Posts Tagged ‘Bale’

The Six Pointer – Complacency, Financial Burdens & more…

23/11/2010

That was the weekend that was.

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1. I don’t know where to start with the north London derby. Cruising at 2-0 going in to half-time, Arsenal had run rings around their neighbours in the first period. A smart tactical change by Redknapp at the break coupled with a complete mental collapse from the Arsenal players resulted in a famous Tottenham comeback.

You can’t even say this was a massive shock, as it’s happened too many times in recent years for it not to be a serious problem. A very good analysis can be found over at Arseblog while there was an interesting post on Arsenal Vision which documented every game where a lead had been lost and Arsenal had not won the match in the last five years.

Déjà vu.

I think it’s a touch unfair to include every instance where 1-0 ended 1-1 but what I found telling was in the last three seasons alone there have been 11 occasions where Arsenal have taken the lead and gone on to concede at least two goals. There in lies the crux, be it through complacency or the fact they haven’t held on against a top side when gaining the advantage.

The fact another game comes tomorrow will give the players an immediate opportunity to make partial amends but this side has a long way to go before it can be considered winners.

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2. Chelsea were pretty unlucky not to have beaten Birmingham with Ben Foster making at least five or six top saves while the defenders in front of him stood firm.

Like Ancelotti said, their problem at the moment is they’re not firing on all cylinders going forward which means they’re vulnerable when conceding (which in turn is currently more likely with their centre-back woes). Drogba has not scored since October 3rd (while admittedly recovering from malaria) while Malouda also has just one goal since late September.

I feel in part this is down to the midfield three they’re forced to regularly play at the moment – Mikel, Ramires & Zhirkov. There’s not much creativity there nor the control that is offered when Lampard and Essien are fit. Lampard’s absence has been perhaps a little easier to cope with but it’s no coincidence these three recent defeats have been without Essien in the side.

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3. Bolton were very impressive in beating Newcastle 5-1 and it will be interesting to see what happens in January if they are still riding high in the top half of the table.

Admiring glances are being aimed at the likes of Lee, Cahill, Holden and even Owen Coyle himself and with the club recently announcing a debt of £93million there may be some pressure to sell a star to ease the burden.

But for how long?

Another twist to this is the impending expiring contract of Johan Elmander, who is having by the far the best of his three seasons at the Reebok. He finally seems to have adapted to the Premier League but now Bolton risk losing their record £8m signing for nothing next summer.

Unless I’ve missed the Swede professing his undying love for the Trotters, I suspect we may see a gentleman’s agreement when a one year deal is signed but with him being sold in the summer.

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4. I don’t see Blackburn’s new owners pumping too much money into the Ewood Park coffers but it would be interesting to see what Sam Allardyce does with a bigger budget. He claims he’d win the double every year at a top club, but I seem to remember him being something of a flop the last time he had a bit of money to spend when managing Newcastle.

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5. Roberto Mancini has been saying for a while that a big part of  his tactical plan was to have full backs who bomb forward and support Tevez/the notional front three. We saw a glimpse of that in the victory over Fulham with both Kolarov and Zabaleta consistently getting into the Fulham half and attempting several crosses and four of their 11 shots on goal.

Shoot!

I think while Mancini is at heart a cautious manager, we will eventually see a relatively attacking side with Milner and Toure in the central midfield trio and Silva and Balotelli properly supporting Tevez. Reasonable upcoming fixtures should provide opportunity to experiment.

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6. Fulham have lost just four times but are 17th. Chelsea have lost four times and are top of the table. An extreme example perhaps but it shows how destructive draws can be to your league position. Mark Hughes should remember that a win and a loss is better than two draws. Of his last 27 games with both Man City and Fulham, Hughes has overseen 15 stalemates.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Tottenham

11/08/2010

Tottenham

Last Season: 4th

New Signings: Sandro

Key Player: Luka Modric

One To Watch: Tom Huddlestone. Hard to miss him really.

Needs A Big Year: Peter Crouch

Would Quite Like: Some glory European nights and finally coming ahead of their bigger, better neighbours from N5. Perhaps a trophy too.

Harry counts the number of signings on one finger.

Prediction: 6th

Thoughts: After many years of trying and many years of spending, Spurs finally reached their holy grail and came 4th last season to have a shot at the Big Cup. Assuming they overcome Young Boys (responsible for one of the best ever headlines), Spurs will suddenly be welcoming the top sides to White Hart Lane every few weeks. I get the feeling may struggle to cope with demands of the Champions League and Premier League football.

Certainly their squad is big but I’m yet to be convinced that there is enough quality in it to do well in both. Surprisingly there’s been just the one signing so far, Sandro coming in to provide a much needed second defensive midfielder. It’s clear Redknapp is after a striker a who can play the lone front man role as none of his current ones can (save perhaps Pavlyuchenko).

The ability to adequately play 451 away from home (and in Europe) may go some way to improving their woeful record of no away wins against the top four in about fifteen years. Creatively they look fine with Modric, Kranjcar, Lennon Bale and Bentley all capable of laying chances on a plate. Defensive cover is probably an issue, certainly at right back at least. Corluka is a bit slow and none of the others are fully established. The last time all four central defenders were fit at the same time was quite a while ago too.

It’s clear Spurs are a good side but perhaps they peaked last season. I just don’t see how they’re going to as motivated this year for an away trip to someone like Blackburn when there’s a home tie against say Inter round the corner. They’ll still be challenging the top four again but I personally think they may find that both Man City and Liverpool come ahead of them this season. 6th spot in the league but the knockout stages of Europe.

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 37 Preview

30/04/2010

It all went a bit Pete Tong last week as I saw my league lead almost entirely wiped out based on one wrong transfer. I was still debating who to bring in on Saturday morning and was thinking that someone like Gerrard for Ashley Young would be a good move given the formers home game against Burnley. However I started to second guess myself given that a) Liverpool are super inconsistent and b) they were coming off the back of a European tie. It says a lot that I wasn’t 100% confident of them thrashing Burnley!

Anyway, that plan was put aside and I decided to get rid of Drogba as he was listed doubtful for the Stoke game. Rooney at home seemed like a good idea so in he came. Literally five minutes later the news broke that he was out injured. Transfer already made, one injured player in, one doubtful player out. As it turned out Drogba was fit and got nine points against Stoke while Gerrard got 15 against Burnley. 24 points missed out on and my lead is down to a measly 17. The title race between the two Sportboys is back on! Oh dear.

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Gameweek 36 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

salomon kalou chelsea

Maverick's alwasy surprised when someone nearly equals their season score in one week.

Chelsea went goal crazy against Stoke, eventually settling for a 7-0 victory. Chief beneficiary was squad player Kalou who notched a hat-trick of tap ins, as well as an assist and man of the match for a grand total of 24. He had only got 42 points all season prior to that and it’s certainly one of the highest scores this year. Following closely behind was Frank Lampard, who rewarded the many who chose him as captain with an 18 point performance.

Lampard really has been racking up the points and has ten goals and ten bonus in his last nine matches. Barring some heroics from Drogba or Rooney, he ends the season as highest points scorer – not for the first time either. Elsewhere it was a case of the midfielders with Gerrard on 15 and Giggs and Aquilani both on 14.

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Three Captain Picks:

Four teams play twice – Man City, Spurs and Fulham are the three you want to load up on.

1. Tevez/Man City – Two home games and about the only Man City player you can trust. Always performs in big games and Aston Villa and Spurs are big games.

2. Bale/Spurs – With Defoe out of form and none of the midfielders doing particularly well either, the Spurs pick has to be Gareth Bale. After last week’s messy performance at Old Trafford, Redknapp should hopefully switch him back to left-wing.

3. Fulham defenders or Dempsey – Fulham are always solid at home and have conceded just 12 goals at Craven Cottage this season, better than anyone else. West Ham and Stoke should bring at least one clean sheet. Meanwhile with Zamora injured, look to Dempsey to play upfront and hopefully bag a goal or two.

Carlos Tevez Man City

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Suggested Transfers In:

1. Lennon/Spurs – Fit again though I doubt he will play the whole 180 minutes available to him this week.

2. Fulop/Man City – Apparently nine professional goalkeepers isn’t enough so Man City have been allowed to sign Sunderland’s reserve keeper to try and keep Villa and Spurs at bay. He conceded seven on his last appearance…

3. Etherington/Stoke – If you must go for a Stoke player this week make it him.

Aaron Lennon Spurs

Might be worth a pick.

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Three Transfers Out:

1. Bendtner/Arsenal – Suffering now that Van Persie is back.

2. Sorensen/Stoke – Out for the season.

3. Given/Man City – Ditto.

Nicklas Bendtner Arsenal

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 36 Preview

23/04/2010

An interesting week last week with Aston Villa and Hull providing opportunity for double gains. Unless you were the gambling type, I imagine most bets were hedged on the key Aston Villa players. While the returns weren’t huge, they weren’t bad either and will probably have justified any points spent in transfers.

It was a slightly above average week for me, not helped by going for Ashley Young as captain. Just 12 points from him as he got just a solitary bonus point. The league lead is 39 with three weeks left, and Sportboy P (remember him?!) now takes up the chase.

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Gameweek 35 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

James Milner Top Gun Aston Villa

Maverick approves of Milner's second top gun.

matt taylor bolton

Goose approves of Taylor's best performance this season.

Two midfielders got 15  points this week; James Milner and Matt Taylor. Milner scored once and got six bonus points last week while Taylor got into double figures for the first time this season through two goals and three bonus. He has been a little underwhelming in 2009/10 but still has eight goals and three assists.

Elsewhere Charles N’Zogbia got himself 13 points against Arsenal while six players scored eleven. Of those the most interesting was Gareth Bale. After not scoring for over two years, he now has two goals in two weeks.

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Three Captain Picks:

1. Lampard/Chelsea – A home game against Stoke should be easy pickings for Chelsea. Stoke are still rubbish away from the Britannia and I’m sure Ancelotti will be looking for a response from his team after last week’s debacle against Spurs. Drogba picked up an injury during the defeat and may not be fully fit, thus possibly creating an opportunity for Lampard to run the show.

2. Arteta/Everton – A home game against Fulham is no doubt tough but Roy Hodgson has gone on record as saying that the Europa League is now his priority. Everton are in good form and should probably win against a Fulham side in the middle of a European semi-final against Hamburg. Arteta is back from injury and scored last week.

3. Van Persie/Arsenal or Adebayor/Man City – Hate each other, face each other this weekend at the Emirates and will both be super motivated to be the match-winner. Van Persie has home advantage but may not start. Adebayor will get royally booed with every touch but is match fit and has the benefit of facing Silvestre and Campbell.

Frank Lampard Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick!

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

It’s all about form players right now.

1. Bale/Spurs – Obviously he’s been excellent in the past two weeks with 20 points but looking further back he’s been consistently good since regaining his place in mid-January. 85 points since gameweek 22 plus two matches coming up next week.

2. Players with something to play for – Whether that’s from teams who are relegation threatened, fighting for titles or simply those after personal gain like World Cup selection – now is the time to go for motivated players ahead of those whose season has ended.

3. Craddock/Wolves – 25 points in his last four games.

gareth bale spurs

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Wigan players – Beat Arsenal last week so judging by how their season has gone will probably lose against West Ham this time round.

2. Terry/Chelsea – Out this week through suspension and generally not playing well.

3. Arsenal goalkeepers & defenders – Not that you’d have one!

n'zogbia wigan

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

The Six Pointer – Big Four Blanks, Away Wins & more…

24/11/2008

1. The domination of the Big Four means that headlines are made whenever one of them fails to win. It is relatively common though. However, when all four not only fail to win but fail to score as well you really sit up and take notice.

I am reliably informed the last time the Big Four all failed to win was August 19th last year. The last time they all failed to score on the same weekend was 1993.  Technically there wasn’t a Big Four then as Liverpool were down in sixth while Arsenal and Chelsea were in tenth and eleventh respectively. Minor detail though. 

Chelsea and Liverpool both had goaless draws against Newcastle and Fulham but will be glad that neither pulled away from each other. Man Utd failed to take advantage in the evening game, being held to another goalless draw at Aston Villa. The less said about Arsenal the better.

While this weekend is an anomaly I do think it is a sign of a more competitive league. It is always good seeing the big sides not have it all their own way and you feel that this season could be one where the traditional monopoly could be broken up. 

blank

Firing blanks at the top

 

2. The importance of having the ambition to go for away wins cannot be underestimated. Winning one away  game 1-0 and losing one 5-0 leaves you in a better position than two 1-1 draws. Chelsea will win the title this season due to their fantastic record on the road. Seven games, seven wins, 19 scored, one conceded. I would be proud if my home record was that good, let alone my away one. Similarly, Hull are doing well as they have had the guts to go for wins at places like the Emirates and White Hart Lane. They currently have a better away record than Man Utd.

 

3. Aston Villa are quietly but surely improving all the time. They have held Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool to a grand total of zero goals this season and look a sure shout for fourth if the Gunners don’t buck up their ideas. Their recent run of form has even been achieved without main striker John Carew who has been injured/arguing with O’Neill/in strip clubs. A draw against United was an excellent result considering it used to always be defeat. If they don’t achieve it this season (and maybe Champions League football would be a year too soon) then they will only push on next year. The squad has a good blend of youth and experience (are you reading Mr Wenger?) and players like Young and Agbonlahor will only improve (whilst also avoiding the slight case of second season syndrome they seem to be going through). 

 

4. Gareth Bale doesn’t play, Tottenham win.

Gareth Bale playing, but not winning

Gareth Bale playing, but not winning...

 

5. Fabregas replacing Gallas as Arsenal captain doesn’t solve all their problems but it’s a good start. It gives them flexibility to drop Gallas when he’s not playing well (he hasn’t been, though is still the best defender at L’Arse), a captain who understands what Arsenal are about and a way of keeping hold of Fabregas from the clutches of Barcelona (at least for another couple of years). They need the likes of Adebayor and Sagna fully fit again to start moving in the right direction but I wouldn’t put it past them to hold Chelsea to a draw next week. 

Get lost, I'm captain now

Get lost, I'm captain now!

 

6. Johan Elmander scored. It was a good goal too. OMFG!

 

T.


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