Posts Tagged ‘Blackburn’

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.

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Season Previews 2010/11 – How They’ll Finish

13/08/2010

Based on all the predictions written, here’s how I see the Premier League finishing up in May.

  1. Man Utd
  2. Arsenal
  3. Chelsea
  4. Man City
  5. Liverpool
  6. Tottenham
  7. Everton
  8. Fulham
  9. Aston Villa
  10. Stoke
  11. Blackburn
  12. Birmingham
  13. Bolton
  14. Sunderland
  15. Wolves
  16. West Ham
  17. Newcastle
  18. Wigan
  19. West Brom
  20. Blackpool

A few more thoughts. I think the top four are quite interchangeable though Man City won’t win it. It depends what other business is done before the end of the transfer window – you get the feeling the Milner deal will get a few things going.

I reckon Liverpool, Everton and Spurs are all capable of sneaking fourth spot. With the former two it depends on how fit their first choice teams stay throughout the season while Spurs could maybe go as high as third but it relies on them coping with two competitions at once. I’m sure they’ll sign one or two more players but are waiting to see if they beat Young Boys in the qualifier.

With Martin O’Neill leaving Aston Villa will drop down the table. It doesn’t matter who they get in to replace him, they won’t come ahead of those top seven teams. I have Fulham a little high on reflection. I should probably swap them with Villa. If they lose Schwarzer and get an injury or two, it remains to be seen whether Hughes can keep them going. With the signing of Kenwyne Jones Stoke might push on an extra place or two. I genuinely wonder if they have any players under 6ft beyond Tuncay and Etherington!

Going down to about 15th/16th you can mix and match. Bolton could shock a few people, while West Ham have one of the more talented spines of teams at that level. Birmingham could really struggle if Foster doesn’t live up to Hart’s performances last season and Zigic doesn’t perform but all in all the teams in this section should be ok.

For me there are just the four clear relegation candidates, though you could perhaps chuck Wolves in there too. Maybe I’ll revisit this once the transfer window shuts, as things should be a bit clearer by then.

T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Blackburn

10/08/2010

Blackburn

Last Season: 10th

New Signings: Fernandez, Diouf

Key Player: David Dunn

One To Watch: Phil Jones

Needs A Big Year: Morten Gamst Pedersen

Would Quite Like: More entertainment and maybe a cup run somewhere along the way. Another six points from Bolton.

Slap me.

Prediction: 11th

Thoughts: Love him or loathe him (and I’m most certainly in the latter camp) you can’t deny that Fat Big Sam Allardyce is quite good at getting decent results on a smallish budget. After doing it for years at Bolton he was pretty rubbish at Newcastle but is now making Blackburn into a hard to beat side who consistently can aim for top half finishes. To be honest at the moment that makes them quite a dull team to preview. There’s not much chance of them being relegated but they’re not going to be pushing for a Europa league spot either.

Firmly in the 9th to 14th section you can take your pick of where in those positions they’ll finish. A few wins at home against the good sides, the bottom end of the fair play league and a bust up with Arsene Wenger is the sum of what you can expect at Ewood Park this year. Continued progress from young centre back Phil Jones and Swedish midfielder Martin Olsson coupled with a fit David Dunn (30 games+) should see something like a 11th place finish. Next.

T.

Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out

31/05/2010

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’m still in two minds about whether to do season reviews for each club – to be honest I’m in World Cup mode now. Perhaps I’ll still get round to it though.

Back in August I played a mug’s game and tried to predict how everyone would finish. Here’s what actually happened:

'Expert' predictions...

Looking at the results showed I got just three clubs spot on: Man City in 5th and basement dwellers Hull and Pompey taking the bottom two places. In my defence I was only one place out with six other clubs but really this table looks like what it is, rubbish punditry.

I think if Gareth Southgate and Garth Crooks had a bastard lovechild it would look something like this predictions table (enjoy those nightmare thoughts kids).

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In terms of the thinking, I had found it really tricky to split the top three when writing pre-season predictions. My loyalties to Arsenal may have played a part in placing them second while I couldn’t bear to predict Chelsea as Champions even though deep down I knew they had retained the most strength over the summer.

A similar scenario led to placing Spurs 7th – I was hardly going to predict them a Champions League spot was I?! I underestimated Liverpool’s decline and overestimated Sunderland’s improvement.

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The biggest mistake was Birmingham, a full nine places out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who had them down to struggle. Fair play to Alex McLeish (who I had as first sacking!), he brilliantly led them to a top half finish.

The bottom half was slightly better predicted clubs wise, if not positions wise. The dearth of quality is such that it’s pot luck as to where the likes of Bolton and Wigan finish. I got three of the bottom four right and on another day would have predicted Burnley to come in 18th not 17th.

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In terms of the cups and other stuff it went like this:

And I thought the league prediction was bad...

Oh dear. Only Bayern Munich correct and I suppose West Brom for promotion. If the Premier League table was the Southgate/Crooks lovechild then this is the resulting mess when said lovechild had a threesome with Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp. I literally couldn’t do any worse at being a pundit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s time for the World Cup…

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 31 Preview

19/03/2010

Week 31. 15 matches. Given it’s so late in the season this will be title deciding I would think. Ten teams play twice including four from the top half so you should really be looking at having a minimum of seven double players I’d say. Unless we get a bunch of 1-1 draws, 100 points should be the minimum target.

Last week was pretty good – 85 points and a slight increase of my league lead. This despite having five players who would have been better captain choices than Fat Frank. He’ll be leaving my team for Fabregas again shortly after this double gameweek ends. I was particularly pleased with Bendtner getting another 11 points while spending eight points on transfers just about paid off too.

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Gameweek 30 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

fernando torres liverpool

Maverick wants to know where Torres got those highlights...

After an injury truncated season, Fernando Torres reminded us of what he can do with 19 points against Portsmouth. Two goals, two assists and three bonus gave him his highest score of the season, moving him into the top seven strikers despite having played just 1471 minutes.

Funnily enough his price has actually gone down this week as people were still reacting to one point against Wigan plus the fact he faces Man Utd this week. Judging by past form against Vidic that no bad thing. Elsewhere Malouda got 16, Milner and Aquilani 12 while it was a striker’s week with Rooney, Drogba, Bendtner, Berbatov and Pavlyuchenko all in double figures.

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Three Captain Picks:

1. Chelsea attackers – First choice for a captain this week should be Chelsea attacking players. While they have two away game which are trickier than they look, I’d still be surprised if they didn’t come away with six points from Blackburn and Portsmouth. Lampard is an option as always, while Malouda is possibly their best player right now. You can’t really look further than Drogba though, and he should feast on those two defences. I wouldn’t bother with Chelsea defenders this week, I think it’ll be one clean sheet at best.

2. Aston Villa players – Villa have two home games against Wolves and Sunderland. Again, I’d be surprised if they got less than six points and they perhaps offer more variety than Chelsea. I’d be quite comfortable with picking Dunne as captain while Agbonlahor is usually involved some way when they score. Really though Milner is the most realistic choice when choosing a Villa captain. You can talk about potential differentials like Young and Downing all you want but at the end of the day it will be Milner getting the points.

3. Everton midfielders – Choices from Everton are narrowed to their midfield for me as Saha is currently injured and I don’t trust the Yak. Pienaar has been consistent and Cahill is always good for a goal but now that Arteta is back he’s the man you want.

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Johnson/Man City – How brave are you feeling? Johnson has shone for Man City since joining in January and last week got himself nine points coming of the bench to rescue a draw vs Sunderland. Difficult fixtures against Fulham A and Everton H but he is in form and making an impact. The key question is will he play both matches? I think yes, but you never know with Mancini.

2. Olsson/Blackburn – An interesting week for Blackburn as they have two home games but both of those matches are quite tough (Chelsea and Birmingham). Olsson is one of the cheapest players in the game at just £3.8m and is listed as a defender even though he normally plays left of midfield. I could certainly see him getting a clean sheet against Brum and perhaps a cheeky assist too.

3. O’Hara/Portsmouth – They’ve been docked points, are essentially relegated, and face Hull and Chelsea this week. That said they are ok at home and tend to score if nothing else. O’Hara should get something against Hull (unless new manager syndrome kicks in) and will get two points vs Chelsea too. He’s cheap and gets bonus, what more do you want?

adam johnson man city

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Hull players – Not even Iain Dowie can save this lot.

2. N’Zogbia/Wigan – His double gameweek produced just one assist and he’s been taken off before the hour twice in the last three weeks.

3. Anelka/Chelsea – No goals or bonus since the end of January.

jimmy bullard hull

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

The Six Pointer – Leads let slip, beached whales & more…

27/10/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Liverpool deserved to beat Man Utd yesterday but I think Fergie was right to have another moan at the ref. For me Carragher should definitely have been sent off for the tug on Owen in the second half. It can be argued that it wasn’t a clear opportunity but I think he would have got a shot away before the other defenders closed him down, they were quite far away.

His hatchet job on Carrick in the first half was a penalty – Carrick just got to the ball before Carragher and you just can’t go lunging in like that in that area of the pitch. He somehow got away with both but once more looked like the weak link in the Liverpool defence. The Vidic and Mascherano reds were both justified I reckon – I can’t believe the Serb has been sent off in three straight games against Liverpool!

It was clear that both managers had gambled with their unfit strikers and from what we saw it was clear that Torres had recovered more than Rooney. The Spaniard took his goal magnificently, both out-pacing and out-muscling Rio Ferdinand. He didn’t do much else during the game but it was enough. It’s a tough call between him and Drogba for title of best striker in the league but I’d possibly veer on the side of Torres right now. A good result for Liverpool but lets see if they can do the same away at Fulham next week.

torres-liverpool-man-utd

Eats Vidic and Rio for breakfast.

Man Utd meanwhile have a few areas of concern. Both centre backs seem currently susceptible to pace (not something you’d previously say for Rio) so what chance Jonny Evans coming in for a bit? In midfield Fletcher was once more missed – the one bright note being that he and the soon to return Hargreaves will be a fearsome partnership. Up front, Rooney can be forgiven for being unfit but he has been out of form regardless. Berbatov on the other hand did his usual thing of nice flicks and passes but no real cutting edge. He doesn’t really do it in the big games does he?

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2. For the third time in a week Arsenal completely switched off in a game where they went ahead and for the second time in a week it proved costly. After getting away with against Birmingham, they conceded a last minute equaliser against AZ Alkmaar in midweek Champions League action. They’ve learnt their lesson said the players. So what should happen yesterday against West Ham? A comfortable 2-0 lead with 16 minute left and one poorly dealt with free kick and one silly challenge in the box later and they find themselves going back to north London with one point instead of three.

The free kick for West Ham’s first was soft but Mannone made the cardinal sin of palming the ball back into the danger area instead of out wide. Cole pokes it home, game on. Then with ten minutes to go Alex Song decides to clip the back of Cole’s heels in the box with no real danger. Cole went down, penalty given, penalty scored. Wenger was rightly furious with his team after the game and it is these kind of games which results in Arsenal not properly challenging for titles. For 75 minutes Arsenal dominated but once again couldn’t close it out. They won’t win anything until they learn how to.

wenger-annoyed

They just never learn...

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3. Man City ensured Arsenal weren’t the only title pretenders to blow a two goal lead. Mark Hughes will be concerned at how his £24m centre back Joleon Lescott is a bit rubbish at the moment – Man City have a definite vulnerability in the air. Their form isn’t particularly good either with three successive draws and one win in five.

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4. Spurs surprisingly lost to Stoke at home and it was particularly annoying for me as I had Abdoulaye Faye’s nine fantasy football points marooned on the bench (I didn’t think Stoke would do anything). My point is that given Spurs have lost just twice at home since Redknapp took over and Stoke were winless away in their first four games, it shows just how good (and unexpected and fortuitous) a result it was for Pulis’ team. I certainly wasn’t expecting it and it confirms Stoke should be pushing for a top half finish this season.

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5. Congrats to Bobby Zamora, who I don’t think anyone will beat for miss of the season award. Wow. I know there are strikers who are lauded for their hard work rather than goals (see Heskey, Emile Ivanhoe) but that was ridiculous. To be fair he has already equalled his goal tally for last season but I reckon it’s a long time since the chant “When the balls hits the goal, it’s not Shearer or Cole it’s Zamora” was heard (not least because Shearer and Cole are retired but you know what I mean). Isn’t it now “When the ball hits your head and you’re sat in row Z, that’s Zamora”?

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6. Chelsea gave Blackburn a spanking and from a fantasy perspective it was good to see Frank Lampard return to goalscoring form with a double. I picked him as captain so was pleased with the 28 points he scored. It’s a little early to say for sure but based on that game it appeared that the return of Joe Cole helped as it allowed Lampard to play deeper and make his undetected runs.

Cole himself was excellent too and should stay in the hole behind Drogba and Anelka rather than on the left. He’s not quite at full fitness yet but I reckon Deco should be fearing for his place. I agree with what the Football Guy says – Paul Robinson is just shocking on long shots. I know he’s fat but it be that hard to shift all that body mass. On second thoughts…

paul-robinson-blackburn-beached-whale

Try as he might, Paul 'the beached whale' Robinson just couldn't shift himself to save the shot...

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T.

End of Season Reviews – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton

03/06/2009

Arsenal

arsenal

Where they finished: 4th

Season in five words: Reliance on youth = no trophies

Successful season? In Wenger’s eyes yes; 4th in the league and semi final appearances in Europe and the FA Cup. In the fans’ eyes no; there was never a league challenge after losing 5 of the first 14, Arshavin wasn’t started in the FA Cup semi and Man Utd dominated over two legs in Europe. They’re not far off, but far enough this season to warrant it as one in transition (again).

Defining moment: The two semi final games against Man Utd in the Champions League. They showed just how far from challenging the best Arsenal are. Completely dominated for most of the tie.

Player of the year: Song improved immensely, Van Persie scored 20 but without Andrey Arshavin the Gunners would not have come fourth. His impact since signing cannot be underestimated.

Goal of the season: Vela’s chip(s) and Ade’s volley get honourable mentions but for my money Eduardo wins it with this.

Flop of the season: In terms of a drop-off from last season, Adebayor was most frustrating but Mikael Silvestre gave Arsenal fans the chills every time he set foot on the pitch.

Highlight: Arshavin’s four goals at Anfield, a league double over Chelsea.

Summer homework: Sign an experienced central defender and central midfielder, plus a striker if Adebayor leaves. Oh, and stop playing Fabregas in the hole.

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Aston Villa

aston-villa

Where they finished: 5th

Season in five words: Second half slump costs fourth.

Successful season? Yes and no. For much of the season they were riding high but then injury (and eventual retirement) to Laursen and a slump in form meant a small squad couldn’t keep up the pace. Ended up being overtaken by Everton too. Did finish with more points than last year but an opportunity lost.

Defining moment: The last five minutes vs Stoke at home. Two goals up and heading for eight point lead over Arsenal. Stoke then scored twice, momentum was lost and two games later Arsenal would take over fourth spot for the rest of the season.

Player of the year: Stilian Petrov has finally reached the level he had while at Celtic. Ashley Young had another good season.

Goal of the season: John Carew vs Stoke. On second thoughts (from a reader’s recommendation) Ashley Young’s last minute winner against Everton was a great strike.

Flop of the season: Emile Heskey caused a change in formation and didn’t do much to arrest Villa’s slide in the spring.

Highlight: The 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates.

Summer homework: Replace Gareth Barry and ensure he’s the only big name departure. Buy more squad players, specifically cover in the full back positions.

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Blackburn

blackburn

Where they finished: 15th

Season in five words: Ince terrible, Fat Sam steady.

Successful season? It’s hard to say what constitutes success at Ewood Park, as Blackburn are one of the least ambitious clubs in the top flight. It was brave to give Ince a try but he’s not ready. Sam Allardyce then lead them to safety without too much fuss. Where next?

Defining moment: Hiring Allardyce. Kept them up when Ince would probably have taken them down.

Player of the year: Hmm, Stephen Warnock has done pretty well since converting to midfield.

Goal of the season: Aaron Mokoena against Sunderland. That video doesn’t work so here’s a pic instead. Look how happy he is… It was a great strike.

Flop of the season: In what seems to be a recurring theme, Roque Santa Cruz becomes the latest striker to have a poor second year after a great first.

Highlight: A couple of 3-0 home wins against Stoke and Newcastle.

Summer homework: Cash in on Roque, sign strong physical players to push for mid-table. Replace Tugay and his luscious locks.

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Bolton

bolton

Where they finished: 13th

Season in five words: Anything interesting happen at all?

Successful season? Yes. Comfortably safe, never in any real threat of going down. If only Megson could make things a bit more entertaining. Another club somewhat lacking in ambition perhaps.

Defining moment: Was there one? Nothing stands out, honestly.

Player of the year: Called up by England and linked with moves to bigger clubs, Gary Cahill has had a great season in central defence.

Goal of the season: Even Bolton fans are struggling. Let’s go for this screamer by Gretar Steinsson on the opening day.

Flop of the season: Has Elmander justified the £8-10m fee? Not quite, but he could improve next year.  Muamba hasn’t been great either.

Highlight: Almost coming from 4-0 down against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Couldn’t quite get the fourth goal however.

Summer homework: Sign another striker who can score ten goals, keep Cahill, Taylor and Jussi. Become interesting (this applies more to Megson).

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T.

The Six Pointer – Portsmouth Safe, Fergie’s Favourite & more…

27/04/2009

The final word on the weekend’s action…

 

1. Portsmouth got the point this evening that keeps them up I think. They remain seven points clear of the relegation zone but now with just four games remaining. They would have to lose all four remaining fixtures to be in danger of going down and even then Newcastle or Boro would have to go on a monster run of form (especially given their remaining fixtures). Newcastle were very flat and you wonder whether the defining moment of their season will be the great one on one chance Owen missed in the second half. 

Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.

Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.

 

2. After Blackburn got an important win over Wigan, in my eyes the relegation battle focuses solely on the northeast. West Brom are down, and it leaves two spots to be filled by Sunderland, Hull, Newcastle or Middlesbrough. Four points separate them and they each have four games left. All face a top four team, which in theory leaves three games each to gain points from. The former two have a head start but Newcastle have a better goal difference, which will be worth a point should they ever catch up. Right now, I reckon Hull and the losers of the Newcastle vs Middlesbrough match go down.

 

3. Has Everton’s chance of winning the FA Cup gone with the injury to Phil Jagielka? Maybe not, but he is certainly their best defender and his calmness will be missed in the end of season showpiece. In a funny way I reckon his replacement Yobo is actually better equipped to individually deal with Drogba, but as a four the Everton defence is certainly more solid with the ex Sheffield Utd man in it. His presence will missed. 

There goes the cup.

There goes the cup.

 

4. Was it a penalty for Man Utd on Saturday? No, probably not. Carrick did get to the ball first, but then Gomes took the ball not the man. Howard Webb is quickly turning into Fergie’s favourite ref, given how many decisions he gives in Man Utd’s favour. He is one of the better refs around but in recent high profile games seems to be forgetting that the best game a referee can have is one where he isn’t noticed. I don’t really know why Spurs are moaning so much though. After C-Ron converted they were still 2-1 up – they only have themselves to blame for conceding another four goals. I only caught highlights after the game but was surprised to see that Ledley King played. When I first saw the score I thought he couldn’t be playing, but evidently he can’t defend Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov all on his own. A thought on that fearsome foursome too. I know it isn’t particularly balanced when you play all four of those guys, but boy can they be effective going forward.

Carrick falls in three, two, one...

Carrick falls in three, two, one...

 

5. Considering Middlesbrough are a team fighting relegation and fast running out of games where they can feasibly pick up points, the lack of fight and commitment against Arsenal was quite worrying. They only need to leapfrog one side, yet there seemed a real air of resignation about them. Perhaps they felt they were never getting anything from Arsenal away, but given their good recent record against them it was odd they didn’t go for it more. we’ve speculated before on whether Southgate is someone that could fire you up, and judging by recent performance it seems not. This coupled with Boro’s strikers spells doom. 

 

6. The biggest problem the teams at the bottom have is the fear factor. The second half this evening saw Newcastle team that had frozen, so paralysed were they by the fear of losing. Getting teams to play without fear and pressure is perhaps asking too much given the gravity of their situations, but managers will do will to remind their players that three points will go a lot further at this stage than one. Going for broke and winning one of two games while losing the other leaves you in a better position than drawing both. It’s got to stage where you need to gamble and no team will want to leave it to the last day needing a win. Why? Just look at the final day opponents for the team in trouble…

Sunderland v Chelsea

Hull v Manchester United

West Ham v Middlesbrough

Aston Villa v Newcastle 

 

T.

Half Term Reports – Arsenal, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton

31/12/2008

With half the season gone and the January transfer window looming, it seems like a good time to review where each club is at and what their expectations and needs for the rest of the season should be. In the interests of not producing a 3,000 word post, we were going to use current positions to split the league into four manageable groups: relegation candidates, mid-table strugglers, UEFA Cup hopefuls and Champions League contenders. That’s all a bit complicated so we’ll just do it alphabetically instead.

 

 

arsenal

Arsenal – 5th

Successful season so far? Not really. A title challenge has not materialized following numerous dropped points against weaker teams. Captain Gallas is replaced by Fabregas who then gets injured for essentially the rest of the season. An over reliance on kids who aren’t ready means Arsenal face a challenge to keep their top four spot.

Top player: Not many to pick from – Clichy and Sagna have been fairly consistent but it probably has to go to Robin Van Persie. He has shown what he can do when he stays fit with great games against Chelsea and Liverpool and eight goals overall.

Flop player: Fabregas was pretty poor/exhausted before he got injured while Eboue was the target of fans’ ire. Bendtner has been particularly useless however.

January shopping list: A replacement for the injured Fabregas, a defensive partner for the replacement for the injured Fabregas, a centre back.

Dream scenario: January midfield reinforcements gel instantly and lead Arsenal to an unlikely title as Liverpool, Chelsea and indeed Man Utd all proceed to go on poor runs of form. Oh and Tottenham get relegated.

Realistic scenario: January midfield reinforcements gel quickly enough for Arsenal to pick up form and then the returning Eduardo and Walcott ensure 4th is reached comfortably enough.

 

 

aston-villa Aston Villa – 4th

Successful season so far? Absolutely. Barry wasn’t sold and along with Young and Agbonlahor the three have led Villa to 4th spot with a fantastic chance of Champions League qualification.

Top player: Martin O’Neill teams are very much greater than the sum of their parts but Young has been outstanding this year. He’s not quite Messi yet but he’s probably the best winger in the league right now.

Flop player: Nicky Shorey has been a bit useless.

January shopping list: Cover at full back would be useful, another big striker would mean they wouldn’t have to play Marlon Harewood.

Dream scenario: First choice XI continue to stay fit and play every game and Villa qualify for the Champions League by finishing comfortably in the top four.

Realistic scenario: They push Arsenal hard but an injury or two along the way mean they just miss out and finish 5th.

 

 

blackburn

Blackburn – 19th

Successful season so far? Nope. The Paul Ince experiment fails after a bright start and Sam Allardyce is appointed manager. Best player Santa Cruz wants to leave and Blackburn face a struggle to avoid relegation.

Top player: Hmm, McCarthy is top scorer with five. Has to be him I guess.

Flop player: After a great season last year Roque Santa Cruz doesn’t want to be at Ewood Park anymore. £17million takes him off Fat Sam’s hands. Pedersen has been a flop for about a season and a half now.

January shopping list: Big Sam’s favourites from his time at Bolton – Nolan, Davies, Diouf.

Dream scenario: Santa Cruz is sold for big bucks to Mark Hughes’ Man City meaning money for new players. Benni McCarthy rediscovers his 06-07 form. Relegation avoided while Allardyce’s old team go down.

Realistic scenario: Santa Cruz is sold for big bucks to Mark Hughes’ Man City. Allardyce brings in enough quality to stay up. Just.

 

 

boltonBolton – 11th

Successful season so far? Yes. Megson has got Bolton playing organized effective football and they sit in 11th place. That said they are only three points off the relegation zone and have possibly the smallest squad in the Premier League.

Top player: Steinsson and Cahill have been solid in front of an ever consistent Jaaskelainen. Elmander is slowly playing back his eight figure fee but it’s Matt Taylor with five goals from midfield who has probably been the best.

Flop player: A few weeks ago it would have been Elmander but he has five goals now. Kevin Nolan isn’t that good any more is he? No goals and just two assists have at least stopped the calls for England recognition.

January shopping list: Squad players, given that Megson says he has just 14 to work with.

Dream scenario: Fat Sam’s favourites aren’t reunited with him. Bolton gain enough points against those around them to stay up.

Realistic scenario: Lack of squad depth proves costly as Bolton go down.

 

T.

Fantasy Football – Gameweek 18

19/12/2008

One of the highlights of fantasy football is when you get teams playing twice in a gameweek. Pick the right captain and you’re easily making triple figures in points overall. There haven’t been any thus far, but Man Utd miss a match this weekend for the second time this season so at some point in the New Year will be catching up on games against Fulham and Wigan.

Tin Pot Tournament

Tin Pot Tournament

Last week if you had picked either of our suggestions of Young or Gerrard as captain you would be sitting pretty to the tune of 26 or 28 points. For some reason I went with Ronaldo so only got 12. It’s actually quite nice not having him play this week as it finally forces different captain choices. As mentioned Man Utd and Wigan don’t play so make sure you have enough players to bring in from the bench. 

 

Top 3 Alternatives to the standard choice of Ronaldo as Captain:

1. Young/Aston Villa – There are some quite tricky games to call this week so no obvious captain choices stand out. One option is to go with Young, who has been on fire for the past two weeks – three goals, an assist and six bonus points. It’s always risky choosing someone who has an away game but West Ham are pretty bad defensively.

2. Adebayor/Arsenal – Arsenal have been very inconsistent this season but have saved their best performances for the big matches. Liverpool don’t have the best record at the Emirates and I can see Adebayor  causing their central defence problems whether it’s Carragher, Hyppia or Agger (and with Rafa who knows…). Ade has been playing well recently and has seven goals and seven assists for the season. He’s quietly picked up points every week and is the second highest scoring striker after Anelka.

3. Santa Cruz/Blackburn- A bit of left field choice considering his form and Blackburn’s league position. I talked about Blackburn’s poor point scoring overall last week but Roque is now the first to break the 40 point barrier – go him! Also, I’m going with the notion of teams improving when a new manager. Yes that manager is Sam Allardyce (oh how I want them go down) but it’s worth a shot. Stoke have only one win in six (though only one defeat too) and it’s at Ewood Park. 

Yay

Yay

 

 

Suggested Transfers In:

1. Whoever fits in your budget/Blackburn – As mentioned above new managers have a galvanising effect, often getting initial wins above their station before settling back to mediocrity. It’s hard to pick out any stars as there haven’t been any but perhaps Pederson might pick up some form or maybe Samba is good for a clean sheet. Blackburn players are pretty cheap right now so you could pick up a bargain.

2. Elmander/Bolton – I slated him for about six weeks solid on this blog and he’s responded and proved me wrong. He has four goals in four games and plays a Portsmouth side capable of great wins one week and bad defeats the next.

3. Owen/Newcastle – Never underestimate a player who’s after a new contract from somewhere.

May(be)

May(be)

 

 

Players to avoid.

1. Song or Diaby/Arsenal – Out of principle. They may ‘play’ every week but they never do anything useful, in real life or fantasy.

2. Any Man City player not named Robinho or Ireland – Before they worry about becoming one the biggest teams in Europe they should concentrate on surviving in the Premier League. 

3. Joe Cole/Chelsea – His undoubted talent can’t overcome yet another injury riddled season. After a good start where he played the first five games, he’s managed just five of the last 12.

Nay

Nay

 

T.


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