Posts Tagged ‘roberto martinez’

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


That was the weekend that was.


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

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

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

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

2007/08 – 25 appearances/1260 minutes

2008/09 – 22 appearances/1265 minutes

2009/10 – 23 appearances/1129 minutes

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

He's no Ronaldo...


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


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

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

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

Aerial beast.


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




Season Previews 2010/11 – Wigan



Last Season: 16th

New Signings: Boselli, Stam, McArthur, Alcaraz, Al-Habsi

Key Player: Hugo Rodallega

One To Watch: James McCarthy

Needs A Big Year: Antolin Alcaraz

Would Quite Like: To concede a few less goals while scoring a few more. Avoid embarrassing seven, eight and nine goal thrashings.

Less of this needed.

Prediction: 18th

Thoughts: As much as I’d love Roberto Martinez to do well with Wigan I worry for them this season. I was charmed by Swansea’s cup run couple of years ago as he oversaw an attacking, pacy style of play and he has made similar attempts to introduce this with Wigan.

However, the result had been a very leaky defence which conceded 79 goals last season, a figure which only Burnley ‘beat’. Quite why they’ve sold their best central defender in Titus Bramble I’ll never know. His replacement needs to perform straight away.

With this in mind plus the fact that bigger clubs are trying to swoop in on the likes Rodallega and N’Zogbia, Wigan’s prospects look a little grim. Their biggest signing has been the striker Boselli for about £6m and you just feel that maybe part of that should have gone on strengthening the backline.

I have no doubt Moses, Rodallega, N’Zogbia et al will ensure lots of goals but a defence like theirs means trouble. I like Wigan as a club and admire that they try to play football the right way but I think this season will see an end to their stay in the top flight.


Weekly Photoshop – Roberto Martinez


Wigan’s manager is the theme this week following their 9-1 drubbing at Tottenham. Not much you can do when short on time and internet access, hence the basic effort below. Something better next week, promise.

roberto martinez wigan spurs 9-1

Someone had to make the bumbling Spanish waiter joke. Sorry.

More here.



The Six Pointer – Five Goals, Six Draws & more…


1. Amazing to think that you can score five goals in a game and there can still be a debate over whether you were man of the match. Aaron Lennon’s performance against Wigan ensured that Defoe didn’t come away with all the plaudits, his sparkling play from the right playing a big part in at least half the goals.

Defoe meanwhile became just the third player to score five in a game in the Premier League era and notched the second fastest hat trick after Robbie Fowler’s four and a half minute wonder against Arsenal many years ago. I’ve mentioned in recent weeks that he needed to watch his temper and just concentrate on his football, and with performances like that there’s no chance of him not going to South Africa. Lennon too did his case no harm, and on current form is far and away the best option when it comes to tricky small winger.

Spurs’ goal difference enjoyed a big boost in terms of chasing Arsenal, while they are beginning to take advantage of Man City, Liverpool and Aston Villa’s inconsistency to open a little gap over those three. They face one of their rivals next week in Aston Villa but should have nothing to fear the way they are playing.

As for Wigan the best you can say is that it’s just one game. These sorts of results can have a lasting effect, especially if you go behind in a game. It will be up to Roberto Martinez to ensure it remains a one off.

Jermain Defoe five goals Aaron Lennon

High five, we're going to South Africa!


2. Would Phil Brown be fearing for his job if Jimmy Bullard hadn’t got injured in his first game after signing? His performances in the last couple of games suggest that may have been the case. A win over Stoke and a fightback from two goals down to draw against West Ham possibly indicates an improvement in fortune for the men at the KC. Even Tango Man himself seems to be less in the spotlight than usual.

Bullard may have dodgy knees but he has an enthusiasm for the game that few players can match and his energy and creative play have got Hull scoring some goals again. They have a tough run coming up with three well organised teams in Everton, Man City and Aston Villa. Ok maybe not Man City but still! I’m pretty sure Geovanni isn’t injured and he appears to have lost his place to Bullard but I would be interested to see them both in the same team. Part of Hull’s success last year was to be brave, so maybe playing both together would have the same effect this year.


3. Before Arsenal get completely written off for losing against Sunderland (who have drawn with Man Utd and beaten Liverpool), let’s not forget that the key game is next week against Chelsea. Defeat would leave an 11 point gap; a win would leave it at just five with a game in hand. This defeat does render next weekend rather important if a title challenged is to be maintained. The lack of focal point without van Persie (and Bendtner) was a concern but it was in midfield where Sunderland won, with Cana stopping Fabregas and his teammates from creating many chances.

In addition to this, a set play was once again Arsenal’s outdoing at the back with Darren Bent reacting quickest after the initial ball had not been dealt with (déjà vu anyone?) While such defensive frailties are a long-term malaise, Arsene Wenger must ensure that his patched up squad is mentally right for the Chelsea game. Win it and two easier home games against Bolton and Stoke follow and momentum can be formed. Lose it and another frustrating season could be on the cards.

Robin van Persie horse placenta

Pin the placenta on the van Persie.


4. They were impressive but it was only Wolves at home. Chelsea’s next two tests are the altogether tougher visits to the Emirates and Eastlands. Let’s see how the keenly the absences of Lampard and Drogba are felt then.


5. Liverpool and Man City played out a draw which leaves neither going anywhere fast. Man City have now drawn six on the spin which has stagnated them after a promising start. Just one win in eight games fro Mark Hughes’ side. A Hull side winless away from the KC provides the best possible opportunity to end that run next weekend.

Liverpool have one win in six but their habit of winning games they don’t lose (Saturday was just their second draw) means they’re still in a good position. The pretenders to the top four ideally want a gap going into the spring as if Gerrard and Torres are fit for the run in, I know who I’d back to get the last Champions League spot.


6. David Dunn is scored his fourth goal in six games and is playing the best football of his career. Someone left a comment asking what chance an England call for the Blackburn man. While I think he’s bit of a luxury and probably not quite international quality, there’s no doubting there are few more in form midfielders playing at the moment.

david dunn balckburn

Quite good these days.



The Six Pointer – Pocket aces, lazy Cascarino & more…


That was the weekend that was.

After a three month break, the six pointer (© Sky hyperbole department) returns with the last word on the weekend’s action. Here are six thoughts on the opening games.


1. After being many people’s tip for the title this season, Liverpool will be most disappointed with the opening performance against Spurs at White Hart Lane. Losing there for the second year running, Liverpool failed to produce much creativity of note. It was worrying how little imagination there was in midfield without Xabi Alonso. Of course, Aquilani may yet provide that but he’s a different kind of player. The game seemed a continuation of their sloppy pre-season, and though they could have had a penalty for the Voronin incident, it wouldn’t have glossed over the poor performance. While they should improve considerably for the first home game of the season against Stoke on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see whether the long term struggle to break down stubborn opposition has returned.

What will Liverpool get on the flop?

What will Liverpool get on the flop?

You could argue that at this point in time Tottenham’s squad is actually stronger than Liverpool’s. Their sub options yesterday were Cudicini, Hutton, O’Hara, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko, Naughton and Bentley. Liverpool on the other hand had Cavalieri, Spearing, Kelly, Dossena, Ayala, Benayoun, and Voronin. A few too many unproven youngsters and second rate Italian full backs there for my liking (some current injuries not withstanding).

I think Rafa could certainly do with another striker and possibly some cheap centre back cover too. He needs to remember that whilst having two of the best players in the league, you need credible backup options should they get injured. To use a poker analogy, it’s no use having two aces if someone else has three jacks.


2. I don’t think even the most optimistic Arsenal fans expected to beat Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park. An encouraging start for Fabregas following last year’s injury problems while six goals were scored without any by Van Persie or Arshavin, their two mains goal threats this season. In truth Everton were awful but it still takes a good performance to clinically score six goals, whatever defensive mistakes might have contributed.

Solid debut.

Solid debut.

One of the most pleasing things was the debut of Thomas Vermaelen. He took his goal well having been in acres of space, but the defensive aspect of his game was encouraging. Facing the 6’5” Marouane Fellaini he was comfortable for most of the afternoon, timing his jumps well and attacking the ball. If he can continue this style of play then many of the defensive issues faced by Arsenal last year will have been solved.

One thing that l’ve seen from a few lazy pundits (Tony Cascarino and Stan Collymore who’s normally quite good) is “let’s see how they do on a wet night up north in February” or variations on that theme. The problem with Wenger’s side last season was not such games (they were unbeaten all of January, February and March) but the fact the lost five of the first fourteen – a time when pitches are still pristine and weather is dry. Let them say what they want, Arsenal are often at their best when written off.




3. Talking of Everton, and their potential transfer buddies Man City, Saturday’s games probably showed that the Toffees would be better off selling Joleon Lescott to Mark Hughes and his money men. For a start I don’t think he’s worth £22million or whatever Moyes wants for him and even if he is, I think Everton could get a more than adequate replacement (or Phil Senderos) for about half the price and then invest elsewhere. While Saturday’s 6-1 defeat was a collectively poor showing, you could see that Lescott seemed somewhat distracted. We shouldn’t forget that Jagielka is their best centre back anyway.

Man City in contrast won their game 2-0 against Blackburn but the score line doesn’t tell the whole story. Blackburn had their chances and if Given hadn’t been playing then they would probably have won. Until that second centre back is signed I think most top teams will be capable of scoring against a partnership of Toure and Dunne. That said, City’s new look side did have something about them in midfield and attack, more than matching Blackburn’s physical approach. They are already halfway to matching last season’s total of two away wins.


4. Impressive starts for two teams I’m keen to see a lot of this season; Sunderland and Wigan. Steve Bruce had an immediate impact and his new signings led the Wearsiders to a good away win over Bolton. Darren Bent scored the winner and looked lively while Cana and Cattermole formed an impressive partnership in midfield, providing high work rate but also some decent football. It will be interesting to see how they cope against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.



Bruce’s old side Wigan meanwhile got one of the more impressive results over the weekend with a 2-0 away win at Aston Villa. Roberto Martinez was quick to establish his passing, attacking style on the team (who have a good foundation thanks to Bruce) and Hugo Rodallega scored an early contender for goal of the season. It was vital Wigan got some early points on the board to gain some confidence ahead of some tough fixtures coming up but if they continue as they did on Saturday, then a good season is on the cards. Their defeated opponents were booed off the pitch twice and Martin O’Neill has much to do before the transfer window shuts.


5. Of the promoted sides I’d say probably Birmingham had the best showing but no one really disgraced or impressed too much. Burnley were missing some key defenders which led to some lacklustre set piece marking against Stoke. Their next four games could see them remain pointless though and Owen Coyle will do well to remind his players that the season lasts 38 games and they have plenty of winnable games to come.

Birmingham - blunt up front.

Birmingham - blunt up front.

Alex McLeish’s side was as expected, pretty solid but without much creative product. Though Benitez nearly snatched an equaliser, Man Utd weren’t especially troubled. That said, solid and but creatively ineffective is often quite successful in the Premier League so we’ll see how they get on. Wolves are missing several players so it’s hard to judge them quite yet. Mick McCarthy will need to cut out the naivety however and hope Kightly and Doyle return as quickly possible.


6. For all Chelsea’s dislikable players, the questions about their diamond formation and whether the Premier League is the real priority, there’s no denying they are a great team at finding late ways to win. Hull played quite well but in an on form Drogba , Chelsea still have one of the best strikers in the game.

I do wonder how long they’ll persist with the diamond. It relies on the full backs pushing forward and providing width and we already saw last season that if you stop Bosingwa and Cole, you go a long way to stopping Chelsea. This was when they were still playing with wide midfielders so I can only think it’s even more obvious this season with a diamond that it‘s the full backs who need to be stopped. Still, it’s the mark of a good side that you play badly and still win.



Season Previews 09/10 – Wigan Athletic



Last Season: 11th.

Say hello to your new teammates: Jason Scotland, James McCarthy, Jordi Gomez, Hendry Thomas, Scott Sinclair.

Close the door on your way out: Lee Cattermole, Antonio Valencia, Henri Camara, Amr Zaki, Antoine Sibierski.

Predicted star: Jordi Gomez comes with quite a good reputation from Espanyol. He was on loan at Swansea last season and was at the heart of much of their play as well as scoring 12 times. With the departure of Valencia, a lot of the creative impetus will be on his shoulders. I imagine Roberto Martinez might build the team around him and with it continue his belief in technique over brawn.

Jordi and Jason attempt to repeat their magic in the top flight.

Jordi and Jason attempt to repeat their magic in the top flight.

Needs a big year: Jason Scotland joins the manager from Swansea and is immediately Wigan’s main striker. He scored goals for fun in the Championship and I happen to think he’ll be a success in the Premier League too. Strong but pacy, he has a sweet left foot and is capable of goals from anywhere in and around the box. A potential bargain at £2m.

One to watch: Midfielder James McCarthy has joined from Hamilton Academicals where he had made his debut at 15. Still only 18, he’ll look to break into Ireland’s full squad and with it potentially go to the World Cup.

What they want to happen: Stability following the departure of Valencia and Cattermole. Nice football too please.

Nightmare scenario: Martinez and his two Swansea signings get found out at the higest level.

Plan A: Use the solid defence that Bruce has left behind and use it as a basis for fast, attacking football which uses N’Zogbia and Gomez as the creativity and Jason Scotland as the clinical finisher up front.

Plan B, just in case: Attack even faster and with more passing. There’s no long ball tactics here.

Predicted finish: 13th.

Why? Steve Bruce improved Wigan season by season and made several risky but rewarding signings which have since gone on to bigger clubs. Players like Palacios and Valencia were signed for peanuts from a vast scouting network and were sold for many times their original fee. He’s left for Sunderland and in comes Roberto Martinez, who’s gathered a glowing reputation as one of Britain’s brightest young managers at Swansea.

Should bring some nice football to the Premier League

Should bring some nice football to the Premier League

A former Wigan player, Martinez has raided his old club for their two best players in Gomez and Scotland as he looks to offset the impact of Wigan losing two of their best – Cattermole and Valencia. His teams are very easy on the eye and whilst it remains to be seen whether he can cut it in the Premier League, I’m willing to bet he’ll succeed rather than fail. He is fortunate to have inherited one of the better defences in the bottom half, even Titus Bramble can be relied on these days. Figueroa is also a good defender though generally speaking they could do with a little more reinforcement in that area.

Valencia is a big loss but I think Gomez could provide a similar impact. If nothing else, Jason Scotland will score the goals to ensure there is no relegation battle. He is a bit of journeyman but has scored one in two for the last four seasons. A snip at £2m. There will be some growing pains but Wigan have enough good players to fulfil Martinez’s football philosophy and finish in the middle group of teams.



End of Season Reviews – Tottenham, West Brom, West Ham, Wigan




Where they finished: 8th & Carling Cup finalists.

Season in five words: Ramos sacked, ‘Arry saves day.

Successful season? Two points from eight games. Two points from eight games. Two points from eight games. Sorry, it was drummed into me so many times by Harry Redknapp this season. Yes, Spurs started very poorly and Ramos rightly had to go, but it’s not as if they didn’t have a wealth of talent plus a multi million January spending spree to help get them out of trouble. Harry has always been one to take credit for everything good and pass the blame for anything bad and that has not changed this season. He did well to lead Spurs to 8th, even making them remarkably solid at home, though it remains to be see if he can buy the right players to push for the top six. He’s more than fond of buying players because they’re available and not because they’re needed (see Keane, Robbie).

Defining moment: Ramos and Commoli leaving. Specifically the latter, who as ‘Sporting Director’ was ultimately in charge of transfers and made huge errors of judgement in his time in the role. By reverting to a system where the manager chooses the players, Spurs have ensured they won’t be in a situation where a need for a defensive midfielder is answered with the signing of Darren Bent.

Player of the year: Aaron Lennon finally turned his pace and skill into relatively consistent performances. Palacios provided the midfield bite they’ve lacked since Davids left and will be a key player next year. Modric grew as the season went on.

Goal of the season: Bentley’s hit and hope against Arsenal.

Flop of the season: David Bentley came with a big price tag but found himself behind Aaron Lennon for most of the season. Gareth Bale is still without a league win in a Spurs shirt, Jenas seems to be out of favour under Redknapp.

Highlight: Redknapp’s first two games. Coming back from two down with four minutes to play to draw 4-4 at Arsenal, followed by a (very lucky) home win over Liverpool.

Summer homework: Resist the temptation to sign ‘name’ players like Owen, Viduka, Cisse and buy what’s needed instead. Central midfield and a left winger are a priority. A big man wouldn’t go amiss.



West Brom


Where they finished: 20th

Season in five words: Nice football, no end product.

Successful season? No. A third relegation in seven seasons sees West Brom once again unable to bridge the gap between Championship and Premier League. Rooted to the bottom pretty much all season, some late victories gave hope but in reality it had been over for a long time..

Defining moment: Failure to sign impact players in January. Consider what Beattie did for Stoke and you realise how badly West Brom needed someone who could score five or six goals in a short span. Chris Brunt had a good run but it was too late.

Player of the year: No one stood out really. Brunt had decent season, as did Koren and Greening.

Goal of the season: Slim pickings – this free kick by Brunt is quite good.

Flop of the season: Luke Moore was disappointing and Arsenal loanee Jay Simpson faded after a bright start.

Highlight: A couple of 3-0 home wins against Boro and Sunderland.

Summer homework: Sign players that will keep West Brom in the Premier League if they get promoted next season.



West Ham


Where they finished: 9th

Season in five words: Out of uncertainty comes promise.

Successful season? Yes, eventually. Early season was uncertain of the pitch with the owners virtually bankrupt and inconsistency on the pitch. Zola replaced Curbishley in September and had a poor start including seven games without a win. After Christmas however, things began to look up and West Ham finished the season playing stylish, attractive football whilst being solid at the back. There’s not too much money to spend but the future looks bright.

Defining moment: Signing Steve Clarke as Zola’s number two. A key part of Chelsea’s recent success, just look at how disorganised they became once he left and before Hiddink showed up. He’s the perfect assistant for Zola and together they are putting together a good team.

Player of the year: Carlton Cole played his way into the England squad while Upson, Ilunga and Collison all had goo years.

Goal of the season: A fantastic team move finished off by Carlton Cole.

Flop of the season: Diego Tristan isn’t really up to it anymore is he. Savio has yet to justify his rather high fee.

Highlight: 4-1 away at Portsmouth.

Summer homework: Keep hold of Cole and the other England boys. Try and sign some experience to help push on the young players like Tomkins and Collison.





Where they finished: 11th

Season in five words: Complacency costs a European spot.

Successful season? It could have been. Steve Bruce had Wigan in the battle for seventh for most of the season but the side switched off once the 40 point safety mark was reached. Bruce’s best players were sold in January and a run of eight games without a win right at the business end of the season meant Wigan slipped down to 11th and cost themselves a bunch of prize money and a Europa league spot.

Defining moment: Selling Palacios and Heskey. Wigan would win just three times after they left. It cost them Europe.

Player of the year: Zaki was excellent until Christmas and then completely fell away and failed to score again. Palacios was good until he left and Tottenham’s revival with him mirrors Wigan’s decline without. Figueroa, Bramble(!) and Valencia were solidly consistent for most of the season.

Goal of the season: When Zaki was still playing well, he could do this at Anfield.

Flop of the season: Mido hahaha.

Highlight: 5-0 vs Hull early on.

Summer homework: Seeing as they’ve lost Steve Bruce the emphasis is now on finding an adequate replacement. In Roberto Martinez from Swansea I think they’ve found someone. An excellent young manager who gets his team playing lovely attacking football. It will be interesting to see who he brings in and who he can keep. Valencia looks on his way so it will be the usual case of trying to find players other clubs haven’t thought about or rejected a la Zaki, Palacios, Valencia etc.




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