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Taking a cue from Chelsea’s Antonio Conte

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In a few weeks’ time, the curtains will fall on arguably the most watched domestic league in the world – the English Premier League – with all indications pointing to a sixth title for Chelsea.

Incidentally at the start of the season last August not many would have predicted such an outcome, especially following their dismal showing in defending their title the previous season when the midseason sacking of the man who had made them kings, Jose Mourinho, saved them from possibly becoming the first champions to be relegated the very next season.

As at the time the Portuguese tactician was asked to go, the Blues were hovering dangerously close to the Premier League exit door in 16th place – having lost nine of the 16 games played! But the arrival of Guus Hiddink, a man who had also ‘saved’ them in his first stint, steadied the ship and Chelsea finished the season in 10th place.

However, Mourinho’s second season misadventure was not the only reason the Blues were not widely tipped for glory, another factor was the arrival of a new manager in the person of Antonio Conte. Conte, who had never managed a club in the Premier League before, had just guided Italy to a Euro 2016 quarter-final penalty shootout defeat to Germany, was expected to find it tough going in his first foray in English top flight football, even though he had guided the last club he handled, Juventus to three consecutive scudetto titles.

However, the Italian gave an indication that he would not be affected by the ‘first season blues’ when he won all his first four matches at the start of the new English season in August, which included three league wins and a EFL Cup – Second Round triumph over Bristol Rovers.

Going into the second month of the threeyear deal he had signed with the Blues, the 47-year-old former international, whom the Azzurri nicknamed “The Godfather” due to the way he talked and the way he made them want to listen when he was in charge of Italy, was yet to taste defeat. He kicked off September with a 2-2 draw against Swansea City before suffering his first loss, incidentally in front of Stamford Bridge fans, courtesy of a 2-1 reversal to Liverpool.

However, Conte, who had won critical acclaim and earned him comparisons with José Mourinho, Marcello Lippi, and Arrigo Sacchi, primarily due to his obsession with tactics, his winning mentality and ability to foster great team spirit among his players, was still reluctant to adopt his favoured 3–5–2 formation, which had brought him so much success with Juventus – perhaps afraid that he did not have the players to do so. But after a sobering 3-0 hammering by Arsenal on September 24 at the Emirates, Conte took stock, dumped the 4–1–4–1 formation and immediately reverted to his tried and tested formation.

He changed the system to a fluid 3–4– 2–1, with his trademark three-man defence consisting of David Luiz, César Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill, two defensive-minded midfielders in N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matić, two wing-backs equally capable at also playing as wingers (Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso), and a three-man attack spearheaded by striker Diego Costa and crucially assisted by outside forwards Eden Hazard and Pedro or Willian. This system depends on the constant positional movement of attacking players, with the two wide forwards moving inside when the full-backs make overlapping forward runs, thus effectively forming a 3–4–3 and at times a 3–4–1–2.

When losing the ball, players’ quick defensive transitions make the system easily transform into a compact 5–4–1. Chelsea’s performances improved dramatically after the tactical change, with 13 consecutive wins in the Premier League – including a 4-0 whitewash of Manchester United. Conte drew praise for his role in revitalising the team in the media, with BBC pundit John Motson describing Chelsea’s 5–0 home win against Everton on November 5, 2016 as the best 90-minute performance he had ever seen in the Premier League.

In addition to their tactical discipline and organisation, Chelsea also drew praise for their fitness and work-rate under Conte, which was attributed to the team’s highly rigorous preseason training, which Cahill described as one of the “hardest” he’s ever experienced.

Although there are still four games to go, the Italian has proven that there is nothing wrong in a leader admitting his way is not working and adopting another method, which will bring results – which he did so spectacularly in September.

So why all this embellishment of Chelsea and their imaginative coach? Because I believe we can take a cue from the Italian tactician. Many of our politicians have over the years persisted with carrying on with their ways which are clearly not helping the nation but rather stagnating and stifling the life out of the country.

If not, how does one explain that the living conditions of millions of Nigerians have only continued to get worst despite the various changes in government (be it military then or civilian now) with each promising to better their lot only to leave them worse off than how they were when they took over.

Having witnessed the various governments (military and civilian) I have come to the painful conclusion that it is not a military or party problem but rather sadly a major Nigerian flaw! Millions of Nigerians grumbling about their situation now will still troop out en masse in two years’ time to vote many of the same set of politicians that have impoverished them while they (politicians) have grown more robust in the midst of the hardship across the land. Rather than banding together to vote those who genuinely have the wellbeing of this great country at heart, we shall see many of the same old faces coming back because it is they that have the resources to get people to vote for them.

Those that do not have the resources but mean well for the nation will never smell power in this country and this is why we shall continue to slide downwards rather than fulfilling the great potential that our size and resources bestowed on the nation should be. So unless we as a people are ready to also take a cue from Conte we shall continue to tread the same path of unfulfilled greatness

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Carabao Cup final: Aguero, Aubameyang in marksmen showdown

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     …De Bruyne, Ozil also go head-to-head

 

Arsenal and Man City will continue their rivalry as they battle for the Caraboa Cup on Sunday at the famous Wembley Stadium but much focus will be on the striking war between City’s Sergio Aguero and Gunners’ new recruit, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. While Aguero has been one of the most prominent players in the league owing to his awesome goal-scoring record since joining the Sky Blues in 2011, Aubameyang is seen as Arsenal messiah for goal scoring.

The Citizens’ point-man seems to be well-focused for this tie such that he decided to let go a Wigan fan over an on-pitch bust-up as the Argentine claimed the supporter spat at, tried to punch and verbally abused him in the shock loss to Wigan at the DW Stadium on Monday.

Since joining from Borrusuia Dortmund just before the close of the January transfer window, Gunners faithful have found a new wave of optimism that their search for a pointman in the mold of club legend Thierry Henry is over.

The Gabonese striker showed Arsenal fans and a glimpse of what he would be bringing to the table as he scored a brilliant goal in the 5-1 whitewash of Everton some few weeks ago; although he was slightly offside from the move.

He was to be at the receiving end of a poor call exactly a week later when his goal against Tottenham was ruled offside but the replay showed he was level with the Spurs’ last defender. In recent time, Arsenal, to some extent, have been masters of Cup football as they defeated Man City and Chelsea on their way to winning of the FA Cup last season.

The win over Chelsea, whom they also defeated to win the Community Shield, was their third success in four years in the FA Cup and they will be eager to keep up their good record of late at Wembley. Another head-to-head war is expected in the midfield between Kevin De Bruyne and Mezut Ozil.

De Bruyne has been one of the most prominent players for Pep Guardiola’s team this season and the Belgian’s relentless consistency has seen him in the running for the player of the season. Apart from scoring vital goals, he also has the vision to set up the likes of Aguero and Raheem Sterling and his one-touch football is second to none.

Ozil, on his part can, also initiate moves that could break the resistance of the expensively-assembled City rear guard. And with assist specialist Henrikh Mkhitaryan roving in the midfield, if the German find his right element, his supplies to the likes of AUbameyang and Danny Welbeck may see Arsenal enjoying another bragging right of another cup success in England.

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If in doubt, please quit!

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A major trust of news reporting in journalism is: “if in doubt, leave out or drop the story.” In my days as a News Editor, whenever a reporter couldn’t substantiate his facts, I will drop the news item. It is a norm that conforms to the best professional practices. Integrity and truth are the hallmark of media practice but with the advent of social and online media, those valued ethics seem to have been practically jettisoned. And the consequences of such professional delinquency daily stare us in the face, regrettably though.

This same ethos applies to those planning their conjugal affairs on a sandy soil of anxiety, doubt and uncertainty. If betrothed lovers are frequently experiencing rancour, threats of breakup and relating to each other with mutual suspicion and fear, they don’t need a soothsayer or a prophet to tell them that they are not compatible. Many of those in desperate mood to remain in troubled relationships are women.

Reasons adduced for their tenacity usually centre around fear of the unknown, age, social class, low selfesteem, economic factor, religious affinity and beauty among others. Some of them prefer to go into ‘trial’ marriage and fail than let go their abusive partner.

The reckless decision they often make is to blindly walk down the aisle with partners they can’t have peace and desired happy matrimony with. A 31-year-old woman would not let go off her fiancé of two years despite her frustration and constant abuse in the relationship.

Twice she had called it quit but she reconciled on both occasions without her boyfriend showing any sign of remorse. Devising a way to end regular disputes, she moved into his apartment unannounced thinking perhaps they would understand themselves better by living together. Her boyfriend’s response was to bring another woman home for the weekend. Yet, she stayed on, weeping, begging for his love. They eventually got married and it only lasted for nine months! She packed out with seven months pregnancy when she almost lost her life due constant battering.

A young man is currently battling with high blood pressure arising from constant cases of cheating, insults, threats to quit the relationship and coping with hardline rules of his fiancée. His reason for hanging on with this woman is her beauty. He said he would rather learn to endure than let her go.

“All my friends envy me because of her beauty,” he said. More than thrice, he had caught her pant down with other men. She cheats a lot. She insults him at will and set rules for him as condition to remain in the relationship. As you read this article, they are planning to wed in a couple of months’ time. Should we then ascribe these kinds of relationship to genuine love?

If yes, then, love is truly blind! It shows love can blindfold lovers when they are engrossed in it. In most cases, the love charm usually have a vice-hold on one of the partners. When blinded in love, they usually act blighted. Consequently, the traits of such desperate, confused and helpless partners are to:

• Defend weaknesses, character flaws that would eventually shred the union.

• Get fixated and unreasonably enslaved to their partners by trying to please, satisfy, compromise and sacrifice to tag along; forgetting that once they beg or manage to go into marriage, they need to keep begging and managing to remain married for the rest of their life.

• They are afraid of the unknown. Attitudes they won’t tolerate ordinarily or naturally would become their choice just to remain in relationship.

• They accommodate those things to feel “fulfilled” among their peers even when eventual failure looms large in the horizon.

• They often ignore every counsel that is not in tandem with their sentiments, interests and expectations.

• They often learn their lessons at a time the situation is beyond remedy. They calmly live with the scars because it was their choice. There are three levels of marriage:

• Marriage contracted in fear – desperation, low self-esteem, age consideration and social class

• Marriage contracted in reluctance – family and peers pressure, abstract considerations, marrying partners not wholly convinced or satisfied with many things about.

• Marriage contracted in wilful decision – marrying one’s dream partners, desired choice, best friend, feeling satisfied, fulfilled and complementary to her life. It is advisable and wiser to avert awaited marital failure by quitting troubled relationships. As it is often said, “A broken relationship is better than a broken marriage.”

Some are currently regretting their decisions in marriage because of the choices they made. While many of them have tried frantically to make their marriages work; but alas, they couldn’t get it right not due to their own faults, but because they paired with wrong partners.

There are those who might feel heeding a counsel that is against their wish is obviously denying them the right of choice in their personal affairs. I wish to submit that counsel is not a law. There’s no compulsion in it. Counsel is a piece of advice steeped in rich experience and knowledge. My sincere prayer is that may the song: “Had I Known” not be your anthem at last. Amen.

 

Send your responses/private issues to: mikeawe@yahoo.co.uk or 08035304268 (SMS/WhatsApp)

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Columnists

Health benefits of cucumber (3)

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Cucumber is a creeping vine that roots in the ground and grows up trailing or other supporting frames, wrapping around supports with thin, spiraling tendrils. The plant has large leaves that form a canopy over the fruit. Face Mask: For oily skin – grate 1/2 cucumber into a bowl and add one tablespoon of honey.

Apply to the T-Zone, which is the forehead, nose and chin. To reduce pores and tighten skin – apply the mixture all over the face including under the eyes and eyelids. Leave on for 15 minutes and rinse with warm water, Pat dry with a clean towel.

 

Fighting cancers: Cucumber is known to contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol which are linked to a reduced risk of several types of cancer. Controlling blood pressure: Cucumber juice contains a lot of potassium, magnesium, fiber, and phytonutrients that work effectively for regulating blood pressure.

 

Aiding digestion: Their high water and dietary fiber are very effective in driving away the toxins from the digestive system. Daily consumption of cucumbers can be regarded as a remedy for chronic constipation. Relieving gout and arthritis pain: Cucumbers are rich in vitamin A, B1, B6, C & D, Folate, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium.

 

When mixed with carrot juice, they can relieve gout and arthritis pain by lowering uric acid levels. Cucumbers also contain a substance needed by the cells of the pancreas for producing insulin. Researchers have found that sterols in cucumbers help reduce cholesterol levels. It is one of the very low calorie vegetables. It contains no saturated fats or cholesterol.

 

Cucumber peel is a good source of dietary fiber that helps reduce constipation, and offers some protection against colon cancers by eliminating toxic compounds from the gut. It is a very good source of  potassium, an important intracellular electrolyte.

 

Potassium is a heart friendly electrolyte that helps bring a reduction in total blood pressure and heart rates by countering effects of sodium. Cucumbers contain unique antioxidants in moderate ratios such as ß-carotene and a- carotene, Vitamin- C, vitamin-A, zea-xanthin and lutein.

 

These compounds help act as protective scavengers against oxygen derived free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that play a role in aging and various disease processes. Cucumbers have mild diuretic property, which perhaps attributed to their free-water, and potassium and low sodium content.

 

This helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure. Ongoing research indicates that Cucumbers play a key role in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients by limiting neuronal damage in their brain.

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