Category: Spurs


English pundits have been full of praise for Cameroon’s Alex Song for his commanding performance in midfield when Arsenal beat Manchester City 1-0 in a crunch English Premier League duel on Sunday.

Here is what David Pleat, a former Tottenham Hotspur manager, wrote in his column for The Guardian:

“A feature of Arsenal’s improvement has been the combination play of the three midfield men and here Alex Song, the most powerful of midfield bases, led the charge.”

Pleat added:

“When Song drives forward he invariably seeks his side’s goalscorer, Robin van Persie, curving lofted passes into his path. There was a time when he was considered purely a “Makelele type”, sitting in front of his centre-backs, cutting out danger. He began his career at Arsenal as a centre-back, where few staff members considered him first-team material. Arsène Wenger had faith and he is seeing the fruits of his outstanding judgment.”

Pleat concluded that:

“Song, one of the Premier League’s most underrated players, hit all the right notes while his team-mates have proved conclusively to City that money cannot buy you love. There is a feeling about Arsenal that translates into tenacious harmony.”

Victory takes Arsenal to third in the league, two points clear of Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s Tottenham Hotspur. If Arsenal hold on to that spot, they’d automatically qualify for the UEFA Champions League.

However, the contest between the London rivals that feature two of Cameroon’s best acts of the European season (Song and Assou-Ekotto), still has some way to go with six games left.

Read David Pleat’s full match analysis here.

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British TV pundits praised Benoit Assou-Ekotto for his consistency at Tottenham Hotspur after the Cameroonian contributed to his club’s  2-0 defeat of Aston Villa on Monday.

Assou-Ekotto (with a new hairdo) didn’t look perturbed by news that the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot) had summoned him to appear at a disciplinary hearing this week, for failing to join Cameroon’s national team at a camp in Morocco.

Has he ditched playing for Cameroon since February as a Douala-based TV station, Equinoxe TV, said on Monday? That story seems to be making the rounds in the  media.

But the facts of the story don’t match reality. If Assou-Ekotto ditched the Indomitable Lions since February (!!?), was it his clone that I saw playing at leftback  against Senegal on 26 March 2011?

Assou-Ekotto is second from left among players crouching as Cameroon players pose before playing Senegal in Dakar on 26 March 2011. Or was it his clone?

Who knows? The administrative hassles and unprofessional organisation surrounding the Lions could push the player into early retirement like Lauren Etame did in 2002. But it would seem (for now) that it was  Javier Clemente who sidelined the player for months. Here’s a timeline of events:

1. In February, Javier Clemente (then Cameroon head coach) does not pick Assou-Ekotto for a friendly against Macedonia. After some players fail to turn-up, the Spaniard hastily recalls the leftback. Assou-Ekotto does not respond to the call.

2. In March, Clemente does not select the leftback for the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal in Dakar.There is  criticism from the media, the fans, Fecafoot and Ministry of Sports officials. Reports say the coach feels undermined by the player’s refusal to come as a back-up in February. When it appears that Clemente’s preferred leftback Gaetan Bong is injured, the coach is seemingly pressured to recall Assou-Ekotto.

3. The player joins the Lions’ camp in Portugal and eventually plays against Senegal. The media in Senegal describe him as Ca meroon’s man of the match alongside midfielders Landry N’Geumo and Enoh Eyong.

4. In May Assou-Ekotto is picked by the national team trainer for the return-leg game against Senegal but he does not travel to Yaounde. N.B: The player was recovering from an injury sustained days before the game.

5. After the 0-0 draw that basically knocked Cameroon out of the race to qualify for the Africa Cup in 2012, Fecafoot summons Assou-Ekotto to a disciplinary hearing for not appearing for that game. The player does not physically appear for the hearing but reportedly forwards documents explaining he was injured.  The committee issues a warning.  The rule book says injured players must have their injuries confirmed/examined by the national team doctor.

6. In August, ahead of a supposed friendly against Salvador, Clemente does not name Assou-Ekotto in his squad. The match fails to hold, though.

7. In September, Clemente names the squad for the qualifier against Mauritius in Yaounde and a friendly (that did not hold) against Mexico in Paris but Assou-Ekotto is not selected. When pressed on local TV, Francois Omam-Biyick the then deputy head coach says Clemente is still angry about Assou-Ekotto’s failure to appear for the game against Senegal in June. Omam says, the head coach views such behaviour as  indiscipline.

8. In October,  Clemente selects the squad for the final Africa Cup qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo and a friendly against Equatorial Guinea but does not pick Assou-Ekotto.

9. With Clemente and his whole backroom staff sacked after the game against Equatorial Guinea, his successor Denis Lavagne names Assou-Ekotto in a team of 28 players for a series of friendlies in North Africa (versus Sudan, Morocco and Algeria).

10. Assou-Ekotto and several other players fail to make it to the camp in Marrakech in early November. The head coach Lavagne says Assou-Ekotto was injured.

“He (Assou-Ekotto) called that he was injured and that’s a shame because it is the third left-back who is injured,” Lavagne told Camfoot.com

Why then is Assou-Ekotto being dragged to the disciplinary council? Did the coach lie to the journalists? Is Assou-Ekotto charged for not showing up to have the team doctor to confirm his injury as Aurelien Chedjou and Nicolas Nkoulou did?

Why have Fecafoot not summoned Somen Tchoyi and Benjamin Moukandjo who were also reportedly injured but did not travel to Marrakesh?

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Cameroon’s Joel Matip scored on Sunday (21 August) for his club in the German Bundesliga but that hasn’t made headlines in a weekend where the name Cameroon has mainly been associated to Samuel Eto’o’s big money move to Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkal.

Eto’o will certainly keep making the headlines in the coming week, as he finally signs the contract that would see him earn 20 million euros and become the world’s best-paid footballer. But we prefer to focus on the Cameroon internationals who have been in action across Europe.

Eto'o (9), Bedimo (12), Chedjou (14) are mentioned in this week's review

German Bundesliga:

Joel Matip contributed to Shalke 04’s fantastic come-back from two goals down to beat Mainz 4-2 on Sunday. Matip started as one of the two central midfielders in Shalke’s 4-2-3-1 formation. He scored the third goal for Shalke at the 81st minute of play. Cameroon’s head coach Javier Clemente who has consistently refused to select Matip says the youngster is not mobile enough and is more for the future than the present.

Eric Maxim Choupo Moting came on as a second half substitute for Mainz but he was not able to repeat last week’s performance where he scored for his new club. However, Cameroon national team coaches should be happy to see him having regular game time.

Marcel Ndjeng started and played 83 minutes for Augusburg in their 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim. Ndjeng has not been called up for the Lions since the 1-1 draw with the DRC in October 2010.

France: 

Nicolas Nkoulou played the full 90 minutes at the heart of Olympic Marseille’s defence in their goalless draw with AS St.Etienne. He was calm and assured and made some good long passes to his strike partners.

Henri Bedimo started at leftback for Montpellier when they beat Rennes 4-0 to go top of the French Ligue 1 standings. Georges Mandjeck started in central midfield for Rennes and played the whole game. Mandjeck last featured for the Lions as a second-half substitute against Senegal in Dakar last March.

Moukandjo Bile started his first game for Nancy this weekend after a move from Monaco at the start of the week. Nancy lost 1-2 to Sochaux and Moukandjo was substituted after an hour. He was replaced by another Cameroonian – Alo’o Efoulou who has not been selected for the Lions for about 18 months.

Lille beat Caen 2-1 with Aurelien Chedjou playing at right-back for the French Champions. Chedjou has been playing in central midfield for Cameroon since the World Cup in South Africa but normally plays as a central defender for Lille. For how long would he be deployed at right-back and how would that affect his game?

Landry Nguemo started as the sole holding midfielder in Bordeaux’s diamond formation as they drew 1-1 with Auxerre. Gaetan Bong played at left-back for Valencienne in their 1-2 defeat away to Paris St. Germain.

Switzerland: 

Henri Bienvenue Tsama came on at half-time but could not save his Young Boys Berne side from a 2-0 defeat in the hands of FC Thun. Chris Mbondi, U-20 international, came on as a 49th minute substitute for FC Sion as they beat Lausanne Sport 2-0.

England: 

Somen Tchoyi started again as a second striker for West Bromwich Albion against Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday. The Cameroonian worked very hard but his team were beaten 2-1 by their West London hosts. Tchoyi was substituted after 75 minutes.

George Elokobi came on as a very late substitute (90th minute) for Wolverhampton Wanderers as they beat Fulham 2-0.

Aston Villa defeated Blackburn Rovers 3-1 but Cameroon’s Jean Makoun watched from the bench throughout the game. Alex Song started his 3 match ban after stamping on Joey Barton last week and was thus absent from Arsenal’s 0-2 defeat to Liverpool.

This Monday Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong’s Tottenham Hotspur travel to Manchester to face the Premier League Champions. (We’ll update once the game is over).

[An audio review of Cameroonian performances in Europe is available of you click here]

Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the Cameroon international Somen Tchoyi for giving the reigning English Champions a tough test in their 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion (WBA) on Sunday.

“The lad Tchoyi gave us a bit of trouble,” Ferguson said after the match.

The 1.90m Tchoyi, playing as a support striker, worked the United defence for long spells in the game as he tussled with central defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand and imposed himself physically.

Somen on the right of this photo warms-up before a Cameroon game

He started the move that led to WBA’s equaliser by overpowering United’s young Brazilian fullback Fabio to recover lost possession at the edge of the Champions’ 18-yard. His strike partner Shane Long then finished the move with a shot that should have been stopped on another day by United’s keeper, David De Gea.

Tchoyi also impressed with his good –short and long range – passing and his willingness to take on defenders using speed and tricky dribbles.

The tactics used by Roy Hodgson, the WBA manager, allowed the Cameroonian to drop into his natural central midfield position and come from deep to occupy the space between the lone striker and the other midfielders in order to dictate play. He was also free to go wide to whip in crosses.

The former Liverpool manager praised both his attackers for putting pressure on United and regretted that they lost the game.

“I thought his (Long’s) performance in general was very good as was Tchoyi’s,” Hodgson said after the game.

It’s unfortunate that most Indomitable Lions managers have hardly thought of playing Tchoyi as an attacking central midfielder or a second striker which are (in my opinion) the positions where he is most effective. He is often used as a winger or wide attacker (in a front three).

Song Stamps Reputation

The former Union Douala player’s performance certainly paints a better picture of Cameroonian footballers than the temperamental display from Alex Song for Arsenal in their goalless draw with Newcastle United on Saturday.

Song played admirably well as a midfield sweeper in-front of Arsenal’s back-four but for some reason decided to stamp on Joey Barton after a challenge. Barton may not be most people’s best friend  (as confirmed by his role in the confrontation that led to Ivory Coast’s Gervinho being sent-off) but there was absolutely no excuse for Song to stamp on the Englishman’s leg.

The defensive midfielder who hasn’t played for Cameroon since the 2010 World Cup may be suspended if the English Football Association decides to use video evidence against him.

Meanwhile, George Elokobi came on as a late substitute for Wolverhampton Wanderers in their 2-1 away win over Blackburn Rovers.

The other Cameroonians operating in the English Premier League were absent on the first day of the new season. Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto could not play because Tottenham’s fixture against Everton was postponed following rioting in London.  Jean Makoun was left on the bench by Aston Villa in the Birmigham club’s goalless draw with Fulham.

Why is it that footballers  born in France , with French nationality and in some cases have even represented France at junior level choose to play for the countries of their fathers and /or mothers?

Whereas the commonly held response to this question is that these players don’t have the quality to be picked for France, Cameroon’s Sebastien Bassong and Benoit Assou-Ekotto have given an interview to the U.K. Guardian newspaper that could be a pointer to a more disturbing reason (for the French): bad integration of African and Arab communities in the French society.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong in their Cameroon colours

They explain that people from Arab or African communities face serious integration problems in France to the point that they develop strong attachment to their original and/or ancestral roots which may suggest why more and more of these young people switch football nationalities without difficulty.

“…coming from where I did in France, even if you had only one little drop of Moroccan blood, for example, you would represent it to the death. You would be fiercely proud of being African, says Assou-Ekotto who was born in France to a French mother and a Cameroonian father and proudly represents the latter nation.

Assou-Ekotto who grew up in Arras , France and now plays professional football at Tottenham Hotspur in London, says people in England are fiercely proud of being English even when their parents come from elsewhere and the society accepts that, which is a big difference to France.

His Spurs colleague Bassong concurs.

“Most of the players on the French national team come from rough areas and when you live there, your friends all have dual nationalities,” said Bassong , who played for the French U-21s before switching to play for the land of his father and mother.

When he was in the France Under-21 team, he gave an interview in which he admitted “my heart beats for Cameroon.” He did not play for France again, according to the Guardian.

“When you ask them (French players) where they are from, they will say Senegal, Morocco, Algeria…,” he added.

It is to be expected that the French would want to understand why players switch from France to other countries at senior level. At the World Cup,  there were nine players on other sides who had previously played for France, according to the BBC.

Cameroon’s squad at the 2010 World Cup included three players  who at one stage of their careers had represented France: Sebastien Bassong (French U-21), Gaetan Bong (French U-21 until 2010) and Alexandre Song (French U-16 in 2002).

However, the attempt to limit this trend was  poorly tackled by French Football Federation officials (including the France head coach Laurent Blanc) who digressed into near racial undertones during a meeting that was recorded by a member of the Federation, and  was leaked to the press igniting a massive scandal.

The French Federation and Sports ministry officials launched separate  investigations  while  the French National Technical Director, Francois Blanquart, was suspended.

It should be noted here that Blanquart was the coach of the France under 16 team in 2002 that included Alexandre Song and Frank Songo’o who today play for Cameroon as well as Samir Nasri of Arsenal who represents France.

Assou-Ekotto who, [unlike Alex Song (born in Douala) and Frank Songo’o (born in Yaounde)], never adorned a French national team shirt before choosing to play for his African nation, believes the French society has a bigger issue to address.

“France has, at its heart, a problem where it has been unable or unwilling to accommodate the sons and daughters of its former colonies, even though France benefited and enriched itself greatly from the relationship. That’s hard to accept and it’s what sits at the base of what is dysfunctional in France,” the left full-back told the Guardian.

You can read the original story published by the Guardian online here

Joel Matip is the only Cameroon international who came out smiling after Tuesday night’s UEFA Champions League quarter-finals as his German Bundesliga team thrashed reigning European Champions, Inter Milan, 5-2, with the teenager scoring.

Matip played in central defence for Shalke 04 (as Gef’s Football Club had said) and not only contributed to prevent Samuel Eto’o from scoring, but also pushed up front to score an equaliser from a corner-kick in the 17th minute of play. Inter Milan had snatched the curtain-raiser through a Dejan Stankovic master-stroke barely 30 seconds into play.

Diego Milito took the Italian and European Champions ahead (2-1) but Matip and Shalke 04 did not give up. They equalised and managed to score three more goals.

Eto’o and his Inter Milan team-mates would have to score 4 goals without conceding any in Germany in a fortnight to bar Shalke from reaching the semi-final. The Cameroon captain who shot blanks in this encounter would have to produce the magic he displayed in Munich last month against Bayern to dig his club out of this one.

In the meantime, it is still bewildering that Cameroon’s Spanish-born coach thinks Matip is not worth a call-up given the boy’s versatility and competitiveness. Nurtured as a central midfielder, Matip has played this season as a centre-back (that was the case on Tuesday), right-back and even right-winger. He may not be full of muscle but he is calm, clean, good with the ball and effective.

In the other first-leg quarter final game, Benoît Assou-Ekotto, another player who seemed to be overlooked by the Cameroon manager until authorities intervened, was also defending his club colours on Tuesday. Sadly his team, Tottenham  Hotspur, were handed a soand whipping in Spain where they lost 4-0 to Real Madrid.

Real Madrid were better in most of the sectors and though Assou-Ekotto showed few moments of brilliance, the overall Spurs display was dismal and they deserved to lose. They need to beat Real by a five goal margin on the return-leg  to go through.

Sebastien Bassong, the other Cameroon international who plays for the north London team, came in at the 80th minute of play. The manager had preferred Frenchman Gallas in the centre of defence from the start. He may be regretting that decision after watching Real’s Togolese striker, Emmanuel Adebayor out-jump Gallas to score his brace.

Not a night of greatness for Cameroon’s representatives in the UEFA Champions league then – except for Joel Matip, of course.

Does an African football star’s job end at running after a ball and scoring goals? Cameroon’s Benoît Assou-Ekotto doesn’t think so.  The Indomitable Lions defender  believes African athletes who are lucky to become famous need to use their fame to help less privileged members of their communities beat poverty.

Assou-Ekotto is a special advocate for the U.N. Millennium Campaign which seeks to end extreme poverty by 2015. He plans to work with youths in his country, and elsewhere in Africa, with his key message being the importance of education.

The Tottenham Hotspur left-back talks about this in the following video (in French).

 

Cameroon starting eleven against Senegal, Dakar 26 March 2011

Cameroon’s national football team did not play an international friendly this 29 March. That’s a shame. Playing against Gabon, for instance, would have been an opportunity to consolidate the good and tweak the bad aspects noticed in the game against Senegal on 26 March in Dakar. Here’s a tactical analysis of that Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.

 

After a nervy start – during which they had to come to grips with Senegal’s 4-2-4 system – Cameroon basically seized control of the midfield where they outnumbered their host by playing a (form of) 4-1-3-2 formation. The ball retention by Cameroon’s midfield was very good for 35 of the first 45 minutes and for about 20 minutes in the second half.

 

 

Aurelien Chedjou calmed proceedings sitting in-front of the two central defenders, while Eyong Enoh and Landry Ngeumo harassed the two Senegalese midfielders (Nguiram Ndaw and Mohamed Ndiame) for the ball. Henri Bedimo who was wide on the left tucked in to provide a helping hand as did Samuel Eto’o who dropped from his attacking position to play on the right of midfield.

 

This prevented the Senegalese fire-power from setting into motion to the point that the host players were booed-off the pitch at half time.

 

Tactical discipline

 

The Senegalese coach, Amara Traore, several other tacticians and the Senegalese press saluted Cameroon’s tactical discipline and the quality of their passing after the encounter.

 

Unfortunately, as good as it was defensively, the system was bereft of vision  going forward. Nguemo was supposed to provide the thrust. Though he was among Cameroon’s best men, according to the Senegalese media, he often failed to deliver quality final balls.

 

Honestly, it wasn’t just a personal weakness. Who could he pass the ball to? Often Achille Webo was alone upfront and (without any bias against the Majorca man) he lacked the technique to dribble his way until Eto’o and Bedimo could join from their wide midfield roles.

 

When Eto’o or Bedimo did succeed to make  in-roads from the flanks,, Webo blew the chances – shooting wide or being out of position to receive the final pass.

 

A friendly match would have been an opportunity to fix that connection between attack and midfield just as it would have been a chance to create further cohesion in the, generally, solid defence that faced Senegal.

 

Eto'o, Webo and Enoh in the midst of the Senegalese defence before a corner, Dakar 26 March 2011

 

 

I have a preference for Sebastien Bassong in central defence but Clemente’s pair of Nicolas Nkoulou and Stephane Mbia kept the Senegalese at bay until the 92nd minute.

 

Benoit Assou-Ekotto, described by Senegalese newspapers as the best Cameroonian Lion in the game, showed why he had to be in the squad. He displayed technique and a positional sense which helped him cover his central defence colleagues on several occasions.

 

Lopsided formation

 

Benoit Amgwa who played at right-back could not muster such plaudits. He has actually come under heavy criticism for the goal against Cameroon. But was he the only one at fault? I don’t think so.

 

The goal resulted from a defect in the formation put in place by Clemente and the substitutions he made in the second half.

 

In fact, the formation (4-1-3-1-1) when attacking and a 4-5-1 when Cameroon was defending) had a clear wide-left player in Bedimo who stuck to the flank whereas Enoh, who was supposedly his opposite number  on the right, rather stayed close to the central midfield area leaving Amgwa without cover when the attacker (Eto’/ Vincent Aboubakar) cut inside to join the main striker (Webo and later Eto’o).

 

This became really huge once Aboubakar came on. The former Cotonsport Garoua player is full of energy and technique but obviously needs to polish his tactical discipline. Whereas Eto’o usually retreated quickly to block the space behind him once a Cameroon offensive was punctured, Aboubakar often failed to do so.

 

Amara Traore realised the weakness and fielded Issiar Dia who was free to roam the left flank only having Amgwa to deal with. The tired right-back found it hard to contain the Dia’s energy. A hopeful kick by the Senegalese goalkeeper through the yawning gap left by Aboubakar, sparked a chain of poor play from  Enoh (who should have checked Dia) and Amgwa (who  retreated instead of taking on the Senegalese attacker). Dia’s beautiful cross met Demba Ba who beat Idriss Kameni.

 

 

Clemente talks tactics with Choupo-Moting at half-time of Cameroon v Senegal, Dakar, 26 March 2011

Clemente, it must be said, felt by half-time that Senegal could be beaten. He therefore fielded two attackers (Choupo-Moting and Aboubakar).

 

The alternatives

 

The Spaniard could have played Choupo-Moting (who came on for Bedimo) on the right; in which case he would have replaced Webo instead. As such, Eto’o would have played in the centre and Bedimo stayed on the left. Unlike Aboubakar, Choupo-Moting has the tactical wisdom to return to help is defenders as he showed on the left with Assou-Ekotto during this game. Moreover, he has played in this position for his German clubside Hamburg.

 

Somen Tchoyi who is naturally a number 8 but also has the experience of playing as a wide midfielder and a central striker could have come in for Enoh. This would have left Nguemo and Chedjou as destroyers and Tchoyi (or Choupo-Moting) supporting Eto’o from central midfield.

Again, a friendly on 29 March, would have offered a chance the technical staff to test these possibilities. That will sadly not be the case. There will hardly be another opportunity to have the team together again before the return-leg game against Senegal on June 4.

 

Lack of cohesion should never have existed if authorities (and the media) had not gone into witch-hunting mode after the World Cup, destroying the re-construction engineered by Paul Le Guen. But that is another story…

Football fans in Cameroon enjoy Europe’s elite club competition, the Champions League, but they will have particular interest in next month’s quarter-finals as Samuel Eto’o’s Inter Milan (Italy)  have been drawn against Joel Matip’s Shalke 04 (Germany).

Many are expecting Eto’o, Cameroon’s captain, to continue firing on all cylinders as was the case in the eigth final game against FC Bayern Munich (Germany) when he scored once and made two assists to qualify his club. He is the joint leading scorer in the tournament.

However, the young Matip (not called up for Cameroon v Senegal) has been improving in his role as a midfield defensive maestro. He also plays as a central defender which means he may end up being the one to hold his national team captain in check.

Hopefully, Javier Clemente, the Indomitable Lions’ manager and his assistant Omam Biyick will be watching that game to note that Matip is as good as (if not better than) some of the players regularly selected for Cameroon these days.

The first-leg takes place in Italy on 5 April and the second leg in Germany on 13 April.

Another fixture of interest to Cameroonians following Friday’s draw will be the Tottenham Hotspur (England) versus Real Madrid (Spain) games.

Two Indomitable Lions play for Spurs: Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Sebastien Bassong. Whereas the left-back (Assou-Ekotto) starts every game for the north Londoners (except he’s injured or suspended), the centre-back (Bassong) has had  tough competition from several world class defenders playing in his position.

It will surely be exciting to see Assou-Ekotto sprinting and dribbling down that left flank as has been most often the case this season. The first leg- will be at the Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on 5 April and the return leg on 13 April at White Hart Lane, London.

The other fixtures include a spectacular clash between FC Barcelona (Spain) and Shaktar Doniesk (Ukraine). Both teams are stylish, prefer an attacking  game and score lots of goals.

The all-English contest between Manchester United and Chelsea FC is already providing several blogs from the country’s football observers. Both teams met in the 2008 final of the competition won by United after post-match penalty kicks.