Posts Tagged ‘ BPL ’

Weekend Review

-by D 

Football is a curious game isn’t it. In the result-orientated world of football and to a lesser extent, life, it’s not about the number of chances that one creates or the manner in which the opportunity is born, it is about whether we make those chances count. United, Spurs and Blackburn did whilst Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Fernando Torres did not.

For Arsenal, their defensive fragility and puzzling inability to defend set pieces saw them throw away a game that they had in the bag. One would have thought purchasing an experienced 6’7 German international in Per Mertersacker would solve their woes at the back.
Blackburn certainly didn’t think so and took full advantage of the London side’s weakness at the back as the Yak( see what i did with the rhyme) and Martin Olsson pummeled them with strength and pace. Not that Yakubu’s deft opener was about any of that but still, it doesn’t take much to breach Arsenal’s defence these days.
Stars players may come and go, but this lack of defensive solidity has been a chronic issue that will continue to deny them success. How Wenger and Arsenal fans must have hoped that the opposing centre-back pairing of Scott Dann and the man-mountain, Christopher Samba, were in the red and white instead of the blue and white.
Still, it was nice to see Wenger maintain his sense of humour, as he quipped, “We scored six goals and lost”. Following another pathetic fantasy week, I’m incapable of such graciousness.
As Arsenal’s self-implosion continues to evolve, lovers of schadenfreude should turn their attention to Liverpool’s faltering revolution.
A 4-0 defeat to a potential top-four contender after having two men sent off for silly fouls and your best defender hauled off due to injury in the first-half was the stuff of nightmares for Liverpool fans.
Utterly slow off the blocks and lacking any form of attacking impetus, Liverpool got what they deserved. A few glaring tactical flaws, which in fairness, are only apparent on hindsight, cost Dalglish’s side dearly.
Although Gareth Bale has had a quiet season so far, that lad still can run exceedingly fast. Like real fast. If there were a time to play Dirk Kuyt on the right, this would be it. Especially so if your right-back is a centre-back and even more so if your team goes down to 10 men.
Kenny goes ahead and plays Andy Carroll on the right after Charlie Adam’s sending off. Martin Skrtel and Andy Carroll could not be any squarer pegs in round holes.
Naturally, Liverpool were torn apart by a swashbuckling Spurs side who look like they have gotten over their teething problems. A huge part of their rejuvenation is down to the purchase of Scott Parker, whose tenacity, experience and defensive nous has given their top-heavy side of attacking talents a nice balance.
Just ask Luka Modric, who had the freedom to roam forward and unleash a stunner from 20 yards out past a hapless Reina thanks to Parker’s steady presence behind him.
Further, Emmanuel Adebayor is still in the stage at his new club when his actually gives a damn and a Adebayor who puts in the effort is a pretty scary proposition for any defender. His hold-up play, distribution and finishing was simply exceptional.
And speaking of teams which are on the rise, the top dog for the past twenty years, Manchester United, continue to show how its done. Its hard for me to even type this but its true.
Demonstrating their new brand of intricate passing football, which is fused with Ferguson’s traditionally strong emphasis on wing-play and carried out at breakneck speed, United won the game in a ruthlessly clinical manner – three goals were scored from three attempts in the first-half.
The first, an emphatic header from a wonderfully whipped cross that appeared a tad offside but was never going to be ruled out because well, it’s Old Trafford and Manchester United, they will do whatever they want.
However, there is no doubting the veracity of the second goal, which has to be one of the goals of the season as Nani gently took down a 40-yard cross field ball, slalomed past three players and rifled it into the top corner from 25 yards out.
That, my friends, is how you strike a ball.
The third was slightly fortuitous -a hashed clearance by John Terry ricocheted off a Chelsea defender into the path of an unmarked Wayne Rooney-  but irrelevant because they put the ball in the back of the net and that’s all that matters.
Which is why Ramires and to a larger extent Fernando Torres, will be rueing their respectively glaring misses for years to come. Chelsea were the better side for most parts of the game but sadly, results aren’t determined by the means.
Games are won and lost and limited chances and the only reason that United and Sir Alex have been at the top of the game is because they take those chances. Winners do that.
And as we welcome yet another miserable week of work and League Cup football, it seems that the ultimate winner is English football. Like Manchester United, they are a brand that never fails to deliver. Exhilarating, high-quality action week in, week out.
Until next week then chaps.

Top 10 Transfer-Deadline Deals

Lille's newly recruit Joe Cole poses with his new shirt

-by M

Deadline days are always hectic and full of drama. Its the day where months of speculation are finally put to an end. Its the day where fans become realistically optimistic about their team’s prospects for the next 9 months, when new players are snapped up at either bargains or hugely-inflated prices. Last season we saw Redknapp make arguably the buy of the season in the form of Rafael Van der Vaart for 8 million pounds. What drama unfolded this season? While this season was considerably mellow considering the madness that took place the last few seasons, we have compiled a list of what we feel are the top 10 transfer-deadline deals of 2011/12.

Craig Bellamy (Manchester City —-> Liverpool)

Bellamy, much like Barton, is one who polarizes opinions. Its either you love him, or you hate him. And Liverpool fans do love him. While he’s not the guy with the best temperament or PR skills, his pace and ability is apparent to all and Liverpool fans will not forget the night he scored against Barcelona and celebrated with a golf club swing in mockery of his bust up with ex-colleague John Arne Riise. Frozen out at City, there were rumours that he wanted to go back to his native Wales to play for Cardiff. However, when Liverpool came knocking, there was no way Bellamy would have settled for any other club. The question now is, with such a mobile attack in the form of Suarez, Kuyt and Bellamy, where will Carroll fit in amongst all of this?

Mikel Arteta (Everton —-> Arsenal) 

It wasn’t a good day for Everton fans as they lost Jermaine Beckford to Leicester (see below) and talismanic midfielder Arteta to Arsenal, leaving them with a substantially thin squad. For Arsenal, who were the most active team yesterday, this will go some way to soften the blow of Fabregas’ departure. While Arteta is not quite as good as Cesc Fabregas, he brings the same kind of awareness and vision to the team. We’ve already seen Nasri and Young move up a higher level after moving to a stronger team, could Arteta prove to be the next revelation this season? Or will he be the 12million pound failure that  Wenger bought out of desperation? Arsenal fans will certainly hope he will be the former.

Owen Hargreaves (Free Agent —-> Manchester City)

You’ve absolutely no idea how much man love I have for Hargreaves and his curly hair. As a United fan, it sickens me to see one of England’s best midfielders (on his day and injury-free) leave our club and join City. Yet, this is an important transfer for both club and player. By signing Hargreaves, they now have substantial cover in the defensive-midfield role occupied by Barry and De Jong. With De Jong’s propensity to get cautioned in almost every game and Barry, being Barry, to be able to call upon Hargreaves as backup is a huge boost. As for Hargreaves, a player of his calibre should be playing for a team playing European football. City is undoubtedly a team who will be challenging on all fronts this season and he will be able to get several games under his belt to aid his fitness. For all you know, he may be pushing for a first-team place this time next season. Of course, the key is his fitness. If he is as fit as he claims to be, he will be an absolute monster in midfield for them. If not, he might just fade away like a certain Michael Johnson (remember him?).

Raul Meireles (Liverpool —-> Chelsea)

This was one I that struck me out of the blue despite the fact that he was no longer first choice in midfield for Liverpool after the summer arrivals of Downing, Henderson and Adam. Meireles had a fantastic second half of the season for Liverpool last year and scored against Chelsea. In Meireles, Chelsea have bought a proven midfielder who can play alongside Lampard in midfield, with Ramires as the holding midfielder. While he might not be as good as Ballack or Deco, he brings much-needed creativity to a Chelsea side that is evidently in need of some.

Joe Cole (Liverpool —-> Lille)

We all expected Joe Cole to leave Liverpool in this transfer window but it is his destination that has surprised many. Most expected the Englishman to leave Liverpool for a mid-table BPL team like West Bromwich or Aston Villa, however he has signed for French champions, Lille on a season-long loan. The absolute kicker: He’s the only Liverpool player who will be playing in the Champions League this season.

Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid —-> Inter Milan)

With Samuel Eto’o leaving the club to play football where money grows on trees (thats the only reason he’s being paid 300,000 pounds per week), Inter have swooped for Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan, who has consistently been within the top few goalscorers in La Liga. With no disrespect to Atletico, Forlan can now move on to greater things and rightfully challenge for European honours, considering his ability. It will also be interesting to see how Forlan adapts to Serie A, having not played there before.

Scott Parker (West Ham —->Tottenham Hotspur)

Scotty Parker must have a penchant for London clubs, having spent a large portion of his career with Charlton, Chelsea, West Ham and now, Tottenham. For Spurs, the arrival of Parker brings much needed steel into a fragile midfield spine. With Palacios shipped off to Stoke and Sandro the only defensive midfielder in the team, Parker brings quality into the squad and will probably walk straight into the starting XI, such is the man’s quality and Spurs’ lack of in the centre of the park. A midfield trio of Parker, Modric and Van der Vaart is good enough to mix with the best of English football.

Bryan Ruiz (FC Twente —-> Fulham)

We here at FP will be the first to put our hands up and acknowledge that we have no idea who this fella is. But looking at Fulham’s situation, a striker is exactly what Martin Jol needs. 1 goal in 3 games in which they have won the square root of bugger all is not good enough for Fulham’s standards. Bryan Ruiz’s 6 goals in the 2011 Gold Cup suggests he is capable of delivering the goods and he was part of McClaren’s title-winning FC Twente side, starting 20 times and scoring 7 goals. Fulham fans will be hoping he will improve on that record.

Jermaine Beckford (Everton —-> Leicester City)

A man fast-tracked into the Premier League, moving from Leeds United to Everton last season. He has now moved back down to the Championship level to join Leicester City to aid them in their bid for promotion. Quite why Everton were willing to let Beckford go is something only Moyes knows. A squad already ravaged by injuries and plagued with injury-prone strikers, Beckford would have played a big part in the current campaign. He has already shown he has quality to cut it at the very top, with the strike against Bolton and his solitary effort against Chelsea last season stand out goals for him(see here and here). If he is capable of reproducing such quality on a regular basis, Leicester City may be playing with the big boys come August 2012.

Manchester United Tear Arsenal A New One

-by M with help from D

As Howard Webb blew his whistle to signal the end of the game,  there were no wild scenes of celebration by Manchester United players. Despite beating arch-rivals Arsenal by a record scoreline of 8-2.

It was almost as if the dire situation Arsenal F.C are currently in dampened the celebratory mood amongst the players. Somber handshakes were interchanged and consolatory pats on the back of Arsenal players were dished out by the United players. One wonders what kind words Wayne Rooney offered to Wojciech Szczensy then.

The bigger question however, still persists- how does Arsene Wenger lift his team up from such a terrible, morale-sucking defeat? It was not as if Arsenal were expected to come away with a result against a United side who were so rampant against Tottenham last weekend.

Devastated by injuries and suspensions to key players, coming away from Old Trafford with a point would still have been realistic after a confidence-boosting mid-week win over Udinese that secured the North London’s side entry to the Champions League group stages.

However, even the most pessimistic Arsenal fans would not have been able to imagine the kind of punishment United were about to dish out on their side. Rihanna’s “S&M” comes to mind for Arsenal fans looking for a song to accompany the repeat telecast.

The gulf in class was encapsulated by the polarizing benches both teams set out. United’s bench oozed of quality and experience. Being able to call upon a substitutes such as Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, Park Ji Sung, Fabio, Javier Hernandez and Anders Lindegaard was simply frightening.

On the opposite end, Arsenal’s bench of Lukasz Fabianski, Marouane Chamakh, Henri Lansbry, Gilles Sunu, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ignasi Miquel and Oguzhan Ozyajup was frightening as well; for the Arsenal fan that is.

And as the match began, the gulf in class became a chasm.

The tone of the match was set in the first 10-15 minutes as United were clearly the dominant force in the game. Despite being outnumbered in the engine room, the energetic duo of Cleverley and Anderson completely outran the patched-up midfield trio of Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin.

After Welbeck nodded in the opening goal after Arsenal’s backline failed to clear their lines quick enough, Arsenal fans knew that they were in for a long night.

Having said that, Arsenal had their chances. After Walcott was felled in the box by Jonny Evans, Van Persie had the chance to level the scoreline only for his dreadful penalty to be saved by David De Gea. Had the Dutchman levelled the proceedings then, the game may not have slipped away as drastically as it did.

And if you don’t take your chances at Old Trafford, the Red Devils will punish you. The irrepressible Ashley Young trotted up the pitch soon after and unleashed a screamer from 20 yards out that bent past Szczesny and into the top left hand corner.

From then on, the flood gates were well and truly opened. Rooney made it 3-0 with a delightful freekick in to the top corner before Walcott somehow managed to squeeze a shot through De Gea’s legs to make it 3-1 before the break.

The Spanish goalkeeper had a decent game in goal but was once again culpable for conceding Arsenal’s first goal. If there was a chink in United’s armour, De Gea has to be it.

Arsenal threatened United in the first few minutes of the second half, prompting optimistic Arsenal fans to hope for what would have been an amazing comeback. However, Rooney dashed the Gunners’ hopes with another brilliantly executed free kick. Whatever Wenger said in the dressing room at half-time became irrelevant.

In a 6 minute blitz thereafter, Nani produced a cheeky dink over Szczesny to make it 5-1 before Park, who was barely on the pitch for 5 minutes, tucked the ball into the bottom of the net with a left foot finish.

Van Persie’s goal was scant consolation for the Gunners as Carl Jenkinson, who is clearly not ready to play week in week out for Arsenal yet, was sent off for hauling down Hernandez. Rooney sealed his hat-trick from the penalty spot before Young, who must surely be United’s man of the match despite Rooney’s hat-trick, finished the scoring with another sublime curler from the edge of the box.

So where do both teams go from here now?

For Manchester United, the skies, or Barcelona, seem to be the limit. Ruthless, free-flowing and intricate passing football played at a breakneck pace characterizes United’s play while promising youngsters in Welbeck, Cleverly, Jones and Smalling continue to shine.

For Arsenal, the pressure just keeps mounting. Lying 17th in the table with eight senior players out due to injuries and suspensions, a beckoning international week is not what they need as there is as good as a chance as any that key players such as Robin van Persie will return injured.

Furthermore, two wins from the last 14 matches since their Carling Cup meltdown suggest that their slump started way before the season begun.

Having said that, it is still early days and the footballing fratenity’s propensity to celebrate and panic is irrationally high. Time will tell if United’s class of 2011 is the greatest of them all but Wenger may not be able to stay that long to see that.

10 Conclusions: Arsenal vs Liverpool

Raul Meireles and Luis Suarez Share a Moment Together After Combining for Liverpool's Second. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images

-by D

1)      Liverpool were disciplined as they held their shape well and cut off Arsenal’s supply from the flanks, thus isolating a frustrated Robin Van Persie. Although Samir Nasri made a few dangerous forays through the middle, Reina was not really tested throughout. It was telling that a moment of ill-discipline cost Arsenal the game.

 

2)      Anyway, if anyone would like to know how M plays football, one does not have to look further than Jose Enrique.

 

Boasting a similarly muscular physique, the former Newcastle left-back put in an solid display- comfortably dealing with the threat of the swift but woeful Theo Walcott and consistently providing an attacking threat down the left flank. Liverpool’s left-back woes appear to be over.

 

You’re welcome M

 

3)      Shameless displays of guy love and back scratching aside, Liverpool were admittedly lucky to come away with the win.

 

Up till Frimpong’s unnecessary challenge, a makeshift Arsenal side matched Liverpool in every department. Whatever they lacked in experience certainly was not evident as Liverpool were restricted to futilely lumping the ball towards the direction of Andy Carroll.

 

If Van Persie had converted from 6 yards out and Balotelli’s twin did not lunge into Lucas (sounds wrong doesn’t it), Arsenal could have very well won the game. Still, discipline counts and pays off.

 

4)      And if they did, Thomas Vermaelen would have been the man-of-the-match. The Belgium international was bloody immense for the Gunners- snuffing out the much bigger Andy Carroll while guiding his makeshift backline that featured two 19-year-olds making their Barclays Premier League debuts.

 

Perhaps they biggest compliment one could pay him for his remarkable performance is that he suddenly made Arsenal ballsy. Who would have known.

 

5)      Speaking of ballsy-ness, Emmanuel Frimpong, Carl Jenkinson and Ignasi Miquel have lots of it. In Frimpong’s case, perhaps a bit too much.

 

Nevertheless the three 19-year-olds acquitted themselves well, putting up solid performances in their virgin Barclays Premier League game ( well frimpong played 30 minutes against Newcastle but let’s just take it as it’s his “first” time for a flowing sentence). Yes, Frimpong was brash. And yes Jenkinson played Suarez onside for the first goal. But we tend to forget how young these players are and their respective displays play testament to their undeniable talent.

 

Most importantly, they make us feel bad about ourselves. What were you doing at 19?

 

6)      And while we are on the topic of youngsters, Martin Kelly did pretty well didn’t he. Replacing the still slightly raw John Flanagan, Kelly carried on where he left off last season, when a hamstring injury curtailed his impressive run.

He kept Andrei Arshavin and Bacary Sagna quiet throughout while giving Liverpool attacking thrust on the right flank with surging runs. More importantly, he appears to be a better defender than Glen Johnson. The England international right-back should be worried for his spot in both the Liverpool and national team.

 

7)       Which is really a testament to Liverpool’s new-found squad depth. Even without Steven Gerrard, Fabio Aurelio and Glen Johnson, Dalglish was still able to put up a strong starting line-up and send on Raul Meireles and Luis Suarez off the bench, who proceeded to set up both goals.

 

Juxtaposed with last season when Liverpool could only muster Joe Cole and David Ngog to turn the tide, it’s a far, far cry in terms of quality. A pity that Alberto Aquilani was not given a chance though.

 

8)      It’s very presumptuous and premature but Andy Carroll doesn’t seem to fit in with Dalglish’s pass and move philosophy, which calls for Liverpool to play a high-tempo game with plenty of quick passes and swift movement.

 

Just like how the more mobile Hernandez and Welbeck are preferred over Berbatov over at Manchester United, Carroll may not be the man for Dalglish’s revolution. However, like I said, it’s very early and as such, I’d love to be proven wrong as the season goes by and Carroll gets fitter.

 

9)      My rage at Carroll stems from his pithy returns for my fantasy football league. No goals and assists and a bloody yellow card in two games for 10million pounds is really costing me. So forgive me if I do sound irrational.

 

10)  Back to the rational stuff. Without Luis Suarez, the Merseyside club appear to lack invention and penetration in the final third. An over-reliance on the Uruguay international to win them games may prove to be an issue.

 

While Steven Gerrard’s return may ease Liverpool’s dependence on Suarez to clinch matches, big money buys such as Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson must alleviate the burden. A two-man team, as we all know, brings you no where.

 

11)And it is not all gloom and doom for Arsenal. The Gunners were unlucky to leave the Emirates without a single point as a patched up side matched an expensively assembled Liverpool side blow for blow throughout. If not for Frimpong’s brashness and Aaron Ramsey’s terribly unfortunate own-goal, the result may have gone Arsenal’s way.

 

If Vermalean, Szczesny, Wilshere, Ramsey, Sagna, Song and Van Persie manage to stay fit while starlets such as Frimpong, Jenkinson and Miquel continue to develop Arsenal still could get something out of this season. It is still early days mind you.

 

12) Which is why Liverpool fans should not start to hail this game as the second coming. Again. Let’s take it one game at a time guys.

 

13) Does anyone else miss Linda Pizzutti?

 

10 Conclusions: Sunderland vs Newcastle

-by M

  • In a game that started off so promisingly for Sunderland, they must be left kicking themselves for not capitalizing on what was a whirlwind start for them. They were out of the blocks faster and were quicker to every ball and winning most of the challenges against Newcastle who appeared to be stunned.
  • Definitely a Newcastle penalty. Larsson may not have intentionally handled the ball but the reality of the matter was he denied what would have been a Newcastle goal. How the linesman missed that is one question only he can answer. Could it be because Sunderland were the home team? Or just maybe he had Larsson on his fantasy team.
  • It’s funny how quickly a game of football can be changed after one single event. It seemed as if Sunderland were a little rattled after nearly conceding a penalty that they backed off a little and allowed Newcastle into the game. From then on, it was a keenly contested game right to the final whistle.
  • Did anyone else catch a glimpse of that awkward moment when Sessegnon was kneeling in front of Pardew and Pardew had both his hands on his head? (you will, it will definitely be on one of the leading sports websites)
  • Ryan Taylor is a lucky, lucky boy. If he had connected with his elbow on Gyan in the first half, he would have undoubtedly been sent off. However, he escaped punishment and scored the winning goal. Newcastle fans must be silently relieved that Taylor did not make contact on Gyan with his flailing elbow and that Webb did not catch the Newcastle man red-handed.
  • How Cabaye got away with his challenge on Phil Bardsley I will never know. His studs were showing, he was going at speed and caught the Sunderland full-back. The only probable reason was that Webb did not want to send a player off so early in the game given the game was a derby.  That challenge anywhere else might have seen a straight red for the Frenchman.
  • So in a sense, Phil Bardsley’s second yellow was somewhat fortuitous. It was a similar challenge as Cabaye’s on Gutierrez. Studs showing, foot high, sliding in at speed. Bardsley should consider himself lucky it was not a straight red.
  • Mignolet’s positioning has to be questioned for Newcastle goal. He was caught in no man’s land and misjudged the flight of the ball completely. While it was a good delivery by Ryan Taylor, Mignolet should have done better.
  • What is Lee Cattermole’s purpose on the field? It seems as if his sole aim in the game is to hack down as many opposition players as possible. The ‘Makelele’ role has gained some prominence in recent years but Cattermole is no Makelele. How some England fans can call for Cattermole to be in their team is beyond belief.
  • That said, was waiting for something to happen with Cattermole and Barton on the pitch. Afterall, what’s a derby without a little scrap?