Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pires back in the EPL

Former Arsenal winger, Robert Pires, will join the Villans this week after being let go by his Spanish side Villarreal earlier this season. The 37 year old winger is clearly on the down slope of his career but can still bring some veteran leadership to the Birmingham side. After having trained with his former side Arsenal he has found himself a new footballing home. A couple of aspects of this move struck me:
  • Had Wenger not stuck to his - no long term contract for players over 30 policy - could the Gunners have benefited from the veteran French international the past few seasons? I will say yes. I realize that Pires was not the player that Wenger first brought to north London from OM as a 26 year old. Pires became a vital cog in the Arsenal machine and I will contend that had he not injured a knee in 2002 he would have given Les Bleus great cover for Zidane during the World Cup and Les Bleus would have made a run in South Korea/Japan. Having said that, I also think Arsenal would have benefited from having the veteran for the past 4 seasons. Would he have been an uncontested starter? No. But spot starting and being leveraged off the bench would have given Wenger a valuable, trusted and solid option in the midfield.
  • The apparent "snubbing" of the MLS and the Philadelphia Union, is ironic on many levels. First because Pires claims to have turned down the MLS side because the city was not beautiful enough....and now he is going to Birmingham. However who can blame him? Rather than moving to a Tier 2 domestic league (at best) he is heading back to one of the most popular domestic football leagues in the world and playing for a solid team with aspirations for Champions League football and beyond. I realize that players such as Henry and Marquez sought the MLS, but in the case of Titi he clearly wanted to enjoy life in America and specifically New York City. I would doubt that Henry or Marquez made the moves because they wanted to play in a more competitive league than La Liga or the EPL...then again according to Alexi Lalas the MLS would do more than hold their own in the EPL.
I think Houllier will leverage Pires as would have Wenger had he stayed at Arsenal - spot starting duty, option off the bench and selective games off (Carling Cup, early FA Cup games). He will be a welcome return to the EPL, I just wish he had never left.

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