Laurent Koscielny

BENJAMINWILLS’BLOG PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM OF THE SEASON SO FAR (2015/16)

We are barely at Christmas and the 2015-16 Premier League season has given us plenty of talking points already. From surprise table-toppers Leicester City to Chelsea – the holders who have fallen from grace – and, of course, a certain Jamie Vardy – but more on him later.

The winter festivities bring out many celebrations and, most enjoyably, an even more bumper football fixture list. It is also the time of the year we see people start to talk about the end-of-season awards – here is BenjaminWillsBlog’s pick of the top 11 men so far.

Goalkeeper: Jack Butland (Stoke City)

Even before this season Jack Butland was lauded as one for the future for the England team – his inclusion into the Euro 2012 squad at just 19 years of age proved that but recent performances could already have him pushing for a start at the next Euros.

Asmir Begovic’s switch to Chelsea in the summer paved the way for Butland to make the number one shirt at Stoke City his own and he has grabbed the opportunity, like most crosses he has faced, with both hands.

Butland has made 56 saves and kept seven clean sheets (second to Costel Pantilimon and Heurelho Gomes respectively), but he has an average save-per-game rating of 3.29 and a 98% success rate at claiming crosses.

JB

Honourable Mentions: Heurelho Gomes (Watford) and Petr Cech (Arsenal)

Right-Back: Cedric Soares (Southampton)

Perhaps an early surprise name on the team sheet ahead of Hector Bellerin and Kyle Walker – mainly due to Southampton failing to build on their seventh placed spot from 2014-15, but Cedric Soares has filled the Nathaniel Clyne-shaped hole in the Saints’ defence seamlessly.

The Portuguese full-back has won 38 tackles – more than Arsenal’s Bellerin and Walker of Tottenham having played a game less than the former and two less than the latter and he has made nine blocks – six more than Walker and seven more than Bellerin. He also has just one fewer clearance than the pair.

Soares also plays a role in the opposing half superbly. He has created 18 chances and made 17 key passes, yes, you guessed it, six more than Walker and eight more than Bellerin.

Cedric

Honourable Mentions: Hector Bellerin (Arsenal) and Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)

Centre Back: Chris Smalling (Manchester United)

Even the most diehard Manchester United fan, in fact, especially the most diehard Manchester United fan, will tell you that the Red Devils have not been fun to watch this season – but Chris Smalling is one man who gives them reasons to be cheerful.

Louis van Gaal’s defensive tactics has stunted the normally attack-minded Manchester United in front of goal but on the flip side it makes them pretty sturdy at the back and Smalling is the finest example of that.

Smalling has had a hand in United having eight clean sheets from the 16 league matches where he has featured – the only one he missed was the humiliating 2-1 loss at AFC Bournemouth.

Best of Friends: Chris Smalling is one of few to improve under van Gaal

Best of Friends: Chris Smalling is one of few to improve under van Gaal for Manchester United

Centre Back: Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

“Best defender in the Premier League” – those are the words of Rio Ferdinand and Thierry Henry, both esteemed pundits and football legends, high praise indeed – and Laurent Koscielny has justified it this season.

The mercurial Frenchman has been ‘le Roche’ at the back for the Gunners as they make their latest bid to win the title for the first time since the historic 2003-2004 “Invincibles” side.

Koscielny’s display in the recent 2-1 win over fellow title-chasers Manchester City was arguably his performance of the season with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Wilfried Bony all failing to cause him much trouble – only a wonderful Yaya Toure goal prevented Arsenal from keeping their eighth clean sheet.

Under the Kos-h: Best defender in the league? Yes according to Ferdinand and Henry

Under the Kos-h: Best defender in the league? Yes according to Ferdinand and Henry

Honourable Mentions: Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Cook (AFC Bournemouth), and John Stones (Everton)

Left-Back: Nacho Monreal (Arsenal)

Patience is a virtue, as is hard work, Nacho Monreal has both in abundance. Just two years ago you were more likely to see Monreal on the Arsenal bench while Kieran Gibbs occupied the left-back role, now roles have reversed and Monreal has even became one of the league’s finest in the position.

He also finds himself overlooked in the Spain squad with Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta of Barcelona and Chelsea respectively preferred over him but if he carries on like this he may get his deserved chance.

Arsenal, as ever, are impressing with their flair game of pass-and-move, which Monreal does contribute to too, but it is his work rate first and foremost that has endeared him to his fans.

Quite a Dish: He had to wait, but Nacho is proving to be a great starter

Quite a Dish: He had to wait, but Nacho is proving to be a great starter

Honourable Mentions: Nathan Ake (Watford) and Ryan Bertrand (Southampton)

Centre Midfielder: Ross Barkley (Everton)

What a yo-yo player Ross Barkley is proving to be – down, up, down, up…

Barkley properly burst onto the scene in 2013-14, three years after he broke his leg, and scored six goals in 34 games in his debut full season in the Premier League but last season he only scored two goals and registered two assists.

This campaign however he has truly blossomed, he already has six goals and six assists to his name, he has made 31 key passes and created 33 chances from the heart of the Everton midfield, pulling the strings like many expected of him at an even earlier age. France, here he comes.

RB

Centre Midfielder: N’Golo Kante (Leicester City)

Every good side needs a midfield enforcer and league leaders Leicester City (yes, really), have one in N’Golo Kante.

The previously relative unknown Kante was snapped up in the summer from Ligue 1’s SC Caen for £5.6 million, just one year after playing in France’s second tier for the same club and, for the time being at least, he finds himself top of the Premier League table.

Practically everyone in Leicester’s path have been outfoxed from August to December and, if Claudio Ranieri’s men keep up the story of the season, Kante could be commanding a higher transfer fee in six months time.

Unpredicted star: N'Golo Kante believe how well he has done but Caen can

Unpredicted star: N’Golo Kante believe how well he has done but Caen can

Honourable Mentions: Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City), Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) and Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace)

Right Midfielder: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)

A Leicester player for Player of the Season? Only in 2015-16. Riyad Mahrez has been a star for the side many tipped for relegation before a ball was kicked.

Mahrez has been involved in 18 of Leicester’s 37 goals this season (11 goals, seven assists) which is more than any other player in the league.

He only scored three goals in the year Leicester got promoted to the Premier League from the Championship and netted a solitary one more last season. Keeping hold of the Algerian beyond January seems crucial if the Foxes want the fairytale to have a happy ever after.

Wing Wizard: Mahrez is Algeria's most dangerous export since petroleum

Wing Wizard: Mahrez is Algeria’s most dangerous export since petroleum

Honourable Mentions: Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace), Willian (Chelsea) and Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

Centre Attacking Midfielder: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

Blink during an Arsenal match and you will probably miss an assist from Mesut Ozil. The 27-year-old German has set up 15 league goals already, as many as David Silva has in a single season and only five fewer than the Premier League record over an entire season held by Henry, also of Arsenal.

Ozil has found the back of the net of his own accord twice, made 52 key passes and created a whopping 67 chances for the rest of Arsene Wenger’s squad.

If the Gunners are going to win their first title in 12 years, the King of Assists is going to need to keep providing moments of magic as, at times, he completely runs the game almost single-handedly.

MO

Honourable Mentions: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) and Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

Left Midfielder: Dmitri Payet (West Ham United)

West Ham United’s impending move to the Olympic Stadium is expected to attract some big names to east London, but that process began as early as this June when Dmitri Payet signed for the happy Hammers for around £12 million.

Payet recorded the fourth highest assist total in Europe last season for Marseille (17), only then Wolfsburg man de Bruyne (20), Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi (both 18) provided more.

He started in England how he finished in France too, he scored five goals, made three assists, created 46 chances and fashioned 43 key passes in just 12 games. Unfortunately, an ankle injury sustained in November stopped him in his tracks and it could rule him out for up to another two months.

Child's Play: Payet has made Premier League defences look like dummies

Child’s Play: Payet has made Premier League defences look like dummies

Honourable Mentions: Gerard Deulofeu (Everton) and Sadio Mane (Southampton)

Striker: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Where do you start with Jamie Vardy? His story? Only naturally. Non-league Halifax Town to Premier League Golden Boot via Fleetwood in four years is literally film worthy if the DailyMail are to be believed. In fairness, his rise has been something more akin to Hollywood film sets rather than English football pitches.

Vardy only scored five goals throughout last season as Leicester narrowly stayed up but the Sheffield-born striker has 15 in 17 currently, with 13 of them coming in 11 consecutive games – overthrowing Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of adding to the score-sheet for ten games on the trot.

While Wayne Rooney continues to struggle for United, England could may well have a trick up their sleeve in Vardy to lead the line at next summer’s European Championships in France.

Jamie Vardy's having a party: The Leicester man can't stop scoring

Jamie Vardy’s having a party: The Leicester man can’t stop scoring

Honourable Mentions: Odion Ighalo (Watford) and Romelu Lukaku (Everton)

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Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

Chelsea ended a high tempered London derby triumphant over Arsenal, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Costa sealed the three points 12 minutes before the end when he lobbed Wojciech Szczesny after being set up by a delicious Cesc Fabregas pass that beat the Arsenal defence all ends up.

Hazard opened the scoring for the West Londoners when his run where he dribbled past three despairing defenders culminated in Laurent Koscielny bringing down the Belgian in the box and the defender maybe should have been shown his marching orders.

23-year-old Hazard stepped up himself and slotted it past Szczesny with 27 minutes played.

Events off the pitch were the main talking points of the first half however with managers Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger engaging in a touchline spat as a result of a crunching Gary Cahill challenge on Alexis Sanchez.

Wenger was of the opinion Cahill should have seen red for his foul and, after some wind up tactics from his adversary Mourinho, pushed the Portuguese coach in the chest.

Calum Chambers was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch as well, not picking up a second yellow card for pulling down Andre Schurrle.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Eden Hazard opens the scoring from the spot.

Arsenal also had reason to feel adjudged by referee Martin Atkinson when Jack Wilshere’s shot was blocked by the hand of ex Gunner Fabregas.

Chelsea were worthy winners but an early injury to Thibaut Courtois provided a minor bleak point to their victory. He was replaced by Petr Cech 24 minutes in.

Chelsea: Courtois (Cech ’24) Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Schurrle (Mikel ’69), Oscar (Willian ’87), Hazard, Diego Costa

Subs not used: Zouma, Filipe Luis, Salah, Remy

Arsenal: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Wilshere (Rosicky ’83), Flamini, Cazorla (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69), Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Subs not used: Martinez, Monreal, Coquelin, Campbell, Podolski

Arsenal 2-2 Manchester City

Title contenders Arsenal and Manchester City battled to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates stadium, three of the four goals coming in the second half.

Sergio Aguero gave Manchester City the lead 28 minutes into the game when he arrived on the edge of the six yard box to nip in and score from Jesus Navas’ pass.

Nacho Monreal, who kept his place despite Kieran Gibbs’ return from injury was at fault as Navas was given acres of space on the right hand side.

Jack Wilshere tied the game up just after the hour, providing the finishing touch to a typical Arsenal build up of neat passing play. Wilshere gilded past Gael Clichy and dinked the ball over Joe Hart after a one-two with Aaron Ramsey.

Alexis Sanchez completed the second half turnaround 16 minutes before the end, superbly volleying in a Wilshere header after Ramsey’s cross wasn’t dealt with efficiently enough by Vincent Kompany.

Martin Demichelis ensured City went back to Manchester with a share of the spoils however when he headed home a corner seven minutes from time, being left unmarked by the Arsenal defence.

Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal

Jack the lad: Wilshere equalizes for Arsenal

 

Manchester City had chances to win the game in the closing stages, putting the Gunners under the pressure with a late flurry and even had the ball in the back of the net, but Samir Nasri was offside.

Their best opportunity however was shortly after their opener but David Silva’s effort was well kept out by Wojciech Szczesny but in reality, the Spaniard should have put his side further ahead.

Arsene Wenger will be happy that his side picked up a point today as Arsenal’s record against the top four was poor last season but a late injury to Mathieu Debuchy could be a severe one and it will have left a sour taste in the mouth of his manager.

Debuatant Danny Welbeck was also replaced on 88 minutes due to injury.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy (Chambers ’81), Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini (Arteta ’90), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis, Ozil, Welbeck (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’88)

Subs not used: Ospina, Gibbs, Cazorla, Podolski

Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho (Kolarov ’77), Lampard (Nasri ’45), Navas, Silva, Milner, Aguero (Dzeko ’67)

Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Mangala, Sinclair

Arsenal 1-0 Besiktas

Arsenal booked their place in the Group Stages of the Champions League for the 17th season in a row with 1-0 win over Besiktas thanks Alexis Sanchez’s first goal for his new club.

The £35 million signing from Barcelona netted with a first time finish in first half stoppage time that in truth should have been saved by Tolga Zengin in the Besiktas goal.

A neat little one-two between Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil ended up at the feet of Sanchez who had the simple task of scoring his first goal in Arsenal colours.

It could be a confidence booster for the marquee addition who has been somewhat disappointing in England in the early stages of this season.

He should have grabbed a second though when Wilshere played him with a disguised pass in early in his second half but the Chilean’s shot was deflected out for a corner.

Sanchez Strikes: Alexis sends Arsenal through to the Group Stages.

Sanchez Strikes: Alexis sends Arsenal through to the Group Stages.

Besiktas had a major penalty shout in the first half when a slip from Wilshere caused Ramon Motta to go down in the box before he had the chance to unleash a shot on goal but referee Pedro Proenca waved play on.

A nervy game burst into life with 15 minutes remaining as Arsenal looked to seal the tie, first Santi Cazorla somehow failed to convert from a two on one situation and then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired straight at Zengin from six yards following Monreal’s cross.

Soon after Mathieu Debuchy was dismissed for a second bookable offence and then substitute Calum Chambers was bizarrely booked for entering the field of play before instructed by Proenca.

Debuchy will now miss the opening group game for the Gunners due to his suspension.

Card happy Proenca dished out nine yellows in total (two to Debuchy) in what was a hot tempered clash at the Emirates.

Arsenal meanwhile await the group stage draw which is made tomorrow at 16:45 BST.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Flamini, Cazorla, Ozil (Chambers ’77), Alexis

Subs not used: Martinez, Coquelin, Rosicky, Podolski, Campbell, Sanogo

Besiktas: Zengin, Koybasi, Franco, Gulum, Motta, Hutchinson, Kavlak (Uysal ’77), Pektemek, Ozyakup, Sahan (Tore ’63), Ba

Subs not used: Gonen, Kertulus, Sivok, Frei, Tosun

Besiktas 0-0 Arsenal

Arsenal were held to a 0-0 draw in an intimidating Ataturk stadium and have been left with a job to do next week in London which Aaron Ramsey will miss due to his red card.

The energetic Welshman, 23, was given his marching orders ten minutes from time when he tripped Oğuzhan Ozyakup which warranted his second yellow card.

Besiktas began the game with a bang when Demba Ba rattled the bar in the first few seconds, letting fly from the half way line that caused Wojciech Szczesny more worries than it perhaps should have done.

Ba came close again soon after but his volley was well kept out as Arsenal found themselves on the back foot early on.

Olivier Giroud failed to inspire in an Arsenal shirt again, his worst offense being unable to get the ball out from under his feet when under pressure from a defender from point blank range on goal.

Soon after the French forward found himself on a two-on-one situation but his attempted pass to a colleague was easily cut out.

Jack Wilshere had an effort of his own but his tame curler from the edge of the box was gathered well by Tolga Zengin.

It was former Arsenal loan target Ba who looked most dangerous though, some jinking footwork on the edge of the box set him up well but he dragged his shot wide.

Slavan Bilic’s side started the second half as they ended his first, Olcay Sahan curled an effort narrowly past the post though.

Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain produced the best chance of the encounter with two minutes left but he could only hit the post with his attempt.

Arsenal though were largely pedestrian in the Turkish capital, failing to create any real clear cut opportunities and must improve next week if they are to reach the Champions League group stages for the 15th time in succession.

 

Besiktas: Zengin, Koybasi, Motta, Gulum, Franco, Sahan (Tore ’73), Kavlak, Uysal, Ozyakup (Koyunlu ’81), Pektemek (Tosun ’88), Ba

Subs not used: Gonen, Kurtulus, Sivok, Boral

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Chambers, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta (Flamini ’50), Wilshere, Ramsey, Alexis (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’72), Cazorla (Rosicky ’90), Giroud

Subs not used: Martinez, Bellerin, Miquel, Campbell

Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace

A 90th minute Aaron Ramsey goal broke the hearts of a determined Crystal Palace side to give Arsenal a deserved three points on the opening day of the Premier League season.

Ramsey fired home from point blank range with the goal gaping following Julian Speroni’s save from Mathieu Debuchy’s shot.

It was cruel on plucky Palace who until then had defended resolutely to keep the likes of Santi Cazorla and new £35 million man Alexis Sanchez at bay for the majority of the match.

Crystal Palace, once again in the temporary hands of Keith Millen, took a shock lead at the Emirates stadium though after 35 minutes when Hangeland headed in Jason Puncheon’s corner.

Zonal marking let Arsenal down as it so often has done in the past. Hangeland lost his marker, bizarrely the tiny Alexis Sanchez, with ease and seized on the cross before a daydreaming Koscielny and made it 0-1 Palace for his first goal in three years.

Hangeland was guilty of poor marking from a set piece ten minutes later however, coincidentally it was Koscielny atoning for his error to head Arsenal level in first half stoppage time.

Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal

Heading for greatness: Koscielny equalizes for Arsenal

Puncheon received his marching orders two minutes from time when a late challenge on substitute Nacho Monreal merited a second yellow card and shortly after Palace were punished.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny, Chambers, Gibbs (Monreal ’53), Arteta, Wilshere (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’69) Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Sanogo (Giroud ’62)

Subs not used: Martinez, Coquelin, Rosicky, Campbell

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Dann (Delaney ’75), Hangeland, Ward, Puncheon, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie (O’Keefe ’90) Campbell (Gayle ’85), Chamakh

Subs not used: Hennessey, McCarthy, Bannan, Murray

 

Community Shield report: Arsenal 3-0 Manchester City

Arsenal became the first FA Cup holders to win the traditional curtain raiser that is the Community Shield since Chelsea in 2009 with a 3-0 win over Premier League Champions Manchester City. Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud provided the goals at Wembley.

Cazorla opened the scoring with 21 minutes on the clock when he nestled in a left foot from the edge of the box after advantage was played following Drederick Boyata’s foul on Jack Wilshere.

Spain International Cazorla, 29, scored Arsenal’s first goal in May’s FA Cup final and now has another Wembley goal to his collection.

The scorer of the winning FA Cup goal, Aaron Ramsey, doubled their lead three minutes before half time when he drilled in a shot from six yards past Willy Cabellero after a nice touch away from Matija Nastastic. Yaya Sanogo’s hold up play against Boyata was exemplary as he set up Ramsey.

Super Santi: Cazorla opens the scoring at Wembley

Super Santi: Cazorla opens the scoring at Wembley

Half time substitute Olivier Giroud made sure of the victory  on the hour mark with a long range strike that deflected off Nastasic and dipped over the despairing debutant Caballero.

Manchester City were limited to chances in the first half with the centre back pairing of Calum Chambers and Laurent Koscielny not allowing any direct shots on the Arsenal goal.

Mathieu Debuchy was less impressive however with City regularly having joy down the left flank, most notably when Alexandar Kolarov broke clear of Debuchy but his squared pass was just behind the on rushing Samir Nasri to trouble Wojciech Szczesny.

Things barely improved in the second 45, only Stefan Jovetic came relatively close when his shot was palmed away by Szczesny 56 minutes in.

Arsenal: Szczesny, Debuchy, Koscielny (Monreal ’45), Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere (Flamini ’68), Ramsey (Campbell ’85), Alexis (Oxlade-Chamberlain ’45), Cazorla (Rosicky ’70), Sanogo (Giroud ’45)

Subs not used: Martinez

Manchester City: Caballero, Clichy, Boyata, Nastasic, Kolarov (Richards ’76), Navas (Sinclair ’85), Fernando, Toure (Zuculini ’60), Nasri (Silva ’45), Jovetic, Dzeko (Milner ’60)

Subs not used: Hart, Rekik

Man of the match: Olivier Giroud

 

Diamond in the rough or just rough? The curious case of Nile Ranger

(Originally posted November 15th 2013)
Nile Ranger, 22, was tipped for great things in his Newcastle days when he joined the club in 2009, aged 18, but four years down the line he finds himself in League 1 and in danger of people remembering him more for his off the field antics than his football ability.

Ranger’s problems off the field are nothing new however, back in the days when he was on Southampton’s books as a 15-year-old he showed promise but found himself imprisoned in a Young Offender’s institute for 11 Weeks following an armed robbery. He returned to The Saints after, briefly, before being released due to his behaviour.

He was somewhat fortunate to be signed up by Premiership outfit Newcastle United then but he earned his place, scoring 15 goals for the Under 18’s and 7 for the Reserve team and was rewarded with a 3 and a half year deal by Alan Shearer as Newcastle prepared their assault on The Championship following their unexpected Relegation.

Ranger was awarded his Magpies début in the season opener against West Brom as an injury time substitute  for Shola Ameobi before winning his first start, getting the Man of the Match award in a 1-0 victory over Leicester City three weeks later. Ranger proved he could get goals in tier two after netting in the 2-0 wins over Coventry and Crystal Palace.

Ranger wouldn’t make much more of an impact as Newcastle romped to The Championship title and didn’t feature much in the following Premiership season either, mostly limited to Carling Cup games. He took whatever chance he got however and managed to score in two of those fixtures in wins over Accrington Stanley and Chelsea. Ranger made his Premiership début as an 89th minute substitute vs Wigan and went on to make a number of sub appearances, most notably against Arsenal where he turned past Laurent Koscielny who fouled him and got sent off, maintaining a 0-1 win for Newcastle. Bad-Boy Nile also started a few games that season following injuries to Andy Carroll and Leon Best, failing to add to his goals tally but he was still awarded a 5 and a half year deal by Chris Hughton.

Whilst 2010 was a good year for Nile Ranger on the field, his behaviour in 2011 would cause him problems off it. On 27 August he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a man in Newcastle city centre leaving the victim unconscious in the street, but was found not guilty in October 2012 and then in October 2011 he was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Newcastle’s Cathedral Square. The charge came only days after Ranger had been reinstated to Newcastle United’s first-team training after a three-month exile in the club’s reserves. Prior to this, in May 2011 Ranger was questioned by Newcastle after posing with a gun in a photograph. The gun was later handed in.

Striker Ranger in Shooting training...of sorts.

Striker Ranger in Shooting training…of sorts.

 

In what was an eventful 2011 for him, Ranger joined Championship side Barnsley to try and get his mind in football gear again, however it didn’t work out for him, five appearances, no goals and a foot injury had his loan cut short and back to Newcastle he went. He would try again in March 2012, this time opting for Sheffield Wednesday, then in League One.  Two goals in eight games was satisfactory as Wednesday won Promotion back to The Championship, however Ranger was still getting into trouble. Firstly making a homophobic comment on Twitter for which he was fined, then he was arrested again for breaching bail whilst awaiting trial for four assault charges. Then in September, Ranger was accused of criminal damage to a front door of someone else’s property, the charges were dropped 2 Months later however after the Court agreed that the Newcastle Front-man had damaged the door fearing his Girlfriend was being kidnapped.

Despite all of this however the Newcastle man still continued to get in the papers for all the wrong reasons. The 25th of January would prove to be the day that Ranger’s reputation would hit rock bottom. Ranger was arrested on suspicion of rape in a Newcastle hotel room and was charged for this on the 8th July and is due in court again in the New Year. His 2013 didn’t end there though, he was convicted of assault in March and hit the headlines again in July after getting “Ranger” tattooed on his forehead, coinciding with a Smiley face on his bottom lip which he isn’t shy on showing.

Smile for the Camera. Ranger's tattoo
Smile for the Camera. Ranger’s tattoo

Newcastle had got fed up with Ranger’s behaviour and released him by Mutual Consent in September. Two goals in 51 league games was not enough to justify his behaviour and Ranger was temporarily unemployed.

That was until League 1 outfit Swindon Town decided to take the risk. Despite negative press and an understandable annoyance from supporters, Ranger signed a 1 year deal on the dotted line in Wiltshire with the option of a second depending on his Court Case outcome. At the beginning it looked like a master-stroke by new boss Mark Cooper, Ranger repaid the faith shown in him, scoring 6 goals in 15 games including an 87th winner against West Country rivals Bristol City. However, now, Ranger seems to be showing his true colours. He’s missed several training sessions in the last Month, some from Swindon giving him time off for his court case, some for unknown reasons. Ranger has now gone AWOL and shows no signs of being in Cooper’s plans for the time being.

And this is what ultimately lets Nile Ranger down. He’s proved he has talent, he’s been capped for the England U-19’s 11 times, scoring 6 goals and although he may not be cut out for The Premiership, he may have been if he concentrated on his football more than his life of crime. One level he looks to have found himself at is League One with Championship chasing Swindon where he could really prove himself.

If Ranger is found innocent in January and Swindon forgive him for his missed training sessions and he finally learns to keep his head down and get on with his Football he could become the good player everyone expected back in 2009. However, it could all be too late for Nile if he gets found guilty in Court and then he’ll be added to the never ending “what might have been” list.