Posts Tagged ‘Keane’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Tottenham

11/08/2010

Tottenham

Last Season: 4th

New Signings: Sandro

Key Player: Luka Modric

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

Needs A Big Year: Peter Crouch

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

Harry counts the number of signings on one finger.

Prediction: 6th

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

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

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

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

T.

Transfer Window Hits and Misses

04/02/2010

The January transfer window just passed saw the lowest spending since 2003, a whole £140m less than last January’s whopping £170m. Clubs have been certainly feeling the pinch and seem to be much more careful with their money. While it’s far too early to judge here are some thoughts on who could be hits and who might be misses.

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The Free Transfers

I think Sol Campbell to Arsenal is quite astute and judging by the game and a half he’s played thus far, he looks like he can still cut it in the top flight. Certainly a better option than Mikael Silvestre! Over in Manchester, I was less convinced by City’s signing of Patrick Vieira. I think it will be difficult for him and there will be games where the pace is too much for him. That said, he’ll bring a lot to that dressing room and should be good for cameos where games are being closed out.

sol campbell arsenal

Beats playing for Nott's County.

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The Loans

With money a bit thin on the ground, some of the most interesting deals were loans. Landon Donovan looks to have fitted straight in at Everton and I think he’ll do well for the remaining time he’s over here. Senderos from Arsenal is also a good move – the Swiss has stagnated a touch but people think he’s rubbish just because Drogba messed him a few times. Name me a central defender that hasn’t struggled against the Drog.

Bolton have got a couple of good youngsters in Weiss and Wilshere from Man City and Arsenal respectively. Wilshere in particular could be an instant hit if his cameo Carling Cup appearances are anything to go by. Basturk is one of those players who was once good on Football Manager but I’ve never seen him play enough to comment in real life. Fat Sam had a decent track record with signing older creative types at Bolton and the Turk could be sneaky good for Blackburn.

Maxi Rodriguez will be rubbish for Liverpool and Amr Zaki will be rubbish for Hull. Fellow Egyptian Mido might surprise a few people at West Ham. With a £1K a week wage he’s motivated to prove people wrong if nothing else.

wilshere bolton arsenal weiss

I can't decide whether he's disgusted to be holding that shirt or if he's just very cold.

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The Cold Hard Cash

The biggest signing was Man City getting Adam Johnson for £6m+. An interesting one this, he’s done well in the Championship this season but I don’t see where he’s going to fit at Eastlands right now. You have Bellamy and Petrov both playing on the left and they’re both playing very well. One for the future me thinks, but he’ll have a great mentor in Petrov who is an excellent left winger.

After much of the window saw both Porstmouth keepers being linked with moves away to the same clubs, it was eventually Asmir Begovic who left, joining Stoke for £3.25m. He was wanted by Spurs too but apparently legged it from the hotel they were putting him up in. I do wonder whether he will displace Sorensen, they seem kind of at the same level to me. It’s a good signing for next season though.

Elsewhere Victor Moses should get lots of opportunity to prove he’s worth £2.5m at Wigan given that Jason Scotland has yet to score this season, while Benni McCarthy should score enough to justify his £1m move to West Ham. Sunderland have got a good prospect in Matt Kilgallon for £2m.

Birmingham had lots to spend but only got some squad depth in the end with Michel and Craig Gardner joining for £3m each. They’ll be useful, nothing more nothing less.

adam johnson

As good as Stewart Downing. Maybe.

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Harry Redknapp’s Wheeling Dealing Transfer Merry-Go-Round

Let’s face it, Spurs deserve a whole category of their own. Any team with Harry Redknapp in charge is always likely to make deals but when you cross it with Spurs’ odd transfer policy you’re bound to get some baffling deals. First up, they bought Younes Kaboul back from Portsmouth for about £5m (less if you count what Pompey still owed).

This is by my count the fifth player they’ve bought back in about 18 months (Keane, Defoe, Crouch & Chimbonda the others) and they’d probably save themselves a lot of money if they didn’t destroy careers in the first place. Kaboul has improved but won’t play when everyone is fit, so as usual lots of foresight there. Two right backs (Naughton and Hutton) went out on loan leaving them with only Corluka.

eidur gudjohnsen spurs

Come on Harry, let's not play games. You know you want me.

Gudjohnsen was brought in on loan. I’m not sure about this one, it kind of depends where he plays. He certainly hasn’t been a striker for a few seasons now but is a decent player. I get the feeling Redknapp is addicted to buying players he once liked the look of. Lets be honest now, they don’t really need Gudjohnsen do they, but Redknapp just couldn’t say no to a bit of sexy loan action.

The one striker leaving was surprisingly not Pavlyuchenko but instead Robbie Keane who left on loan to Celtic. You don’t normally loan your captain out do you, but by the sounds of it they were constantly changing the price of Pavlyuchenko. No doubt the same happened with Bentley which is why he’s still there too.

harry redknapp

Buy me Harry, no buy me!

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So overall nothing that exciting happened, and as usual the bullshit rumour brigade was full of exactly that – bullshit. There are a few decent signings but you sense everyone is saving their dollar for some post World Cup bingeing. Because of course that’s when the best value can be found…

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T.

The Six Pointer – The new Fulham, Arsh power & more…

14/12/2009

1. Amazing what effect a good old-fashioned rollicking can have on players. Arsenal were dreadful in the first half against Liverpool yesterday and were lucky to go into the break only 1-0 down. Torres should have buried what was essentially a one on one chance while Gerrard probably paid the price for his recent diving by not being awarded a penalty for a clear foul by Gallas in the box. As it happened Liverpool were gifted the lead after another error by Almunia, who flapped at a routine crossed free kick and palmed into Kuyt’s path to score.

It has been hinted that Wenger told his young charges “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” (something many of us Arsenal fans have thought in recent times) and it had the desired result, in part helped by Liverpool’s terrible second half. First Glen Johnson got his footing all wrong to score an own goal with Carragher slipping and Walcott lurking. Then within ten minutes Andrey Arshavin (who had done little until then) scored a great goal taking one touch to control, one to step past Glen Johnson and one to rifle the ball in the net before Reina even saw it. Another memorable Anfield moment for the little Russian who at that point had five goals from five shots in his two games in Liverpool (he would later ruin it with a shot that didn’t score!).

Andrey Arshavin Arsenal Liverpool Anfield

So tiny yet so much shooting power.

So where does this leave both teams? Arsenal look to be back in the title mix after everyone else around them dropped points and will be just three behind Chelsea if they win their game in hand against Bolton in January. Arshavin up front is working in the sense they have two straight wins but he was much quieter against Liverpool than Stoke. A striker is still needed in January.

Liverpool meanwhile are bereft of ideas, form and confidence. They are still only five points off a Champions League spot but it’s becoming more apparent that something is fundamentally wrong at Anfield.  I’m still unsure why Aquilani isn’t starting league games, especially when the first XI aren’t doing much. Gerrard is playing poorly and petulantly while I feel Torres isn’t at full fitness. I’m not convinced Rafa has lost the dressing room but I do think he has the resigned look of someone who already is just playing out the season. Life under Hicks and Gillett has become ridiculous and to be honest I’ll be surprised to see him at Anfield next year.

rafael-benitez liverpool

Something on your mind Rafa?

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2. No team with Champions League ambitions loses at home to Stoke and Wolves and doesn’t score in either game. As always with Spurs as soon as expectation rises, performances fall; which is ironic given that they play better against the big sides. Robbie Keane being captain is becoming an issue due to his poor play, as was obvious it would a year ago, while Defoe isn’t as consistent a scorer as Darren Bent – he’s only scored in six games compared to Bent’s nine. With no money to spend in January it will be interesting to see how Harry Redknapp does going forward.

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3. Any team which beats Liverpool, Chelsea and Man Utd certainly should have Champions League ambitions. Aston Villa got their first league win at Old Trafford in some 26 years and it was thoroughly deserved. Having been in a Champions League spot for two-thirds of last season before falling away, they looked better placed to stick it out this season.

richard-dunne-aston villa

Solid as a rock.

In Milner, Downing, Young and Agbonlahor they have a quartet of attacking players who can cause problems against any team; Agbonlahor in particular consistently scoring in big matches. At the back Richard Dunne proves every week that Mark Hughes made an error in selling him. A lot depends on whether the core players stay fit but of the pretenders for 4th, Villa look by the far the most impressive at the moment. They may even be aiming higher…

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4. Are Birmingham this season’s Fulham? The points they’re gaining with the few goals they’re scoring suggests so. Their fifth 1-0 victory this season has got them up to 24 points and eighth place. A far cry from the fools who thought they’d be going down this season.

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5. Somewhere in Milan a certain J. Mourinho must be laughing at Chelsea’s recent defensive problems. Who would have thought that a team with a least eight players over six-foot including a giant 6’6″ keeper would be so vulnerable on set pieces? Cech has been far below the heights (no pun intended) of 2004-06 and in recent weeks has made a number of errors. The problem with him being so far ahead of Hilario and Ross Turnbull is that you just have to hope he works his way through it. You have to think that Chelsea wouldn’t have conceded three if Essien was playing either. It’s too early to say if he’ll be badly missed, I would say the true test will be once Drogba is out too.

Jose Mourinho Chelsea Inter

They conceded how many goals in one match?!

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6. Just five points from seven games for Sunderland. Portsmouth at home was about as good a game as you could have hoped for if you wanted to find some form. Maybe Steve Bruce needs a bit more time (read next season) to truly make them a contender for a Europa League spot.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Spurs spanked, Benitez beaten again & more…

02/11/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. Robbie Keane will feel like the biggest mug after his supposedly superior Spurs squad got turned over with ease by the Gunners. Old twitchy eyes may have seen the result coming, as he went in to the game without arguably his best two players in Luka Modric and Jermaine Defoe. Nevertheless, Arsenal have their own injury concerns but showed the gulf in class. Early on it seemed that Spurs were getting all the luck, as David Bentley unbelievably managed to avoid even a booking for a rash and dangerous challenge on Vermaelen. They even managed to hold their own in midfield against Arsenal’s fluid 4-3-3. However, Arsenal were knocking on the proverbial door and only a super save from Gomes, aka rubber arms, kept it 0-0. Song made an awesome challenge at the other end to deny the bullshitter himself, Robbie Keane.

Wenger happy, Wenger dance

The game was effectively over the space of two minutes (42nd and 43rd) as Van Persie profited from some lazy defending to volley Arsenal into the lead. Then straight from kick off Spurs inexplicably gave away the ball and Cesc Fabregas went on a great run which ended in a sublime finish past Gomes. A comical third was put away by van Persie, as Arsenal profited from confusion over a foul on Diaby and a blunder by Gomes.

Such was Arsenal’s dominance that Eduardo even managed to waste two chances you would normally put money on him taking. It was a good overall team performance from Wenger’s men, with the two centre halves looking comfortable, penetration from the full backs and clinical finishing. the only disappointment was Arshavin’s limp display.

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2. Liverpool failed to follow-up their redemptive display against United. Fulham outplayed them and exposed Liverpool’s growing defensive weakness. everyone is focused, perhaps rightly so, on the injuries suffered by Gerrard and Torres. However, it is their fragility at the back which should be their main concern. Carragher was finally punished with the red he should have got against United and all-in-all, Benitez has simply failed to maintain an organised defence. Where he has allowed the likes of Johnson, Insua and Degen to provide an attacking threat, the lack of shape has been exposed. Bobby ‘I love to miss sitters’ Zamora even managed to profit, which has made me think. What is worse, conceding a goal to a beach ball or to Bobby Zamora? I think it has to be the latter.

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3. Top class Chelsea destroyed Bolton. OK, the Blues’ Carling Cup team had already disposed them in mid-week and it was 0-0 on Saturday until JLloyd Samuel deservedly got sent off. But Chelsea showed some classy football, with Drogba, Anelka, Lampard and Deco clicking in a way that reminded me of Arsenal when they had the Vieira, Pires, Henry and Bergkamp combo.  The pick of the bunch was the fourth, well taken goal  by Drogba. Phenomenal build up. Deco’s was quite special as well. If Ancelotti can sort out the Blues’ defensive frailties away from home, they should power their way to the title.

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4. Have Pompey finally turned round their season? Well, a convincing 4-0 victory against an in-form Wigan side was a good place to start. It is obvious that Pompey will ship a lot of goals but the ability to score them, especially at home, will ultimately keep you up. In Aruna Dindane and Piquionne, Paul Hart has genuine pace and quality in front of goal. Question remains whether they are consistent enough.

Aruna power

My name is Aruna, I am here to save Pompey with my golden boot.

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5. Man City drew for the third game in succession at Birmingham. Both sides had decent chances but it was Shay Given’s penalty save from James McFadden that ensured City got a point. Whilst it is impressive that Mark Hughes has only suffered that sole defeat at Old Trafford, it is the draws that can cost you (ask Wenger about his team two seasons ago). Lucky that he has a banker at home against Burnley next Saturday.

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6. Little Gorgon-Zola mustn’t have been able to believe his luck, as his lads raced into an impressive 2-0 lead at the Stadium of Light through Franco and Carlton Cole. Although fatty Reid pulled one back with a top-notch free kick, it still looked good for the Hammers as Kenwyne Jones was sent off for pushing over Herita Illunga. In a complete reversal of their heroics against Arsenal, West Ham surrendered two points when Darren Bent set up Kieran Richardson for the equaliser. All in all a point at Sunderland is a good result considering the form of Bruce’s team. However, Zola’s nice guy managerial style simply doesn’t seem to achieve the right results.

You may be wondering why Manchester United weren’t covered in this week’s Six Pointer. Well it was such a routine Old Trafford win that it wasn’t worth mentioning other than Berbatov had one of his best games yet for United.

Until next week!

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P.

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.

Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 6

19/09/2009

Gameweek 6 and we’re beginning to establish who the top performers in this season’s game will be. I will more than likely be using my wildcard this week or next to set my team up for the rest of the season. It is early to use but considering I want to change at least four or five players and prices are rising every week I think it’s worth it. After all, you have to take some risks when the guy leading your private league is currently 6th in the world (out of almost 2 million players)!

Gameweek 5 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves) – Yossi Benayoun

Maverick couldn't have done better himself

In Gameweek 5 Maverick couldn't have done better himself.

Last week saw Liverpool winger Yossi Benayoun score a frankly ridiculous 24 points as Liverpool took apart Burnley at home. He got a hat-trick, assisted Kuyt’s goal, kept a clean sheet and with all that nabbed all three bonus points. His 24 was higher than the next two best players combined! (Reid and Roberts with 12 & 11) – I didn’t expect Fabregas’ week 1 marker of 22 to be beaten so early but congrats to Yossi. I don’t even think Ronaldo got higher than 24 in all his time dominating the game.

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Three Captain Choices:

1. Van Persie/Arsenal – While the Gunners have had an inconsistent start to the season, not least defensively, they haven’t had too much trouble scoring goals. Wigan are beginning to improve under Roberto Martinez but I get the feeling they will come unstuck against Arsenal. Both try to play expansive, passing football, it’s just Arsene Wenger’s side do it better. It won’t be a thrashing by any means, but a comfortable victory in which you can look to Van Persie (or Fabregas) to get among the points.

2. Young/Aston Villa – Portsmouth have so far played five and lost five and I can see them adding to that total away against Aston Villa this weekend. Villa have won three on the spin and their new look defence is settling in nicely. Portsmouth have only once heavily but I think Martin O’Neill’s side will be too quick and powerful for them this weekend. Back Ashley Young to come up trumps in this match and perhaps reach double figures in points.

3. Lampard/Chelsea – Chelsea haven’t lost to Spurs at home in the league since 1990 and I don’t expect to change now. Man Utd showed last weekend that Redknapp’s side still have a way to go before they can compete with the big boys and I should think that Lampard will be at the heart of a routine Chelsea victory.

Gets a Captain's tick

Gets a Captain's tick

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Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Maierhofer/Wolves – Signed on deadline day I believe and he scored on his debut last weekend. At 6’712” he is the new tallest player in the league and will no doubt cause many problems for the opposition (just look at that neck length). I believe Michael Kightly is nearing full fitness again and his crosses will be of importance if the Austrian is to be a success. At £5m he is worth a speculative punt as a third striker.

2. Diamanti/West Ham – Another striker who is perhaps worth a speculative add. The Hammers have only Carlton Cole and him so he should get plenty of minutes. He’s perhaps a little overvalued at £6m but he scored 13 times last season for Livorno and is one to keep an eye on if nothing else.

3. Dunn/Blackburn – In the two games he’s played this season he has a goal and four bonus points. I imagine most of Backburn’s good play will go through him.

Might be worth a pick.

Might be worth a pick.

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Three to avoid:

1. Adebayor/Man City – Banned for at least two games and possibly more depending on how the second charge works out.

2. Keane/Tottenham – A regular feature in this section, but currently stuck out on the wing as Harry Redknapp slowly works out a way to drop his out of form captain.

3. Cana/Sunderland – I read somewhere this week that the Sunderland Echo has given him the man of the match award in three games already this season but he has yet to score a bonus point in fantasy. Just goes to show that some players get all the bonus point love.

Are you taking the mick?

Are you taking the mick?

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Tottenham Hotspur

14/08/2009

tottenham

Last Season: 8th plus a Carling Cup final.

Say hello to your new teammates: Peter Crouch, Kyle Naughton, Kyle Walker, Sebastian Bassong.

Close the door on your way out: Darren Bent, Chris Gunter, Didier Zokora, Gilberto, Ben Alnwick, Ricardo Rocha.

Predicted star: Luka Modric naturally took a while to adapt but by the end of last season was running every game for Spurs. A total of nine assists and three goals should be bettered with a full season of protection from Wilson Palacios. Tottenham need to run their game through him as much as possible.

Needs a big year: Harry Redknapp has no more ‘We had two points from eight games when I joined’ excuses – he’s been backed in the transfer market and now has to deliver.

One to watch: John Bostock made a few cameo appearances off the bench last season and should be given greater opportunity to impress this time round. The dearth of quality central midfielders at the club means he could well find himself a regular by the end of the season despite being just 17.

What they want to happen: Be ahead of Arsenal. Realistically though 5th or 6th and a trophy of some kind would be an excellent season.

Nightmare scenario: Another eighth position or so. They haven’t spent the best part of £70 million since January for nothing.

Plan A: With a defensive midfielder finally in place, they can let Modric or Aaron Lennon attack with through balls and probing passing or pace, dribbling and wayward crossing respectively. Harry loves a little and large partnership, so expect Crouch and Defoe to be first choice strikers even though Robbie Keane is captain.

Plan B, just in case: Hope Ledley King stays fit. That or just never ever play Gareth Bale in the league.

Three (points) is something he's never experienced.

Three (points) is something he's never experienced.

Predicted finish: 7th.

Why? For many seasons now, Tottenham’s transfer policy has been a bit odd for one reason or another. Either having an ill fated director of football or whatever Comolli’s job title was to now having a manager who’s fond of buying players simply because they’re available, not necessarily because they’re needed. They seem to finally be addressing their flaws however – Palacios was signed in January to beef up a lightweight midfield, while Bassong has been brought in to provide central defensive cover for the oft-injured Woodgate and King. Swapping Bent for Crouch won’t make too much difference in the goals scored column and they still don’t have a viable left wing option.

The squad is massive and they have good options and backup across the whole pitch. All the youngsters they’ve bought over the past few years should surely start to make an impact too. There are issues like David Bentley to sort as well. They can’t just let him waste on the bench, play him and improve him or get rid.

Big man little man.

Big man little man.

Regardless, Harry Redknapp is pretty good at building a side if given the money and Spurs should see another improvement from 8th to 7th. I can’t see them finishing higher just as Man City have bought better players while Everton are too solid a team and just won’t drop as many cheap points as Spurs.

If Tottenham maintain the home form which saw White Hart Lane go from seeing the most goals in 2007/098 to the least last time, then I may be proved wrong and they could get 5th. The likelihood is that it will be the usual mix of good performances against the top clubs (Man Utd aside) followed by defeat to a struggler who wants it more.

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Liverpool

13/08/2009

liverpool

Last Season: 2nd

Say hello to your new teammates: Alberto Aquilani, Glen Johnson, Chris Mavinga.

Close the door on your way out: Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa, Sebastian Leto, Jermaine Pennant, Sami Hyppia, Jack Hobbs.

Predicted star: Fernando Torres. Lethal when fit, Liverpool will hope that he plays more than 24 games this time round. If he manages 30 games he should be top scorer, given his record of 0.67 goals per game in his Premier League career so far.

Needs a big year: Alberto Aquilani. I mean this in the sense that Xabi Alonso’s boots are hard to fill, especially considering how he played last season. He’s out for 4-8 weeks so will need to hit the ground running once he gets fit. Glen Johnson will also need to justify a £17m price tag.

The number of weeks before he plays.

The number of weeks before he plays.

One to watch: Emiliano Insua. I was impressed by him the few times I saw him play in the latter stages of the season and given that Aurelio is out until mid September he has a great chance to establish himself early on. Rafa surely won’t play Dossena ahead of him? Right?

What they want to happen: A first league title in 20 years and with it sole ownership of the overall record.

Nightmare scenario: Man Utd win number 19.

Plan A: Solid organisation in the back four with two deep lying midfielders ahead of them. Kuyt and usually Benayoun working hard down the wings and Stevie G playing just off Torres. More expansive play down the flanks is planned with the signing of an attacking full back like Johnson.

Plan B, just in case: Let Gerrard shoot from distance late in games and make Andy Gray squeal in delight.

Predicted finish: 4th.

Why? But for seven disappointing home draws last season, Liverpool would have won the title at a canter. Rafa Benitez had finally found a formation that worked and with it stopped the tinkering. Gerrard found in his best position and essentially plays as a second striker these days. Most of all Xabi Alonso resisted Liverpool’s attempts to sell him and had his best season in five years at Anfield.

The defence first policy was also somewhat abandoned and Liverpool were the top scorers with 77 (two per game). The thing is though I can’t see Liverpool repeating the heights of last season. Alonso is a big, big loss and I don’t think Aquilani will offer the same kind of skills (though he be a good player for them). Luckily Liverpool’s start is very easy so it will cover his injury and the need to play someone like Lucas to begin with. As ever, a lot will depend of the fitness of Gerrard and Torres. They both seem susceptible to several niggly injuries a season rather than one big one. Three of four periods of missing a few weeks soon adds up though and it was telling that they only played something like 14 games together.

The wait goes on.

The wait goes on.

Though the first team is very strong, the squad is still quite average I would say and many of the replacements are nowhere near the level required. If you look at some of the other players who have left (Hyppia, Pennant, Arbeloa) you can see that they’re not great but whoever stands to replace them are only going to be at the same level, not an improvement.

Up front especially you just have Torres, two potentially good youngsters in Nemeth and N’Gog and nothing else. A new striker (to replace Keane no less) is definitely a priority. Liverpool will be up there and even though I have them 4th, they will be within 10 points of the title. Glen Johnson will help turn some of those home draws into wins but I think once again, the wait for number 19 will continue.

.

T.

The Trouble With… Tottenham’s Transfer Policy

08/02/2009

So, the transfer window closed a few days ago and the two big spenders were Manchester City and Tottenham. Spurs ended up spending around £47million on five players –

Robbie Keane from Liverpool – £15million or so

Wilson Palacios from Wigan – £14million

Carlo Cudicini from Chelsea – free

Pascal Chimbonda from Wigan – £3m

Jermaine Defoe from Portsmouth – £15million

All good players in their own right and all will probably help Spurs avoid relegation and climb up to mid table. But what strikes me once again is the short sightedness of their transfer dealings. 

Hey big spender

Hey big spender

There is the bizarre scenario of Keane and Chimbonda rejoining a club they only left six months ago, while Defoe was only gone for a year. Redknapp seems determined to rebuild much of the squad that were a dodgy lasagna away from Champions League qualification under Martin Jol in 2005/06 and not too far off in 06/07. The problem with this idea is that he has no chance of getting Michael Carrick or Dimitar Berbatov from Man Utd and they were the respective heartbeats of those sides. There’s a reason Fergie signed those two and not say, Jenas and Keane.

As close as he'll get to the United team

As close as he'll get to the United team

We talked recently about how signing Keane is a very odd move after signing Defoe. Defoe left Spurs the first time round as he wasn’t getting games due to Keane and Berbatov being first choice. As a partnership him and Keane never worked and as captain Keane would always play. I can understand that in light of Defoe’s ten week injury it made sense to sign someone but given that they were linked with the likes of Kenwyn Jones and Fred, it seems odd they plumped for Keane. What happens when Defoe is fit? Does Keane, who has been made captain again, get dropped? Does Defoe? If ‘Arry does try and play them together where does that leave £16.5million Modric? You can’t play all three of them at once (well you can, but you’d have a very small, unbalanced side). Bent, Bentley and Pavlyuchenko weren’t exactly cheap either. Redknapp insists they can play together but I’ll believe that when I see it.

I think this is probably Photoshopped...

I think this is probably Photoshopped...

Of course right now, the key for Spurs is to avoid relegation so to that extent the more options the better. Any players out of form, unhappy and eager to leave can be dealt with in the summer. But why have this problem at all? If they thought things through a bit more, they wouldn’t be in this position in the first place – squad wise and table wise. In recent history there are umpteen examples of Tottenham signings which have made you go “Huh? I thought they already a good option there”.  For example – 

  • Why was David Bentley signed last summer when Aaron Lennon was on the books? There’s only one spot on the right and neither are good on the left where there is an actual need.
  • Why was Darren Bent signed in 2007, at a time when Spurs still had Keane, Berbatov and Defoe? How did they think that all four could be kept happy?
  • Why was a good defensive midfielder never signed in the last few years?

 

There is a lack of cohesion over how transfers should be approached. On the one hand, Spurs have adopted Arsenal’s policy of buying up lots of young players to sell later.  They have spent a lot of money on the likes of Bale, Hutton, Dos Santos, Boateng and many, many more. No one has really been a success yet and it just shows how well Wenger did in plucking Vieira, Fabregas, Clichy etc from the rest. They also tried and failed with the continental approach, ex director of football Damien Comolli being responsible for many of the strange deals we have mentioned. 

Would you trust this man?

Would you trust this man?

Part of the problem has been the regular change of manager. Jol brought two consecutive fifth place finishes (their best since 3rd in 1989/90) but was sacked in October 2007 after a poor start. This saw Juande Ramos come which in theory was a good idea (he was quality at Sevilla) but for whatever reason he failed. This was not before dismantling much of the squad that came fifth. I’ve always said that Daniel Levy & ENIC are in a rush to sell Spurs, just as soon as they can market them as a side in the Champions League. The problems with this is that he panics and doesn’t give his managers time to put things right whenever a poor start is made. Thus a vicious cycle is created where, old manager is sacked, new guy comes in with his own ideas and players he wants, new manager then also fails and is sacked, newer guy comes in. And so on and so forth. 

 

We’ll never know if Jol would have turned it round in 2007/08 but I sincerely doubt they’d be in the mess they are now had they stuck with him. Sometimes it takes time but if you back someone they often come good. Martin O’Neill only came 11th in his first season at Villa but now they look like they’ll qualify for the Champions League. David Moyes has had two bottom half finishes in his time at Everton (including a 17th) but has now finally made them a regular top six side. Both have overtaken Spurs as clubs more likely to break into the top four. There’s a lot to be said for stability off the pitch and hard work off it. For too long Spurs have had neither hence their current struggles in the lower echelons of the Premier League.

 

T.

Keane Back to Spurs?

02/02/2009

So it seems that Robbie Keane may be moving back to Spurs for around £15million. I don’t really get the thinking behind this on Spurs’ part. A year ago Jermaine Defoe left as he wasn’t getting games as he and Keane couldn’t play together due to both being about five feet tall. Are we to expect that this has now somehow changed in the intervening twelve months? Is Redknapp planning to play just one of them alongside Pavlyuchenko? All three of them together? I know that for the time being Defoe is injured but in a month or two this problem will need solving. Another example of Tottenham’s short sightedness in the transfer market, something which will be discussed in more depth later this week.

Hmm...

Hmm...

 

T.


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