Welcome to Arsenal Lukas #PodGOALski

A few months ago I coined the hashtag #PodGOALski – I’m sure many will try to claim credit for it when it becomes common use as he bangs in the goals for Arsenal but trust me it started here!

Here is a great youtube video to celebrate our new signing.

If you want to read more from me you can visit my blog North London Is Red and you can also follow me on Twitter @thedanielcowan.

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All Time Premier League XI – How many Gunners make the cut?

My post today is a little bit off from my usual style and usual topics but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

20 years of the premier league has almost passed and every man, dog and website with the remotest interest in football will be arguing their all time premier league XI.

Paul Ince & Mark Lawrenson have chosen theirs on the BBC Focus Forum. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/17823283

They included 4 Arsenal players and I am certain there will be Gooners up in arms all over the world screaming that we should have had more. Their screams will probably be drowned out by millions of fans of other clubs who also believe that their ex-players (or current players) deserved a place too.

I can’t choose an all time premier league XI objectively but am going to list 3 players for each position that I think deserve to be considered above all others. To make things a little easier I am only going to choose players that have spent at least 5 years in the premier league.

Please comment on this article with your choice (in a 4-4-2 formation).

Goalkeepers:

The first two names are the easiest to say but probably one of the most contentious football issues ever. Who was better Schmeichel or Seaman?

The third was tough because it was really hard for me to leave out Jens Lehmann, partially because he is an absolute legend, partially because I am a Gooner but mostly because how can you leave out a keeper who went a whole season unbeaten and kept 10 clean sheets in the champions league in a row?

Sadly for me Jens just misses out to Shay Given. I think Shay deserves his place because he has been a consistently good goalkeeper in the premier league for over 15 years.

Goalkeepers that deserve a mention are Flowers, Friedel, James, Keller, Reina, Cech, Cudicini, Schwarzer and of course Van Der Sar.

Right back:

This is easy. Gary Neville, never has a defender been so universally hated by all opposition fans and that speaks volumes for his ability. Not many full backs could deal with players like Henry, Pires, Overmars, Robben, Kewell, Ginola etc but he did more often than not. I’ve softened to Gary Neville since he became a pundit and I think he is a really good pundit and miles away from even being a hint of how United biased I thought he would be. Lee Dixon, 10 years in the premier league as the best right back or at least in the top 2 makes him a total shoe-in.

For me there have been many half-decent right backs but it is between two Arsenal players for the final spot for me. Not because I am an Arsenal fan but because Sagna has been the best right back for 4/5 years and Lauren replaced Dixon with consummate ease and was part of probably the best Arsenal team ever. Lauren wins it for me.

Left back:

This again is quite easy but I will get some stick for this. Dennis Irwin is one of my choices. Very underrated but did everything. Good for pace, strong in defence, good in attack, scored goals, took free-kicks, played with both feet. An excellent player. Ashley Cole for his longevity and many titles has to be in there. I hate the guy but cannot question his talent. For at least 3-4 years he was the best left back in the world.

The final spot is where I am going to get some stick. The choice for me is between Winterburn and Evra and I’m going for Evra. Evra has been the best left back in the league for 5+ years and has played against some fantastic players with strength, speed and skill. Winterburn, whilst not lacking in talent, guts or determination never really had to face the quality of player or speed of player as Evra did/does. It was a really hard call but Nigel misses out for me.

Centre Back:

There are 6 to choose from and for me only two ‘current’ players makes the cut and they are Ferdinand and Vidic. The rest of the 6 is made up by Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Sol Campbell and Sami Hyypia.

Adams and Bould were the best partnership in premier league and can only really be rivalled by Vidic/Ferdinand in my opinion. I toyed with names like Pallister, McGrath, Toure, Terry and Carragher but I felt that Hyypia deserved to be there because he was the best part of fantastic for Liverpool for 10 years and Sol was a top defender for 12+ years in the premier league for Arsenal, Pompey and the scum. The rest narrowly miss out and if Jaap Stam had played for 5 seasons in the premier league then I probably would have included him over Sol.

Right Midfield:

Three names. Two United, one Arsenal. Ronaldo, Beckham, Ljungberg. Nuff said I reckon

Left Midfield:

The first two names are simple, Giggs and Pires. The third is quite hard because I think it should be Overmars but he doesn’t meet the 5 year criteria so I’m left with a hard choice. I want to put Le Tissier here but I think that would be cheating as he wasn’t much of a winger despite playing a few games out there. For me it is between Ginola and Kewell for the 3rd spot. I want to go for Ginola because of his extraordinary talent but want to leave him out because of his spud days. Kewell was fantastic at Leeds and at Liverpool and if memory serves right Arsenal were linked with him for a number of years. I’m going to go for Ginola because although he started to fizzle out when he moved to Villa he was still the second best left midfield in the premier league from ’95 to ’00 behind Giggs.

Centre Midfield:

This was probably the hardest choice to make because the premier league has been blessed with some extraordinary midfielders.

The first three names are easy. Vieira, Keane, Scholes. None need an explanation. The final three were really tough because there’s some great players to consider like Le Tissier, Lampard, Gerrard, Fabregas, Alonso, Gazza, Speed, Ince and probably a few more. For pure unbelievable and effortless talent I’m going to go for Le Tissier for one of the spots. Fabregas has to go in there because he was the best midfielder in the premier league for at least 6 of his 8 seasons and completely dominated premier league midfield’s (and many European games, Juve & Madrid spring to mind but not as good as Jack’s domination of the so-called best midfield in the best team ever IMO) from the age of 16.

The final spot is tough because they are all great players. Do I go for the guys that dictate the pace of the game and keep the midfield working well like Ince, Speed or Alonso? No, I won’t. I already have Keane and Vieira so who do I go for out of the attacking talent of Lampard, Gerrard or Gazza? I’m going for Gerrard because to my mind he is probably one of the most complete midfielders to ever grace the premier league. A top, top player and someone who I used to dream about Arsenal signing. Him and Vieira would have been sensational and when Vieira left him and Fabregas would have been the best midfield partnership in the premier league IMO.

Forwards:

Three names instantly come to mind. Shearer, Henry and Bergkamp. Shearer the greatest goalscorer in premier league history. Henry probably the best player to have ever played in the premier league (although it pains me to say Ronaldo gives him a really good run for his money and would probably win out if I wasn’t so biased towards The King) and Bergkamp was probably the technically best, most astute and best passer the premier league has ever seen and probably will ever see. Scholes and Fabregas come a close joint second for best passer but Bergkamp’s vision was unparalleled.

The next three are also difficult because there have been some great strikers; Cantona, Cole, Di Canio, Drogba, Ferdinand, Fowler, Hasselbaink, Keane, Owen, Phillps, Rooney, Solksjær, Sheringham, Tevez, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Viduka, Wright, Yorke and Zola.

Cantona, Di Canio, Drogba, Rooney, Van Persie, Van Nistelrooy, Wright and Zola made my final short-list. I had to weight everyone up and think of reasons why they shouldn’t be considered and I had to drop RVP purely because he has been very in and out during his career at Arsenal. If he hadn’t of had so many injuries he wouldn’t have just made the final short-list, he probably would have made the final 6. I had to make a choice between Zola, Di Canio and Cantona and against probably my better judgement I went for Cantona. I tried to think who would I prefer to have in my team and it would be Zola because Cantona was so mercurial but then I decided that this is about the best players and the volatility and reliability of player shouldn’t really come in to it so I opted for Cantona. Di Canio didn’t really get a look in when compared to those two.

Next it was a choice between Van Nistelrooy and Wright for my poacher spot and I’ve decided to go for Wright, not because he is an ex-Arsenal player but because he scored more goals. The horse had a better strike rate but if I was going purely for strike rate then I’d be choosing Torres over Wright!

My final choice was between Drogba and Rooney. Both talented, strong, (divers), can score with both feet and their heads, good in set pieces and able to score the spectacular. I decided to go for Rooney because he is a better all-round player than Drogba and has scored and assisted more goals.

So there we are, my short-list for the best all time premier league XI. I’d be interested to know what your final XI would be.

For what it is worth these would be mine:

This is just a bit of fun guys so feel free to disagree with me but no abuse please if you don’t like who I’ve chosen or why.

It’s interesting that most of the players are either Arsenal or United players. Just goes to show who the dominant sides have been.

If you want to read more from me you can visit my blog North London Is Red and you can also follow me on Twitter @thedanielcowan.

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Dennis Bergkamp – The Legends Assists

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Dennis Bergkamp – The Legends Goals

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Arsenal Vs. Chelsea Match Preview

Chelsea will put their European dream on hold and concentrate on trying to crack the Premier League top four when they travel to London rivals Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime.

The Blues, the only side still flying the flag for England on the continent, have given themselves a surprise advantage heading into next week’sUEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona after edging out the Catalan giants 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in midweek.

The first-leg lead has boosted their chances of causing the ultimate upset against the reigning champions but they will no doubt be put to the test at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

However, before that crucial clash, the Blues must turn their attention to domestic action as they fight to gain a spot at football’s top table next year.

Target

The Gunners also have that target clearly in their sights and will look to solidify their spot in third this weekend and pull 10 points clear of Roberto Di Matteo‘s men.

Sixth-placed Chelsea are two points behind Tottenham and Newcastle, level on 59 points, and would leapfrog both into the European places with a win at Emirates Stadium – if only temporarily, with both in action later on Saturday.

But the Blues could face a tough task when they make the short trip to North London, with Arsene Wenger‘s side having won an impressive nine of their last 11 in the league.

Just two defeats have blotted that resurgence, one of which came on Monday night when they were stunned 2-1 at home to relegated-threatened Wigan, who had pulled off another giant-killing against Manchester United the week before.

Wenger’s men will look to shrug off that upset and complete their first double over Chelsea since the 2003-04 season after beating their capital rivals 5-3 at Stamford Bridge back in October, becoming the first side to score five against the Blues in the league since Liverpool in September 1996.

 

Injury blow

Arsenal will have midfielders Abou Diaby and Francis Coquelin back from hamstring injuries for the clash.

Defender Laurent Koscielny returns from a two-game suspension, but on-loan midfielderYossi Benayoun is ineligible against his parent club.

Mikel Arteta will not recover from the ankle injury sustained against Wigan in time to feature again this season, while England midfielder Jack Wilshere (ankle) has already been ruled out along with German centre-back Per Mertesacker (ankle).

Didier Drogba will miss the derby after picking up a knee injury during his goalscoring turn against Barcelona.

That means Fernando Torres, who has found the back of the net once in his last 11 Premier League starts, could be in line for an Emirates outing.

David Luiz is out with a hamstring injury, while Branislav Ivanovic serves the second instalment of his domestic three-game ban.

Possible starting XIs:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Gibbs, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Sagna, Song, Ramsey, Rosicky, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Van Persie.

Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Cahill, Terry, Bosingwa, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Kalou, Sturridge, Torres.

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Ringing the coaching changes

Okay, here is my second update of the day. My last post got a few comments regarding Drogba but I stand by what I said. He is a top player, would do a great job for a year, would bring on the ability of Afobe and would bring a winners mentality to the club. I probably should have mentioned that his presence could have a similar impact across a season as Henry did for 6 weeks but I thought I’d get slaughtered for comparing the two.

There have been lots of interesting opinions on the coaching staff at Arsenal and who should be Wenger’s new number 2 when Pat Rice retires this summer.

One of my favourite bloggers Dave Seager (@goonerdave66) champions Steve Bould. He also had a guest blogger James Cook (@CookieElGooner) who recently mentioned Bergkamp, Keown, Adams or even Stojkovic.

I also read an article months back, I can’t remember who it was by for the life of me but it was good, and it looked at the coaching changes at Old Trafford and how periods of intense success where preceded by a major coaching change at United. It was a really interesting piece and if I come across it again I’ll let you know about it.

I agree with all of these people that big coaching changes must be made at Arsenal this summer but not just in the no.2 spot. I personally think we should make room for more of our ex-players to work with the team especially players that our 14-20 year old players can actually remember playing and who would be constantly trying to impress and work hard for their boyhood hero’s. I think we could make room for Seaman or Lehmann as GK coach, Keown to work with the defence and Bergkamp to work as our technical coach.

Any one of these ex-players would be a welcome addition to the backroom staff and I wouldn’t say no to them as number 2 either but I want to discuss a different ex-player for the number 2 vacancy. Before I do that I want to bring to your attention a quote from Sol Campbell recently regarding Wenger.

Arsène is a single-minded leader who does not like to have anyone around who could threaten his authority, either by challenging his decisions or by being the person that will eventually take his job. But hopefully he proves me wrong and makes such an appointment.

Someone like Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp, Adams etc are ex-players that I think most gooners would have in the managers seat post-Wenger even if (in the case of Adams) their heads are telling them no. The emotional connection with these legends would afford them plenty of time to try and make their mark on the team and what better way to start than as Wenger’s no.2? I personally think most of those players would steer clear of top job at Arsenal because if they fail they’ll have tarnished their icon player status, or at least they will be afraid of that.

I’m not championing anyone as such but there is an ex-player that has not been mentioned by anyone I’ve been reading that I’m surprised has not been considered at all. This is an ex-player with coaching experience in the premier league, a man that would be no threat to Wenger for top job, a loyal servant to Arsenal, a local lad, someone who knows the value of defence but appreciates the more beautiful side of the game, someone with Arsenal in his blood, a player with the most appearances for Arsenal ever.

Some of you would have got that right away, others will have got it right at the end. I am of course talking about David O’Leary.

Why has this Arsenal legend not been considered for a coaching spot? Some may think I am mad for suggesting this and if I am perfectly honest I would prefer Bergkamp. I disagree with Dave about Steve Bould because I think Bould has been part of the Wenger regime for so long that he’d just be a yes man but in terms of coaching ability I agree wholeheartedly.

All of the ex-players mentioned all spent a fair bit of time working under Wenger and he will always be the boss to them. Could they really make the emotional and mental step to actually stand up as a football man, not as an ex-Wenger player, and tell him he is wrong about something?

The familiarity of Wenger’s coaching staff for 15 years suggests that he is a man that does not like to relinquish control or make unforced changes? If Bob Wilson hadn’t retired would Gerry Peyton be GK coach? If Gary Lewin hadn’t gone to England full-time would Colin still have been promoted? Why talk Pat Rice out of retirement 3 years on the trot?

Why I think O’Leary could be worth considering is that he is an Arsenal man through and through. He loves the club deeply and played for us for over 20 years but more crucially he has never played under Wenger. Wenger is just the boss of Arsenal, he has never been the boss of O’Leary. This is a man who didn’t spend the last few years of his career playing for Wenger whilst thinking about life after football. He didn’t start thinking about coaching and unwittingly be influenced by the presence of Wenger, taking mental notes on coaching whilst training under Wenger. He is a man with his own thoughts and experience of the premier league. He would not be a threat to Wenger’s job but could be someone who could approach Wenger with things ex-players Arsene has coached may not be able to voice with conviction.

O’Leary was a pretty good coach at Leeds and Leeds didn’t really start their downward spiral until after O’Leary had left and he was sacked because the club needed guaranteed Champions League football for which they turned to Venables for. Great move right? Whilst he was there he brought on some excellent young players and they played exciting football. Sure he spent a lot too but he won’t be in charge of player purchases as Wenger’s no.2.

After that he went to Villa and they also started to play well. He also revitalised the career of Juan Pablo Angel who for those that remember we were very strongly linked with buying for a few transfer windows and I’ll admit to hoping it was going to happen because he was a classy player. Villa overachieved with the little money they had for wages and transfers and a relatively small squad compared to other teams in the league by finishing 6th. The next couple of seasons weren’t great but for me his skill as a manager and a coach since then have been severely underrated. Had he dropped down a few leagues or done less TV work I think he could have made it back into the premier league and still be a successful manager.

O’Leary was a classy player and I think he was a good manager during the first 5-6 years of his managerial career so I see no reason why he shouldn’t be considered for a coaching spot at Arsenal. He clearly likes his teams to play in the same attractive style as Wenger does.

I don’t think we should promote internally for the number 2 spot and I also think that Boro Primorac and Gerry Peyton should also be replaced to give the club a fresh perspective but most of all I believe that if Wenger is as single minded as Sol says then he have to hope that none of his ex-players return to be his no.2.

I’m not saying O’Leary is the right choice but surely he is worth considering right?

If you want to read more from me you can visit my blog North London Is Red and you can also follow me on Twitter @thedanielcowan.

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Winning Mentality

There are two things I want to talk about today/this week but it would be overkill to put them in the same article so look out for my next update too.

First I want to talk about mentality. The importance of a winning mentality should never be underestimated.

A certain mentality can be gained through experience, experience of playing and experience of a situation. Wigan are likely to escape relegation because they have years of experience of being in that situation. The players may have changed but the battling spirit remains. The same can be said of Arsenal. Arsenal have experience of seeing out the season and getting Champions League football. However…..

Arsenal severely lack, especially in the past 7 years, something Manchester United have in bundles, and that is a proper winning mentality. United start each season expecting trophies, not expecting to challenge as we do but expecting to win. Players come and go but the mentality never changes. Arsenal need to get this back in the short term so longer term our promising youngsters stay with the club and don’t leave for the oil clubs.

I believe that a very busy few weeks early in the summer can make this a reality.

I know we have been strongly linked with Podolski and Vertonghen but put these guys aside for the moment and consider my suggestions.

Whilst I like to deal in reality like many of my fellow bloggers I also understand that blogging is also a platform for opinion and opinion doesn’t have to be steeped in realism.

With that in mind I think Arsenal could pull off a master stroke by getting in a player that has terrorised opponents and none more so than Arsenal over the past 7 years, a player with experience of winning trophies, of ramping it up as the season draws to an end and dragging his team over the line when often they haven’t deserved it. I’m talking about none other than Didier Drogba.

Drogba, once available to Arsenal for £500,000, could prove to be an excellent signing for Arsenal for many reasons. He would give Arsenal a “Plan B”, something Arsenal are rightly accused of lacking, he still has a turn of pace at 34 and has raw power, something we also lack. Henry was quick and technically good, halfway between RVP and Theo in a very crude sense but he also had strength and could really bully defenders.

The knowledge he could pass on to a player like Afobe is immeasurable and being 34 he would only be a very short term solution, 1.5-2 years and then he could go off to China or the Middle East and earn mega-mega-bucks like Anelka.

What someone like Drogba could bring to the club is experience of winning trophies and fighting for trophies until the last few games of the season not just until February. Granted Chelsea are on the decline and this season is almost completely down the crapper for them but without the likes of Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba they wouldn’t be in a final and certainly wouldn’t still be in with a shout of a Champions League spot however fragile their challenge.

Arsenal have certainly benefited from having more experience in the club this season with the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker and Santos but these aren’t players who have added much in terms of experience of winning things. Mertesacker has one German FA Cup to his name. Santos has a few cups and leagues from Brazil and Turkey but they are much inferior leagues. Arteta has been our most valuable signing because of his premier league experience but he also has little silverware to his name and none for the past 9 years. I also think the fact we were down and out before the season had really started also gave the players the freedom to play with no expectations. How they deal with being favourites for 3rd with 5 games to go is a different story. One I hope has a happy ending.

Szczesny recently said that he wouldn’t leave Arsenal until he has won something. If we went a number of years without a trophy he probably would leave but on the flip side some Gooners are worried that if we do win something that some of these players may feel that they can leave because they’ve won something. What bringing in short term solutions like Drogba to change the mentality could only be measured years after they have left.

If Didier joined on a free, helped progress players like Afobe and Campbell, helped Arsenal bully their way to an undeserved victory, helped take advantage of our width, helped RVP stay on form and fit by sharing the goals and giving Arsene a chance to rest RVP leading up to big games and instil a real winners mentality into the current players he would not only be helping us lift our first trophy since 2005 but he could also be helping us secure the futures of our biggest and brightest young talents.

If we had won trophies in consecutive years by the time he had served 2 years with us and moved on then the next year our players would have had experience of seeing seasons out and winning silverware so come 2015 our young talents like AOC, Szczesny and Jack etc will be playing for a ‘successful’ club and wouldn’t force through moves claiming that they need to move on in order to have a chance of silverware. One trophy won’t do it but 2-3 years of trophies on the trot will convince these players that they don’t need to move on and that their long term desires can be met at Arsenal. If they move for money like Na$ri at least they won’t be able to use silverware as a smokescreen.

Hopefully Arsenal can move fast this summer to secure their top transfer targets and just as importantly move on the players surplus to requirements. I would also be pleased to see two premier league players join us on free transfers, the first being Didier Drogba for the reasons mentioned but also Craig Gordon. I personally believe that Fabianski will move on this summer. I don’t want him to go and unlike many of my fellow Arsenal fans I actually rate him. Sure he makes mistakes but most of his mistakes are confidence based. When he has a run he gets really really good and then if he makes a mistake he quickly dusts himself off. Being in and out of the team and making mistakes and not getting the chance to dust yourself down just makes things worse but I’m getting off subject. I don’t think he will stay, Almunia will certainly leave so Arsenal will be short of experience between the sticks. Gordon would be a worthy back up to Szczesny and will add much needed experience in that department. An excellent 2nd choice who would get a starting berth at many clubs on a free transfer is not to be sniffed at. I think both would join. Didier would love to work with Wenger and he was a ‘fan’ of Arsenal’s before he joined Chelsea. Gordon would also love the chance to have a big club on his CV I think. Better on the bench at Arsenal than at Sunderland right?

I want Arsenal to win trophies but my main concern is that we keep building for the future but then lose influential players. The reason for this isn’t our lack of success but our lack of potential for sustained success. This lack of potential is bred from a mentality caused by a lack of silverware and a lack of a leader. We lack leaders because we keep selling them because they want to move on for more success elsewhere. It’s a vicious circle and the only way to break that is to break the mentality. I believe big players, even with the sun setting on their careers, like Drogba can help change that in the short term and breed a natural winning mentality that is entrenched in the club. Something so deep that you can change the playing staff and the coaching staff on a regular basis but the mindset remains.

It’s what Manchester United have. As much as I hate them and Fergie I cannot help but admire them. Some people forget or maybe just weren’t around to remember that Fergie was on the brink of being sacked at Man U after 3 seasons without a trophy. That first FA Cup win started a winning mentality that continued into the next year with a League Cup win and then on to Ferguson’s first league title at Old Trafford. Fast forward 20 years later and United have won 16 ‘major’ trophies. If you include Charity Shields then since 1990 Manchester United have only had 2 seasons without silverware. 2001/02 which they followed with a league in 2003 and an FA Cup in 2004 and 2004/05 which they have followed with 11 pieces of silverware in 7 consecutive seasons and are on course to win their 13th premier league title in 21 years. It took Arsenal 117 years to win 13 league titles to put that into perspective.

A red-nosed arsehole but someone who has made success a way of life at Old Trafford. Even with kids eh Hansen?

The team that kick started this mindset that infects every player to play for Man U changed a fair bit from the 1990 cup final to the first league title in 1993 but there were enough winners like Bruce, Pallister, Phelan, Hughes Robson and Ince to breed that mindset into players like Schmeichel, Kanchelskis, Sharpe and Giggs whom then went on to inspire the next lot and the next lot.

Arsenal had that between 1997 and 2008. Sure we lost to Barca in dubious circumstances in 2006 but we still got to the final. We also made the 2007 League Cup final and again lost in dubious circumstances. We were still challenging, we were getting to finals and narrowly missing out but for me this is where things started to go wrong. We were building a young team who although they flirted with the title in 07/08 never really had the experience moving forward to keep on challenging. This is why we lost to Birmingham. Our players didn’t have the experience to believe that we could see out the game. Maybe they were scared of winning a trophy or too excited to stay focused but that for me is again down to mentality. Our youth policy not only failed to net us silverware but has ironically failed to actually support our youth policy because we keep selling our players. We played finishing school for the past 5 years and the only way out is to change the mindset of the players we have. For me that starts with someone like Didier.

If you want to read more from me you can visit my blog North London Is Red and you can also follow me on Twitter @thedanielcowan.

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