Thursday, 25 August 2011

There's A Surprise

So the draw for the Champions League has been made again. This is a time every year when the fans of the top four all sit down and hope to be given a nice easy run, knowing full well that only United will actually be given that easy run. They get that easy run every single year, from the group stage, through the knockout rounds and they only get knocked out when they play a hard game. Then if that does not work for some reason they always seem to get through due to referee decisions. The same can also be said for Barcelona however. Yes they, obviously, have one of the best teams ever but when put in a 2 leg match a team can very easily beat Barcelona. Arsenal last year came close, they just did not defend their lead well enough, when a team comes close to defeating Barcelona over 2 legs they also seem to get refereeing decisions in their favour. Such as against Chelsea a few years ago, they deserved to win and should have had a minimum of 3 penalties, with another 2 being a bit 'iffy' and Dani Alves should also have been sent off. It is for all of these reasons that you have to feel that the Champions League could be one of the most corrupt tournaments on the planet, I do not know if it is or not but these are just the opinions of disgruntled fans.


Well Well Well...

Quite an entertaining second week for the premier league so far, I'm not going to write about every single game in detail now as it will just take up far too much room. 

First let's talk about the transfer news. The first big bit of news is that Chelsea have agreed a fee with Valencia for the signing of Juan Mata, judging by how they played in the first half against West Brom, this can only be a beneficial signing. They need as much creativity as possible and, with the way Kalou and Anelka played, they need as much width as possible. Apparantly Chelsea are now also looking at Jovetic from Fiorentina, if they do get him they you have to think that their pursuit of Modric could be over, although some senior sources inside the Spurs camp have told me that the Modric deal is just a matter of money, contrary to what Levy says. There is also the news that Arsenal and City have finally agreed a fee for Nasri, what I don't understand is why Chelsea want to spend £30 million on Modric, and they still might fail with that, when Nasri is being sold for only £25 million. 

After the second week of games I have made a few conclusions which I feel are important to share. First of all is that City still look a force to be reckoned with when going forward, they don't have to depend on one attacker either, unlike Liverpool. However if Silva gets injured they will lose a lot of that force and with their defence still being shaky I think their only chance to win the league is to score as many as possible, negating the amount they will let in. Back to Liverpool, they were drawing with, quite frankly, a weak Arsenal team, until Suarez came on and turned the game. Yes the rest of the team looked more threatening than Arsenal but they never looked likely to score until he came on. If a team can negate Suarez then they have a huge chance of beating Liverpool.

About United, yes they are the champions, yes they have spent a lot of money on new signings and yes they have a 100% record so far but it is far too early for every pundit to say that they cannot see any other team catching them. Other teams could sign a player that could turn out to be one of the best players ever in the premier league, all of these amazing players have to come from somewhere. And as teams settle down it will become more difficult for United, as it did for Chelsea last year, winning the first 9 games and then only winning once from October to January. I'm not saying the same will happen for United but if Chelsea did not have that blip then chances are they would have won the league, comfortably at that.

On to the new teams now; It is still pretty hard to judge QPR properly, as after they lost to Bolton 4-0 they managed to beat Everton 1-0. However Everton are in financial turmoil and without any new players they cannot keep up, so we have to wait until QPR play their next game. As for Norwich, after two decent draws they have staked a claim to suggest they may be able to stay up, whether or not they will be able to keep it up all year round I'm not sure. Swansea have not shown any promise as of yet to suggest they will stay up. First losing 4-0 to City would have been a blow but against a Wigan team, weakened from last year, they showed no attacking flair and they only salvaged a draw thanks to their goalkeeper, Vorm, who was an amazing signing for them.

In other sports news, a 4-0 series whitewash for England lead them to the top sport of the ICC test rankings above India, who are now placed 3rd. With the depth in squad that the England team have, I can see them being at the top for a long time. Just like the amazing Australian team were a few years ago. We have batsmen all the way down the order, even Jimmy Anderson can hit a ball when he needs to. I think the way it is set up now, with one batsmen staying around for a long time, usually Trott or Cook, and the rest around him increasing the strike rate, this is a very good way to play it because we score a lot of quick runs while also having the stability when it comes to the likes of Prior, Bresnan, Broad or Swann coming in to bat. There is no doubt in my mind that it will become a lot harder for England when they travel to the southern hemisphere but I still think they have enough to win, and win comfortably.  


Arsenal falling apart?

So now Arsenal have lost Fabregas, what next for the gunners? Many reporters have been linking Nasri with a move to Manchester City, with new links now suggesting a move to Chelsea may be on the cards. Is Nasri does move, then Arsenal have lost two of their better midfielders. So what will they do? Fans are now wondering why Wenger won't spend money, but is that the best option? I feel that with out Wenger spending the money he already had at the start of the summer (apparently) plus what he has now received from the Fabregas transfer.. Arsenal will struggle to finish in the top four next season. Add to this that unless he renews the contracts of Van Persie, Walcott and Arshavin all having less than two years to run... Will the core of Arsenals team now be ruined? I feel that Arsenal need four players to help with the loss of Fabregas, and maybe the loss of Nasri. With a keeper (I would like to see Lloris of Lyon, but that's a distant dream) a priority. Also, Arsenal need a centre half, with lots of names being mentioned throughout the summer, I would like to see Samba in Arsenal colours next season. I would like to see Mata, a player been heavily linked with Arsenal, and Hazard as well, Mata to replace Fabregas, and Hazard as a winger, who has creativity... Which we would lose with Nasri, as Gervinho is a striker, not a winger, and not good enough for the primer league


Just Another Manic Monday

Well there was only one game today, but it was more about what happened off the pitch that made the news. First of all there was the end to the Fabregas saga, took long enough really. Ever since he first revealed he wanted to return to his home team, which anyone can understand when that team is Barcelona, he has not played the same for Arsenal and they were right to cash in, even though they could have made more money last year. You have to think that now Wenger has 34 million to spend, he has to sign a top quality player that should give Arsenal more of a fighting chance next year, however I doubt he will as he is too concerned with the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations. Next there was the story of Robbie Keane moving to LA Galaxy, for a mere 1.8 million this should be a very good buy for Galaxy, although Spurs could have sold him for more.

Lastly, and by no means least, is the abduction of Mikel's father. I think it showed great character for him to play on Sunday knowing this has happened and I'd like to offer my condolences to him and his family, with hope that he is found quickly.

Manchester City 4 - 0 Swansea

After seeing the way they performed tonight I can see why everyone thinks they will be challenging for the title. Before tonight I never would have believed he could replicate his form for Atletico Madrid in the premier league, I thought he would be pushed off the ball a lot easier, but that 20 minute cameo he had removed all doubt from my mind. City could probably get rid of Tevez and still challenge now they have him. There is not really anything else to talk about in this match as the City defence wasn't really troubled at all, and Swansea did not really have much of a chance to play. I'd like to think that Swansea have a good chance of staying up but I'm not too sure at the moment, have to place them at either in the relegation zone or maybe just out of it if they're lucky. City, well after seeing them tonight I am seriously worried for Chelsea at the moment, if the blues buy no more players then City will beat them and could possibly finish 1st. One thing is for sure it will be a tight table at the end of the season.

Man of the match - Oh, without a doubt Sergio Aguero, he played only for 20 odd minuted but what a debut in that time. Scoring two goals, one a screamer, and assisting another one. He looks like a force to be reckoned with in the future.


The Day After

Well today played host to the games that involved the champions and the runners up from last year. Naturally all eyes were on both of these games and with the amount of build up you have to think that anything other than two 6-0 thrashings would not be good enough.

West Brom 1 - 2 Manchester United

This was the first competitive game of the season for West Brom and the first opinion is that they seem like a much better team than last year. Shane Long seems to be a very good signing for them, always causing the defence problems like a good striker should, although his goal today was a little fortunate. Now onto the champions, yes they have an amazing attack force (and it's not easy for me to admit that) but now that Van Der Sar has retired you have to feel that history is repeating itself. After Schmeichel left they had a very hard time trying to replace him, going through keeper and keeper that were not good enough before they god the big Dutchman. Now they have bought David De Gea and so far he has not done anything to impress me, making a huge mistake in the community shield last week and now making another huge mistake this week. Yes he made some good saves as well but goalkeepers are always judged on the errors they make, just ask Gomes for Spurs. I know he is young and that he has time to improve but when Chelsea signed Petr Cech in 2004 he was a year younger than De Gea and already had enough class to play in the first team, which he proved when he won the golden glove the next year. I just think that without someone more experienced to learn from he will not improve too much and they will be forced to buy someone else. After seeing the way West Brom played I think they could end up higher in the table this year, possibly around 7th if they don't have too many problems. United without a doubt will be at the top of the table, either 1st or 2nd.

Man of the match - I'd have to say Ashley Young, he seems to be one of the buys of the summer so far and probably single-handedly saved United from dropping 2 points today.

Stoke 0 - 0 Chelsea

The first competitive match for Chelsea under Andre Villas-Boas, this was built up to be the reform of the blues. However Stoke away is probably one of the hardest games of the season and a draw is actually quite a good result. The most important thing is the way they played and boy did they play, in the second half they looked like a completely different team from last season. It was only the heroics of Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal that kept Chelsea at bay. One good thing from Chelsea's point of view is that Torres is back, without a doubt the prolific striker is back on form. He may not have scored today but he caused problems all days, especially for Ryan Shawcross who should probably have been sent off. The ref, Mark Halsey, had a shocker today. He missed 2 clear cut penalties for Chelsea and gave fouls against them when they should have been for. I don't think fans can completely blame him though for this being a draw as Huth and Woodgate did defend very well, but their attack never really caused any problems for Cech. Stoke should be up in the top 10 this year if they do sign all of the players they want to but even if they didn't, just due to their new defence, they should improve on last years 13th. All of the pundits seem to think that Chelsea will finish 3rd or below, but I still think they will finish either 2nd or 1st, if they sign a creative midfielder and a winger then they will definitely challenge United for that top spot. 

Man of the match - Asmir Begovic put in a good claim with the way he saved everything but it has to go to Fernando Torres. After all of the criticism he had to put up with last year, to come out and perform very near to his best in this game shows huge amounts of character. And the way he played was how we saw him in his first year at Liverpool, he deserved a goal today and I have no doubt he will be a prolific striker at Chelsea these next few years.


The Premier League Is Back

Finally the prem is back, it's been a hard couple of months without the weekly dose of top flight football. So I suppose its time to get down to the opinions and reports straight away. 

QPR 0 - 4 Bolton 

Well the first 10 minutes seemed to show that everyone's fears about Taarabt not being able to play top level football were not justified. However he seemed to get less and less of the ball as the match went on; I don't think that this was because they were not trying to get him involved, I think it was because he did not try hard enough to charge down players in the middle of the park. I hope he gets out of this habit quickly because there's no doubt in my mind he is a huge talent but I do not think he will. I think that QPR have a good chance this year to stay up but they need to sign a big, strong midfielder as they were constantly being beaten there by the much more physical Bolton team. Overall you have to think that Bolton just have that bit of premier league quality that QPR are lacking, it wasn't just the strength either, there was something Bolton had that QPR just did not. I'm not too sure what that is but I think when they get new owners Warnock has to be given a lot of money to buy some players of higher quality. Good win for Bolton but it was far too easy for them, cannot expect them to keep that up against some teams with more quality. As for QPR, if they do not sign anyone else they will be relegated, if they bring in enough quality then maybe 15th - 16th could be a good guess.

Man of the match - Frabrice Muamba - Managed to deal with anything QPR threw at bolton with relative ease, then quickly started a counter or managed to hold it up for everyone to get into position and he even bagged himself a goal.

Liverpool 1 - 1 Sunderland

Considering the amount of money that Liverpool spent and considering the fact that their signings were all playing this was a very poor result for them. The best player by far on the Liverpool team was Luis Suarez, he was a trouble for Sunderland all day and was the only player that looked like he was actually playing to the best of his ability, even though he did miss a penalty - which I personally think he may have dived a bit for. I thought Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson were both very poor today, OK Adam set up Suarez's goal but the rest of his set plays were off target most of the game, considering he has such a big target to aim for in Carroll. Sebastian Larsson was a breath of fresh air for Sunderland who looked like a different team every time he got the ball, which was duly rewarded in quite a stunning debut goal. Something that did confuse me is why Dalglish took off Suarez when they really wanted to score and he looked most likely, I think that was a mistake. For Liverpool it is hard not to see them in the top four this year, despite this result, however I do not think they are close enough to the top three to be above fourth place. Sunderland I am not sure about as they can play well and then go on a bad streak for 8 or 9 games, I'd have to see them in the top 10 though.

Man of the match - Tough one this, I'd say it has to either be Wes Brown or Seb Larsson. Brown did keep out pretty much everything from Liverpool and the way he went about it showed good skill as well. Larsson well he played some amazing passes and his goal was a highlight of the opening day.

Newcastle 0 - 0 Arsenal

Put it simply Arsenal missed the passing of Fabregas and the creativity of Nasri, there is no avoiding that. This passing is exactly what Newcastle had from Barton, it was a very brave decision by Pardew to include Barton but in terms of the way they played it paid off. I'm still not too sure what to think of Gervinho, he wasted too many chances on the ball and although he did show creativity it was only in the build up, the final ball was very poor, that's when he actually did produce a final ball. I'm sorry but Wenger can complain about Barton all he wants, Song should have been sent off for stamping on him before and yes Barton should not have pulled Gervinho up but the Ivory Coast international did slap him and that is a straight red in any game. In truth this was quite a poor match with only that incident to liven it up. Newcastle should easily be able to survive this year, being up near the top 10 but I don't think they will make it into that zone unless they bring in a better striker. Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal, where do we put you, I have to be honest and say that I do not think they will make the top 4 and unless they sign some replacements for Fabregas and Nasri, I do not think they will get above Spurs, so 6th at the moment.

Man of the match - Tough choice again but I'll have to go with Tim Krul in the Newcastle goal, performed very well when the defence in front of him failed.

Blackburn 1 - 2 Wolves

Not too sure what needs to be written about this game. But for the Blackburn goal all credit has to go to Jason Roberts for his persistence in getting the ball so he could just square it across the face of the goal, shame that the goalkeeper did not do a better job. Fletcher's goal for Wolves was down to the new centre-back pairing in the Blackburn defence, as both centre backs went towards the near post - leaving Salgado to deal with the header - if Samba and Nelsen were playing then you have to feel that Fletcher would not have had that chance. Wolves' second goal was just a simple lack of defence again, two players were on the line in the same place, leaving a big gap in the right side of the goal, which Ward made sure he used fully. Blackburn should be aiming for a top 10 finish but I do not think they will make it, I think they will get around 15th if they are lucky, possibly trying to avoid relegation at the end of the season. I think they will avoid it though, finishing 17th. Wolves are a hard team to guess as they can beat anyone on their day but I think they will be battling for relegation once again, I do think they will survive at 18th but only just.

Man of the match - Mine has to be Roger Johnson, he defended well and he often went into midfield to give his team an advantage.

Wigan 1 - 1 Norwich

Not a bad outing for a newly promoted team, however Wigan are not the same without N'Zogbia, he replaced Valencia when he left and now Martinez needs to find a good replacement for the Frenchman. Most of the players that Norwich have signed seemed to perform quite well today, even though their goal was courtesy of a mistake for Al Habsi. I was very impressed with how well Morrison played when he was forced to supply for Hoolahan, which is never easy for a proper striker. I'd like to think that Moses played very well for Wigan but when he had a chance to score or assist Di Santo if he kept running yet chose to shoot from the halfway line, he lost quite a lot of his rating for me. I am worried about Wigan this year, I like the way they play but without that N'Zogbia style player I think they will be in trouble with relegation, he was the difference for them last year and without him they will go down. I do not hold much hope for Norwich, I feel that without a doubt they will go down at the end of the year.

Man of the match - Hoolahan for me, always on the end of a Norwich cross and causing a lot of trouble for the Wigan defence.

Fulham 0 - 0 Aston Villa

Judging by the scoreline you'd think that the goalkeepers did very well for their respective team. However I think this match was more about wasted opportunities than amazing saves. Given did make a couple of good saves in the 2nd half though but I do think the Fulham players that had the attempts could have done a lot better. Both of these teams should be aiming for Europa League football and you have to think that in theory they have enough quality to reach it, but I think Villa will come up quite short, finishing around 10th. Fulham could reach that spot, I think that they will not but they have a chance.

Man of the match - Given, not because he played particularly well but because he was the best of a bad bunch.