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Aug 192012

Arsenal 0 –0 Sunderland
The Gunners were held to a goal-less home draw against the Black Cats and looked bad doing it. There are no questions about the defending and Arsenal did do their usual possession domination. However, one could see that boss Arsene Wenger has a problem. Who will score the goals this season? We all know about last season’s Golden Boot Winner Robin Van Persie’s exit. The Gunners are a disjointed bunch and it showed on Saturday morning. Time after time they managed to work the ball through the Sunderland defense, only to flub in front of goal. The most glaring miss happened in the 82nd minute when substitute Olivier Giroud burst into the area in typical Gunner fashion, and promptly put his effort wide of goal. The Black Cats did hold their own and Stephane Sessegnon and substitute Louis Saha gave the Gunner defense a scare or two. But this should have been an easy three points for Arsenal. If they have any trophy aspirations for this season, they have a lot of work to do.

Fulham 5 – 0 Norwich
Fulham are top of the league with a brilliant home display. And they did it without want-away American striker Clint Dempsey. New signing Mladen Petric looks like a wonderful replacement for Dempsey. He scored a great header from a Damien Duff corner at minute 41st and hit a great 54th minute strike from 25 yards out that deflected in off defender Michael Turner. Duff started the smack down in minute 26 when he latched onto defender John Arne Riise’s through ball and tucked a way a fine finish. The Canaries never really put up any opposition and went further behind when Petric grabbed his brace. Alex Kacaniklic added a fouth in the 66th minute and Steve Sidwell completed the Canaries’ London humiliaton with an 87th minute penalty kick that had been awarded after Hugo Rodellaga had been fouled in the area. Norwich are one of the three relegation candidates for this season and they really looked awful. Cottagers’ midfielders Moussa Dembele and Bryan Ruiz made the Canaries look very ordinary and their influence could be seen as the main contribution for all five goals. While no one in their right mind thinks that Fulham will stay top for long, they gave a great performance on Saturday.

QPR 0 – 5 Swansea
The other beat down of the day also happened in London as the Swans traveled to Loftus Road to deliver a five goal QPR butt whipping. New Swansea boss Michael Laudrup was feeling all kinds of happy watching what looked like a training ground warm-up match. Rangers’ defending was horrible. And that is being kind. Boss Mark Hughes was visibly upset during the whole match as his boys had no answer for new Swansea signing Miguel Michu. Michu got his first in the 8th minute from a 20 yard strike that got under QPR keeper Rob Green. That’s how things stayed until Michu struck again in the 53rd minute and the rout was on. Nathan Dyer scored in the 63rd and 71st minute as the Swans seemed to move the ball around the pitch with ease. Scott Sinclair’s 81st minute score finished off the whipping. So what does Mark Hughes do now? And how does new Ranger siging Park Ji-sung feel about his team?

Reading 1 – 1 Stoke City
Reading score a last minute penalty to salvage a draw in their debut return to the BPL. Potter’s boss Tony Pulis must be a little upset about losing three easy points to the newly promoted Royals. The Potters did go into the lead in the 34th minute when keeper Adam Federici handed them a gift wrapped goal from Michael Kightly shot. What should have happen then was Stoke to go on to an easy win and for Reading to wonder how long this stay in the BPL is going to last. But Royals’ boss Brian McDermott was has taught his boys to keep fighting for all ninety minutes of the match. It also helped that Stoke were not playing very inspirational football. The Royals’ hard work and perseverance paid off when substitute Garatth McCleary, in the 88th minute, was able to cut through the Potters’ defense and was fouled by Dean Whitehead in the Stoke City penalty area. The referee paused to see if there was any advantage to be gained, and seeing none, brought play back for the spot kick and Whitehead was sent off for a second bookable offense. Adam Le Fondre took the kick from the spot and the match was all tied up. Reading almost won it in stoppage time when Mikele Leigertwood nearly scored from a free kick. If the Royals can maintain that kind of fight for every match, they stand a good chance of staying in the BPL.

West Bromwich Albion 3 – 0 Liverpool
So King Kenny Dalgish’s replacement Brendan Rogers’ debut as the new Liverpool boss was an absolute bust. I went to the local pub to watch this one. I was expecting to see Liverpool make mince meat of WBA and make the home fans wish for Roy Hodgson to come back from managing England and rescue them. I did not expect the Baggies to pull off the shock result of the week. The match started out in Liverpool’s favor and Luis Suarez showed again why he will always be a handful for anyone defending him. He should have opened the scoring when his 8th minute effort was saved by keeper Ben Foster. Suarez’s next chance came in the 16th minute when his shot was saved again by Foster. New Red’s signing Fabio Borini’s 17th minute effort cleared the Baggies goal and Suarez missed another attempt in the 25th minute. The opening goal of the match was scored in the 43rd minute when Zoltan Gera hit a wonderful effort from 25 yards out into the upper 90 of the Liverpool goal. The “Goal of the Week” came when the Reds clearance from the Baggie corner kick came right to Gera’s feet and he buried the shot with wonderful class. Controversy came in the 58th minute when Daniel Agger was judged to have fouled Shane Long in the Liverpool penalty area. Replays seemed to suggest that the initial foul happened outside of the area. Also, Agger was judged by the referee to have been the last man, so he was summarily sent off. The ensuing penalty, taken by Shane Long was one of the worst penalties that one will see. It was a slow run-up followed by a lame kick and Reds keeper Pepe Reina made easy work of the save. But the Baggies were awarded another penalty when Martin Skrtel got caught dithering on the ball and after losing it to Shane Long, clipped the latter’s heal trying to win it back. This time Peter Odemwingie took the spot kick and made sure work of getting the second goal. The third goal is what should have Liverpool fans worried. The Baggies, on a counter-attack, outnumbered the Reds. Liam Ridgewell was able to pick out an unmarked Romelu Lukaku with an easy cross and Lukaku headed the goal home to secure the win. The Reds host the Champions next week and if they perform like they did on Saturday, they’re going to get a right good hiding.

West Ham United 1 – 0 Aston Villa
The Irons announce their return to the BPL with a win over the Villains. Paul Lambert’s debut as the new boss of Aston Villa was messed up by a controversial decision at Upton Park. The match started nice and even with both sides taking their chances. So things went until the 40th minute when Kevin Nolan scored from a Ricardo Vaz Te cross. Initial video indicated that Nolan may have been offside. In fact the referee’s assistant did put up his flag. But the referee had noticed that Vaz Te’s cross had been headed by defender Kieran Clark and by rule Nolan could not have been ruled offside. So the referee rightly overruled the assistant and awarded the goal. There was more controversy in the second half when Irons striker Carlton Cole seemed to have been pushed over in the Villain penalty area by defender Ron Vlaar. But the referee did not see the challenge as anything illegal and nothing was given. Vlaar did nearly mark his debut with an equalizer but put his 30 yard strike wide. But the bubbles are blowing again as West Ham celebrate their return to the BPL with a win. Can Sam Alladyce keep the Irons up?

Newcastle 2 – 1 Tottenham
The Magpies spoil Andreas Villas-Boas’ first match in charge of Spurs. Demba Ba had the best chance in the first half when his left footed strike nearly crept into an open left side of the Spurs net. Villas-Boas’ boys looked really lost without want away midfielder Luka Modric. They also miss last season loanee Emmanuel Adebayor as transfer negotiations with his club Manchester City still have not been finalized. The Magpies went ahead in the 54th minute when striker Demba Ba hit a magnificent curling shot from 20 yards out over keeper Brad Friedel’s left shoulder. Soon afterward, Magpies boss Alan Pardew was sent to the stands after shoving the referee’s assistant in anger after he felt the ball had gone out of play during a Spurs attack that saw Gylfi Sigurdsson shoot wide of the goal. Pardew was really angry when, from his seat in the stands Jermain Defoe grabbed an equalizer in the 76th minute. But Spurs were behind four minutes later when Hatem Ben Arfa brilliantly cut through the defense and was brought down in the Spurs penalty area by a mistimed Rafael van der Vaart tackle. Ben Arfa took the resulting spot kick and Newcastle opened their campaign with a convincing win. I wonder if somewhere on a London golf course Harry Redknapp is smirking a bit?

Wigan 0 – 2 Chelsea
The European Champions start the BPL campaign off in efficient form over relegation candidates Wigan. New Blues signing Eden Hazard was influential in both goals and made a wonderful debut. The first goal came in the 2nd minute when the Belgian midfielder made a very neat turn and sent defender Branislav Ivanovic on a clear run into the box to score. Hazard set up the second goal in the 7th minute when he was fouled in the Latics penalty area by Ivan Ramis. Frank Lampard put away the resulting spot kick and it looked like Chelsea were going to run away with the match. But Blues transfer target Victor Moses nearly scored twice in the first half, with the second attempt saved by keeper Petr Cech after Moses made Ashley Cole look a bit silly. Hazard had to be taken off in the 64th minute still suffering from the effects of a bad challenge from Gary Caldwell that happened in the 10th minute. But the Latics did not really mount much of a threat and if this performance is any indication of how the season will go for them, boss Roberto Martinez will have another bottom of the table struggle on his hands.

Manchester City 3 – 2 Southampton
Boy, do Citeh like end of match drama. I think someone should tell boss Roberto Mancini that he is competing for the BPL Premiership Trophy and not the Daytime Emmys. Did the club get an investment from Oprah Winfrey and she demanded some “Hollywood like dramatics”? This should have been an easy three points for the BPL Champions and they started the match in fine form. They eased the ball around the Etihad Stadium ground with the arrogance that one earns by being champions. But things got shaky in the 14th minute when Sergio Aguero was carried off with an apparent knee injury after a challenge from midfielder Nathaniel Clyne. Things got even shakier for the Champions when David Silva’s 16th minute penalty kick attempt was saved by Southampton keeper Kelvin Davis. But act one of the “Baby-Mamma Drama” was ended when Citeh striker Carlos Tevez finished off a great, low, hard shot in the 40th minute. The second half should have seen Citeh finish off the match, but Gael Clichy, and David Silva both hit easy shots over the bar, Tevez had his shot saved by keeper Davis, and Pablo Zabaleta had his shot blocked. So when Southampton brought on Rickie Lambert for Jay Rodriguez in the 55th minute, the drama really started. It started in the 58th minute when Tevez missed a sure goal and Southampton were able to counter-attack. Guly Do Prado was able to find Lambert who took a great shot from the edge of the area and beat keeper Joe Hart to get the equalizer. The Saints took the lead in the 68th minute from another counter-attack finished off by Steven Davis. Mancini had seen enough and replaced David Silva with Mario Balotelli in the 72nd minute. Shortly afterward, Samir Nasri made a great run along the goal line and was able to find Yaya Toure streaking into the area. Toure found Edin Dzeko with his cross and Dzeko made the match was level. Nasri scored the winner in the 80th minute when he headed in Gael Clichy’s cross and that should have been that. The Saints should have scored the equalizer in the 89th from Steve Davis’ cross, but Pablo Zabaleta made a fine defensive clearance and three minutes into stoppage time (should we now call it Mancini time?) the win was safe and confirmed.

Newcastle United Season Preview

 Posted by on August 18, 2012 at 10:21 am  EPL, Newcastle United
Aug 182012


Last season will be hard to top. Not only did the club make it back to Europe but there was something to play for right up until the last match. It was one of the most exciting seasons in a long time for Newcastle fans and it was made all the better by the fact that it was all a surprise. This season will be much more frustrating, regardless of results, with expectations so much higher. Last season was played with house money. Here is my preview…


There seems to be a lot of disappointment around the lack of transfer activity from Newcastle this summer. We certainly need help in defense and help in attack. I personally buy into the old cliche; “A player returning from injury is like a new signing.” Steve Taylor and Sylvain Marveaux with help strengthen the team much more than people are recognizing. New signings (Bigirimana, Good) are exciting but are moves for the future. Romain Amalfitano is still a bit of an unknown. He is a younger talent but unproven at the highest level. He was likely picked up on a free transfer to add depth and to be a player down the line. The major signing so far is Anita from Ajax. Newcastle fans should be excited for this signing despite Pardew’s plan for the player being up in the air. He is a utility player which we have grown to love. Anita is different though. He is a Ryan Taylor on steroids. He is able to play more positions and play them better than most people on the roster. I look for him to figure into the defense more than the midfield barring injury.

The main area not addressed is at the RB position. Danny Simpson played most of last season at RB and although he had his moments, he just wasn’t good enough. His biggest weakness is that he gives attackers too much space which, at times, put Coloccini and Krul under unneeded pressure. This needs to be addressed for Newcastle to gain better consistency and take that next step. Anita is known as a utility player but is unlikely to be in Pardew’s plans at the position. The Debuchy saga has dragged on long enough that his transfer looks unlikely but with the player making his desire to leave the club public and demanding talks with Lille there is still hope.

The biggest and best news though is that Cabaye, Tiote, Ba, Krul, etc. are all still at the club. Almost all of our star players quickly squashed speculation linking them with moves away. Even Demba Ba, who would have pocketed more than $2million if he left, wanted nothing to do with a transfer away from the club. This means more than a club holding on to their best players. It means a clubs best players truly believe in what the manager is doing and want to be a part of it. Any talk of unrest with players like Tiote, Cabaye, etc. and clubs would have been firing in bids left and right.



- Demba Ba needs to show that he can play with Cisse. I know a lot of it has to do with Pardew’s tactics, and that’s fine, but he didn’t score a goal when he started with Cisse. He is a better player than that. If he isn’t going to score goals he isn’t going to help Newcastle much. There are much better players out that when it comes to the traditional LW role.

- Hatem Ben Arfa needs to have his head straight all season. After he settled down and won a place in Pardew’s XI he was phenomenal. He scored two of the most impressive goals I have seen in a long time last year showing just what he is capable of. Prior to that he was pretty poor; whining, low effort, bad attitude, etc. His talk throughout the off-season leads me to believe we will see the HBA Newcastle needs but we will have to wait and see who shows up on game days.

- Steven Taylor is back and Newcastle need to feel his presence. His return is like a new transfer. We all know he is a very capable defender and he can get the goals off of set plays that Pardew said he needed. He needs to stay healthy though and that is something he has not been able to do over the last few seasons.

- Role players need to play big roles this year. There is a lot of potential “depth” at Newcastle but few players have really proven themselves yet. The likes of Marveaux, Anita, Gosling, Abeid, and Vuckic will need to be able to perform when called upon. With injuries and suspensions they all could quickly find themselves starting a number of games. Obertan fits into this group as well but I wouldn’t say he is “unproven”. We know what he is capable of. He had some great moments last season but he also had too many moments that were poor. The mental side of the game is big for Obertan and if the fans are behind him cheering he will do well backing up HBA.



5th Place EPL – I know a 5th place prediction might be seen as unrealistic or overly optimistic but this isn’t a fan expecting too much. Most predictions have Newcastle behind Spurs and Liverpool but there is plenty of good reason to think that Newcastle can, and will, finish above those teams.

For starters, Liverpool haven’t done much at all to improve their team. In fact, they have continued their over-spending on average players a-la Newcastle United prior to our relegation. I am not suggesting Liverpool are headed for the same fate but high transfer fees lead to high expectations. Expectations that some players just can’t handle. The managerial change hasn’t done much good for unsettled players like Andy Carroll either, who started to look like that player Liverpool thought he would be near the end of last season into the Euros, and seems to not be a part of Rodgers’ plans.

Spurs are likely to lose Modric in the next few days and only have one experienced striker in Defoe. That, mixed in with the questionable AVB, and Spurs could end up finishing 7th, 8th, or 9th. I still think Spurs have a better chance to finish above Newcastle than Liverpool though. Despite troubles at striker and Modric’s departure they still have a lot of talent in the team and will certainly add to it before the window closes.

Europa League, Carling Cup, and FA Cup – I can’t see Newcastle progressing very far in more than one of these competitions. With the focus on qualifying for Europe again, I think Newcastle will see which competition they are left in and make a run at it. They just aren’t deep enough with talent to juggle 3 cup competitions with the league like Manchester City, Chelsea, etc. are able to do.

Really, as long as Newcastle make Europe again the season can be seen as a success. It is important to the club financially and is great luring transfer targets, but more importantly, we need it to keep a hold of our star players.


2012/2013 League Prediction

1. Manchester City

2. Manchester United

3. Chelsea

4. Arsenal

5. Newcastle

6. Spurs

7. Liverpool

8. Everton

9. Stoke

10. West Brom

11. Fulham

12. Sunderland

13. QPR

14. Fulham

15. West Ham

16. Southampton

17. Norwich

18. Swansea

19. Wigan

20. Reading

Hannover 3-4 Manchester United

 Posted by on August 12, 2012 at 2:58 am  EPL, Manchester United
Aug 122012

Hannover 3-4 Manchester United

Manchester United completed their preseason preparations by edging a seven-goal thriller in Germany. It was also, arguably, the first truly entertaining match United have played this preseason and the Red Devils were in enough of a capricious multi-personality set of moods to give Sybil a run for her money. With manager Sir Alex Ferguson absent for other business, his assistant Mike Phelan proved himself worthy of his minder’s job for the night.

After coming back in style from 1-0 and 3-1 down to win, United were once again the team we know and love. Wayne Rooney scored twice – one a free-kick and the other a penalty – and new recruit Shinji Kagawa netted the winner. The win is a positive psychological boost for the club as they seek to yank back the Barclays Premier League title from the clutching hands our rich, vindictive neighbor, starting at Goodison Park against Everton on Monday next week in our first league fixture.

United started out nervously, repeating their atypical preseason bad habit of its strikers overrunning the ball in a chaotic lack of tandem with their wingers. One might be excused for referring to Javier Hernandez as ‘The Offside Kid’ instead of Chicharito! Still, that what the preseason is for, isn’t it?

Indeed, the Red Devils’ first decent chance came within minutes as Nani crossed perfectly from the right, only for a sprinting Javier Hernandez to be off in making contact by a microsecond. Michael Keane then squandered a sitter after a Kagawa’s cross was missed by Hernandez, and then, gifted with an empty net, Keane had panic-attack, sweeping the ball sideways. Seconds later, still in shock, Keane fluffed another sitter wide after a scorching Nani shot was parried to his feet by his ex-United youth team teammate Hannover goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. Welcome to life playing with the big boys, Mike!

An almost punchy United, temporarily exhausted by the relentless adrenaline rush of the early game saw a schoolboy mistake by keeper Anders Lindegaard punished in the nineteenth minute as, instead of making a clean gathering of a soft attempt by Jan Schlaudraff, he chose to push it back out with his fingertips as Hannover’s Polish striker Artur Sobiech was on the spot to slam home the rebound.

To their credit, being down a goal stiffened United’s resolve and the midfield tandem of Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa eventually started to make their passing count. Six minutes later, a beautiful rising shot from .Kagawa at the edge of the area was sensationally saved by Zieler. But United then managed to tie it up as a Wayne Rooney shot off a Nani cutback was spilled by Zieler, dropping at the feet of Hernandez, who pushed it home.

Hannover came out for the second half much changed, bringing on most of their starting team which had finished seventh in the Bundesliga last season. Once again, United inexplicably retrogressed to their ugly habits off sloppy tackling and passing, giving the Germans back their lead after only three minutes as Christian Pander fired an exquisitely accurate left-footed cross from the left, which their unmarked substitute center back Karim Haggui nodded home from close range past a stranded David De Gea..

Played at breakneck speed and full of tackles from a Bundesliga team that refused to play like the game was a friendly, the game began to get edgy. Zieler made a fantastically athletic save from Hernandez, forcing him to blast the ball wide after an exquisite setup by Wayne Rooney, who persevered despite being repeatedly, brazenly and outrageously kicked by defender Sergío Pinto.

But then Hannover somehow pulled a third goal out of nowhere, as Lars Stindl crossed from the right and and their big Norwegian striker Mohamed Abdellaoue turned in mid air like a pirouetting ballerina, firing an exquisite back heel past De Gea. It was a move United’s own crown Prince of finesse, Eric Cantona, would have applauded.

Minutes later, however, after another ludicrously blatant foul by Pinto on Rooney at the edge of the penalty area, the Scouse striker fired an equally marvelous curving rocket of a free kick past a frozen Zieler. to make it 3-2.

Then, 35 minutes in, after Christian Pander had a thumping left-footed volley saved by De Gea, the game was suddenly tied. After a brilliant run of passing by Cleverley and Kagawa, Rooney was on his own in the six yard box, rounding Zieler, and about to fire home, when the goalie dived into his path, forcing him to fall down before the referee blew for a penalty. Despite having missed his last penalty attempt, Rooney stepped right up to confidently fire home the equalizer.

And, finally, six minutes later, Kagawa sealed United’s joyful comeback with a very difficult finish from an obtuse angle after a fine headed pass from Rooney had set him up perfectly. Hannover, who were unbeaten at home last season in both Bundesliga and Europa League play. ended up losing their record. Perhaps they would have been wise to ease up on their tackling and carried on coasting to victory. Instead, they chose to throw down the gauntlet and play tough. It is a decision their coach surely regrets in retrospect. At any rate, a bit of aggro did the lads good!

Suarez Stays, Carroll Stays

 Posted by on August 8, 2012 at 5:23 am  EPL, From the GFT Blogs, Liverpool
Aug 082012

Luis Suarez has signed a new contract, thus ending speculation (for now) about a move away from Anfield for the often polarizing forward.

So what does this mean?
I found myself asking that question constantly throughout the day. On the one hand, I despise Suarez for his actions in South Africa as well as the Patrice Evra racial saga. There’s a reason this guy is always in the spotlight.
But he also proved to be the only reliable goal scorer on this team last season. He’s going to have to pick up where he left off, because the immediate future does not look very bright in terms of offensive firepower. For all my issues with Suarez off the field, he’s quite good on it. He has a nose for goal and when he’s not hitting the post, he’s usually on point with his shooting. He’s exactly what Liverpool need right now, especially if Daniel Agger is about to depart.
So where will he fit in with Brendan Rodgers’ 4-3-3? Suarez has some experience playing on the wing in a 4-3-3 system and he’s not physically imposing enough to spearhead the “trident”. It seems that duty will fall to Andy Carroll now that he has reiterated his desire to play for Liverpool after turning down an offer from West Ham United. Suarez is probably a pretty natural fit on the wing and Rodgers is quite adamant about the 4-3-3 so it seems the current lineup will look something like this…
Johnson – Skrtel – Carragher – Enrique
Lucas – Gerrard – Adam/Henderson
Suarez – Carroll – Downing/Cole
Not a terrible lineup, especially if Carroll continues to improve on his form from the latter half of the 2011-12 season. But here’s the thing: I REALLY liked it when Suarez was a second forward with the freedom to roam around. He has a poacher’s mentality and exceptional finishing skills which means he needs to be in front of goal as much as possible. I would rather see something like this…
Johnson – Skrtel – Carragher – Enrique
Cole – Lucas – Gerrard – Downing
The 4-4-1-1 allows Suarez the freedom to roam and get in front of goal as much as possible while Carroll can hold up play and try to pounce on any aerial opportunities Suarez might be able to create. Of course, this means an increase in defensive responsibility for Joe Cole and nobody wants that.
But alas, Brendan Rodgers will be implementing a 4-3-3 no matter what. And it’s not the worse thing in the world. It’s just not the best for Suarez if you ask me. The important thing is Liverpool have two quality starting forwards heading into this season and that’s more than you could say a few days ago.
“Walk on with hope in your heart and you’ll never walk alone!”
Aug 022012

When Liverpool squared off with Tottenham in Baltimore, Maryland last week we saw a glimpse of what the Brendan Rodgers Era will look like.

“Tiki Taka” is the name of the game. Lots and Lots of short passes in order to maintain possession and push the ball into the goal from six yards out or less. It’s the style that Spain has ridden to an unprecedented three straight major (World Cup/Euro) international titles. Some love it, some hate it, and some (like me) can only appreciate it when it’s performed by the likes of Xavi and Iniesta as opposed to Joe Allen and some guy from Iceland (sorry, I’m far too lazy to check the spelling on his name right now).
When Rodgers was at Swansea this past season, the Welsh club topped the Premier League in terms of passes completed. It took the newly promoted Swans all the way to the middle of the table. A huge achievement for the top flight newbies. But that’s not what I want to see at Liverpool. I want to be playing in the European tournament that actually matters (no disrespect to FC Gomel) every year. I want to splash cash for the likes of Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres and Javier Mascherano.
Brendan Rodgers, however, does not want any of this. He wants his players to play his style. If this were (American) football or basketball or even hockey I would applaud his efforts and get behind him 100%. But this is “futbol” and the only way to win is to have the best. And to get the best, you have to buy the best (Sorry, Arsene. Get used to it). King Kenny left the club strapped for cash after last summer trying to do the exact same thing that Rodgers is trying to do: get his guys. We all saw what happened after that.
Last summer I was beating the drum for a Youth Movement to increase the playing time/roles for guys like Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey. I was curious to see how Raheem Sterling and Nathan Eccleston might perform at the top level this past season. I have completely changed my mind. The Liverpool Football Club already lives in the past too much as it is. They cannot afford to take the cautious, “wait for the right guys” approach that Rodgers and John Henry are preaching. The latter has said that the former is not under pressure to earn a Champions League berth next season.
I want better than that.
I want to believe that Kaka moving to Anfield is not entirely insane. I want Clint Dempsey. I want a massive bid launched for Edinson Cavani. I’m a firm believer that the “Tiki Taka” game only works when you have world class players (i.e. any given Spanish national team member) who can execute it to the fullest.
Last season I gave Kenny Dalglish a long leash to do things “his way or the highway”. When it came to the transfer market, I applauded his strategy. He simply picked the wrong players. Right now I don’t like Rodgers’ style, the roster he has to execute it, nor his approach to the transfer market this summer. That’s not to say I want him gone, but I do hope things will change as quickly as he expects.
The entire Liverpool Football Club are already far behind Europe’s powerhouses in many respects. Failing to act and act quickly with a splash (or two) this summer will only increase that gap; possibly to a point of no return to Champions League football…
“Walk on with hope in your hearts and you’ll never walk alone!”

Oh Bebe! A Close Shave in Cape Town

 Posted by on July 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm  EPL, Manchester United
Jul 212012
865045 14616232 640 360 Oh Bebe! A Close Shave in Cape Town

Ajax Cape Town 1-1 Manchester United
Bebe, a/k/a Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, long a figure of mirth and derision for Manc standup  comedians and Noel Gallagher’s on-stage patter with the High-Flying Birds saved Manchester United  from a shock defeat at the hands of a no better than average Ajax Cape Town by scoring an injury-time equalizer on a rainy, miserable night after Alcardo van Graan’s 86th audacious back-heeled effort from Khama Billiat’s corner looked to have secured victory for the South African team.

United were throughly poor throughout. United, who  leave South Africa for China on Saturday night to  meet Shanghai Shenhua featuring Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba next Wednesday, had begun their summer tour with an uninspired yawn of  1-0 victory against AmaZulu in Durban last Tuesday.  Being without Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra because of  Euro 2012 and Olympics duty leaves Sir Alex Ferguson with a  somewhat inexperienced squad for the tour.  Notions that so many of the  squad members are young and hungry have proved, thus far at any rate, to be wishful thinking. With Michael Carrick and Rio Ferdinand putting in full, albeit uninspired shifts, one can’t help but wonder if  the Gaffer is  testing the water to see how far the two veterans have slipped in fitness and form before making other arrangements

Ferguson chose to mix  youth and experience in Cape Town, with the likes of newcomer Shinji Kagawa, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand struggling to cope and with Scott Wootton, Marnick Vermijl  very much overmatched.  Consequently, physically dominant, Ajax Cape Town grew in confidence, dominating the early stages of the game. Shinji Kagawa, who made a two-minute substitute appearance against AmaZulu, struggled throughout, although not nearly so much as the Brazilian midfielder Anderson, who huffed and puffed throughout. Clearly, the extra weight Ando still carries, is as much a hindrance to the progress of his knees as anything psychological. Indeed, United went in at half time lucky not be behind 2-0 after the outstanding Zimbabwean Khama Billiatt shot slightly wide of our impressive third-string goalie Ben Amos  Then, after dispossessing Paul Scholes in midfield, Ajax were unlucky as Amai Billiat saw his 20-yarder go wide of Amos’s post. Then Amos had to make a fine finger tipped save  from the impressive Paul Riusike in the 41st minute. Clearly, playing for a season in the championship at Hull City as a loanee will not hurt Amos’ career at all.

Kagawa then wasted United’s first  good clear-cut chance on the hour mark when he slid unmarked into the box,  heading a Javíer Hernandez cross wide. With Carrick repeatedly gifting the ball away and Wootton and Ferdinand  steadfastly flat-footed and slow at the back, United proved to be just plain lucky when Ben Amos made a fantastic diving save of  Thembinkosi Fanteni’s low shot at the near post. United’s good juju finally deserted them in the 86th minutes though, when striker Akardo Van Graan scored for the home club with a  jammy looping back-heel from a Fanteni corner.

With the crowd of  50,000 now booing their lackluster performance, United launched themselves at the Cape Town defense repeatedly. And there was the substitute, the former street urchin from the mean streets of Lisbon, Bebe, only recently introduced as a substitute for Chicharito, leveling it up at the games’s very death, alone at the far post, taking a second chance  to volley home, after connecting to a sweetly hit long-distance pass from  Dimitar Berbatov. The rain soaked crowd of 50,000 many of whom had spent three weeks wages for the cheapest seats, went mad with joy.

One last apt comment is that these two South African teams have been far superior tactically and physically as opponents  than the mediocre North American ML S opponents United faced exactly a year ago. As such, they are a far better test for our lads then the mediocre alternative. Next stop Shanghai!

hi res 148991056 crop 650x440 Oh Bebe! A Close Shave in Cape Town

Newcastle United 2011/2012 Review

 Posted by on May 31, 2012 at 2:51 am  EPL, Newcastle United
May 312012

Back in August I predicted Newcastle United would finish 12th in the Premier League this season.  At that point I think there were a lot more Newcastle supporters that would have agreed with my prediction than have said we’d finish 5th.  It is remarkable how things can change over the course of 38 matches.  Signings proved to be better than expected, departures proved to be missed very little, Pardew managed the squad brilliantly, and even Mike Ashley proved he was willing to spend the money needed to make the team better.

Match of the Year: NUFC 3 – 0 Man U — Jan 4th, 2012
This match was the turning point of the season.  The team came out of November and December with 2 wins, 2 draws, and 5 losses.  It was the point that a lot of us were thinking the team had a good run and now it was time for reality to set in.  The confidence this match gave the players and fans was immeasurable.  The team went on to win 9 of their next 14 matches.

Surprise Player of the Year: Tim Krul
It was a surprise, to me anyway, that Krul got the starting job over Harper at the beginning of the year.  With what was expected to be a tough season laying ahead the experience of Harper seemed to be the likely selection.  Kudos to Pardew.  Not only did Krul’s lack of experience have little effect on the season, Krul played a major role in the team’s success.  With a defense that was shaky at times, Krul helped to lead NUFC to 15 clean sheets in all competitions.

Player of the Year: Fabricio Coloccini
If you told me that someone from Blackburn will not only be back in the Premier League in two years but earn a spot on the league’s best XI I would tell you that you’re crazy.  That is exactly what Coloccini has done.  What makes his performances even more impressive is that for most of the season Newcastle played with a patchwork defense.  Steven Taylor missed nearly the entire season, Santon experienced his first season in England, and although Perch, Williamson, and Simpson had good years, they also had some very unimpressive moments. Without Capt. Colo NUFC are not in Europe next season.

Signing of the Year: Demba Ba
Yes, Papiss Cisse was electric.  He lit up the second half of the season but Demba Ba lit up the first half of the season.  He lit it up while HBA, Perch, Williamson, and Obertan were really struggling.  Then in the second half of the season Ba played out wide, out of position, and did a lot of the dirty work allowing Cisse to put his stamp on the Premier League.  It is no secret Ba was frustrated but always came around to say he will do what is best for the team and he is happy the club were winning and Cisse was scoring.  All of this on a free transfer too.  He wasn’t just the signing of the year for NUFC but for the entire league.

Goal of the Year:  Cisse vs. Chelsea 
I don’t think I really need to say much about this one.  Two half-field runs by HBA are a close 2nd and 3rd. 

Overall Grade: B+
Although Newcastle finished 5th place and surprised almost everyone they still had moments where they should have done better.  Losing 4-0 to Wigan, 5-2 to Fulham, 4-2 to Norwich, and 5-0 to Spurs we extremely disappointing loses.  Although these scorelines can be attributed to Pardew’s strategy to go for the points with only the exception of Spurs, Newcastle should have took all 3 points from those other matches.  At the end of the day though, this was an extremely successful season for the club.  We saw some very impressive outings, some great players come in, great players sign new contracts, and the team qualify for Europe.  If you asked everyone in Newcastle they would take the same result next season and every season after that.

Let the transfer window anxiety begin…

Champions…Now What?

 Posted by on May 22, 2012 at 5:27 pm  EPL, European Champions League, Manchester City
May 222012

It’s been over a week since Dzeko and Aguero scored in injury time to make City champions of England for the first time since 1968.  I’ve read every match recap and watched every highlight video I can find.  I’d love for the high as Premier League champions to last forever, but Chelsea winning the Champions League has actually created debate about which side’s accomplishments are more impressive.  So the logical next step is to analyze what Manchester City will look like next season by going over the potential ins and outs.  I’ll follow up in a few weeks to give some recommendations on who I’d like to see join the team, as well as who I’d like to see moved on.


Eden Hazard, Lille

By all accounts Hazard will be the most talked about transfer this summer.  The Belgian winger is still just 21, and will be making the jump from Ligue 1 to the Premier League.  The only question at this point is which side will he be joining.  City, United, and Chelsea have all been linked, with Hazard’s wages and his agent’s fee being a sticking point for all three clubs.  Hazard can play on either wing or centrally, so he offers versatility as well as youth.  Hazard scored 20 goals and had 15 assists for Lille in 2011/2012

Robin Van Persie, Arsenal

Until Van Persie signs a new contract with Arsenal, rumors will continue to follow him, as his current contract expires next summer.  Wenger seems adamant about keeping him in the fold for next season, and negotiations are currently underway for that new contract.  City and Juventus have both been linked, although the latest rumors hint that Juventus may be giving up chase.  Van Persie led all scorers in the Premier League last season with 30 goals, and almost single handedly carried Arsenal to a 3rd place finish.

Edinson Cavani, Napoli

Cavani appears to be the primary backup option if Van Persie elects to stay with Arsenal.  He played in a front three with Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi, and produced breathtaking football at times.  He’s only 25, so he would command a premium transfer fee.  Cavani scored 23 goals last season in Serie A.

Thiago Silva, AC Milan

Silva is on the short list of best center backs in the world, which would make the Brazilian defender high on anyone’s wish list.  He’s still just 27, very young for a defender, and helped Milan finish 2nd this season.  It may be harsh on Lescott to push him to the bench, and Silva may be more expensive than any other target this summer, but if Mancini has the opportunity to buy one of the best in the world at any position, it has to be considered a possibility.


Owen Hargreaves, Midfielder

Hargreaves was officially released today after having little to no impact this season.

Wayne Bridge, Defender

Bridge is finally in the last year of his deal – look for him to go on a free to any side who will take him.

Roque Santa Cruz, Striker

I could copy and paste the same sentence from Wayne Bridge here – Mancini has had no use for Santa Cruz, and will be happy to be rid of his wages if he can find a taker.

Emmanuel Adebayor, Striker

In contrast with the first three, Adebayor actually had a very good season while on loan at Spurs, scoring 17 goals and contributing 11 assists.  There is no doubt that Adebayor could help City next season, but it appears that neither side is interested in a reconciliation.  A permanent return to Spurs is a possibility, as well as transfers to Ligue 1 or MLS.

Carlos Tevez, Striker

Tevez had a major part to play down the stretch of the season, but many would argue that the league would’ve never come down to the final day if Tevez hadn’t up and left for Argentina when he was needed in Manchester.  The pros of his game may or may not outweigh the distractions that come with Tevez being a City player.  AC Milan are rumored to be interested.

Edin Dzeko, Striker

Dzeko is very much a confidence player, and when he was first choice to start the season, at times he was unplayable.  He scored 4 goals against Spurs, including one of the best headers I’ve seen.  But the truth is that he won’t be able to get the matches at City that he could at some other clubs.  Juventus may be interested, and I couldn’t blame him if he asked to leave in order to get more match time.

Kolo Toure, Defender

Kolo has become a decent backup defender, and has done a pretty good job when called upon to backup at either CB or RB.  But he’s getting older, and if PSG want to bring him in to start every match, he could very well leave.

Aleksander Kolarov, Defender

Kolarov has taken quite a bit of stick from the supporters over the last two years.  People seem to forget that he was purchased to replace Wayne Bridge, and few would argue that the two players are in the same class.  But since Gael Clichy was brought in last summer, Kolarov has become a backup, which I’m sure is not what he signed up for when he joined.  Kolarov could choose to head back to Italy in order to get some more match time.

Now I’d be surprised if City were to buy all four of the players under ins, just like I’d be surprised if City were to sell all the players under outs, but these are some options that City could choose to exercise over the next few months.  I doubt we’ll see a lot of movement with the Euros coming up soon, but I’m sure the City front office will be hard at work trying to make the City squad as strong as possible in order to defend their title next season.  Who do you want to see City make a move for?




Fulham Preview

 Posted by on August 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm  Uncategorized
Aug 272011

I am not sure what kinda of Newcastle team will show up in the wake of Barton’s exit from the club. If it is anything like that team that showed up on Thursday just before his decision to leave, we could be in trouble. Despite the inspired win in extra time Scunthorpe should have been easily disposed of and they weren’t. Did Barton’s medical at, and eventual move to, QPR really have the team that down? Did the squad just overlook Scunthorpe? Or did the match just show how far we have yet to go? Fulham will clear these questions up.

Barton moving on isn’t the only missing player that will have a big effect on this match though. Luckily for us Simon Davies has been ruled out for months. Barton should be a player we will be just fine without. This will clearly have a negative for Fulham and will hopefully even out any bad feelings our players may have.

Another positive for Newcastle is that Fulham have struggled to score this season. Newcastle’s defense on the other hand has yet to allow a goal in the league after two matches. Fulham have plenty of talent but if Colo and Co keep up the strong defending they should be able to keep Fulham off the score sheet. With a handful of players threatening at different moments this season (Vuckic, RTaylor, STaylor, Cabaye, the Ameobis, etc.) I can’t see how Fulham keep NUFC off the board. Fulham aren’t quite clicking like Newcastle are at the moment and they are just coming off of a mid-week defeat in Europe. It certainly wasn’t a pressing match for the Cottagers, but the 3-0 advantage aside, losing to Dnipro was disappointing. The scoreline may be a close one but I expect Newcastle to win comfortably behind the fans at St James’ Park… 2-0 to the good guys.

Player to Watch: Cabaye – Cabaye needs to step up. He has shown glimpses of brilliance but has too often gone missing in matches. With Barton gone and HBA still out the majority of the pressure now falls to the Frenchman. He has the talent but has he adjusted to the PL enough to take on this role yet? Time will tell.

EPL to Orlando

 Posted by on June 25, 2011 at 6:39 am  Uncategorized
Jun 252011

Bolton Wanderers icon EPL to Orlandolrg Newcastle United EPL to Orlando

Orlando City will be playing against not one but TWO English Premier League teams this summer. Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United will be in Orlando in July as part of their pre season tour.

The game vs Bolon will be played on July 17th and Newcastle United will be played on July 23rd. Both games will kick off at 7:30pm and will be played at the Citrus Bowl.

You can contact 855-ORL-CITY to get tickets to the games. There are tickets as low as $25!