Posts Tagged ‘Steve Bruce’

Weekly Photoshop – Stuart Attwell

05/10/2010

SUCCESS! Everyone’s favourite referee is this week’s theme. Stuart Attwell has been involved in more controversies than Nigel De Jong has made dirty tackles.

The most recent was getting a free kick being taken confused with a player passing back to a keeper allowing him to take it in the Sunderland Liverpool game a week or so ago.

Having seen him first hand make loads of poor decisions when watching Arsenal v Bolton earlier this season, I definitely think the guy is well out of his depth. Anyway, the entry below won 2nd place this week. Huzzah, it’s been a while!

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Though originally classified as a comedy, Attwell is now considered by some critics to be one of Shakespeare's problem referees...

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More here.

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Archive.

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Season Previews 2010/11 – Sunderland

10/08/2010

Sunderland

Last Season: 13th

New Signings: Angeleri, Mignolet, Bramble, Mensah, Riveros, Al-Muhammadi

Key Player: Darren Bent

One To Watch: Jordan Henderson

Needs A Big Year: Kenwyne Jones

Would Quite Like: Long unbeaten runs rather than long runs without beating. Remain ahead the Magpies.

Steve Bruce reveals how many Twitter followers he has. Darren Bent not impressed.

Prediction: 14th

Thoughts: Sunderland started off very well last season before enduring a horrible 14 game run without a win. They recovered towards the end of the season but it felt like they underachieved somewhat. Darren Bent was predictably excellent with 24 goals and Steve Bruce will be looking to him to produce similar numbers.

The surprise departure of captain Lorik Cana after just one season leaves quite a big hole in central midfield so the hope is Lee Cattermole will have a less injury truncated season this time round. Bramble is a decent addition in central defence – let’s not forget it was Steve Bruce who got him to a consistent level, while Jordan Henderson will want to continue making an impression.

Kenwyne Jones needs to rediscover the form that saw him linked with big money moves to the likes of Spurs and Liverpool. It’s hard to know what to predict for Sunderland – the teams between 9th and 14th are all very even in terms of ability I’d say. The high turnover of players at the Stadium of Light means it might be another season towards the bottom end of the group.

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The Six Pointer – Cheap Managers, Poor Teams & more…

15/03/2010

1. While most teams tend to roll over at Old Trafford, you occasionally harbour hope for someone to pull a surprise. Fulham however are not one of those teams (in contrast to their good home record against Fergie’s side) and Saturday was another comprehensive defeat thanks in no small part to Master Rooney again.

The last six seasons has seen Man Utd P6, W6, F18, A3 vs Fulham at home while Rooney now has 32 for the season and a maximum of 13 games to beat Ronaldo’s 42 in 2007/08. Next week sees a big game vs Liverpool but given the way Rafa Benitez’s team is playing, I don’t see anything other than a Man Utd win.

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2. Drogba didn’t do much but scored twice. Chelsea not at their best but won 4-1. Just another regular day at the office at Stamford Bridge. With three easy home games left (plus a tough one vs Villa), whether they win the title will come down to whether they can improve that shaky away form.

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3. At this stage of the season it’s all about wins, by whatever means necessary. Arsenal left it very late to beat Hull, but as 7amkickoff pointed out, it was somewhat inevitable given Hull have conceded the most last-minute goals this season while Arsenal have scored the most. Given that Hull were down to ten men after George Boateng’s red card (more on that in a mo) it was no surprise Nicklas Bendtner bundled in a flapped save from Boaz Myhill with 92 minutes on the clock.

It was a fair result all things considered as Wenger’s side were in control for the majority of the game, Hull’s only shot on target coming from Bullard’s penalty that should never have been.

The officiating was particularly poor in this game and helped make it more a struggle then it should have been. Firstly, Vennegor of Hesselink was a clear yard offside when Campbell climbed all over his back and Phil Brown is spouting his usual nonsense if he thinks that was a clear goalscoring opportunity – the only reason the Dutchman was ahead of Sol was because he started offside.

Watch me get you booked.

Secondly, the persistent fouling from Hull was allowed to go on for far too long. Boateng was booked for poking Bendtner in the eye while Bendtner was mysteriously booked for being poked in the eye by Boateng. Odd one that. Dean Marney (I think) somehow escaped a yellow for a filthy sliding tackle on the touchline while Boateng was then sent off for a second yellow after a hatchet job on Sagna’s knee.

Quite how that wasn’t a straight red I’ll never know, but at least he won’t be able to appeal it. Oh and before anyone says he isn’t, Boateng is a bit of a dirty player – this was his second red card in a month. He also got sent off twice on 06/07.

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4. Phil Brown, you can’t say it hasn’t been coming. Perhaps it was time to part ways at the end of last season, with Brown having kept them up (solely because Newcastle were so inept) but having lost the dressing room following that team talk. As it happened Hull persevered with him into this season and the result has been another struggle.

To be fair to Brown he did what he could considering the resources available to him but given there has been more than one long winless run this season the timing of his departure is a little strange. Eight games to go does not leave an awful lot of time for a successor to make their mark but luckily Hull are currently just three points from safety.

Brian Laws Burnley

Cheap.

The interesting thing will be whether they do a Burnley and bring in a cheap Championship level manager in anticipation of relegation or spend that little bit more on someone quality who can keep them up and then push on next season.

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5. Does anyone want 4th spot? Spurs are winning the games they need to for now but I still think it will all unravel when they face the three title challengers in consecutive weeks in April. Man City are too inconsistent under Mancini while Aston Villa are doing their best to throw it away. They in particular have probably the most settled team and experience from last season yet seem reluctant to risk going for victories in tight games. In their last nine they’ve drawn 0-0 four times. Gambling on extra attack to force a win in just two of those games would have yielded more points even if they’d lost the other two. Something to consider going into their last ten.

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6. If Sunderland hadn’t conceded any of their goals in the last-minute, they would be riding high on 41 points and not worrying about relegation. After a start which promised so much, it appears more rebuilding work will be needed in the summer by Steve Bruce.

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T.

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

17/08/2009

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.

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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.

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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.

Cliché.

Cliché.

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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.

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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.

Stunner.

Stunner.

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.

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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.

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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.

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Wigan Athletic

14/08/2009

wigan

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.

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T.

Season Previews 09/10 – Sunderland

14/08/2009

sunderland

Last Season: 16th.

Say hello to your new teammates: Lorik Cana, Frazier Campbell, Paulo da Silva, Darren Bent, Lee Cattermole.

Close the door on your way out: Michael Chopra, Dean Whitehead, Greg Halford, Dwight Yorke, David Connolly.

Predicted star: Darren Bent has lots of critics, many of them at Spurs but there’s no denying that he scores goals. He was Tottenham’s top scorer last season which says a lot about the way they work if they’re willing to let him go. In Kenwyne Jones he should have an ideal strike partner whose strength and ability to hold up the ball will complement Bent’s speed and play off the last man. I mentioned in a betting preview that you can get 50/1 on him to be top goalscorer which is a great each way bet. I reckon he’ll get 15 league goals for sure.

Needs a big year: Kieran Richardson was being touted as a regular England player for the problem left wing position not too long ago but he lost his way somewhat in the last season or two. He doesn’t have any real rivals in that area (Andy Reid is too slow to play wide) and he be looked to for service to the new look strikeforce.

One to watch: Lorik Cana was signed this summer from Marseille and immediately installed as captain, which shows how highly Bruce regards him. A tough tackling midfielder with an eye for goal, the 26 year old Albanian should fit right in the Premier League. I think the duo of him and fellow new signing Lee Cattermole will be amongst the better central midfield partnerships this season.

Hardman.

Hardman.

What they want to happen: Steve Bruce to work his magic and lift Sunderland away from the annual struggle to avoid relegation back to the Championship. Top half could well be in sight.

Nightmare scenario: Sunderland’s defence proves to be a weak link as they fail to respond to Bruce’s organisational skills.

Plan A: Become tough to beat by tightening up at the back. The midfield of Cattermole and Cana is aggressive and defensive enough to allow Malbranque and Richardson to create down the flanks. A big man and pace merchant duo up front will try to improve on Sunderland’s measly 34 goals last season.

Plan B, just in case: Play it direct to Jones, whose underrated creative skills will hold the play up before playing in Bent.

Predicted finish: 9th.

Why? There is cause for optimism at the Stadium of Light this season. After the drama of Roy Keane leaving mid-season and Ricky Sbragia only just keeping them up, there was a need for some stability and re-assessment. Bringing in Steve Bruce is quite a coup – I think he’s amongst the best managers outside the top four. The signings are no longer limited to Irish reserves, Man United rejects and other various cloggers.

Imaginative, good quality players have been brought in and most of the Wearsider’s needs have been addressed. A new look midfield will provide bite and improve the side’s away form. Cattermole was linked with Liverpool while Cana is an aggressive, destructive yellow card machine (this is a good thing though). Instant leadership on the pitch too.

Should work well with Bent.

Should work well with Bent.

Darren Bent does miss a lot but he also scores a lot and he should turn some of the 1-0 losses into draws and some of the draws into wins. If Bruce can get the defence organised as well as he did at Wigan then they will be much harder to break down. Only Paulo da Silva has been signed in defence but Anton Ferdinand is a good enough player to base the back four on. Looking to the future, Bruce has an extensive scouting/contacts network which will bear fruit in coming seasons (see Valencia, Palacios, Zaki etc). I think Sunderland are in line for an excellent season and led by Jones and Bent should get enough wins to progress to the top half of the table.

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T.

Weekly Photoshop – Darren Bent

13/08/2009

The Premier League’s most technologically social player is the the theme this week. Darren Bent and his twitter account got him into £80,000 worth of trouble after he slagged off Spurs chairman Daniel Levy. He also said he didn’t want to go to Hull. Well who would?! This was a bit rushed as I’ve been doing all the pre-season previews but  here you go anyway.

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It seems some of the other players in the Bent transfer saga have twitter accounts too.

It seems some of the other players in the Bent transfer saga have twitter accounts too.

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Funnier ones to be found here.

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Old entries.

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

13/06/2009

Tottenham

tottenham

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.

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West Brom

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.

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West Ham

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.

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Wigan

wigan

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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T.

End of Season Reviews – Newcastle, Portsmouth, Stoke, Sunderland

12/06/2009

Newcastle

newcastle

Where they finished: 18th

Season in five words: Joke club gets just desserts.

Successful season? Hmm, absolutely not. I almost don’t know where to start. Let’s do it in bullet points (imagine a Benny Hill style montage). Best outfield player sold (Milner). Keegan resigns, again. Who should replace him? I know let’s get Joe Kinnear! Barton in trouble with something or other. Kinnear does ok. Ashley wants to sell. Ashley doesn’t want to sell. Ashley downs pints. Best player sold (Given). Kinnear has heart trouble. Slide down the table. Shearer returns! Eight games to save them. Only wins one. Newcastle are relegated. That’s just the brief story. In reality, this is a club which has been mismanaged for years, both on and off the pitch. At some point it would catch up with them, the irony being that this was a year when a particularly low points total was needed to stay up.

Defining moment: Keegan resigning, again. There have been so many errors over the season, but had he stayed you feel things may have been a lot more stable. Bottom half, but not relegated.

Player of the year: Nicky Butt has been solid in an otherwise poor midfield. Bassong has impressed in defence and will be targeted by other clubs.

Goal of the season: I literally spent about 15 minutes trying to find some kind of good Newcastle goal this season but had no luck. Any suggestions are more than welcome. This by Duff is the best I could do.

Flop of the season: Coloccini has the unique ability to drag down those around him. Can you think of a single thing Xisco did?

Highlight: Shearer returning was a false dawn in the end but at the time it was quite an amazing story.

Summer homework: Complete the sale by Mike Ashley, sign up Shearer permanently. Get rid of all the deadwood on large contracts and sign young, hungry, pacey players who can get them up at the first attempt. Keep hold of Taylor and Bassong.

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Portsmouth

portsmouth

Where they finished: 14th

Season in five words: Harry leaves, Tony rubbish, safe.

Successful season? Not really. They came into the season as FA winners, top half finishers and with a talented squad. The debt accumulated to achieve this however could not be maintained and Muntari, Defoe and Diarra were all sold during the season for big money. Harry Redknapp left for Spurs and Adams was promoted in his place. The Arsenal legend couldn’t seem to get the rub of the green and coupled with some curious tactical decisions went on quite a long winless run. He was replaced by Paul Hart who guided Pompey to safety without too much stress in the end.

Defining moment: Redknapp leaving for a second time, he won’t be back again.

Player of the year: Glen Johnson was excellent at right back all season. He needs to cut out the positional lapses but that wil come once he is playing for a big club again.

Goal of the season: Glen Johnson’s left foot volley from around 30 yards. Brilliant stuff.

Flop of the season: Tony Adams? It’s hard to see his managerial career recovering after his spell at Fratton Park. David James and Sol Campbell have started to look their age.

Highlight: In terms of occasion, hosting AC Milan in the UEFA Cup and holding them to a 2-2 draw shows just how much they’ve come in the last few years.

Summer homework: Reduce the average age of the squad. Buy some young, pacey players. Keep Johnson and Crouch. A lot depends on whether the rumoured takeover will happen.

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Stoke

stoke

Where they finished: 12th

Season in five words: Not pretty but very effective.

Successful season? Yes. Amongst the favourites to go down at the start of the year, Stoke were never in any real danger of going down. Their home form at the Britannia Stadium was excellent and they picked up plenty of impressive results there to be safe with games to spare.

Defining moment: Signing James Beattie in the January transfer window. Six goals in nine games followed and by the end of that run Stoke were safe.

Player of the year: Abdoulaye Faye was a beast at the back, leading the defence whilst also popping up to score some vital goals. Special mention to Rory Delap and his bullet throws and Jame Beattie for his run of goals.

Goal of the season: Fuller against Villa early in the season.

Flop of the season: Dave Kitson, who quickly went back to Reading.

Highlight: There were many impressive home wins this season but the victory over Arsenal was the most satisfying. When you make Wenger angry and talk about physical, anti football, you know you’ve had a good win.

Summer homework: Sign some more squad players and perhaps some creativity in midfield. A striker to push Fuller and Beattie wouldn’t go amiss.

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Sunderland

sunderland
Where they finished: 16th

Season in five words: Keane’s shadow still looms large.

Successful season? So-so. The aim at the start was to stay up, but given the manager (Keane) and the money he spent, initial expectations were perhaps a little higher. Keane resigned in December citing that he was fed up (and also a run of five defeats in six) but not before he has wasted much of the budget given. Niall Quinn appointed Ricky Sbragia, who started well but then didn’t really have the personality to impose himself (especially after Royston). They stayed up, just, and Newcastle and Boro went down. In that sense it was a great season!

Defining moment: Keane resigning in December. It left them without a figurehead and a proper manager for the rest of the season.

Player of the year: Danny Collins was good at the back. Jones appeared to play well once he returned from injury.

Goal of the season: Kieran Richardson scored one of the few great free kicks this season against Newcastle.

Flop of the season: Cisse scored quite a few but did little else. Lots of other signings didn’t really have great years either (Malbranque, Tainio, Ben Haim etc).

Highlight: Newcastle going down.

Summer homework: Part of it is already done in the sense they’ve appointed a good manager to replace Keane. Getting Steve Bruce to join is quite a coup for Sunderland and he should prove better than Keane in working with a similar size transfer budget. Basically more quality is needed. Lots of honest pros but Sunderland need that spark to ensure they avoid another scrap next season.

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T.

Palacios to Spurs £14million-ish

21/01/2009

I think this is a good deal. For Wigan not Spurs though. I can understand Tottenham wanting him as he will beef up their midfield and add some much needed height and power. I assume they plan to play him centrally where they still need a tough tackler. I’m not sure he solves all their problems however – the full back positions are still an issue in my opinion and they probably need another big guy to put alongside Palacios. Using the oracle of Fantasy Premier League (isn’t that how all players are judged these day?!) we can see that he only has one assist and no goals in twenty league appearances this season – so it remains to be seen how effectively he can become Tottenham’s Lampard. He had just one assist last year too. Of course goals and assists aren’t the be and all, I’m just saying if you’re comparing a new signing to someone who has scored twenty goals a season for the past few years, you may want to check the creative record first.

Not Frank Lampard

Not Frank Lampard

As for Wigan, this was an offer too good to refuse. Palacios’ value will probably never be higher so it was a great time to cash in. Steve Bruce will need to replace him but he can make £12million (or £14million depending on who you believe) go a long way. He will probably need to make good use of it when you consider he will likely have to replace Zaki (end of loan) and Heskey (end of contract) come the season end.

 

T.


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