Posts Tagged ‘Middlesbrough’

Weekly Photoshop – Steve McClaren


Remember the wally with the brolly? Steve McClaren’s England reign came to an inglorious end when losing to Croatia at Wembley and he ensured plenty of puntastic headlines when standing under an umbrella without a clue how to save the game.

Anyway, seeing as he was unemployable in England, he decided to try his luck in Holland with FC Twente. Some dodgy accents aside, it turns out he’s actually not bad. Second place last year was followed by the Eredivisie title this time round. Steve McClaren a good manager? Surely not…


steve mcclaren twente twilight zone

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension where Steve McClaren is a good manager. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone...


More here.






End of Season Reviews – Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Middlesbrough



Where they finished: 2nd

Season in five words: Home draws cost the title

Successful season? Yes, for the first time a serious title challenge to Man Utd was mounted. Consistent, difficult to beat and in Torres and Gerrard, a lethal front two. Ultimately there were too many draws against lower opposition and considering Liverpool did the double over United, they will be disappointed to have finished behind them.

Defining moment: Rafa’s rant perhaps? Whether or not he was right is besides the issue. The draws and poor form that followed are what cost Liverpool the league. I don’t think it was a coincidence.

Player of the year: Steven Gerrard is the obvious choice but credit must be given to Xabi Alonso too. Dirk Kuyt has suddenly turned into a key player with his best season since joining.

Goal of the season: Torres vs Blackburn.

Flop of the season: Dossena was another addition to the long list of left backs who have flopped at Anfield. A bit fat and a bit slow. He did score great goals against Man Utd and Real Madrid though. Ryan Babel hasn’t lived up to expectation, or even come close to doing so.

Highlight: The destruction of Real Madrid was impressive (if not surprising) and having a real go at Chelsea in the Champions quarter final second leg was entertaining (if ultimately doomed). They ended Chelsea’s long unbeaten home league record too. There can only be one choice though and that’s the 4-1 spanking of Man Utd at Old Trafford.

Summer homework: Keep Gerrard but specifically Torres fit and playing together. Don’t sell Alonso, buy a striker, a left winger and possibly a left back too.



Man City

Where they finished: 10th

Season in five words: Big spending but poor results.

Successful season? Not really. Expectation was high after a summer takeover and there was enough time to splash a British record fee on Robinho from Real Madrid. Mark Hughes’ side were pretty poor however and for much of the season were towards the bottom of the table. Though recovery was made, via more big money January signings, City won’t be playing European football next year. Domestic cup exits were made to lower league opposition and most of the season was a case of win at home, lose away.

Defining moment: Towards the midnight deadline for summer signings, City announce the signing of Robinho for £32.5million. Having been rejected by Berbatov, with his signing the Abu Dhabi owners announced they meant business. The flip side of this was paying £17million for Nigel De Jong in January when he could have been bought for £2million this summer.

Player of the year: Stephen Ireland. The shaven headed maestro was one of the few highlights of a Jekyll and Hyde season at Eastlands. Robinho has shown enough in his debut season (at home at least) to suggest he could get 20 goals next year.

Goal of the season: Robinho’s lob vs Arsenal.

Flop of the season: Dunne and Richards. The former looked slow and prone to mistakes while the latter seems to care more about his physique (ironic given his fat arse) than his positional sense. Oh and Robinho away from home.

Highlight: A 3-0 win over Arsenal was quite impressive in November, as was an early 6-0 battering of Pompey.

Summer homework: Sign a good strike partner for Robinho, get Petrov, Dunne and Richards playing like they did in 2007/08, buy a left back better than Wayne Bridge. Quality not quantity (see strikers).



Man Utd


Where they finished: 1st, Champions League finalists and Carling Cup Winners.

Season in five words: Liverpool equalled, outclassed by Barcelona.

Successful season? Yes. Their record equalling 18th league title was won unconvincingly but at the same time without too much trouble. Liverpool tried hard but didn’t have the experience of closing it out. A record run of clean sheets built up enough of an advantage to concentrate on Europe. Though they reached the final again, Barcelona taught them a footballing lesson in Rome. They won the Carling Cup too.

Defining moment: Macheda against Aston Villa perhaps? The day before Liverpool had grabbed a vital last minute win over Fulham to go top so momentum was with them. United played poorly and were losing 2-1 before staging a comeback in the last 10 minutes. In the last minute 17 year old debutant Federico Macheda, controlled, turned and hit a great winner past Brad Friedel. Momentum restored to United, league title heads to Old Trafford.

Player of the year: Nemanja Vidic was great until the spring and undoubtedly lay the foundations for the record breaking defence. He got found out by some nimble strikers towards the end but overall was excellent. Wayne Rooney had a great season, and Fletcher has pretty much established himself as first choice central midfielder.

Goal of the season: Cristiano Ronaldo’s 40 yard toe punt against Porto.

Flop of the season: Flops in a title winning side? No one really. Berbatov gets another season to prove that he can fit into Utd’s style of play. He hasn’t flopped but he hasn’t impressed that much. Nani is beginning to look like a lost cause though. Van der Sar will be doing well to still be first choice come 2010.

Highlight: Equalling Liverpool’s title record is an overall highlight. Outclassing Arsenal at the Emirates in Europe and Macheda’s goal against Villa were particular highlights.

Summer homework: Make a decision on Carlos Tevez and sign a pacey replacement if he goes. Get Hargreaves fit and playing in the big games.





Where they finished: 19th

Season in five words: Lack of goals means relegation.

Successful season? No. Despite all the mocking of Schteve McLaren, he usually had Boro pushing the top half and in a cup final or two. Gareth Southgate has taken them further down the table with each passing season. Boro’s problem was selling their best players and not replacing them, and not having anyone capable of scoring on a consistent basis. England’s best left winger™Stewart Downing had a miserable season scoring zero goals, while the less said about Alves and Aliadiere the better.

Defining moment: Losing Mark Schwarzer to Fulham last summer. A big reason why Fulham went from 17th to 7th this year while Boro went down.

Player of the year: Erm, Tuncay was the one highlight suppose. He reminded me of Juninho a few years back where he was the only one trying to keep them up but no one else was good enough/cared enough to help.

Goal of the season: Not hard to choose given there have been so few. Tuncay’s bicycle kick late in the season against Villa wins it.

Flop of the season: When you pay £12 million for someone you exect more than six league goals in return this season. Southgate will be judged by his transfer deals and Alves will go down as one of his biggest errors. Playing Brad Jones over Ross Turnbull in key end of season games was a stupid idea too. Jones is incredibly useless. Terrible hair too.

Highlight: A 2-0 win over Liverpool of all people in February.

Summer homework: Get rid of players who don’t want to be there, sign someone who can score goals in the Championship. Try and get £15 million for Downing from Spurs even though he’s injured.



The Six Pointer – Lucky Hull, Rubbish Goals & more…


That was the season that was.

1. So Newcastle went down with barely a whimper. Can’t say it’s undeserved either, they’ve been a joke club for years both on and off the pitch. For all the talk of Shearer geeing them up, the lack of fight and determination in the closing stages against Villa was astonishing. I’m sure they were aware of the Hull score at all times and yet there seemed to be no discernible attempt to throw everyone forward in the last few minutes. Of course it’s easier said than done to score a goal but given the situation what exactly was there too lose? It certainly didn’t feel like they had three strikers on the pitch even though that was the case for much of the game. The second half produced a total of zero shots on target. Newcastle aren’t good enough to play patient possession football in the hop of carving out an opening against a well organised outfit like Villa. But that they tried and it resulted in a damp squib of an ending and a relegation which may have much longer term consequences than they realise. Shearer must take some of the blame too. Even though it was a dire situation when he arrived, he failed to produce the inspiration that was necessary. Untried managers that are club legends often talk about heart, desire and determination to make up for the lack of tactical nous they may possess. Shearer delivered on neither but in his defence I doubt anyone could shake up the sorry collection of overpaid players he had at his disposal. I suspect he will stay and his first mess will be dealing with the 15 players on more than £50,000 a week (15!) with no relegation clauses. Getting a squad full of players who want to play for Newcastle will go a long way to determining the length of the Toon Army’s stay in the Championship.




2. Hull got very, very lucky. They are not good enough to be in the Premier League and the run of one win in 25 or whatever it was would have sent them down any other year. It was somewhat ironic to see Phil Brown leading the singsong after their defeat to Man Utd as it was his fault they dropped like a stone in the first place. The half time teamtalk on the pitch at Man City signalled the start of their awful run and went against the age old adage that a good manager never criticises his players in public. Some squad improvement may seem them reach the heights they showed at the start of this season but I suspect the reality will be another season of struggle next year. They will start amongst the favourites to go down next year.


What an idiot.


3. Has there ever been a more ‘meh’ top scorer than Nicolas Anelka? Given only one Premier League season has seen less overall goals, it was no surprise to see a top scorer with less than 20 for the first time in ten seasons. This was very much the year of tight defences and half the teams in the top flight couldn’t manage more than forty goals (compared with just five last year). Congrats then to Fulham who used their 39 to very good effect with a seventh place finish. 

4. Of the four teams in danger of relegation yesterday, all lost. You could have got 25-1 on that happening. The two teams (Fulham and Spurs) with Europa League qualification to play for also lost. 

5. Arsenal really are in a league of their own at the moment. Eleven points behind third place Chelsea but nine ahead of fifth place Everton. No team is further isolated but as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think the Gunners are far off a proper challenge next season. A good defensive midfielder would go a long way but a big centre back is a priority. If I were Wenger I’d also be tempted to look at another goalkeeper, to at least push Almunia if not replace him. Van Persie’s two goals against Stoke made him a twenty goal a season striker for the first time and although there were defeats when it mattered, a 21 unbeaten run in the league offered a glimpse of the potential within the rest of the squad. The final step up will be improvement against the top three but with a good off season, there is reason to be optimistic at the Emirates.

That's only ten less the Ade last year...

That's only ten less the Ade last year...


6. It makes sense that the goal of the season should consist of the ten individual goals of the month but the resulting collection is pretty poor this season. Lots of hit and hopes which blend into each other – anyone can catch a ball sweetly from 35 yards.

GOAL 1: Ricardo Fuller, STOKE CITY v Aston Villa (23 August)

GOAL 2: Geovanni, Arsenal v HULL CITY (27 September)

GOAL 3: David Bentley, Arsenal v TOTTENHAM (29 October)

GOAL 4: Glen Johnson, PORTSMOUTH v Hull City (22 November)

GOAL 5: Robin van Persie, ARSENAL v Liverpool (21 December)

GOAL 6: Paul Konchesky, West Ham v FULHAM (18 January)

GOAL 7: Ryan Giggs, West Ham v MAN UTD (8 February)

GOAL 8: Carlton Cole, Wigan v WEST HAM (4 March)

GOAL 9: Fernando Torres (first goal), LIVERPOOL v Blackburn (11 April)

GOAL 10: Tuncay, MIDDLESBROUGH v Aston Villa (16 May)

Of the those ten goals only three or four could be described as having elements of good skill. For my money I liked Cole’s goal as a team effort and Fuller’s was nice turn and shoot. To be honest though for me it’s between either Glen Johnson’s left foot volley from distance or Torres’ chest and volley from a tight angle. Judge for yourself here.



Weekly Photoshop – Afonso Alves


Our theme this week is Afonso Alves. Somehow related to Dani Alves of Barcelona, the Middlesbrough striker is a bit fat and bit useless. The £12million spent on him is a big reason why Boro are going down this year as he has returned just six goals. A couple of entries this week…


The invisible striker, apparently last seen 'playing' for Middlesbrough.

The invisible striker, apparently last seen 'playing' for Middlesbrough.


Alves tries to use positive visualisation to help him score more goals.

Alves tries to use positive visualisation to help him score more goals.


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




Previos entries: BartonKeaneMessi, and the rest.

The Six Pointer – Shearer’s Magic Boots, Relegation Tears & more…


That was the long weekend that was.


1. Rafa is still absolutely adamant that Man Utd will slip up twice on the run in to let Liverpool sneak in and win the title. Looking at their final four games of  Man City (h), Wigan (a), Arsenal (h) and Hull (a) there is certainly some potential for dropped points but I don’t see them losing twice  or drawing three times which is essentially what Benitez needs to happen. Even if they lost to Arsenal, it’s difficult to envisage a scenario where they don’t get the required seven points they need for the title. The run of three games in six days will be a tough ask but with the Champions League out of the way after this week until the end of the season, there should be enough within the squad to cope. Of course Liverpool can’t concede while it’s still mathematically possible to win the title but I suspect that it will remain false hope. They should win their three remaining games (West Ham [a], West Brom [a], Spurs [h]) but United haven’t won the Premier League ten times in sixteen years without knowing how to close things out.

It'll take more than a sneaky handshake to mug the title off me Rafa.

It'll take more than a sneaky handshake to mug the title off me Rafa.


2. All of the bottom eight lost this weekend meaning it is as you were in the battle to avoid relegation but with just three games left. Stoke, Portsmouth and Blackburn all had varying degrees of poor performance but such is the inability of the clubs below to win that it would be most surprising if they were dragged back into it. West Brom are six behind with nine to play so will go down officially next week leaving the at risk north-east foursome to battle it out. 


3. Middlesbrough face a trip to St James Park next weekend in what could be a winner stays up scenario. What price a 0-0 draw that does neither of them any favours? Boro have scored nine measly goals away from the Riverside this season yet face a Newcastle side that have scored once since Shearer’s return. I remember the images of when he returned, with his boots on the dashboard as he drove to the training ground. Clearly he’s been unable to teach any of his old dogs up front new tricks. I saw a terrible film over the weekend called Like Mike, in which a kid finds a pair of Michael Jordan’s old trainers and gains the ability to play basketball like him. It’s only worth watching for the cameos by NBA stars like Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. Anyway, I digress but it got me thinking about how maybe some Newcastle’s strikers need to steal those boots on the dashboard. As the joke goes, the only way Shearer will be on Match of the Day next season is if he returns as a pundit, as it sure doesn’t look like Newcastle are staying up.

Those boots are made for talking. But not walking.

Those boots are made for talking. But not walking.


4. That is unless Hull continue to make things interesting. I know I talk about the north east four, but if anything Sunderland having a four point advantage over Newcastle means they have to screw up twice in the remaining three games to be caught. This perhaps leaves Hull as the only catchable team. You can talk about 40 points being the safety mark all you want but I think that this is a season where it will be exceptionally low. Now is the time for threatened teams to be scrapping for points not losing every week. Given the bottom four in the form table are the four aforementioned teams (Boro ‘lead’ with four points from six games, Sunderland have three, Hull and Newcastle two) you could see a scenario where 35 points keeps you up. Boro or Newcastle would need just a win, draw and defeat from their last three games to achieve that but even that seems beyond them right now. 


5. The remaining point of interest is the battle for UEFA Europa Cup qualification with West Ham, Man City, Fulham and Spurs separated by a point. Of those four I think the teams managed by Zola and Hodgson deserve it most but the teams managed by Hughes and Redknapp have the squads to cope best. Given that the latter two managers didn’t give two shits about it this season, I don’t see why they should be rewarded with a place next season. Both Zola and Hodgson have done wonders with small squads and even smaller budgets and I would be delighted if either of them got the spot. I worry for Fulham getting it simply as I could see an Ipswich syndrome where they overachieve but then don’t have the players to compete on two fronts and face a relegation struggle the next season. All four teams face quite tricky run ins (all play top six teams twice except Man City) so it will be interesting to see who comes through.


6. A word for the end of the Championship season too. Wolves and Birmingham come back up and will no doubt go straight back down if they stick with their current managers Mick McCarthy and Alex McLeish. Of the playoff bunch, Burnley or Reading look the most likely to survive in the top flight from what I’ve caught this season. Meanwhile, at the bottom Norwich, Southampton and Charlton all went down into League 1. All were in the Premier League as recently as four seasons ago. Something to note for the threatened clubs this time round. 

Alan Smith prepares his relegation tears, yet again.

Alan Smith prepares his relegation tears, yet again.



The Six Pointer – Playing to Strengths, Magpies Strife & more…


That was the weekend that was.


1. With three quarters of the big four involved in FA Cup semi final action this weekend, it left the focus on the relegation battle in the Premier League. Stoke had a huge victory against Blackburn which has pretty much ensures their survival. They may not play pretty football and they may not be liked, but they are effective and their home form is as good as any team in the league. Only Man City, Man Utd and Liverpool have gained more points at their home grounds. 39 points should be enough to stay up given the number of teams below them and the number of points they’re ahead of Middlesbrough. I’m sure they’ll get something in their next four games too, just to make sure they don’t go to the Emirates on the last day needing a result to stay up.

Delap power + manager in a baseball cap = Survival

Delap power + manager in a baseball cap = Survival


2. Newcastle were rubbish against Spurs, though Obafemi Martins did look lively. Shearer is right in that they have to win the home games against Portsmouth, Middlesbrough and Fulham. Those nine points would take them to 39 and their superior goal difference to some of those around them could yet prove handy. The one problem they face is there is little semblance of any form at the club, have only won four home games this season and they have to overtake two other teams to get out of the drop zone. I would think Hull, Boro, Blackburn and Sunderland would be potential targets but the latter two both still have games/free passes against West Brom. It’s going to be very, very tight and the game next week against Portsmouth could essentially be the game which decides their fate.


3. Aston Villa have won just five home games all year, more than only Hull, Newcastle and Blackburn. They face a big battle to avoid coming sixth.

Not exactly a case of home comforts.

Not exactly a case of home comforts.


4. Arsenal (a), Man Utd (h), Newcastle (a), Aston Villa (h), West Ham (a). From where will Middlesbrough get the points to stay up?


5. The FA Cup produced two very dull games. Arsenal will be very disappointed to have be knocked out given their recent lack of trophies, but they have no one to blame but themselves. Well no one to blame but Wenger and Fabianski. The team selection was very baffling, with Song, Arshavin and Nasri left on the bench in favour of Diaby and Denilson. This resulted in not only was their best defensive midfielder not playing but also their two most creative threats. I could understand Wenger thinking he needed to counteract the size of Chelsea’s midfield but Diaby and Denilson were very poor. Song has been one of Arsenal’s best players in recent weeks and would have offered a vital defensive shield as well as perhaps closing down Lampard before he hit his two long ball assists. Arshavin meanwhile was fully rested, playing against his national team manager and perhaps the only player who would have offered a surprise factor. Ultimately you have to play your best team in semi final against Chelsea and to be saving Song and Arshavin for tomorrow night’s game against Liverpool seemed a bit short sighted. Third place (and thus automatic CL qualification) is still attainable but it’s unlikely. Ultimately, sometimes it’s better not to worry about the opposition and play to your own strengths instead. Chelsea did exactly this and Drogba’s outmuscling of the last defender for the winner was a perfect example of why they are in the FA Cup final and Arsenal are not.


6. If you thought Saturday’s game was dull, yesterday’s second semi between Everton and Man Utd was even worse. I had the misfortune of deciding to live blog it and I was rewarded with 120 minutes of no action bar a penalty that should have been given for Jagielka’s challenge on Welbeck. The shootout was notable for a terrible penalty from Berbatov and Jagielka ironically converting the winning kick. I think Fergie will be disappointed that the quintuple dream is over but in reality it was never likely to happen. He has bigger fish to fry and will be more concerned with three points against Pompey on Wednesday, as demonstrated with his team selection. Seeing as it went all the way to extra time he will be glad only Vidic and Rio played from his first choice XI. As for David Moyes , he deserves his day out in the sun. His Everton side are hard working but with enough skill to do well against the big sides. They may just end up beating Chelsea on May 30th.

How not to take a spotkick

How not to take a spotkick.



The Six Pointer – Van Persie’s Rep, Villa’s Routine & more…


That was the weekend that was.


1. Martin O’Neill must be sick of Stoke’s last minute antics this season. Following their stoppage time winner in the August game at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke remarkably came from two goals down at Villa Park with four minutes to go to draw a match they had no right to get anything from. O’Neill must be a touch concerned at Villa’s relative lack of form at a key time of the season. They are now without a win in five in all competitions and this run has coincided with the injury to Martin Laursen, a key figure in the side. I doubt Arsenal would have been able to make up an eight point deficit, but now have a chance to cut it to three by the time Villa play next if they manage to beat bottom side West Brom. Whilst Wenger will be delighted at Villa dropping points, he of all people will know what it’s like to be in that situation having conspired to do the same against Spurs in October.

Damnit, not again!

Damnit, not again!


2. The Spurs and Villa results over the weekend got me thinking about the importance of having a settled team and not worrying about resting players too much. Of course certain games are a priority and players get tired at this stage of the season but at the same time matches are also about confidence and routine. Both sides could have played a few more first teamers in the UEFA Cup whilst still ensuring not too much effort was made to prevent elimination. Sometimes going seven to ten days without a match isn’t actually all that good as you can lose your touch and match practice. There’s a reason why winning teams are rarely changed and I think both Villa and Spurs might have had better results at the weekend had they played a few more of their first teamers midweek. 


3. Rafa now thinks Liverpool would have been closer to Man Utd had Torres been fit for more of the season. That may be so but Man Utd have also had their fair share of injuries with Ronaldo, Rooney and several midfielders all out for good portions. The whole point is that you’re not meant to rely on one player and if Robbie Keane wasn’t the answer/alternative, Rafa should have ensured that someone else was. Fergie’s Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez compared to Rafa’s Torres, El Zhar and N’Gog? I know what I’d choose.

A regular sight

A regular sight


4. A week after writing off Gareth Southgate, he oversees one of Middlesbrough’s best results of the season. Boro’s next six games are all against teams around them in the table. They will hope to have pulled a little clear by the end of this run as the two matches that follow are Arsenal and Man Utd. 


5. Reputations count for a lot. Robin Van Persie is having a good season but has been guilty of some quite poor misses over the past few games. Had those chances been missed by Bendtner or even Adebayor for that matter we would be highly critical. RVP has escaped (thus far) on account of him producing in big games. However, great player though he is, Van Persie is certainly not prolific. The less said about Arsenal’s 4th consecutive goalless draw the better. Luck would have it that they face West Brom next but then they were meant to beat Sunderland, and Fulham, and… 


6. Man City lost yet again away from home and yet again Robinho failed to do anything of note. He hasn’t scored since November and there has been many a muttering about his lack of effort away from the City of Manchester Stadium (he’s only scored twice away). Mark Hughes has built his success on hard working sides and while the Brazilian is a major talent, you feel that he is not one for a relegation battle. City are only six points clear and a lot could still change at the bottom of the table. He’s doubtful with an ankle injury for the next game and it may well be a blessing in disguise.

I hope you didn't expect me to run for that.

I hope you didn't expect me to run for that.




Edit: Forgot to mention, if you want to hear us on the Football Guy’s podcast discussing the Champions League results from midweek then just download here.

The Six Pointer – Mad Jens, Boro’s Struggles & more…


1. We touched on Ronaldo and his tetchiness last week and on Saturday there was yet another incident in which he kicked out at someone and got away with it. This time David Dunn was on the receiving end of his petulance, and given that Howard Webb didn’t book him over the incident it would not surprise me to see him get a retrospective three match ban.  Blackburn are right to feel aggrieved when shortly afterwards he scored the winning goal with a wonderful free kick. I sense too that whilst he may get away with it in the Premier League, Ronaldo won’t be so lucky if he does it against the likes of Inter Milan or Barcelona in the Champions League.

Needs to calm down

Needs to calm down


2. Liverpool’s title hopes were over before yesterday’s draw against Man City. Victory over Man United on March 14th won’t revive them either. I imagine Rafa will prioritise the Champions League now anyway so will tinker his way to plenty more dropped points before the season’s end. It will be interesting to see if they hold off a revived Chelsea for second place who should finish strongly under new manager Guus Hiddink.


3. Good to see that Jens Lehmann is still Mad Jens even though he’s now with Stuttgart. Here he takes issue with Khalid Boulahrouz’s headband and throws it away. There was also an incident at the weekend where an opposition striker’s boot had come off and Lehmann proceeded to hide it on the roof of his goal (video deleted sadly but the pic below gives you an idea). In true Jens style he said “the shoe lies where it could be an obstacle for a shot or a through pass.” Brilliant. Let’s also remember a couple of classics from the days when he was still Arsenal goalkeeper.

Mad Jens

Mad Jens


4. Fulham have struggled away from home for many a year now; picking up no away wins this season, three last year and just one in both 2006/07 and 2005/06. However they have 27 points from 36 at Craven Cottage this season and sit pretty in eighth place. Goodness knows how high they’d be if they had anything resembling away form.


5. While the debut of Arshavin was a bright spot in an otherwise drab performance, Arsene Wenger must be very concerned with the lack of goals coming from his side at the moment. They have only scored only four times in their last seven home league games and have three consecutive 0-0 draws for the first time under his stewardship. Fergie may have a point when he talks about Wenger not buying defenders but ultimately it is the current central midfield which poses the problems. With Fabregas injured and Flamini long gone, there is no one to provide probing passes from the middle of the pitch to the strikers. This puts pressure on the wingers to do it (and they like to cut in anyway) and opposition teams have worked out that if you stop the like of Nasri and Eboue (not too hard) then Song and Denilson will do absolutely nothing to hurt you. 

Why must I play with such dross?

Why must I play with such dross?


6. The longer Gareth Southgate remains as manager, the more likely it is Middlesbrough are going down. I know Steve Gibson is a very patient man (remember how long he took to get rid of Robson?) and personally I like Southgate and wish him well. Boro however are really struggling at the moment and are now a club record 14 games without a league win. They are second bottom and are relying on Mido, Afonso Alves and Marlon King to score the goals to get them out of trouble. Best start preparing for the Championship then…



The Six Pointer – Morose Managers, Arsenal’s Relegation & more…


We’ll focus on the transfer window in a separate post but for now that was the weekend that was. 

1. Liverpool vs Chelsea was pretty dire to watch but the home team just about deserved their victory I’d say. Fernando Torres looks like he is just about fully fit again and he will be the key to Liverpool’s pursuit of Man Utd.  Not for the first time in his career Mike Riley made a terrible decision in sending Frank Lampard off. He clearly got the ball first and the reason his foot was off the ground was that the ball was too. I’m sure the feud between Lampard and Alonso meant the Spaniard made a bit of a meal of it but I expect the red card will be rescinded once the FA look at it again. The Bosingwa incident was just bizarre really but he has already got away with it. I think a yellow card would have sufficed as it was frustration more than violent conduct – I sound like Andy Townsend saying that! Chelsea’s challenge is over though, they just seem to lack the hunger they had under Mourinho. The Champions League may be a different story but it’s obvious the league doesn’t hold that much of a draw.

The earth moved...

The earth moved...

2. Another clean sheet, another win for Man Utd. That’s twelve in a row now, a phenomenal record. They haven’t been at their free flowing best recently due to various injuries but then the defence has meant they haven’t needed to be. They have a nice little cushion and a game in hand while Carrick and Berbatov are in particularly good form right now. Of course they will still slip up before the end of the season but right now I don’t see them slipping up enough to let anyone else catch them.  


3. Spurs can sign all the attacking players they want but Saturday’s defeat at Bolton showed that some players with defensive know how is probably what they need most. Bolton’s winner saw particularly comic defending from Spurs and Harry Redknapp can blame Comolli, Ramos and whoever else he wants but he has had more than enough time to at least get his side well organised.

Let's just blame it on someone else

Let's just blame it on someone else

4. Arsenal have been creating so few chances recently they are now relegated to the final brief highlight spot on Match of the Day, usually reserved for the likes of Middlesbrough vs Blackburn. There was a great stat I read the other day, that since the 2-1 win over Man Utd on November 8th they have scored only four goals at home. Here’s hoping they sign Arshavin…


5. Tony Adams oversaw yet another defeat for Portsmouth and it gets no easier with a game against Liverpool next week. The problem with giving Adams time is that nothing about his reign so far suggests he has what it takes to drag Pompey from the relegation mire. His record at Wycombe was also poor and he just looks permanently depressed and unable to inspire his aging players. His career record is now 74 games and just 16 wins which is simply not good enough at any level. He is also gaining a reputation as an unlucky manager – and in a sport full of superstitions this is one tag he can ill afford to have. 

Adams & Southgate, Glum & Glummer

Adams & Southgate, Glum & Glummer

6. Gareth Southgate is another man in a bit of a mess. The days of Steve Gibson being very generous with his money have long gone and it means ‘Boro have to rely on local youngsters and players from the secondary tier of European leagues. Middlesbrough have been slipping for a while and haven’t won in the league since a shock win over Villa in mid November. They just aren’t quite good enough in every area and really needed some reinforcements over the transfer window. I quite like Southgate (even though he’s another permanently morose manager) and I’d sooner see Middlesbrough stay up over many other teams. I just worry that the resources aren’t there to do so.



Half Term Reports – Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd, Middlesbrough


liverpoolLiverpool – 1st

Successful season so far? Yes. After many years of talking about it, Liverpool are finally mounting a proper title challenge. Haven’t been overly impressive but have been very effective. Ended Chelsea’s home record and have also beaten Man Utd. Have done all this without Torres too, he has only played nine games.

Top player: Gerrard is expected to do well and has done. It’s Dirk Kuyt who has really shone though, having morphed from plodding, non scoring right midfielder into an ever present who has provided incisive play from the right wing. Five goals too.

Flop player: Three goals over Christmas does not prevent Robbie Keane being a flop. Dossena has been about as useful at left back as Rafa Benitez.

January shopping list: Another striker, back up full backs.

Dream scenario: Liverpool keep plugging away until Torres comes back, he then inspires them to their first title in twenty years. Man Utd win nothing.

Realistic scenario: Liverpool crack when it really counts, once again too many draws being their undoing. Man Utd win the league.



man-cityMan City – 13th

Successful season so far? Let’s just say it’s not quite what City’s owners expected when they bought the club. Inconsistency has been their main problem, they have found it impossible to string two wins together. A 6-0 victory over Portsmouth would be followed by a 2-1 reverse at Wigan. Given time Hughes will make them a physical and solid side, but until then he must find a way of getting enough points to avoid being the drop.

Top player: Robinho has taken the money but also delivered the goals so cannot be criticized. Stephen Ireland has been the real star of the show though, playing in every game and providing seven goals and six assists.

Flop player: Jo looks overpriced and not ready at £20million, Elano has fallen out of form and out of favour. Considering how solid the defence was under Svennis, Richards and Dunne have been poor this year too.

January shopping list: For all the talk of Kaka and Buffon, Hughes will be after proven Premier League players. Players like Wayne Bridge may not sound glamorous but might help steady things.

Dream scenario: Superstar players signed in January, Uefa Cup finish come May. Man Utd don’t win the league.

Realistic scenario: Decent Premier League players signed in January, top half finish come May. Man Utd win the league.



man-utdMan Utd – 3rd

Successful season so far? Stuttering. Neither Utd nor star player Ronaldo have really got going yet this season. Despite this they remain in striking distance in the league, whilst also having become champions of the world. Lots of unimpressive 1-0 wins, which will turn into comprehensive 3-0 victories come the end of the season.

Top player: Ronaldo has been quiet but still fairly effective. Rafael is now first choice right back. Vidic and Carrick have been consistently impressive.

Flop player: Considering his exploits last season would it be wrong to put Ronaldo down as a flop this time round. ‘Only’ eight goals, all against crap teams. Berbatov is pushing him hard though, having yet to fully adapt.

January shopping list: A back up winger perhaps?

Dream scenario: Improve dramatically after Christmas, Ronaldo hits top form again, United equal Liverpool’s league title record. Man City go down.

Realistic scenario: Improve dramatically after Christmas, Ronaldo hits top form again, United equal Liverpool’s league title record.



middlesbroughMiddlesbrough – 17th

Successful season so far? What is classed as success for Boro? If it’s uneventful survival whilst getting some impressive results along the way then yes, it’s another successful Middlesbrough season.

Top player: Tuncay and Downing are current transfer flavour of the month. Ross Turnbull seems to make twenty saves a game.

Flop player: Alves hasn’t really been worth the money Boro paid last year.

January shopping list: Players to keep them ticking over.

Dream scenario: Something exciting to happen, like a cup run or a win against a big team.

Realistic scenario: Nothing exciting to happen beyond bottom half safety.



%d bloggers like this: