Stop the presses – Arles Avignon have won a game

Photo: Icon Sport

After 1080 minutes of football in Ligue 1, AC Arles Avignon have finally grabbed their first win in the top flight.

Last night, Arles defeated Caen (the only side with similar form to Arles-Avignon at the moment) 3-2. Arles upturn in form in October gives them some remote hope of scaling the chasm between them and Nice in 17th. Only 8 points.

One of the rarest things you will ever see in football is Kaba Diawara either playing well or scoring. The 34 year old former striker, who has played for more or less every club around Europe scored his first goal for Arles, then bettered that by converting a penalty. The only rarer thing you are likely to see on a football field is Karl Henry making a spectacular tackle. Wait, that happened yesterday as well…..

Only Steve Claridge can rival Diawara in terms of the vast number of sides he’s turned out for. Difference being Claridge tended to score.

The match wasn’t one for the defensively minded out there. Caen took the lead through Youssef El-Arabi’s strike in the 10th minute, after a well worked move by Caen that left the entire Arles defence scrambling.

But Arles didn’t let their heads drop (you think they would after 11 games without a win.) Gael Germany equalised after a sensational through-ball from Hameur Bouazza, which he deftly put past Caen keeper Alex Thebaux.

Then in the 33rd minute, Camel Meriem’s high free kick was found with a glancing header from Diawara found the corner of the net. Cue jubilation in the crowd.

However, not to be outdone with a free-kick routine, Caen responded after half-time magnificently as Kandia Traore bicycled kick the equaliser. Lovely finish but question marks over the Arles defence who appeared static as the free-kick came in, leaving Traore unmarked.

More drama followed in the 76th minute after Thebaux lunged in recklessly on Franck Dja Djedje. Penalty given, although Thebaux may have touched the ball. Either way, Diawara hit it straight and true and Arles held on for their first win in Ligue 1.

Manager Faruk Hadzibegic  reflected on the monumental win, he said: “We suffered a lot, but we deserved the win. Caen played well, but that’s football.”

“We won thanks to the determination. We had some difficulties early in the game but the team has managed to remain calm and make a difference. It’s good for morale and I dedicate this victory to all those who work for the club and the supporters. It is a victory that we can revive from even if the road is still long.”

So modest, the threat of the wooden spoon the day before clearly scared Arles Avignon and congratulations to them on their first win and the fact they doubled their goal tally for the season in one game. Still on -18 goal difference and 8 points behind at least for this weekend, there’s a mountain to climb. At least Arles have actually started to climb it finally.

 

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The 6pointer Alternative team of the year

The PFA Team of the Year was announced at the weekend. So I’ve decided to compile the players who I feel should be in the team of the year

But this team’s slightly different.

  1. I can’t use anyone who has featured in the PFA Team of the Year
  2. The team will recognise the most improved rather than best team overall.

So here we go

GOALKEEPER – Heurelho Gomes (Spurs)

He may look like recently deceased Ping Ping but Gomes has improved immensely this campaign. Signed from PSV in 2008, after giving an amazing performance against Spurs in the Uefa Cup, it took Gomes quite a while to adapt to Premier League. Nightmare performances against Aston Villa and Stoke made everyone think Juande ‘Wendy’ Ramos had made a costly mistake at £8 million. But this season, the Brazilian has been incredible. He’s the best shot stopper in the league in my opinion, and surely can only get better as he gets older. Here’s a retrospective look at Gomes

RIGHT BACK – Glen Johnson (Liverpool)

Some people questioned Rafa’s logic in forking out £18 million for England’s right back. It was money they couldn’t really afford. But he’s been one of few Liverpool players to really shine in a poor season for the Merseyside club. He’s also capable of scoring as well, which helps a side that focuses entirely on two players. In fact, right backs seem to be the weakest position collectively among the league, tough to pick someone other than Ivanovic really, who rightly deserves his place in the PFA team.

CENTRE BACKS – James Collins (Aston Villa) and Michael Dawson (Spurs)

I was fairly surprised at Martin O’Neil was signing Collins from West Ham in the summer, thinking that he would merely be a stop gap for the retiring Martin Laursen, who was amazing for Villa. But I’ve been proved wrong. Collins along with other signing Richard Dunne, towards the beginning of the season formed a tight partnership that leaked few goals. Villa’s defence has been just as good as any of the top four’s all year really, which has seen them push onto challenging for a Champions League place. Here is a generic clip of James Collins stepping up to the plate.

Michael Dawson has been superb this season and has stepped out from Ledley King’s shadow. Spurs have only conceded 12 at White Hart Lane in 09/10 and Dawson’s improvement in all aspects has contributed immensely. Highlight performance include the recent Arsenal and Chelsea games, and I wouldn’t bet against Fabio taking Dawson on the plane to South Africa.

LEFT BACK – Leighton Baines (Everton)

David Moyes signed Baines back in 2007 for £6million, and a what a buy that turned out to be. He was one of Wigan best players and who can blaim Baines for joining his boyhood club.This season seems to be the turning point for Baines as he tries to claim an England place. His worth to the Toffees is unparalleled. His crossing and pace make him a big threat on the left side, and hes grabbed plenty of assists. Chances of making the World Cup have been improved by Wayne Bridge’s withdrawal as well, I say why not take him to Africa anyway?

RIGHT MIDFIELDER – Ashley Young (Aston Villa)

This was an incredibly tough call. Honourable mentions to Landon Donovan for being the catalyst in Everton’s comeback in the second half of the season, and also to Aaron Lennon who mesmerised down the right for Spurs. But both had limited time in the league. Ashley Young has been pretty impressive throughout the season, and last season in fact so he gets the nod. Don’t know what I mean, this clip may persuade you

A nifty winger on either side, Ashley Young should be on the plane to complement the wealth of options in England’s midfield.

CENTRE MID – Frank Lampard (Chelsea) and Paul Scholes (Manchester United)

Once again, it’s incredibly tough to pick two centre midfield players. Honourable mentions to any of the Spurs midfield, particularly Luka Modric and Tom Huddlestone. But I’ve gone with Frank Lampard firstly, due to his phenomenal scoring record. He is the instigator in everything Chelsea do, and often is overshadowed by Steven Gerrard in the age old debate ‘Who is the best English CM?’ No doubt for me this season it’s Lampard.

20 goals in a season for the first time (how he didn’t make team of the year, I’ll never know), Lampard might just be like a fine wine, getting better with age.

Similarly, Paul Scholes has been superb for United and saved them from the jaws of defeat often. Ferguson has often played him in the holding midfielder role as well, which theoretically shouldn’t work. But does. Yes, he may not score as much anymore, but Scholes is still relevant in the United team, and can help the team strive on to great results. See Manchester Derby and his amazingly calm and composed post-match interview

LEFT  -Florent Malouda (Chelsea)

A lot of people didn’t rate the Frenchman before this season, and I was one of them. Adapting your game from Ligue Un can be easy for some and not for others. But finally Chelsea have a gifted winger who contributed so much to the side, and provides a perfect foil for Didier Drogba. Here’s his 09/10 goals for your delectation

STRIKERS – Darren Bent (Sunderland) and Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)

The definition of one man teams here. Darren Bent has been literally on fire as Jamie Redknapp would say. His dad said his wife Sandra was a better finisher than him. Oh how wrong you were Harry. Darren Bent plays better when he is the focus of the team, and at Sunderland (like at Charlton), he’s an out and out goal machine, bagging over 20 goals. Here’s a season review

Rejected at the Theatre of Dreams, Tevez made the short trip across Manchester with much controversy. But he’s pay dividends at Eastlands, with a superb scoring record in the 2nd half of the season. His celebrations may be a bit dodgy but there’s no doubting his quality now