Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Great Football Experiment

The Great Football Experiment is centred around a Sunday League team from Essex called Ivory FC. They won a competition last year to be backed by Nivea with kit, training from Ray Wilkins and Terry Venables, to see if they could turn a team of no-hopers into world beaters.

Over the last few months, Nivea’s Great Football Experiment has followed the trials of Brentwood’s finest, Ivory FC, on their journey from Sunday League also-rans into a team of world beaters, thanks to FA approved training, coaching and nutritional advice,

The experiment, that has seen plenty of blood, sweat and tears over the season so far, came to a conclusion last week as the Ivory Boys took on a team of England Legends at Dagenham & Redbridge’s Victoria Road. The game was a pulsating affair, with neither side giving an inch, but in the end it was the plucky Sunday League side that pulled off a shock result, taking home the trophy by 2-1.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Kean continues to ignore protests

Steve Kean has had to develop a thick skin this season as calls from Blackburn fans for him to be sacked have grown louder with each passing week.

Another protest is planned by sections of the Rovers faithful at Ewood Park on Saturday when Chelsea visit but the embattled Glaswegian insists he and his players are ignoring the off-field issues and are just focused on getting results - although they have been hard to come by with Kean's side sitting in the relegation zone in the Premier League.

"We've got a good group of players and they can put these type of things to the back of their minds, they're professional players," said Kean of recent protests.

The club have banned fans from bringing in large banners this weekend, citing a 'health and safety' issue and that, obviously, has been welcomed by the Blackburn boss. Those looking at the online football betting will know it won't help them get results on the pitch though.

However, he still remains very much under pressure and, despite a banner reading 'does this look like a minority' at the Spurs game last month, Kean still insists more supporters back him than want him out.

"The directors have taken a stance," he added. "That's great because we believe it's the majority of fans we should hear and the majority of the fans are supporting the side and myself - so the minority, the fact that they can't bring any banners in is great.

"It's been rumbling on for a few games so I'm letting everyone at the stadium, the directors and people behind the scenes, deal with that. We're focusing on performances.

"All that stuff we've put out of our minds to be honest."

It's been a siege mentality from Kean for much of the season but, surely, a few more defeats and the owners will have to start listening.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Mancini still fearful of United

Roberto Mancini said Manchester United were still the team to beat after watching his Manchester City side dish out a 6-1 spanking at Old Trafford.

The Premier League's big-spenders moved five points clear the top of the Premier League table after a breathless display of attacking football resulted in United's worst home defeat since February 1955 – and first at Old Trafford in any competition since April 2010.

Mario Balotelli scored either side of a red card shown to Jonny Evans before substitute Edin Dzeko scored twice and David Silva and Sergio Aguero also netted, with Darren Fletcher grabbing a consolation for the home side. Those who bet on football ( will have been astonished.

City have now taken 25 out of 27 points but Mancini said he would not be celebrating just yet.

He said: "This is only one game. I still think United are one yard above us, still.

"I think we can only change this after we win the title in the end.

"After, maybe it will be different, but now United are better than us."

Next up for City is a Carling Cup and Premier League double against strugglers Wolves before a return Champions League fixture against Villarreal and Mancini warned there was more to come from his players. The Premier League betting ( reflects this.

The Italian added: "This is important for our supporters and maybe for the goals in the table. I am happy with the three points.

"But I think we need to improve more if we want to stay on the top a long time. We need to work more."

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Defiant Wenger has faith in signings

Under-pressure Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he has confidence in the signings he made before the transfer window closed and has backed them to show their experience in the second half of the season.

It may not be what Gunners fans want to hear, however, with the club currently struggling in 15th place in the table and many wanting results now. But Wenger, who just about maintains the support of the majority of the club's fans, is asking for patience. Anyone following the football betting prices ( will know their title hopes have gone, so supporters are unlikely to

It has been a fairly wretched few months at the Emirates but the Frenchman believes now is the time for positivity as his new signings begin to bed in.

The summer departures of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri stung Arsenal badly and there remains a big question mark over the long-term commitment of Robin van Persie as well to further increase the gloom.

Plenty of experience did arrive among the new signings, notably through the likes of Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun but doubts persist over whether they are good enough to get the Gunners firing again.

Wenger himself, though, is sure he has bought well. "Overall we have more experience and this could be important if we are in a strong position should we have interesting challenges in March or April," he said.

"I'm very happy with the signings we made and my challenge now is to prove that I made the right decisions. I'm confident that we have, but only the results will tell."

The embarrassing 8-2 defeat at Manchester United and losses at Blackburn and north London rivals Spurs have cranked up the pressure on Wenger, with some fans feeling that, after 15 years in charge and three Premier League titles won, now is the time for him to step aside. The Premier League betting prices ( certainly suggest he faces an uphill struggle this season.

Publicly, he retains the full backing of the club's owner, Stan Kroenke, but Wenger, as he acknowledges, will ultimately be judged on results - and how those summer signings fare - over what looks like being a crucial winter for him

Friday, 30 September 2011

New boys can spring a surprise

You would have got decent odds on all three newly-promoted teams staying up in the Premier League this season, but early indications are that may yet happen.

Having runaway with the Championship last season, much was expected of QPR this term but it couldn't have started much worse. A 4-0 home defeat to Bolton on the opening day seemed to indicate that the R's could expect a relegation tussle.

But the takeover deal, which saw Tony Fernandes take charge at Loftus Road, has made a massive impact and the summer transfer business looks to have move the club to the next level. Those looking to place football bets won't see them as relegation favourites.

Neil Warnock has persuaded established Premier League stars to join the QPR revolution, with Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and DJ Campbell already making a big impact.

Even though there are questions to asked about their defence, having already secured away wins at the likes of Everton and Wolves, Rangers are likely to have their sights set on a mid-table finish come may.

Swansea impressed many with their style of football last season and Brendan Rodgers has stuck with the same pass-and-move philosophy in the top flight.

The most impressive factor in the Swans useful start to the season has been their solid defensive form, which has seen the Welsh side already keep clean sheets against the likes of West Brom, Sunderland and Wigan. Fans of Betfair will be keen to see how they get on.

Goals have been harder to come by and that may yet be their downfall, but when teams have attacking pace as Swansea have, they will always pose a threat.

Of the three new boys, Norwich were tipped to be the most likely to return to the Championship after just a season, but they have started the best of the trio.

Paul Lambert took a different route to QPR, choosing to bring in Championship players that had something to prove at the top level – the likes of Bradley Johnson, and Steve Morrison – along with players who hadn't made the break through at other clubs.

Two wins and two draws from their opening six games is a solid start and many teams will struggle at a compact Carrow Road this season, but they will need to make sure they win the games against the teams in and around them in the table.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Real ace sets Euro target

Ricardo Carvalho has targeted Champions League success with Real Madrid this season, but admits they may need a "little luck" in order to lift the trophy.

The former Chelsea defender was part of the Real squad that reached the semi-finals last year, but they came off second best to their major rivals and eventual winners, Barcelona.

It's been nine years since the Bernabeu giants last won Europe's top club competition, with success back in 2002. Surprisingly, they have only reached the semis twice since that victory and more is expected this term.

Carvalho feels Real can live up to the expectation though, and remains confident that they will go one better and reach this season's final in Munich, even if the Champions League betting(Champions League betting)shows they face a tough task.

The Portuguese international told the Real club website: "After the present (group) stage, we'll play two games in each ensuing round and you have to play very well in both.

"You can't afford to do well in one and then so-so or badly in the other. We'll have to give good performances in both and also have a little luck to go through."

Jose Mourinho's record in the tournament is second to none – lifting the trophy with both Porto and Inter Milan, whilst reaching the last four with both Chelsea and Real and anyone looking at the Betfair football odds (Betfair football odds)can't rule him out.

Carvalho says the manager works on "every single detail" to make sure his team is the best and feels he has "grown as a player" after working with him.

The 33-year-old is likely to play a key role in Real's next Champions League clash – at home to Ajax – with fellow countrymen Pepe and Fabio Coentrao out for two weeks through injury.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

How will Man City cope in Champions League?

Man City begin their Champions League campaign with a game against Italian side Napoli but can they cope with the demands of Europe's main competition and, perhaps more to the point, can they cope with the demands of competing in the Champions League as well as challenging for the Premiership title.

To me, the answer to the the first question is fairly obvious. Man City have undoubted quality and, on paper have one of the best squads in Europe. With the additions of Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and Gael Clichy, all of whom have Champions League experience, they look even more prepared to challenge Europe's elite.

In addition, the style of football often seen in the Champions League seems to suit Man City perfectly. Man City's approach play if often slow and patient, which differs from most Premiership team's but is similar to many European teams who focus more on technical ability. The creativity of people like Samir Nasri and David Silva and the obvious quality that they possess in front of goal should mean they will be able to unlock some of Europe's tightest defences.

One slight concern for them is their poor performance in the europa League last year, a cmpetition many thought they might win. Does this give us an indication of how they will perform in a much harder and more demanding competition? Probably not, but they will have to raisde their game considerably if they are to take on the challenges of the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Man Utd and Chelsea.

The bigger question is how well can they compete in both the league and in Europe. Very often this season they will have to face the demands of playing a midweek game followed by a game at the weekend. Can they really sustain a title bid as well as compete in Europe? Of course, they aren't the only side who'll have to deal with this, but Man Utd have the experience and have proven in the past they are more than capable of doing it, having reached 3 of the last 4 Champions League finals and almost always been in the race for the title.

It remains to be seen whether City have enough quality throughout their whole squad and the experience to challenge on all fronts this season.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Transfer Window Round Up

As always, transfer deadline day was a frantic and chaotic day with managers up and down the country desperately trying to strengthen their squads with new players. It is a day when many football fans get very excited about who their team might be signing and it certainly didn't disappoint. After the chaos that we saw last night, it's time to reflect on who were the winners and losers of the transfer window in the Premier League.

After their humiliation at Old Trafford, it was so obvious that Arsenal needed to add new players to their squad that Arsene Wenger finally spent some money. What's more he finally signed some new defenders at centre back and left back. Andre Santos was added at left back which Arsenal desperately needed and Per Mertesacker came in at centre half. Whilst Per Mertesacker is a recognised name and proven at international level, question marks still remain over the little known Andre Santos and whether he'll be able to cope with the Premier League. Arsenal also signed Yossi Benayoun on loan and Mikel Arteta to replace Nasri and Fabregas who have left the club. Although Gunners fans will be delighted they've actually replaced their former stars, it's hard to argue that they are of the same calibre of Nasri and Fabregas. We mustn't also forget the signing of Gervinho who looks like a decent signing and replaces the departing Bendtner who never looked like he cut it at the Emirates.

Rating: 6/10

Aston Villa
Two deadline day signings for Aston Villa cover up an otherwise poor window in which they allowed their two star players to leave. Ashley Young left for Old Trafford and Stewart Downing was sold to Liverpool. Charles N'Zogbia was signed from Wigan but he doesn't come close to replacing their departed stars. Alan Hutton replaces Luke Young, Jenas comes in on loan and one top class goalkeeper (Shay Given) replaces another (Brad Freidel).

Rating: 5/10

Blackburn Rovers

A pretty good window for Rovers saw them replace Phil Jones, who was always likely to leave, with the cheaper Scott Dann who had been linked with the likes of Liverpool this window. That signing reinforces Blackburn's excellent defensive options which already include Christopher Samba and Ryan Nelsen. They also signed Yakubu from Everton in an attempt to find more goals. I'm not sure that he's the answer but, if he can find his best form, can be a real handful.

Rating: 7/10

Bolton Wanderers
Owen Coyle continues to exploit the loan market well as he captured more promising young stars this way. If Dedryk Boyata or Gael Kakuta prove to be half as effective as Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, they will be excellent additions to Bolton's squad. They also brought in the sometimes brilliant Tuncay and David N'Gog who may prosper at a smaller club with regular first team football. These signings bolster an attack looking a little short after the departure of Johan Elmander.

Rating: 7/10

Andre Villas Boas wasn't as busy as some expected this window, but managed to secure some good signings. Raul Meireles completed a surprise late move from Liverpool and could add some more creativity from midfield. Chelsea also signed Juan Mata from Valencia who has already scored his first Chelsea goal and the early signs show he, too could add more pace and creativity to the team. Villas Boas's earlier signings in the window showed his intent to add younger players to an ageing squad which was a sensible idea and we will simply have to wait to see how effective the likes of Romelu Lukaku can be.

Rating: 7/10

David Moyes's team have to be considered as one of the main losers of this transfer window. Yet again, no money was spent on players and on deadline day they lost one of their key players in the shape of Mikel Arteta with no chance to replace him. The only incomings were the unproven Drenthe and Denis Stracqualursi. The departures of Jermaine Beckford and Yakubu also leave them very short up front.

Rating: 3/10

Fulham only splashed the cash on one player this summer and the £10.6m they spent for Bryan Ruiz shows their confidence in the player. His record in Holland is very good but that doesn't always reflect how they will do in the Premier League. Fulham also signed Jon Arne Riise and Zdenek Grygera from Italy who both bring a wealth of experience while they also got rid of a few unwanted players such as Zoltan Gera.

Rating: 6/10

After last season's disappointment, Kenny Dalglish moved quickly to secure deals to strengthen Liverpool in just about every position so they can challenge again for the top 4. And with Arsenal struggling, things are looking quite good. Dalglish moved to strengthen the midfield area with three of last season's best players. Charlie Adam was superb in Blackpool's struggling team, as was Stewart Downing at Villa and Jordan Henderson continued to show his potential at Sunderland. They also strengthened defensively. Jose Enrique looks to have solved a problematic left back position and could prove to be a bargain and Sebastian Coates has also joined. Craig Bellamy was added in a suprise move on deadline day and if he can get back to the form he was in at Man City, he could prove to be a good signing. Perhaps, the only downside for Liverpool, is the amount of money they've needed to spend in order to get these players in.

Rating: 9/10

Man City
Considering the financial advantage Man City have over everyone else, it's unsurprising that they were one of the main winners in this transfer window. Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri have both signed to add yet more attacking quality to the City squad and seemed to have settled in quickly. They have also bolstered their defensive options with Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic also joining. Owen Hargreaves deadline day arrival surprised many and is undoubtedly a gamble considering his record. However, it could prove to be a shrewd move for City bearing in mind that Yaya Toure will play at the African Nations Cup and when fit Hargreaves is an excellent player. They also somehow managed to keep Carlos Tevez at Eastands but did shift some dead wood with the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Roque Santa Cruz leaving.

Rating: 10/10

Man Utd
After losing Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar, Sir Alex Ferguson moved early in the transfer window to get the players he wanted. He replaced the experience that departed Old Trafford with youth, bringing in Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea. All three have huge potential to improve but Ferguson seems to have plans for them in the first team now. Phil Jones and Ashley Young already seemed to have settled in brilliantly but David de Gea has already dropped some clangers. Time will tell whether he is up to being Edwin van der Sar's long-term replacement.

Rating: 9/10

Newcastle United
Newcastle's excellent start to the season can't hide the fact that they were on of the main losers in this transfer window. Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and Jose Enrique have all left the club leaving as Newcastle attempted to reduce their wage bill. The signings of young full-back Davide Santon and Yohan Cabaye could prove to be good business for Newcastle but don't replace the three key players that have left. Demba Ba has also left the club but their doesn't seem to be a clear replacement for Andy Caroll. Newcastle fans have been left disappointed at the board's lack of ambition and their unwillingness to spend the £35m from Andy Caroll's January switch to Liverpool.

Rating: 4/10

Norwich haven't spent big money on big names this window but have attracted some potentially useful players to the club and managed to get the majority of their business done early in the window. They have exploited the loan market well with Kyle Naughton and Ritchie de Laet both joining to improve their defensive options.James Vaughan could also prove to be a good signing from Everton.

Rating: 6/10

Queens Park Rangers
QPR were the busiest team in this summer's transfer window and with good reason. They looked favourites to go down after the first few games but Joey Barton on a free transfer is excellent business but Barton is prone to causing trouble off the pitch. They also managed to bring in many more players with Premiership experience. However, those players include the injury prone Kieron Dyer and the mistake prone Anton Ferdinand. Nevertheless, Shaun Wright-Phillips could prove to be a superb signing and is certainly a sign of the club's ambition to stay in the league.

Rating: 7/10

Stoke City
Stoke City have signalled their intent to move to the next level with 3 deadline day signings. They left it late, but eventually managed to convince Peter Crouch to join them which could prove to be an excellent signing particularly considering their more direct style and their ability to exploit the wings. Wilson Palacios seems like an upgrade on their current midfield options and Cameron Jerome offers them strength in depth which will be crucial to them considering the added fixtures from the Europa League. We mustn't also forget the signings of Upson and Woodgate, both of whom bring a wealth of experience to the Stoke side. Despite Woodgate's poor record with injuries, Stoke have him tied down on a pay as you play deal which means a far smaller risk for them.

Rating: 9/10

Sunderland' biggest problem last season was a lack of depth to their squad so it was always likely Steve Bruce would be busy this summer. The signings of O'Shea and Brown from Man Utd add a huge amount of Premiership experience but don't show much long term ambition. However, the attacking signings of Niklas Bendtner and Connor Wickham certainly do. If Niklas Bendtner gets his head down rather than thinking he's do good for Sunderland, he could be an excellent signing. The additions of David Vaughan and Seb Larsson could also prove to be shrewd additions.

Rating: 8/10

Swansea have brought in Danny Graham and Leroy Lita to bolster their front line while Wayne Routledge can provide pace and skill from the wing. Michel Vorm is not well known in England but, based on is early performances, he could prove to be a bargain.

Rating: 7/10

Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham managed to attract Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker and have shifted some of their fringe players to reduce the wages. However, it's likely many Tottenham fans will be disappointed they didn't do more especially as Gary Cahill seemed to be on he cards.

Rating: 6/10

West Brom
Shane Long's early season form suggests Roy Hodgson has pulled of a fantastic signing with the former Reading man. Ben Foster has also signed on loan after an outstanding season at Birmingham last season replacing the mistake prone Scott Carson.

Rating: 7/10

Wigan, rather inevitab;y, lost their star man, Charles N'Zogbia to Aston Villa but did manage to get the signing of last season's player of the year Ali Al-Habsi who was a big hit with the Wigan fans.


Wolves were quiet in this window but still managed to complete the excellent signing of Roger Johnson at center half who was superb for Birmingham last season and has already been made captain at Molineux. They also made the signing of Jamie O'Hara permanent.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Arsenal humiliated by United

Sir Alex Ferguson showed sympathy for Arsene Wenger in midweek and claimed the criticism that his old rival was receiving was unfair. However, when it came to matters on the pitch, there was to be no sympathy shown by his young team whatsoever as they cruised to an 8-2 victory.

Inevitably, after their worst ever Premier League defeat, some Gunners fans will be calling for the Frenchman's head and there are others who have been doing that for a while. On one hand, it's hard to imagine where Arsenal might be without Arsene Wenger. He has built a brilliant legacy at Arsenal and we have seen some of the most mesmerizing football as a result. He has transformed Arsenal completely since his arrival and deserves so much credit for the job he has done there.

Nevertheless, football can be cruel and many football fans have a short memory. I've lost count of the amount of managers we have seen unfairly sacked in recent years because of a lack of patience in the boardroom. However, you have to have a good memory to remember Arsenal's last trophy back in 2005 when they lifted the FA Cup and since then Wenger has attempted to build a brilliant side with a group of young players. But in recent weeks Fabregas, Nasri and Clichy have all departed and there could be more to follow if Arsenal's trophy drought continues.

Arsenal's side looked depleted; partly because of bad luck through injuries but it has mainly been self-inflicted by Wenger's reluctance to spend money on quality players. It has been blatantly obvious for a while now that Arsenal have needed experience and better defenders to compliment their young, talented attacking stars. Whilst every football fan seemed to agree, Wenger remained adamant that they didn't need more additions and now, seemingly, we are seeing the consequences.

Focusing more specifically on today's game, I found it absolutely amazing that, despite the fact Arsenal had should an injury hit squad and had to field a weakened side, Arsene Wenger seemed to think they could go to Old Trafford and play as open as they usually do.

Their defensive strategy was also flawed and quite obviously so. Arsenal played a high defensive line and within minutes of the start of the game, it was obvious that United were easily able to exploit the space in behind. However, there was no tactical change from Wenger and United continued to carve them open at will.

We shouldn't of course forget how good Man Utd were today but most teams would have been able to find the gaping holes in Arsenal's defence. If Wenger doesn't part with some money over the next few days, his position as Arsenal manager could be seriously under threat.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Norwich win does not hide Chelsea's flaws

Chelsea may have seen off newly-promoted Norwich today with a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge but two home wins out of two fail to cover up some off Chelsea's obvious flaws which will need to be dealt with if Chelsea are to challenge the Premier League title this season.

One of the biggest problems Chelsea seem to have at the moment is a lack of creativity and imagination. Chelsea have also been a big and strong side with powerhouses such as Terry, Essien and Drogba in their team. In spite of his small and fragile appearance, it appears that Ramires also possesses plenty of power and strength. However, they don't seem to have someone who can spot a defense splitting pass or control a game from the centre of the park. Often when they go forward it is slow, laboured and predictable.

This explains Chelsea's continued interest in Tottenham's Luka Modric despite Tottenham's claims that he won't be leaving White Hart Lane. However, if they fail to bring in the Croatian or some imagination to their team they may continue to break teams down.

The other clear problem Chelsea seem to have is a lack of pace and width. Andre Villas Boas will hope that the arrival of Mata will help them in that department but before his arrival, the only pace and width within the Chelsea team was provided by the full backs. Whilst there can be no denying of the attacking quality of both Bosingwa and Ashley Cole, we have rarely seen a Chelsea player in the wide positions beat their man and whip in a quality cross; the sort of service that Drogba and Torres could thrive on.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Liverpool pay over the odds for another English player

It is hard to do anything but praise Kenny Dalglish for the job he has done since returning to Liverpool. His return was always going to rejuvenate the fans and players after a disappoiting time with Roy Hodgson, but he seems to have continued to build on his impressive start with some excellent performances towards the end of last season.

After signing a contract, his next task was to deliver in the transfer market. He had already added strike duo Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez to Liverpool's squad in January and has now completed the deals of Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Alexander Doni and now Stewart Downing.

One of Dalglih's January signings left me scratching my head a little. On one hand, Andy Carroll had played superbly for Newcastle and was scoring goals, was an ideal candidate for the role of a target man and could form an excellent partnership with Luis Suarez and was young with the potential to get better. However, £35 million seemed a hefty price tag for someone who had only really been in the Premiership for half a season. Then again, after selling Torres for £50 million, Liverpool could afford to splash out.

This summer, Carroll has been joined by two more very expensive English players; Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson. Stewart Downing had an excellent season for Villa but surely din't do enough to justify a price tag in the region of £20 million. Jordan Henderson is a player with potential and could develop into an excellent player. However, some Sunderland fans believe him to be quite limited in some aspects of his game and wasn't exactly outstanding in Sunderland's midfield last season.

Of course, if these three players stay at Liverpool for a long time and continue developing into top players, they may well eventually justify the prices payed to secure their services, but it's hard to imagine that many clubs would've played that sort of money for similar foreign players.

Of course, it isn't just Liverpool who have spent over the odds for English players. Man Utd, for example, have also focused on young English players this season and have had to pay big money to get them and Gary Cahill is being linked with a £17 million move to Arsenal despite the fact that he has no Champions League experience. Man City also made spent crazy money in recent seasons on the likes of James Milner and Joleon Lescott but I suppose they can afford to spend just about what they want on players.

The most likely reason for this overpricing of English players is the media who constantly overhype English talents, putting huge pressures on them for major international competitions and helping to increase the already ridiculous prices being paid by clubs for players.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Are things falling apart for Arsenal?

Arsene Wenger could face one of the toughest challenges yet in his managerial career as he tries to overcome what is proving to be a turbulent summer transfer window.

While many feel that if Arsenal are to mount a serious challenge for the Premier League next season, they need to add to their squad, it appears that there is far more activity regarding players leaving Arsenal.

Gael Clichy completed a £7 million switch to Man City this week, Samir Nasri could also be heading to Manchester although a move to the red half of the city seems more likely and Cesc Fabregas also seems destined to leave Arsenal with the most likely destination being the Nou Camp. Robin Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin have also been linked with moves away.

Arsenal's troubles seemed to start with their dramatic late loss to Birmingham in the Carling Cup final which was swiftly followed by a few disastrous weeks where their season unravelled. That meant Arsene Wenger had to endure yet another season without silverware.

However, Wenger still seems to have an unshakable belief that his crop of youngsters that he has built over those years have the talent to deliver silverware to the Emirates. In fact, it is hard to argue that they lack talent but their lack of success is probably more down to their lack of other ingredients. For example, they still haven't solved goalkeeping or defensive issues, they lack a genuine leader and the sort of mental strength needed to become champions.

With a few signings this summer, many of those problems could have been solved but now Wenger will have to solve these problems as well as replacing some of the key members of the team he has been trying to build.

In some ways, Wenger's faith in his players is admirable and the fact that he is slowly trying to build a great side is impressive but, if they continue to miss out on trophies, how long will it be before someone like Jack Wilshere gets fed up and attracts interest from elsewhere?

This summer is even more important for Arsenal.Considering the emergence of Man City as genuine title contenders and the rejuvenated Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool, Arsenal could fall even further off the pace.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Can Adam be the new Alonso for Liverpool?

Liverpool have finally completed the signing of Charlie Adam from Blackpool. The move shows yet more intent from the man Liverpool fans call 'King Kenny' to make Liverpool a force to be reckoned with again. It's no coincidence that Liverpool have been unable to challenge since the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid, the man responsible for much of Liverpool's creativity.

Since his departure, Liverpool have often lacked a killer pass to unlock a defence which Alonso would usually provide and not had anywhere near the same amount of imagination in their side. Charlie Adam is not as big a name as Alonso, having only signed for Blackpool for £500,000 a few years ago, and some may call me crazy for comparing Alonso to someone who has only had one season in the top flight, but Adam's range and accuracy of passing impressed many last season, even in a struggling side.

If he can produce what he did last season for a side who were eventually relegated, what could he achieve in the red shirt of Liverpool.

What's more exciting is the fact that he could bring out the best in some of Liverpool's other main assets. His passing ability could benefit the likes of Gerrard and Suarez who are capable fo finding space in areas between midfield and attack which Adam can spot.

He also boasts an impressive goals tally from his first season in the Premier League. His 12 goals his better than any of Liverpool's other midfielders including Maxi Rodriguez who struck form in front of goal at the end of last season.

One criticism that could be aimed at Adam is the fact that he doesn't have the legs but that probably could be solved by playing him alongside Henderson, Lucas or Spearing.

Liverpool's midfield, dismantled over the past few seasons with the sales of Alonso and Javier Mascherano, seems to be taking shape again.

Changing of the guard at Old Trafford

It would have been very easy for Sir Alex Ferguson to have retired after being beaten by Barcelona in the Champions League final at the end of last season. No one could have denied him a well earned rest after building many great Man United sides and leading them to many trophies. With Barcelona the dominant force in European football, their 'noisy neighbours' Man City looking to spend more and more in a bid to challenge their old rivals and with Scholes, Neville and Van der Sar saying 'goodbye', some would say it would have been an ideal time for Ferguson to retire. However, those people clearly underestimate the phenomenal hunger for the game Ferguson still possesses and, as he says goodbye to two more loyal servants to his club, it is clear that Ferguson is looking to build his final great Man Utd side.

The acquisitions of David de Gea, Ashley Young and Phil Jones showed his intent to rebuild with youth, his rumoured bid for Samir Nasri shows his desire to add creativity to a squad now minus Paul Scholes, and his sale of John O'Shea and Wes Brown to Sunderland shows the ruthlessness he still has in his pursuit of success.

He is now clearly focusing on youth. Brown, 31, and O'Shea, 30, are two of the older members of United's squad and now it seems he will put even more trust in the likes of the Da Silva twins who emerged to hold down a regular place ahead of O'Shea and Brown in United's first season.

Brown's season was blighted by injury which is typical of his time at Old Trafford and season, injuries also seemed to catch up with O'Shea.

As United continue their squad overhaul, Sunderland continue to add depth to their squad which was a big problem for them towards the end of last season as they struggled desperately with injuries. The signings of the former United pair add to the earlier acquisitions of Ahmed Elmohamady, Connor Wickham, Craig Gardner, Ji Dong-won, Keiren Westwood and Sebastian Larsson. O'Shea and Brown can give Sunderland great experience and are both excellent professionals. The big question mark for Steve Bruce is if they can stay fit for the season.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Chelsea gamble on Villas-Boas

Chelsea have finally ended their search for a new manager by signing Andre Villas-Boas from Porto.

The suprising move shows a change of approach from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Many of the managers that Abramovich has recently employed have been proven managers with good experience in Europe has he attempted to increase Chelsea's chances of winning the Champions League. Sir Alex Ferguson described Chelsea's bid to end their Champions League wait as an 'obsession' last season so it is understandable why Abramovich has gone for Villas Boas who became the youngest manager to win a Eurpean title last season.

However, despite the impressve job he did at Porto, it is definitely a gamble. Chelsea had to pay over £13 million in compensation to Porto in order to complete the deal making him the most expensive manager ever. He is young, has very little experience and doesn't have the big reputations that the likes of Guus Hiddink or Carlo Ancelotti. Furthermore, he doesn't have any playing experience so it will be interesting to see how he manages some of the big egos in Chelsea's squad.

Getting the right manager in was particularly important for Chelsea this season with some big decisions to made regarding transfers in and out of the club. There could be some significant changes at Chelsea this summer as they look to overhaul an ageing squad and possibly bring in some younger players.

This is a risky but exciting appointment for Chelsea fans. He is clearly lacking in terms of experience but that didn't seem to hold him back at Porto where he was beginning to build an impressive reputation. If he is backed properly by Abramovich, is given the full control of transfers and given the time to build a new Chelsea side, he could prove to be a huge success.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Why Big Sam can take West Ham back

Sam Allardyce has been confirmed as the new manager of West Ham United. The Hammers, recently relegated from the Premier League, will look to Allardyce to secure an immediate return to the top flight. Allardyce has an impressive track record, particularly at Bolton where he guided them to a League Cup Final and secured UEFA Cup qualification. He also helped Blackburn to stay in the top flight and was beginning to bring stability to Ewood Park before the club's new owners intervened.

In spite of this success, it’s fair to say that this appointment hasn’t proved to be a popular one with all West Ham fans. West ham are a team with a tradition of playing attractive football and their academy has been responsible for producing players such as Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard and Joe Cole. In complete contrast, all of Allardyce’s success has been based on more direct tactics and with a greater emphasis put on set pieces.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Premiership Awards 2010/11

Yet again, the Premiership has entertained us all and this season has proven to be one of the most unpredictable seasons ever. Man Utd were successful in securing their 19th title but West Ham, Birmingham and Blackpool weren't so lucky. Here is my view on the best this season had to offer.

Best Goal: Wayne Rooney v Man City

Wayne Rooney produced one of the best moments of the season with a jaw-dropping overhead kick to settle the Manchester derby at Old Trafford. The goal reminded us all of his phenomenal technique after he had endured a tough season up to that point. The goal helped to turn Rooney's season around and lead United to another title.

Best Player: Nemanja Vidic

In my view, there hasn't exactly been a stand out player this season. However, Man Utd's title winning captain has produced some superb displays at the heart of the defence and has been consistently good throughout the season.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

How do Man Utd beat Barcelona?

Few managers have worked out the answer to this question. Even the 'special one' struggles to work out how to stop one of the greatest sides ever. and this will be the only thought on Sir Alex Ferguson's mind as the Champions League final draws nearer. For the second time in three years it will be between Man Utd and Barcelona who also contested the 2009 final where Barcelona won their third ever Champions League by beating Ferguson's men 2 - 0. That night the goals came courtesy of Samuel Eto'o who has since left and Lionel Messi. Undoubtedly, Messi will play a big part again when he steps out onto the Wembley Turf.

The departure of Eto'o is one example of the changes that we've seen at both clubs. Barcelona have added the likes of David Villa to their ranks and United have signed Javier Hernandez whilst Cristiano Ronaldo swapped Old Trafford for Barca's main rivals.

After having seen his side dominated by Barcelona two years ago, Ferguson faces some big decision has he attempts to overcome one of the best sides of all time.

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