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Club vs. Country saga

Posted by Daniel Stone on October 13, 2007

owen.jpg This week Club football is on hold for the European Championship 2008 qualifiers. Michael Owen, Newcastle United and England striker has reignited the whole club vs. country saga once again. This can be quite a tedious topic but I will be indulging into my opinion whether it is more important to play for your club rather then your country. 

Sam Allardyce the Newcastle manager had said that it would be the Club’s decision whether Michael Owen would be fit to play both international games this weekend and next week. Owen then responded to these claims by stating he would only listen to his surgeon as she knows whether he is ready or not, and she says he is ready 

Back in July this year Jaime Carragher retired from international football due to him being over looked for his preferred position (Centre back) by being asked to play left back, right back or even left on the bench. Paul Scholes also retired from international football at a young age, 29 as he stated he wanted to concentrate playing club football. The reason behind these players retiring from international football ‘early’ is because they believe their football career can be prolonged. Why else are these players choosing club over country? 

As George Graham put it to Ian Wright back in the 90’s, “Remember where your bread is buttered”. Money has become a major factor in football and especially in Club football. With all the publicity involved and the amount of football on TV nowadays clubs have gained more power over the years to a stage where they can influence if a player is called up or not. I also believe that with the influx of quality foreign players over the years, the Premiership has become more competitive which means that there is a lot of prestige at stake on winning the Premiership or the Champions League.  

On the other hand, in the past it was always a boys dream to represent his country and score a goal at the World Cup. Maybe this dream is still alive but with International players, International football seems to be second tier. I believe this is due to all the international friendlies nowadays. Instead of breeding newcomers to the international stage and preparing the teams for the ‘important’ qualifiers they seem to be a nuisance for the Club teams. One thing for sure is that the World Cup only comes once every four years so this makes it the most prestigious tournament and trophy in football. I know what I would put first.

Posted in International Football, Newcastle United, Premiership | 12 Comments »

The reasons behind Arsenal’s great start

Posted by Daniel Stone on October 4, 2007

Last season Arsenal arguably played the most attractive football in the Premiership but were constantly let down by their finishing in front of goal. Other factors that influenced Arsenal finishing fourth last year include;

– Being bullied out of games when playing against physical teams (mainly when having to play away to the northern clubs).

– Went through an injury crisis, most notably with Gallas, Henry and Van Persie missing chunks of the season.

– Didn’t fully adapt to playing at the Emirates.

– Bottom line is they were not consistent enough.

This season there are a number of factors which have resulted in Arsenal topping the Premiership as well as their Champions League group. But if you have a look at Arsenal’s fixtures so far this season you will see why this has had a major influence on their top form. Football is all about confidence, and Arsenal are buzzing. Take strikers for instance, when on a high, a striker will try a shot from 25 yards and hit the back of the net whereas the same player on a low can’t hit a barn door (Shevchenko is a great example!). 

Before the season started Arsenal took part in the Emirates Cup in which they played against Paris St German and Inter de Milano, both of these games they won. This was a great booster for them as they had previously stuttered at the Emirates. 

These have been the games they have played in the Premiership so far this season: 

Arsenal 2 – 1 Fulham

Blackburn 1 – 1 Arsenal

Arsenal 1 – 0 Manchester City

Arsenal 3 – 1 Portsmouth

Tottenham 1 – 3 Arsenal

Arsenal 5 – 0 Derby

West Ham 0 – 1 Arsenal 

What does this tell us? Arsenal have been quite lucky having played 4 of their first 6 games at home. They are now making the most of playing in a big stadium like the Emirates and by winning all their home games their confidence is high. This has resulted in them going to places like West Ham and Tottenham full of confidence and them winning games which last season they didn’t!  

As well as this, Henry’s departure has so far galvanised the Arsenal youngsters who are playing out of their skin, especially young Cesc who has been absolutely class. The latter having recently stated that Henry’s departure has helped the young Gunners who were intimidated by him. 

“Henry intimidated us. He is a great player but it was not easy to play alongside him. We were a bit inhibited – dependent on everything that he wanted to do. Everyone was saying that this year without Henry we would be nowhere. That has motivated everyone.”

The question is how long will Arsenal’s confidence be on an up – it takes just one game to send their confidence the opposition direction.

Posted in Arsenal, Premiership | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Summary of September

Posted by Daniel Stone on October 2, 2007

adebyor.jpgI haven’t been able to write on the blog over the past month of September as I have been working on a different Project, which hasn’t been finished as of yet either! Therefore as I have been away for an entire month I think it’s a good idea for a summary of all the main things that occurred during the month of September:

Premiership

·         Thierry who?? Arsenal have started the season amazingly and notched up 6 successive victories in September which leaves them sitting prettily at the top of the Premiership and their Champions League group. Many pundits had said they would suffer the loss of Thierry Henry, however, his loss seems to have vindicated the Arsenal youngsters who have since stated that Henry had been a burden on their development (Cesc).

·         Manchester United have taken over the old old Arsenal (Tony Adams legacy), having won 1-0 six times in their last eight games. Boring Boring United! They are not firing on all cylinders as of yet but they are still in contention for the Premiership title.

·         To the contrary, Chelsea have successfully pressed the self-destruct button. Do you think Roman Abramovich has realised he made a mistake in sacking Jose Mourinho? Of course he doesn’t because this is just a game for him where he can spend his pocket money. The best decision Abramovich made was appointing Mourinho and the worst was sacking him. Yes Mourinho was sacked to the contrary ‘mutual consent’ malarkey coming out of Stamford Bridge and Mourinho himself.

·         Derby will be the first team to get relegated and might even be challenging Sunderland’s record as the worst Premiership team to get relegated.

La Liga

·         Real Madrid are somehow top of La Liga. I say somehow as they are not playing attractive football but winning. Take the last game against Getafe for instance, Getafe dominated the entire 90 minutes having 20 odd shots on goal but somehow Real came away with the 3 points. Their luck will soon run out so Schuster better get his troops into gear and playing this ‘attractive’ football we were promised!

·         The new galacticos, Barça, are relying heavily on the new Diego Armando Maradona. It’s amazing to see how similar Lionel Messi is to that great player Maradona was. Even Thierry has stated that if Messi keeps up this form he will go down as one of the best players of all time which goes to show just how well Messi has been performing this season. Thierry himself hasn’t performed as well as we have all become accustomed YET, oh yeah I forgot, he did score a hat-trick at the weekend, but prior to that he has struggled.

·         Sevilla are going through a rough patch, I don’t know if it has anything to do with the death of Antonio Puerta. My dear condolences are with his family and friends, his wife was eight months pregnant with his child. It truly is a very sad story. I really like the way Sevilla have played over the last two years and let’s hope they can get back to winning ways after 4 straight defeats, win another trophy and dedicate it to the magnificent Antonio Puerta.

Champions League

·         After the first round of games there were no really shocks apart from Fenerbahce beating Inter and Chelsea drawing with Rosenborg at home . The second batch of matches commence today, bring it on!

Posted in Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Derby County, La Liga, Manchester United, Premiership, Real Madrid, Sevilla | Leave a Comment »

Controversial penalty, goalkeeping howlers and a shock!!

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 20, 2007

chelseapenalty.jpgThis past weekend was dubbed as the biggest of the season so far and my god it didn’t disappoint. These are the major talking points of the third week into the 2007/2008 Premiership season:

  • Everybody seems to be hounding Rob Styles (the referee that took charge of Liverpool – Chelsea yesterday) but I for one, as a neutral, thought penalty as soon as I saw the incident live on TV. Having seen the replay I now know it definitely wasn’t a penalty. As we know the referee doesn’t have the option of looking at the replay (YET) but considering his position on the pitch when the incident happened he should have made the right decision. However, being a referee in the top flight these days must be the hardest job on earth!! He has since been dropped for next weekend due to his frailties. The game finished 1 all and Chelsea will be the happier of the two with the outcome. Liverpool will be delighted Fernando Torres got on the score sheet on his home debut. Liverpool 1 – 1 Chelsea

  • Manchester City provided the shock of the weekend, somehow beating rivals Manchester United with a long range effort from Brazilian Geovanni. I say somehow due to the pressure Manchester City were under at times. In the end they managed to keep their third clean sheet in a row as well as pick up 9 points from 3 games, shooting to the top of the Premiership. Manchester United have a major game this weekend hosting Tottenham, another defeat could mean the end of their defence of their title. Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United 

  • Arsenal felt aggrieved with the final result against Blackburn considering they were leading for long spells of the match and the manner in which Blackburn equalised, a howler by Jens Lehmann. Blackburn could also point to the fact that Arsenal took the lead through Robin Van Persie via a mistake by Brad Friedel the Blackburn stopper. Arsene Wenger stated after the match that Blackburn were violent (it always is for Arsenal against the northern clubs) but as Mark Hughes rightly says it is just sour grapes from Wenger as Arsenal thought they would come away with the three points. Blackburn 1-1 Arsenal

  • At the other end of the table newcomers Birmingham and Derby find themselves in a spot of bother having only acquired 1 point from their first 3 games and most notably Bolton are in big trouble, having lost each of their first 3 games. With El Hadj Diouf and Nicolas Anelka wanting out before the transfer window closes, Bolton might well be faced with a relegation battle.

 Take note of this past weekend as not many will finish like this one, none of the supposed ‘big four’ picking up 3 points.

Posted in Arsenal, Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Chelsea, Derby County, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Premiership, Tottenham | Leave a Comment »

Premiership Champions – Chelsea??

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 16, 2007

premiershiptrophy.jpgThe long awaited Part 4 is here! Here you can see Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3.

1st Position – Chelsea                          

If the rumors are to be believed, Arjen Robben will be playing for Real Madrid this season whereas Daniel Alves will become a Blue. I think this is a great move for Chelsea, not only is Robben very injury prone, Alves will give great balance to the side (being a right sided player). Florent Malouda will be Robben’s replacement, a very good one indeed. Against Birmingham City and Reading, Chelsea showed their power and quality. They were not as solid as usual but these games are an example of how Chelsea are made of champions, others wouldn’t have grinded out those 3 points. Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko have had a season to adapt to the Premiership so expect better performances this year.

Key Man: Didier Drogba 

2nd Position – Manchester United 

After an amazing season last year, United have made reinforcements spending big amounts. This season I think they will just fall short though as the signings (Nani and Anderson) seem to be more for the future rather than the present. I also think Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney are too similar as a strike force, both small and very technical. There may be times when United will need to hit a long ball to ease some pressure and so a target man will be needed. I think Owen Hargreaves is a great signing as a holding midfield player and if Cristiano Ronaldo can equal last season, we are in for a real treat. They will not be far off Chelsea.

Key Man: Cristiano Ronaldo 

3rd Position – Arsenal 

Arsenal, undoubtedly play the most attractive football in the Premiership. However, this alone does not win you trophies. Arsenal are begging for a prolific striker who can bury their numerous chances. Is Eduardo Da Silva the answer? Time will tell but I think this season will be too early for him. It will be interesting to see how Arsenal will cope without their ex captain Thierry Henry. If they can pick up points at places like Blackburn and Bolton (teams who have bullied them in previous seasons) they may have a chance of challenging for the title. If they keep this young team together they will be a real force in the forthcoming seasons.

Key Man: Robin Van Persie 

4th Position – Liverpool 

There is a lot of pressure on Rafa Benitez to bring the Premiership to Anfield, if at all possible, more so than previous seasons. Liverpool have spent big this season due to the new investors and so there is a real belief within the camp this is their year. However, with there being so many players at the club it is going to be difficult to keep them all happy. Reports suggest Crouch was already unsettled after the first game of the season. They also rely too much on Steven Gerrard. I think Fernando Torres will be a great signing but he will need a season to find his feet in the Premiership. Vronin and Ryan Babel are also good signings, the latter one for the future. 

Key Man: Steven Gerrard 

5th Position – Tottenham 

Another team that have spent big and are under great pressure to at the very least equal last seasons place and close the gap with the big four. Jose Mourinho has said they are in contention to battle for the title but I think that is out of the question. The signing of Darren Bent is very peculiar, considering they already have (and kept) a very similar player in Jermaine Defoe. I still cannot see them breaking into the Champions League. They still lack quality and desperately need a left winger.

Key Man: Dimitri Berbatov

Posted in Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Premiership, Tottenham | 2 Comments »

Relegation dog fight – Wigan and Boro down

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 9, 2007

bororelegated2.jpgThis is Part 3 of this 4 series Premieship predictions. Here you have Part 1 & Part 2 

16th Position – Sunderland 

Roy Keane did a wonderful job for Sunderland last season and I think his grit and determination will be passed on to his players this season enabling them to beat the drop. I think Roy Keane has done well as a manager because he learnt a lot from Sir Alex and I can imagine him getting plenty of advice from his mentor throughout the season. The squad lacks quality for the time being but expect new signings before the transfer window closes.

Key man: Roy Keane 

17th Position – Birmingham City 

In my opinion Birmingham City will beat the drop, but only just. This one could go down to the wire. Steve Bruce has been there before and got relegated so I think he has learnt his lessons. He previously opted to buy experienced players who just seemed to pick up their wage packets. This time Bruce has opted for young, hungry players. His signings have been OK. They go into the season knowing they will be in a dog fight.

Key man: Gary McSheffrey 

18th Position – Middlesbrough 

Now this is a shock but I truly believe Boro will be in big big trouble this year. I think if they keep hold of Yakubu they could beat the drop but if he leaves (and he has stated he wants to leave) or even if he stays unwillingly, Boro will be in the Championship next season. Boro were average last season, and I think Gareth Southgate is too inexperienced to manage a Premiership team at this moment in time. Keeping Jonathan Woodgate fit (difficult task) is also essential for them to stay up.

Key man: Jonathan Woodgate 

19th Position – Wigan 

Loosing Paul Jewel, in my opinion, will result in Wigan getting relegated. Chris Hutchinson has taken over, but I am not convinced. He didn’t last long last time he was in the hot seat at Bradford City. He is also odds on to be the first Premiership manager to get the axe. His signings are very questionable, especially Titus Bramble. Last season they struggled but beat the drop, however, this year they won’t be so lucky.

Key man: Jason Koumas 

20th Position – Derby County It was amazing Derby County came up last season and Billy Jones Davies seems to be a really good manager. Nevertheless they haven’t got much quality and it seems it will be mission impossible to stay up. They are favourites to go down and expect to see them at the bottom as of Christmas time.

Key man: Robert Earnshaw

Posted in Birmingham City, Derby County, Middlesbrough, Premiership, Sunderland, Wigan | 4 Comments »

Season with Potential – West Ham into Europe

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 8, 2007

uefacup.jpg This is part 2 to this series of Premiership predictions. Click here for Part 1. 

6th Position – West Ham 

After a disastrous season last year I think West Ham have a point to prove, and that being they deserve their status in the Premiership. They have rung major changes to the squad and to be honest I think they have made some major coups, most notably Freddie Ljungberg, Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy (if he can just concentrate on his football). I don’t think Kieron Dyer will be a good signing for them though as they may have too many hot heads in the squad, and it would also mean him being reunited with Lee Bowyer (we all know what happened last time!). Alan Curbishly has had money to spend, the pressure is on.

Key man: Scott Parker  

7th position – Portsmouth 

Another team who have added to an already good squad. Defensively they look very solid and they seem to have spent big on fire power this season bringing in David Nugent and John Utaka. Lomana Lua Lua has also had a great pre-season so he is another one to watch out for. I can see Portsmouth improving on last season but just missing out on Europe.

Key man: Sol Campbell 

8th Position – Blackburn 

Roque Santa Cruz will be a brilliant signing for Blackburn and there is lots of potential to establish a great partnership with Bennie McCarthy. As well as signing Santa Cruz the next best business Blackburn have done this summer is keeping McCarthy. I think stability is a key factor for Blackburn and I can see them having a similar season to last year. Still don’t have enough to cement a European place though.

Key man: Bennie McCarthy 

9th Position – Newcastle United 

Sam Allerdice had a reputation at Bolton for playing ugly football but grinding out results. It took Sam many years to get to the level he achieved with Bolton having fought many dog fights not so long ago. I think he will need time with Newcastle. They will play ugly football but will be more consistent in comparison to previous years. I am not sure this is what Newcastle fans will be looking for though as they normally ask for more than just results. However, they have been let down immensely over the years so they might just be satisfied with a top ten finish. If Allerdice is given time (a couple of years) Newcastle will be able to compete for Europe, not sure if time is on his side though!

Key man: Michael Owen (if he can stay fit) 

10th Position – Bolton 

Bolton will not change much under Sammy Lee considering he spent so much time under Allerdice’s tenure. They have signed quite a few low key players and have lost the influential figure of Ben Haim at the back. Considering other teams have improved I think Bolton will fall a few places from last season. Don’t expect Bolton to change their style of play either. Ironic that in the first game of the season the Bolton fans will see Sam Allerdice back, in the opposition dug out. You just wouldn’t be able to write that script up!Key man: Nicolas Anelka

Posted in Blackburn, Bolton, Newcastle United, Portsmouth, Premiership, West Ham | 2 Comments »

Mediocre season – City to evade relegation

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 7, 2007

relegation.jpgThis is the first part of a series of four sections. With the Premiership set to kick off next Saturday everybody is getting their fantasy team together and giving their predictions for the up and coming season. So here are my predictions of how teams will fare in the Premiership this season, divided in four sections. The first section will be those teams who get to 28 games played and no longer have anything to play for (positions 11 – 15). The second part will be analyzing those teams that have potential to do something this season (positions 6 – 10). The penultimate section will be stating which teams will be involved in a scrappy dog fight (positions 16 -20). This analysis will be finished by (dare I say) predicting who will be the Premiership Champions for the 2007/2008 season. 

11th PositionEverton 

Everton have been fairly inactive this season in the transfer market, having made three signings so far this season. Leighton Baines and Phil Jageilka are great reinforcements. I think David Moyes did a great job last season guiding them to the Uefa Cup finishing in 6th position. They have recently been linked to Lucho Gonzalez of Porto for £11 million which would be a real coup considering Real Madrid had been chasing him a few weeks back. (Although Real seem to be after any player that has two legs!) There is potential in this team and if their top players peak they could be a real force in Europe. Being involved in so many competitions could affect their Premiership form though as they do not have much strength in depth.

Key man: Andy Johnson 

12th PositionAston Villa 

Martin O’Neil has been trying to calm Aston Villa fans by telling them reinforcement will arrive, however, in less than a month the transfer window closes and Aston Villa have been very inactive in the transfer market so far. They have sold quite a few players and with the takeover last season there was supposed to be an injection of cash, but this hasn’t been the case. Maybe O’Neil has something lined up before the transfer window closes. (Aston Villa fans hope!) I think he is a great manager BUT if the reinforcements don’t arrive soon Aston Villa will struggle to creep into the top ten.

Key man: Stilian Petrov 

13th PositionManchester City 

I think it will be unlucky 13 for City. Much has already been discussed about Sven and his signings, all of different nationalities and many that don’t speak English. This all has the ingredients for Manchester City to struggle with a team that will need plenty of time to gel together. On the bright side I don’t think that they will get relegated, can you imagine how Sven would cope in a British dog fight? For Sven’s sake I hope this isn’t the case.

Key man: Micah Richards 

14th PositionFulham 

Fulham have already made some good signings and they seem to be signing Hameur Bouzza from Watford, a player I really rate, BUT I think they will struggle to challenge the top half of the table. They finished last season on a dreadful run and I think Sanchez has a real hard job on his hands. Good luck to him though he seems to know what he is doing. Ironic how different the last two teams are. Sanchez signs players he knew from his Northern Ireland days and Sven buys players he probably had never heard of a few weeks back! That’s the problem with Fulham though; I don’t think the Northern Ireland contingency offer much quality for the Premiership.

Key man: Jimmy Bullard 

15th PositionReading 

Reading had a great season last year exceeding expectations and challenging for Europe. However, this summer they haven’t recruited many players and most notable lost Steve Sidwell to Chelsea on a Bosman. After last season’s great performance I think it is essential Reading freshen things up but they have so far failed to do so. I think this year they will struggle and will be affected by the second season syndrome.

Key man: Leroy Lita

Posted in Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham, Manchester City, Premiership, Reading | 4 Comments »

United draw first blood

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 5, 2007

van-der-sar.jpgManchester United defeated Chelsea on penalties to take home the Community Shield in an entertaining game played on a scorching day at Wembley. The game finished 1-1 with goals from Ryan Giggs and Florent Malouda but in the end Manchester United deservedly won on penalties with Edwin Van der Sar the hero. United took the initiative and dominated most spells of the game with Chelsea counter attacking.  

Even though the Community shield is not one of the so called ‘big trophies’, this will no doubt be a psychological blow to Chelsea and United will feel revenge is sweet after their defeat in the FA Cup final last season. Not just because of the result but because Manchester United were superior thoughout. Both teams can take positives from the game this afternoon though. Patrice Evra looked threatening throughout the game playing on the left hand side of midfield whereas Chelsea will also be pleased with Malouda’s integration into the team after capping off his debut with a magnificent goal. This is vital for Chelsea as they seem to be loosing Arjen Robben to Real Madrid. Glen Johnson also had a solid game at right back. 

Match Key Points: 

First Half;

20 mins – Giggs has a great chance to put the Red Devil’s ahead after a great run from Cristiano Ronaldo but Petr Cech makes a save. 

22 mins – Michael Carrick has a shot from outside the box that shaves the post. 

26 mins – Obi Mikel is inches away from heading Chelsea into the lead, Essien flicks on the first header from a set piece but Obi Mikel couldn’t divert the ball goal wise. 

29 mins – Ronaldo sends in a dangerous cross but Silvestre fails makes contact at the back post. 

35 mins – Man U GOAL, Evra and Ronaldo inter exchange a one-two down the left wing, Evra then finds Giggs who is close to the penalty spot and finishes the move sending the ball into the top of the net. 

45 mins – Chelsea GOAL, Rio Ferdinand is caught out by a great ball from Essien, Malouda latched onto the ball after a powerful run and sends the ball into the net evading Van der Sar (the ball but not Malouda, who ended up injured from a collision with Van der Sar). 

47 mins – Rooney could/should have been Red Carded after a high challenge on Ben Haim but instead escapes with a Yellow Card. Totally unnecessary! Rooney’s childish antics could cost United dear at some stage of the season. 

Second Half;

49 mins – Evra makes a run down the left wing, crosses and finds Cristiano Ronaldo in the box. Ronaldo controls and shoots but Cech makes an amazing save. Ryan Giggs shoots the rebound which is then blocked by Glen Johnson. 

69 mins – Pizarro has a long shot which he drags wide. 

74 mins – United should have had a penalty after a blatant push from Ben Haim on Vidic. 

Penalties:

Chelsea; Pizarro (missed), Lampard (missed), Wright-Phillips (missed)

Manchester United; Ferdinand (scored), Carrick (scored) Rooney (scored)

Posted in Chelsea, Manchester United, Premiership | Leave a Comment »

Sven Goran’s Unbelievable!

Posted by Daniel Stone on August 4, 2007

sven.jpgOver the past two days Manchester City have signed four players! These being, Brazilian midfielder Elano for £8million, Bulgarian forward Valeri Bojinov for around £6m, defender Javi Garrido cost £1.5m and £4m Croatian defender Vedran Corluka. This takes Manchester City’s total summer spending to around £40 million.

However, since signing these players Sven has stated that he hasn’t seen some of them play live only having seen some videos of them in action.

“Most of the players I have never seen in action live. But it’s just not possible because the season has not even started.”

One must wonder what Sven was doing last season having been a whole year unemployed (but still on the FA payroll!). Sven decided to leave the best till last in the press conference in which the new signings were being presented to the press. Sven had the audacity to ask Bulgarian forward Valeri Bojinov,  

“Why did you want to join Manchester United?” 

Ok, I can understand Sven making grammatical mistakes when talking English, it not being his first language but come on, how can you confuse your new team Manchester City with your main rivals!!??

Posted in Manchester City, Premiership | Leave a Comment »