Posts Tagged ‘Giggs’

The Six Pointer: Theo Time, Tennis Scores & more…

23/08/2010

That was the weekend that was.

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1. Theo Walcott had arguably his best ever game for Arsenal scoring a hat-trick as the Gunners demolished Blackpool 6-0. Showing pace, direct running, and good end product, Walcott ran the show against the beleaguered Seasiders.

Yes it was “only” Blackpool and he was afforded more time and space than normal (not least once Blackpool were down to ten men) but it was encouraging to watch him put in such a performance.

Walcott has had his critics in his brief career, and rightly so in many cases but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he’s only 21 years old and has yet to get a through a season without major injury disruptions.

Taking his league stats from the last three seasons into account, it shows every season broken up through injury and bit part appearances.

2007/08 – 25 appearances/1260 minutes

2008/09 – 22 appearances/1265 minutes

2009/10 – 23 appearances/1129 minutes

1260 minutes equates to 14 full games which is just over a third of the season. Therefore in the space of three league seasons, he’s had one season’s worth of playing time. Yet people wonder why he’s not yet the finished article.

Of course cup and European games can be added to those totals but the point remains that Walcott is still very early into his development. Walcott himself acknowledges this is a key season for him, but let’s judge him at the end of it not the beginning.

Yeah!

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2. Another week, another 6-0 win for Chelsea – this Premier League lark is pretty easy isn’t it?! Drogba was once again a key player with three assists while Malouda and Anelka helped themselves to yet more goals.

Tougher tests will follow than West Brom and Wigan but a significant goal difference advantage amounts to the equivalent of an extra point at the business end of the season. Given they won the title by just a point last season, these early victories may prove vital.

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3. Two bogey teams continued their hold in London this weekend; Bolton winning their third successive game at Upton Park while Fulham prevented Man Utd from 3 points at Craven Cottage for the third successive season. Both games came down to missed penalties taken by someone other than the regular taker.

Carlton Cole saw his kick saved by Jaaskelainen which meant West Ham didn’t go into half time with lead. Bolton came out in the second half and scored twice and went on to win meaning Mark Noble’s penalty made no difference.

Meanwhile at 2-1 up against Fulham, Man Utd’s Nani took a spot kick instead of regular man Ryan Giggs. Stockdale saved, Fulham equalised and Fergie bemoaned silly dropped points.

It got me wondering as to why Noble hadn’t taken West Ham’s first and Giggs hadn’t taken United’s. Every club ranks their penalty takers for a reason. If the top man is on the field, he should take it.

The only exception to this is if someone is on a hat-trick and the game is won. I’m sure both Avram Grant and Alex Ferguson will be telling their players as much before the next game.

He's no Ronaldo...

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4. As much as I want to ignore Bale’s second goal vs Stoke, I can’t deny it was an excellent volley. I’m pretty sure we’ll see better this season but it’s likely to end up as goal of the month if nothing else. Bale is fast becoming Tottenham’s most important player and will be key to ensuring they challenge for a top four spot again.

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5. I don’t think anyone expected the third 6-0 of the weekend at St. James’ Park. Newcastle were terrific against a woeful Aston Villa and Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan reminded many that they are more than capable of performing at the highest level.

Andy Carroll scored a nice hat-trick and already people are tipping him for an England call. It is perhaps a little early for that but he has great potential. He won most things in the air against Vidic last week and was once again dominant aerially against the Aston Villa defence. His link up play suggests decent technique and it will be worth watching him this season, especially in home games.

Newcastle are now unbeaten in something like 23 games at home and they could do well to follow the template of two other recently promoted clubs, Stoke and Birmingham, in making their home ground a fortress in order to get the points needed to stay up.

Aerial beast.

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6. Last season Wigan were very Jekyll and Hyde beating Arsenal or Liverpool one week before getting smacked by seven the next. It looks like this season will mainly consist of the latter. I don’t think Martinez will have too long to sort it out but with games against Spurs and Man City coming up, they may be quite far adrift quite quickly.

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T.

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Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester United

12/08/2010

Man Utd

Last Season: 2nd + Carling Cup Winners

New Signings: Smalling, Hernandez, Bébé

Key Player: Wayne Rooney

One To Watch: Javier Hernandez

Needs  A Big Year: Rio Ferdinand

Would Quite Like: To keep City in their place while winning title 19 to overtake Liverpool’s record. Two birds, one stone.

Prediction: 1st

Thoughts: Alex Ferguson came mighty close to another league title last season but ultimately fell a point short of Chelsea, which was impressive given they’d lost both league matches against the Blues. Wayne Rooney carried them with his best ever season but the injury he suffered in March meant the Red Devils stuttered to the line somewhat and were pipped at the post.

Not too much has changed at Old Trafford with just three players joining in the shape of Chris Smalling (who was bought in January), Javier Hernandez and unknown striker Bébé for whom Ferguson has paid £7m or so on the back of a Carlos Queiroz recommendation. This last signing is really out of the blue, and considering how Nani and Anderson have turned out, it might be another case of overpaying.

In terms of the other two, Smalling is clearly being groomed as an eventual successor to Rio Ferdinand, though he wasn’t impressive when he played for Fulham last season. Hernandez or ‘Chicarito’ as he likes to be known is the interesting one. He looked very lively in the World Cup and has had a good pre-season. Double figures in goals could well be possible in his first season.

Bebe Man Utd

The last two Queiroz recommendations (Anderson and Nani) haven't exactly been rip roaring successes.

Elsewhere, there appears to be another crop of good youngsters pushing through, which is probably why Fergie hasn’t spent too much this summer. The likes of Tom Cleverley have been impressive in pre-season and should feature regularly as the season progresses.

The defence is solid if a little injury prone with van der Sar, Rio and Vidic all susceptible to niggles. Evans is a capable deputy at centre back however. Evra was one of the team’s best players last season but a question does remain over right back, where you have the same scenario as last season with O’Shea, Neville and Rafael battling it out.

It might be this for England.

Further forward, there are a huge range of options in midfield and attack. Fergie hasn’t named the same side in well over a 100 games and the likes of Valencia, Anderson, Nani, Park, Berbatov, Owen, Carrick, Scholes and Giggs all provide different options at different times.

Nani especially looked to finally be living up to some of his potential last season and Fergie will hope that he can be consistent over a whole season.

But it's more like this for Man Utd.

Really though it all depends on Rooney. The team is built around him now and he responded with his best ever season last year. After a dreadful World Cup (due to lack of fitness more than anything) he will want to bounce back – he looked half decent in the Charity Shield before being a bit rubbish in the Hungary friendly but I suspect the home comforts of Manchester will see another good season.

As ever, United have a pretty good team and if you come above them, you stand a very good chance of winning the title. I do feel Chelsea won’t be quite as good while Arsenal are still a decent keeper away from being true contenders. Ferguson has seen it all before and still has the same determination to win as he did twenty years ago. I think they’ll come top

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 16 Preview

11/12/2009

A quick one this week but hopefully still with enough time before tomorrow’s transfer deadline. I had a decent week last weekend with a slightly above average score of 51 but lost ground on some of the people ahead of me.

However, of the three people ahead of me in our league, I’m only worried about Sportboy P and I gained a few points on him. I was a bit concerned that Rooney wasn’t going to do anything last week but thankfully he got a goal to justify my captain choice. Should really have gone with Richard Dunne though.

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Gameweek 15 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

James Milner Top Gun Aston Villa

Maverick approves of Milner's increasingly influential performances.

Aston Villa’s James Milner top scores with a relatively low 14 points last week. He scored, assisted, kept a clean sheet and got three bonus points. He has been playing quite well in recent weeks and looks a much better fantasy option than Ashley Young right now.

Elsewhere only six other players got into double figures points wise. Hreidarsson and Larsson both got 13 points while Andrei Arshavin offered hope for the future with 11 points from his first game as central striker in Arsenal’s 4-3-3.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Defoe or Lennon/Spurs – I personally think Defoe is a touch overrated as a consistent fantasy option this season – eight of his 12 goals have come in two games against crap teams. For me Darren Bent is a more reliable option week in week out. That said Spurs face Wolves at home and I can see a home victory by at least 3 goals. Spurs at home against useless teams usually means Defoe and Lennon fill their boots so you’d be wise to go with one of them as captain this week.

2. Giggs/Man Utd – The Welsh wizard has been in particularly good form recently and in his last three games has averaged 10 points through a goal, four assists and five bonus points. Man Utd face Aston Villa at the weekend and they haven’t lost to them at home since about 1995. Despite some struggles with injuries they should still beat Villa again. Failing Giggs, Rooney is also a good option with five in his last five against Martin O’Neill’s side.

3. Arshavin/Arsenal – What price the little Russian repeating his four goal Anfield haul of last season? Unlikely really but that’s not to say he won’t score. He played really well as striker against Stoke and he should find Carragher and Agger an easier challenge due to their lesser size. It’s a gamble but it could pay off with a goal or two.

Aaron Lennon Spurs

Gets a Captain's tick.

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Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Milner/Aston Villa – As shown through this week’s Top Gun award, Milner is in pretty good nick right now. He has two goals, three assists and two man of the match awards in his last four games and is worth looking at despite Aston Villa’s relatively hard upcoming fixtures.

2. J. Cole/Chelsea – With Essien out injured, Chelsea’s midfield will get a bit of a reshuffle and we might start to see a bit more of Joe Cole now that Deco has been anonymous in Chelsea’s away defeats to both Aston Villa and Man City. Cole is a tricky one as he has the talent but injuries have stopped him being a reliable option. He can quite easily put in a goal and two assist performance in any give game and is worth keeping an eye, despite a high £9m price.

3. Sorenson/Stoke – This isn’t really a suggested transfer in, as he is highest selected goalkeeper already.  More  a suggestion to play him over whoever else you have. I have missed out on both his two recent penalty saves as well as 28 points in three games.

James Milner Aston Villa

Might be worth a pick.

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Three to avoid:

1. Everton, Fulham, Stoke & Hull players – Not playing next week so bear that in mind when making transfers this week.

2. Essien & Mikel/Chelsea – The former is injured and then off to the African Nations Cup once he gets fit while the latter won’t do anything as his replacement.

3. Bullard/Hull – Out till the end of January.

Ryan Shawcross Stoke

Are you taking the mick?!

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T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 15 Preview

04/12/2009

Gameweek 15 comes around and if it goes half as well as gameweek 14 did I’ll be most pleased. It was one of those occasions where pretty much all the big decisions went right. I had Rooney as captain, Drogba partnering him, my transfer Shaun Wright-Phillips scored ten points and I got two clean sheets from Birmingham players.

That’s not too say everyone was good – my other six players got just seven points between them. However the four that scored big allowed me to catch right up in my league with a  total score of 76 points. 

 

Gameweek 14 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Wayne Rooney Man Utd Fantasy Football

Maverick approves of Shrek's best performance of the season.

A Wayne Rooney hat-trick and three bonus points got him 17 points and the highest score of the week. I picked him as captain so was doubly happy. There weren’t too many other double figure scores floating around. Chris Eagles was next with 16 for one goal, two assists and three bonus vs West Ham while Ryan Giggs scored his 100th Premier League goal and set up Rooney a couple of times for 15 points. 

 

Three Captain Picks: 

Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea are all away from home this weekend which makes me a little wary of picking any of their players as captain.

1. Fabregas or Arshavin/Arsenal – For all the talk of 100+ goals a few weeks ago, Arsenal have now failed to score in the league since Robin van Persie got injured. Admittedly they were difficult games at Sunderland and against Chelsea at home but it is a concern. I think they’ll hit the net on Saturday as for all their strength, Stoke are pretty poor away from the Britannia. None of the strikers available (Eduardo & Vela) are particularly inspiring right now so it’s left to either Fabregas or Arshavin to do the damage.

2. Lennon or Defoe/Spurs – With every passing week Everton seem to lose someone to injury. Their squad is really thin at the mo and is full of youngsters. Tottenham’s recent record against Everton is pretty good so either Lennon or Defoe are a fair shout to do something.

3. Agbonlahor/Aston Villa – Hull have picked up since Bullard has returned from injury but I think their mini run will end against Aston Villa. Agbonlahor has been in pretty consistent form this season and his space should cause plenty of problems for the Hull defence.

fabregas fantasy football captain

Get's a captain's tick.

 

Three Suggested Transfers In:

1. Chelsea defenders – Have quietly put together five straight clean sheets and will no doubt get many more before the season is out. Their back five is pretty pricey but Ivanovic can be had for £5.7m still while you could perhaps invest in Cech as one your keepers if you’re feeling extravagant.

2. Birmingham defenders – Can’t afford the Blues’ defenders then why not go for the Blues’ defenders instead. Yes, by slightly changing the shade of blue you go for, plenty of clean sheet points can still come your way at a price to match. Birmingham now have six clean sheets (behind Chelsea’s nine) for the season, and considering they never get thrashed when they do concede makes having at least two if not three of them very worthwhile.

3. Giggs/Man Utd – His two assists last week brought him up to nine for the season and while he does miss a game a month, he does enough in the others to warrant having. At £7.3m he’s a bargain and consistently produces in the tricky fixtures when Man Utd are off form.

Bratislav Ivanovic Chelsea

Might be worth a pick.

 

Three To Avoid:

1. Man City players – They’ve officially reached unreliable status after their failure to beat Hull at home meaning seven successive draws. I apologise for suggesting to go with Adebayor as captain last week – that was about as successful as a Tiger Woods trying to get away with an affair. They are still worth having in your team (attacking players at least) but just don’t think of making them captain.

2. Collins/Aston Villa – Has missed the last three weeks and is still doubtful for this one. He was a good option for a while but is now worth getting rid of as he’s in that price bracket which neither cheap enough to save elsewhere nor expensive enough to guarantee points.

3. Stoke players – Specifically Fuller, Huth, Shawcross and Whelan who are all on four yellows thus likely to be missing a game sometime soon.

Emmanuel Adebayor Man City

Are you taking the mick?!

T.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 8

02/10/2009

Gameweek 8 and some interesting fixtures this weekend. A big four clash, plenty of tired teams who were involved in midweek European competition and some good opportunities for the cellar dwellers to pick up some victories. There were 37 goals last weekend and some high scores fantasy wise. Here’s to more of the same.

Gameweek 7 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Maverick approves. Sort of.

Maverick approves. Sort of.

It was a battle of the strikers this time round as three players fought to win the award but ultimately if you score four goals there’s a 95% chance you’ll be top scorer for the week. Keane‘s quadruple against Burnley coupled with three bonus points made for a grand score of 21 and with it the Top Gun award.

In a way this feels quite a low score for so many goals but I guess that will always be the case for strikers. Looking back at Arshavin’s four goal haul against Liverpool last season, it also brought him 21 points. It would have been 25 in his new midfielder classification.

As I was saying, two other strikers ran Keane close this week. Torres scored the easiest hat-trick of his career against Hull and also got three bonus for 17 while on Sunday Darren Bent saved many a fantasy team’s weekend by grabbing 18 points via three assists, a goal and three bonus against Wolves. I don’t think anyone was expecting that good a haul from him!

Elsewhere John O’Shea got the classic defender’s combination of winning goal, clean sheet and three bonus for 15, while Tevez, Jones, Petrov and Babel all got 12+. A mention too for Thomas Vermaelen who was the first Top Gun winner to get more than two points the following week. He kept a clean sheet for six.

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Three Captain choices:

A big four matchup between Chelsea and Liverpool on Sunday means we should probably avoid Torres, Lampard, Gerrard et al. After both teams unimpressed during midweek Champions League and with Chelsea also on the back of a league defeat at Wigan, there may well be an avoid defeat at all costs strategy. A low scoring encounter is certainly on the cards meaning we have to look elsewhere.

1. Rooney/Man Utd – The hairy, screaming one faces Sunderland at Old Trafford this weekend and is a good shout to score I’d say. Sunderland have been very average at the back despite the arrival of Michael Turner and have the sixth worse defensive record with 11 goals conceded so far. It’s their attack which has got them up to 8th. Rooney has six goals in his first seven league games and is now centrepoint of United’s attacking play. Do you really see John Mensah stopping him? Nope me neither.

2. Arshavin or Van Persie/Arsenal – The Gunners have won both home games so far and Blackburn have lost both away games. For all Sam Allardyce’s success against Arsenal over the years, I genuinely don’t see his side getting anything on Sunday. Van Persie has been Arsenal’s best attacker this season without actually getting that many goals but he did score against Fulham last weekend and Olympiacos in midweek. Arshavin too has quietly got himself three goals recently so perhaps is finally hitting some of the form of last season. I’ll be going to this match so am hoping for a few Arsenal goals.

3. Saha/Everton – The oft-injured striker has had a great start to 2009/10 and has scored five in five (he missed Fulham). Stoke are terrible away from home – for some reason they just can’t replicate the form they show at the Britannia and I expect an Everton victory here. Always back a striker when in form. Baines, Cahill or Fellaini are also good shouts in this game.

Gets a Captain's tick

Gets a Captain's tick

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – Yes he’s a very expensive transfer in, but my thinking is to replace Gerrard or Lampard with him. Arsenal’s next five are Blackburn, Birmingham, West Ham (A), Spurs and Wolves (A) all of which are winnable, most of which are easy. Lampard (see transfer out) hasn’t been scoring at all (goals wise not points wise), while Gerrard has to play deep for the duration of Mascherano’s absence. Fabregas has scored or assisted in his last three and should continue his good form. Just a thought.

2. Reid/Sunderland – Steve Bruce commented the other day about how Andy Reid has been Sunderland’s best player for the past month. Who am I to argue. The man who used to be really fat but is now just big-boned has three straight assists, plus a goal and three bonus in the last few weeks. He’s a bargain too at £5.3m.

3. Benayoun/Liverpool – Ok, so my attempted reverse jinx clearly failed last week as Benayoun got himself two assists for eight points. I will now attempt the opposite and start recommending him and hope he suddenly stops producing for Sportboy P’s side. I’m still not entirely sure he has the consistency over the course of a season but he is a good player capable of big games (see the 24 points against Burnley) and Rafa has at least realised that he’s a better option than Ryan Babel.

Might be worth a pick

Might be worth a pick

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Three to avoid:

1. Lampard/Chelsea – As I mentioned above, I’m not convinced Lampard is a player to have right now. Let’s look at what he’s done this season. He only has one goal (a penalty) but he does have four assists which is second after Giggs. His eight bonus leads midfielders but five strikers have more than that and he lies eighth overall with 42 points.

Watching a fair amount of Chelsea this season, he doesn’t seem to be getting into as many scoring positions as last year and I mentioned in Monday’s Six Pointer that part of this may be Chelsea playing two strikers again. I’m not saying get rid of him and don’t replace him, I’m just saying that don’t think you can’t just because he’s Frank Lampard.

In his defence his overall score is good and perhaps I’m being hasty but I think in terms of value if nothing else, there are currently better players out there. Just remember Ronaldo last season where people were hamstrung by the fear of not having him when you’d actually have been better off investing in someone a fraction cheaper and spending the rest elsewhere. Looking at the transfers out, it appears 24,000 people think so, the most for a midfielder this week. One to monitor.

2. Defoe/Spurs – Another player who you might think I’m crazy for suggesting to get rid of but it might be a good time. He’s just broken his hand, his value has gone up to £9m and as the Football Guy and I were discussing, Defoe has always been a very streaky player. Six goals in six games or something similar but then nothing for ages. You realise he hasn’t scored for two weeks right? Maybe it’s already begun. Cash in.

3. Sunderland players – Man Utd and Liverpool up next.

Are you taking the mick?

Are you taking the mick?

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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 – Blue Hughes sees red, Megson’s style (or lack thereof) & more…

22/09/2009

1. Mark Hughes has been getting on my nerves recently so it was quite funny to see him fume at Michael Owen’s last minute winner for Man Utd against Man City yesterday. He can bleat all he wants about the amount of stoppage time played but as has been pointed out several times now, the time that gets shown up on the board is a minimum not a maximum. Bellamy scored to make it 3-3 right on 90 minutes and the celebrations took around a minute. Fergie made a substitution and brought on Carrick which added around 30 seconds and Owen scored after 95 mins 28 seconds which if you add all the other stuff makes it perfectly fine.

Almost as good as the Neviller's celebration.

Almost as good as the Neviller's celebration.

If I was Mark Hughes I’d be more concerned about how my near £40 million centre back partnership appears to be a bit rubbish in the air while my right back has atrocious positioning skills. Richards was nowhere to be seen when Giggs slipped Owen through while Fletcher twice out jumped the City defence. Don’t forget all the great headed chances Berbatov had too.

Another issue of concern will be the number of shots Man City are taking. Even disregarding the three strikers they had out on Sunday, only five clubs have fewer shots on goal this season. City’s success thus far has been due to making the most of those shots with the highest on target accuracy of 57%. Given you would expect this to drop a little (the average is 44%), it means they’ll need to be more attacking if they’re to maintain their good start.

A word too for Craig Bellamy who has made a good start to the season and scored two excellent goals. I was arguing with the Football Guy the night before the game over where he stood in the pecking order at Man City. He reckons that Tevez is easily ahead whereas I wasn’t so sure. I think Bellamy’s two goals have added to the argument that he’s just as worthy of a place in the side as the Argetine. For all the talk about the determination and fight Tevez brings, it was clear on Sunday that Bellamy has fight in him too!

Biff!

Biff!

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2. Chelsea were pretty good against Spurs, with Drogba in particular terrorising their makeshift central defence once King went off. The talking point was Carvalho’s challenge on Keane in the box at 1-0 Chelsea. The Portuguese defender took none of the ball but Keane stayed up for a step before going down. This delay probably cost him the decision though Howard Webb wasn’t in a great position to see it clearly.

Had he been at a different angle Webb would have had no choice but to give it and perhaps send off Carvalho too. Given how Drogba played it may not have made a difference but it certainly would have been more of a challenge for Ancelotti’s side at 1-1 and with ten men.

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3. I’ve been thinking for a while that of the three centre backs Liverpool have, more and more Carragher seems to be the weak link. To be fair to him, Carlton Cole caused just as many problems for Martin Skrtel but Carragher is making lots of mistakes these days. Agger is not quite fit but it will be interesting selection choice once he is. I for one am quite happy if Rafa continues to play the Scousest man on Earth.

Luckily for Rafa Benitez he has probably the best player in the league in Fernando Torres who scored his 42nd and 43rd league goal in just 63 games – an awesome ratio that compares with Ronaldo and Henry at their best.

Another goal for El Nino.

Another goal for El Nino.

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4. It appears Bolton fans are slowly getting fed up with Gary Megson, booing the team off the pitch after the 1-1 draw with Stoke. Only Matt Taylor’s last minute penalty spared defeat but it’s the manner of play which is at odds with the support. Attendances are falling at the Reebok and it’s in no small part to Megson’s style of play. I imagine it would be bearable if it was bringing good results like last season but there’s just a solitary win against Pompey so far.

Bolton have made the fewest passes in the division and have the fourth lowest shooting accuracy. While the direct tactics may be effective against some, it’s not going to work when you have Kevin Davies on his own against the giant Stoke defenders. Klasnic might prove useful once he fully adjusts to the Premier League but record signing Elmander has not played any part in the last two games. With the promoted clubs doing better than expected it looks to be a long season ahead for Bolton.

Under fire.

Under fire.

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5. Just like that Aston Villa have won four straight games and all the talk of crisis after the Wigan defeat has gone. The new look defence has settled well and Agbonlahor has found himself some form again. Three straight clean sheets has shown value in Martin O’Neill’s policy of tending to buy domestically. Players like Dunne and Warnock were established Premier League players before moving to Villa Park and thus could slot straight in without the need to adapt. There’s even a little more rotation going on this season with 20 players already used (just 21 were used all of last season). Once again they look well placed to challenge for that elusive top four spot. With a more open league they could get that little bit closer this time round.

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6. Portsmouth have now lost six of six. Even Derby didn’t start off this badly. Might we have a new contender for the record low points tally?

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T.

Is This Man Footballer of the Year?

17/02/2009
The best this season? Hmm...

The best this season? Hmm...

So, Alan Hansen reckons Ryan Giggs should win Footballer of the Year. For what it’s worth, so does Robbie Savage. I’m not so sure myself. While Giggs had a great game against Derby and has generally played pretty well recently, I don’t think he’s even been the best footballer at Manchester United this season let alone in the country. For me Nemanja Vidic has been a much more integral part to United’s success this year. 

 

The betting overall is as follows:

  • N Vidic 6-4 Fav
  • C Ronaldo, R Giggs 4-1
  • S Gerrard 9-1
  • E Van der Sar 12-1
  • A Young 18-1
I guess Ronaldo is top United goalscorer and has won it two years running so has to be considered. Gerrard and Young have led Liverpool and Aston Villa to a title challenge and probable Champions League qualification respectively. Van der Sar has also been ever present in the defensive record.

 

Giggs has played appeared in 18 of United’s 24 league games this season but of those only half were starts. He has a goal and five assists and has been man of the match in maybe three or four games depending on who you ask. His form since Christmas has been especially noted but let’s be honest, it has been all about United’s defensive record this year. Thirteen straight clean sheets and counting (a third of the season) and Vidic (along with VDS) has been the only defensive ever present in that run. He has kept United solid and organised at the back regardless of who has come that particular week (Evans, Rio, O’Shea etc). The giant Serb has scored four times already this year, including the winner against Sunderland has only picked up two bookings since his one match ban for the red card against Liverpool. The Man Utd net has been breached just ten times so far, half of those coming in two games in early November. 

This guy should get it instead.

This guy should get it instead.

Giggs has been very good this year and has found a way to still be influential despite no longer having the pace that made him so feared. I feel however that all this talk of him winning awards seems partly to be as some sort of nostalgic overall recognition for his 19 year career. He’s never won player of the season in all that time (he does have a couple of young PFA’s though) but I’m sure that when he looks back on his career he’ll be quite happy with his haul of ten league titles, two Champions Leagues and nine other cups of various description. Given how well placed United are this season I reckon he’d happily be overlooked once again for the individual prizes if meant adding another trophy or three come May.

 

T.

Derby vs Man Utd Live Minute by Minute!

15/02/2009

So, after their two games in the Carling Cup semi final, Derby and Man Utd meet each other again in the FA Cup fifth round. Derby beat Utd 1-0 in the first leg at Pride Park and battled bravely before succumbing 4-2 in the return match. Will they be able to cause an upset again?

Lots of focus on Clough Jnr vs Fergie. Let’s just hope ITV let us see the goals this time…

 

Teams:

Derby: Bywater, Connolly, Addison, Albrechtsen, Stewart, Barazite, Green, Savage, Teale, Commons, Hulse.

Subs: Carroll, Sterjovski, Nyatanga, Davies, Todd, Pearson, Porter.

Man Utd: Foster, Rafael Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Park, Fletcher, Gibson, Nani, Giggs, Ronaldo.

Subs: Kuszczak, Vidic, Scholes, Welbeck, O’Shea, Tevez, Possebon.

 

A slightly weakened side from Ferguson but Ferdinand plays to marshall the defence and Evra finally makes his comeback after injury. Giggs and Ronaldo up front which is interesting. No doubt Carlos Tevez will be a bit annoyed. Robbie Savage and his Armani tattoo play and look out for Nacer Barazite who’s on loan from Arsenal. 

Prat

Prat

Edward Sheringham Esq. joins Steve Rider and Andy Townsend in the studio. He played for Clough Snr, with Clough Jnr, and for Fergie OAP so is well placed to offer an insight. Probably.

 

1 min: Man Utd kick off. Peter Drury and Jim Beglin commentate. Darron (why does he spell it like that?) Gibson has an early shot from 30 yards. Not too far over.

3 mins: Nani gets a bloody nose from a man sandwich of Evra and a Derby player. He’ll be alright though.

5 mins: Ronaldo reckons he’s fouled by Savage by nothing given. He gets annoyed when Savage tries to help him up. Savage will definitely play pantomime villain here. Ronaldo will probably be his sidekick though.

7 mins: Good atmosphere at Pride Park today.

10 mins: Barazite makes a run down the right wing. He goes past Fletcher but with no one to support him is eventually dispossesed.

11 mins: Derby win a corner. Commons swings it in high but Ben Foster claims it.

12 mins: Ronaldo tries to make space for himself but is tackled strongly by Savage. 

14 mins: A lovely bit of quick passing sees the ball break to Fletcher who hits a strong drive which is well saved by Bywater. A United free kick on the left wing is then driven hard at the wall by Ronaldo. He may well have been aiming for Robbie Savage’s head.

15 mins: Bywater makes a great reaction save from Ji Sung Park who had made a late run at the back post. United on top at the mo.

19 mins: United free kick 35 yards out. Ronaldo spits, wipes his nose then hits a drive straight at Robbie Savage’s cojones. That must have hurt. I reckon C-Ron is aiming at him.

21 mins: A decent turn and hit from Hulse.

25 mins: Derby have a shout for a penalty. Hulse goes down under a challenge from Rio Ferdinand but it was dive pure and simple. Rio’s not impressed with that. He shouldn’t be sticking his leg out like that though.

27 mins: Ronaldo tries some stepovers but Savage isn’t buying it. His pass then goes astray.

29 mins: GOAL! Derby 0-1 Man Utd. Nani scores a lovely goal. One we got to see live too. Ronaldo nearly connects with a Park cross but the ball is cleared. It is worked to Nani on the left hand side of the pitch. He takes it inside, runs past a couple of player and hits a curling drive from the edge of the box into the corner of net. About six somersaults follow.

35 mins: Derby still looking to play their game. A Commons free kick is easily saved by Foster but nothing has really happened since the goal.

37 mins: GOAL! Derby 0-2 Man Utd. Giggs plays through Ronaldo who is clear of everyone and slots it past Bywater. United celebrate but the goal is then disallowed for offside. It’s all a bit ludicrous. The offside decision was marginal but why wait so long to rule it out. Ronaldo and Fergie are not happy to say that least. It was genuinely about 15 seconds after he slotted it in. 

41 mins: We’re told it took so long as the linesman wasn’t sure if Giggs had flicked it on, so had to check with the ref. Something like that anyway. It was pretty obvious Giggs had flicked it, it was a pretty good bit of skill.

44 mins: GOAL! Derby 0-2 Man Utd. Another United free kick 35 yards out, Ronaldo takes aims at Savage once more. He hits the the wall, somewhere near Savage’s head. The ball breaks to Gibson who shoots past Bywater. This one counts.

There's only room for one poser in this town...

There's only room for one poser in this town...

Half time: United good value for their lead. Derby have come from two down against both Forest Green and Nottingham Forest in this season’s FA Cup but they surely can’t do it a third time. Can they?

Tea time.

46 mins: Derby kick off the second half.

48 mins: GOAL! Derby 0-3 Man Utd. Park pressures Derby into conceding a corner. Giggs swings it in and Ronaldo places a header from 10 yards into the top corner. Simple stuff. He barely had to jump.

50 mins: United almost score again but for a fine double save from Bywater. This could get ugly.

53 mins: Evans needlessly fouls Hulse outside the box. Derby pass it about before it’s eventually crossed in. Foster punches away just before Hulse gets his head to it.

55 mins: Double change for United. Park and Evra off, O’Shea and Welbeck on.

56 mins: GOAL! Derby 1-3 Man Utd.  Commons crosses it in from the left and Addison powers a header in from 12 yards. A good goal but Derby had all the time in the world to cross it in. O’Shea was sleeping a bit there and no one tracked Addison’s run.

59 mins: Derby try to work the ball into a good position. Gary Teale tries to blast in a 35 yarder with the outside of his right boot. It goes horribly wide and over.

63 mins: Barazite off for Derby, Sterjovski on.

67 mins: This is end to end now as Derby push for another to make it interesting while Utd hope to catch them on the break and end it. Teale makes a decent run down the left and threads it to Hulse in the box. His touch is poor and he lays it off to a United player.

69 mins: Porter on for Hulse. Giggs and Ronaldo combine but the Portugeezer slashes a left foot shot over.

71 mins: Nani goes past Connolly, knocks the ball too far then falls over. He’s shocked he doesn’t get a free kick. What a fool. He’s hard to like is Nani. 

72 mins: Possebon replaces Ronaldo. Savage has no one to tackle now. On second thoughts there is Nani. He’s probably more thankful no one will aim at him from free kicks anymore.

77 mins: Teale hits a very good shot low and hard from outside the box. Foster makes a great diving save to give away a corner. From the resulting set piece, Commons finds Addison who heads just wide. Derby still looking for another.

81 mins: GOAL! Derby 1-4 Man Utd. Welbeck wraps it up. Some lovely one touch football from United who work it to Welbeck who’s lurking on the left hand side of the area. He opens up his body and curls a great first shot time past Bywater into the far corner. Lovely finish, reminiscent of Thierry Henry in the way he just bent it round the keeper.

82 mins: Savage off to a warm round of applause. Steven Pearson on.

87 mins: This one has settled down. Nothing really happening as both side wind down the clock.

89 mins: Darren Darron Gibson gets man of the match. He’s been neat and tidy and got his goal. Giggs would be the other contender I guess but no complaints here.

Full time: Derby 1-4 Man Utd. A comfortable win for Fergie’s side. His youngsters impressed whilst there was enough experience with Giggs, Ronaldo, Rio etc to make sure there would be no repeat of the Carling Cup first leg. Derby battled bravely and got the goal they deserved. United scored some nice goals, the pick of which I’d say was Welbeck’s.

 

The draw for the quarter finals follows straight after and comes out like this:

Blackburn or Coventry v Chelsea

Swansea or Fulham v Man Utd

Cardiff or Arsenal or Burnley v Sheffield Utd or Hull

Everton v West Ham or Middlesbrough

 

T.


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