Do you wanna know why I typed that in caps lock? Because Tony Pulis has "mutually walked away from Stoke City after chairman Peter Coates sacked him for a sh*t run of results." There's nothing "mutual" about Pulis' departure, he's been sacked. Why? Because Stoke City have stagnated Read more
Real Madrid have officially announced what we've all been expecting since about November: Jose Mourinho is leaving Real Madrid after three years in charge, in which time he won the league and Copa Del Rey. Mourinho will take charge for the final time against Osasuna on June 1st, Read more
The contrasting situations between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the end of 90 minutes on Sunday, spoke volumes for the importance of Champions League football.
On the one hand, Arsenal celebrated as if they had lifted a trophy, for which they have been criticised for. "Fourth is not a trophy, this just Read more
Well, what a week we've had. Sir Alex Ferguson managed his final game at Old Trafford last Sunday, Paul Scholes played for one last time before retirement and now, despite declaring he might stay with Paris Saint-Germain for another year, David Beckham has announced his retirement.
My formative football years Read more
Since the turn of the new year, Arsenal have been much improved from the team that started this season. In actual truth, Arsenal started well, looking a very compact side with a neat balance between attack and defence, particularly impressing critics in a 2-0 win over Liverpool at Read more
Yesterday, it was announced by Bolton Wanderers Football Club that Owen Coyle had been relieved of his duties as Bolton Wanderers manager. Upon being relegated last season, Chairman Phil Gartside was quick to point to Bolton’s heavy injury list, citing that his young manager would emerge stronger for his experience, a season which Owen Coyle said “you could not make up”.
Sadly, it would appear that Coyle was unable to make his experience prove to be a positive one and Bolton’s form has carried them to the Championship, where they sit 18th after defeat to Millwall at the weekend.
I remember Coyle taking charge, as his first two games came against Arsenal, twice in the space of three days. Having left Burnley who were in the Premier League at the time, Coyle jumped the sinking ship that was Burnley (1 win in 12) and took up the chance of managing Bolton, who had sacked Gary Megson. At this time, Arsenal were still chasing the league title and a trip away to Bolton with a new manager seemed like a recipe for disaster as far as Arsenal fans were concerned. All too often, a new manager will galvanise a new team as they win their first match and for large periods of the match against Arsenal at the Reebok Stadium, Bolton piled a lot of pressure on Arsenal, who had a very young substitutes bench that day.
Just before the half hour mark, Cesc Fabregas scored and then Fran Merida struck late on to give Arsenal three points, but it had been far from plain sailing and a sign that Bolton under Coyle could give a few teams a run for their money.
Three days later at the Emirates Stadium, Bolton did just that.
With Arsenal looking to go top of the league ahead of Chelsea, Bolton played Arsenal for the second time in a row. It couldn’t really have been a more difficult start for Coyle as Bolton manager, but half an hour in, the Trotters were 2-0 up through Gary Cahill and Matty Taylor. Eventually, Arsenal came back, with Tomas Rosicky, Cesc Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen and Andrey Arshavin scoring to send the Gunners top of the league, but the signs from Bolton were clear: they could only improve under Owen Coyle.
The season after, Bolton found themselves in an FA Cup Semi-Final against Stoke City, where the Trotters got hammered 5-0. Of course, that day must have been painful for Bolton fans, but I went to the Reebok to watch Arsenal play Bolton, their first match after losing to Stoke and the home fans still seemed full of optimism. A Daniel Sturridge goal was cancelled out by Robin van Persie, before Tamir Cohen scored in the final minutes of the game to give Bolton a 2-1 win. It was a crushing day for me and my little brother, as well as the thousands of other Arsenal fans in attendance, because it meant our title challenge was all but over, but for Bolton, victory lifted them to 8th in the league.
From that victory against Arsenal, things unravelled for Owen Coyle and Bolton. A dismal end to the season saw Bolton slip from 8th to finish 14th and the rot just continued into the next season.
To Coyle’s credit, he managed under some very poor circumstances, responsible for lifting the club after Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart-attack at White Hart Lane in an FA Cup tie and was also blighted with injury problems. Coyle managed the Muamba affair brilliantly, it would be very difficult to name a manager who could have managed the circumstances better than he could and when Gartside gave his young manager a reprieve by letting him build for life in the Championship, keeping most of their best players, it would have been hoped that Bolton would regroup in the way Newcastle United did when they were relegated.
In my opinion, Gartside never really wanted to sack Coyle, he’d have much rather seen the Scot win promotion back to the Premier League, but the fall from grace after that 2-1 win over Arsenal has seemed to never end.
The race for third spot is really on fire now. Of course, if Chelsea win their Champions League Final against Bayern Munich, whoever finishes fourth in the league will be demoted to the Europa League. That’s a competition nobody wants to be in and due to the huge amounts of money that Champions League football brings in, third spot is so important.
Competing for the illustrious trophy of third place are Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle. Arsenal currently hold an advantage over the latter two, having played 36 matches, with a +24 goal difference and 66 points to the board. Spurs and Newcastle are both a point behind Arsenal, also with two matches to play.
This season’s surprise package has been Newcastle United, without a doubt. In pre-season, Toon fans demonstrated during a friendly match, angry over a lack of business in the transfer window in regards to signing a new striker to replace the departed Andy Carroll, and a few even predicted Newcastle to be relegated.
Nobody could have envisioned what was to come from Newcastle this season, to be in joint 4th with two matches left to play, it’s a dream position for Newcastle to be in. No one predicted Newcastle to do what they’ve done, I didn’t even think Newcastle would go to Chelsea and win last night!
Two remarkable Papiss Demba Cisse goals sealed a 2-0 win over Chelsea as Newcastle pretty much sealed 5th, putting themselves four points ahead of Chelsea with two matches left to play. Newcastle do entertain Manchester City on Sunday, which will be such a tight game, and I certainly don’t see Newcastle dropping points away to Everton on the final game of the season.
Like Liverpool on Tuesday, Chelsea had their priorities set on this weekend’s FA Cup Final. Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Juan Mata, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba were all named on the bench as Jose Bosingwa played at centre-back in order to familiarise him with the position ahead of the Champions League Final and Ryan Bertrand replaced Cole at left-back.
Beating Newcastle was more important than the FA Cup Final. Chelsea cannot weaken their team, lose a crucial league match to Newcastle, then throw all of their eggs in to one basket for the Champions League Final, knowing they have to win in order to qualify for the Champions League Final. Chelsea need Champions League football, so to rest key players against a fellow top four contender and lose is ridiculous. Beating Newcastle would have put Chelsea on 64 points with all to play. Now, Chelsea are four adrift and defeat to Bayern Munich will mean Chelsea are kicking their heels in the Europa League.
Tottenham Hotspur fans will feel this season could have offered them so much more. At one stage, Spurs were in touching distance of Manchester United and Manchester City, playing great football and looked deadly. Tottenham’s big issue this season has been a lack of variety and no depth to the squad. Jermaine Defoe, Emmanuel Adebayor and Louis Saha don’t offer different threats to one another and Harry Redknapp’s most popular substitution seems to be Defoe for Rafael Van Der Vaart, a move which happens most matches.
Spurs’ first XI is very good, they’re powerful, fast and deadly on the counter-attack, but past Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, I don’t see much threat going forward and if both of those were to be injured at the same time, you struggle to see which players could possibly make an impact for Spurs.
Against Bolton last night, Spurs looked back to their early-season form. Going 1-0 up through a great Luka Modric strike mid-way through the first half, Spurs were pegged back by Nigel Re-Coker’s goal just in to the second half. Bolton were then in the ascendancy and it seemed more likely Bolton would bag the second.
Goals from Van Der Vaart and Adebayor within two minutes of each other finished off Bolton, both goals coming on the counter-attack. Those two goals were more associated with Spurs’ early-season form and another Adebayor goal seven minutes later had Bolton licking their wounds after a nine minute bombardment of three goals.
Spurs have yet to travel to relegation threatened Aston Villa and host Fulham at home. I expect Spurs to beat Fulham though Aston Villa in the position they’re in could make for a tricky match.
That’s your lot from me today, sorry it’s another short one, you can tell we’re getting to the end of the week!
I haven’t done an article for a while, but with what happened to Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane on Saturday I felt it seemed the right time. I’ve left it a few days as to let it all die down slightly, and now it looks like he seems to be pulling through I felt now was the time to do it..
I won’t go into the incident itself, everyone knows what happened, and every news site, paper and blog including this one has covered it in depth already (Link here if for some reason you haven’t heard). I didn’t actually watch the incident, as I was watching England play the Irish at Twickenham in the last match of the 6 Nations round a friends house, but I looked at the Twitter feed on my phone and my time line was filled with various tweets of “I hope Muamba is ok” and “That looks serious, get well soon Muamba” etc. I initially assumed it was a broken leg, or any of the other kinds of serious injuries you see due to a bad tackle or whatever, but scrolling back I saw that he’s in fact just collapsed with no one around him. Instantly I thought back to Marc-Vivien Foe on that tragic day in France during the Confederations Cup semi-final. I began to feel a bit sick, and didn’t really know what to say. All the elation I’d just experienced by watching us thump Ireland drained away in a second. I was just left with an empty feeling, a feeling you only get when something tragic happens. Having a few beers with the lads didn’t seem right any more so I walked home, turned on my computer and hit refresh over and over and over again, desperate for good news.
Luckily, without wanting to speak too soon, and fully aware that he still isn’t out of the woods just yet, that good news does seem to be slowly coming. There are reports of him speaking to various people in both French and English, and is beginning to move his arms and legs.
In the days that followed the whole Football has pulled together as one, from the Tottenham fans, who were apparently excellent during the match, to former team mate Gary Cahill and his “Pray 4 Muamba” celebration, the Real Madrid team for wearing the “Get Well Soon Muamba” t-shirts and the clubs and fans from around the world that have all pulled together behind him. There’s a time when allegiances mean nothing, and this was one of them. The way the Footballing world united behind one man when most in need was humbling, and would in less tragic circumstances, be a joy to watch. A lot of people have said “This shows that Football is just a game”. I couldn’t disagree more.
Courtesy of www.mirrorfootball.co.uk
If it’s just a game, why do we all care so much? How have millions of people from throughout the World, with nothing in common under usual circumstances other than supporting a Football team, been brought together? Football expands well beyond the pitch, and the game itself. It brings everyone together, it unites us. What if Fabrice Muamba never made it as a footballer, what if he just collapsed in the street? If you read this in your local paper would you care? You may think it’s quite sad, but it would have no way near as big an effect as it has. I never would have got that sick feeling, that feeling of panic for someone I’ve never even met. And that’s the point. I’ve never met Muamba, I’ve heard he’s a great bloke, I know he’s plays football and that’s about it. Really I shouldn’t care. Neither should you, people collapse every day and we don’t care about that, and this is no different. But it is different, and that difference is Football. It’s more than a game.
Just yesterday the 6 serviceman recently killed in Afghanistan were brought back to the UK. Now, I have quite close links with the Armed Forces, so find every death more tragic than most, and even I didn’t feel anything like the feeling I got when I heard Fabrice Muamba had collapsed.
Here are the names of the 6 killed serviceman:
Cpl Jake Hartley, 20
Pte Anthony Frampton, 20
Pte Christopher Kershaw, 19
Pte Daniel Wade, 20
Pte Daniel Wilford, 21
Sgt Nigel Coupe, 33
5 of them are younger than Fabrice Muamba, and all of them are dead. Surely this should seem the bigger tragedy? I can only guess it’s because we idolise footballers. We look up to them as heroes, and all want to be one when we grow up. No one idolises a soldier. We just let them get on with their job, and it’s all too easy to forget about the bravery they show every day, and the all too regular tragedies they suffer.
Another thing that has been said is “It’s a shame it’s taken this for fans to come together”. Although earlier on in this article I’ve stated this has been great to see, I think I disagree with this statement as well. At times like this, when people need to pull together, it is great to see. But I wouldn’t want it every day. I for one enjoy the rivalry and banter that comes with supporting a Football team. I enjoy the tribal nature of it all, the us against them, the singing and camaraderie. I’d hate to see this go.
One final thing I’d like to say is congratulations to Chelsea Football Club. It may well be partly due to them that Muamba is still here with us today. After Peter Cech’s horrific head injury against Reading, they insisted on changes in the rules meaning an ambulance is now on standby at all Football matches. This meant Muamba was seen a long time quicker than would have been the case a few years ago, and if he’d have had to wait rather than given the excellent, instant, care he was given, he’d probably be in a far worse situation. Also, if you haven’t already read it, I recommend giving this excellent article by Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the London Evening Standard a read. It’s THE best article I’ve read on the subject, and gives a great insight on what it must have been like to be right there on the pitch whilst it happened.
And there you go, there you have an Arsenal fan praising both Chelsea FC and a Tottenham player in one paragraph…. Now that’s over, I hope you both lose tonight!
At half-time of yesterday’s 0-0 draw between Bolton Wanderers and Arsenal, I tweeted that I’d read a particular book before, one in which Arsenal miss guilt-edged chance after chance, leaving the scores level at half-time. I’ve read that book many times previously and I confess, it’s the worst book I’ve read by a country mile. I wouldn’t recommend buying it.
It’s a book that keeps coming back to haunt me, much like the book ’1984′ does. A classic it may make, though you get sick of it after you’ve read it time after time. You do learn to put it down and why, oh why, you must ask, have Arsenal not grasped the concept of being efficient in front of goal. Manchester United manage to score a goal if their up against it, so why can’t Arsenal muster enough to grab a goal? It’s not as if chances weren’t created last night by Arsenal. Five big, big chances were missed by Arsenal and Robin Van Persie hit the woodwork twice, a clear of indication of a frustrating night for yours truly.
Outside of Robin Van Persie, there isn’t a player you’d look at and immediately think, ‘yes, he’ll score’. Theo Walcott for example, put clean through by Oxlade-Chamberlain, misses the target with only Adam Bogdan to beat. There seems to be a massive lack of confidence amongst the Arsenal ranks. Take Aaron Ramsey for example, 21 years of age and being asked to perform in Cesc Fabregas’ former shoes, an almighty task for a player a year behind in his development. Not only does Ramsey look low on confidence, he also bares the image of a very tired man, having looked labored for the past six or seven matches. Ramsey, as is the case for many Arsenal players, is shattered and despite Ramsey doing everything he can to turn things around, nothing is going for him.
That of course, is an effect of a small squad and injuries to Wilshere and Diaby. If Ramsey is so tired though, why aren’t Rosicky (who has looked sharp of late) and Yossi Benayoun making appearances in midfield? Benayoun has looked decent every time he’s played for Arsenal, so why the Israeli finds himself continually benched is beyond me.
The absolute minimum for Arsenal, is Champions League football this season and maybe cup runs in the Champions League and FA Cup, justmaybe. Runs in both of those tournaments, even lifting a trophy in the FA Cup would smear over what has been a poor season for Arsenal, as long as Champions League qualification is met. If Champions League football is indeed achieved, Arsenal need to ensure they experience a better Summer than last, holding on to their best players and adding to their ranks with some serious strength. A Mario Gotze would make me happy, as well as a back-up striker to help Robin Van Persie and more importantly, add to the goal threat possessed by Arsenal. Lukas Podolski would be very nice indeed.
As for Bolton, well their season is back on the mend. Fourteen points from a possible twenty-one have been achieved, all coincedentally arriving when it appeared certain that Gary Cahill was on his way out of the club. Like Joleon Lescott at Everton, his departure was actually welcomed after a distracted Everton side lost 6-1 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season as Lescott played for Everton one last time.
Like Everton, Bolton have experienced what it is like to have an unsettled player amongst their ranks, not committed to the cause and that feeling bleeds through to other players, creating a negative energy within the club. It’s no surprise that Bolton’s form picked up near toward the end of December as the January transfer window loomed and Tim Ream having joined Bolton from New York Red Bulls on a permanent basis, Owen Coyle can look ahead once more with his Bolton side. I can assure any Bolton fan reading that Tim Ream is a quality defender, I saw him play in the summer against Arsenal in the Emirates Cup and Ream looked classy in defence, as well as looking as big as a Sherman tank.
Right, that’s your lot from me today. ‘Player Watc’
Reading the BBC Live Text on Saturday as all the 3 o’clock kick-offs were played, I found this little beauty of a message posted by the BBC from a Fulham fan, ‘we have Murphy, Duff, Ruiz, Dempsey and Zamora in the same team, this isn’t attacking football, it’s absolute madness’. At half-time, that statement was well justified as Fulham went in a goal down at half time, but this match was far from over.
Four goals in sixteen minutes put Fulham 4-1 up, before Newcastle pulled one back through Hatem Ben Arfa. four minutes after that however, Fulham scored again as Dempsey got his hat-trick. The match finished 5-2 to Fulham, leaving you pondering if Fulham should go on overload every week?
It’s strange, isn’t it? Gary Cahill leaves Bolton, a player who nearly moved to Arsenal in the summer, a man who has been wanting away from Bolton for some time and suddenly, after the England international’s departure, Bolton are able to pull a 3-1 win out of the bag over Liverpool.
Coincidence? I think not. Joleon Lescott was a similar problem for Everton a few seasons ago when he wanted away to Manchester City. Lescott played in Everton’s opening game of the season and duly lost 6-1 to Arsenal. Want-away players create problems and disrupt harmony so, hopefully, Bolton find themselves on the right track again.
You wouldn’t think that a club in the relegation places would achieve a mention in my ‘good week’ column most weeks, but here we are again, talking about how good Blackburn have been.
David Dunn went as far to say that Blackburn’s 1-1 draw with Everton was the best display Blackburn have produced this season. I’d be inclined to agree to be honest, Blackburn looked solid and maintained a threat up front, so yes, it was a good display, evident signs of Blackburn showing improvement. I still stand by my claims that Blackburn are a good side and maintain that Steve Kean is a good manager.
Admittedly, Blackburn are still to climb out of the relegation spots, but I feel it’s only a matter of time before they achieve that as their results become more consistent with each passing week.
No mattter how hard Torres tries, he just cannot find that meagre slice of good luck to bag himself a goal. Despite generally playing well against Norwich, working himself into numerous, dangerous positions, Torres was still unable to ripple the back of the net, something we’ve become so accustomed to seeing Torres do over the years.
Torres is still a great player, don’t forget that, despite his poor goal scoring form at Chelsea. One goal is all Torres needs and plenty more will follow.
Three defeats in a row, two of those to Swansea and Fulham, a boat load of injuries and fans booing at a substitution during a match signify a very bad moment at Arsenal right now.
Sure, the injuries aren’t helping Arsenal, four fractures in one season is a freakish thing to happen to one side and with a full strength team, you’d have to wonder what Arsenal may have achieved this season. Speculation however, means nothing and the fact remains that Arsenal’s back-up to the first team is very average. Does Arshavin want to be there? You’d have to say no. Why is Diaby kept on the books when he’s always injured?
A minimum finish of fourth is needed for Arsenal this season, then a much better summer than the last is needed for Arsenal. Keep hold of Van Persie, bring in additional talent to supply what is a solid first team and Arsenal will be a great team again. The resources are there, why not bring in a Mario Gotze?
That’s all from me today, I’ll see you in the comments…
Despite an indifferent start to the season, I was obviously impressed with Bolton in their 4-0 triumph on the opening day of the season and I was equally impressed with their performance against Manchester City, despite Owen Coyle’s side losing 3-2. You have to write off that match against Manchester United (Bolton lost 5-0) as nobody has been able to match SAF’s side so far this season, what is not acceptable however, was last weeks defeat to Norwich City at the Reebok. A victory against Aston Villa in midweek does nothing for me, especially as it was a Carling Cup match and thus both sides were weakened. Bolton will travel to Emirates Stadium desperately short on confidence and form. Bolton will miss Ivan Klasnic for this one due to the red card he picked up last weekend, whilst Stuart Holden is available following a six month lay-off through injury, though he is expected to start from the bench having only made his come-back on Wednesday.
Saying that, Arsenal, as we know, are not in the best form either following a crushing 4-3 defeat by Blackburn Rovers and don’t look anywhere near finding the form of their usual selves. Arsenal do welcome back Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna to the match-day squad, three players that will surely steady a sinking Arsenal ship.
What won’t happen: Bacary Sagna to have rid his head of those lovely golden locks. Nor would I want him to.
What will happen: Arsenal and Bolton to play out a 2-2 draw, with bad defending featuring heavily on both sides.
Chelsea v Swansea
Swansea, like I said they would, have started to score goals, netting three last week against West Brom. Against a Chelsea back four who have looked far from certain in their opening games, I expect Swansea to create chances aplenty. Who knows, maybe Danny Graham might stick away an opportunity against Chelsea, anything could happen! In defence of Graham, he gets into the spaces, so his goals will come and as far as I’m concerned, he’s a class act, so no worries there! To strengthen their case of a win, Swansea have no fresh injury concerns, which will be music to Brendan Rogers’ ears.
It won’t be plain sailing for Swansea, don’t get me wrong! Chelsea created a hatful against Manchester United and despite what people have been saying, I thought Fernando Torres had a brilliant game, okay he missed an open net, but so did Ryan Giggs against Arsenal once upon a time in the FA Cup…
… So no, Torres isn’t a bad player, he just had a bad moment and I expect him to score against Swansea, I can’t see AVB not starting Torres in a league match after what happened. Chelsea will be without Daniel Sturridge for this one, so there is a possibility Chelsea fans will have to suffer Salomon Kalou for an afternoon.
What won’t happen: Fernando Torres to miss an open net… or will he?!
What will happen: Fernando Torres to grab a goal. It won’t be enough though, as I think Swansea will pull off a shock at Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
Liverpool v Wolves
I do like Wolves, I don’t know why, but I do, maybe because my Mum has a crush on Mick McCarthy, who knows?! Either way, I expected a lot of from them last season and they failed to deliver, this season however, with the additions of Jamie O’Hara and more imporantly I feel, Roger Johnson, I think Wolves will have a good season.
As for Liverpool, well they got turned over by Spurs last week and were defeated the week before that to Stoke City, backing up my claims of them being a side in transition. Dalglish’s side have endured a crap fortnight, though made better with the return of Steven Gerrard in midweek against Brighton, as well as a brilliant performance from Craig Bellamy.
What won’t happen: Andy Carroll to come on and score. Has Liverpool come too soon?
What will happen: Roger Johnson to head an equaliser for Wolves in a 1-1 draw.
Manchester City v Everton
I had no idea of Everton’s good record over Manchester City in recent years! Everton have done the double over City two seasons in a row, won 7 out of 8 against Manchester City and are the last team to have beaten Mancini’s side at Eastlands are remain the last team to have beaten them in an away match. (when City played at Goodison Park last season) Despite such a statistical pile-up in favour of Everton, Manchester City are 5-2 favourites to win this match and rightly so!
Never have Manchester City had such a strong squad and for that reason alone, I expect them to hammer a very light Everton side and that’s without any injury worry concerns unless you count Victor Anichebe. Following three years out injured, Owen Hargreaves will not feature for Manchester City, though Kolo Touré will hope to keep his place following his return from a six month ban.
What won’t happen: David Moyes to wear a scarf. He’d look ridiculous.
What will happen: Manchester City to storm out 4-0 winners.
Newcastle United v Blackburn Rovers
Despite a good start to the season, I think it’s time Newcastle lost a game and no better team to lose to than a Blackburn side who have now won two games on the bounce, following victories against Arsenal and Leyton Orient. Don’t get me wrong, I think Newcastle will have even better season than the last, but Newcastle played 120 minutes in midweek, unlike Blackburn who won their Carling Cup tie inside regulation time. For this reason alone, I expect Blackburn to beat Newcastle, purely because Rovers have the fresher legs.
Blackburn welcome back David Goodwillie, Morten Gamst Pedersen and Michel Salgado, whilst Alan Pardew has the pleasure of being able to welcome Hatem Ben Arfa back to his match-day squad following a year out through injury.
What won’t happen: Anything with the number ‘four’ in it. I don’t expect a high-scoring affair.
What will happen: Blackburn to win 1-0 thanks to Mauro Formica.
Stoke City v Manchester United
Having never dropped a point to Stoke City, I don’t fancy Manchester United to drop any points to Stoke this time either, even if Stoke have looked impressive so far this season. SAF’s side have looked immense in every department and for that, my mind can’t see past an emphatic Manchester United victory.
Stoke have Kenwyne Jones absent through a hamstring injury picked up in midweek but apart from that, Tony Pulis has a full squad to pick from. SAF should be able to welcome back Rio Ferdinand, as well as being able to name Javier Hernandez in the side to play Stoke after that horrific tackle from Ashley Cole last Sunday.
What won’t happen: Wayne Rooney not to score. Last year he was in Dubai getting a tan when United play away to Stoke…
What will happen: Wayne Rooney to score as Manchester United win 4-0.
West Brom v Fulham
Here’s something I didn’t know; Martin Jol used to be a West Brom player! It doesn’t mean much, but I found it fun to know, either way I’m sure he’ll get a good reception from the West Brom faithful. I also expect Fulham’s travelling fans to give Roy Hodgson a warm reception, in what will be a very friendly atmosphere tomorrow. I’ve been impressed with West Brom so far, especially Shane Long and I expect the Baggies to erase last week’s defeat to Swansea with a win at the Hawthorns against Fulham.
Fulham could welcome back both Andrew Johnson and Aaron Hughes to the side following their return from injuries. Roy Hodgson will be expecting Shane Long to feature despite a flu bug, however Gabriel Tamas is still suspended so Craig Dawson will continue to deputise.
What won’t happen: Me to get excited over this match.
What will happen: West Brom to beat Fulham 2-1.
Wigan Athletic v Tottenham Hotspurs
Hugo Rodallega was the man Wigan can think for collecting an unlikely three points at White Hart Lane last season as Wigan ran out 1-0 victors. Roberto Martinez’s side didn’t concede home or away last season to Spurs and although Spurs looked great last week against Liverpool, I expect a draw from these two.
Wigan will miss Rodallega, Antolin Alcaraz, Emmerson Boyce and Steven Gohouri, while Spurs will miss; Niko Kranjcar, William Gallas, Aaron Lennon, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
What won’t happen: Spurs to win 9-1!
What will happen: Wigan to earn a respectable point against Spurs in a 0-0 draw.
Two teams previously unbeaten in four games, one with a rock solid defence and the other with a dangerous attack, was alway going to culminate in a draw.
It was Aston Villa’s exciting attack-force which opened the scoring through Gabriel Agbonlahor in the 13th minute. It had been suggested yesterday that on current form, Agbonlahor deserves some time with the national side. Is Agbonlahor good enough to have an impact at the highest level? Let me know in the comments, but if he keeps scoring as he is doing, then it’d be pretty hard to ignore Agbonlahor. Funnily enough, the high quality of attacking talent available at McLeish’s disposal only managed three shots on target yesterday, (Villa pulled the trigger eleven times in total) which is simply not good enough!
Newcastle, despite having looked very much blunt so far this season, were on fire yesterday and managed a total of twenty-one shots, thirteen of them being on target! It did take the Magpies till the 57th minute to score through Leon Best but another day, Newcastle could have had at least three. On the face of things, Alex McLeish can enjoy his sleep tonight, safe in the knowledge his unbeaten record in the league with Villa remains in-tact.
Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Arsenal
Lets be honest, the match summary you really wanted to read is this one! Leading 2-1 at half time, Arsenal looked good for three points and on reflection, could have had three or four going in at half time. Despite such dominance going forward, Arsenal always looked uncomfortable at the back on set-pieces (predictably) and you felt if Blackburn could pile on the pressure at corners and in-direct free-kicks, then something could materialise for Blackburn.
Arsenal had taken a deserved lead via a measured finish from Ivorian winger, Gervinho. Latching on to a pass from Alex Song, Gervinho turned half a yard on his marker to roll the ball into the opposite corner, Paul Robinson had no chance with Gervinho placing it so well and Arsenal were ahead after starting on fire, what that goal coming in the 10th minute. Fifteen minutes later however, Blackburn had equalised through £1.5 million signing, Yakubu. Everybody’s favourite, tank of a Nigerian striker finished beautifully, rolling the ball past a stranded Wojciech Szczesny after Per Mertesacker and Andre Santos had played Yakubu on-side. Receiving a clever pass from Junior Hoilett, Yakubu was left with the formality of scoring, which he did, bringing Blackburn level.
When Mikel Arteta added Arsenal’s second in the 34 minute, he made himself the highest scorer at Ewood Park so far this season, having scored more goals than Blackburn’s squad put together. Arteta had scored a last minute penalty for Everton to give the Toffees a narrow 1-0 win over Blackburn and here, the Spaniard raced on to a pass from Ramsey on the right who had cut inside and layed the ball off for Arteta, who rifled home into the roof of Robinson’s net. 2-1 to Arsenal and things were looking bright going in at half-time.
In the second half, Arsenal collapsed. Blackburn’s equaliser came in the 50th minute via Alex Song’s thigh following an in-direct free-kick from Blackburn near the by-line to the right of Arsenal’s penalty area. Blackburn were level via Yakubu after the Nigerian flicked in a wayward shot from Steven N’Zonzi. Yakubu was unquestionably offside but nonetheless, Arsenal were now behind 3-2 and had a mini-mountain to climb. That mini-mountain became a great big bloody mountain when Laurent Koscielny turned in Martin Olsson’s cross following a brilliant run from the Swede. Koscielny’s own goal made it 4-2 and Arsenal were dying on the Ewood Park turf.
Marouane Chamakh reduced arrears with a header from a Robin Van Persie cross, but it was all too little, too late and surely the next few days will be concentrated on the fall-out of a crushing defeat for Arsenal to lowly Blackburn Rovers.
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Norwich City
Though unwanted, Norwich are now proud owners of the ‘most consecutive games in which penalties were awarded against them’ award. Though I doubt this will thrill anyone at Norwich, today’s conceded penalty ultimately meant very little as Norwich ran out 2-1 victors over Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium.
Going to Bolton is always tricky, unless you’re Manchester United in which case you score five and make a breeze of it, but otherwise, Bolton is a tough place to travel. It is testament then, to Norwich’s quality that they found themselves two goals ahead at half-time through Anthony Pilkington and Bradley Johnson. Norwich’s first came after a Norwich cross was cleared to Leon Barnett, who sent the ball back into a mass of bodies, amongst which was Pilkington, a summer signing from Huddersfield Town, who scored the opening goal. Norwich’s second came courtesy of Bradley Johnson’s head as he rose above Bolton’s stunned defence to head past an equally bewildered Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Bolton received a way back into the match through a Martin Petrov penalty in the 67th minute after David N’Gog was felled in the area like a Redwood by Leon Barnett. With only ten men on the pitch following Ivan Klasnic’s sending-off in the first half, Bolton found they had too much to do and Norwich walked away at the final whistle with their first Premier League away win in 17 years.
Everton 3-1 Wigan Athletic
Despite dominating this game, Everton were to concede first following yet another Franco Di Santo deflected goal, with the Argentine’s shot being deflected past Tim Howard via Tony Hibbert.
Everton got their rewards however, Phil Jagielka equalised two minutes later through a header after Tim Cahill’s headed effort hit the bar and fell graciously to a waiting Jagielka to head home the equaliser and his first of the season. Everton scored again through young Greek striker, Apostolos Vellios, who netted Everton’s second headed goal of the afternoon, having Tony Hibbert’s inch-perfect cross to thank for the chance.
With ten minutes added on due to Hugo Rodallega’s injury, Everton rubbed salt into Wigan’s wounds by adding a third Royston Drenthe, who finished calmly from the edge of the box after being sent through one-on-one to score his first Everton goal in the Premiership.
Swansea 3-0 West Brom
I said that Swansea would start to score goals soons just yesterday and I was proved right as Brendan Rogers’ side scored three times to give West Brom a real thumping at the Liberty Stadium.
Scott Sinclair opened the scoring for Swansea from a penalty, rewarded for a foul on Joe Allen, with Swansea’s second coming just ten minutes later through Leroy Lita. Lita looked a handful throughout the game according to reports I’ve read and could form a lethal partnership with Danny Graham is Brendan Rogers allows.
Lite then turned provider when he headed down a long ball into the path of Nathan Dyer to add Swansea’s third just after half-time. A brilliant win for Swansea and they can now really start backing up my claims of the Swans staying up this season.
Wolves 0-3 QPR
Amazing what a few signings can do isn’t it? One minute you’re struggling for form then BANG! All of a sudden you have brand sparkling new players ready to do a job and a team is transformed at the drop of a hat.
It was too easy for QPR yesterday who never looked like having their clean sheet threatened by a very tame Wolves side. QPR had the game sewn up ten minutes in, with their first coming via Joey Barton in the eighth minute and a second arriving due to Alejandro Faurlin’s 20 yard thunderbolt.
QPR added a third in the second half through DJ Campbell with the assist coming from ex-Arsenal recruit, Armand Traore.
So I predicted a win for this match and got it right, infact, I’ve correctly predicted every single Arsenal match so far, quite impressive, eh? One thing I didn’t foresee was the score, I said Arsenal would score three when in actual fact, they were to score only one, which came through Andrey Arshavin in the first half.
Arsenal had lined up with two new signings in the starting XI, Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta both made their debuts for Arsenal, while Swansea left their new signing, Federico Bessone on the bench as the Swans lined up with a pretty predictable team.
The only goal of the game arrived after a Theo Walcott shot was blocked and sent looping into the air, presenting Michael Vorm with an easy catch, which he indeed made. Unfortunately for the Dutch international back-up keeper, when he rolled the ball out, it only got as far as Angel Rangel’s heel, re-bounding graciously into Arshavin’s path. In Kanu-esque fashion, Arshavin scored from a narrow angle with in-step of his left foot. Only Andrey Arshavin can do something like that and hopefully, a goal and an all-round good performance can spark the Russian into some form of, well, form!
The one thing Arsenal lacked was directness, as although they looked great on the ball, with Mikel Arteta doing a fantastic job in the Fabregas role, everything seemed a little slow at times, especially in the second half. Yossi Benayoun’s introduction changed that however, the Israeli international looked full of mischief and if he can work his way up to match fitness, then you have to wonder where he will fit in? Surely he won’t be picked ahead of Gervinho, Arshavin and Walcott, or will he play a little deeper? Time will only tell but coming on for Arshavin, you have a feeling he’ll be used to kill off games with his experience or find his time spent starting against weaker opposition as Wenger leaves his more prized names for the big guns.
As for Swansea, they can still take positives from this, massive positives as well! Unfortunately, Brendan Rogers didn’t make the trip to the Emirates following the passing of his Father and his sides battling efforts against Arsenal will do good in hopefully lifting his chin up a bit. Swansea were great yesterday and still managed to create chances against what still remains to be a very good side, in spite of ‘that’ 8-2 defeat. Unfortunately for Swansea, their efforts were never turned in to goals and they go on looking for their first Premiership win.
Bolton Wanderers 0-5 Manchester United
Another match review brings another I called correctly just yesterday. To be fair, it was one of my more steady predictions – predicting Manchester United to beat a side they haven’t lost to in four years after United had just hammered Arsenal 8-2. Still, United had to justify my prediction and so they did, scoring as early as the fifth minute through Javier Hernandez, back in the side following Danny Welbeck’s hamstring injury suffered against Arsenal a fortnight ago.
By the 25th minute, things had gotten progessively worse for Bolton as Manchester United stormed into a 3-0 lead to put the game to bed mid-way through the second half, with Wayne Rooney scoring twice in the space of five minutes. Strangely, Phil Jones claimed both of the assists, the second coming after a brilliant run into the box where the ball eventually found it’s way to Rooney who had the simple job of tapping it in. Jones had a brilliant afternoon at right-back and looks a fantastic prospect.
Hernandez and Rooney added to Bolton’s misery in the second half, ultimately presenting Manchester United with all three points. It was all so, so easy for United and it came against a very handy Bolton side. Unless United slip off like Chelsea did last season after a monstrous start, then it could be a long, long season for all the other 19 clubs in the Premiership.
Everton 2-2 Aston Villa
Okay, okay, I got this prediction wrong! I went for a 4-2 win to Villa but instead, Villa scuppered my plans and failed to score another two.
Despite a protest before the game with fans angry at the way Everton are currently being managed in a financial sense, Everton’s performance on the pitch was full of fight, perhaps spurred on by the passion of their fans. Alex McLeish himself conceded that Aston Villa had claimed a fortunate point as Everton battered Villa, pulling the trigger seventeen times compared Villa’s measly total of seven. Everton also claimed eight corners, which compared to Villa’s tally of zero, highlights just how big the gap was when it came to chances.
However, the fact Everton drew this match 2-2 brings emphasis to the fact they are extremely light in the attacking department when it comes to actually finishing chances as David Moyes named a team with no strikers in the starting line-up with Louis Saha injured and strap-on-lung on the bench.
Aston Villa came from behind twice from this in this match with goals from Petrov and Agbonlahor cancelling out Everton’s goals coming courtesy of Leon Osman and a Leighton Baines penalty.
Manchester City 3-0 Wigan Athletic
Are both Manchester clubs going to storm ahead of all other opposition this season following heavy investment? Probably, but it’s too early to tell as of yet but early signs indicate that both Manchester sides are going to take some stopping this season.
Sergio Aguero’s hat-trick cost a lot of money but when those goals fire to City to some form of trophy this season, that fee will be have been paid. There’s nothing wrong with buying your way to glory, as long as you’re not going out of your way to do it and by that, I mean spending outside your resources; City have a filthy rich owner who can bankroll all this, so in my books, City are fine to do what they wish.
When you bring off Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero for Mario Balotelli and Samir Nasri, you know your squad is quite alright! Nothing needs to be said really regarding a game that was pretty straight forward.
Stoke City 1-0 Liverpool
Yesterday and for months before that, I’ve said Liverpool are in a season of transition and largely, I’ve been laughed at and when I said Liverpool would lose away to Stoke, I was laughed at again.
How wrong could everybody be?
Young signings, many new players, a new manager and a new start point to starting life at Anfield as a fresh, so losses to Stoke will happen, Liverpool won’t challenge for the title but in my opinion, will finish fourth of fifth, I can’t decide exactly which at the moment. Despite absolutely hammering Stoke yesterday, Liverpool simply could not score, one of those ‘teething problems’ in their transition which will be sorted out. Having nineteen attempts on goal and not scoring isn’t normal for a top side, a clear sign they need to improve and ultimately will improve.
Jamie Carragher bundled Jonathan Walters to ground inside the penalty area in the 21st minute and Walters himself stepped up to take the penalty and smash it home to give Stoke a 1-0 victory.
Wolves 0-2 Tottenham Hotspurs
For 67 minutes, Wolves matched Spurs man-for-man if only for more incision, may have had the game killed off themselves by the 67th minute. Unfortunately for Wolves, it was Spurs who opened the scoring in that pesky 67th minute through Emmanuel Adebayor.
The fact is took Spurs so long to grow into the game could be a real worry for Harry Redknapp but as he said, he has nine players missing and that makes the world of difference. Even I
In light of yesterday’s post, I have been proved right as it’s been leaked that Vermaelen is out for two months with an achilles injury. I hate saying I’m right, especially when it comes to Arsenal, but as I said, Arsene Wenger is losing the plot. He’s far too stubborn for his own good and refuses to listen to technology which time and again, proves him wrong.
Despite an opening paragraph about Arsenal, it’s Bolton I’m laying focus on this morning, after Owen Coyle boldly claimed Bolton’s valuation of Gary Cahill to be far higher than what was offered by various clubs. It’s rumoured Arsenal made a bid of £6 million, with Spurs not going much higher than that, whilst Chelsea are also rumoured to have shown an interest in an England international with a year left on his contract.
After a sterling performance over the weekend against Bulgaria, I can understand why Owen Coyle rates Cahill so highly, he looked absolutely top-class alongside John Terry and it was blatant for all to see he’s a great talent. Despite that, Bolton only picked him up for £5 million in the first place from Aston Villa, so yes, a bargain for what they’ve got out of him but can Bolton really reject offers of six or seven million for a player they face to lose for nothing in the summer. In January Cahill could go for £3 million or some other measly sum, it’s been a massive, massive error in not letting Cahill go. Bolton should have accepted any deal over £5 million and rued the fact they didn’t tie Cahill down to a long, long contract years ago.
So what is Cahill’s true value? Well for me, playing in a mid-table side decreases your value (as opposed to playing for a top side) whilst being English increases it, so we’ll say £10 million is a fair estimate? To be offered £6 million for a player who is deemed by Villa fans as ‘average’ during his time at Villa Park, I’d say Bolton would have done well to receive a bid at all for Cahill, I know for one that I wouldn’t spend good money on a player I could pick up for nothing in a few months time.
So who can Bolton pick up in the summer as Cahill’s replacement? David Wheater, a player deemed by many as a replacement for Cahill is quality defender, though Bolton fans aren’t too sure as of yet but in Wheater’s defence, he’s hardly had a run of games, it’s incredibly difficult to find form and confidence when you’re sat on the bench every week. I’d promote David Wheater from the bench, but that would leave Zat Knight and Wheater paired together, making the slowest defensive partnership in the world and at Premier League level, they would be punished most weeks by small, nippy strikers. Personally, I’d buy a player such as Toby Alderweireld; basically a young, vibrant, energetic defender with potential.
What do you think? How would you cure Bolton’s future defensive problems? Tell me in the comments!
Okay, so my predictions from yesterday’s post got off to a bad start with this match. I indeed predicted this would be a slow game, due to it’s early morning kick-off, but I also predicted Wolves to sneak it 1-0 and dear me, how wrong was I?! Wolves shot at goal a total of three times yesterday, just not enough if you’re going to think of winning a game, obviously. I like Wolves and I admire their boss, Mick McCarthy, but I can’t help but feel their midfield lacks a bit of silk. Yesterday’s midfield four for Wolves read as this: Henry, Hunt, Jarvis and O’Hara. That’s a solid midfield but noone there is going to crack a defence open with one pass, or provide a bit of skill to please fans, Jarvis is a fine winger but he’s out on the left, I’m on about O’Hara and Henry, who are two work-horses and thus, are not going to create much, likewise Stephen Hunt, who is a trojan of a worker, but not the most creative. As I also stated yesterday, this ‘derby’ is not the most anticipated in Birmingham and was never going to kick up a fuss and it showed, with the crowd a staggering 12,000 below capacity! That’s a crazy figure and though we are in financially hard times, a derby match traditionally sees a big boost in attendance. It was no surprise then that this match proved to be as wet as a cloth, as though Villa dominated, they couldn’t really work Wolves one way or the other as Mick McCarthy dug his side in for a valuable point.
Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Everton
Everton withstood an absolute battering to ‘steal’ three points from a match Blackburn had in the palms of their hand. Steve Kean was shown on the touchline at the end of the match shaking his head as he tried to wrap the great big bloody thing (his head) around how his side didn’t beat an abysmal Everton.
Creating no fewer than fourteen (!!) attempts on goal, neither Blackburn nor Everton offered much excitement in the first half as the game promised to be much like the day’s earlier kick-off. The game jerked into life in the second half however when Ross Barkley brought down Mauro Formica. Inexperience, Barkley will make these mistakes, though it came at a bad time for Everton and if Blackburn were to put it away, it could have been a long afternoon for Everton, everybody knows scoring just after half-time can be devastating in a game. Alas David Hoilett saw his penalty saved by Tim Howard and Everton escaped punishment.
In the 77th minute, Blackburn were awarded another penalty! Deciding to change penalty takers following Hoilett’s effort, Formica stepped up to take it, crashing the foot of the post. Formica in his defence did have a good afternoon and looks to be a good signing, if only he’d scored though!
Soon after, drama stuck. Despite having hit the post three times in addition to their penalty misses, Blackburn still had not scored. When Chris Samba decided to take a little hike over on Marouane Feillani in the box, it was a definite penalty and in the 92nd minute, Mikel Arteta was presented the chance to do what Blackburn had previously failed to do – score.
Chelsea 3-1 Norwich
I said yesterday this would be ‘Juan hell of a game’ and let’s face it, I was right in saying so.
One thing I’ve picked up on when it comes to Chelsea, is how remarkably easy it’s been for teams to create chances against Chelsea so far! Last week, West Brom could have been two or three up by half-time at Stamford Bridge and that’s no exaggeration; how West Brom didn’t come away with at least a point last week is unbelievable and the same applies for Norwich, it was so easy for them to create chances! If Grant Holt and Chris Martin possessed more pace in their shoes, not to mention Steve Morrison who was presented with a great one on one, then Norwich could have had two, three or even four and again, I’m not exaggerating.
Despite all these chances, Norwich could only bury one, a well improvised lob from Grant Holt after a mix-up between Hilario and Alex fell to the striker on the edge of the box. That goal had cancelled out a rather brilliant Bosingwa striker from outside the area to a cap a good start to the season for the Portuguese full-back. At 1-1 with ten minutes to go, (plus a month’s worth of injury time) Ramires found himself chewing the earth after John Ruddy sent him flying in the penalty area. When a keeper commits himself to a one on one in the area, 70% of the time he will give away a penalty. True, Ramires was ready to do his flying act but all the same, it was a penalty. Ruddy was sent off, Lampard predictably converted and Chelsea were in front. To rub salt into the wounds, Mata added a third after a mistake in the Norwich defence allowed the Spaniard to latch onto a loose ball and curl home from close range.
Liverpool 3-1 Bolton
I still remain in no doubt that Liverpool are a side in transition this year, they have a young side and will make mistakes, true, they did very little wrong against Bolton in what was a sparkling performance, but there will be days when Dalglish’s men just simply fail to function, which is natural for a young, newly-put-together team.
Henderson really looked the part, netting his first in a Liverpool shirt from inside the box. Henderson’s goal put Liverpool 1-0 up and you could see the relief pouring from him when celebrating; the young lad from Sunderland has surely had to live upto new expectations and that goal should give him the confidence to achieve those expectations.
After that, it was Charlie Adam’s afternoon at Anfield, picking passes all over the pitch, long and short, as he tormented Bolton. Adam’s corner in the 52nd minute travelled like a missile, landing on Martin Skrtel’s head, with said head directing the ball past Jaaskelainen and into the Bolton net, marking the game just about over at 2-0. Adam made sure himself a minute later, hitting a low strike into the bottom left of the goal from 25 yards out.
Liverpool eased off after that, with Bolton adding a consolation in the 92nd minute after a Jamie Carragher error allowed Martin Petrov to steal into the box and lay off for Ivan Klasnic, who scored his third of the season
Swansea 0-0 Sunderland
I watched this match on Match of the Day as I did most of the others and honestly, I made a cup of tea whilst it was on.
My first complaint is credited to Sunderland and a highly greedy Asamoah Gyan, a player I’ve come to detest. Gyan is blatantly talented but he seems to think he’s the Ghanaian Thierry Henry, something he really isn’t and he spurned chance, after chance, after chance, after chance for Steve Bruce’s men and if I were Steve, I’d have been knocking ten bells of you-know-what out of him on the team bus back home.
My second complaint goes to whoever ate the remainder of the caramel biscuits in my house, it’s not big and it’s not clever. More to the point, they’re my fucking biscuits!
Finally, I don’t worry about Swansea when it comes to scoring goals, they got into the positions yesterday and on another day they’d have had five to their name, so Swansea don’t really need to worry too much on that one, Danny Graham is a good player and will score goals at this level.
Wigan Athletic 2-0 QPR
Now three games unbeaten, Wigan have claimed their best start to a Premier League season ever following this 2-0 win over newly-promoted QPR.
Franco Di Santo scored two highly fortunate goals via deflections. You know it’s going to be your day when you score two goals via deflections and hopefully, it gives Di Santo confidence to build on after he’d endured a crappy three (is it that long?) years in English football. Pigs may fly, but it would be nice to see Di Santo actually do something for once.
As for QPR, I still worry for them, Neil Warnock needs to pay for some major renovation of his squad if their to survive the drop this season.