Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kamikaze @ Madrid

Well, just finished watching Real v Valladolid and Real looks real threatening going foward; however they looks really weak in defence. Time and again they were caught out and if not for Casillas and some poor finishing, the scoreline would be closer.

Do think Benzema is a top top signing and he looks real class for me. He is a great player for one so young. He will certainly be a new talisman for France in the next decade.

Higuain scored a great 4th goal for Real and he is also top class for me and so is the great Iker Cassila; who in my opinion is the best keeper around.

Now waiting for Barca / Valencia which will be a cracker!

Lady Luck is Man Utd in disguise?

Well, no surprise isn’t it? Again, Man Utd won again without playing well and were lucky to hold on after being nailed back by Bolton towards the end. Fergie was honest this time round saying he felt his team was lucky to hold on.

You do wonder how long will Man Utd continue picking up points playing this way. They have been more workman like rather than creative this season. That is no surprise for me after they lost CR7 and Tevez.
(Valencia: Scorer of Utd's 2nd and decisive goal)

Elsewhere, Chelsea continue to bore all soccer fans with their display and I have to say Villa deserved the 3 points. The season seems to be turning out like the last; the teams seems to be getting de-railed after a good start to the season. I do hope Big Man Carlo can turn it round or he will be under loads of pressure.

The team’s play seems too one dimensional for me with the aging midfield and no width to the formation. Lampard seems to be out of sorts this season and his lack of goals must be a worry for the team.

Neutrals will definitely want Arsenal to win the league for the way they play the game. They seem to be picking up their form again after their double blow at Manchester. I do hope they can pick up the points and win the title as they are a team that deserves the league.

Everton’s struggles continues and Tottenham got a great win at Pompey.

Man City plays on Sunday and with Pool and Chelsea losing, they will be aiming for a win to edge closer to the top and strengthen their push for a top 4 position at least.

A Real Mess @Pool

Well, Pool fans must now be fuming after Pools’s loss at Sunderland; that makes it 4 losses in the season now. Only Consolation is that Chelsea lost as well. With Man Utd continuing to pick up points even when not playing anywhere near their best, the title seems to be heading back to OT at the moment.

Those idiots who stood by Rafa when he had the run-in with the American jokers who owns the club must certainly be starting to tear their hair out now. In short the club is in a mess.

Look at the starting line up today and you have to wonder whether the team have progressed under Rafa. Other than Carra, Agger, Skrtel and Reina, the rest of the team are made up of very average players at best. The squad looks thin and it is a surprise after Rafa spent over 200 million quid in his time and has failed to build a strong squad.

I am absolutely sick of this fella and his transfers have only brought the club backwards. Lucas, Pennant, Pongolle, Leto, Paletta, Insua, Ngog, Babel, Plessis, Voronin, Riera, Degan, Dosena, Kyrgiakos are all not Pool type of players. He sold Crouch who had a good record at Pool, he sold Keane after playing him out of position, he lost the trust and Alonso and eventually he left.

He reverted to 3 central defenders, something he has not done in his time and that is baffling. From the bench he had to bring on Ngog and Voronin to try win the the game and that is definitely a disgrace for a club of Pool’s profile.

No wonder Mourinho is laughing all the way from Milan.

Without Stevie G and Torres back in the team, you can only see Pool struggling again in Lyon and against Man Utd next weekend.

If Pool lose again at Anfield next weekend, I am sure the pressure will be for him to leave.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back in Soccer-ness!!


Finally its back to the world of EPL and La Liga after the ever so boring international break. I do really wonder how many people, even soccer crazy fans pays real attention to the international results.

I can imagine people keeping tabs with the results and qualifications, but I cannot image people placing the live telecast of the matches as their top priority. Just might as well the Argies made it through and I was not surprised to read that only a measly quarter of a million bother to watch the England match on the internet.

A stern message that for all the technology we have today, live soccer is just not ready for computer monitors yet.

The WC is only good when the actual events comes around.

This weekend sees a great host of matches across the 3 major leagues in Europe.

I do pray for more matches like the Man City v ASS-enal game; the game of the season for me so far, probably because Arsenal got absolutely smashed after playing so well.

(Video of the mentioned match)

We will probably see a landslide game at the Emirates. Watching Carson Yeung really makes me laugh, I just cannot envisage a man having the vision of creating a fanfare Birmingham in China. He talks about getting the club to being one of the best in the country in the next 10 years. That will need 200-400 million at least for me, not the 20-40 million quid he has pledged. A clown in the making.

Elsewhere, Harry and his team will definitely be in for a head spinning time at Pompey where the fans will be at their very best to ruffle them. I am still not convinced with Spurs after their good start, they still does not have the steel and hunger to get back at teams who dare get rough with them with some ass kicking. Just too many sissies in the team full of English Patients!! Woody and King might just have a new leading role if filmmakers decide to remake the movie.

Man Utd have been the surprise team for me, they have not been great but have picked up the points. Other than the derby game, they have really sneaked out results after results in bandits style. Without Rooney and maybe Berbatov, they could straggle upfront. They cannot rely on Giggs again and again. I think Giggs has probably done more this season than the whole of last season when he was named Player of the Season, a decision that shows that the award and the whole voting system is a JOKE!!

Fergie will have to keep his mouth real shut this time and I really pray for once to see a ref be a little biased in favor of the away team for a refreshing change. OT is fast becoming Hollywood with all the last minute drams and stoppages thrillers. Its an absolute joke. And how sly and hypocritical can the man get when he is putting his arm round Wiley’s shoulder after Owen scored in the derby and the very next week he is lashing him. A real SHAMEFUL thing to do.

Chelsea also seems to be doing what they do best – putting neutral soccer fans to sleep with their style of play. It is just PAINFUL and fustrating to watch them play. For that, I really do hope they do not win the league.

The match against Liver-Poohs was a real turn off. Watching the stifling soccer is painful enough. Watching an Olympian like Drog is a F**KING DISGRACE!! [quote Droba / after match against Barca]. Drog will definitely be ready when the 2012 Olympics come round and we might just see him in a diving event. Do hope Dunne absolutely nails him hard time and again in their encounter at Villa Park.

Rafa might be under more pressure if his team fails to win at Sunderland, who has been great at home. W/o Torres and Ger, I can see Pool having more than a few problems. I cannot think of a team having ambitions of winning the league that is just so reliant on 2 players. That shows Rafa clearly is in wonderland, especially after selling Alonso. That was the moment they lost the chance of challenging for the title.

For me, he has lost it and is living in his own virtual world of Championship Soccer, especially after spending over 200 million quid. The body language of some players just does not seem right for me at the moment.

We should see both Stoke and Everton winning their home games. Everton have to improve a lot if they want to do well. They have really struggled and Moyes will hope he has a cash pledging chairman like Carson Yeung.

We have had some unpredictable weather here in Singapore, one minute it can be scorching and the next it can be absolutely pouring. That is the way to describe Wigan now. You just wonder if they will turn up and give Man City a good match, If they do not, there can be only one winner. I just wonder how long can Bramble sub stain his form. Not scoring an own goal or conceding a penalty so far this season is a surprise.

Burley’s non-existing defense has been their downfall away from home. However at Ewood where Blackburn has not been great, they might just eek out a result. A result that will mean more grey hairs on Big Sam.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Predictions: 23rd August

West Ham v Tottenham

This match is Gianfranco's 1st home match of the season and it certainly is a tough one with Tottenham in great form at the moment. Having won and not being troubled much at the Molineux last weekend, Zola's team can expect a much tougher match in prospect here. Zola is definitely the most lovable manager in the league and most neutrals will want him to succeed.

West Ham currently have a decent suqad, with plaers like Green, Upson, Parker and Cole being the main figures in the starting XI. Expect Cole to have a good season and really push for a place in the England team. Alot will rest on whether Zola will be forced to sell. The club have been heavily linked with Marouane Chamakh and he will be a great addition if he does sign.

Tottenham have been great to watch thus far and they have a really strong squad now. They have a strong midfield mixed with strength and guile and have a front line that is the envy of many teams. Redknapp will start with Defoe and Keane upfront, but having players like Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Bentley on the bench signifies squad depth.

I do expect Harry to continue his good start to the season on his return toUpton Park, where he is much respected. With his stike force in such rampant form at the moment you will not bet against them. West Ham will do great this season but Tottenham are a serious canidate for at least a Euro place this season and they will be too strong. Ever since Harry arrived at the Lane, the team has had a more settled look to it and you can see the players are enjoying their football now.

Prediction: 2-1 to Tottenham

Tottenham's 5 goals in midweek


Burnley v Everton

Burnley had the result of the season thus far in midweek. The season is still early and Burnley players will be up for this one after their amazing win over Man Utd. Everton are looking to bounce back from a disastrous start against Arsenal. They had a relatively easy win in midweek in Europe.

Everyone will be under no illusion that Burnley will be in for a tough time this season, the team has no stand out player and the going will only get tougher and touger for them as the season progress.

Everton really need some major reinforcements before the transfer window closes and expect Lescott to sit out this one, now that his tranfer to Man City looks certain to go through. Arteta is a huge loss to the Toffess and Fellaini as a striker does not impress me. I do think Moyes may start with Saha up front with Cahill and Fellaini in support. Saha, if fully fit is a god striker.

I have concerns over Cahill after he is heavily involved with Australia in pre-season. The season is still early but fatigue could be a problem when the season progresses.

I expect Bunley to give Everton a run for their money in this game and probably sneak a draw here. Burnley will be tough opposition at home as Man Utd have already found out.

Prediction: Burnley 1 Everton 1


Fulham v Chelsea

The big one on Sunday. Fulham's home debut this season and this will be a tough one for Carlo Ancelotti. Fulham were great at home last season, defeating Man Utd and Arsenal while drawing with Chelsea. Their home form was what got them a Euro spot.

Ancelotti could be sticking to the starting XI that got him the win in midweek. The team played well in midweek, especially in the 2nd half. Ancelotti's teams are always difficult to beat and this will very much be the case again.

Zamora is having a good start to the season an he looks to be the main threat upfront for Fulham. I do think they need more reinforcement in defense and midfield or they could find it hard to replicate last season's success. Duff could be an option as he is in line for his league debut.

A great exciting match in prospect here with both Chelsea wanting to maintain their 100% start and Fulham wanting to start their home fixtures with a victory. I certainly do not expect Chelsea to lose this one and i do expect them to just sneak this one.

Prediction: Fulham 1 Chelsea 2

Review: Premier League 22/08

Sunderland 2 Blackburn 1

A 2nd win in 3 games for Steve Bruce's team equates to an encouraging start for the Black Cats. The solitary defeat to a very strong Chelsea team was no surprise and no disgrace.

2 goals from Kenwyne Jones sealed a comeback win for the team in this game. Jones and Bent upfront will be a partnership that will trouble many teams.

Expect Sunderland to continue doing well and they will certainly be aiming to finish in the top half of the table at the very least. Lee Cattermole is an astute signing in midfield and his tigerish qualities was there for all to see in this game.

As for Big Sam and his Blackburn team, 2 disallowed goals ruined their day and that means 2 straight losses to start the season. They have 2 home games coming up and they will need to pick up points to boost morale and avoid a bad start that will lead to a relegation dogfight.

Hull 1 Bolton 0

I do fear for Bolton and Megon this season. They have signed poorly this summer and they were outplayed by Hull in this game. Hull could have won alot more convincingly had they taken their chances.

Nevertheless, a win to kick start the season for Hull after 2 defeats. Hull needs to pick up wins like this one; points against teams around them in the table will be vital. Their lack of signings to bolster their squad could work against them. Phil Brown must be desperate to sign a striker after failing to land most of his targets thus far.

Most will expect these 2 teams to finish in the bottom half of the table.

Brimingham 0 Stoke 0

A bore game with no goals. A decent stat for both teams to the season with 4 points each from 3 games.

You can see where Birmingham's problems are in this game; defensively they may be resolute but McLeish really needs more fire-power up front as they will struggle to score goals. The team has more work horses than flair and creative players.

Benitez has been their main signing in the summer and i will like to see McLeish start him upfront rather than starting Jerome or Phillips.

A long hard season in prospect for Brimingham and they will do well to stay up. As for Stoke, they are strong on their home patch and you will expect their home form to keep them up.

Stoke's heavy defeat in midweek at Anfield

Review: Man City 1 Wolves 0

A good start for Mark Huges and his expensively assembled team after many were expecting them to falter.

The surprise element is certainly the new found determination in the team to carve out wins and keep clean sheets. They defended well at Ewood last week and again in this game when Wolves were pressing hard for an equalizer towards the end.

Shay Given was again brilliant in goal. His save just before half time from Jarvis was particularly impressive and kept City's lead.

City tried hard to play free flowing football; although there are flashes of that, you can still see that the team needs more time to gel and understand each other. The win however is very encouraging for City. Adebayor again was impressive, scoring the winning goal and was full of running.

Huges chose to start with Tevez along Adebayor upfront. I would very much prefer that he stated with Bellamy as Bellamy's pace and enthusiasm are important traits and will serve the team well at the moment.

With Lescott expected to join the team before the window closes, the future is looking bright for City. A defensive partnership of Lescott and Toure will be pretty impressive. The team now has an impressive look to it with really impressive players throughout the team. Most will agree that players like Given, Toure, Barry, Robinho, Adebayor, Tevez will walk into most teams in the league.

I will like to see Huges play a 4-5-1 with Barry and De Jong or Kompany alongside with Robinho, Ireland and Bellamy supporting a lone front man. This formation will provide more steel for the team and will suit the current crop of players better in my opinion.

City next travel to Fratton Park to face Pompey and you will expect another 3 points there, considering how Pompey are struggling at the moment. They will then face Arsenal at the City of Manchester in what will be the 1st big test for the team this season. Neutrals and City fans will be eager to watch the game as that will show how much the team has improved from last season and whether the team can really challenge for a top 4 place this season.

City's opening day win at Ewood, with 2 great goals from Adebayor and Ireland

Review: Wigan 0 Man Utd 5

The season is starting to turn into a mare now for Wigan after their brilliant result at Villa last week. 2 home losses in a week certainly does not boost confidence. Man Utd got their season off and running with an absolutely massive display after 2 stuttering results, a narrow 1-0 win over Birmingham and a surprise defeat at Burnley.

Sir Alex's front line certainly came good on the day as both Rooney and Berbatov scored after starting the game, while Michael Owen got his 1st competitive goal for the club after coming on as a sub.

Rooney, who got 2 goals, had a massive game and was inspirational. Until his headed goal to open the scoring early in the 2nd half, the team was still trying desperately to break down Wigan's stubborn defense. Once Utd went 2 goals up via Berba, Wigan's shoulders really dropped and the flood gates really opened.

Nani was impressive in the 2nd half and his superb through ball was brilliantly finished by Owen. Nani later added his name on the score sheet with a freekick.

Utd was good value for the win and the team played really well. The big difference was the return of Vidic at the back and his performance was immense, especially in the 1st half when Wigan carried the fight to Utd. The game also highlighted what a massive season this could turn out to be for Rooney, now the main man in the team.

Again, Kirkland was not impressive in the Wigan goal, just like in midweek against Wolves. That will add to the problem for Roberto Martinez and you can probably see the team struggle from this point on. They will probably still finish somewhere between 12th and 17th; they are certainly good enough to stay up.

As for Fergie, this was certainly a boost ahead of next week's crunch game against Arsenal. Although early in the season, the game is vital for both teams from a psychological point of view, especially for a very young Gunners team desperate to stamp their credentials this season.

Surprise of the season so far: Burnley 1 Man Utd 0

Review: Arsenal 4 Pompey 1

10 goals in 2 games, that is definitely a great start for Arsene and his boys after most pundits were writing them off even before the season started.

Arsenal started slowly and the Emirates seemed slightly subdued until Eduardo's brilliant run and pass set Diaby up for the team's 1st goal. Arsenal's free flowing soccer quickly produced the 2nd. Arsenal fans will be hoping Diaby, branded the new Viera by Arsene, have a massive season this time round after having a promising season the last time round.

Many pundits predicted Arsenal's weak link could be the goalkeepers and that was vindicated when Almunia was out jumped easily by Kaboul as Pompey pulled a goal back against the run of play before half time.

The second half continued to in the same way as the 1st, more free flowing soccer from Arsene's predators and they managed to add 2 more goals from Gallas and Ramsey to round off a convincing victory to take the team top of the table.

The scoreline certainly did not flatter the Gunners and the scoreline could have been much wider if not for the heroics of David James in the Pompey goal.

For M. Al Fahim, the man reported on the brink of the Pompey takeover, time could be running out. With the expected takeover to be completed soon, time is running out now before the transfer window closes on the 31st and Pompey definitely needs some reinforcements after losing many key players from last season's team.

Pompey fans will be praying that they will not be dragged into a relegation dogfight this season as that seems to be the case now that they have lost 3 out of 3 this season.

As for the Gunners, they will face a test of their credentials this season in the next 2 weeks, with visits to both Man Utd and Man City. That will show us the real mettle the team has.

Denilson's goal v Everton on the opening day

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunderland 1 Chelsea 3: Prime canidates for the title?

Well, i may be wrong in criticizing Ancelotti's decision to field Deco from the start now that they have won 3-1 against Sunderland.

They had loads of possession in the 1sthalf but were never penetrative enough. Again, they turned the game around and their 2nd half performance was just great for me.

Deco scored a great team goal and Ancelotti played Shev and Sturridge late on. I liked the shape of the team in this game with Ancelotti reverting to playing just Drogba upfront as i do think Anelka and Drog together just does not work.

Again Franky Lampard was great in the game, his tenacity and passing was great. He is really arguably the most complete midfielder in the game. He has all the qualities you want in a midfielder. He can defend, he covers the length of the pitch, he can support the front man and he can score loads of goals. Very much like Luis Enrique of Barcelona for me. Undoubtedly the man of the match for me in this game.

If Ancelotti sticks to this formation, Chelsea will really prosper. They played much better in this formation compared to the 4-4-2 he has started in the previous 2 games. The only chage i would suggest is Carvalho in for Bosingwa and Ivanovic switching to the right of defense.

Elsewhwere, we have seen Wolves pick up their 1st win of the season at Wigan. The game was nothing to shout about and Kirkland should have done better for the Wolves goal. The header didn't had much power and the player was pretty far out.

However, Wolves fan should not be too optimistic as i think they will still struggle this season.

Wigan will struggle too if there are looking at replicating the fine season they had the last time round as i think the win at Villa on Saturday clearly mask the problems the team has. They have lost Bruce who in my view is a top top manager. Losing Palacios, Heskey and Valencia; all 3 whom are crucial to them, is just vital. They will do well to finish mid table.

Deco: The right man to turn to?

Well, i am currently watching the Sunderland - Chelsea game at the moment and i am not sure if Deco is the right man to start in midfield. So far (after 30 mins), Chelsea are a goal down just like they were vs Hull on Sat.

They are having loads of the ball but not creating much. I can see why a continental manger like Deco in the team, he is a good ball player and he has good vision. However, i have doubts if he is right for the Barclay's Premier League. He definitely is more suited to the La Liga or the Series A where more emphasis is placed on technical abilities and players have more time on the ball due to the slower pace of the games.

Deco was Mourinho's star player at Porto, however when Mourinho signed on at the Bridge, he never wanted to bring Deco along with him. Guess Mourinho was smart enough to see Deco may not fit in.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Premiership Lookback – 1st Round of Matches 15/08 & 16/08

Really great to have the Premier League back and what a weekend it was. Great games and great goals all round. Winners and losers all round with no games drawn.

1) Man Utd v Birmingham

Man Utd got off to a winning start and that is no surprise against promoted Brimingham. Rooney already looks to be prospering after being deployed upfront from the start and being the main man this season. I am sure most soccer observers will agree when I say he will be massive this season. He did well for the goal and looked sharp through out.

I think their midfield isn’t great this season, with the aging Scholes and Giggs and the workman-like players around the. Valencia and Nani both had decent games, nothing great. Man Utd really need Nani to prosper this season.

I do think this could be Sir Alex's weakest squad compared to the ones he had for the last 10 years.

Man Utd did not play particularly well in this game, they had some decent chances but did not trouble Joe Hart much in the game. Berbatov still looks off the pace in a Man Utd shirt for me. Maybe starting Owen will be a good idea, although he should have scored with the one on one chance he had towards the end after coming on.

Birmingham could have started with Benitez up front. He forced Foster into a good save towards the end and did much to trouble Utd after he came on.

I was disappointed by McLeish’s approach. Altough playing at Old Trafford, they will have no better opportunity to attack Man Utd with Van Der Sar, Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Carrick all out. They need to utilize the likes of McFaddden more.

Do expect Utd to improve as the season progress and with players returning from injuries. As for Birmingham, an encouraging performance, however they do need more quality in the squad. If they play like they did in this game, they will have a sniff of a chance of staying up. They will need to win games soon.

2) Tottenham v Liverpool
Along with the game at Goodison, the game of the weekend for me based on excitement and quality. The game started slowly for me and Liverpool especially played poorly for 75 mins. Not until when Benayoun came on did they start threatening.

Spurs look solid in defense with Pool seldom threatening. They could have the game wrapped up by half time if not for Pepe Reina. Robbie Keane should really have scored with the header he had in the 1st half. Great ball by Modric to set him up.

Assou-Ekoto scored a real belter. A great goal to put Spurs in the lead just before half time.

Lennon has been a real disappointment for me, For all the pace and talent he has, he really needs to learn how to use the ball better. Time and again we see him break away from defenders like they do not exist; however decision making and his passing of the final ball have been poor. Without proper use of the ball, all his hard work of creating space and getting away from defenders will be useless.

Bassong looks great on his debut, capping a good performance with the winning goal. A great signing for Harry who have done well to sign Crouch as well. Defoe had a quiet game but it really was Palacios who shone for Spurs. He could be the best of Harry’s signing at Spurs and for he looked to be the best holding midfielder for me on this showing. Certainly not Mascherano who had a poor game for Pool.

Masch looks a little lost for me without Alonso alongside him. He used to pass the ball to Alonso after winning it but he had no one to pass to in this game. Lucas and Babel had a shocking game for me. With no support from midfield, Pool looks very flat going forward. Stevei G looks frustrated and Torres had a quiet game after having a knock early in the game after challenging with Corluka.

With no midfield passer in the team, the team play for Pool looks very predictable. Benayoun was probably Man of the Match for Pool even though he played only the last 15 minutes.

Most Pool fans will be stunned by Rafa’s stubbornness by insisting with Lucas in midfield. To say Lucas is an adequate replacement for Alonso shows his biasness shown towards Lucas.

The solution might be to play Benayoun on the right and move Gerrard to midfield and play Kuyt behind Torres.

Babel has often shown in the orange shirt for Holland but has been so disappointing for Pool.

A good start for Spurs and they already has more points than they had from their 1st eight games last season when they only had 2. A good season ahead for Spurs under good management of Harry and they will be top 6 material.

For Pool, they only lost 2 games last season and still failed to win the title. Nothing seem to have changed this season with Rafa still slow to shake up his team. He waited 75 minutes before bring Benayoun on and he kept Lucas on the pitch. He should have taken Lucas off as Lucas is a more defensive oriented.

The pressure will now be on Pool now to perform after so much expectation. If they have a bad start and lose another game soon, Rafa will be under serious pressure.

A bad day for Pool all round with Torres and Skrtel getting knocks.

Premiership Lookback – 1st Round of Matches 15/08 & 16/08

3) Wolves vs West Ham

A great start for Gianfranco Zola, probably the most lovable manager in the Premier League. With no great additions to their squad and with some players expected to leave due to their financial situation, things could turn sour. If they lose Upson, that could be crucial. West Ham will do very well if they finish anywhere near mid table this season.

West Ham on their day are a decent outfit for me; with some really good players. A big season for Scotty Parker, Jieron Dyer and Julien Faubert in midfield. Carlton Cole will be expected to score goals this season.

Mark Noble is probably one of the great English talents for me, A great great goal in the game and he did well throughout. Under the guidance of the great Zola, he will prosper.

Wolves on the other hand lacks quality players in their squad to challenge in the Premier League, Mancienne is a good loan signing however they will need a lot more. With a soft start against West Ham, who are no great shakes, they really needed a good start. They will not play the top 4 till November and that is crucial; they will need to pick up some points by then to have any chance of staying up.

They never really threatened for me in this game and were looking desperate near the end although this is only the opening game.

After this showing at home, even the most optimistic of Wolves fans will agree that it will be a miracle and an awesome achievement if they survive the drop.

4) Bolton v Sunderland

A good start for Darren Bent who I tipped to do well for Sunderland this season. Under the great management of Steve Bruce who I happen to think is a great manager, Sunderland will have a good season. Definitely good enough to finish at least mid-table.

The squad has been strengthened by the arrival of Bent, Cattermole and Campbell. More strength in defense will be needed for me. Fulop made a great save at the end to preserve the win for me, However, he is not a great keeper.

As for the goal, Bent did well with a good header, however I still feel Jaaskelainen could have saved that. For Bolton, Megson has not made significant signings for me. Zat Knight, Sean Davies, Sam Ricketts and Paul Robinson were not great signings. With the lack of cash, they could struggle this season although I do expect them to survive.

They had some good moments in the game but just lacked the cutting edge in front of their own fans. Like Wolves, this is the kind of game they needed to win, especially at home and they failed.

As for Sunderland, a good start ahead of their next game against Ancelotti’s Chelsea troops.

5) Everton v Arsenal

The performance of the weekend without a single doubt. Arsenal were just immense and the results was no fluke and certainly was not flattering.

Denilson had a good game and started the season well like last season. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain this kind of performance throughout the season. Vermaelen had a great game too, aggressive in defense and looks like a no nonsense defender for me. He goal was a great one too.

The fluidity of the Gunner’s passing was great to watch. Cesc Fabregas looks refreshed and weighed in with 2 goals after having a porous season by his standards the last time round. The great test for the team will come towards the Christmas period when the going might get tough.

As for the team, Van persie is crucial for them and need to be fit through out the season. Arshavin had an effective game and will only improve.

As for Everton, a bad start for them and although this may be a one off, there are reasons for Moyes to be worried. Already on a tight budget, they have not added any significant signings to the squad and this could over stretch the very thin squad they have.

Lescott look porous in defense and he admitted his focus was not there after having his head turned by the approaches of Man City.

It will be a win-win situation to sell him to Man City. Lescott will have his desired move while Moyes will have a decent amount of cash to strengthen his squad. They really need some strengthening and with the window so near its closing date, the situation is desperate.

Fellaini is no forward and he could be found out if Moyes insist on playing him up front. Everton need to have a fit Arteta as he is crucial to their midfield, much like Alonso is for Liverpool.

I still expect Everton to have a decent season, but do not expect great shakes from them. A UEFA finish will be a decent achievement. A performance to forget for all Everton fans.

Premiership Lookback – 1st Round of Matches 15/08 & 16/08

6) Blackburn v Man City

A great start for Man City and Mark Huges at Ewood. A great start to te game with a great finish from Adebayor although I think Warnock should have done better for Blackburn in the build up to the goal. From that point onwards, it was always going to be tough for Blackburn.

Man City showed lots of steel in defense and that is surprising. Toure and the denfense played well, especially in the 1st half and the early parts of the second when Blackburn were really pressing for the equalizer. Much like Chelsea, I do think the shape to Man City wasn’t great. Maybe it takes time for the team to gel. For now, I think Barry does not fit in well into the 4-4-2 that Huges is playing,

Bellamy had a great game and he is the one player that showed the fight and endeavor that City really need if they are to do well. Given had a great game in goal too. Overall, Bridge, Richards and Toure all did well.

A great 2nd goal from Ireland too, Coolness personified. Lots of encouraging signs for Huges and if the team continues to work really hard for each other and maintain the hunger, they will surprise.

As for Blackburn, they showed lots of fight, not surprising for a team managed by Big Sam. They will pick up enough points this season and will be mid table material if they continue to keep up the energy.

7) Fulham v Portsmouth

No surprise here in this game with Fulham winning. My pick for the weekend was Fulham and West Ham actually.

Hodgson did really well with a thin Fulham squad last season. They will do well to replicate their finish last season and qualify for the UEFA Cup.

Fulham played with very much the same side and I do think they need some signings as well to add some depth. If rumors are to be believed and they get get Damien Duff from Newcastle, that could be a really good signing to take some weight off the aging shoulders o Danny Murphy.

For Fulham, they will be hard to beat and I am sure we could see them turning a few decent sides over at Craven Cottage. All credit to Roy Hodgson, a manger with vast experience and a terrific CV.

As for Portsmouth, I do think they will struggle big time this season with all the uncertainty in the background. They could still go into administration and be relegated from the Premier League. The only decent player they had in the team was Kranjcar and maybe the aging David James. The others look Championship material to me, They did not threaten enough for me in this game.

The only fact that may save them from relegation is the fact that there could be 3 worse off teams. We could see a scrap down there with teams like Wolves, Burnley, Birmingham and Hull.

8) Stoke City v Burnley

A good start for Stoke this season, unlike last season when they lost 3-1 at the Reebok on the opening day.

No surprise how Stoke got their goals; both goals coming from aerial bombardments. Stoke could be hard to break down, much like last season. With the quality they have, I do think they will stay in the League. Expect another good season from James Beattie, the signing fo the transfer window last season. If they can get a few more players in before the window closes, that will be great,

Burnley on the other hand, will struggle this season. Owen Coyle’s team was famed for their hard work and getting into their oppositions last season. They accounted for both Arsenal and Chelsea in cup competitions last season.

However, in the Premier League over 38 games, I am afraid they will come up short. The fact that most people are expecting them to be relegated will be great as that will mean they can play without fans over expecting.

If they are to survive, they had to win games like this one or at least get a result. Their next games are against Man Utd and Everton and you will not expect them to get anything from those games. A championship squad with no standouts, they could be the whipping boys.

For Burnley fans, just do enjoy your limelight in the Premier League.

Premiership Lookback – 1st Round of Matches 15/08 & 16/08

9) Chelsea v Hull

Chelsea played reasonably well, should have had an early goal via Drogba. Was a surprise when they fell behind to a pinball like goal. Somehow, Chelsea’s back 4 and keeper have not been that convincing to me since the days of Jose Mourinho. They need to be more solid in defense.

Ancelotti also need to find a better shape to the team’s play. He has lots of expectations on his shoulders and should he not do well, he could face the wrath of the owner and fans who are craving for success in the Premier League and Champions League. However, it is an encouraging start for him.

The shape of the team was not right for me, although you cannot fault them for their work ethic and effort. Do think Ancelotti have to play a single striker. Drogba and Anelka together does not work for me. They have played this formation in the 1st half against Man Utd and it did not work.

For Chelsea, it might be still early but they need to find their shape soon. On paper, Chelsea appear to have the strongest squad. Just look at the likes they have in the reserves.

As for Hull, a good hard working performance, much like the Hull we saw at the start of last season. Unfortunately they came unstuck via a fluke goal right at the end. I do think Hull might struggle to score goals this season. They do not have someone in the team that will consistently score goals for them.

10) Villa v Wigan

Probably the surprise of the weekend here. Most people will be expecting Villa to do well in this game, especially against a Wigan side that has lost manager Steve Bruce and key player Antonio Valencia. Replacement Roberto Martinez was known to play attacking soccer at Swansea and that was what Wigan did in this game.

Although Villa had lots of possession they did not threaten much for me, Martin O Neil needs some signings to freshen the team that over performed last season. Cuellar and Davies are not the strong partnership at the back for a team with ambitions of finishing in the top 4.

O Neil chose to start with youngster Fabian Delph from the start. Sidwell should have started for me, He is the right kind of player to replace Gareth Barry. Very much the forgotten and invisible man in the Premier League after a good season with Reading, Do think his move to Chelsea where he was never going to be in the 1st team stalled his progress.

Rodallega got a great goal for Wigan, one of the goals of the weekend. Will be interesting to see if Wigan can continue to play this brand of soccer and pick up good results. Koumas played well in a decent midfield for me and Bramble has improved so much since his wobbly days at Newcastle. He might now be fulfilling the potential that the late Sir Bobby Robson once saw in him.

As for Villa, they need to really buck up or they could in for a mid table finish this season.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Premiership Picks: 4th place

4th Place: Arsenal

Arsenal will once again finish 4th in my opinion although I think they could run Pool close for the 3rd automatic Champions League spot.

Selling 2 of your 1st team players with no adequate replacement will only mean great losses. Selling them to a team that is looking to challenge you for a top 4 finish is just plain bad business in my opinion.

Whether it is the lack of financial support or Arsene’s refusal to spend we might never really know the inside story, but again this season you will again see huge responsibility on the shoulders of the young Cesc Fabregas. If they have a mediocre season, I see him leaving next summer.

Arsene needs to have a full team of fit players, losing the likes of Rosicky for 6 weeks after he is just back from a 18 month layoff is not good news for I think he is a great player if fully fit. Losing Samir Nasri who I think has great potential is not good news as well. All this even when the season has not started yet.

They really need to have a fit Van Persie and Eduardo upfront although I have a little suspicion that they are too left footed to play together. Brendtner never looks like a great striker and you really cannot rely on him.

With Rosicky and Nasri available when fit, we might see Wenger finally playing Walcott upfront. Walcott in the right of midfield isn’t right as he looks a little out of position there. He needs to be more central and more involved.

It is in the goalkeeping and defensive department that Arsene will have the biggest headaches. Almunia is too inconsistent and losing Toure, their best defender is not good. To expect the unproven Vermaelen to replace Toure is risky. What does Wenger mean when he said the team has adequate cover in defense I do not know.

The fact that most people are not expecting great things from Arsenal this season could be the best tonic for the young side. This is where they could be dangerous for on their day, they are the best footballing side in the league by a million mile.

Having Arshavin for a full preseason is great news too as I think he will be te tailismen in the team this season. He operates so well just behind the front man and his finishing is so clinical. He could be the player to watch in the League this season.

I do expect Arsenal to finish comfortably in the top 4 this season, if they have a good start and continue to do well, they could finish 3rd, well ahead of Liverpool.

Premiership Picks: 3rd place

3rd Place: Liverpool

Liverpool have done really well last season. With just 2 defeats and a new record of Premiership points tally for the Anfield outfit, they just fell short last season. They had too many home draws; 7 in total. The inability to defeat teams like Fulham, Stoke, Man City and West Ham proved detrimental to their title hopes. Last season was the best opportunity to win the League and I think they might have missed the boat.

Liverpool have a strong spine to the team with a great defensive partnership of Carragher and Skrtel. Reina is arguably the best keeper among the top 4 teams. (My pick for top keeper in the League would be Shay Given at Man City)

The prospect of Mascherano now remaining at Anfield will be great news for he is probably the most crucial player in the team alongside Carra, Stevei G and Torres.

Alberto Aquilani looks to be a great signing, however how fast he is able to settle into the team will be crucial to the team now that the best passing midfielder, Xabi Alonso, has left.

I am not sure how they will replace him as there is really no one like him. Aquilani is a different kind of player, a player more adapt at pushing forward and scoring goals.

Pool still have the best 2 players in the League in Stevie G and Torres and having them fit for the whole season will be crucial. Torres looks a little too injury prone to last the whole season so again, a lot of pressure will be on Stevie G.

On their day, Pool are able to play great soccer, their great run in the second half of the season when they played great soccer and brushed teams aside are testament to this.

However, it will be hard to see them replicate the double wins over Man Utd and Chelsea and replace the radar like passing of Alonso. I am also not to sure if Rafa have learnt his lessons for I think he will again be tinkering too much, underestimating the lesser likes.

Which is why I think Pool will finish 3rd as I can only see Man Utd and Chelsea providing a consistent challenge throughout the season.

Premiership Picks: Runners up

Runners up: Man Utd

Man Utd have won a hat trick of titles now and will be aiming for a 4th title in a row. No team has done that and they will have the added incentive of setting a new record of 19 domestic titles now that they have equaled Liverpool’s record of 18 titles.

Man Utd will have a great season and will again be hard to beat. They really have a great defense. That was what won them the title last season. Rio and Vidic really are a formidable top partnership and with Anderson and Carrick operating as covers.

The team has a real solid look to it, with Rooney now being deployed in his favorite role up front. I do think Rooney will be crucial to Man Utd. He really needs to up the ante and score more goals now that the team has lost both CR7 and Carlos Tevez. A palyer with great talent and enthusiasm for the game, he is often played out of position by Sir Alex and his scoring record has not be close to what you expect from a top stirker.

Owen could provide good ammunition up front as well. This season, we could see Dimitar Berbatov having a great season and answering his critics. He has all the talent and technical abilities to be a great, however he have often lacked the fighting spirit that a player in a top side requires.

Antonio Valencia will prove to be a good signing on the right side of midfield, although you cannot expect him to provide the goals like CR7 does.

Losing CR7 and Carlos Tevez could prove to be hard to replace. CR7 has so often been the much need spark the team needed when the going gets tough. He almost single handedly won them the title and the Champions League trophy with an amazing 42 goals in 07/08. Last season he chipped in with 25 goals although he was out for the initial parts of the season.

Tevez have often provided crucial goals for the team. His goals at Stoke, Wigan and against Porto were all crucial and great examples of what he can provide.

This season, if the going gets tough, especially in away games, we could see Utd struggling for that bit of spark and touch of magic. I think their midfield does not chip in with enough goals and now added pressure will be on Rooney to provide the goals. Making up for 67 goals in 2 season by CR7 is going to be an almost impossible tall order.

They have not been that great going forward last season, their title triumph was based on a great defense. Eleven 1-0 wins in the League last season is proves evidence of this. Which is why I think they could just fall short this season and finish as runners up.

However, I would not be too surprise if they win it again. Such is the greatness of Man Utd under the great Sir Alex Ferguson.

Premiership Picks: Winners

Winners: Chelsea

I really like the look of Chelsea this season. For me, the season could be the best yet in the Premiership. Last season we saw Liverpool running Man Utd close for the title with Chelsea never really threatening in third.

This season, Chelsea could profit form the fact that Man Utd and Liverpool have both lost crucial 1st team players. Chelsea on the other hand have strengthened with the signing of Yuri Zhirkov. Zhirkov will have a great effect on the team if given the opportunity. I do rate him very highly as I think Russian players are well suited to play in the Premier League and he does possess great qualities as a player.

Joe Cole returning to the team could be like a new signing too after missing most of last season. The real coup for Chelsea is no doubt the appointment of Carlo Anchelotti at the Bridge.

If given full reign to the 1st team selection and signing of players, he will prosper at Chelsea with Roman Abramovic providing the ammunition financially. A manager that is often highly respected by his players, Anchelotti have a real winning mentality and that fits in well with the team ethic and never-say-die attitude the team already possesses.

Chelsea’s biggest strength will be their togetherness and camaraderie they have as a unit. We have seen Chelsea doing so well even in times of uncertainty, like the previous 2 seasons when they had managerial changes.

Chelsea’s spine will no doubt be Terry, Lampard, Essien and Drogba again. You just feel they might jave been closer to Man Utd last season had Essien been available the whole season. The effect that Essien has on the team is immense.

Chelsea played 4-4-2 in the Community Shield, however they will revert to Anchelotti’s favored 4-2-3-1 when the season starts. That in my opinion is the best fit for the Chelsea team. Drogba seems to play best when upfront alone.

The only blip I can see in Chelsea’s season could be the losing of crucial players for the African Nations Cup in January. They are primed to lose Essien, Mikel, Kalou and Drogba for a month and how they adapt to that will be crucial.

Another weakness could be Petr Cech. Most people may be surprising to read this but he really has not been great since his horrific injury he sustained at Reading a few seasons back. We are seeing constant errors from him and he does not command his area as well now that he seems to have a fear in him when coming for crosses. His performance in the Community Shield wasn’t great and I think he should have stopped both Man Utd goals. He is however still a top shot stopper.

The season ahead looks to be great to the boys from the Bridge. If they do not end up as winners, I see them running the eventual winners really close.

Bruce aims for new highs at Sunderland

Sunderland fans will have lots to look foward to. After just beating the drop after a terrible second half to the previous season, the appointment of Steve Bruce as the new gaffer will be great news for fans at the Stadium of Light.

Roy Keane started so promisingly at Sunderland but was so disappointing towards the end of his reign. Having spent a decent amount of money in his time, he failed to turn Sunderland into a side that can challenge in the top half.

With Newcastle and the Boro in the Championship now, Sunderland can proudly claim to be the top North East side at the moment. The appointment of Steve Bruce is a great coup.

A manager often working on a tight budget, Bruce managed to turn Wigan into a decent side that is hard to beat. We might start to see Wigan's rapid decline now that they have lost Bruce and a host to their top players such as Heskey, Antonio Valencia, Palacios and now Lee Cattermole.

Bruce have been quick to sign up Lee Cattermole for Sunderland, thus signing the player foe a second time after previously signing him at the Riverside.

I do think the signing of Lee Cattermole is good for Sunderland, he will provide the bite in midfield afor a very porous defense. A regular in the England Under 21s, Cattermole needs to refine his game a little and watch his tackles to be a good Premiership player.

The signing of Darren Bent is another good signing. Often too reliant on Kenweyne Jones upfront, the signing of the dangerous Bent could help provide much needed firepower.

The combination of Bent and Jones will be one that will serve Sunderland well. Both are good players at Premiership level, although not top 4 quality.

This season, i could see Sunderland being hard to beat and staking a claim to finish just in the top half of the taable.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A good break for Ben?

Ben Foster, the man who for so long and so patiently waited in the shadows of Edwin Van Der Sar might finally have got his big break at Old Trafford.

The English stopper, who so many had hoped and expects to be the future No 1 for his national team, will no doubt be geared up for the start of the season now that VDS will be out for up to eight weeks following a broken finger suffered in the Audi Cup against Bayern Munchen.

The talented Foster, who I rate really highly, needs to have a great start to the season to maintain his place in the team when VDS recovers. I think Fergie will allow Foster to continue playing in place of VDS if he has a great start, considering the fact that VDS is already 38 and Fergie will want to un-earth his replacement soon. This can be a tricky task when it comes to keepers; just look at the number of keepers who have staked their claims to the number 1 jersey at Man Utd after the retirement o the great Peter Schmeichel.

Mark Bosnich, Fabian Barthez, Roy Caroll and Tim Howard have all failed. Not until the arrival of VDS have the issue been resolved.

Which is why this opportunity is now critical for Foster for he must now perform to his true ability. For so long hailed as a serious candidate as the future England keeper, Foster has all the technical abilities to be great. He however needs to work on his mental side of the game and learn to perform under pressure. He had a great heroic outing in the Carling Cup Final, winning Man Utd the Cup almost single handedly against Spurs. However, his errors in the pre-season friendly in Asia against Malaysia proves he still need to work on his concentration during the game.

Playing behind a settled defense with the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand providing excellent cover means that he may be a spectator for larger periods of the game, especially when Man Utd is dominating the lesser teams. Thus, he needs to be focused and perform well when called into action.

I have been surprised that Foster has chosen to stay at Old Trafford after his largely impressive loan spell at Watford when the team was in the Premier League. For a player who is already 26, he really needs to be playing 1st team soccer or he will soon find himself not being able to fulfill his huge potential.

How much longer can he be in the shadows of VDS and be considered a great prospect. If he fails to oust VDS for the starting role this season, he has to consider leaving Old Trafford to further his career. Foster must really be getting desperate now.

If he has a great season, I am sure he will push David James really hard for the England shirt in South Africa next summer, as I think Fabio Capello does not rate Robert Green and Paul Robinson.

The other highly talented keeper in contention, Joe Hart, will also be hoping to impress at Birmingham City. (He is on loan from Man City)

However, my money is on Foster to have a great start and this could really be a big season for him.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pool's title hopes gone for Real

Rafa Benitez must be scratching his head in despair now. The man who is often so stubborn and single minded, often so oblivious to all comments by pundits and observant watchers must have a sense of regret that Xabi Alonso has left for Real Madrid.

No doubt he has got the £30 million he wanted Real to pay, I am sure he knows deep inside he has lost a player that can be described as the “engine” of the Liverpool team. No doubt Alonso handed in a transfer request to demand a move to Perez’s project, I am just wondering if Benitez has so infuriated Alonso that now Alonso sees his future with the galaticos.

When Benitez first arrived at Liverpool, Alonso was the player he embarked upon to build the team around. Alonso has been instrumental in the way the team plays, he Really makes a difference when he is on the pitch. His ability to see passes others don’t, his ability to open up the play has been crucial. It is by no exaggeration to say he and Xavi at Barcelona are the best passing midfielders in the game now.

So we have again seen a crucial figure in the English game move across to the La Liga this summer. Alonso could be the “Xavi” type player for the team. If there are doubts that the galaticos will gel as a team, the arrival of Alonso could be the one that quash all doubts. He in my view, could turn out to be the most crucial signing for Fiorentino Perez this summer.

It is sad to see Alonso leave Liverpool, sad in the fact that he was the one that forced the move. It is also sad to see that Benitez’s relationship with Alonso has soured. I am absolutely sure that Benitez lost the trust Alonso had in him as a mentor and manager the previous summer when Benitez so aggressively tried to sign Gareth Barry. At that time, Benitez was willing to sacrifice Alonso to Juventus to bring in Barry. However, Juve wasn’t to be held for ransom by Benitiz’s valuation of the player and both deals did not materialize. That did it for Benitez and Alonso never had the same commitment to Liverpool and Benitez. All Pool fans will know that Alonso was likely to leave once the season ends.

Alonso responded to Benitez’s attempts to replace him with Barry by having one of his best seasons in a Liverpool shirt. Benitez on the other hand responded to Alonso’s desire to move away by almost freezing him out for pre-season friendly games. Alonso was brought on against Espanyol 6 minutes from the end when Pool were already 3 goals down; that seems to be a message by Benitez to Alonso that he’s the gaffer and he is not be messed with.

This summer, Benitez has openly declared his wish for Alonso to stay. That seems a cowardly move and one totally opposite to his stance the previous summer when he wanted to sign Barry and sacrifice Alonso. So at the end of the day, Benitez have not got Barry, the player he so desired to have in his team and now he has lost Alonso as well. To know what kind of man Benitez is, just look at the way he morphed into Barry, calling Barry a mercenary for moving to Man City. You might remember that Barry was indeed very keen to move to Anfield last summer; it was Benitez who was unwilling to match Villa’s selling price that the deal did not go through.

I also have doubts over whether Benitez really wanted to keep Alonso at the club. Many a time when players are linked with a move away from the club, they will be offered new contracts to keep their desires of moving away in check. (The same happened to John Terry at Chelsea) However, there has been no mention of this when it comes to Alonso.

So now Alonso is history at Liverpool. Gone with Alonso might be Liverpool’s title hopes even before the season starts. No doubt Torres and Gerrard are crucial and often described as the heartbeat of Liverpool, the effect of both Alonso and Javier Mascherano cannot be discounted as well.

So often we have seen when Alonso is not on the pitch, Pool have struggled. Having Alonso on the pitch to spray the passes and sitting deep allows Gerrard the freedom to join Torres as a supporting role.

Liverpool had a magnificent chance of winning the League last season, they did the double over Man Utd and Chelsea and accumulated 86 points, in many a season that should be enough to ensure they are the champs. However, Benitez’s often tinkering of the team and probably under-estimation of the smaller teams have seen Pool dropped points against the lesser likes, draws at home against West Ham, Fulham, Stoke just ain’t good enough.

Most observers will agree that it will be hard to do the double over Man Utd and Chelsea 2 seasons on the trot. So, to win the League, Benitez must have his focus fully on the League and not tinker against the smaller likes. Had he not learn the when the smaller teams play against the big 4 teams, they often up the efforts they put in and make themselves hard to beat?

The desire in Pool’s camp and the pressure on them to win the title must be huge. Now that Man Utd have matched their record of 18 league titles, they must be quaking now, fearing that Man Utd will go on and win the 19th. That will see Liverpool being dispelled into the shadows of English football. They will have no claims to be the greatest English team in history anymore. Worse still if Man Utd managed to do it with a former Pool great, Michal Owen providing the crucial goals.

Alonso’s departure might mean more responsibility on Gerrad’s shoulders now. I suspect that Benitez might use the money and sign another striker that the team so much needs. However, playing a second striker along or just behind Torres is bad news for Gerrad, whose best position is just behind the single front man as he proved last season. Gerrad needs players like Alonso and Masch sitting behind him, thus allowing him the freedom to bomb forward. With him in that position and in full flight, the team was in devastating form in the second half of the season, scoring for fun against the likes of Real Madrid, Aston Villa, Arsenal and Man Utd.

Gerrad have so often had to be the one to rescue Liverpool, such as his heroics against AC Milan in the Champions League Final in 2005 and against West Ham in the FA Cup Final in 2006. However, not until last season when he was in the sort of second striker position have we seen his really prosper, with the responsibility to carry the team single handedly off his shoulder. He was just great to watch in a very fluent team. That is the effect of team play. A good example of how a brilliant player can prosper in a team working in tune to his style of play. I really do not wish to see Gerrard being forced to drop deeper due to Alonso’s departure.

I may sound so negative, however my heads tells me that Alonso’s departure might really rock the team and disrupt the pattern of play the team is now so accustomed to. We shall see by Christmas if this is true and if Liverpool are to seriously challenge for the title.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bobby Robson: The Passing of a Proper Legend

Sadly on the 31st July 2009, the world of soccer lost a great legend. Often described as the "Godfather" of soccer in England and Europe, Sir Bobby Robson lost his fight against cancer and departed all of us.

I absolutely fell in love with soccer during the 1990 World Cup and being brought up in Singapore and being an avid follower of the old English Division 1 (that was just about the only league televised on Tele those days), it is no surprise that i was an England supporter during the World Cup. This was the period i absolutely am riveted by the talents of Robson and his 2 biggest stars in the team; Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne and Gary Lineker.

In 1992, i became a fan of FC Barcelona after watching their European Cup Final win against Sampdoria. I was absolutely delighted when Robson took charge of Barca in 1996, thus seeing probably my fave manager at the time at my fave club. When Barca won thee 1997 European Cup Winners Cup with a young Ronaldo's penalty against PSG, i was again delighted.

I remember Bobby Robson jumping off his bench and holding his head in pure disbelief after Ronaldo scored a wonder solo goal against Compestela in the La Liga that season. That incident showed the great passion this man had for soccer. That season, Ronaldo was the top scorer in the whole of Europe.

During his Newcastle days, he manged to establish the club as a top 4 club, playing hte kind of soccer the Newcastle fans always demanded. Finishing 4th in 2001/02 and then 3rd the following season. Such an achievement with a Newcastle team that does not have a strong squad shows what a good manager he is.

During his time at his beloved Newcastle, we have seen him successfully managed the fiery likes of Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy. Til now, i do think that was the best period in Bellamy's stop start career. It is no surprise that Newcastle declined so drastically after Robson was sacked by Freddy Sheperd in 2005. This was certainly a very sad day for Bobby, who had so much affection for the club since he was a boy.

In his career, he has managed and got the best out of the likes of Romario, Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Luis Enrique (who he often describes as the most complete and hard working footballer). He is often described by many as a father figure. Gazza openly proclaims Sir Bobby as his second dad.

I once heard on radio a caller recalling an encounter that goes like this; he had parked his car and when opening his car door he accidentally hit the door of the car next to his, out came a man form the next car and it was Sir Booby, Sir Bobby said " no worries mate, i still have 3 more doors on my car". Such a the magnitude of the man to a complete stranger.

Although i was not old enough to witness it, i do think his achievement of bring the UEFA Cup and 2 runners up spot in the old Division 1 with Ipswich Town is truly amazing.

In the last few years, Bobby have fought against cancer. During this painful period, he was still actively involved with soccer. His passing certainly is a great great loss to the soccer world.

Our hearts goes out to his family and relatives.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Toure to Man City?

There are major reports that Kolo Toure could be heading to the City of Manchester Stadium, joining Mark Huges' revolution.

This could be a good deal in my opinion. I am excited by this piece of news as i think it is very vital for this signing to go through if i am speaking from City's point of view.

If he does leave then Arsene do need to have some alternatives in mind, selling Adebayor and now Toure to a team challenging his own side for the top 4 spot, especially this close to the start of the season.

Just hope Huges is not signing Toure as a striker, considering the fact that Toure started his career at Arsenal as a striker. Haha.

We will look at this deal much more in depth once the transfer has been confirmed.

Tranfers: Done and Dusted

The summer transfers have been dominated mostly by done deals or more rumors linking players with either Real Madrid or Man City.

Having already discussed the impact of these 2 clubs in this blog, I shall now move my focus to other transfers.

Tottenham Hotspurs, for so long a club that has promised so much and yet delivered so little for their long suffering fans, have completed the signing of Peter Crouch from Portsmouth. This proved to be the 1st major player transferred to the Lane this season. Spurs’s fans must be wondering why the club have been this quiet in the market this summer as Spurs are usually one of the more active clubs when it comes to transfers.

Having done really well under Harry “Houdini” Redknapp, Spurs will aim to really challenge for a top 4 spot this season, although I think they might have missed the boat. Their best chance of them ever finishing in the top 4 spot was probably the season just past. The start of last season promised much despite the departures of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov. However, a disastrous start of just 2 points from their first eight games proved to be their downfall. Credit to Redknapp for turning things around.

Now back at the Lane, I do think the signing of Crouch could be mean Keane’s days at the Lane could again be numbered. I do think Redknapp will prefer the little big combo of Crouch and Defoe up front, having signed the same duo when he was in charge at Pompey. The future of Robbie Keane is certainly a worry, in a short space of 9 months, he might find himself being a Spurs reserve after previously playing second fiddle at Anfield.

The strike force of Crouch and Defoe is certainly not top 4 material in my opinion. Crouch did have a decent record at Pool, however I do feel he is limited as a player. He lacks skill and finesse to conjure up brilliance when the going gets tough and he lacks the pace to be a top quality striker. Jermaine Deofe has all the attributes of Spurs that it is not surprising that he is at the club. Defoe is a striker that promises lots however he has often under delivered. He is a deadly finisher on his day and he does have the pace, however I do think he lacks the consistency to succeed.

I do think Redknapp needs to be signing quality defenders and defensive midfielders to create a strong spine for his team. To rely on a defensive pairing of Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate, 2 famous English patients is just ridiculous and bad management.

The signings of Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker just magnifies the lack of proper management at Spurs. How many fullbacks do they have in their squad now? They must be the team with the most full backs in their personnel. Bale, Hutton, Assou-Ekotto, Chimbonda, Corluka and now two more!
It is just staggering to me how the summer transfers have been centered on attackers and there has not a mention of a prospective transfer for a top class defender barring the John Terry rumor.

This is certainly a myopia problem for most managers in my opinion.

This summer, we have also seen Stewart Downing leaving the Riverside for Villa Park after much speculation regarding his future. I do wonder if the signing of Downing will be a sign that Ashley Young could be sold. It is astonishing that Martin O’ Neil (a vastly over-rated manager for me) has signed Downing, a player that is also vastly over-rated. He may be a decent player in a smaller side (no disrespect to Boro), but he never ever possesses the quality of being a 1st team player in a top 6 side. I do think he was lucky to have more of a mention as we are seeing a lack of left sided midfielders in the English game at the moment.

How Villa managed to sign a player that will not be out injured til December is beyond belief. That is half a season without his services and even when he gets back in December he will need a month or two to properly get his game in tune with the pace of the Premier League.

Without proper quality signings, I do think Villa could struggle this season. They badly over performed last season in my opinion. Any fans thinking they should have qualified for the Champions League last season are purely in dreamland. A top 10 finish will be decent for them this season. I do expect teams like Man City and Everton to be above them in the standings come May next year.

Zat Knight to Bolton could be a good move for both player and his new employers. Working on a shoe string budget, Bolton are never going to sign anybody major, thus the signing of Zat Knight to shore up their very suspect defense is a good deal. Knight is a decent defender although he is not top class. He should do well at the Reebok.

Frazier Campbell’s move to the Stadium of Light could be an interesting one, A player with loads of prospect and pace, I am sure he will do well alongside Kenwyne Jones upfront. The shift of focus by Steve Bruce to shore up his midfield and defense with approaches for Lee Cattermole is a good move. If he manages to push that transfer through, that will be another good signing for Sunderland.

Everton meanwhile have been quiet as well. They really do need some depth to their very thin squad to help boost their chances of success this season. They have done really well under David Moyes, who in my opinion is a really good manager, definitely the best outside the top 4. In my opinion, only Anchelotti and Ferguson are considered better managers in the Premier League at the moment. The loan capture of Jo for another season is a great coup.

Yuri Zhirkov is probably the signing that could turn out to be one of the best in my opinion. A really skillful player with a great work ethic, he will do well at Chelsea, especially under Anchelotti who I think is a great manager. A great season in stored for Chelsea and I certainly do feel more signings are on the way. He certainly did well on his debut in the US tour against AC Milan. (See his goal against AC Milan below)

In the Serie A, i like the signing of Filepe Melo by Juventus from Fiorentina. For me, Melo is the closest to what Patrick Viera once was as a player, a player with power, pace, desire and the engine to rule the midfield. The signing of the very skilful Diego is another piece of shrewd business by the Old Lady of Italian Soccer. Diego, a creator of goals, is able to score a decent few himself. His arrival will release some pressure off the aging shoulders of Del Piero.

Over at Internazionale, who must have the European Champions League as their top priority this season after winning the Serie A for the past 4 seasons, the signings of Lucio in defense and Eto up front will do much to boost their squad. I just think the signing of Eto is absolutely brilliant. He is the typical Mourinho type player, able to hold the ball and ever willing to frop back and help out the team. A modern day team player.

Thanks for reading and post all comments.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ibrahimovic for Eto: An imbalanced deal?

Reports today suggest that the Eto and Ibrahimovic deals are virtually done, all that is left is for the contract to be signed. I cannot help thinking that Inter Milan has got the most of what is good out of this deal.

Barcelona are sacrificing a double Champions League winner and 40 million euros for the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a vastly over-rated player in my opinion. I just cannot understand why Pep Guardiola is that eager to move Eto out of the Nou Camp.

I do think that Ibrahimovic is not the 1st choice target for Pep and Barca. They failed to sign the much coveted David Villa from Valencia and thus have turned their attention to Ibrahimovic, just when Eto is being linked to Inter at the same time.

We all understand and know that Eto is a little bit of a primma-donna off the pitch and is not particularly well liked in the Barca dressing room, however you cannot argue his contributions to FC Barcelona over the past few season.

Eto’s goal ration is particularly impressive, notching a goal in every 2.5 games during his early days at Mallorca. For a player that started his trade and never made his mark at Real Madrid, Eto was transferred to the Nou Camp in 2004 and his goal ration at Barca is a goal in every 1.4 games, simply amazing!!!

Every successful team needs a deadly striker, particularly one that can get near the 30 goal a season mark every year. Eto has done so in 3 of his 5 season at the Nou Camp. Notching 29 goals in 2004/05 debut season, he followed that up with 32 goals the following season, winning the Pichichi; the golden boot award in the Liga in the process. That season, Barca conquered Arsenal in Paris to win the Champions League and not surprisingly, Eto was among the scorers.

The following 2 season was disrupted by injuries; however he still managed to keep up his goal ratio. Last season, he scored 34 goals and that includes a vital goal in the Champions League Final against Man Utd. Eto is currently the all time top scorer in the prestigious African Nations Cup and is one of the top 10 all time goal scorers for Barca despite just 5 seasons at the Nou Camp.

Ibrahimovic’s goal ratio, though still pretty impressive is no where near Eto’s. For Barca, I do feel that they are losing a lot more than just the goals that Eto bangs in. All soccer observers will notice that Eto provides great work ethic, a significant factor for success for a team playing total football like Barca.

In the Champions League Final in Rome, he was moved to the right after his early goal and he was ever willing to work hard for the team and track back and help out with the defending, That was part of the reason why Wayne Rooney was so ineffective in that game. Eto truly epitomizes the old cliché, “defending starts from the front”.

On the other hand, Ibrahimovic often has a laid back nature to his game and I do feel his performances in crucial games have been woeful. Although scoring loads for Internazionale in the Serie A, his record in the Champions League is truly woeful. When the crucial matches in the knock out stages come along, he has often under performed. His record of ZERO goals in the knock out stages after many attempts speaks for itself. This is also part of the reason why Inter has not been doing well in the Champions League.

Wind the clock back to February and let’s analyse the game at Old Trafford between Inter and Man Utd. Ibrahimovic missed at least 3 golden chances in the game, including a header in the six yard box where he managed to place the ball onto the crossbar when it seems easier to score. His often nonchalant and aloof outlook seems to suggest that he is simply not motivated for the bigger games.

Which is why I think the move to Barca will truly shows if he is over-rated. If he cannot do well in the Barca side playing such wonderful soccer, then he is truly mot worth a mention when it comes to the “great players” category.

On the other hand, I think Eto has already sealed his stature in the game and will do really well for Inter Milan. His experience in the Champions League will be crucial for Inter’s chances, particularly as they are desperate to do well in Europe.

Despite Jose Mourinho’s claims that Ibrahimovic is in his eyes the best striker around, I do think he is just being diplomatic and saying the right things in public. He was saying the same things about Didier Drogba when he was managing Chelsea. Deep down, I do think he will be delighted to have a player of Eto’s caliber in his squad. He will also have 40 million Euros for further transfers. A great bit of business for Internazionale, as Massimo Moratti claimed correctly.

For a player at the prime of his career at the age of 28, Ibrahimovic must now move out of his shadows and show that he can really conquer the world and start performing in the crucial matches and not go hiding anymore. For a player who has shown he is capable of scoring great goals, he must now fulfill his potential and move on to the next stage.

If he fails to do so, Ibrahimovic’s fans might have to eat their words and accept he is simply over-rated. However, the biggest loser could be Pep Guardiola who might live to regret his decision at not trying to convince Samuel Eto to remain at Barca.

Please post all comments. Thank you.

In my next post, i will explore in depth the chances of Liverpool in the Premier League this season.