however scored three goals in each of the Premier League and Liga MX so must possess some of the quality that so many would have us believe. Ex-teammates and YouTube videos don’t lie!

Ravel Morrison has a history of failing to deliver on the pitch… but according to those ex-teammates and YouTube videos, Ravel Morrison has a history of delivering on the training ground. So wouldn’t now be as good a time as any for a manager to throw caution to the wind and just let Morrison express himself on the pitch? Because when teams do retake to the field, with no fans in the ground it’ll feel like a training ground affair. Unfortunately for Morrison, he’s been shipped off to Middlesbrough on loan and the likelihood of the Championship resuming is getting slimmer by the minute. With Sheffield Utd chomping at the bit for a European place, Chris Wilder is unlikely to turn to the risky Morrison, which does beg the question as to why he signed him in the first place!

It’s easy to write Morrison off as someone who didn’t live up to the hype but recent managers haven’t really backed him. Maybe he doesn’t put the effort in on the training ground or maybe he has to prove himself more than others because he’s deemed to be an unfulfilled talent. There comes a point though where you’d like to think that somebody might just let him run loose. Even one assist might just light the spark to ignite the fire. Playing in front of empty seats might just be what the 27-year-old needs before he then delivers when fans return too.

Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and the rest will soon grace the playing surface once again and showcase their skills… but will Morrison ever do so?

World Cup History – Modern Monopoly!

At the first ever World Cup in Uruguay in 1930 thirteen teams participated, seven from South America, four from Europe and two from North America. At the 2026 World Cup, nearly a century since the first World Cup footballers graced the field, little has changed in regards to the monopoly of allocated places that football’s historical hotbeds hold (See below).

Sourced from Wikipedia

It’s understandable that in an era when travel wasn’t as efficient as it is now and sport wasn’t the glamorous affair that it is today, that few teams ventured to South America from Europe. Nearly 100 years on however, you’d like to think that the disproportions would’ve been addressed. How can a World Cup truly be called a World Cup when the opportunity for some footballing nations to qualify is almost non-existent whereas in South America it’s harder not to qualify?

The question of quality is likely to be a first defence for those that demand South America and Europe maintain their monopoly. Population size could definitely come into the equation when dismissing Oceania’s case but would soon fall down when criticising Africa’s. Each continental version of the European Championship is strong. Teams like Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria from Africa as well as South Korea and Japan from Asia have shown the world that they can compete on the big stage. To dismiss these nations and their continent because of their lack of presence at the latter stages of previous World Cups is naive. If the proportion of their allocation is less then they’re playing against the odds from the start. If in every World Cup to date each continent had been allocated an even proportion of places then we would’ve seen countries from outside of South America and Europe grace the semi-finals and probably even final.

I’ve written on my cricket blog about how history prevents the game from being a truly global sport and contradictory to its name the past also prevents the football World Cup from living up to its name.

The 2026 World Cup will be the first to be increased to a whopping 48 teams. Those teams will be split into 16 groups of three which in itself will strip the globe’s glorious tournament of drama. At the 2018 World Cup the group that contained Spain, Portugal, Iran and Morocco went to the wire. In the final simultaneously played group games last minute goals in both were critical to qualification to the knockout stage. I remember following the action online via live text and possibly radio. Even if it was live text alone it was riveting. But of course viewers can’t watch simultaneously played games so maybe this is part of the thinking of the new structure. Given that there are so many groups however I wonder if games in different groups will be staged at the same time. To deprive the competition of such drama, similar to what can occur on the final day of the domestic season is a poor decision.

It was USA ’94 that, as an eight-year-old, peaked my football interest. I recall watching the opening ceremony live but my other memories possibly come from a video of the tournament. England weren’t there but boy were Ireland! Jack Charlton, Ray Houghton and a foul-mouthed John Aldridge et al. Goals from Phillipe Albert, Saeed Al-Owairan and the aforementioned Houghton lit up the tournament, not to mention just a few from Roberto Baggio, Hristo Stoichkov and Romario. The drama didn’t end there with the despair of Diego Maradona and tragedy of Andres Escobar never to be forgotten. In 2026 football will head back to the USA as well as Canada, a rapidly improving football nation and world football’s perennial under achievers… Mexico.

In North America there’ll be teams from all over the globe but not in equal measure. Australia now qualify via Asia, so bored were they at thrashing the likes of American Samoa time and time again that they risk not qualifying for the World Cup by challenging themselves against stronger opposition. Fair play I suppose. It’s not a foregone conclusion that New Zealand will make it though as qualification for the 2014 Confederations Cup proved. Tahiti were Oceania’s representative having beaten New Caledonia not Zealand in the OFC final.

We’ll find out in a few year’s time if a familiar name claims the World Cup trophy, be it a Brazil, Germany or Spain. Or could it be a virgin champion from Africa, Asia or America even? If we do have a maiden winner… it’ll have been one heck of a tournament!

Taking to the Field

Welcome to Left Back Footy. After a few years scripting and sharing my thoughts on the game of cricket @ http://www.sillypointcricket.com it’s time to talk football…

So what can you expect to discover at Left Back Arena. Articles currently in training and knocking the manager’s door down for a debut soon will showcase skills such as Europe’s monopoly on World Cup places, book reviews, fantasy football tips (Ha, me giving tips!), players to look out for when football does resume, why I, an Englishman, follow FC Nantes and maybe even some first hand accounts of my ‘glory’ days (!) as a Sunday League footballer.

Football is the beautiful game. It can inspire, motivate and captivate amongst many things. These are dark times but out of darkness can come only light. Football will be back and Left Back Footy will be in the team… or on the bench at least, or watching from the sidelines. Join me for the journey!