Posts Tagged ‘Mark Hughes’

Arsenal 2 Fulham 1 – Na na na na na na…

05/12/2010

Post match thoughts on Arsenal v Fulham.

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Both of Samir Nasri’s goals were wonderfully taken; on each occasion his close control getting him past several players before providing a finish with either foot. I think part of Nasri’s ability to score such goals stems from his comfort shooting off either foot. It doesn’t limit his direction as he knows whichever route he’ll take, there will still be an opportunity to fire a shot on goal. Beyond Andrey Arshavin, there isn’t a player in the Arsenal squad as two footed. This versatility is a big factor in Nasri’s terrific start to the season.

He's run out of fingers to count his goals this season.

Arshavin himself also had a pretty good game, and has also had a pretty good season thus far. Yes he is a luxury and yes he often stands around but he makes things happen and is often a step ahead in terms what he’s trying to pull off. It might be prudent to play someone a bit more defensive in tough away games but at the same time he is more likely to produce something out of nothing.

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Fulham played pretty well on the whole and with a little more ambition could even have won the game. The main tactic of trying to play in Kamara behind the defence didn’t work often (mainly due to Kamara’s tendency to mistime his runs and caught offside) but it did result in Fulham’s goal. I can’t complain that the game wasn’t stopped for Koscielny’s head injury, ultimately he hadn’t fallen to the ground and so it was difficult to know the full extent in the short space of a few seconds.

It was interesting that at 1-1 and with control of the ball in midfield, Fulham would often play it all the way back to Schwarzer in goal. Similarly they would spend an age over every throw and goal kick – it was clear that Mark Hughes considered a draw a good result, but that lack of ambition has seen him become the draw specialist in the Premier League.

Ouch.

I was impressed by Johan Djourou when he came on for Koscielny. He’s been good when he’s played this season but Wenger is obviously being cautious with regards to playing him every game. He was authoritative in the air and seems to have made a conscious change in terms of attacking the ball/player. Clichy and Sagna were also solid, the former having his best game in quite some time. Perhaps the fit again Kieran Gibbs has focussed the Frenchman’s mind somewhat.

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The game was closer than it perhaps should have been but in part this was due to the poor performances of Arsenal’s midfield. Wilshere looked quite tired after playing against Wigan and faded as the game went on. Rosicky was fairly anonymous but neither were as bad as Alex Song who seems to have forgotten what his role is.

There were plenty of misplaced passes from him and his tendency to wander forward unnecessarily remains unabated. This often left the defence exposed both in terms of Fulham attacks but also as an option for them to pass to. He needs a few games where he curbs his attacking instincts, especially if you consider the upcoming games against Man Utd and Chelsea.

Just 72% completed.

The tension made for a better atmosphere in a way. For once Arsenal had got going early in the first half and produced a number of chances (and indeed the goal) which got the crowd going. But as Fulham came back into it, mistakes were made and calls were not received from ref Chris Foy, meaning there was considerable crowd noise generated. The crowd often feeds off the team but I think it works both ways.

I should mention Theo Walcott briefly too. He was only on for 15 minutes but it was one of those horrible games were nothing he did came off. The worst thing was that his job was to play off the last centre back/left back but he seemed unwilling to do that, and simply jogged around not wanting the receive the ball or to make any runs. With Van Persie returning and Nasri and Arshavin in such good form, it’s tricky to see where his starts will come from at the moment.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Complacency, Financial Burdens & more…

23/11/2010

That was the weekend that was.

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1. I don’t know where to start with the north London derby. Cruising at 2-0 going in to half-time, Arsenal had run rings around their neighbours in the first period. A smart tactical change by Redknapp at the break coupled with a complete mental collapse from the Arsenal players resulted in a famous Tottenham comeback.

You can’t even say this was a massive shock, as it’s happened too many times in recent years for it not to be a serious problem. A very good analysis can be found over at Arseblog while there was an interesting post on Arsenal Vision which documented every game where a lead had been lost and Arsenal had not won the match in the last five years.

Déjà vu.

I think it’s a touch unfair to include every instance where 1-0 ended 1-1 but what I found telling was in the last three seasons alone there have been 11 occasions where Arsenal have taken the lead and gone on to concede at least two goals. There in lies the crux, be it through complacency or the fact they haven’t held on against a top side when gaining the advantage.

The fact another game comes tomorrow will give the players an immediate opportunity to make partial amends but this side has a long way to go before it can be considered winners.

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2. Chelsea were pretty unlucky not to have beaten Birmingham with Ben Foster making at least five or six top saves while the defenders in front of him stood firm.

Like Ancelotti said, their problem at the moment is they’re not firing on all cylinders going forward which means they’re vulnerable when conceding (which in turn is currently more likely with their centre-back woes). Drogba has not scored since October 3rd (while admittedly recovering from malaria) while Malouda also has just one goal since late September.

I feel in part this is down to the midfield three they’re forced to regularly play at the moment – Mikel, Ramires & Zhirkov. There’s not much creativity there nor the control that is offered when Lampard and Essien are fit. Lampard’s absence has been perhaps a little easier to cope with but it’s no coincidence these three recent defeats have been without Essien in the side.

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3. Bolton were very impressive in beating Newcastle 5-1 and it will be interesting to see what happens in January if they are still riding high in the top half of the table.

Admiring glances are being aimed at the likes of Lee, Cahill, Holden and even Owen Coyle himself and with the club recently announcing a debt of £93million there may be some pressure to sell a star to ease the burden.

But for how long?

Another twist to this is the impending expiring contract of Johan Elmander, who is having by the far the best of his three seasons at the Reebok. He finally seems to have adapted to the Premier League but now Bolton risk losing their record £8m signing for nothing next summer.

Unless I’ve missed the Swede professing his undying love for the Trotters, I suspect we may see a gentleman’s agreement when a one year deal is signed but with him being sold in the summer.

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4. I don’t see Blackburn’s new owners pumping too much money into the Ewood Park coffers but it would be interesting to see what Sam Allardyce does with a bigger budget. He claims he’d win the double every year at a top club, but I seem to remember him being something of a flop the last time he had a bit of money to spend when managing Newcastle.

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5. Roberto Mancini has been saying for a while that a big part of  his tactical plan was to have full backs who bomb forward and support Tevez/the notional front three. We saw a glimpse of that in the victory over Fulham with both Kolarov and Zabaleta consistently getting into the Fulham half and attempting several crosses and four of their 11 shots on goal.

Shoot!

I think while Mancini is at heart a cautious manager, we will eventually see a relatively attacking side with Milner and Toure in the central midfield trio and Silva and Balotelli properly supporting Tevez. Reasonable upcoming fixtures should provide opportunity to experiment.

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6. Fulham have lost just four times but are 17th. Chelsea have lost four times and are top of the table. An extreme example perhaps but it shows how destructive draws can be to your league position. Mark Hughes should remember that a win and a loss is better than two draws. Of his last 27 games with both Man City and Fulham, Hughes has overseen 15 stalemates.

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T.

Season Previews 2010/11 – Fulham

11/08/2010

Fulham

Last Season: 12th

New Signings: Greening, Senderos

Key Player: Brede Hangeland

One To Watch: Matthew Briggs

Needs A Big Year: Andy Johnson

Would Quite Like: More of the same.

Everyone's second favourite team. Watch how Hughes changes that...

Prediction: 8th

Thoughts: It must be quite nice for Mark Hughes to inherit the basis of a very sound, organised Fulham team. Roy Hodgson performed wonders in getting more than the sum of its parts out a small squad, finishing seventh in 2008/09 before reaching the Europa League final last season. All while playing a neat passing game.

Hughes perhaps unfairly gets maligned for the football his teams produce – his Blackburn team played some decent stuff on occasion but there’s no doubt Fulham will be less fun to watch this season. Despite his protests, Hughes can’t deny Rovers finished bottom of the fair play league in each of his four seasons in charge.

Even so, I suspect the foundations will stay much the same with two banks of four and Dempsey or Gera taking turns to support Zamora but perhaps with everyone tackling a little more aggressively. Hughes will certainly want to improve Fulham’s away form, which while better last season, still provides few very victories. A striker to take the burden off Zamora is certainly needed as Andy Johnson seems perma-crocked.

If Arsenal prise away Schwarzer (unlikely given the relationship between Hughes and Wenger) then a steadying presence in goal will also have to be found. Al Fayed has tended to back his managers in the transfer window, and if Hughes can persuade players of the quality of Bellamy or Santa Cruz to join either on loan or permanently, then another top half finish should arrive in May.

T.

Weekly Photoshop – 2009 Review

23/12/2009

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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Pressure and focus, little Russians & more…

08/12/2009

That was the weekend that was…

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1. So Man City powered their way to victory over Chelsea but it remains to be seen whether they just turn up for the big games. Mark Hughes will be glad to have won after seven straight draws especially as they had to come from behind to do it. I’m still dubious of the team spirit at Eastlands (any team with Adebayor in it can’t be that determined) but it was by far their best performance of the season.

Tevez looks like he’s finally contributing some goals but once more Given was the man who saved City’s skin with a penalty save from Frank Lampard. I think Hughes was chatting rubbish about the pressure Lampard was under (Compared to this? Really?) but Hughes chats a lot of rubbish a lot of the time.

In many ways the more focus on him the less focus on his under performing players, but the more his players under perform (this week aside) the more focus and scrutiny on Hughes.

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2. Typical Arsenal to show that you can spend all week worrying about how to attack against Stoke’s pair of 6’2″ centre-backs when you have no big strikers fit, yet 5’7″ Andrei Arshavin shows he can do the job instead. The little Russian regularly reveals his desire to play centrally at Arsenal and his wish was finally granted against Stoke. He was instrumental in the 2-0 win and could have had a hat trick if his first touch hadn’t deserted him a couple of times.

It will be interesting to see how Wenger goes forward. With Bendtner back quite soon there could be a switch back to 4-4-2 with the Dane and the Russian up front. Or more likely the 4-3-3 will stick but with Bendtner resuming his wide role of earlier this season while Arshavin continues up front in the middle.

Andrei Arshavin Arsenal

Brains not brawn.

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3. Since their 9-1 demolition of Wigan, Spurs have gone on to draw their next two league games and also get knocked out of the Carling Cup. With at least one if not two Champions League places up for grabs due to the open nature of this season’s Premier League, Tottenham would do well to regain some consistency if they harbour dreams of filling one of the two spots.

When 2-0 up against a team with Everton’s injury problems, you should not be throwing that lead away. Even when given a chance to win it at the death, Jermaine Defoe contrived to miss a penalty (Keane wasn’t on the pitch). Points against Villa and Everton aren’t necessarily bad ones but it’s the manner in which they’ve been gained which will be of concern to Harry Redknapp. He of all people will know that a cushion needs to be built up ahead of the chasing teams. Especially when you consider at the business end of the season Tottenham have a three game consecutive run against Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd.

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4. When exactly does Rafa Benitez plan to give Alberto Aquilani his league debut? Given that he has presumably been fit for at least a cameo since his Carling Cup debut against Arsenal on 28th October, it seems strange that he has yet to make a league appearance. Surely when you’re drawing against Blackburn and not playing well, it would be a good time to bring him on?

Alberto Aquilani Liverpool

That bench must be getting warm.../

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5. Bobby Zamora for England? I think not. He does get unfair press sometimes given that Emile Heskey is similarly a hard-working striker who can’t score for toffee yet is lauded as a World Cup certainty. However, Heskey has proven himself over 57 caps as a great partner for first Owen and now Rooney.

Zamora can chase lost causes all he wants but Capello will be choosing his World Cup forwards from a shortlist of: Rooney, Heskey, Defoe, Crouch, Bent, Agbonlahor and Cole. At least three players on that list can do everything Zamora does and more. The rest score goals, something the Fulham striker simply doesn’t do enough of.

Bobby Zamora Fulham England

"Shut your f-ing mouths!"

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6. Another so-so Man United performance (though convincing in the end), another win. The masters of winning with the minimum of fuss. Zola meanwhile deserves time – the man has no money to spend and a squad full of injuries. Interestingly for a team with the defensive nous of Steve Clarke as assistant manager, West Ham haven’t kept a clean sheet since August.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Men vs Midgets, Self-Deprecation & more…

30/11/2009

That was the weekend that was.

 

1. Chelsea showed Arsenal what it takes to be champions elect yesterday with a lesson in how to blend skill with power. Up until the first goal Arsenal were in control without really doing anything, though Chelsea could have had a penalty for Sagna’s foul on Anelka. Then out of nothing Cole wasn’t closed down and a great cross came over for Drogba to finish clinically. The defending wasn’t the best. Sagna could have made a better attempt to prevent the cross from Cole and one of the centre backs could have cleared it but it was a great ball in.

A couple of minutes later an almost identical goal was scored. Cole again had time and space to put in a great ball from the left but this time it went in off Vermaelen who was expecting Gallas to clear it. Two quick goals before half time, game over. The second half was notable for Arshavin’s disallowed goal, Drogba’s free kick to wrap up the victory and nothing more.

The game showed exactly how far Arsenal have to go if they are to match Chelsea. Ancelotti’s team had height and strength all over the pitch as well as skill, overpowering Arsenal everywhere. Wenger was missing Van Persie, Bendtner and Diaby who all would have played in this game and perhaps made a difference. However you’d imagine that even with them on the pitch Chelsea would find have found a way to win.

For some reason there was a constant stream of hopeful crosses and medium length passes to the forward line of Arshavin, Nasri and Eduardo, who every time were beaten in the air by Terry & co. It changed a little in the second half but there were mainly lots of runs up blind alleys. Eduardo in particular looked well off the pace and badly needs a meaningful goal while Arshavin continued his peripheral form of this season. Walcott was poor when he came on and there are no true wingers at the clubs, instead lots of inside forward types.

didier drogba ashley cole arsenal chelsea

I find it so hard to decide who I dislike more in this picture.

As for Drogba, Arsenal must be sick of him. Two great goals and an all action performance in tandem with Anelka. He now has 10 goals in 11 games vs Arsenal and has been directly the match winner six times.  I think Almunia should have done better with the third goal; his positioning was wrong (why move behind the wall?) and thus the ball was already in the net before he even reached with his dive.

Wenger can say the disallowed goal was pivotal but I disagree. As in the game against Man Utd, having all the possession is pointless if you can’t do anything with it. The reason why Chelsea and Man Utd have been the two top teams for the past few years is that they can soak up pressure and still win. Arsenal have yet to discover that method.

arsenal weak

What you see and what you get.

 

2. Everton lost again and although there’s no shame in being beaten by Liverpool (actually…) you sense that perhaps Moyes has taken them as far as he can. That’s not to say he isn’t right for the job and the Scot has done wonders with the budget and constraints he has but maybe something needs freshening up.

Everton won’t reach the heights of the past few seasons and the constant long-term injuries to key players means a likely finish outside the top eight this year. With the Kirkby stadium plans rejected and no buyers for the club, the future looks a little uncertain at Goodison.

 

3. Is the clock ticking for Mark Hughes? Seven straight draws now. Funny how you can say they’re unbeaten in ten or without a win in seven. Hughes will no doubt slant to the former but I suspect the owners will be looking at the latter. Of the seven games (Villa A, Wigan A, Fulham H, Birmingham A, Burnley H, Liverpool A, Hull H), only Villa and Liverpool are truly tough games if you have real aspirations to be in the top four, and despite everything said otherwise that is the target. Somehow I don’t think Hughes will get a second attempt if he doesn’t achieve it this season in what is such an open year.

 

4. Hats off to Jimmy Bullard for the celebration of the season. In case you haven’t seen it, he gathered his teammates in a circle and mock scolded a la Tango Man last season. Ironically enough it was at the City of Manchester Stadium again. His return has been the main reason behind Hull’s resurgence and they may yet find themselves in a position like last where they weren’t very good but three teams were worse. He has brought a sense of fun back to the KC Stadium and fair play to Phil Brown for being able to see the funny side of Bullard’s celebration.

jimmy bullard goal celebration man city hull

Genius.

 

5. One of those teams will be Wolves unless Mick McCarthy goes. It took a while but it’s now clear that either the players or the manager aren’t cut out for this level. Time for either to prove that’s not true.

 

6. Birmingham have been doing well of late. They have been hard to break down since the start of the season but Alex McLeish has realised that by adding an extra striker and playing 4-4-2 he is far more likely to rack up the points that will lead Birmingham to safety this season.

 

T.

Weekly Photoshop – Old Trafford Injury Time

01/10/2009

Hello once again, it’s Thursday which means it’s time for the weekly Photoshop effort on a topical theme. Following the Manchester derby, this week it was injury time at Old Trafford. Or to put it another way, if Man Utd are losing at home, the game goes on until they win. Simple.

To be fair I had no problem with the amount of stoppage time that had been played against City, but there have been loads of occasions in years gone by where you’ve seen five or six minutes go up and thought “Really?!” With this in mind I went for the following:

The concept of injury time at Old Trafford has always been a rather surreal one. You never know what will happen.

The concept of injury time at Old Trafford has always been a rather surreal one. You never know what will happen.

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Funnier ones here.

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T.

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Archive.

Weekly Photoshop – Joleon Lescott

20/08/2009

It’s Everton defender and Worf from Star Trek lookalike (damn maybe I should have gone with that!) Joleon Lescott as the theme this week. The subject of two rejected bids from Man City, he’s apparently worth £20m+ according to the Toffees. I can assure you he’s not, and Everton would do well to get that money off Mark Hughes whilst they still can. Moyes seems to be getting very annoyed with the supposed inappropriate methods being used by Man City so we’ll see how this one plays out.

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Mark Hughes stars as the vengeful nanny trying to destroy David Moyes' life and steal members of his family

Mark Hughes stars as the vengeful nanny trying to destroy David Moyes' life and steal members of his family...

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The rest of this week’s gallery can be found here.

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T.

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Old ones.

Season Previews 09/10 – Manchester City

13/08/2009

man-city

Last Season: 10th.

Say hello to your new teammates: This will take a while. Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, Kolo Toure, Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Stuart Taylor.

Close the door on your way out: Elano, Ched Evans, Daniel Sturridge, Valeri Bojinov, Joe Hart, Jo, Felipe Caicedo (the last four are loans out)

Predicted star: Robinho. He scored 14 in his debut season despite many a tiff with Hughes as well consistently anonymous performances away from home. With the added steel purchased in defence and midfield as well the additional talent up front, he should be pushing around 20 this time round. Alternatively, what’s the betting they still struggle to succeed and Shay Given is relied upon to stop things getting embarrassing?

Needs a big year: Mark Hughes himself has no excuses now – this is his team playing out his ideas. On the pitch, Adebayor will want to show he’s worth a second double your wages deal in two years. He’ll quickly frustrate if he plays anything like last season where the only effort he put in was to stray offside. Roque Santa Cruz will look to score more than five league goals for only the second time in his ten year European career.

One to watch: All these stars are being signed but youth product Nedum Onouha could prove to be a rock alongside Toure if they fail to get in another centre back. He’s surely ahead of the fast regressing Richard Dunne in the pecking order now.

What they want to happen: Champions League qualification, no more no less.

Nightmare scenario: The team fails to gel and another season of inconsistency sees no higher than 7th.

The best signing they've made.

The best signing they've made.

Plan A: Looking at the players available you can expect Barry and De Jong/Kompany in the middle of the pitch with Ireland down the right flank and Robinho down the left. Tevez should partner Adebayor up front. Expect a fluent direct style which will utilise the skills of Ireland and Robinho who will be playing quite narrow. Wright-Phillips and Petrov are options if they want a system with traditional wingers.

Plan B, just in case: Play four up front, goodness knows they have the attacking players for it.

Predicted finish: 5th.

Why? A £100 million shopping spree is all very well but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Last season City finished in 10th place some 22 points behind 4th place Arsenal. You can’t make that kind of deficit up just like that. The signings made are on the whole good and solve a lot of the problems from last season but we mustn’t forget that it’s people like Barry and Tevez coming in not Kaka and Ribery.

Toure will improve the defence but I can assure you he isn’t the player he once was. He has a rather large behind these days and has certainly lost a yard of pace since getting malaria at the last African Nations Cup. The need still exists for a Lescott or an Upson alongside him. Barry is an excellent signing and perhaps the best value of everyone they brought in. He will provide the much needed solidity away from Eastlands and should form quite the midfield partnership with Kompany.

A lot of money for not a lot of goals.

A lot of money for not a lot of goals.

I’m willing to back Ferguson on the issue of Tevez. He had two years to look at him and obviously decided that he wasn’t worth keeping. Tevez is a hard worker and very skilful but he doesn’t score enough for a £25million striker. Adebayor on the other hand does, but I wonder if he will have lost his attitude problem and his offside problem to return to the striker of two seasons ago. He will still score plenty even if he hasn’t and I already foresee a badge kissing incident after he inevitably gets a goal against his old team in the fourth game if the season.

So overall I reckon the players bought are good enough to leapfrog five teams and become the best of the rest. They aren’t yet good enough to become the best of the best however and I wonder if they ever will be with Mark Hughes in charge. Big players and egos are needed to reach the elite and whilst he has them, I don’t think handling them sits especially comfortably with him.

He needs to 4th place to manage City in 2010/11 but I don’t think he’ll get it. This leads to somewhat a vicious circle. You can throw lots of money at second choice players to try and get you into the Champions League but fail because they’re second choice options, but the players who you really want will never join because you’re not in the Champions League.

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T.

The Six Pointer – Hughes’ Egos, Fat Frank’s Sex Face & more…

11/05/2009

Apologies for the recent lack of posts. We’ll be back to normal this week. Anyway, let’s look at the weekend that was…

 

1. We’re starting to see a lot of nothing performances from teams who have nothing let to play for. Wigan have been at the beach for around the past five weeks and are second bottom of the form table with one goal in five. Having started the year challenging for a Europa Cup spot, they are slowly sliding down the table. What I don’t get is with each place in the league being worth around half a million more than the one below, why Steve Bruce isn’t motivating them more. The drop from seventh to tenth could be worth as much as two million in prize money, which to a club like Wigan is a big deal. 

 

2. Gerrard and Torres have started 12 games together this season. Of those twelve, Liverpool have won nine and drawn three and got 16 goals from the two. They took just two minutes to unlock West Ham at the weekend and showed again what a good understanding they have. If Benitez can get them to play 30 games together next season, Liverpool may finally win the title. That said, Rooney and Ronaldo have only started 17 games together for Man Utd. The difference being that Fergie has Berbatov and Tevez to choose from too, while Rafa tried and sold Keane and must focus on buying another alternative option in the summer.  

This time next year we'll be top. Probably.

This time next year we'll be top. Probably.

 

3. Another listless performance from Man City in the Manchester derby. Is Mark Hughes more likely to be sacked for failing to finish seventh or failing to motivate star players like Robinho and Elano? If he can’t keep egos like that happy, what chance has he got with the proper superstar players who will no doubt be summer targets at Eastlands. You’d feel the Europa League is a must in terms of trying to persuade anyone world class to join and even then you have to wonder whether Hughes is a man capable of handling the world class talent it will take for City to break into the elite. 

 

4. Ten points ahead of Aston Villa in fifth but now nine points behind Chelsea in third. Arsenal really are in a league of their own at the moment. Clearly not good enough to challenge the top 3 when it ultimately matters (failure to beat any of them in the four recent games in league and Europe), Arsene Wenger finds himself with much work to do in the summer. You can track their regression from last season quite accurately. They had 77 points in third place at this stage last year, which is what Chelsea currently have in third this season. The 1-4 scoreline against Chelsea on Sunday was a touch harsh given how well they started the game but at the same it was what we’ve come to expect over the years – plenty of possession and chances but no killer instinct to finish the game off. We’ll touch on what’s needed in more detail later in the week but needless to say experienced reinforcements will be on the agenda. You only need to look at the impact Arshavin has had since January to illustrate that you sometimes need to pay for quality. It’s interesting too for the chasing clubs like Aston Villa and Spurs dreaming (literally in Tottenham’s case) of breaking into the top four. If you can’t do it when one has an off year then when can you?

Lampard's enjoying it, Terry too. Alex doesn't seem to be getting much pleasure though. Looks like Fat Frank is a selfish lover...

Lampard's enjoying it, Terry too. Alex doesn't seem to be getting too much pleasure though. Looks like Fat Frank is a selfish lover...

 

5. Could West Brom do it again? They stayed up in 2005 despite being bottom at Christmas and are making a pretty good fist of it again. I feel they’ll ultimately fall just short given they have Liverpool in the next game. That said, if Man Utd win the title next Saturday against Arsenal, Sunday will be a pretty good time to play Rafa’s side. I would be happy if they stayed up, even if they aren’t very good. They at least try and play decent football and Tony Mowbray is more likeable than many of the other managers in and around the drop zone (I’m looking at you Phil Brown). It so often comes down to form for the bottom clubs trying to escape and they currently are displaying mid-table form, unlike all their four north east rivals. 

 

6. Gareth Bale started for the first time since January 18th on Saturday. Needless to say Spurs didn’t win. I make it 24 league games without a win for the Welshman. Jinx!

The harder he tries, the more likely Spurs don't win.

The harder he tries, the more likely Spurs don't win.

 

T.


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