Posts Tagged ‘ Manchester City ’

Manchester is Blue… For Now

-by M

it has taken an utter humiliation to Manchester United to revive this dying site. As United fans wake up today hoping it was all just a very bad dream, it is still early days yet for the title to be decided. City have an outstanding goal difference and are now 5 points clear at the top but have yet to play the teams around them apart from United. A clearer picture will emerge after the busy weeks of Christmas and New Year, but yesterday belonged to the blue side of Manchester.

There is no doubt that the better team won on the day. City went to Old Trafford with a game plan and executed it to perfection in the first half. United had the bulk of possession but did nothing productive with it. Nani and Young were toothless on the wings and the workhorse midfield of Anderson and Fletcher were unable to break down a resolute defensive wall of Toure, Barry, Lescott and Kompany.

After Evans was sent off, the result did not look in doubt but for a brief period of five minutes after Fletcher miraculously emerged from the shadows of the game to plant the ball in the back of the net to make it 3-1. After that, it was just a horror movie for United fans directed and starred by David Silva.

United fans may find the scoreline harsh but in reality, 6-1 was probably reflective of the gulf in class and ability on the day. While United have classy wingers in the form of Young and Nani, a midfield of Anderson and Fletcher will never match up to City’s midfield which is run by the little Spaniard, Silva. Unless Tom Cleverley is the Chosen One, United will do well to add one or two central midfielders into their team come January.

Defensively, Ferguson will have to take a good hard look at his long-serving players. But for a moment of idiocy, Evans was the better defender in the first half with Ferdinand looking decidedly nervous with Aguero keeping him occupied. Stand-in captain, Patrice Evra, had an absolute shocker and as most United fans will tell you, he has been abysmal for a while already. 4 out of 6 of City’s goals came down the left flank of United. For Silva’s goal, Welbeck ended up being where Evra should have been.

Yesterday was in all probability a freak result. However, it is a strong statement of intent by Manchester City that should be heeded by all in the footballing community. Contrary to popular belief, it is looking increasingly likely that money can indeed buy success. Manchester will be painted blue for now. But count on the Red Devils to reclaim the bragging rights at the City of Manchester.

 

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.

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.

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.