Posts Tagged ‘Burnley’

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.

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Weekly Photoshop – Brian Laws

13/04/2010

It’s that high-profile Burnley manager Brian Laws as this week’s Photoshop theme. Yes, the man who smacks of being a Championship manager (his level not the game) has currently overseen just two wins in the 15 games he’s managed Burnley. Their win over Hull on Saturday won’t make a difference, they’re still going down.

With his lack of any discernible history, it was a case of working out who Brian Laws looked like. Part of me thought Jabba the Hut, while he’s not dissimilar to Sam Allardyce either. In the end it was a classic 80’s TV icon that won the day.

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brian laws burnley

They could have won a speedboat! Instead Burnley got Bully Brian Laws and the busfare back home to the Championship.

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The rest of the Guardian gallery is here.

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T.

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The Six Pointer – Cheap Managers, Poor Teams & more…

15/03/2010

1. While most teams tend to roll over at Old Trafford, you occasionally harbour hope for someone to pull a surprise. Fulham however are not one of those teams (in contrast to their good home record against Fergie’s side) and Saturday was another comprehensive defeat thanks in no small part to Master Rooney again.

The last six seasons has seen Man Utd P6, W6, F18, A3 vs Fulham at home while Rooney now has 32 for the season and a maximum of 13 games to beat Ronaldo’s 42 in 2007/08. Next week sees a big game vs Liverpool but given the way Rafa Benitez’s team is playing, I don’t see anything other than a Man Utd win.

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2. Drogba didn’t do much but scored twice. Chelsea not at their best but won 4-1. Just another regular day at the office at Stamford Bridge. With three easy home games left (plus a tough one vs Villa), whether they win the title will come down to whether they can improve that shaky away form.

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3. At this stage of the season it’s all about wins, by whatever means necessary. Arsenal left it very late to beat Hull, but as 7amkickoff pointed out, it was somewhat inevitable given Hull have conceded the most last-minute goals this season while Arsenal have scored the most. Given that Hull were down to ten men after George Boateng’s red card (more on that in a mo) it was no surprise Nicklas Bendtner bundled in a flapped save from Boaz Myhill with 92 minutes on the clock.

It was a fair result all things considered as Wenger’s side were in control for the majority of the game, Hull’s only shot on target coming from Bullard’s penalty that should never have been.

The officiating was particularly poor in this game and helped make it more a struggle then it should have been. Firstly, Vennegor of Hesselink was a clear yard offside when Campbell climbed all over his back and Phil Brown is spouting his usual nonsense if he thinks that was a clear goalscoring opportunity – the only reason the Dutchman was ahead of Sol was because he started offside.

Watch me get you booked.

Secondly, the persistent fouling from Hull was allowed to go on for far too long. Boateng was booked for poking Bendtner in the eye while Bendtner was mysteriously booked for being poked in the eye by Boateng. Odd one that. Dean Marney (I think) somehow escaped a yellow for a filthy sliding tackle on the touchline while Boateng was then sent off for a second yellow after a hatchet job on Sagna’s knee.

Quite how that wasn’t a straight red I’ll never know, but at least he won’t be able to appeal it. Oh and before anyone says he isn’t, Boateng is a bit of a dirty player – this was his second red card in a month. He also got sent off twice on 06/07.

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4. Phil Brown, you can’t say it hasn’t been coming. Perhaps it was time to part ways at the end of last season, with Brown having kept them up (solely because Newcastle were so inept) but having lost the dressing room following that team talk. As it happened Hull persevered with him into this season and the result has been another struggle.

To be fair to Brown he did what he could considering the resources available to him but given there has been more than one long winless run this season the timing of his departure is a little strange. Eight games to go does not leave an awful lot of time for a successor to make their mark but luckily Hull are currently just three points from safety.

Brian Laws Burnley

Cheap.

The interesting thing will be whether they do a Burnley and bring in a cheap Championship level manager in anticipation of relegation or spend that little bit more on someone quality who can keep them up and then push on next season.

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5. Does anyone want 4th spot? Spurs are winning the games they need to for now but I still think it will all unravel when they face the three title challengers in consecutive weeks in April. Man City are too inconsistent under Mancini while Aston Villa are doing their best to throw it away. They in particular have probably the most settled team and experience from last season yet seem reluctant to risk going for victories in tight games. In their last nine they’ve drawn 0-0 four times. Gambling on extra attack to force a win in just two of those games would have yielded more points even if they’d lost the other two. Something to consider going into their last ten.

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6. If Sunderland hadn’t conceded any of their goals in the last-minute, they would be riding high on 41 points and not worrying about relegation. After a start which promised so much, it appears more rebuilding work will be needed in the summer by Steve Bruce.

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 29 Preview

05/03/2010

It was a disappointing week 28 for me, which once emphasised that the obvious captain choice doesn’t always work out. As with many people, I went for Drogba as captain seeing as he’s in form and Man City have generally been useless away. One lack of handshake and doubles from Bellamy & Tevez later, and Chelsea were sitting on the end of  a 4-2 defeat and my captain had four lousy points. Fabregas saved my week as did clean sheets from all of my back five, which was nice.

This week sees another shortened gameweek with just eight matches and Burnley and Bolton playing twice. They’re not the two most inspiring teams for fantasy purposes but thankfully there’s going to be a lot of catchup from the likes of Aston Villa in the next few weeks.

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Gameweek 28 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Maverick approves of Top Gun number 3 for Fabregas.

I had a good feeling that Arsenal would get a result at Stoke but I wasn’t expecting Fabregas to do as well as he did. But then this is something like the ninth time he has scored double figures in a game this season, one ahead of Rooney and Drogba. It was 16 points last week through a goal, two assists and three bonus points. Elsewhere Fat Frank had one of his better games of the season (I still fear he’ll come back to haunt me) with 13 points, a total matched by Carlos Tevez who looks to be back in form.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – He was top scorer last week and I suspect the same will happen this week. It’s an obvious choice but Burnley at home is as close to a gimme as you can get and I fully expect to Fabregas to come off around 65 minutes having scored and assisted once or twice in order to rest his legs for Porto on Tuesday.

2. Torres/Liverpool – Things are quietly ticking over at Anfield and last week Gerrard and Torres started a game together for the first time since gameweek 20. Torres usually scores when he plays and Wigan is an inviting fixture given their relative struggles this season and their open brand of football.

3. Rooney/Man Utd – Fergie’s suggesting he’s doubtful for Wolves away but I don’t think Man Utd will go into that game with a strike force of Berbatov and Diouf, Milan game or no Milan game coming up. Rooney may only play part of the game, but as we saw in the Carling Cup final, that’s often enough.

fabregas fantasy football captain

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Torres/Liverpool – I know I mentioned him as a potential captain this week but I think he’s a decent option to bring in for the rest of the season. His price is slightly cheaper than Rooney’s and Drogba’s now and you could feasibly rotate any two depending on the fixtures (or go crazy and have all three!). Six of his remaining ten matches are against bottom half teams…

2. Lee/Bolton – With two away games, no one really stands out if you’re looking to bring in a Bolton player for their double gameweek. Ricketts did score 12 last week but they won’t get a clean sheet this time I don’t think. Lee has been the most productive midfielder recently so could snatch something. Wilshere could be an interesting wildcard.

3. Eagles/Burnley – With new manager Brian Law still tinkering, lots of Burnley’s players are at the rick of rotation right now. To be honest all they’ll get from Arsenal away is two points for playing so you have to consider who might to something at home to Stoke. I’m going with Eagles on the off-chance he starts getting some bonus points again.

fernando torres liverpool

Might be worth a pick.

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Three To Avoid:

1. Shawcross/Stoke – Manchild Shawcross has the most yellow cards of any centre back (*edit – ok it’s actually Turner but 7 and a red is still poor*) and now has a three match ban after his assault on Aaron Ramsey. Stoke don’t keep that many clean sheets any more and I suspect he won’t be getting too many more bonus points this season either.

2. Huddlestone/Spurs – I think I suggested it a couple of weeks ago but never got round to it. His injury and my lack of players means he’s finally out of the door when I make this week’s transfer.

3. Bent/Sunderland – Every week I keep him in as he’s Darren Bent and scoring meaningless goals is his forte (as well as important ones against the big four), but the time has come to say goodbye. I know I’ll regret it as Sunderland have three straight home games and a double gameweek coming up. But what’s fantasy football whithout a few risks…

Ryan Shawcross Stoke

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

The Six Pointer – Missing Rooney, inspirational Cesc & more…

05/10/2009

1. Arsenal were fantastic going forward against Blackburn yesterday and Cesc Fabregas inspired a 6-2 rout with six different scorers. Paul Robinson got his usual work out against the Gunners and has now conceded an amazing 47 goals in 16 games against Arsenal, fourteen of which have come in the last three games. I thought he actually played quite well but there was a definite strategy to pepper him with mid to long range shots.

Rovers had taken an unexpected lead twice before Arsenal hit back, Fabregas providing four assists and a goal before coming off. All six goals were of a high quality but I’d say Bendtner’s was the best. It was obvious as soon as he got the ball what he wanted to do but those efforts are now starting to go in rather then sail high and wide.

I love Arsenal and ROsicky loves me.

I love Arsenal and Rosicky loves me.

There was some talk earlier in the season about how Fabregas looked distracted and unhappy but I think he’s back to his best. There will always be speculation surrounding his future and I think most Arsenal fans accept he will one day play for Barcelona but at the same time it may not be for a few years yet (at least not until Wenger burns him out!). You can see what it would mean to him to win trophies with this team and if he can direct those kind of performances against the big sides then Arsenal could well have a shout for one this season.

Allardyce called Vermaelen’s foul on Dunn at 3-2 a turning point and while yes it was a definite penalty, to say it was a red card offence too is just silly. Even if Blackburn had scored, there was no way Arsenal were losing yesterday, they were just too good going forward. Maybe if Allardyce hadn’t taken off his best player in David Dunn, not played four full backs and generally shown a bit more adventure, then he might have had a point.

Blah blah blah

Blah blah blah.

The return of Rosicky has been very pleasing too and I think everyone forgot just what a classy player he was before he got injured. He’s constantly creating space and playing intelligent passes and he fits really well into the 4-3-3 system. With Nasri back sooner rather than later and Ramsey ever more impressive in his weekly substitute cameo, it should hopefully consign Diaby to the bench. I think right now his height is the only thing going for him (meaning he plays against ‘big’ sides like Rovers) but his overall play just doesn’t fit. He did very little on Saturday and can only offer potential for so long.

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2. Liverpool lost for the fourth time this season (including Europe) and each time it’s been a good side. They have become more expansive this season but with that have sacrificed much of the solidity that brought them good results. They are turning into flat track bullies who can hammer 20 goals past the likes of Burnley, Hull, Stoke, West Ham and Bolton but then struggle when facing half decent sides like Spurs, Fiorentina, Chelsea and Aston Villa. Similarly Torres can score five in two games but then waste the two presentable opportunites he had yesterday. He was well marshalled by Terry and must show that he can impose himself on a big match consistently like Drogba can.

It has been said before but Alonso is being missed with every passing week and the return of Aquilani won’t help that. Alonso sat deep with Mascherano and gave it to Gerrard or played in Torres. Aquilani is much less likely to do the same and like Lucas will wander forward, given that by nature they are both more attacking players. This leaves the centre back pairing exposed and may explain partly why Carragher has been so poor this season. Meanwhile if you rely on Torres and Gerrard so much, when they’re stopped so are Liverpool. Benitez can say they are still contenders, and of course points wise they are. But I think there are fundamental issues at which will prevent Liverpool from winning the league yet again.

Hey lads, why do you flatter to deceive?

Hey lads, why do you flatter to deceive?

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3. After just four draws in the opening 66 games there were four this weekend. As teams finally get the measure of each other we can expect that total to increase. Tellingly, there have been only two draws amongst the top ten and six in the bottom half. The usual scenario of nervousness at the foot of the table is beginning to creep in. How many times have we seen positive play rewarded with more wins, hence more three point gains, hence eventual safety. Something to take heed of for those playing 4-5-1.

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4. Man Utd got out of jail on Saturday evening against Sunderland with an injury time equaliser via the unfortunate Anton Ferdinand who scored an own goal. Prior to that Sunderland had fully deserved to be leading, Cattermole and Cana again holding their own against an opposition midfield. Those two have quickly become one of the better partnerships in the league and offer a nice mixture of toughness and harassment but with enough skill to allow for some creativity.

Up front Darren Bent is fast developing an impressive habit of scoring against the big sides as well as the small so it was a surprise to not see him get called up for England given the two qualifiers are essentially meaningless.

The other English striker on show Rooney (though I suppose there was Welbeck too, who was bizarrely chosen down the left) had another poor game and has yet to learn how to avoid his drops in form. Throughout his career (a bit like Defoe really) he has gone on runs where he’ll score in something like six successive games before doing nothing of note for ages and then picking up again. Now that he is the main player at Old Trafford, he can no longer afford these extended periods of goalless play.

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5. Good to see Portsmouth rewarded for their recent good form with a victory at last. They’ve been unfortunate to lose the last couple of games and it’s encouraging that despite not being paid they are still trying on the pitch. The expected suspects (+ one of two others in Fulham and West Ham) are beginning to form an orderly group in the bottom half and it was vital that Portsmouth didn’t fall too far adrift. I still think this season spells doom, unless this mystery new takeover happens to inject half a new squad in January, but to be fair at this stage last season Spurs had just points and still managed a top half finish. There’s hope yet for Pompey fans.

I think he's happy.

I think he's happy.

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6. Four straight Premier League victories at Turf Moor to go with the six at the end of last season. Are Burnley set to do a Stoke and stay up based almost entirely on their home form?

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T.

Stop Press: Important Gareth Bale News

29/09/2009
Look at him, so eager!

Look at him, so eager!

I totally forgot to mention this in yesterday’s Six-Pointer but I think it deserves its own post anyway. Yes, two years after signing, Gareth Bale has won his first ever league game in a Tottenham shirt! Well done Gareth! He played a huge role in the 5-0 win over Burnley, coming on after 85 minutes when Spurs were 4-0 up and attaining a 100% successful pass rate with his one pass to Niko Kranjcar.

Like I said, a vital cog...

Like I said, a vital cog...

To be fair to Gareth he only played 25 league games since joining Spurs but even if you were a new Derby signing in 2007/08 you would not have to had to wait that long for a league win (Giles Barnes waited 21 games). Anyway I think he deserves some recognition:

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T.

The Six Pointer – Intelligent footballers, Lampard’s drought & more…

28/09/2009

That was the weekend that was.

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1. Wigan beat Chelsea on Saturday in what was probably the second biggest shock of the season after Burnley 1 Man Utd 0. Chelsea were all over the place from front to back and it was strange to see such poor set piece marking from them. Bramble scored the opener with a free header from a short corner and minutes later Wigan almost scored with the exact same move.

Drogba scored an equaliser but Rodallega then won a penalty after Cech took him down. I don’t think the Chelsea keeper can have any complaints (even though he does). Even though there was a defender running back to cover the goal line, a keeper preventing a goalscoring opportunity in the box will always result in penalty and usually a red too. Rodallega dusted himself down to score the spot kick and Wigan added a third after more poor defending.

All credit to Wigan who fully deserved the victory but it was definitely unexpected after failing to win their previous 34 games against top four sides. It will be interesting to see if it was just a one-off off day for Chelsea or the start of a similar downward spiral to last season. Ancelotti not really having any answers for the defeat says a lot.

A side note too on Frank Lampard who was stifled by Hendry Thomas. I don’t know if he’s just having a slow start but he ‘s only got one goal so far and that’s been from the penalty spot. Even though he’s nominally playing further forward compared to last season, perhaps the switch to Drogba AND Anelka is limiting his goalscoring opportunities. One to keep an eye on, fantasy football wise at least.

Not up to speed yet.

Not up to speed yet.

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2. Fernando Torres destroyed Hull on Saturday but Phil Brown’s side did not help themselves with some comedy defending. I know El Nino is great off either foot but Zayatte and Sonko were happy to oblige and just move in the opposite direction of Torres. An easy hat-trick for him was followed by a fortunate Gerrard looping cross which looped all the way into the top corner and then two Babel goals from close range.

Hull had actually equalised through Geovanni but unlike against Arsenal away a year ago they couldn’t go on to win. They are quite lucky that Portsmouth have lost seven straight, for there have been no other teams as bad as Hull. Brown’s luck has run out and it will be interesting to see if he can find a response.

Personally, I think he’s lost the dressing room and it’s only a matter of time before he gets sacked. Whether it happens early enough for Hull to avoid relegation (obviously it’s early days at the mo, but of they leave it till March etc…) is the big question.

Easy peasy lemon orange squeezy

Easy peasy lemon orange squeezy.

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3. Unlucky Portsmouth have not deserved to lose seven games on the bounce. After selling all their good players and bringing in the likes of Tommy Smith and Kevin Prince Boateng it’s no wonder they haven’t gelled yet. I caught the highlights against Everton and it seemed they had several chances and were lacking that bit of luck which tends to desert you at the foot of the table.

They aren’t fully adrift yet and have a decent run of fixtures coming up in which they can finally get some points. If the promised investment from Al Fahim comes then there may still be a chance to turn things around in January. It just depends on how much ground they’ll have to make up.

This looks like they've just found a picture of a private jet and just pasted his image on top.

This looks like they've just found a picture of a private jet and just pasted his image on top.

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4. Ryan Giggs made the difference for Man Utd for the second week running and now has five assists in two games, which is more than anyone else has managed all season. Fergie was subtly scathing of Nani when in his post match interview he said that Giggs had the intelligence to get into good positions.

Nani had been woeful again and lasted just 55 minutes before being hauled off for the Welshman. You do have to wonder if Nani will ever make it at Man Utd. This is his third season at Old Trafford and though he’s only 22, there’s been no sign that he has what it takes.

I know it took Ronaldo until his fourth season before he consistently dominated games, but even in the three years prior he had scored four, five and nine league goals. Nani has just five in his United career and I think there are times when you just have to cut your losses and accept that a player is not suited to the Premier League. Nani is one of those players and it would surprise me to see him ever make a sustained impact at Old Trafford.

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5. All three main (i.e. not Pavlyuchenko) Spurs strikers have hat-tricks this season and Harry Redknapp is beginning to make noises about how difficult it is to keep all three happy. I do believe it was you Harry who decided to buy all three so you can’t start moaning about how hard it is.

I’m still not convinced that Keane and Defoe is the best choice up front and I think the fact Redknapp is handcuffed somewhat by Keane being captain will come back and bite him on the arse. Having said that, it seems to be working for now and four goals is not to be sniffed at, even if Burnley’s defending was crap.

The most impressive performance from a Burnley defender actually came on Sunday evening when Clarke Carlisle was on MOTD2. He was really eloquent for a footballer and made some good points and insightful analysis. It beats the same old clichés spouted by the likes of Hansen and Lawro on the main programme.

Quite good as a pundit.

Quite good as a pundit.

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6. Another weekend with no draws and we’ve had just four this season from sixty odd games. I love the fact that teams are going for it and that we’re seeing so many more goals compared to last season. It gets said every year, but perhaps this genuinely could be the most open league in many a year. Either that, or the gap between good and bad teams is getting bigger meaning draws between them are few and far between.

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T.

The Six Pointer (super duper late edition) – Wenger’s plinth, Stoke raise stake & more…

01/09/2009
A super delayed six pointer on the weekend’s action but what can you do? It was bank holiday weekend, the weather was nice and your resident scribe was out and about. For what it’s worth, some thoughts on the weekend gone.
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1. Arsenal will be encouraged by the performance against Man United if not the result. Two costly errors turned a comfortable 1-0 lead into 2-1 defeat which though disappointing showed that the new formation and current personnel can compete against the top teams as well as the bad ones faced thus far. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a United side create so little in a game and the midfield especially was quite pedestrian.

After Fletcher somehow got away with taking out Arshavin in the box as well as handling it in the same move (thanks Mike Dean), the tiny Russian decided to score from 25 yards shortly afterwards. Foster should have done better but it was none the less a good strike. The second half saw Almunia stupidly dive at Rooney’s feet but unlike Boruc with Eduardo, he kept his arms out, allowing Rooney to dive over them and get the decision. There definitely was contact but Rooney was falling already (look at his left foot trailing). If Almunia hadn’t had come out so far, there’s no way Rooney was scoring from that angle/speed. Another error for him against United then (there’ve been a few down the years…).

For United’s second Diaby headed in unmarked from six yards. You don’t even need to see a picture to imagine how silly that sounds. But the reactions of Gallas and Vermaelen below should tell you everything you need to know about how bad an error it was.

Diaby makes a boo boo.

Diaby makes a boo boo.

Arsenal tried to get back into it but it wasn’t their day and van Persie had a goal correctly ruled out for offside in the fifth minute of stoppage time. This led to a great scene where Wenger was sent off for kicking away a water bottle in frustration. I think most fans were amused by the way he made the officials look like idiots by standing arms outstretched amongst a sea of United supporters.

I do wonder when someone will take action over the “sit down you paedophile” chant constantly sung at Old Trafford though. The media silence over it is deafening. Why is something done when Sol Campbell is abused but not when Wenger is. This goes beyond terrace banter and I don’t see how calling calling him a paedophile is any different to being racist or homophobic to Sol Campbell.

I'm Arsene Wenger, who the hell are you?

I'm Arsene Wenger, who the hell are you?

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2. Chelsea were again efficient in their victory over Burnley and their midfield is working particularly well right now. Drogba and Anelka combined once more and everything is running smoothly at the Bridge at the moment. Their first ten fixtures are very generous and they should be in the clear not too long after the international break.  They were the only top side not to lose anyone in the off season (unless Shevchenko counts?!) but this time last year they were also wrecking havoc before it all suddenly went tits up.

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3. A nice line in man management by Rafa Benitez during the week. After criticising Steven Gerrard for not performing at his highest level, Liverpool’s captain popped up with the winner against Bolton. Interestingly, until Bolton’s Sean Davis was sent off, Gerrard had done bugger all. Once he was given a bit of space it was inevitable that his influence would grow.

Look how far he was from any Bolton player for the winner. Gerrard mentioned that the same tactic had been used on him by Gary Megson last season (though Bolton still lost that one too) and it could be an interesting tactic for other managers going forward. It does seem right now if you stop him you stop Liverpool.

Gerrard in acres of space to score the winner.

Gerrard in acres of space to score the winner.

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4. I still think it’s too early to consider Spurs or Man City title challengers but they are both looking capable of getting a top four place. I read a stat today that since Harry Redknapp has taken over they’ve won only one less point than Arsenal and winning four from four so far this year is their best start for decades.

I did wonder how they would go forward following the injury on Saturday to Modric but they’ve gone straight out and bought Kranjcar who is an excellent replacement. Man Utd and Chelsea are next so let’s wait until the end of September before reassessing.

The same goes for Man City really who face Arsenal and Man Utd before a tricky tie against Fulham. Again though, their start has been solid and Adebayor is beginning to look like the striker of 2007/08 once more.

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5. Stoke have been quietly going about their business and currently find themselves in fifth place. The Britannia Stadium has become a real fortress for them and they are confident enough to start spending a little bigger too, as demonstrated by the £15m or so splashed out on Collins, Tuncay, Huth and Arismendi in the past week or two. They’re not to everyone’s taste but Tony Pulis is doing a great job and the way Stoke are going they could well end up comfortably in the top half of the table.

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6. Two straight matches without Heskey starting, two straight wins for Aston Villa. It’s unfair to lay all the blame for Villa’s extended poor run at his feet (no Laursen and tiredness was a big factor last season and no Barry is a big loss this season) but their strengths are geared to playing at pace in a 4-5-1.

To this effect Agbonlahor and also Carew (who is much more mobile then Heskey in my opinion) are much better suited to the style of play. Heskey still has a role to play but a much smaller one if Villa are to again push for Europe. However the better Carlton Cole does, the more Heskey’s England place is under threat too.

This may have led to a goal. Probably didn't though.

This may have led to a goal. Probably didn't though.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Strength in unity, transfer timing & more…

24/08/2009

1. Chelsea have been efficiently going about their business without overly impressing, but at this stage of the season you can’t ask for more than three wins out of three. Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t changed too much beyond the switch to a diamond midfield, and has just let the experience of the Chelsea players do the work needed.

There was a certain inevitability about the victory over Fulham yesterday, they were always in control and it was the archetypal professional performance of goal in each half while keeping it tight in between. Fulham were always going to struggle to penetrate without the injured Andy Johnson but Chelsea ensured that they scored the goals to avoid a repeat of last season’s draw.

I’m still not convinced entirely by either the formation or the partnership of Drogba and Anelka but for now the Blues will be happy to work it out as they go along. They should be getting nine points from their next three games against Burnley, Stoke, and Tottenham (they always beat Spurs at home) so they could have a nice little lead come the end of September.

No need to look at each other, it's all through telepathy.

No need to look at each other, it's all through telepathy.

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2. Tottenham have made their best start since 1960-61 when they last won the league. Now while we can safely say they won’t be winning the league this year it does look like they can go back to the position of a few years ago when they were pushing for a Champions League spot.

In terms of the results they’ve had, they’re no better off than last year having also beaten Liverpool at home and Hull and West Ham away. The difference has been the manner of victory in those three games, with the usual attacking intent now complemented by midfield steel in the shape of Wilson Palacios.

It will be interesting to see how they get on once Ledley King starts missing games more difficult than Hull, but at the moment their schedule will allow him to play the next three games of Birmingham (H), Man Utd (H) and Chelsea (A), injury permitting.

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3. After being written off after one defeat, Burnley have now won two games on the spin at Turf Moor, beating both Man Utd and Everton 1-0. Their home form was always going to be key to their chances of survival this season and they have continued in the manner of last season’s Carling Cup run by beating two top sides at home. Their difficult start continues with away games at Chelsea and Liverpool next but the fact they have some points on the board and lie in 7th place suggests they can go into those matches with nothing to lose.

After all, it won’t be the games against the big boys which ensure survival but more what they can do against the Hull’s, Bolton’s and Wolves’ of this world. Teamwork will get them a long way this season and as Owen Coyle said on Saturday, Burnley’s strength is their unity not their individuals.

There must be one ego in there surely?!

There must be one ego in there surely?!

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4. Everton are in a bit of a mess at the moment with a position at the bottom of the table with no points, one fit centre back and a £22 million hole burning in their pocket and just seven days to spend it. They will be pleased the Lescott saga is drawing to a close but they could have had it resolved a long time ago. While he is a good defender he is by no means the most irreplaceable player at Goodison Park (he’s not even the best centre back at the club), so the money they have received is more than adequate (another example of Man City having to buy  second best but with a top price tag).

As many people have pointed out though, they could have accepted £18m a month ago, bought a replacement or two and been settled in time for the new season. The problem now is the timeframe left to buy a replacement plus the fact that everyone knows Everton are desperate and cash rich.

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5. It’s far too early to make calls but at the same time Portsmouth already looked very good bet for relegation. They simply don’t have the players to survive I don’t think, either in quality or in number. The potential takeover drags on and on while on the pitch players like Kanu are just not going to win you games any more. If they can get to the end of transfer window without losing any further players they may have a fighting chance, but if Distin or James leave then it may be a long hard season ahead.

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6. An interesting result at Anfield this evening, where defeat by Aston Villa has left Liverpool with two losses in their opening three games. That’s as many as they lost in the whole of last season. It’s difficult to know what exactly is wrong at Anfield. Once again there wasn’t much midfield service as Xabi Alonso wasn’t there to provide it but the second goal brought up some issues with zonal marking.

I’m sure Rafa will have a moan about the circumstances of the second goal but a) it was definitely a corner and b) Reina kicking it away meant time was being wasted which meant time should have been added for the corner, which it was. Medium term, Benitez is out of money to spend so must hope that the more competitive league this year ensures Liverpool aren’t too far behind the pace once Aquilani is fit.

Much to ponder.

Much to ponder.

But with all the talk of someone new breaking into the top four what price Liverpool to be the ones to drop out? On a side note, was it coincidence that Aston Villa’s best performance in about six months was with Emile Heskey on the bench? I think not.

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Burnley

12/08/2009

burnley

Last Season: Promotion from Championship via playoffs (5th) and a Carling Cup semi final.

Say hello to your new teammates: Steven Fletcher, Tyrone Mears, David Edgar, Fernando Guerrero

Close the door on your way out: Alan Mahon, Gabor Kiraly

Predicted star: Burnley success will no doubt be based on having a team whose total is greater than the sum of its parts. Steven Fletcher comes with a big price tag (for Burnley) from Hibs. Kevin McDonald scored twice against Arsenal last season. 37 year old Graham Alexander played 61 games last season and will no doubt provide inspiration and goals from defence again.

An old fashioned name for an old fashioned club.

An old fashioned name for an old fashioned club.

Needs a big year: Martin Paterson scored 19 goals in all competitions last season. This including five in the League Cup adventure which saw many a top flight team defeated. Burnley will need him to score the goals that keep them up.

One to watch: Richard Eckersley has spent his career so far learning the trade at Old Trafford, so it will interesting to see if he can translate that education into a successful Premier League career. Keep an eye on Fernando Guerrero too.

What they want to happen: Survive. Beat Bolton.

Nightmare scenario: Challenge Derby’s record low points total of two seasons ago.

Plan A: Neat, tidy passing football based on an organised defence and midfield. The benefit of having a small squad is that the team is settled and know each other’s play inside out.

Plan B, just in case: Slightly more direct – though long ball doesn’t seem in Coyle’s style.

Predicted finish: 17th

Why? Many people have written off Burnley before the season has even begun, nailing them on for certain relegation. Yes, their squad is very small with little to no Premier League experience but the players at Coyle’s disposal are young and often with something to prove. Coyle himself is an excellent manager by all account and let’s not forget that Burnley reached the Carling Cup semi finals last season. This saw them knock out Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal while coming very close against Spurs. Of course motivating yourself for one off cup games is easier than the grind of the league season but I think Coyle is aware of the strengths and weaknesses and will make up for the latter with hard work and organisation.

I'm sure it will be a bigger prize if Burnley stay up.

I'm sure it will be a bigger prize if Burnley stay up.

Defensive reinforcements have been brought in, which given their 60 Championship goals conceded last year was a must. If those reinforcements can settle quickly, I think Burnley’s attacking play will be good enough to get results. The compactness and relative fortress of Turf Moor should be used to aid this too as I don’t foresee too many wins away from home. The first five games against Stoke, Man Utd, Everton Liverpool and Chelsea are brutal but if Burnley can avoid too much negativity following that run of games I genuinely fancy them to cause a few shocks and just about survive.

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T.


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