Posts Tagged ‘title’

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.





Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 38 Preview


So another season reaches its conclusion and for most part the last weekend will be spent gambling on random captains, hoping for entertaining goalfests in meaningless games and hearing jokes about having hung parliaments. There are still a few things to decide, and the destination of the title itself. But given Chelsea are at home to Wigan, I don’t foresee too many surprises.

In my private league, Clint Dempsey and Adam Johnson ensured a slight increase in lead over Sportboy P. It now stands at 27 which should be fine assuming the same captain is gone for this week. We only have six different players of the 16, and they’re mainly on the cheaper side of things so there’s not too much room for differing scores.


Gameweek 37 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

gomes spurs

Maverick approves of Gomes' recent displays.

bale spurs

Goose approves of ape-man's score. Less so of his big ape-man face.

assou-ekotto spurs

Iceman is too cool for school to mess around with such things like a thumbs up.

begovic stoke

Why the hell am I here?!

This is what happens when I do a silly gimmick to represent the highest weekly scorers and there’s a four way tie. All four of those players got 14 points as they all played twice. Any more and I’d be running out of Top Gun characters to use. I think Kelly McGillis would have been next. I’ll leave you to be frightened by Gareth Bale’s weird face.


Three Captain Picks:

Not many games matter so it’s a bit pot luck this week but there are three options which are self explanatory.

1. Drogba/Chelsea – Need to beat Wigan at home to ensure the title. Somehow don’t see them slipping up. Drogba’s still chasing the golden boot and it’s rumoured he’ll be on penalty duty this weekend because of it.

2. Van Persie/Arsenal – The Gunners have faded so badly that they still need a point to ensure Spurs don’t come third. Fulham have nothing to play for and will field a reserve team ahead of the Europa League final. Arsenal will want to finish with a win – Van Persie’s the man to get it.

3 Rooney/Man Utd – Need to beat Stoke at home to have an outside chance of the title. Rooney fighting Drogba for the golden boot.

Told you they were obvious.

Wildcard choice – Arteta at home to Pompey or Darren Bent away at Wolves trying to overtake messrs Rooney and Drogba.

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Gets a Captain's tick.


Transfers In:

It’s probably too little too late but for it’s worth you should be looking at the captain choices if you don’t have them as well as people like Nani, Nasri, Kalou, Malouda and Gerrard.

samir nasri arsenal

Might be worth a pick.

Transfers Out:

People not likely to play this weekend.


End of season review at some point next week. Friday I’d imagine.



The Six Pointer – Same old Arsenal, Man Utd’s 2nd best striker & more…


1. It’s getting boring writing the same thing each week but if Arsenal make the same mistakes each week then what choice do I have?! Unlike last Sunday against Man Utd, there was at least something resembling a performance against Chelsea, but once again Arsenal failed to win with their traditional combination of poor defending and not taking chances.

the wanderer clichy

Clichy the Wanderer

Quite where Gael Clichy was wandering to for the first goal I’ll never know but it was really rather stupid to leave your post as the ball was being played into the danger area. One Terry flick on later and Drogba is stealing in at the far post to slot home the opener. As I mentioned last week, Clichy has been in a funk for probably 18 months now but with Traore just as poor positionally and Gibbs injured there’s no other option (Silvestre is NOT an option).


2. When Chelsea smashed Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates in November, Wenger made an interesting point about how Drogba doesn’t really do that much (this was after having scored twice). To a certain degree he’s right but only because so often opportunities are given to him on a plate when facing what masquerades as an Arsenal defence.

drogba arsenal


The second goal was made by Clichy drifting inside as Chelsea were counter-attacking. The failure to realise until too late that Drogba was on the right meant the Ivorian could easily cut inside him and blast a powerful shot past Almunia.

Considering how highly Wenger values pace, it’s distressing to see how devastating counter attacks have been from Everton, Man Utd and Chelsea in recent weeks. I’m probably being a touch harsh in thinking Almunia could have made a better effort but Drogba’s shot was pretty powerful. That said, I think a top keeper would have reacted.


3. Theo Walcott was at least visible in this match. Only for his appalling touch however. What was confusing though was both him and Bendtner have come back from long injuries yet it is only the former who is getting starts at the moment.

You can understand that neither are fit enough to play 90 minutes at the moment but surely someone like Bendtner would be more effective starting, as opposed to coming on when the game is lost. Likewise, surely Walcott is better suited to a sub role where his only reliable skill (pace) could be used against tiring legs rather than fresh ones.


4. Man Utd’s second top scorer this season is Own Goal with ten goals thus far. He scored a hat-trick on Saturday against Portsmouth and now has as many as Berbatov and Owen combined!


5. It’s a little depressing if Liverpool end up as the 4th best team this season. Despite their good recent form, to me they are fundamentally a flawed side but years of finishing in the top four has given them a head start in knowing what it takes. We saw last season how Aston Villa fell away and it seems like no one of Man City, Spurs or Villa can string a set of results together to make a charge this time round.

gerrard liverpool everton

Yay, I play for an average team!


6. The form of the bottom eight or so teams is so poor right now that a win shoots you right up the table. Two games ago Hull were in the relegation zone but a draw against Chelsea and win against Man City later they are up to 14th. Of course it’s still very tight with just four points separating seven teams so it’s anyone’s guess who will go down. For what it’s worth I still think Hull will be one of them.



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


That was the weekend that was.


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

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

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

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

didier drogba ashley cole arsenal chelsea

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

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

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

arsenal weak

What you see and what you get.


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

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


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


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

jimmy bullard goal celebration man city hull



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


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



Season Previews 09/10 – Arsenal



Last Season: 4th after a mid-season scare plus FA Cup/Champions League semi final defeats.

Say hello to your new teammates: At the time of writing it’s only Thomas Vermaelen. A central midfielder has still not been signed, though the Vieira rumours were fun. Expect two more players at 11.59pm on August 31st.

Close the door on your way out: Last of the Invincibles Kolo Toure and last of the self aware Emmanuel Adebayor.

Predicted star: Andrey Arshavin’s twelve game cameo at the back end of last season should translate into being Arsenal’s top goalscorer this time round. Fabregas should bounce back too.

Needs a big year: If no central midfielder is signed (which knowing Wenger is likely), then Diaby and Denilson must prove they can step up and show the decision isn’t shortsighted. Arsenal fans were saying the exact same thing this time last season though. Nicklas Bendtner needs to show that Adebayor won’t be missed (glimpses were shown last year).

One to watch: The hype surrounding Jack Wilshere has begun. He’ll show it’s justified.

The real deal.

The real deal.

What they want to happen: A first trophy in five seasons. Preferably League or Champions League (Wenger no longer values the FA Cup you see).

Nightmare scenario: 5th, no trophies again.

Plan A: Pass, pass, pass, pass, shoot once the perfect opportunity presents itself. Expect the usual intricate build-up play between the numerous small, technically gifted, creative midfielders. Arsenal don’t do shots outside the box.

Plan B, just in case: Plan B? Ha, ha, ha, as if. Lump it to Bendtner I suppose.

Predicted finish: 2nd

Why? Arsenal were in a league of their own last season (11 pts from 3rd, 9 pts from 5th) but this was partly due to their shocking start in which they lost five of their first 14 games. A 21 game unbeaten run followed which showed the potential (as ever) of the young squad and over the course of the season only one game of six was lost against the rest of the Big Four. New signing Vermaelen should provide the leadership and organisation at the back and will more than ably replace Toure, who hasn’t been the same since contracting malaria in 2007/08. Adebayor will be a big loss but he’d stopped trying for much of last season (though still scored ten league goals).

The key to a title challenge.

The key to a title challenge.

As ever injuries will come into play. Fabregas missed a large chunk of last season and Eduardo and Rosicky played zero league games between them. Arshavin was only signed in January. The latter’s four goals at Anfield showed what he’s capable and after leading his team to 4th last season, he’ll be even more important this time round. If (and that’s a big if) the first choice XI can all play around 30 games+ then the Gunners could have their best season in ages.



The Six Pointer – Fat Man Strike Rates, Macheda’s Bruce Impression & more…


That was the weekend that was.


1. Were the last ten minutes at Old Trafford yesterday the most important of Man Utd’s season so far? Following Liverpool’s last gasp win which took them briefly top, all the pressure was on Fergie’s men to produce a response, even more so given they had lost their previous two Premier League games before the international break. Villa were good value for a point but were undone by a Ronaldo double and a fantastic goal from a seventeen year old debutant that I would doubt many United fans had heard of, let alone anyone else. Federico Macheda was only on the bench due to some good form in the reserves and Berbatov’s injury but he had a debut to remember with a lovely turn and curling shot past Friedel in stoppage time.

The five minutes of stoppage time was slightly dubious (anyone remember Steve Bruce in 1993? A vital winner in the eighth minute of injury time! Unbelievable!) but of course Fergie won’t mind. The effect of a similar last minute winner so soon after Liverpool will no doubt galvanise United and should see them home. Man Utd go back to the top and still have that game in hand (though not till May 13 against Wigan) but I would imagine that it will probably depend on how the respective title challengers do in their home games against Arsenal that will decide the destiny of this year’s race.

Steve Bruce mark II

Steve Bruce mark II


2. Talking of Arsenal, the returning Fabregas and Adebayor duly slotted straight back with the former providing two very nice assists for the latter (thanks as ever to the fantastic 101greatgoals). While you could argue that a seventeen game unbeaten run in the league show that they arguably haven’t been missed, I would say that their return for the run in ensures that a strong base for next season can be developed. Wenger appeared to be trying a Liverpool style 4-2-3-1 formation which saw Denilson and Song playing the Alonso/Mascherano roles; Walcott and Arshavin patrolling the right and left wings; and Cesc playing quite far forward just behind Adebayor (a la Gerrard/Torres).

Of course it was only one game but I could see this becoming quite a regular option for Arsenal. The holding midfielders need improving but it offers flexibility in that Cesc could drop back, while Arshavin plays Gerrard and someone like RVP plays wide left or vice versa. Idle speculation for now but with the Gunners likely to next season have Fabregas, Nasri, Ashavin, Walcott, Adebayor, Van Persie, Bendtner, Vela, Eduardo and dare I say it Thomas Rosicky (haha) all battling for five attacking slots it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.


3. Looks like Shearer will need more than just the feel good factor to drag his beloved Newcastle out of trouble. Chelsea was always a tough ask in his first game but it puts a huge amount of pressure in the last seven games. Stoke away next week is critical, but winnable, no matter how good Delap and co have been at the Britannia this season. Tottenham and Blackburn follow and it will be important to gain at least five points from these three games but ideally seven. A three point deficit is not much but with an inferior goal difference to boot the pressure is on. A win next week coupled with Sunderland defeat to Man Utd would likely see them swap places, for a week at least. Momentum is key at this stage though and you feel that if they got out, Newcastle may well stay out of the dreaded bottom three.   

If MOTD is anything to go by he's not saying anything useful.

If MOTD is anything to go by he's not saying anything useful.


4. It’s always a bit odd when a player completely fails to produce for one team, but then changes his surroundings and starts scoring left right and centre. Jo scored just once for Man City in a 6-0 thrashing of Portsmouth in September but he now has five in seven since joining Everton on loan in January. This for a team, which arguably creates less chances and is more defensive than Mark Hughes’ side. Everton have always been a solid outfit but have lacked a good striker to rely on since Yakubu decided to essentially stop scoring after August and then injure himself for the season just to make sure. If David Moyes can find a way of getting Jo to stay at Goodison next season then they could perhaps again be a threat for a top four position. 


5. West Brom are going down, they have been for ages. Following Middlesbrough’s 4-1 spanking at Bolton, we can safely assume they will join the Baggies. There seems to be a resigned look about Gareth Southgate’s men, and unlike the last couple of times they went down, they don’t seem to be fighting till the end. I like Southgate, but you just feel he is not one who particularly inspires when the chips are down. His demeanor has always appeared pretty negative in recent months and that is not a surprise given they have won once in nineteen. Even changing managers at this stage wouldn’t prevent their relegation.

Ultimately Southgate will be judged by the players he bought, and specifically the £6million man Mido and the £13million man Alves. Both as fat as each other, Mido has gone on loan to Wigan having scored just six times in 25 appearances while Alves has ten in 38. Three of Alves’ goals came in a meaningless end of season 8-1 hammering of Man City last year. Ultimately if your top forwards have a strike rate of one in four (Tuncay also has a similar rate but he’s actually played quite well), you shouldn’t be surprised when you struggle.  

Alves in rare usefulness picture. Maybe.

Alves in rare usefulness picture. Maybe.


6. It saddens me that the three most horrible teams in the league (Blackburn, Stoke and Bolton) all now look like staying up. Here’s hoping that next season their negative, niggly, cheating ways (I’m especially looking at you Fat Sam) don’t wash and all three go down. The Premier League would not be poorer for it.



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