Olli Meek reflects on the FA Cup third round fixtures, with Arsenal crashing out to add to Arsene Wenger's woes.Written by Olli Meek on 13th January 2018
FIFA Awards Roundup
Olli Meek reports on the FIFA Football Awards, with a cohort of Real Madrid and Barcelona players picking up a host of awards once again.
The rear-guard of the Fifpro team of the season for 2016/17 is occupied by only two clubs. Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon takes over from last year's choice Manuel Neuer between the sticks after 13 clean sheets from 30 appearances in Serie A last term.
Sergio Ramos, captain of Spain and Real Madrid, takes his place next to club-mate Marcelo having scored 10 goals in 44 appearances at club level last season, making him one of the highest scoring defenders around, and certainly one of the most successful. In August he was named UEFA Champions League Defender of the Season for 16/17, adding to the League title, Champions League, Club World Cup, and UEFA Super Cup that he had already won. Marcelo and Ramos are joined by ex-Juventus pairing Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves, having joined AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain respectively over the summer. The Old Lady powered to the league title and another Champions League final with these two each playing a key role from Right-Back and Centre-Back, Bonucci making 45 apps, and Alves making 33.
In the midfield we have another area of Real Madrid dominance, Toni Kroos and Luca Modric partnering with Barcelona rival Andres Iniesta. Some saw Iniesta, 33, being selected as questionable, with some of the view that he is past his peak. With absences such as N'golo Kante from the side, whoever is selected will be subject to significant scrutiny however, so it is no surprise that there are those who disagree.
No-one who follows football will be surprised at the front three, with over 140 goals between them last season, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Neymar are the three most potent attackers in the world at this moment. To have them playing in the same era is arguably a privilege for us as fans to observe. Neymar's record-breaking move to PSG over the summer, re-joining former Barcelona teammate Alves, is potentially the end of Spanish monopoly over the worlds best strikers, with Neymar maybe being the figurehead of a lively, young, new generation including his new teammate Kylian Mbappe.
Cristiano Ronaldo picked up another individual award, adding to the many he already owns. This award becomes the second Best FIFA Men's Player that Ronaldo has won, following his win in 2016. The 32 year old Portuguese forward has had a stellar 2017. Not only did he play a starring role in Real Madrid's domestic and continental double, his stats from 2017 are markedly impressive. In 48 appearances for club and country, he contributed 44 goals and 11 assists. Interestingly, Ronaldo's natural competitor Lionel Messi did even better. The Argentinian has claimed 50 goals and 13 assists so far in 2017, usurping the Madrid man. Perhaps these awards are simply a phony popularity contest. Ronaldo himself voted for Modric, Ramos and Marcelo. Very interesting indeed.
Dutch midfielder Lieke Martens picked up the respective women's award. The playmaker, who predominantly plays on the left wing had a fantastic 2017 which culminated in her winning of this award. Martens led her national side to glory at the 2017 European Championships scoring three goals in the process whilst also picking up the Golden Ball award for the tournament. Prior to the tournament, Martens had been signed by European giants Barcelona. It remains to be seen whether she can be the female answer to a fellow Dutch Barcelonian, Johan Cruyff. Her winning of this award was mired in significant controversy, with the inclusion of 18 year Venezuelan Deyna Castellanos seen as an example of corruption on the part of FIFA by some.
Zinedine Zidane has continued winning trophies well into his management career, including this latest recognition from FIFA for his achievements in the 16/17 season with Real Madrid. As well as winning the Champions League for the 11th time in the clubs history, and his 4th time with the club, Zidane also set records for the most consecutive La Liga wins, and most consecutive matches in Spanish football without losing last season.
Sarina Weigman won the Best Female Coach award, as she managed the Holland squad including Lieke Martens to the European Championship title. The former central midfielder has taken care of the Netherlands team on an interim basis before and was permanently handed the reigns in 2017. It is interesting to note that both coach awards were given to people who manage the winners of the player awards.
This award is one of relative unimportance in comparison to the two aforementioned ones, yet results in debate between football purists as to which individual act of brilliance was superior. The winner, Arsenal man Olivier Giroud for a wonderful back-heel kick over his own head against Crystal Palace. Watching the game live, one could not fathom how Giroud had managed to put the ball in the net from such an unlikely angle. Giroud had stiff competition, though. One goal was from South African goalkeeper (yes, goalkeeper) Oscarine Masuluke. In the final moments of a game vs Orlando Pirates, Masuluke headed forward for a corner, with his side Baroka needing a goal to draw. Masuluke proceeded to score a frankly ridiculous overhead kick. It is very hard to say who deserves the win for this one.