Posts Tagged ‘West Brom’

The Six Pointer – Expensive Toys, Retro Formations & more…


That was the weekend that was. Newcastle vs Arsenal deserves a post in itself!


1. Fernando Torres certainly had a Chelsea debut to forget and it will be interesting to see how Carlo Ancelotti fits him in for the rest of the season. The switch to a diamond midfield with Torres and Drogba playing as a pair up front wasn’t a surprise but it was strange to see Nicolas Anelka given the nod in the hole behind them.

I assume the theory was that Lampard’s strength is arriving from deep, something which would be negated if he played at the head of diamond. Chelsea’s success over the past few season has come through playing 4-3-3 and you can’t fit Torres and Drogba in that system and get the best of both.

Torres of course needs time to adapt; despite his price tag you can’t just expect him to instantly understand his new team-mates way of playing. But, given how Chelsea are quickly becoming involved in a battle to maintain a top four position as well as trying to engineer another attempt at the holy grail of the Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti will have his work cut out to solve this conundrum quickly.

An inauspicious start.


2. In contrast, Torres’ old team are on quite the run of form at the moment. After overseeing a defeat to Blackpool, Kenny Dalglish has quickly turned things around with some innovative, or should that be retro, tactical moves.

Three at the back has long been out of vogue but Liverpool have used it successfully to stifle the aerial bombardment of Stoke, and now the technical probing of Chelsea. Contrasting attacks but the same result – a convincing clean sheet. The beauty of playing 3-5-2 with wing-backs is that in theory it can work so well – they offer solidity in defence by forming a five but options in attack when pushing forward.

I don’t see Glen Johnson working well long-term on the left but it seems to be successful for the time being.  Of course Dalglish has the same problem as Ancelotti in trying to fit £50m worth of strike force into his team but you feel it will be a little easier with the players at his disposal.

Close enough. Though if this was Stoke they'd play all four.


3. Niko Kranjcar’s winner for Spurs against Bolton should give Harry Redknapp some reminder of the talents at his disposal. Notoriously poor at rotating, Redknapp is very much one to stick to the same players until the they get injured or he just doesn’t fancy them anymore. Kranjcar has been one of the unlucky ones this season with just six appearances to his name, totalling a measly 235 minutes.

So much so that ‘Arry bought a similar player in Pienaar in the transfer window, simply because he was available rather than any great need for him. The whole point of a 25 man squad is to use it, not least when you’re competing at the top end of the table and the Champions League. Perhaps he’d find that when he does have to turn to them, they might perform better if they’ve had a few games under their belts.

Niko Kranjcar, Spurs player. Sometimes.


4. Following Chelsea and now Man Utd losing to Wolves this season, Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at Molineux is looking better and better. It must be frustrating that Mick McCarthy can get fantastic performances against the big sides but then lose to those around him. As with last season, it will be a close run thing whether Wolves go down but there are certainly worse teams in the league this season. They have yet to play either match against West Brom and those two games look like being crucial in determining which of the two sides will be relegated. I certainly don’t think both will stay up.


5. Bolton have now lost six straight away games. What was looking like a promising Europa League push is turning into a mid-table season. Part of the reason must be that the previously red-hot partnership of Elmander and Davies have one goal each since late November and Chung-Yong Lee, who had six assists has been away at the Asian Cup. With that in mind the loan signing of Sturridge looks to be a good move both for player and club. Already he’s taken on some of the attacking responsibility with two goals in two games.

He’ll be sure to want prove that he’s good enough to be at Chelsea next season and that motivation can only benefit Bolton. After all, this time last season Jack Wilshere was embarking on a similar loan and is now a starter for Arsenal and in the England squad. If Sturridge can get the goals to fire Bolton to 7th, Bolton may even have a shot at keeping him permanently.


6. Ten games produced 43 goals this weekend. As ever, Blackpool played a big part in that and their 25 games this season have seen 87 goals at just three and half a game. I wouldn’t want Ian Holloway to change his approach at all, but for the sake of Blackpool having another season in the top flight, I’d love them to get a 0-0 away from home once in a while!

They'll need an updated version after this season.



Season Previews 2010/11 – How They’ll Finish


Based on all the predictions written, here’s how I see the Premier League finishing up in May.

  1. Man Utd
  2. Arsenal
  3. Chelsea
  4. Man City
  5. Liverpool
  6. Tottenham
  7. Everton
  8. Fulham
  9. Aston Villa
  10. Stoke
  11. Blackburn
  12. Birmingham
  13. Bolton
  14. Sunderland
  15. Wolves
  16. West Ham
  17. Newcastle
  18. Wigan
  19. West Brom
  20. Blackpool

A few more thoughts. I think the top four are quite interchangeable though Man City won’t win it. It depends what other business is done before the end of the transfer window – you get the feeling the Milner deal will get a few things going.

I reckon Liverpool, Everton and Spurs are all capable of sneaking fourth spot. With the former two it depends on how fit their first choice teams stay throughout the season while Spurs could maybe go as high as third but it relies on them coping with two competitions at once. I’m sure they’ll sign one or two more players but are waiting to see if they beat Young Boys in the qualifier.

With Martin O’Neill leaving Aston Villa will drop down the table. It doesn’t matter who they get in to replace him, they won’t come ahead of those top seven teams. I have Fulham a little high on reflection. I should probably swap them with Villa. If they lose Schwarzer and get an injury or two, it remains to be seen whether Hughes can keep them going. With the signing of Kenwyne Jones Stoke might push on an extra place or two. I genuinely wonder if they have any players under 6ft beyond Tuncay and Etherington!

Going down to about 15th/16th you can mix and match. Bolton could shock a few people, while West Ham have one of the more talented spines of teams at that level. Birmingham could really struggle if Foster doesn’t live up to Hart’s performances last season and Zigic doesn’t perform but all in all the teams in this section should be ok.

For me there are just the four clear relegation candidates, though you could perhaps chuck Wolves in there too. Maybe I’ll revisit this once the transfer window shuts, as things should be a bit clearer by then.


Season Previews 2010/11 – West Brom


West Brom

Last Season: 2nd in the Championship

New Signings: Myhill, Reid, Tamas, Ibanez, Shorey

Key Player: Graeme Dorrans

One To Watch: Chris Wood

Needs A Big Year: Roman Bednar

Would Quite Like: Staying up playing pretty football.

A bit funny looking but also apparently a bit good.

Prediction: 19th

Thoughts: West Brom have been a yo-yo club for about a decade now, clearly too good for the Championship but just lacking enough quality to mean that their stay in the Premier League usually ends after just a season. It’s difficult to see this changing to be honest, despite what looks like a fairly solid squad.

Di Matteo looks to be a talented young manager but that is probably not going to be enough. While West Brom have done well to keep hold of the talented Graeme Dorrans to play in a midfield which is quite easy on the eye, better strikers than Bednar will be needed if the Baggies are not to suffer an all too familiar fate.

Previously unheralded Championship players will need to perform above their ability while journeymen pros like Shorey and Reid will need career seasons. Dorrans is probably capable of getting into double figures but he can’t do it all on his own. All in all too many things need to align. Sadly down, yet again.


Season Predictions 09/10 – How They Turned Out


Apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’m still in two minds about whether to do season reviews for each club – to be honest I’m in World Cup mode now. Perhaps I’ll still get round to it though.

Back in August I played a mug’s game and tried to predict how everyone would finish. Here’s what actually happened:

'Expert' predictions...

Looking at the results showed I got just three clubs spot on: Man City in 5th and basement dwellers Hull and Pompey taking the bottom two places. In my defence I was only one place out with six other clubs but really this table looks like what it is, rubbish punditry.

I think if Gareth Southgate and Garth Crooks had a bastard lovechild it would look something like this predictions table (enjoy those nightmare thoughts kids).


In terms of the thinking, I had found it really tricky to split the top three when writing pre-season predictions. My loyalties to Arsenal may have played a part in placing them second while I couldn’t bear to predict Chelsea as Champions even though deep down I knew they had retained the most strength over the summer.

A similar scenario led to placing Spurs 7th – I was hardly going to predict them a Champions League spot was I?! I underestimated Liverpool’s decline and overestimated Sunderland’s improvement.


The biggest mistake was Birmingham, a full nine places out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who had them down to struggle. Fair play to Alex McLeish (who I had as first sacking!), he brilliantly led them to a top half finish.

The bottom half was slightly better predicted clubs wise, if not positions wise. The dearth of quality is such that it’s pot luck as to where the likes of Bolton and Wigan finish. I got three of the bottom four right and on another day would have predicted Burnley to come in 18th not 17th.


In terms of the cups and other stuff it went like this:

And I thought the league prediction was bad...

Oh dear. Only Bayern Munich correct and I suppose West Brom for promotion. If the Premier League table was the Southgate/Crooks lovechild then this is the resulting mess when said lovechild had a threesome with Alan Shearer and Jamie Redknapp. I literally couldn’t do any worse at being a pundit. Like I said at the beginning, it’s time for the World Cup…



Live Report – Arsenal v West Brom, Carling Cup 22/09/09


I don’t always bother doing reports of matches I’ve been to. Indeed looking through the archives, I’ve only done one up until now but Arsenal and I had a bit of a lover’s tiff in the second half of last season and I think I only went to the Youth Cup Final post Christmas. Anyway a new season means new beginnings and after opening my account for the season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday, I again ventured down to the Emirates last night to see the second string and youth players take on West Brom in the Carling Cup.

After a string of impressive performances against Premier League and Championship opposition in recent years, no one is surprised any more at how good some of the players coming through at Arsenal are. Indeed the tendency has been to hype them up like crazy when we should bear in mind they haven’t done anything, yet. However, much of the hype is justified and I think many of the players will actually make the grade at Arsenal unlike in the past where they’d end up being shipped off to a Championship team. All eyes were on Jack Wilshere last night but there were plenty of others to watch as well.

Arsenal started brightly with a couple of Senderos headers off target before West Brom gradually got into the game. Szczesny (I’m half Polish and I still have trouble writing that!) made a couple of smart low stops but on occasion looked suspect when trying to jump for a ball. Just like our other keepers then! Given that he’s only 19 I’ll let him off. Coquelin was quietly efficient in his passing whilst busy in his workrate but it was all pretty even really.

Then came the turning point late in the first half. Ex-Gunner Jerome Thomas tackled Wilshere but left a foot and elbow in as doing so. He offered an apology but Wilshere said something and then Thomas shoved his hand in Wilshere’s face. It was light but sensing the opportunity, the youngster made a bit of a meal of it and Thomas got sent off. It wasn’t violent but he can have no complaints. As I tweeted at the time, if you raise your arms you’re asking for trouble.

The real reason behind Thomas' reaction!

The real reason behind Thomas' reaction!

Anyway the numerical advantage only told in the second half once Carlos Vela came on for Giles Sunu. Receiving a rapturous reception on his return from injury, he immediately made an impact with his ability to draw the West Brom centre backs wide. The pace of the game increased with his sharp movement and passing and the space that playing against 10 men should have resulted in finally came about.

The first goal was a simple tap in by the brilliantly named Sanchez Watt (prefers it to Herschel which is his real first name!) and came after good work by Vela. He created space for himself on the edge of the box before shooting with enough power that Dean Kiely spilled it allowing Watt to slot home from three yards.

The second came soon after; Mark Randall attempting a chip from 25 yards that Vela himself would have been proud of. It hit the bar and then Leon Barnett attempted a mental chest back to the keeper (the ball was at knee height…). Obviously he screwed it up and Vela walked it into the net.

Wilshere and Vela take a corner. Sportboy T takes a crappy camera phone picture.

Wilshere and Vela take a corner. Sportboy T takes a crappy camera phone picture.

The rest of the game was played out without too much fuss and Arsenal find themselves in the fourth round. Overall I was impressed with Aaron Ramsey who has improved immensely and now looks too good for this level. Vela made the difference and again is pushing for first team action. Sanchez Watt was lively while the neat and tidy Coquelin could be one to watch giving the constant turnover of defensive midfielders at Arsenal.

The left flank of Gibbs and Traore were quiet in the first half but got into it in the second once the game was stretched. I’m still not quite sure what Traore’s long term role at the club is. I would suggest he focuses on becoming a true left winger. It was nice to see Senderos back and there was only one dodgy moment from him.

Szczesny made some good stops and look assured for 19. I read it was quite close between him and Mannone for the first team spot and have watched them both over the past few days I would be inclined to pick the Pole. Wilshere had some nice touches but was quiet overall. Sunu, Gilbert and Barazite did nothing of note.

I’d say on the whole it was a much more useful learning experience for the players then the 6-0 against Sheffield Utd at this stage last year even if it was less entertaining for myself. Credit to the West Brom fans who filled most of their allocation and had about five times as much support as Wigan did on Saturday (even sung a bit too).



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.




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


That was the season that was.

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




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


What an idiot.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Six Pointer – Shearer’s Old Tricks, Adebayor’s Attitude & more…


That was the weekend that was…

1. Congratulations to Man Utd on yet another title. They weren’t particularly good on Saturday against Arsenal but they didn’t need to be, being safe in the knowledge that a point would be enough. Indeed their record against the top teams this year has been mediocre at best, and they had no away wins against any of the top seven and dropped home points against Liverpool and Arsenal. It was consistency against weak teams that saw them through, with 22 wins and just one solitary draw against teams placed 9th to 20th(before a final game against Hull). Of those games just six were fixtures in which goals were conceded, and ultimately is their defence which won the title for them this time round. 




2. If you believe Arsene Wenger, Emmanuel Adebayor was out injured with either a hamstring or groin problem (it changed before and after the Utd game) but following his interview on Saturday’s Football Focus, it’s not unreasonable to suggest he was left out of the squad for the comments he made. As he says in the interview, of course no one can blame him if Milan or Barcelona come sniffing. What can be blamed on him are comments like “I’ve love to play for Barcelona“‘ or “Milan looking at me is like Beyonce looking at a boy” which are not exactly going to endear him to Arsenal fans. Coupled with a massive rise in pay and a massive drop in work rate this season (clearly he thinks he’s made it) it’s no surprise there isn’t a lot of love for him at the moment. I’d go so far as I think he’d played his last game for Arsenal and I reckon he’ll be shipped out this summer, possibly even to a rival if what Wenger says is true. I’ve had several discussions recently with the Football Guy about why Adebayor gets so much stick compared to someone like Van Persie. I think it’s down to attitude more than anything, both on and off the pitch. On the pitch Van Persie has missed plenty of decent opportunities but has given the impression of someone who cares and wants to succeed. Adebayor to be fair has only scored a couple less but too often has had an air of not being bothered about him. Now I know much of the season he has played up front on his own and has lacked support but at the same time you can still make an effort and try and make yourself available. Too often he has stood around and looked at others (something he clearly learnt from Henry), the ultimate example being in the Champions League semi finals. Off the pitch it’s about not airing your dirty laundry in public. Everyone knows that players get tapped up all the time and deals are made and offers looked at. The key is to do it without anyone finding out. Van Persie has been gunning for a new contract too this season and though it has been through the media somewhat, he hasn’t gone so far as saying he’d love to play for this club or that club. Adebayor may get his move but he’ll have to change his attitude if he’s to be loved again, by Arsenal fans or otherwise.

Ade spots Beyonce at the exit door.

Ade spots Beyonce at the exit door.


3. With Martin Laursen retired and Gareth Barry likely to leave, Randy Lerner will have to dig deep to ensure Villa make another push at fourth place next season. Their collapse this season can be linked to Laursen going down with injury and it will take a special (expensive) player to replace his leadership and calmness at the back and goal threat going forward. Villa’s problem this season was that they lacked the squad to keep up with the big boys and the worry for Martin O’Neill will be that the likes of Man City and Spurs will overtake them next season. 


4. It’s a shame West Brom went down, in the sense they play the best football out of anyone in the bottom five or six but they just didn’t have the quality to stay up. Two recent home wins gave them false hope but it was always going to be too much to ask to get a result against Liverpool. Their third relegation in seven years rightly gives them a reputation as a yo-yo club but they seem to be a well-run outfit that should avoid the pitfalls of a second drop down to League One, as suffered this season by Southampton, Norwich and Charlton.


5. I found it quite ironic that Mark Viduka’s goal on Saturday was (harshly) disallowed after Kevin Nolan fouled Mark Schwarzer. Remember Sol Campbell’s header being chalked off against Argentina in World Cup 98? Who was the player who fouled Carlos Roa? One Alan Shearer. No doubt he has been teaching his Newcastle team his old tricks. After Hull gained a vital point on Saturday it leaves Shearer’s men in a hell of a mess. They need to go to Aston Villa and get a result whilst hoping Hull don’t match it against a Man Utd team sure to rest the big guns ahead of the Champions League final. Throughout his brief reign, all the talk has been of winning the home games. They were too nervous against Portsmouth and drew, beat a poor Boro side and succumbed to Fulham on Saturday. In practice it just hasn’t happened for Shearer, through a combination of poor, out of form players lacking in confidence and probably the inexperienced Big Al himself. I get the feeling Hull won’t get anything against Utd, but Newcastle will still manage to screw it up. 

Oh dear.

Oh dear.


6. Football players are sensitive souls. The other week Patrice Evra called Arsenal players babies. On Saturday three players in quick succession chose to let him know what they thought of his comments. Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie all fouled him with the former two being booked. I’m sure Evra won’t care having won the title and potentially the Champions League but he’s developing a nice line in pissing people off (see his Rafa-mocking it’s over gesture against Wigan). There are plenty of players to find irritating at Old Trafford but he is first rising to the top of the list. 



The Six Pointer – Hughes’ Egos, Fat Frank’s Sex Face & more…


Apologies for the recent lack of posts. We’ll be back to normal this week. Anyway, let’s look at the weekend that was…


1. We’re starting to see a lot of nothing performances from teams who have nothing let to play for. Wigan have been at the beach for around the past five weeks and are second bottom of the form table with one goal in five. Having started the year challenging for a Europa Cup spot, they are slowly sliding down the table. What I don’t get is with each place in the league being worth around half a million more than the one below, why Steve Bruce isn’t motivating them more. The drop from seventh to tenth could be worth as much as two million in prize money, which to a club like Wigan is a big deal. 


2. Gerrard and Torres have started 12 games together this season. Of those twelve, Liverpool have won nine and drawn three and got 16 goals from the two. They took just two minutes to unlock West Ham at the weekend and showed again what a good understanding they have. If Benitez can get them to play 30 games together next season, Liverpool may finally win the title. That said, Rooney and Ronaldo have only started 17 games together for Man Utd. The difference being that Fergie has Berbatov and Tevez to choose from too, while Rafa tried and sold Keane and must focus on buying another alternative option in the summer.  

This time next year we'll be top. Probably.

This time next year we'll be top. Probably.


3. Another listless performance from Man City in the Manchester derby. Is Mark Hughes more likely to be sacked for failing to finish seventh or failing to motivate star players like Robinho and Elano? If he can’t keep egos like that happy, what chance has he got with the proper superstar players who will no doubt be summer targets at Eastlands. You’d feel the Europa League is a must in terms of trying to persuade anyone world class to join and even then you have to wonder whether Hughes is a man capable of handling the world class talent it will take for City to break into the elite. 


4. Ten points ahead of Aston Villa in fifth but now nine points behind Chelsea in third. Arsenal really are in a league of their own at the moment. Clearly not good enough to challenge the top 3 when it ultimately matters (failure to beat any of them in the four recent games in league and Europe), Arsene Wenger finds himself with much work to do in the summer. You can track their regression from last season quite accurately. They had 77 points in third place at this stage last year, which is what Chelsea currently have in third this season. The 1-4 scoreline against Chelsea on Sunday was a touch harsh given how well they started the game but at the same it was what we’ve come to expect over the years – plenty of possession and chances but no killer instinct to finish the game off. We’ll touch on what’s needed in more detail later in the week but needless to say experienced reinforcements will be on the agenda. You only need to look at the impact Arshavin has had since January to illustrate that you sometimes need to pay for quality. It’s interesting too for the chasing clubs like Aston Villa and Spurs dreaming (literally in Tottenham’s case) of breaking into the top four. If you can’t do it when one has an off year then when can you?

Lampard's enjoying it, Terry too. Alex doesn't seem to be getting much pleasure though. Looks like Fat Frank is a selfish lover...

Lampard's enjoying it, Terry too. Alex doesn't seem to be getting too much pleasure though. Looks like Fat Frank is a selfish lover...


5. Could West Brom do it again? They stayed up in 2005 despite being bottom at Christmas and are making a pretty good fist of it again. I feel they’ll ultimately fall just short given they have Liverpool in the next game. That said, if Man Utd win the title next Saturday against Arsenal, Sunday will be a pretty good time to play Rafa’s side. I would be happy if they stayed up, even if they aren’t very good. They at least try and play decent football and Tony Mowbray is more likeable than many of the other managers in and around the drop zone (I’m looking at you Phil Brown). It so often comes down to form for the bottom clubs trying to escape and they currently are displaying mid-table form, unlike all their four north east rivals. 


6. Gareth Bale started for the first time since January 18th on Saturday. Needless to say Spurs didn’t win. I make it 24 league games without a win for the Welshman. Jinx!

The harder he tries, the more likely Spurs don't win.

The harder he tries, the more likely Spurs don't win.



The Six Pointer – Portsmouth Safe, Fergie’s Favourite & more…


The final word on the weekend’s action…


1. Portsmouth got the point this evening that keeps them up I think. They remain seven points clear of the relegation zone but now with just four games remaining. They would have to lose all four remaining fixtures to be in danger of going down and even then Newcastle or Boro would have to go on a monster run of form (especially given their remaining fixtures). Newcastle were very flat and you wonder whether the defining moment of their season will be the great one on one chance Owen missed in the second half. 

Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.

Strewth, that was a tiring 10m sprint.


2. After Blackburn got an important win over Wigan, in my eyes the relegation battle focuses solely on the northeast. West Brom are down, and it leaves two spots to be filled by Sunderland, Hull, Newcastle or Middlesbrough. Four points separate them and they each have four games left. All face a top four team, which in theory leaves three games each to gain points from. The former two have a head start but Newcastle have a better goal difference, which will be worth a point should they ever catch up. Right now, I reckon Hull and the losers of the Newcastle vs Middlesbrough match go down.


3. Has Everton’s chance of winning the FA Cup gone with the injury to Phil Jagielka? Maybe not, but he is certainly their best defender and his calmness will be missed in the end of season showpiece. In a funny way I reckon his replacement Yobo is actually better equipped to individually deal with Drogba, but as a four the Everton defence is certainly more solid with the ex Sheffield Utd man in it. His presence will missed. 

There goes the cup.

There goes the cup.


4. Was it a penalty for Man Utd on Saturday? No, probably not. Carrick did get to the ball first, but then Gomes took the ball not the man. Howard Webb is quickly turning into Fergie’s favourite ref, given how many decisions he gives in Man Utd’s favour. He is one of the better refs around but in recent high profile games seems to be forgetting that the best game a referee can have is one where he isn’t noticed. I don’t really know why Spurs are moaning so much though. After C-Ron converted they were still 2-1 up – they only have themselves to blame for conceding another four goals. I only caught highlights after the game but was surprised to see that Ledley King played. When I first saw the score I thought he couldn’t be playing, but evidently he can’t defend Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez and Berbatov all on his own. A thought on that fearsome foursome too. I know it isn’t particularly balanced when you play all four of those guys, but boy can they be effective going forward.

Carrick falls in three, two, one...

Carrick falls in three, two, one...


5. Considering Middlesbrough are a team fighting relegation and fast running out of games where they can feasibly pick up points, the lack of fight and commitment against Arsenal was quite worrying. They only need to leapfrog one side, yet there seemed a real air of resignation about them. Perhaps they felt they were never getting anything from Arsenal away, but given their good recent record against them it was odd they didn’t go for it more. we’ve speculated before on whether Southgate is someone that could fire you up, and judging by recent performance it seems not. This coupled with Boro’s strikers spells doom. 


6. The biggest problem the teams at the bottom have is the fear factor. The second half this evening saw Newcastle team that had frozen, so paralysed were they by the fear of losing. Getting teams to play without fear and pressure is perhaps asking too much given the gravity of their situations, but managers will do will to remind their players that three points will go a lot further at this stage than one. Going for broke and winning one of two games while losing the other leaves you in a better position than drawing both. It’s got to stage where you need to gamble and no team will want to leave it to the last day needing a win. Why? Just look at the final day opponents for the team in trouble…

Sunderland v Chelsea

Hull v Manchester United

West Ham v Middlesbrough

Aston Villa v Newcastle 



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