Top 10 Summer Transfers so far

by M, because nothing is more exciting than new players coming in during the summer

As the new season kicks off in approximately a day or two(depending on your timezone), my life also starts again. D and I, along with millions of other football fanatics around the world, have been pretty much in hibernation as the football season took a break during June-August and we’re delighted that the season is now about to get underway.

As us mere mortals were going about our usual business during the months of summer, football clubs have been busy trying to strengthen their squad with new players. Here is our list of top 10 summer transfers in the EPL. (because there’s only 2 of us and lets face it, the EPL is the most popular/exciting league in the world because no one wants to see Barcelona clean out another 10-0 every weekend). In no particular order, here are the top 10 transfers of the EPL:

Ben Foster (Birmingham -> West Brom, Loan)

A few years ago, Foster was on the cusp of becoming Manchester United’s first choice custodian. A couple of high-profile mistakes later, he was subsequently shipped off to Birmingham, where he failed to keep the Midland clubs in the Premier League despite his heroics in goal. Only 28 years old, he is barely in his prime, particularly in the position he plays. His arrival at West Brom, albeit temporarily, strengthens their defence significantly, especially after the transfer of Scott Carson. Roy Hodgson will undoubtedly look to make it a permanent deal at the end of the season, particularly if Foster saves the club some precious points during the course of it which he definitely will.

Ashley Young (Aston Villa -> Manchester United, 16m)

The statistics don’t lie. Out of the players still plying their trade in the Premier League, only Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fabregas have had a higher assist rate than the England International. What United have bought is a proven and consistent winger who is capable of providing a steady supply of crosses from out wide, corners and free-kicks into the box as he has already shown in the Community Shield against Manchester City at the weekend. While it is argued that United require a creative central midfielder more urgently than another wide player, his acquisition will provide United strength in depth. He will be particularly useful on days when United seemingly have trouble breaking down lesser opposition.

Stewart Downing (Aston Villa -> Liverpool, 19m)

Liverpool fans have been crying out for an out-and-out winger for ages ( I know because I’ve been exposed to D’s incessant whines regarding this matter). It has finally arrived in the shape of Stewart Downing. 19m may seem a bit steep considering his reputation as a one-trick pony in his earlier days but he has blossomed into a fine left winger at Aston Villa. Considering the last proper winger Liverpool have had was the Spaniard Albert Riera, Liverpool’s best acquisition this summer might be the 19m signing of Downing especially when you consider the idea of King Kenny deploying Andy Carroll as a target man.

Shay Given (Manchester City -> Aston Villa, 3.5m)

It is ironic how one of the best goalkeepers in the league if not the world, had never played for a big club (sorry Newcastle fans) and when he did, was benched after one good season with them. Given’s transfer to Aston Villa is exactly what both the club and player needs. Villa needed a reliable stopper after the departure of the ageing Brad Friedel and Given needed a club where he could play week in week out. With no disrespect to Friedel, Given’s arrival will fortify the Villans’ defence even more. On his day, the Irish international is virtually unbeatable. Although already 35, he still has a good 2-3 years of playing time in him and 3.5m seems like a bargain for a goalkeeper of his calibre and experience.

Demba Ba (West Ham -> Newcastle, Free)

As Pardew attempts to start a French revolution at St. James, his most important acquisition this summer may be the arrival of Demba Ba. Newcastle has urgently needed a striker of his calibre ever since the departure of Andy Carroll, also known as Judas or who*e amongst the Toon Army now. While the money of Carroll’s sale was not used in the investment of Demba Ba, it makes Pardew’s acquisition of him even more impressive. Demba Ba’s 7 goals in 12 appearances for West Ham might not have saved the Hammers from relegation but his performances have shown that he is capable of cutting the mustard at the top flight. He will undoubtedly play more than the 12 games he had for West Ham and Newcastle fans must surely hope that he scores much more than the 7 goals he had last season.

Jonathan Woodgate (Tottenham -> Stoke, Free)

This is a bit of a contentious one. At first glance, signing Woodgate is a bit of a gamble. His injury record is probably longer than this very article yet if not for them injuries, we all know what a classy and brilliant defender he would have turned out to be. Woodgate may be injury-prone to say the least but his arrival will bring experience to the Stoke defence and while he most certainly will not play every week, his class and ability will benefit the Potters’, especially against quality opposition.

Sebastian Larsson (Birmingham -> Sunderland, Free)

Sunderland have been busy bees this summer. Having picked up United’s unwanted scraps in the form of John O’Shea and Wes Brown and a whole lot of other players, Bruce’s acquisition of Larsson on a free transfer may be his best one this summer. Sebastian Larsson has proved that he is more than capable of putting in a cross. A proven professional, his ability at dead-ball situations is well known. Considering the departure of Steed Malbranque, Jordan Henderson and Boudewijn Zenden, Sunderland are short in numbers in midfield and to be able to add a player of Larsson’s quality to the team might be crucial to Sunderland’s performance this season.

Ali Al-Habsi (Bolton -> Wigan, Undisc.)

It is a pity that Al-Habsi’s rival for the No.1 shirt at Bolton is the ever-present Jussi Jaaskelainen. After warming the bench at the Reebok for awhile, Al-Habsi’s loan move to Wigan showed us his ability. He saved the Latics points throughout the season and was one of the key reasons behind their survival in the top flight. Martinez has now made the move permanent and that means we all will never have to see Chris Kirkland in goal in the Premier League again.

Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid -> Manchester City, 38m)

Probably the highest profile summer arrival to the Premier League this summer. While every Tom, Dick and Harry are clamouring for a move to sunny Spain, Aguero has traded Madrid for Manchester in a 38m deal. City has signed a proven player in the man popularly known as ‘Kun’. A player in the mould of Carlos Tevez, City’s want-away captain and idol, his all action style of play will be warmly greeted by the fans. If he plays as we have seen him play in the La Liga, City fans will be chanting ‘Tevez who?’ by the middle of the season.

Jose Enrique (Newcastle -> Liverpool, 6m)

Liverpool fans will be particularly happy with this transfer. Jose Enrique is a quality left back as he had shown at his time with Newcastle. Physically strong and blessed with good technique, Liverpool’s left wing looks more than decent with the Spaniard at the back and the much-improved Stewart Downing (who is also featured in this article). A whole lot better than Paul Konchesky, 6m for Jose Enrique seems to be the bargain of the transfer window, never mind the fact that he has only one year left on his Newcastle contract. While Liverpool’s central defence still requires some sorting out, Jose Enrique’s addition will be a much-needed boost to Liverpool’s backline.

The Silver Lining of Football

-by D

Football is a major part of most of our lives. After all, if you are reading this article, you are probably a football fan.

And like a good number of football fans, the Barclays Premier League is likely to be the league that one follows.

While top European leagues such as the Bundesliga and La Liga may arguably be superior to the Barclays Premier League in terms of competitiveness and technical ability respectively, England’s top-flight football still commands the greatest worldwide following.

Therefore, a palpable sense of disappointment could be felt after the release of the following statement from the Premier League and Football League with regards to the horrendous riots in London and several parts of England.

“We are in ongoing discussions with our London-based clubs, the Metropolitan Police and statutory authorities in regard to the staging of the coming weekend’s fixtures in the capital.

“The Metropolitan Police has conveyed to us the dynamic nature of the current situation and with that in mind all parties will review the situation on Thursday and make a further public statement at that time.

And following the postponement of the Everton-Tottenham game, where does that leave us poor souls? How will our fantasy teams survive? Will we face yet another weekend of replaying YouTube videos of last season’s best goals?

It has been 76 days since that cracking Champions League final in Wembley and whilst international-football tournaments, pre-season games and transfer gossip have occupied us since, nothing is quite the same as the Barclays Premier League is it?

Owner of QPR, Bernie Ecclestone, is equally disappointed as most fans.

“It [the postponement] sends a terrible message to the rest of the world,” Ecclestone told the BBC.

“Would we want to take a risk? It’s a difficult decision to make.”

Ecclestone’s worries are understandable; partially given that his London based club would be raring to kick-off their first top flight appearance in 15 years. It is exciting as much as it is lucrative for the club.

While more disappointment may ensue for club owners and fans alike, there is a slight measure of comfort that one can feel from the disruption- a display of societal awareness and maturity by a few footballing figures.

The England defender is an active participant on Twitter

Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand deserves praise for measured remarks made on Twitter following the cancellation of a scheduled international friendly.

“England vs Holland game is off, good call. Who wants to see a game of football when our country is in turmoil,” the former England captain tweeted.

“I can’t tell the youths exactly what to do but stealing tv’s + trainers+burning innocent peoples houses+shops aint solving nothing at all.”

In juxtaposition, footballers have used Twitter in petulant and irresponsible manners before -Ryan Babel’s photo of Howard Webb in a Manchester United Jersey and Joey Barton’s public lashing of the Newcastle management come to mind.

Of course, the ridiculous amounts of money they earn perpetuate the general impression of Barclays Premier League footballers as, well, twits.

Which is why “rioferdy5’s” comments are refreshing because they give some hope that they are levelheaded individuals around in top-flight football.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce, whose comments about referees and injuries are sometimes construed as whining, portrayed a similar level of class.

“I hope it won’t affect this first fixture, but we’ll be governed by the authorities,” Bruce told Sky Sports News.

“It’s a problem which society has got and I’ll echo what everybody else thinks who’s seen this outrage.”

“It’s sad and disappointing to see people on the rampage like that. I hope the Premier League can start and bring a bit of peace and normality to it, because you don’t want to see these scenes we’ve witnessed.

There is a sense of respect and understanding that the tumult in England is way bigger than football. Regardless of how massive English football is, this shared acceptance of what takes precedence in such trying times is pretty commendable.

Cynics may dismiss the reactions as PR-friendly statements or simply remarks that any civic-minded citizen would echo. In fact, they very well might be.

Rather, such sensibility stands in stark contrast with summer incidents such as Mario Balotelli’s puerile bottle-throwing following his substitution that was induced by an audacious but failed back-flick, the ridiculous post-match brawl following the Venezuela-Peru Copa America semi-final, the FIFA bribery allegations and of course, overly self-indulgent transfer sagas.

Eventually, Barclays Premier League games will go on and the childishness will return. Yet, it is warming to know that there are plenty of mature heads and humility in football still.

For many of the innocent individuals whose lives have been tarnished by acts of sheer irresponsibility and mindlessness, football will not fill the voids in their lives.

However, for English football fans and more importantly, for those affected, football will soon return and provide a welcome distraction.

And that is a silver lining we can all look towards to.

United Show Champion’s Mettle to Shush the Noisy Neighbours

Nani nets a last-gasp winner as he capitalizes on Kompany's mistake

Not many were fooled by Sir Alex Ferguson’s pre-match comments. “It’s very easy to get emotional about this type of game but I don’t think we’ll be changing our policy,” Ferguson said. Yet, the joy and relief on the Scotsman’s face was all too apparent after Nani scored the winner in dramatic fashion in the dying minutes of the game.

In what was a thrilling encounter, United came back from 2-0 down at half time to win 3-2 with a goal by Smalling and a brace by Nani, with the equalizer a particularly tasty goal, cancelling out first half strikes by Lescott and Dzeko.

It seemed as if it was not going to be United’s day. Having dominated most of the first half, they found themselves 2-0 down at the break thanks to goals from Lescott and Dzeko. Yet, in true United fashion, they launched a comeback worthy of winning any game (bar the CL final considering how awesome Barcelona were that day). Ferguson replaced experienced trio Ferdinand, Vidic and Carrick with the youthful Jones, Evans and Cleverley at half time. Whether it was a masterstroke or merely Ferguson trying to downplay the importance most fans have placed on the game, only the man will know but the introduction of the trio sparked United back to life.

United’s comeback was initiated after Smalling tapped home Young’s pinpoint delivery from a freekick, with Young proving why United were willing to spend big money on him. Cleverley was imperious in midfield, combining vision and energy as he kept United ticking, winning the United faithful over with each pass and tackle. United’s equalizer came after a passage of play that even Xavi and Iniesta et al would have been proud of. A series of intricate one-touch passing and flicks between Rooney, Nani and the brilliant Cleverley released the Portugese in the box and he had no qualms, finishing into the top corner with a cheeky chip over Joe Hart.

The comeback was complete when a speculative clearance by Rooney gave Nani the chance to bear down on Kompany who made a rare mistake and gifted the ball to the Portugese International who duly rounded Hart and slotted the ball home into an empty net.

United fans would have been delighted with their team’s showing, particularly in the second half. The introduction of youngsters Jones, Evans and Cleverley brought hunger and drive into the team which culminated in United’s second half comeback. Cleverley was particularly impressive. His vision and drive achieved what Carrick could not as he kept United’s engine running. Spreading the play and winning the ball back, Cleverley made United fans forget for 45 minutes that they did not have a Ginger Ninja pulling the strings in midfield anymore. Smalling was equally impressive at right back. Normally a centre-back, he performed his defensive duties well and linked up well with Nani as United bombed forward in the second half.

On the back of this performance, there will be much to look forward to this season for the United faithful. The fact that they came back from 2-0 down against what was a strong City side (who, admittedly, did not play the best football) without the likes of Vidic, Berbatov and Carrick must have pleased both Ferguson and the supporters.

City may have the money to spend and they might ultimately prove to be United’s strongest challengers this season. But for now, there is still only one club in Manchester and it is the red of United.

Ashley Young on Left Makes Perfect Sense

Young has been tipped to start on the left by manager, Ferguson

-by M, with sincere apologies for the delay in publishing. With the season about to begin, be rest assured that articles will come thick and fast. 

Recent comments by Ferguson that Ashley Young will start his United career as a left-sided midfielder has raised alarm bells amongst certain paranoid United fans, with some claiming that it has cast doubts on the future of Nani, Manchester United’s stand out performer last season. However, it is an astute piece of judgement by the manager more than anything else. Playing Ashley Young on the left makes more sense than paying £40 million for a permanently crocked Cesc Fabregas and definitely much more than releasing your best player on a free transfer (See Barton, Joey).

The first reason why deploying Ashley Young makes perfect sense is because Young has largely played on the left for most of his career. At Aston Villa, he made the left winger spot his personal office, chalking up approximately 80 assists in his 5 season there, propelling him to 7th on the all-time Premier League assists chart. Only Ryan Giggs and Cesc Fabregas have a higher assist rate than Young in the Premier League today. To deploy Young anywhere else where he has to adapt may reduce his effectiveness.

Also, some of Nani’s best performances for Manchester United last season have been when he has started on the right, rather than the left. His quick feet and oscar winning play acting abilities left many a left back dazzled last season and when Antonio Valencia came back into the team and he was shunted to the left, it seemed as if he became less effective. Its probably not due to the fact that he does not have a left foot considering he scored more goals with his left rather than his right foot. It is not to say that Nani is not up to the task when placed on the left. The Portugese international is more than capable of beating his man and putting in a tantalizing cross or having a strike at goal. However, it is clear that the Portugese is more effective on the right. During the period when Valencia was injured, Nani managed 9  goals and 10 assists in 26 games and upon Valencia’s return when Nani was subsequently played predominantly on the left, he only managed a measly total of 1 assist and no goals.

With Young on the left, there is now greater competition for the right winger spot which can only be good for the team. Out of the 4 established wingers in the squad, only Valencia seems to be the least comfortable on the left, with Young, Park and Nani all more than adequate in that position. Add to that the emergence of Danny Welbeck after his successful loan spell at Sunderland last campaign and Manchester United have some serious serious quality and depth in their advance wide positions.

All in all, starting Ashley Young on the left seems like a fairly straightforward, if not astute decision. Playing him anywhere else might reduce the player’s effectiveness and since Nani seems more comfortable on the right rather than on the left, there is no need for United fans to hyperventilate and pass out at the thought of Nani leaving the club. If anything, this has served to strengthen the club and if all else fails, Ferguson can simply choose Nani over Young can’t he?

 

How will Liverpool Shape Up in 2011/12?

The Messiah's Return Rejuvenated the Kop Last Season

-by D, we apologize for the long delay between articles

These are exciting times for Liverpool fans.

Stewart Downing’s arrival has taken Merseyside club’s 2011 transfer spending past the £100million mark.

Principal owner John W Henry promised that investments would be made and he has certainly kept his word, supporting Kenny Dalglish’s Anfield revolution in the most practical fashion.

The rosy situation is a far cry from a year ago, when the future of the club was up in the air with the club almost dragged into bankruptcy under the ownership of George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

And Liverpool paid £4.5 million for Lord Voldermort’s half-brother, Paul Konchesky.

Those were dark, dark days.

Fast forward to July 2011. Change has gotten rid of the horcrux who is the unfortunate Konchesky ( I honestly don’t blame him for moving to Liverpool. Who would reject a move to Liverpool except Manchester United and Everton fans) and the feel-good atmosphere that have been lost since the 2008-2009 Barclays Premier League campaign.

It almost seemed like yesterday when Liverpool finished second in the league and recorded memorable trouncings of Real Madrid and Manchester United. Oh how I have missed the Champions League “We are the Champions music”. I played the track on repeat while Liverpool lost 3-1 to West Ham and it just didn’t have the same effect.

In eager anticipation of the 2011-2012 Barclays Premier League season, what should fans expect?

Firstly, a different formation. Having initially toyed with the 5-3-2 and eventually settling for the 4-4-2 towards the end of the 2010-2011 season, the summer purchases hint at a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 for the 2011-2012 campaign.

The back four of Martin Kelly, Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Glen Johnson will be shielding Pepe Reina’s goal if Liverpool do not purchase a left-back. One suspects that a fit Fabio Aurelio and the remarkable maturity of academy products John Flanagan and Jack Robinson may tempt Dalglish not to invest in a seasoned left-back. Emiliano Insua has been outstanding this pre-season and Dalglish may be convinced to give him another chance to revive his Anfield career.

If needed, Agger and Danny Wilson are able to fill in on the left side of defence as well. Nevertheless, an experienced and solid left-back in the shape of Everton’s Leighton Baines and Newcastle’s Jose Enrique would certainly improve the side.

Moving on, Lucas Leiva should expect to retain his place in the side, sitting in front of the defence and breaking down attacks, a role in which the Liverpool player of the year performed with ruthless efficiency last season- he was the Barclays Premier League’s top tackler last season, completing an impressive 111 challenges.

Adam joins Henderson and Downing as the new boys of Liverpool

Playing slightly in front of the Brazilian international would be the new number 26 at Anfield. Adam will be stepping into the massive shoes of Xabi Alonso, whose departure to Real Madrid in 2009 has left a yawning void in midfield that has not been replaced.

Having said that, Adam is not quite the same player as Alonso.

The 6’2 midfielder has a higher propensity move into advanced positions as compared to the Spain international, who prefers to sit deep and dictate play rather than drive the team forward. Given that Steven Gerrard is on the wrong side of 30, the added drive that Adam will provide is definitely welcome.

Last season, his 79 attempted shots ranked him 9th in the Barclays Premier League for the total number of shots taken, ahead of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Darren Bent. Furthermore, 12 league goals and eight assists from midfield imply an inherent attacking impetus.

While the 25-year-old is not quite playing at the same level as Alonso yet, he certainly has the potential to raise his game to the Kop hero’s level. Adam possesses a fantastic passing range, great technical ability and a tremendous work ethic that will serve him well as the responsibility of launching attacks from deep and acting as an outlet for the team lies on his broad shoulders.

More importantly, Adam’s arrival releases the shackles off Steven Gerrard, who will play at the tip of the midfield triangle, just off the centre-forward. The Liverpool captain enjoyed his best season when he played as a support striker off Fernando Torres (sigh). Liverpool scored 107 goals during the 2008/09 campaign and Gerrard either scored or directly created 41 of them.

That’s more than M and I will ever create or score in the next 10 years. With a jellyfish keeping goal.

Moving on, Stewart Downing and Luis Suarez should play on either side of Gerrard.

Possibly the cleanest-cut looking footballer in the Premier League, Downing was the Premier League second top crosser in the 2010-2011 season, with 243 balls delivered into the box over 38 games.The England international, whose left foot is almost as imperious as M’s (you’re welcome mate), the £20million man will give Liverpool the width and pace that they have been missing since Steven McManaman and to a lesser extent, Albert Riera.

And on the right is the biter, the volley ball player and the entertainer known as Luis Suarez. One wonders whether the tricky Uruguayan knows what he is doing when he is dribbling because opponents certainly have no bloody idea. He may be a striker but he loves to drift to the flanks where he uses his pace and trickery to beat players.

The aforementioned players will do their best to provide ammunition to the £35million man, Andy Carroll. The 6’3, 22-year-old is a classic number nine centre-forward, very much in the mould of Alan Shearer and Didier Drogba who will spearhead the Liverpool attack. The powerfully built Newcastle academy product is deceptively skillful and possesses a howitzer of a shot, but Carroll’s forte is clearly his heading ability. The Liverpool and England number 9 has a massive future ahead of him and hopefully he fulfills his potential.

The future looks bright and I pray I will be listening to the Champions League music whilst Steven Gerrard pretends that he knows how to sing it in the very near future.

Liverpool XI: Reina, Kelly, Carragher, Agger, Johnson, Lucas, Adam, Gerrard, Suarez, Downing, Carroll.

To our Readers

We’re currently working on various articles now but due to our busy schedule, its taking longer than expected. Things should pick up again come next week. Till then, hang onto your coat-tails (and keep checking back for updates)!

Regards,

M & D

How will United Shape Up in 2011/12?

Scenes of Joy as United Pick up their 19th Title

-by M, because everyone wants to be the manager and decide the starting XI.

In what was a topsy-turvy season, Manchester United did just about enough to secure their 19th title, fending off the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal. Early on the season, the Red Devils were written off by critics, who felt that Sir Alex had not addressed the problems the team faced, particularly in the centre of the park, where the lack of quality was all too apparent.

But the old maestro proved everyone wrong, winning the Premier League with what many considered to be a team of individuals who were not as brilliant individually or as imperious as previous title-winning sides built by Sir Alex, proving that when it came to winning, teamwork counted more than individual brilliance. Adding Rooney’s transfer request that was soon retracted and the absence of key man Darren Fletcher for months into the mix makes this latest trophy a greater achievement than most will give Sir Alex credit for.

United have wasted no time preparing for their title defence. Young, talented players have been purchased with big money with Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea coming into the side. With United’s net spend hitting 50 million pounds, there seems to be a notion that United will be spending big this season to build a side that is capable of challenging for trophies for the next few years to come, particularly with the FIFA Financial Fairplay rule coming into practice very soon. Jones should be the only one out of the three expected to play a minor role next season, especially if Ferdinand remains fit. De Gea was signed to replace the retiring Edwin Van der Sar while Ashley Young will be looking to make the left wing his personal office.

However, the biggest weakness in this Manchester United side has yet to be addressed. With the retirement of Paul Scholes, the team is screaming out for a creative central midfielder, someone capable of pulling the strings and creating moments of magic when games lie on a knife’s edge. Many potential recruits have been mentioned. Modric of Spurs has been widely tipped to replace Scholes but he has apparently stated his desire to move to Chelsea. Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich is another viable option touted by the media while Wesley Sneijder is the pundits’ favourite to replace the Ginger Ninja next season.

Sneijder has been linked to United

Recent reports have certainly added fuel to the fire. United’s first team coach, Rene Meulesteen, was recently quoted  as saying that Sneijder would be “perfect for Manchester United”. While Inter has insisted Sneijder was not leaving Inter and the man himself has reiterated his happiness in Milan, he has not explicitly ruled out a move to Old Trafford and has, in recent years, declared an interest to play in the red of United. However, whether or not that becomes a reality will depend on whether Sir Alex sees Sneijder as his ideal replacement and if they are able to fend off the interests of Chelsea and City, should Inter decide to sell their Dutch maestro.

There is a genuine sense of excitement around Old Trafford for next season. With classy young talents in the form of Jones, Young and De Gea arriving and deadwood such as Gibson, O’Shea and Bebe leaving, there is a belief amongst United fans that they are on the cusp of another title-winning run. However, this time, they face sterner challengers in the form of cash-rich Manchester City and Chelsea, who will undoubtedly be looking to improve on last season.

Potential Starting XI: David de Gea, Fabio da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Fletcher, Carrick (Sneijder/Schweinsteiger), Young, Rooney, Hernandez