Posts Tagged ‘Carling Cup’

Live Report: Arsenal v Wigan Thoughts


A few thoughts on last night’s victory over Wigan…

The performance wasn’t a vintage one but this was partly down due to the awful conditions. Freezing temperatures, falling snow and swirling winds did not for flowing football make. The atmosphere was pretty good all things considered but there were certainly far fewer people then the advertised 59,525.

I’m sure many people felt that they’d rather sacrifice the tenner they paid instead of sitting in the cold for two hours. Indeed, the guy sitting next me bailed at half time, clearly thinking “Sod this, I’m freezing”.

Kick off

On the pitch there were a few impressive performances. Wilshere kept things ticking at a reasonable pace, hitting probing passes and telling people where he wanted them to run. Van Persie, the captain for the night, had some lovely touches including a couple of flicks that Vela should really have finished off. His set pieces were always hit at a threatening pace too.

Kieran Gibbs has been getting rave reviews whenever he’s played and this game was no different. Always comfortable in defence, he consistently overlapped Vela down the left wing. The crosses/cutbacks didn’t always pick someone out but as many others have said, Gael Clichy should be looking over his shoulder.


You could argue Vela, Walcott and Bendtner were disappointing, and I suppose they all had presentable chances to score (the latter of course did) – however it would be unfair to simply judge them by the scoresheet. Bendtner of course is still working his way to full fitness and as usual was often in the right place at the right time; his scoring touch will come.

Walcott didn’t really trouble Figueroa in the 1st half but found a little more joy in the second where he started to roam. Indeed his best effort came when cutting in from the left and curling a shot just wide.

Vela was the most interesting. He missed two glorious chances which he normally puts away but generally was always available as an outlet. He’s in the trickiest situation of those three, I just don’t see where he fits in long term.

Swirling snow.

I should mention Wigan’s performance which wasn’t especially bad but lacked a butting edge. Their early tactic was to hit balls out wide to the left where Victor Moses was situated – clearly they thought Eboue was not fully fit. However he went off with a dislocated shoulder towards the end of the 1st half and with that Wigan’s threat somewhat disappeared.

They had some half chances but these stemmed from sloppiness on Arsenal’s part rather than any real creativity. Perhaps I was most impressed with the fact that Caldwell, Alcaraz and Boselli all wore short sleeve shirts and no gloves. Hardcore!


Once the second goal had gone in the game somewhat petered out. A few chances were missed and everyone was willing the final whistle. Some mild entertainment was provided by a pitch invader who ran the length of the touchline to shake Wenger’s hand.

Clearly the cold had numbed the stewards’ reactions. This was proven a few minutes later when two more kids tried their luck. They were more interested in putting on a show and spent the next minute or so sliding around the Emirates pitch whilst players stood bewildered and stewards chased in vain.

Eventually Eboue got them to stop. It wasn’t particularly clever on their part but I do think it is an isolated incident unlikely to be repeated. The combination of freezing cold weather, bored kids and stewards who weren’t alert is not a particularly common one. After all the one near me was sharp enough to spot me swigging from a hip flask. Given the choice/ultimatum of confiscating it or drinking it all at once in the concourse, I chose the latter naturally.

Pitch invaders...

An intriguing night all in all, with the victory being the most important aspect. The news that Ipswich will be the semi-final opponents should provide a great opportunity to play at Wembley in February.



Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out


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).


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.


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.


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…



Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 28 Preview


Going into Tuesday night I was rather concerned. Captain Rooney had done nothing against Everton and it seemed like I was due for my usual poor week after a good week. I needn’t have worried in the end. A Rooney double from two Valencia assists and five bonus points between them meant my score jumped to 81 for the week. Not great, but not too bad all things considered.

The Carling Cup final this week means Aston Villa and Man Utd don’t play and neither do Hull or West Ham. I imagine lots of people have brought in the likes of Milner and Agbonlahor after their week 27 exploits but that’s a little silly as they’re going to miss next week too. I can just about put a full team out this week but that depends on one or two injury concerns.


Gameweek 27 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Antonio Valencia Man Utd

Maverick approves of Valencia's second Top Gun.

Antonio Valencia justified the four point hit I took to bring him in with 16 points with three assists and a couple of bonus points too. I imagine he’ll be back ahead of Nani now in the terms of the starting XI. There were some big scores right behind him with Givet, Rooney and Downing all getting 15 points. Nine other players got into double figures.


Three Captain Choices:

A little trickier this week with no Man Utd, a tough away match for Arsenal and a testing home game for Chelsea.

1. Drogba/Chelsea – Man City are a decent side but rubbish away from home. It will be interesting to see how Mancini lines them up after they lost at Stoke in midweek. Drogba might not have got the better of Lucio on Wednesday but a Premier League defence shouldn’t pose too many problems. Certainly not one with Lescott and Toure in the middle anyway.

2. Kuyt/Liverpool – Not someone I’m particularly keen on but there really are few obvious captain choices this week. Liverpool have improved in recent weeks and should beat Blackburn at Anfield. Torres is still out injured (though may be a sub) so Kuyt is probably the biggest goal threat.

3. Bent/Sunderland – Surely they have to win sometime right? 13 games is the longest winless streak this season but Fulham at home is a fair opponent if you’re trying to break that run. Risky, if nothing else…

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.


Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Hilario/Chelsea – With Cech out for a few weeks this could be a sneaky way to get some cheap clean sheets. Chelsea admittedly don’t play next week but their games after that are relatively straightforward. A little pricey at £4.9m but cheap for a Chelsea defender.

2. Bale/Spurs – I never thought I’d be recommending him here but to his credit he’s finally over his jinx of not being on a winning Spurs team. Tottenham are pretty tight at the back right now and Bale has been getting bonus points galore in the last five matches (10). He doesn’t really assist (first one last week) but could be a good differential in a mini league.

3. Kalinic/Blackburn – It seems many people who have had Darren Bent since the start of the season are finally looking to get rid of him. With Sunderland playing terribly and his value dropping, the need arises for a cheap third striker. Kalinic has quietly been playing pretty well with a couple of goals recently and some bonus points too. He won’t score many more this season but might be worth keeping an eye on.


Might be worth a pick.


Three To Avoid:

1. Crouch/Spurs – Despite featuring in every Spurs match this season, has only five goals and just one since Christmas. Pavlyuchenko’s recent form might push him out of the side.

2. Adebayor/Man City – A three match ban means he’s out till gameweek 32.

3. Cech/Chelsea – Out for a month.

peter crouch spurs

Are you taking the mick?!



Weekly Photoshop – 2009 Review


Hello hello, long time no speak. This week there’s no Photoshop theme in the Guardian, merely a collection of the year’s best entries. They’ve decided to not just use the weekly winners (not sure why) hence Emmanuel Eboue gets in from way back in January while October’s effort for Old Trafford Injury Time also makes it.


My three personal favourites from this year are as follows:

3. Nicklas Bendtner (more for Ade as Ike Turner):

Nicklas may think he's "simply the best, better than all the rest" but sadly for him Ade is the Ike in this relationship.


2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (proving me wrong to be fair):

zlatan ibrahimovic barcelona guardiola

"Of course you can rely on me in the big games Pep." Zlatan's already epic nose suddenly seems to increase in size...


1. Roy Keane (both entries):

roy keane ipswich

There'll be none of this Tractor Boys business now Keane is in charge, it's manual labour all the way...

roy keane ipswich mick mccarthy

Mick McCarthy may have escaped Keane's clutches for now but he'll soon hunt him down.


Hope you enjoyed them all, I’m going to try to spend more time on them next year. Alberto Aquilani is first up in the new year.



Live Report – Arsenal v West Brom, Carling Cup 22/09/09


I don’t always bother doing reports of matches I’ve been to. Indeed looking through the archives, I’ve only done one up until now but Arsenal and I had a bit of a lover’s tiff in the second half of last season and I think I only went to the Youth Cup Final post Christmas. Anyway a new season means new beginnings and after opening my account for the season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday, I again ventured down to the Emirates last night to see the second string and youth players take on West Brom in the Carling Cup.

After a string of impressive performances against Premier League and Championship opposition in recent years, no one is surprised any more at how good some of the players coming through at Arsenal are. Indeed the tendency has been to hype them up like crazy when we should bear in mind they haven’t done anything, yet. However, much of the hype is justified and I think many of the players will actually make the grade at Arsenal unlike in the past where they’d end up being shipped off to a Championship team. All eyes were on Jack Wilshere last night but there were plenty of others to watch as well.

Arsenal started brightly with a couple of Senderos headers off target before West Brom gradually got into the game. Szczesny (I’m half Polish and I still have trouble writing that!) made a couple of smart low stops but on occasion looked suspect when trying to jump for a ball. Just like our other keepers then! Given that he’s only 19 I’ll let him off. Coquelin was quietly efficient in his passing whilst busy in his workrate but it was all pretty even really.

Then came the turning point late in the first half. Ex-Gunner Jerome Thomas tackled Wilshere but left a foot and elbow in as doing so. He offered an apology but Wilshere said something and then Thomas shoved his hand in Wilshere’s face. It was light but sensing the opportunity, the youngster made a bit of a meal of it and Thomas got sent off. It wasn’t violent but he can have no complaints. As I tweeted at the time, if you raise your arms you’re asking for trouble.

The real reason behind Thomas' reaction!

The real reason behind Thomas' reaction!

Anyway the numerical advantage only told in the second half once Carlos Vela came on for Giles Sunu. Receiving a rapturous reception on his return from injury, he immediately made an impact with his ability to draw the West Brom centre backs wide. The pace of the game increased with his sharp movement and passing and the space that playing against 10 men should have resulted in finally came about.

The first goal was a simple tap in by the brilliantly named Sanchez Watt (prefers it to Herschel which is his real first name!) and came after good work by Vela. He created space for himself on the edge of the box before shooting with enough power that Dean Kiely spilled it allowing Watt to slot home from three yards.

The second came soon after; Mark Randall attempting a chip from 25 yards that Vela himself would have been proud of. It hit the bar and then Leon Barnett attempted a mental chest back to the keeper (the ball was at knee height…). Obviously he screwed it up and Vela walked it into the net.

Wilshere and Vela take a corner. Sportboy T takes a crappy camera phone picture.

Wilshere and Vela take a corner. Sportboy T takes a crappy camera phone picture.

The rest of the game was played out without too much fuss and Arsenal find themselves in the fourth round. Overall I was impressed with Aaron Ramsey who has improved immensely and now looks too good for this level. Vela made the difference and again is pushing for first team action. Sanchez Watt was lively while the neat and tidy Coquelin could be one to watch giving the constant turnover of defensive midfielders at Arsenal.

The left flank of Gibbs and Traore were quiet in the first half but got into it in the second once the game was stretched. I’m still not quite sure what Traore’s long term role at the club is. I would suggest he focuses on becoming a true left winger. It was nice to see Senderos back and there was only one dodgy moment from him.

Szczesny made some good stops and look assured for 19. I read it was quite close between him and Mannone for the first team spot and have watched them both over the past few days I would be inclined to pick the Pole. Wilshere had some nice touches but was quiet overall. Sunu, Gilbert and Barazite did nothing of note.

I’d say on the whole it was a much more useful learning experience for the players then the 6-0 against Sheffield Utd at this stage last year even if it was less entertaining for myself. Credit to the West Brom fans who filled most of their allocation and had about five times as much support as Wigan did on Saturday (even sung a bit too).



Season Previews 09/10 – How’ll they finish


So after 10,000 words worth of pre season previews, they’re finally all up and available to mock at as all my predictions inevitably get proven wrong within a few weeks of the season starting! To make things easier I’ve added all of them here in the positions I predicted each club to finish. We’ll take a look back at this in May and see how accurate the table was. I’ve added a few other season predictions at the end too.


Predicted Premier League Table 2009/10

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


FA Cup: Arsenal

Carling Cup: Chelsea

Champions League: Barcelona

Europa League: Valencia

Promoted from Championship: West Brom, Middlesbrough, Derby.

Top Scorer: Fernando Torres if he stays fit, Robinho if he doesn’t.

First manager sacked: Alex McLeish

La Liga: Real Madrid

Serie A: Milan

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich

Ligue 1: Bordeaux



Fantasy Football – Gameweek 27


I find myself in a bit of a pickle this week as I only have nine players available at the moment, two of which are goalkeepers. With Man Utd being in the Carling Cup final, Paintsil and Bosingwa being suspended, and Portsmouth not playing I’ll need to make a couple of changes just to get a full team out. Next week Fulham, Blackburn, Sunderland and Spurs all play twice so that is something to consider too. 

Last week saw James Beattie as top point scorer with 13. I am willing to bet that will be the first and last time this will ever happen. He has done well though since joining Stoke with four goals in four games. Elesewhere it was a case of Fulham players trying to outdo each other with Schwarzer (12) just beating Johnson (11) who just beat Zamora (10). All got into double figures though. 

On to this week’s picks…


Three alternatives to Ronaldo as Captain (makes sense, he’s not playing)

1. Lampard/Chelsea – I have to say no one stands out this week, Chelsea and Arsenal both face good defensive teams despite being at home so goals may be at a premium. I don’t have Lampard in my team but if I did he would be my likely choice. I could see Wigan holding them to a draw though.

2. Young/Aston Villa – Martin O’Neill has laid his cards on the table and decided that he would rather qualify for the Champions League instead of win the UEFA Cup. I know the feeling. His first team will be fully rested having not played against CSKA. Stoke are a big physical team so you could well see Carew and Heskey play together. All this leads to plenty of crosses from Ashley Young. Hopefully one of these crosses will end up as an assist.

3. Van Persie or Bendtner (if you’re feeling very reckless)/Arsenal – Fulham are a tough side to break down but they have only scored three away goals this season. Arsenal will no doubt be camped in their half from the first minute onwards and in the absence of Eduardo, Adebayor and Walcott, the aforementioned RVP and NB will probably continue up front. I’m hoping clutching that given enough chances Bendtner might score. Please. Thank you.




Three suggested transfers in:

1. Santa Cruz or Roberts/Blackburn – A decent game this week against Hull and then two next week against Everton and Fulham. Either is worth a shout for a couple of weeks even though Blackburn are struggling.

2. Arshavin/Arsenal – Seeing as he can’t play in the Champions League, Wenger will likely use him in every remaining league game. He’s pricey, and listed as a striker, but he showed enough against Sunderland to suggest that he will be a good source of points for the rest of the season.

3. Baines/Everton – The Toffees are pretty solid right now and stand to take a more defensive approach now that Arteta is out. He’s finally established himself in the back four and at £4.6M is a million cheaper than any other Everton defender who plays regularly. Tony Hibbert doesn’t count, he can barely be classed as a footballer let alone defender. 




Three to avoid:

1. Arteta/Everton – Out for the season. He’s at an odd price range where there isn’t an obvious replacement. Maybe SWP or Cahill I guess. If I had him I’d go cheaper and spend the money elsewhere.

2. Spurs players – If last season is anything to go by Tottenham’s season officially ends on Sunday after the Carling Cup final. I avoid their players anyway, but even more so now that they won’t have anything to play for. The fact they may still find themselves in a relegation battle does not make them suddenly appealing either.

3. Liverpool players – Watch Rafa rotate as he begins to prioritise the Champions League.





Weekly Photoshop – Nicklas Bendtner


This week saw Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner as the theme. Let’s not forget this is someone who believes they should be starting every game, every week. This miss against Roma on Tuesday would indicate he’s wrong. Anyway, remembering his clash with Adebayor in last season’s Carling Cup I decided to go with a bit of Ike and Tina Turner.


Nicklas may think he's "simply the best, better than all the rest" but sadly for him Ade is the Ike in this relationship.

Nicklas may think he's "simply the best" but sadly for him Ade is the Ike in this relationship.


The rest of the gallery is here. We’re mentioned at the beginning but they haven’t put it up for some reason.




Previous entries:

Van der Sar, ITVCookFerdinandFellainiBrownEboueCredit CrunchZakiGomesMaradonaDelapAdamsBeckhamRamos

Live Report – Arsenal v Wigan, Carling Cup, 11/11/08


One of the Sportboys went along to the Emirates this evening to see Arsenal take on Wigan in the Carling Cup 4th Round. Arsenal, once again playing their youngsters and reserves, were looking to build on the 6-0 win over Sheffield United in the last round. Wigan meanwhile, put out a strong side, aimed to continue their progress after victory over Ipswich in Round Three.  At a discounted £10, it was good value and there was a pretty much capacity crowd.

A surprisingly good view from Row 10 of the Lower Tier

A surprisingly good view from Row 10 of the Lower Tier.

I’m not going to write a full match report. You can find one in The Times, Guardian, BBC or Telegraph. Needless to say many Arsenal youngsters once again impressed including Jack Wilshere (just 16) and Aaron Ramsey in the middle of the park. Jay Simpson worked hard and got himself two goals on his full debut and overall Arsenal had five English players on the pitch, something I’m not used to seeing. Kieran Gibbs had a good game at left back and it was heartening to see Titus Bramble being useless as always. Zaki ran around a lot for Wigan but didn’t really get any service. He was somehow denied by Fabianski in the dying minutes too. I was impressed by De Ridder, who went on quite a few mazy, stepover runs and was the only creative outlet on the Wigan team. Referee Stuart Tanner was pretty poor but luckily had no major decisions with which to ruin the game with.

The highlight of the evening (and main reason for this post) was the third goal by Carlos Vela. After a sumptous chip in the last round to complete his hat-trick against Sheffield United, he scored an arguably even better one tonight. Enjoy



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