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.

Wishing Filepe Massa a speedy recovery

I know this is a soccer focused blog, however I would like to take some time out and wish Filepe Massa a speedy recovery.

Fans of Formula 1 will agree that he is one of the most loved drivers in the sport. His accident in the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session is certainly a freakish one and one can only wish he does recover and can race again.

Initial reports that he might not be able to race again due to damages to his vision is certainly very sad news for many. Due to the nature of the injury, I would not like to elaborate too much on the incident. I am appalled most major papers are showing pictures of Massa’s injury and having video link to the incident. This is particularly distasteful in my humble opinion.

To end this post, let’s all gather and hope Massa has a speedy recovery.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The "Real" Perez Prjoecto

It is no surprise if you find two extreme set of soccer fans when it comes to Real Madrid at the moment. You have to just love them or hate them.

Having spent much of the past 2 summers dominating the summer soccer headlines, Fiorentino Perez’s ability to deliver his promises of “Galatico” signings to transform the Real Madrid playing personnel have left many soccer fans in awe.

They have broken the world record for transfer fees twice in a month with the signings of Kaka from Milan and then Christiano Ronaldo from Man Utd. Added further to the 2 massive signings are Karim Benzema from Lyon and Raul Albiol from Valencia, taking Real’s outlays for the summer over the ₤160 million mark.

This probably shows Perez’s determination to stop Barcelona’s dominance after a wonderful season for the team from Catalunya, doing the domestic double and also becoming Champions of Europe. Barca’s total dominance this season must have caused much jealousy and frustration among Real’s tops dogs and their fans alike.

Bobby Robson, once manager at the Nou Camp, professes that the rivalry among the 2 clubs are so heated that very often, they are only concerned at finishing above each other in the La Liga, even if other teams go on to win the championship.

Perez’z ability to lobby loans to generate transfers of this magnitude is staggering. You have to wonder how far the depths of support for Real Madrid actually go. Many fans will remember how they wrote off their massive debts during Perez’s first reign at the helm by selling their training ground to the city council at an astronomical amount.

One can argue that Real’s tactics used in attracting players often causes a stir for rival clubs and fans. Perez’s and the club’s constant links with the top players have been a little extravagant to say the least. Perez only believes in being extravagant, this being evident with the signings of Luis Figo, David Beckham, the Brazilian Ronaldo and the magical Zidane during his 1st reign at the club.

I was having supper with a mate the other day and he commented that he could not wait to see Real do badly again this season after all the ‘noises’ the club has created. This viewpoint I am sure will be shared by many non Real Madrid supporters.

The signings of Kaka, a elite role model and CR7, have set the Madrid fans drooling at the team’s prospects net season. The incredible scenes where the Santiago Bernabeau was packed to the rafters for CR7’s presentation shows the fanfare the team has.

If the team manages to gel, you have to be optimistic about their prospects. One can feels the insult they have taken, especially after not qualifying beyond the second phase of the Champions League five seasons on the trot. Having won a record 9 European Cups, Real often view themselves as the premier club in Europe and the world.

Having seen Man Utd being crowned European Champions and then World Champions in 2008, Perez have now taken away the talisman and crown jewel form the Old Trafford line up. The signing of Benzema from Lyon, who has long been a target for Sir Alex Ferguson, is another good business deal by Perez.

For once in many a season, the shift of power among European leagues might be shifting to Spain now. Arguably, the top 3 players in the world now, CR7, Kaka and Lionel Messi are displaying their talents in the La Liga.

Similarly to Man City in the Premier League, you have to wonder if all these signings will gel immediately. Real’s problems in recent seasons have been all in their defensive part of their line up. The signing of Albiol might not be enough to correct the glaring frailties they have. Other than Sergio Ramos, it is difficult to identify a proper and decent figure at the Bernabeau before the arrival of Albiol. Lassana Diarra and Gago are not the best defensive midfielders either.

Perez has been especially brutal in his efforts to create his ideal team of playing personnel. Since his arrival, the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Royston Drenthe, Rafeal Van Der Vaart, Klass Jan Huntelaar (who has only been at the club for half a year) and Ruud Van Nistelrooy have been up for sale. A huge headache for the Dutch national team, especially when its World Cup year.

At Real, you have to wonder if Pellegrini, the new coach who have just made the switch from Villareal, can handle all the huge egos in the dressing room. It is clear to see that all the signings thus far have been Perez’s signings and not his. Added to this are the complications in which Raul Gonzales, an icon at the club, has a huge influence over team selections and style of play.

Similarly to Mark Huges at the City of Manchester Stadium, you can see Pellegrini under the immense pressure to deliver immediate results or heads could roll. This is no surprise, especially at a Real Madrid, where they have once dismissed the services of a manager after winning the European Cup. Incredible!

Which is why this season’s La Liga will be a blast I am sure, Perez’s second generation of Galaticos trying to dislodge Barca off their perch. Fans are certainly in for a treat.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wenger: Simply a Case of Myopia?

“Soccer from another planet” have always been a phrase used by pundits and all neutrals alike to describe Arsenal’s free flowing style of soccer. Since Arsene Wenger’s arrival at Highbury in 1996 as a replacement for the departing Bruce Rioch, Arsenal fans have certainly been pampered with the kind of soccer that all soccer fans of other clubs (to the exception of maybe FC Barcelona) can only envy.

However, the past season has certainly been one of the toughest that Arsene Wenger had to endure as the manager at the Emirates. The failure to land a major trophy for a 4th consecutive season has certainly ruffled a few feathers among the Emirates faithful. It is certainly very sad to see some fans starting to question the “Professor” and his Arsenal team.

Let’s just wind the clock back to 2004 and everyone will remember the magical number “49”. That’s the number of games Arsenal went unbeaten in the league and they were tearing teams apart in Globetrotting style. The following season, they went on to win the FA Cup on penalties against Man Utd at Cardiff.

However, the match proved to be a significant one in Arsenal’s recent history.

3 league titles and 4 FA Cup triumphs under the tutelage of the Professor have certainly wetted all Gooners’ appetite for more success. The match at Cardiff was the last of those triumphs and it was significantly the last game in which Patrick Viera turned out for the Gunners before moving to the fashion capital of Milan. (In fact, Viera scored the winning penalty for Arsenal in the shoot-put win.)

Since then, we have seen a slow demise of the fortunes of the team from North London, although many patient Arsenal fans will argue this. Many have backed Wenger and Arsenal’s decision to move from Highbury to the magnificent Emirates. This move has certainly taken away Arsenal’s ability to financially compete with Chelsea, Man Utd and now Man City.

Arsene’s continual approach to base his policy on youths have not paid dividends for him thus far. The current crop of players, although having lots of potential are still a long way away from matching their predecessors like Bergkamp, Viera, Petit, Pires and Henry. They certainly seem to lack the fight when the going gets tough.

Who can forget their poor showing against Man Utd in the Champions League semi-final. Most ardent fans and neutrals will be very disappointed that they were brushed aside so easily in both legs of the contest. In fact, the empty seats in large portions of the Emirates in the second leg after CR7 netted the third of Man Utd’s goals was certainly a sight not witnessed before in Wenger’s time as manager.

Wenger’s previous teams of title triumphs in 1998 and 2004 certainly were teams that played breathe taking soccer, yet they have the no-nonsense fighting approach to their game.

In 1998, the team comprising Petit and the young Viera in center midfield, supported by the flair of Overmars and Bergkamp and the predatory instinct of the legendary Wirght and the young prodigal Anelka clawed back a 9 point deficit in early February to win the title. That season, they went on to do the double, disposing of Newcastle at the old Wembley. That team certainly would not have surrendered that easily in the Champions League semi final.

That team managed to do the double over Man Utd that season, a team trying to claim a hat-trick of Premier League wins. Faced with a deficit of nine points, they went to the Theatre of Dreams and won 1-0, with Overmars slotting the winner through Peter Schmeichel’s legs in the last 10 minutes. That win was especially crucial and the title triumph that season was certainly a sweet taste of success.

In the 2004 season where they went unbeaten, their soccer was simply out of this world. Not a single soccer fan could argue that they did not deserve the title. Pires, Henry, Bergkamp and Viera were particularly outstanding that season.

All this now seems such a distant memory in North London where fans certainly are getting impatient. The team have never adequately replaced their loses in playing personnel. The fans would not have envisaged Arsenal as a selling club, selling Viera, Pires, Henry, Flamini and now Adebayor.

The current problem at Arsenal seems to be a lack of beliefs. Huge expectations and a continual crisis of injuries have not helped. Arsene and the Arsenal board alike have emphasized the need to produce talents through their youth ranks and have refused to bring in much need experience by splashing the cash.

The football world is a success driven one and certainly a club as ambitious and as prominent as Arsenal need to be challenging for the title every season. Some fans certainly argue that some bad luck have come into play.

In the 2006, they had goalkeeper Jens Lehmann sent off early in the Champions League Final and went on to lose to Barcelona. In February 2008, just when they were top of the League and seemingly favorites for the title, the horrific injury to Eduardo at Birmingham and the after effects of the game ensured Man Utd went on to pip them to the title.

All these will be hard to disguise the fact that there are certainly growing problems at the Emirates. Selling Adebayor to Man City is not a smart move in my opinion. One can argue his commitment and disruptive influences in the dressing room lead to his departure, however, selling him to a club that might almost certainly be challenging for the top four is not a good business deal.

One can only hope that Arsenal manage to bring in much needed strength in the goalkeeping and defensive departments. Almunia and Fabianski have been very error prone and certainly do not inspire confidence.

The signing of the highly rated Thomas Vermaelen hopefully will work. In midfield, a reliable partner for the over-worked Cesc Fabregas is needed. Denilson and Diaby have shown great potential thus far, however they have often faded and have been missing in crucial matches.

Upfront, it will be difficult to rely on Nicklas Bendtner especially when Van Persie have been so injury prone. There is also some doubt over the fitness of the highly talented Eduardo. It will be crucial to see if he can handle the rigors of the whole season having just been back from such a nasty injury.

On their day and if injury free, the team boast the best full back parings in the league (Sagna and Clichy), a midfield full of flair with players like Fabregas, Nasri and Rosicky and the front pairing of Van Persie and Eduardo (although I have some doubts they can play together as I think they are both too left sided).

However, in the past few seasons, they have faltered to deceive too often, often over promising and under delivering for their suffering fans. This season, the threat of Man City will certainly add more pressure on the already beleaguered Wenger.

Which is why although the previous season was one of the hardest for Arsene to endure, this coming season could be the one that is absolutely crucial and make or break his legendary status among the Arsenal faithful.

Please feel free to post all comments. Thanks for reading.

In my next post, i will be looking at the "Real Project".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shrewd old Fergie does it again!

Man Utd have certainly had an awkward summer in terms of transfers thus far. Ardent fans would not be blamed for being worried about the team’s prospect for the upcoming season after having witnessed them being outplayed in the Champions League Final by Barcelona and then losing 2 prominent figures in Christiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

Man Utd fans have certainly been pampered with bumper signings in the past seasons; although they have all been incoming to add strength in depth to the Old Trafford line up rather than outgoing. In the past few seasons, we have seen the arrival of Rooney, Carrick, Berbatov, Tevez, Nani and Anderson all costing huge amounts in terms of transfers.

For all the financial muscle Chelsea had before the emergence of Man City, Man Utd are the team that boast the most ₤30 million players with the likes of Ferdinand, Rooney and Berbatov.

It is therefore easy to understand the fans’ worry after the departures of CR7 and Carlos.

The Ronaldo saga has dragged on for too long ad it is clear that he wanted to play his trade in the Bernabeau, not at Old Trafford since he announced his desire to leave the previous summer.

The departure of Carlos and the verbal volleying between the player and Sir Alex have also been really unpleasant. It is disappointing that for a man that has such a fan fare among the Old Trafford crowd, Carlos does not have the decency and professionalism to keep his feud with Fergie private.

Many fans were rubbing their hands in anticipation for the arrival of probably a Karim Benzema or a Frank Ribery after the sale of CR7 to Real Madrid for a world record fee of ₤80 million. However, shrew old Fergie has surprised all by snapping up Michael Owen from relegated Newcastle Utd on a free transfer. A coup in the making, I am absolutey certain.

Many fans have questioned the signing of the injury prone Owen; who clearly has lost much of the pace on which his game is based on. I, on the other hand, do think this could be one of the transfers of the summer come next May when the season ends.

Regardless of whether Man Utd are able to ward off the challenges of Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and maybe Man City for their Premier League title, I am sure Owen, if injury free for most of the season, will be top scorer for the Old Trafford outfit.

Despite his injuries, Owen has never lost his poaching instincts and considering the way Man Utd plays and create chances, he might just be the perfect candidate to start alongside Wayne Rooney who I am sure will be deployed in his favorite front role this season.

It is important to note that Owen has a goal ration of a goal in every two and a half games in his career, and even when he was coming off the bench most of the time when he was at Real Madrid, he still has a decent record for the all whites.

In a terrible Newcastle team that was eventually relegated, he still did alright. I just cannot imagine any striker being able to save Newcastle last season, considering the absolute non existence of their midfield supply line and their porous defending for most of the season.

I am also absolutely certain that Michael Owen would not have suffered that many an injury at any other club. Consider the number of players that have ended up injury prone at Newcastle and you might want to wonder why the fitness regime and training methods at the club have not been questioned more significantly.

Owen first came to prominence in the 97/98 season where he broke into Liverpool’s first team at the tender age of 18 years old. He really hit the big time after his wonder goal in France 98 against Argentina, giving England the lead before eventually losing on penalties. That goal made him an instant hero in England. All England fans will also remember fondly his hat trick for Sven Goran Eriksson’s outfit against Germany in Munich; a fantastic 5-1 result for the Three Lions.

He went on to be a prolific scorer for the Reds from Mersyeside, winning the Cup Treble in 2001. In that season, who can forget his late rescue act in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal. A goal down with seven minutes to go, Owen, who has been non existent in the match up to this point, scored 2 goals to break every Gooners’ heart.

The first was a typical poacher’s goal, sweeping the ball home off a melee in the box. The second goal, in which he sped past Lee Dixon before dispatching his shot across David Seaman’s left hand, was a typical Michael Owen goal in which his pace and clinical finishing was so evident.

Over the years since that game in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, he might have lost some pace, however all good managers will still know that class is permanent and Owen certainly still does have the instinct to be labeled as the ‘fox in the box’.

Which is why I will stick my neck out and say Owen will be a decent bet to be top scorer in the Premier League next season.

Please feel free to post all comments. In my next post, I will be examining if Arsene Wenger really has Myopia.

Pursuit of Prime: Man City

It’s been a real quiet summer in terms of transfers thus far, unless you are a fan of Real Madrid and the cash rich Man City.

Undoubtedly, this 2 clubs from the 2 most competitive leagues on the globe are stealing all the headlines with the done-deals and continual pursuit of further prospects. Lets have a little discussion about Man City.

New recruits at Eastlands include Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz, Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Until the signing of Carlos Tevez, I really felt Mark Huges, or some might say the new owners at the club, were attracting excellent signing in the quest to be the premier club in Europe. I just have a sneaky feeling that the signing of Adebayor could be one too many for the forward line at Man City. Many pundits have raised their eyebrow and have commented that the deal is a huge gamble and I cannot agree more.

Barry and Santa Cruz will both be great signings for City, Barry adding needed stability and experience to the midfield that already features the excellent Stephen Ireland while Santa Cruz will prove useful upfront for City, especially in away games where they have been really disappointing in the past year.

It is surprising that with the caliber of forwards at their disposal, City are one of the lowest scorers away from home in the league last season. They were the second lowest scorers next to Fulham in the top half of the table. Their performances away from home have been dreadful and will have bored many a soccer fan. It is a stark contrast to their often cavalier approach at the City of Manchester.

This is why I feel Santa Cruz’s opportunist touch and Tevez’s willingness to mix it up when the going gets tough will be crucial in away games. Tevez have shown that he is adapt at scoring crucial goals in late stages. Many will remember his late equalizer at Spurs and Blackburn the previous season which helped Manu Utd to the title. Equally important are his late contributions in games against Porto, Stoke and Wigan last season.

The signing of Adebayor on the other hand, is on the opposite end of the scale. No doubt he is a great talent adapt at scoring great goals, such as his wonder goal against Spurs at the Lane the previous season and his outrageous bicycle kick goal against Villareal last season, however there lies doubts about his commitment and work ethic when the team is struggling.

His total disinterest in both legs of the Champions League semi against Man Utd last season just cannot be erased from my mind. I also wonder why Arsene Wenegr has not tried to convince him to stay considering he is a considered the first choice front man at the Emirates.

His constant plea and lobbying for a move to Milan and Barcelona from the previous season shows he is a problem at the Emiartes, even though he has shown he has the potential to be a 30 goal-a-season player as he has shown the previous season. Even when after a transfer has been agreed between Arsenal and Man City, his last minute effort to try force a move to Chelsea is just distasteful.

Based on these reasons, I do feel he might be a problem at Man City should the going gets tough. Mark Huges will have his work cut out trying to ensure Adebayor is in the right frame of mind to be a real asset to Man City. If Adebayor is in the mood, he is similar to Mark Huges as a player, a player blessed with great psychic and great ability to hold the ball while waiting for support, and of course the great ability to conjure up screamers.

I do also think Mark Huges might have a tough time dealing with players with huge egos at the club. He will definitely struggle trying to choose a frontline from a list that includes Robinho, Adebayor, Santa Cruz, Tevez, Bellamy, Bojinov, Caicedo and Benjani. It is just amazing that City have a frontline that cost more than 120 million pounds in transfers and more than 35 million pounds in wages annually. Staggering!

The sale of Daniel Sturridge, a great talent as shown in his short career thus far, is a little surprising. Sturridge may not be ready for the 1st team yet, but coming off the bench, he has shown he is a great predator and has great potential. He would have been a useful member on the bench, much better than Caicedo, Benjani and Bojinov who I feel all might be heading for the exit door soon if the right offer comes along. However, I do hope Elano stays despite all the rumours of him being offloaded as I think he is crucial to City in midfield.

Despite all this, I do think we have not seen the last of City in the transfer market yet.

How successful Man City will be this coming season will however depend more on which top defenders Man City can attract to the club. It is no good having a great forward line as they have and not having a top notch defense. This has proved to be the downfall of clubs such as Newcastle and Spurs in the past.

The continual pursuit of John Terry is crucial. If they manage to sign him, they will have not just a great player but a great no nonsense leader on the pitch as well. A center pairing of Terry and City’s other defensive target, Joleon Lescott will be impressive on paper and one I am sure will pay great dividends on the pitch. All teams need a strong spine as shown by Man Utd’s title triumph last season when they had the best defense in the league and eking out ELEVEN 1-0 wins.

Chelsea won back to back tiles in 2005 and 2006 with the same approach, a mean defense complimented by hard working midfielders and a great front man with a great goal to chances ratio.

So what are Man City’s chances this coming season? I am sure lots of neutrals are eager to watch them play once the season start. It is hard to envisage a team comprising Given, Richards, Ireland, Robinho, Tevez, Santa Cruz, Barry, Elano and Kompany not challenging to break into the top 4.

However, if they do fail in their pursuit for Terry, Lescott or any other top defenders, it will be easy to see Mark Huges struggling and he might not last pass the Christmas period, considering the pressure he is under to perform from the cash rich and ultra ambitious owners in their pursuit of prime.

Please feel free to post all comments. In my next post, I will be exploring Man Utd's move for Michael Owen.