Posts Tagged ‘vieira’

Season Previews 2010/11 – Manchester City


Man City

Last Season: 5th

New Signings: Silva, Boateng, Toure, Kolarov with Milner and Balotelli to potentially come

Key Player: Carlos Tevez

One To Watch: Mario Balotelli if he joins, David Silva if he doesn’t.

Needs A Big Year: Joleon Lescott

Would Quite Like: Everything if possible. Will settle for a trophy and coming above their city neighbours.

Four more players please.

Prediction: 4th

Thoughts: A friend and I spent a couple of hours at work recently trying to predict who would be in Man City’s starting line up. After much deliberation we decided we had no idea. This is probably the biggest issue facing Mancini as he begins his first full season in charge at Eastlands.

Whilst some of the prices he (or rather his bosses) have paid for players would dictate they will start but even then who can you really say is guaranteed to play if fit? Tevez obviously. Silva and Yaya Toure I suppose. Koralov too. But beyond that it appears like it may be a case of adapting to the opponent and seeing who performs.

This is fine but with big games from the very off, there isn’t much room for error if the aim is to challenge for the title. The sheer depth of a squad where Bellamy, Ireland and Santa Cruz aren’t even in the 25 (and are all likely to leave) means a top four finish should be comfortably achieved. Whether they can do even better depends on how quickly things will gel together.

Tactically it looks like City will be playing two defensive midfielders whatever happens, though Toure is known to get forward. At home I’d wager that Tevez and another striker (Balotelli probably) play up front with Silva and Milner pushing from left and right. A fluid 4231. Away from home against stronger teams it may almost be a Christmas tree formation with three defensive midfielders, with Silva and another pacy player supporting Tevez up front on his own.

The options are quite varied to be honest but Mancini is a bit of a safety first manager. My main concern is whether the centre-backs are up to the task. Lescott and Kolo Toure were decidedly average last season meaning it will be probably be Kompany alongside one of them, or possibly even Boateng. Either way it’s not going to be the greatest partnership in the world. What price another defender coming in before the deadline?

No , make that five.

Overall I think City will do well but they’re still a season away from a proper title push. This time next year though they’ll have Champions League football to offer as a carrot to prospective players. Just watch who they sign then…


Transfer Window Hits and Misses


The January transfer window just passed saw the lowest spending since 2003, a whole £140m less than last January’s whopping £170m. Clubs have been certainly feeling the pinch and seem to be much more careful with their money. While it’s far too early to judge here are some thoughts on who could be hits and who might be misses.


The Free Transfers

I think Sol Campbell to Arsenal is quite astute and judging by the game and a half he’s played thus far, he looks like he can still cut it in the top flight. Certainly a better option than Mikael Silvestre! Over in Manchester, I was less convinced by City’s signing of Patrick Vieira. I think it will be difficult for him and there will be games where the pace is too much for him. That said, he’ll bring a lot to that dressing room and should be good for cameos where games are being closed out.

sol campbell arsenal

Beats playing for Nott's County.


The Loans

With money a bit thin on the ground, some of the most interesting deals were loans. Landon Donovan looks to have fitted straight in at Everton and I think he’ll do well for the remaining time he’s over here. Senderos from Arsenal is also a good move – the Swiss has stagnated a touch but people think he’s rubbish just because Drogba messed him a few times. Name me a central defender that hasn’t struggled against the Drog.

Bolton have got a couple of good youngsters in Weiss and Wilshere from Man City and Arsenal respectively. Wilshere in particular could be an instant hit if his cameo Carling Cup appearances are anything to go by. Basturk is one of those players who was once good on Football Manager but I’ve never seen him play enough to comment in real life. Fat Sam had a decent track record with signing older creative types at Bolton and the Turk could be sneaky good for Blackburn.

Maxi Rodriguez will be rubbish for Liverpool and Amr Zaki will be rubbish for Hull. Fellow Egyptian Mido might surprise a few people at West Ham. With a £1K a week wage he’s motivated to prove people wrong if nothing else.

wilshere bolton arsenal weiss

I can't decide whether he's disgusted to be holding that shirt or if he's just very cold.


The Cold Hard Cash

The biggest signing was Man City getting Adam Johnson for £6m+. An interesting one this, he’s done well in the Championship this season but I don’t see where he’s going to fit at Eastlands right now. You have Bellamy and Petrov both playing on the left and they’re both playing very well. One for the future me thinks, but he’ll have a great mentor in Petrov who is an excellent left winger.

After much of the window saw both Porstmouth keepers being linked with moves away to the same clubs, it was eventually Asmir Begovic who left, joining Stoke for £3.25m. He was wanted by Spurs too but apparently legged it from the hotel they were putting him up in. I do wonder whether he will displace Sorensen, they seem kind of at the same level to me. It’s a good signing for next season though.

Elsewhere Victor Moses should get lots of opportunity to prove he’s worth £2.5m at Wigan given that Jason Scotland has yet to score this season, while Benni McCarthy should score enough to justify his £1m move to West Ham. Sunderland have got a good prospect in Matt Kilgallon for £2m.

Birmingham had lots to spend but only got some squad depth in the end with Michel and Craig Gardner joining for £3m each. They’ll be useful, nothing more nothing less.

adam johnson

As good as Stewart Downing. Maybe.


Harry Redknapp’s Wheeling Dealing Transfer Merry-Go-Round

Let’s face it, Spurs deserve a whole category of their own. Any team with Harry Redknapp in charge is always likely to make deals but when you cross it with Spurs’ odd transfer policy you’re bound to get some baffling deals. First up, they bought Younes Kaboul back from Portsmouth for about £5m (less if you count what Pompey still owed).

This is by my count the fifth player they’ve bought back in about 18 months (Keane, Defoe, Crouch & Chimbonda the others) and they’d probably save themselves a lot of money if they didn’t destroy careers in the first place. Kaboul has improved but won’t play when everyone is fit, so as usual lots of foresight there. Two right backs (Naughton and Hutton) went out on loan leaving them with only Corluka.

eidur gudjohnsen spurs

Come on Harry, let's not play games. You know you want me.

Gudjohnsen was brought in on loan. I’m not sure about this one, it kind of depends where he plays. He certainly hasn’t been a striker for a few seasons now but is a decent player. I get the feeling Redknapp is addicted to buying players he once liked the look of. Lets be honest now, they don’t really need Gudjohnsen do they, but Redknapp just couldn’t say no to a bit of sexy loan action.

The one striker leaving was surprisingly not Pavlyuchenko but instead Robbie Keane who left on loan to Celtic. You don’t normally loan your captain out do you, but by the sounds of it they were constantly changing the price of Pavlyuchenko. No doubt the same happened with Bentley which is why he’s still there too.

harry redknapp

Buy me Harry, no buy me!


So overall nothing that exciting happened, and as usual the bullshit rumour brigade was full of exactly that – bullshit. There are a few decent signings but you sense everyone is saving their dollar for some post World Cup bingeing. Because of course that’s when the best value can be found…



The Six Pointer – Arsenal deficiencies, Arsenal deficiencies & more…


1. While Man Utd clearly deserved their win against Arsenal on Sunday, they were greatly helped by the non-performances of three Arsenal players in particular; Almunia, Clichy and Denilson.

Almunia has been a liability all season. He appears to have no confidence in his own decision making and no confidence from his two centre backs, Gallas in particular. Perhaps the Nani goal was unfortunate but I’ve seen Almunia do that weird palming thing too many times (e.g. Bentley last season) to think so.

almunia arsenal man utd

Words fail me.

There’s a level of technique which he clearly doesn’t have, and won’t learn at the age of 32. Mentally he looks shot and I struggle to think of which Premier League teams he’d get into right now. Certainly no-one in the top half.

With Fabianski being just as dodgy at the moment, it leaves a big hole to fill. Part of me wishes there had been a cheeky loan move for David James as a six month stop gap. Certainly the position will be one to address in the summer.


2. Clichy is perhaps still a bit unfit but not for the first time this season he was given a torrid time by so-so right-winger. After Wright-Phillips and Young, Nani joined the list of players who have outwitted him positionally and through a bit of pace.

His form hasn’t been good for a while now and I’d hazard a guess that Kieran Gibbs will be pushing him very hard for a first team spot next season.


3. Another player who has stagnated is Denilson. If you get beaten fair and square then fine, but if in one of the biggest games of the season you’re half-heartedly jogging back while the opposition are breaking at speed then something’s not right.

denilson arsenal

Jog on jogger.

Denilson has always been someone who divides opinion, on the surface a player who does nothing particularly well but nothing particularly badly. However, two weeks running he has now casually made half hearted attempts to stop breaks which have both resulted in goals.

Aaron Ramsey may give away the ball more but at least he makes things happen and chases after people. I’d play him next week if Diaby isn’t fit.


4. Playing three tiny players up front doesn’t work. I like the 4-3-3 formation but it only works if you have a variety of players. Van Persie, Arshavin and Bendtner offer different heights, differing skills and differing work rates and it was one reason why Arsenal were playing so well at the start of the year.

A trio of Arshavin, Nasri and Rosicky is just too similar. Arshavin to his credit wasn’t that bad and caused a few problems against Wes Brown but it’s just a shame Bendtner wasn’t match fit which would have allowed the Russian to face Rafael instead.


5. Theo Walcott isn’t going to the World Cup unless he has a dramatic improvement in form. He’s been found out for having one skill (pace) but not the intelligence to do anything with it.

I know he’s been out injured a long time and he was only a sub but you could say the same for any of his (few) games this season. There’s struggling to get into a game and then there’s complete anonymity. The problem with Walcott is he often finds himself in good positions; he just rarely makes the right decision. I know he’s a confidence player but how can he gain confidence if he’s never doing anything worthy of lifting it.


6. If you count the Champions League and cups the last eight games against Man Utd and Chelsea have resulted in one draw and seven defeats with just five goals scored and 18 conceded (thanks to East Lower). In two home games this season against the top two Arsenal have been crushed 3-0 and now 3-1.

Yet still Wenger believes in his players and refuses to buy anyone new. I wrote last season about how it was misguided to refuse to sign players because they might ‘kill’ a current player.

arsene wenger arsenal man utd

Mr Grumpy, meet Mr Stubborn. Mr Stubborn, meet Mr Grumpy.

I don’t really care if Denilson suddenly has his path to the first team blocked or if Walcott has to work that little bit harder to get a start. What matters is the success of the team and sometimes the feelings of players have to be sacrificed.

An 18 month deal for an experienced player that can do offer an alternative is hardly to going to finish the career of 21 year old Denilson. It may however have helped win a trophy this season, something which now looks unlikely.



Weekly Photoshop – Patrick Vieira


The summer rumours around a possible return for Patrick Vieira to Arsenal got me quite excited. Yes, he wasn’t the player of the late 90s/early 2000s but I thought it would fantastic to see him in an Arsenal shirt one more time, once again doing battle against fellow old man Gary Neville.  

Now that he’s signed for Man City it just feels a bit weird, and I fear that he’ll no longer be able to handle the tempo of the Premier League. As you may have gathered he was this week’s Photoshop theme. There was lots of stuff to work on like how old he is; how French he is; how ‘big’ he is (allegedly); how Man City will throw money at anything… 

In the end my laptop screen has been dying a slow a painful death all week so after eventually finding a monitor that I could connect I spent all of about 5 minutes on my entry. Did get me third place though. Success!.


patrick-vieira man city

The trouble with signing le grande saucisse at the end of its career is that all the good bits have already been bought and you're just left with the straggly ends.


More can be found here.




Fantasy Premier League – Gameweek 22 Preview


Gameweek 22 is shaping up to be a big one for fantasy managers. After snow decimated the fixture list last weekend, we were left with just three games played meaning many managers only had a few players at most scoring them points.

In one of my leagues my nearest rival scored just six points while in my main league with the other Sportboy, the Football Guy and a few others, the story was similar. Nearly everyone had Carlos Tevez so the scores weren’t terrible but me picking him as captain meant I got 55 points and extended my lead to 37 points over 2nd place (now taken by Amer who was once upon a time sixth in the world). The week couldn’t have gone better really, and going for Tevez instead of Rooney as captain really made a difference.


Gameweek 21 Top Gun (aka Tom Cruise Approves):

Carlos Tevez Top Gun Goose Man City

Maverick got stuck in the snow this week so Goose is here to approve of Tevez's hat-trick and his 2nd Top Gun.

Yes, in case you hadn’t realised Carlos Tevez was easily the top scorer last week – a hat-trick against Blackburn getting him three bonus points for a grand total of 17, or 34 if you made him captain like I did. Even though the game was initially in doubt I thought it was worth the risk as if it did get called off it would automatically go to my second choice Rooney.

Anyway, I digress. Benjani grabbed three assists in the same match for 13 points in what was his first appearance of the season. Not bad for someone who’s best has passed. Elsewhere Pienaar and Richards both got nine, as did Cameron Jerome.


Gameweek 22 Picks:

With all the postponed games last week, many clubs have tried to rearrange them as quickly as possible. It means this week we have six teams playing twice: Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Bolton and Hull. Plenty of good teams to pick from and I’d say you’d want at least six players playing twice, if not more. Just be aware that Man Utd and Hull don’t play in gameweek 23 so don’t pick too many of their players for this week.


Three Captain Choices:

1. Fabregas/Arsenal – A quirk in the fixtures means both of Arsenal’s games this week are against Bolton; first away, then at home. Fabregas is confirmed fit again so I would think that he’ll definitely play in both games. He’s been a stud this season and there have been just two (and a half) games where he’s failed to anything. Bolton away will be tricky what with Owen Coyle providing the new manager lift in performance, but the match at the Emirates should be a comfortable win. In any case, you’d be wise to pick him as captain this week. Arshavin would be my next Arsenal choice.

2. Rooney/Man Utd – The fiery striker has arguably easier games than Fabregas, with two home games against Burnley and Hull but I’m wary of a couple of things. Firstly, Utd haven’t been overly impressive of late and the FA Cup tie against Leeds showed they are still vulnerable in defence without Rio, Vidic and VDS. Secondly, Rooney can be a bit hot and cold, either having a massive game or doing nothing. He scored 15 against Hull recently but only got one point against Burnley away in August. A confident, but not surefire pick. Valencia would be the Man Utd alternative.

3. Defoe/Spurs – With all of Liverpool’s good players injured, it leaves us looking at Tottenham as the third team to provide a potential captain. Hull at home should be easy pickings for Defoe and he might just do something at Anfield too. Modric is back fit again and could get some good points if you don’t have the midget up front.

fabregas fantasy football captain

Gets a Captain's tick.


Three Potential Transfers In:

1. Bolton players – This gameweek is admittedly difficult to envisage a Bolton player scoring heavily but even two sets of two points would be useful and Arsenal are not super solid defensively. I think Owen Coyle will give them a boost and hopefully make them a more expansive, attractive side. This could mean players like Matt Taylor are worth watching. They also have play twice in gameweek 26 meaning seven matches in the next five weeks.

2. Donovan/Everton – The American loanee made his debut for the Toffees last week and by all accounts played pretty well against Arsenal (he got an assist). I’ve always thought he’s overrated, and his previous record in Germany suggests that he’s not quite good enough at the top level. That said, maybe the Premier League will suit him. Plenty of US players have succeeded so maybe he will be the next (if only for a couple of months). It will cost you £6m to find out.

3. N’Gog/Liverpool – The young Frenchman is an interesting one. He has only played 412 minutes this season but has grabbed four goals and two assists, which is twice as many as a certain M. Owen. With Torres injured for six weeks, he should get a consistent run in the side. Liverpool are woeful this season but at £5.2m he may be worth a speculative punt as a third striker.

matt taylor bolton

Might be worth a pick.


Three To Avoid:

1. Vieira/Man City – I think Vieira is a legend and as an Arsenal fan he gave me nine glorious years of midfield dominance but I can’t help thinking this move back to the Premier League is a bad idea. He’s only £5m but I don’t think he’s going to do much. Granted, he’ll probably have a big game against a team which doesn’t possess much pace and people will think he’s still great but I reckon it’ll will be a one-off. Not worth the bother.

2. Sorensen/Stoke – With David James about to join on loan, it seems Sorensen may be on his way out. With the World Cup coming up I can’t think that James would be moving somewhere where he isn’t guaranteed a first team place and rumours of the Dane going abroad have not been denied. Time to find a new penalty saving king.

3. Liverpool players – The good ones like Torres, Johnson, Gerrard and Benayoun are all injured for varying lengths of time. The others like Aquilani, Kuyt, Riera and Carragher have been useless for varying lengths of time.

Patrick Vieira Man City

Are you taking the mick?!



Blast From The Past – Sinisa Mihajlovic


Ex Yugoslavian/Serbian left back Sinisa Mihajlovic this time round. He spent most of his career in Italy and probably only really came to prominence in the Lazio side that won Serie A and the Coppa Italia in 1999-00.

Having said that he did also win a European Cup with Red Star Belgrade in 1991 (he scored one of the penalties in the shootout) which was probably a greater achievement. He was a little bit racist truth be told but he sure did take a mean free kick…




The Trouble With… Arsene Wenger


After a season in which Arsene Wenger spent much time telling the press, the fans and indeed his own players that they were good enough, the past few weeks have shown that they are not. The Champions League semi finals saw them completely outplayed by Man Utd in the first leg but somehow get away with just a 1-0 defeat. All the talk was of a majestic comeback in the second leg where they could score two goals with no trouble and keep the clean sheet that would get them through. That talk lasted all of about 7 minutes before Ji Sung Park scored after a defensive mistake. Not impossible you thought, Arsenal are more than capable of scoring three goals and they still have 80 odd minutes to do it in.

Wrong. Four minutes later, Ronaldo won a cheap free kick 40 yards out, blasted it at goal, Almunia did one of his infuriating camera dives where he doesn’t actually dive properly and just flops instead, and suddenly it’s 2-0 Man Utd and the tie is dead. The rest of the game was a lesson in how to control a game. Arsenal couldn’t get anywhere near Man Utd, with only a debatable penalty to show for their efforts, having already conceded another. This was followed by the biggest home defeat in years last weekend, Chelsea destroying them 4-1 at the Emirates. If anything this match brought home even greater truths as for much of the first half Arsenal were the better side but as has been usual over the Wenger era, missed a hatful of chances before succumbing to a well flighted free kick that Alex headed in. Anelka, Toure (og) and Malouda all added goals which could have been prevented by a proper defence. Some semblance of pride was salvaged with a creditable 0-0 draw yesterday against United but the game mattered little.

As frustrated as we are.

As frustrated as we are.


I have never seen Wenger so down after a game as he was after that second leg. Most of his answers were one or two words and he was visibly upset at what had happened that night. We saw for the first time some admission that attempting to build a team completely with young players may not be the best way to go. He acknowledged that in the games that mattered there was something lacking, and that some ‘distance’ would be needed to assess what changes were required at the end of the season.

The January signing of Russian superstar Andrey Arshavin showed what playing for ready-made quality can do. He has been a revelation, seamlessly slotting in despite being played out of position and has yet to taste defeat. I do admire the fact Wenger is trying to win it all with kids but I feel at some point he lost track of the fact that for young players to improve, they need older players to learn from. When we previewed the semi finals last month, it was noted that from the side which reached the Champions League final in 2006, only three players remained. Campbell, Lehmann, Flamini, Hleb, Cole, Henry, Pires, Reyes, Ljungberg, and Gilberto all gone.  The number of players released or sold on has been phenomenal and it seems as if even late 20s is now too old let alone thirties. Last summer, Hleb, Flamini and Gilberto left. That was half the first choice midfield and a World Cup winner. Only Nasri and Ramsey came in (I refuse to count Silvestre as a replacement for anyone).

You have to pay for quality

You have to pay for quality.


The belief that by signing a top midfielder like Alonso you would be ‘killing’ Diaby, Song and Denilson is misguided. I would say that it’s actually the opposite. By not signing him, they have no one to push them in training, no one to push their automatic place in the first team, no one who can tell them what it takes to win major trophies. I realise that a lot of improvement is done by playing first team football against top opposition, but at the same time that goes hand in hand with improvement on the training pitch, something Wenger is an expert at. If you have no competition within your colleagues, you’re less likely to try harder and subsequently get found out when playing against the big clubs in league and Europe.

Compare Man Utd’s central options to Arsenal’s. Fergie can pick from Anderson (21), Carrick (27), Hargreaves (28), Scholes (34) and Fletcher (25). Throw in Giggs and Gibson and you have a nice blend of youth and experience which has seen the previously unheralded Fletcher improve to an extent where he is a first choice pick. In north London you have Fabregas as the senior figure at the grand age of 22. He is joined by Denilson (21), Diaby (23), Song (21), Ramsey (18) and a few others. All very young and inexperienced, despite many already being internationals.

Not the new Cesc, and not the new Vieira.

Not the new Cesc, and not the new Vieira.


Take for example Alex Song. He is someone who has actually become pretty good this season (though considering how poor he was, any improvement would have been significant) but surely if you’re a developing defensive midfielder, it would be quite useful to have some like Gilberto around to give you handy pointers. Brazil perhaps aren’t noted for their defensive players but at the same time you don’t win a World Cup if you’re rubbish (though I suppose Roque Junior was in that squad too). Anyway the point is that Song could have learnt from him and if good enough over the course of the season, usurped him on merit. The ideal turnover is a young player replacing an older one over the course of the season and then you can get rid of the older player in the summer. You can’t dump a bunch of experience and go into a campaign blind and hope that a youngster proves himself – the Fabregas’ of this world are the exception not the rule.

You'll get found out against the best.

You'll get found out against the best.


Also, I don’t see how it’s one rule for the midfielders and one rule for the attackers. Why can the chances of Diaby, Denilson and Song not be harmed by signing an experienced central player but signing Arshavin doesn’t block the young wingers/strikers. Is it not suddenly infinitely more difficult for the likes of Bendtner, Vela and others to grab one of the four wide/striking slots? He has always been very clinical in getting rid of players he feels can no longer offer anything and to be fair you can count on one hand the players who have more success once leaving the Gunners. Here’s hoping the underachievement (or playing to their level depending on your viewpoint) of this season’s squad means Wenger ends his policy of youth only and realises it’s time to be clinical with some of the current players too. I feel Arsenal are not far off challenging properly and the signing of a quality centre back and defensive midfielder would go a long way. The likes of Denilson can still become good players, but not without a helping hand. Ultimately, Wenger’s priority should be the welfare of Arsenal Football Club not individual players and this summer will be the time to re-address that.



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