Monday, November 30, 2009

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 13 Review: Goals Galore And Carlo's Blue Army Marches On

And it happened. I guess it was always going to be inevitable, wasn't it? Manchester City would undoubtedly equal the Premier League record for most consecutive draws i.e. seven. City never looked capable of beating a resurgent Hull City. Jimmy Bullard turned in an excellent performance again and it is no coincidence that Hull's rise in form came when he is fit to start.

Liverpool once again defied the odds and doomsayers by topping Everton in the 212th Merseyside derby. Everton slipped down the table to 16th and looking very precarious. Even though the Reds were poor, their resilience and stout defending relieved the noose around Rafa's neck.

Watching the Arsenal-Chelsea match made me think of this great big powerful bully swatting away bothersome flies. Arsenal players were buzzing around, passing and moving but Chelsea's power and precision proved too much for the Gunners. Chelsea have now won all three of their "Big 4" encounters and that's an outstanding achievement. The Blues looks like champions-elect on this form.

After twice letting two-goal lead slip, West Ham almost let a five goal lead count for nought! Luckily, a five-goal lead IS hard to overcome even with an ill-disciplined defence as West Ham's. The Hammers clearly have big problems in defence and simply put, if the club is relegated, it will be because of poor poor poor defence. The midfield and attack are starting to look fantastic and Franco has been a tremendously influential figure in this turnaround. With Diamanti and Noble on the sidelines, this West Ham team does have talent and creativity. Their survival and move up the league table hinges on whether Gianfranco Zola and Steve Clarke can shore up defence.

Here are the five Hammer goals in colour,

pictures are shared via Empics, AP Photo and Getty Images

Lastly, Wayne Rooney's first hattrick in three years pushes his tally this season to ten goals in 13 matches. He is definitely on track for his best goalscoring season since 2006. The one-club loyalist, Ryan Giggs reached a landmark against Portsmouth. He scored his milestone 100th goal for the Red Devils. A definite great of the English game.

These are the results of Week 13 of the Premiership,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
FT Fulham 3 - 0 Blackburn Rovers
FT Hull City 3 - 2 Everton
Saturday, November 28, 2009
FT Blackburn Rovers 0 - 0 Stoke City
FT Fulham 1 - 1 Bolton Wanderers
FT Manchester City 1 - 1 Hull City
FT Portsmouth 1 - 4 Manchester United
FT West Ham United 5 - 3 Burnley
FT Wigan Athletic 1 - 0 Sunderland
FT Aston Villa 1 - 1 Tottenham Hotspur
Sunday, November 29, 2009
FT Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 1 Birmingham
FT Everton 0 - 2 Liverpool
FT Arsenal 0 - 3 Chelsea

The Ballon d'Or Shortlist Has Been Announced!

From the initial list of 30 nominees, 10 contenders have been shortlisted for the prestigious Ballon d'Or world footballer of the year award. Here, we will look at these ten world class footballers and their achievement for the year 2009.

1. Didier Drogba (Chelsea, Ivory Coast)
English FA Cup winner 2009
English FA Community Shield winner 2009

2. Samuel Eto'o (Inter Milan, Cameroon)
Holder of most La Liga appearance by an African footballer
Joint third highest goalscorer in Barcelona history
One of two players to have scored in two UEFA Champions League Final
UEFA Champions League winner 2009
Spanish La Liga winner 2009
Spanish Copa del Rey winner 2009

3. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool, England)
English FA Premier League runner-up 2009
Football Writers Association Footballer of The Year 2009
PFA Fan's Player of the Year 2009
Selected into the PFA Team of the Year 2009

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovich (Barcelona, Sweden)
Capocannoniere winner (Top goal scorer) in Serie A 2008-2009
Second highest transfer fee in football history 2009
Sweden Footballer of the Year 2009
Italian Serie A winner 2009
UEFA Super Cup winner 2009
Italian Serie A Player of the Year 2009
Italian Serie A Foreign Player of the Year 2009

5. Andres Iniesta (Barcelona, Spain)
Spanish La Liga winner 2009
Spanish Copa del Rey winner 2009
UEFA Champions League winner 2009
Supercopa de España winner 2009
UEFA Super Cup winner 2009
Don Balón Award for Best Spanish Player of the Year 2009
Trofeo Alfredo Di Stéfano Runner-up 2009
Voted by La Liga as Best Attacking Midfielder 2009

6. Kaka (Real Madrid, Brazil)
Ranked no. 134 in the 2009 Time 100 Finalist
FIFA Confederations Cup winner 2009
FIFA Confederations Cup Golden Ball winner 2009
Placed in FIFA Confederations Cup Best XI 2009

7. Lionel Messi (Barcelona, Argentina)
Spanish La Liga winner 2009
Spanish Copa del Rey 2009
Supercopa de España winner 2009
UEFA Champions League winner 2009
UEFA Super Cup winner 2009
Premio Don Balón (Best Foreign Player in La Liga) winner 2009
EFE Trophy (Best Ibero-American Player in La Liga) winner 2009
UEFA Champions League Top Scorer 2009
Trofeo Alfredo Di Stéfano 2009
UEFA Club Forward of the Year 2009
UEFA Club Footballer of the Year 2009
La Liga Best Player of the Year 2009
La Liga Best Striker 2009
Onze d'Or winner 2009

8. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Portugal)
Most expensive player and record transfer fee in football history 2009
English FA Premier League winner 2009
English League Cup winner 2009
Selected into PFA Premier League Team of the Year 2009
Spokesmodel for Emporio Armani 2009

9. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, England)
English FA Premier League winner 2009

10. Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona, Spain)
Spanish La Liga winner 2009
Spanish Copa del Rey 2009
Supercopa de España winner 2009
UEFA Champions League winner 2009
UEFA Super Cup winner 2009
Selected into UEFA Team of the Year 2009
UEFA Champions League Most Assists 2009
UEFA Club Best Midfielder 2009
La Liga Best Midfielder 2009

On pure 2009 achievement alone, Lionel Messi is a shoo-in for the Ballon d'Or 2009 award and very much welcomed by fans and industry. The results will be known on the 1st December 2009.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Video: The Biggest Premier League Wins And More

Here are the biggest wins in the English Premier League as compiled below.

Tottenham Hotspur 9 Wigan Athletic 1 (22 November 2009)

Manchester United 9 Ipswich Town 0 (March 1995)

Nottingham Forest 1 Manchester United 8 February 1999

Arsenal 7 Everton 0 May 2005

Arsenal 7 Middlesbrough 0 May 2006

Back in the old Division One, Liverpool thrashed Crystal Palace 9-0
Liverpool 9 Crystal Palace 0 September 1989

and then there was this,
Liverpool 7 Tottenham Hotspur 0 1978

and this,
Derby County 1 Liverpool 7 March 1991

and finally going into the Champions League record books for the biggest win margin,
Liverpool 8 Besiktas 0 November 2007

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 12 Review: Defoe and Lennon Can Spur England's World Cup Ambitions

There was only one main highlight of week 12 and that was the unthinkable 9-1 Tottenham-Wigan match. Jermain Defoe scored five goals in a match where Wigan was torn apart by a second half Spurs blitz. He now joins Andy Cole and Alan Shearer in the illustrious ranks of goalscorers who scored five goals in a Premier League match. Aaron Lennon again showed that he could be England's most potent attacking force by creating three assists. Harry Hotspur had this to say about this brilliant Spurs performance.

Liverpool once again disappointed in their defending. They have now conceded 13 goals from setpieces which is the highest among the Premiership "Big 4". That's a staggering 65% of all the goals that the Reds have conceded this season. The Liverpool-Kop was scathing in their opinion on Benitez' tactics against Man City.

Darren Fletcher is slowly but surely becoming as influential and irreplaceable as Roy Keane for Manchester United. That's as big a compliment for the Scottish captain as it can get. Oh wait, maybe he could be even better, I have never seen Roy Keane score the goal "Fletch" scored against Everton. The Stretty Rant blog shared their afterthoughts on the match that moved United back to second behind Chelsea.

Once again, West Ham let a two goal lead slip due to inept defending. As I said in my preview post, Jimmy Bullard needed watching but he ran riot instead. Read the unbiased honest assessment of the Hull-West Ham stalemate as posted by Hammersfan in his blog. The silver lining for Zola is that West Ham is out of the bottom three and there is every possibility, with Franco and Cole, that the Hammers can outscore Burnley at Upton Park.

Arsenal's old weakness resurfaced at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland choked the Arsenal midfield and supply line to Eduardo. Lorik Cana was superb, with crunching tackles and thoughtful ball distribution. Steve Bruce enhanced his reputation with this win, so maybe touting him as Fergie's successor isn't so much a shot in the dark anymore. Disappointment was apparent at the Arsenal FC Blog when they wrote this post on the match.

And finally, the big blue machine of Carlo Ancelotti continue to chug along, taking no prisoners with a methodical 4-0 win against Wolves. Who would it take to stop the Blues? The African Nations Cup, perhaps? The Blue Champions blog speaks highly of the Wolves match, the youngsters and Ancelotti. Who would have thought that Ancelotti would blood youngsters??!!

All the results from Week 12 fixtures,
Saturday, November 21, 2009
FT Liverpool 2 - 2 Manchester City
FT Birmingham 1 - 0 Fulham
FT Burnley 1 - 1 Aston Villa
FT Chelsea 4 - 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
FT Hull City 3 - 3 West Ham United
FT Sunderland 1 - 0 Arsenal
FT Manchester United 3 - 0 Everton
Sunday, November 22, 2009
FT Bolton Wanderers 0 - 2 Blackburn Rovers
FT Tottenham Hotspur 9 - 1 Wigan Athletic
FT Stoke City 1 - 0 Portsmouth

Next week will be a bumper weekend. Two explosive derbies on Sunday mean Manchester United will be rubbing their hands and expecting to capitalize on the carnage ahead.

The Flat Back Four's weekly English Premier League reviews:
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 1 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 2 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 3 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 4 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 5 & 6 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 7 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 8 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 9 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 10 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 11 Review

Saturday, November 21, 2009

List of English League Managers Who have Reached 1,000 Matches

Listed below are the men who have managed over 1,000 competitive matches in English League and Cup football in the modern era, and in what is arguably, the most competitive football environment in the world:
  • Dave Bassett
  • Alan Buckley
  • Sir Matt Busby CBE
  • Brian Clough OBE
  • Steve Coppell
  • Sir Alex Ferguson CBE
  • Dario Gradi MBE
  • Brian Horton
  • Lennie Lawrence
  • Harry Redknapp
  • Sir Bobby Robson CBE
  • Joe Royle
  • Denis Smith
  • Jim Smith
  • Alec Stock
  • Graham Taylor OBE
  • Graham Turner
  • Neil Warnock

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hull City vs. West Ham United: A Crucial Six-Pointer But Diamanti Is Injured!

West Ham United travels to Hull City this Saturday and will be looking to put the miserable Everton match behind them. We have to start winning and stay in control of our Premiership destiny. We need to set off on a winning run. At the moment, West Ham cannot put together a win streak that our play at times deserves.

Jimmy Bullard is a livewire in midfield and therefore our West Ham players may not have much time on the ball. Nevertheless the pass and move, one touch football that Zola has the team playing should cause problems to Hull. Geovani, easily Hull's best player this season, is back from suspension and will pull the strings with Bullard in midfield.

Carlton Cole will be back to lead the line for West Ham. He has still not ended up on the winning side whenever he scored. I hope that he will break that trend in this match. Unfortunately, Alessandro Diamanti hurt his hip in training and will be out of this match. Diamanti have been the difference (as a substitute) in the games that he has played in. West Ham will surely miss his energy and enthusiasm.

Zola should set up his West Ham side with the formation which worked well against Sunderland and Arsenal. Hence the below is my favoured West Ham lineup.

The Flat Back Four's favoured West Ham lineup (4-4-2):
--------------------------------- Green

Faubert --------------- Da Costa ------ Upson ------------ Spector

---------------------------- Parker

----------------------------------------------- Noble

Behrami -------------- ----------- ---- ------------------- Collison

------------------------ Cole ------ Franco

So, let's get the much needed three points, jump over Hull City in the league position and we could be in very good shape against a travel-shy Burnley team. A really crucial six-pointer, all happening within the next two weekends. It's going to be two very significant weekends for West Ham United.

Can West Ham put together two consecutive wins? Come on You Irons!

Liverpool At Its Best - Backs Against Wall, Watch Out Manchester City

Great news, all Liverpool fans! Injury treatment in Serbia has reaped handsome rewards and the injured are now fighting fit!

Albert Riera, Yossi Benayoun, Fabio Aurelio, Steven Gerrard, David Ngog and Glen Johnson are all declared fit and ready to take on draw specialists, Manchester City. Liverpool is most dangerous when they are wounded - hurt by public criticisms and poor performances. One win in nine matches, out of which six were defeats have hurt the Red's title ambitions. Premier League leaders, Chelsea are now 11 points ahead of Liverpool, which can be overhauled considering that Chelsea will lose players due to January's African Nations Cup.

Manchester City are not to be underestimated but they have yet to show consistency this season. Nothing new about this, considering that this City team is virtually a new one bought with ₤118million. City's lack of fluidity and defensive frailties are the main reasons that they are not higher up the table, since they have only lost once this season. Hmmm...isn't that a carbon copy of Liverpool last season??

This is a match where everyone seemed to be writing off Liverpool. At Anfield, Liverpool has scored 15 goals and only let in six thus far. However, apart from Torres (who is about 2-3 weeks away from full fitness), one wonders where the goals could come from. David Ngog, in recent weeks, have stepped up with great performances and Rafa may turn to him again.

Head To Head At Anfield

Date Competition Home team Score/Time Away team
22-02-2009 Premier League Liverpool 1 - 1 Manchester City
04-05-2008 Premier League Liverpool 1 - 0 Manchester City
25-11-2006 Premier League Liverpool 1 - 0 Manchester City
26-02-2006 Premier League Liverpool 1 - 0 Manchester City
21-08-2004 Premier League Liverpool 2 - 1 Manchester City

Liverpool have an unbeaten home record against Manchester City though the matches have been tight affairs. The Kop will be a factor in this match for sure. Furthermore, Liverpool under Benitez, are at their best when treated as underdogs. If the Reds can keep Adebayor quiet (he has a tendency to raise his game for the big one) then Liverpool will win this contest.

This is THE match of the weekend. There will be goals in this one for sure, though personally I am more excited by the prospect of seeing Aquilani actually making his Premiership home debut at some point in the match on Saturday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Boy's Done Good!: Chelsea's Michael Ballack

Michael Ballack has been a top-class performer for Chelsea in this season's Barclays Premier League. He has been a key reason for the Blues success in the league this term, contributing three goals and 2 assists in 9 games with an impressive passing efficiency of 84%.

Malaysian Today published this article recently chronicling the career of Ballack, his injury struggles while at the Premiership and finally coming good this season.

Michael Ballack's arrival in English football was preceded by a string of plaudits for the star's technical ability. However, his early days at Chelsea were marred by occasional dips in form as, amid the frequent changes in management, he struggled to shine among the club's already star-packed squad.

Ballack's time at Stamford Bridge has been anything but smooth. Until, that is, the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti this year, with the Italian boss helping the German back to his best. Whether or not he can inspire his team to silverware this season remains to be seen, but whatever happens, Ballack has come a long way since he first joined up with German minnows Chemintz at the age of six.

After making his debut in 1995, Ballack's return of 13 goals from 67 appearances inevitably attracted the attention of several bigger clubs, and it was not long before Kaiserslautern signed the 'Little Kaiser'.

A 4.1 million euro deal was signed and sealed in 1997 and Ballack was immediately handed a pivotal role in his first season with the club. He netted four goals, despite originally being signed as a sweeper, although he was eventually pushed forward and given more attacking freedom before grabbing his first big break at title contenders Leverkusen.

Coaches Christoph Daum and Klaus Toppmoller recognised his growing talent and decided to offer the German free reign of tne club's midfield. His passing efficiency and an eye for goal developed over the coming seasons, as he netted 27 times in three years.But it was Ballack's next move that would propel him to forefront of Europe's elite band of midfielders.

Following an impressive performance at the 2002 World Cup, in which Germany finished runners-up, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich signed Ballack for 12.9million euros. In his first season with the Bavarians, Ballack led the team to a league and cup double before more success in 2005. Meanwhile he won the German player of the year award three times.

However despite an impressive haul of 44 goals in 107 appearances for the club and recognition as Europe's best midfielder by UEFA, he soon fell out of favour with the club's hierarchy and after public criticisms from head coach Uli Hoeness and Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer, Ballack soon moved on - joining Chelsea on a free transfer in 2006.

In his first season in England, the German found the net eight times in all competitions but failed to make himself a regular name on Chelsea's team-sheet. Growing injury problems cost him a place in that year's FA Cup-winning side and the star struggled to make the kind of impact he had hoped for.

Chelsea's revolving door of management limited the midfielder's chances, while the influx of holding midfielders, such as John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien, forced Ballack to the bench on several occasions. Ballack's turmoil increased after surgery ruled him out of Chelsea's UEFA Champions League squad in 2007/08 until the knockout stages, but he soon returned to help the Blues to a runners-up finish in the Champions League and the Premier League, and his country to second place in Euro 2008.

Last season was again frustrating, as more managerial changes - Luiz Felipe Scolari's started the campaign and Guus Hiddink ended it - meant Chelsea struggled to challenge for the title and lost out in the semi-finals of the Champions League.

However, following the arrival of Ancelotti this summer the Blues, and Ballack have gone from strength to strength, and the German has revelled in his role as part of the Italian's new-look diamond formation.

Ballack has faced continuous heartache on an international level, losing a World Cup and European Cup final during his career. Most recently, last year's Champions League semi-final defeat against Barcelona and the 2oo8 final defeat to Manchester United will no doubt still boil the German's blood after he claimed upon joining the Blues "the Champions League is my object".

Ballack married Simone Lambe in July 2008 and they have children together.

Ballack reportedly drives around town in a Porsche 911 Turbo.

Despite missing the opening game due to a calf strain, Ballack was included in the 2006 World Cup All Star Team, although the tournament itself ended in disappointment as the Germans lost out to Italy in the semifinals.

A second tournament booking against South Korea in 2002 meant that Ballack missed the World Cup final with Brazil, and Germany went on to lose 0-2 without him.

Position: Midfielder
Club: Chelsea
D.O.B: 26/9/1976
Germany Caps: 97
Germany Goals: 42
Germany Debut: Germany v Scotland 28/4/1999

Better known as football's "nearly man", will this be the season where Michael Ballack achieves his personal treble of Premier League, Champions League and World Cup winner's medal?

The series of The Boy's Done Good! also consist of:
Bolton's Tamir Cohen

South Africa World Cup 2010: The Final 32 Teams

After some dramatic final round and playoff matches, the footballing nations which will grace the stadiums in South Africa are now complete. France, though should be feeling very sheepish as they cheated their way into South Africa.

No one would've expected Thierry Henry to do a "mini-Maradona" but unfortunately, footballers will always try to gain an advantage whether legally or illegally. The referee and linesman however should have spotted the handball and disallowed the goal. So the officials bear the brunt of the fault here. In such cases, video evidence would be useful and should be allowed.

As fans, I look forward to a fair and competitive match won through a flash of footballing brilliance rather than a classless cheat.

Anyway, the list of 32 teams are complete. The final 32 national teams who will take part in next summer's 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa are:
1. South Africa
2. Italy
3. Brazil
4. Paraguay
5. Chile
6. Argentina
7. Uruguay
8. Denmark
9. England
10. Germany
11. Netherlands
12. Serbia
13. Spain
14. Slovakia
15. Switzerland
16. Greece
17. Slovenia
18. Portugal
19. France
20. Mexico
21. United States
22. Honduras
23. Ghana
24. Ivory Coast
25. Nigeria
26. Cameroon
27. Algeria
28. Australia
29. Japan
30. South Korea
31. North Korea
32. New Zealand

Start making those vuvuzelas!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Farewell Dean Ashton, Thanks For The Memories!

After almost three injury-ravaged years, Dean Ashton, as the back pages suggest, will finally hang up his boots and retire. The player who was once seen as a unique cross between the playing styles of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham, will never fully fulfill his potential as a top-class footballer. Many football observers including myself would have picked Ashton as the perfect foil for Wayne Rooney in England colours.

Dean Ashton was a modern-day striker who had the complete package. Strong and accurate in the air as well as comfortable holding up the ball, he also had skills like a support striker. Superb game awareness and excellent first touch are all attributes of Ashton's. He was prolific and single minded as a goalscorer. The English version of Didier Drogba but without the theatrics.

A broken ankle sustained during England training in 2006 never completely healed and although Ashton had his best season in 2007-08, that suspect ankle was always vulnerable to more injuries. Who would have thought that a call-up to an England training camp could end a promising player's career?!

Enjoy this video highlights as a sort of tribute to Dean Ashton. Video was created by EliasWhufc14.

West Ham are expected to issue a statement about Ashton's retirement in the coming weeks. The Dean Ashton ankle saga finally comes to an extremely sad halt. Ummm....maybe not as West Ham and Dean Ashton are expected to file suits against the English FA, Chelsea and even Shaun Wright-Phillips to seek financial compensation.

Mixed Results For Bryan Robson in Asian Cup Qualification

Bryan Robson's first taste of Asian football came last Saturday when Thailand traveled to Singapore. He came through that test with flying colours as the Thais comprehensively beat the Kallang Roar-deficient Singapore 3-1. That win boosted his credentials as a legitimate national team coach. What was even better that Saturday was that Noh Alam Shah, Singapore's best player would be suspended on Wednesday (today) when Thailand hosts Singapore at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Bryan Robson had warned the Thai players against complacency and over-confidence for the return match. To Robson's credit, he sought to re-focus the player's minds and energy on the match at hand. In the end, his worst fears came to pass as Thailand were shocked by Singapore through a first half Duric header. This report can also be found in the AFC website as well.

BANGKOK – Singapore reignited their 2011 AFC Asian Cup qualification hopes as Aleksandar Duric's first-half header secured a 1-0 victory over Thailand at the Rajamangala Stadium on Wednesday.

The hosts dominated much of the game but were unable to convert a number of chances as Duric's 38th minute header settled the Group E encounter and avenged the 3-1 home defeat to the same opponents on Saturday.

The much-needed three points moved Singapore into second place in the group a point clear of Thailand and a point behind leaders Iran, who face Jordan on Saturday.

Singapore came close to taking a fifth minute lead when Fahrudin Mustafic rode several challenges and let fly from 25 yards but Kittisak Rawangpa brilliantly clawed the ball out of the top corner.

Thailand began to exert their authority but the visitors threatened again in the 24th minute when Khairul Amri's back-heel allowed Duric an opening but his effort was deflected wide.

Three minutes later, a loose pass was pounced on by Pipat Thonkanya and the forward turned quickly before bearing down on goal but he eventually fired straight at goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, who held a low volley from the same player shortly afterwards.

Khairul saw a fierce shot deflected behind by Nataporn Phanrit 10 minutes before the break but Singapore broke the deadlock soon after when Duric – standing unmarked in front of the goalkeeper – deftly nodded in Mohamad Shaiful's corner from the left almost on the goal line.

Pipat had great chance to level on the stroke of half-time when Thailand won the ball in midfield and Datsakorn Thongalao played the forward in down the left but he side-footed just beyond the far post.

Thailand began the second half in desperate search of an equaliser but it was Singapore who almost doubled their lead in the 67th minute when Khairul broke but saw his effort roll wide.

Sutee Suksomkit hit a disappointing free-kick into the wall and his follow-up was held by Sunny before Teerasil Dangda met Sutee's excellent cross from the left with a powerful header that flashed narrowly wide.

Pipat missed another excellent opportunity with just under quarter of an hour remaining when another Sutee centre found its way through to the back post but the unmarked forward lashed into the side netting from eight yards.

Duric's side-footed volley flew just the wrong side of the post after the striker got in front of his marker and Hassan held Suchao Nutunum's shot before substitute Peter Laeng saw a powerful drive drift past the upright as Singapore held on.
Reports suggested that Thailand looked the better side with more cohesiveness in their play. In the end, Bryan Robson suffers mixed results in his efforts of guiding Thailand into the AFC Asian Cup 2011. One win and one defeat means it's still early days. I still think he has the quality and capability to take Thailand to greater heights.

The jury though, is still out on his capability as an international-class coach. Thailand now lie third in the table behind Singapore and Iran. They will need to win all their remaining matches and hope Singapore slips up if they are to qualify for Qatar 2011.

Debate: Should Top Players Be Excluded From Meaningless International Friendlies?

Last weekend and midweek action involved another round of international games. Some matches were important like the playoffs for the right to feature in the 2010 South Africa World Cup Finals but all too many were unimportant games that counted for absolutely nothing. The question that pops to mind was should the top players be excluded from playing in them to avoid injury?

Robin Van Persie sidelined - From TimesOnline

I know that this brings up loads of potential talking points such as who do you classify as a top player etc. etc. But a lot of the time, it is quite clear that some players are not needed. That, as long as they keep their form up for their club, they will play for their country.

International friendlies do have their place but that shouldn't be just before Christmas when the league fixtures schedule is already tight and the next competitive international match is not until next summer. Friendlies should occur just before the competition when you know which players are fit because there is a good chance there will be at least one injury that will cause a player not to make the World Cup roster.

Chelsea duo, John Terry and Frank Lampard both picked up injuries during their trip with England and Robin Van Persie looks to be sidelined for 6 weeks after lasting only 10 minutes playing in a friendly for the Netherlands. These losses to Chelsea and Arsenal could put their title bids off track, which is bad enough for the supporters and club when they got injured in a game that mattered but getting injured in a friendly that could have been avoided makes the whole thing seem a little pointless.

The obvious answer to the problem is only to have international friendlies in the weeks leading up to competitive games or tournaments. The only other solution is being a second string (B) team getting the call up instead of the top players. Ultimately, these players still have clubs who need them fit to play so this only protects the big clubs and not the small ones.

I have never been a big fan of international football but I do understand the importance of it to players who want to represent their country but sometimes I feel a little more common sense need to be adopted when arranging the fixtures of non-competitive international matches.

Written by Mark Ferguson, a sports writer who blogs about cheap football shirts.

So, what do you think? Should top players be excluded from meaningless international friendlies? The Flat Back Four is open to comments!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Zola Should Raid Inter Milan And Get Marko Arnautovic On Loan

On the recommendation of Stephen Coutts, lead writer for Man On Platform 13, I took a look at the Inter Milan's 20-year Austrian, Marko Arnautovic. This was after Arnautovic finally scored for Inter against Vaduz in a friendly match recently.

Thus far, Marko Arnautovic has been warming the bench at the Nerazurri, trying hard to convince Jose Mourinho that his talent is worthy of the Serie A stage. A product of the Eredivisie and FC Twente in particular, this young Austrian was reportedly the brightest young talent in the Dutch League of 2008. Here is the video highlight of this very talented young winger/striker.

Shades of a certain Ronaldo? The youthful impudence, lightning pace, deceptive strength, excellent heading ability, shoot on sight policy and confident/arrogant playing style bears resemblance to the ex-Man Utd man. The media is comparing Young Marko to Zlatan Ibrahimovich, the Dutch footballing education, Eastern European parentage and size of the two players being the similarities. I instead prefer to liken him to Cristiano Ronaldo. From the video, I got the feeling that Marko Arnautovic has that spark that Ronaldo had at the same age.

With transfer window looming, if West Ham and Gianfranco Zola were to look to strengthen the attack then I would recommend taking a gamble on Arnautovic who might be available on loan. The Premier League has definitely missed the flair and star quality of Cristiano Ronaldo....perhaps Marko Arnautovic can bring that fantasy back into the English Premiership. He will definitely bring pace and directness to the West Ham attack, it could be what the Hammers need. So bring him, Mr. Nani, we need to get out of the relegation zone.

What do you think? Does Marko Arnautovic have something to offer Premiership clubs? Your opinions are welcome as Arsenal, Livorno, Fulham and Lazio think so.

Friday, November 13, 2009


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Castrol Football Rankings - Analysing World Soccer Player Performance

This is one of the best things to have been published on the internet when it comes to player analysis and team performances. For the latest in stats and soccer analysis, go to Castrol Rankings. The rankings are a little dated (next update expected on 15/12) but still valuable information.

The top 20 best performing players in the world are currently:

Nine Barcelona players are listed in the top 10, the best club side in world football at the moment.

And the best performing Barclays Premier League players are:

Evidently Chelsea are the dominant team in the Premiership.

And finally, how are the West Ham player ranked?

Surprisingly, Mark Noble is the third best Hammers player since the start of the English Premier League season. List makes interesting reading, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

News Around The Soccer World: The Flat Back Four Thoughts

Caught Offside has the following breaking transfer rumours,
Liverpool Linked with Move for £8m Dazzling Brazilian Playmaker Hernanes
Liverpool to Make Shock £12m January Raid for Cole: Intelligent Bit of Business
Liverpool Could Sign £13m Playmaker Rafael Van der Vaart

I had expressed my wish list previously during the August 31 transfer deadline and Liverpool are reportedly willing to splash the cash to get Brazilian midfield schemer, Hernanes.

Rio the clairvoyant, Tevez’ wallpaper and a Torres attraction from theSun
A humourous look at last weekend's football by Bob Holmes.

Fowler a star in late-career switch to Australia in
Still one of the most natural goalscorer in football. He has bagged eight goals and one assist in 14 matches for the North Queensland Fury.

A Day in the Life of Raymond Domenech in Dirty Tackle
It's just too easy to ridicule the man....but he does have a song devoted to him.

Phil Gartside: English football needs to change in
No Old Firm After All in The Sun
I had voiced my opinion on the benefits of this proposal already early this year. Apart from the conditions for acceptance into the elite Premier League 2, I feel that this will distribute the riches a bit better than the current top heavy club wealth.

Frank Lampard flies home after injury in England training
The latest England star to suffer an injury but it doesn't matter anyway. The friendly against Brazil should be played just before the 2010 World Cup and not now.

Super stuff from Chris Toy of Studs
Diarrhea Dad
Forgive and Forget

Lastly, the infamous Liz Lambert video...

The Best Way To Sell Football Merchandise!

Who would have thought selling shinpads can sound so suggestive....???

I found this while browsing the excellent blog, The Spoiler. The video itself was from The Offside which is also another premier footy blog.

Top Influential Sports Journalists and Bloggers on Twitter

These guys are recently been listed as most influential journalists and bloggers for football news. Tweet-ing has its benefits! I share the following article from puntersrealm.

Since Twitter recently released a list function, we thought it was time to share our list of who we follow as the most influential (mostly European) sports journalists and bloggers in world sport. These journalists cover mostly European sports, like football (soccer), and cricket, but you can find other journalists and bloggers who are important for their own reasons.

Most of these journalists have a great influence on today’s sports media, but some of them are up-and-coming. Some of those up-and-coming writers may seem to only have spent five minutes on their twitter accounts, but we are a part of a huge list of followers, just waiting for them to speak. It will be exciting to follow them in the future, you can bet on that.


Phil McNulty - BBC Sport's chief football writer

Phil McNulty is BBC Sport’s chief football writer. He covers the hottest debates and news in the world of football, of course with the focus on the English teams. Phil often twitters live from the big games, like the Champions league, and you can usually find the latest news on his twitter.


Howard Bloom -

Howard Bloom covers a mix of sports, business news and marketing news on his twitter. If you are interested in the business behind sports, you must follow this man, because he knows what he is talking about.


Brooks runs

Brooks has a website called, where a host of writers post sports news and commentates on sports, in a way you will not find elsewhere. It is one of the biggest independently owned sports blog online. Brooks twitters about everything in the world of US sports.


Barry Glendenning – Editor on the Guardian Unlimited website

Barry Glendenning twitters mostly about English football and mix it up with some other thoughts. Sometimes about his own bets, sometimes about completely different topics like tramps on a bench.


James Richardson – Former presenter of Channel 4’s Football Italia

With only 3 tweets and over 1300 followers we really look forward to when this guy starts twittering.


Sean Ingle – Sports editor of

Sean Ingle doesn´t only knows football he seems to be a betting expert as well! How about laying Barca at 1.5 against Rubin. Then backing them at 2.5 at Befair for a nice profit, and twittering about it , that´s how we want Twitter to be used!


ollie irish - Editor at

This guys tweets are very entertaining, but he has very deep knowledge in the world of football. Just like his site, that is a mix of serious football news and other not so serious topics…


Ernest Legrand -

This guy loves football and loves to write about it. He twitters about the news and rumours in international football, if you follow his tweets, you will not miss much of importance.


Ben Hibbs - Man Utd blogger

Ben Hibbs follows Manchester United closer than anyone else. If Rooney had eggs for breakfast, Ben knows all about it. Maybe not so fun if you don´t like Man U, but for us who are into sports betting he is a must on our list. Just waiting for the day when he tells us that all players have a big hung over before a game…


Red Rants -

Red Ranter is something as unusual as a US based Man U blogger. He is replying a lot and twitters about not only about Man U but of course that is the dominating subject.


Fredorrarci -

Fredorraci is an Irish blogger who follows Irish football as well as international football. He also comes up with some brilliant tweets about other sports, so we have to follow this guy.


Tom Dunmore - Editor of Pitch Invasion

Tom Dunmore is based in Chicago and covers the global football. We don’t understand how he can keep himself so well informed about European football, but he does. Also taking his time to replying his followers, we think this is man for our list.


Brian Phillips –

Brian Phillips runs the brilliant football website We think this is an upcoming profile on twitter, just give him some time, and he will get his well deserved share of followers.


Adam Bader blogger at

If you don´t read Spanish, and we don´t, Adam Bader is the one to follow for news about Real Madrid. He knows all about who will play, who is injured and everything else you want to know about Real.


Kevin Coleman – editor at

Kevin is part of the Backpage team and only 17 years old but writes about football like he was 47. A big Liverpool fan but he and his co-editor twitters about everything that they find interesting in English football.


Brooks Peck and Carter Daly - Editors -

Dirty Tackle is a website about football, culture and nonsense. We really like the discussions on Dirtytackles twitter. They don´t use twitter for a boring one way communication, like so many others.


Caughtoffside – football website

Caughtoffside is a football website with news videos and a lot of information. Covering both English and international football and twittering about new and gossip in the world of football, we have to follow them.


Chris Toy - Comic Strip Football News

Chris Toy is a cartoon, but this cartoon seems to know more about football than most bloggers. Of course we have to follow this cartoon who follows English football and more for us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 11 Review: Definitely A Three Horse Race

The biggest match of the weekend ended up being a tense but boring affair. It was so bad that in the end, the most eyecatching incident turned out to be off the field as shown by the picture on the left.

Just what this man was thinking is beyond comprehension but perhaps he DOES know what he was up to. Thanks to him, the match between Chelsea and Manchester United had a talking point at least, saving a lot of bloggers like myself the agony of trying to put together a valid review.

United clearly played for a draw, Berbatov's injury probably enforced this tactical change. I believed Alex Ferguson should have brought on Obertan and Owen much earlier i.e. a few minutes after Chelsea's goal might have made a difference to the final scoreline.

As a result of this win, Chelsea surged to a five-point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League ahead of Arsenal and Manchester United. I guess Carlo Ancelotti's plan is to garner as many points as possible seeing that Drogba, Essien, John Obi Mikel and Kalou will be off playing in the African Nations Cup in January. Drogba will be most missed as Chelsea's attacking depth is thin with Daniel Sturridge as possible stand-in. Ballack can be employed at the holding role, opening up a spot for Joe Cole in the African players' absence.

Arsenal continue to impress this week as with most weeks, a 4-1 mauling of Wolves with another total football display. The Gunners are definitely title contenders but I say this with a tinge of realism as Manchester United was the only Big Four club they have faced up to now. Even so, considering that Fabregas and Co outplayed United at Old Trafford, the quiet confidence and newfound maturity seem to be permeating through the club. Arsene Wenger is a world-class manager for simply developing these "kids" and schooling them in his footballing vision. They are now second in the table with a game in hand.

Burnley is still living the Premier League dream. In my years following the Premier League, there was always a promoted team that will shock and surprise every season. Wigan did that in 2005/2006 or Reading in 2006/2007. Let's hope they don't freefall like Hull last season.

Manchester City are becoming the draw specialists of the Premier League with five drawn matches thus far. Draws are what stopped Liverpool from parading their 19th title. If Mark Hughes have aspiration of Premiership glory, he has to get the team playing well collectively and not having to rely on individual brilliance.

On the other hand, Spurs looked the more likely team to steal the fourth Champions League spot from Liverpool. Spurs' good run has rewarded some key players with international call ups. Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone will benefit further from senior international exposure.

Liverpool only managed a draw at Anfield against Birmingham and they were lucky not to have lost that match. It's worrying times at Anfield and injuries mounting but Rafa is still putting up a brave front. Positive aspects from last night's match? Two actually, first one being the David Ngog goal, his all round play was excellent and secondly the debut of Alberto Aquilani, indicating that the Italian could be fit to start Nov 21 against Manchester City.

The results of Week 11 are as below, and including Liverpool's Monday match last night. Again refereeing played key factors in Week 11. Chelsea's goal and Liverpool's Ngog dive are refereeing blips in a long list of dubious decisions this season.

Saturday, November 7, 2009
FT Aston Villa 5 - 1 Bolton Wanderers
FT Blackburn Rovers 3 - 1 Portsmouth
FT Manchester City 3 - 3 Burnley
FT Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 0 Sunderland
FT Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 - 4 Arsenal
Sunday, November 8, 2009
FT Hull City 2 - 1 Stoke City
FT West Ham United 1 - 2 Everton
FT Wigan Athletic 1 - 1 Fulham
FT Chelsea 1 - 0 Manchester United
Monday, November 9, 2009
FT Liverpool 2 - 2 Birmingham

Lastly, West Ham sought to disappoint their fans over and over again. After hauling themselves out of the bottom three in midweek, Zola broke up the unbeaten 4-4-2 formation and brought West Ham back into the relegation zone. Louis Saha stamped his mark on the game, scoring a fantastic goal to put Everton ahead (see video below). With Hull and Burnley coming up, Cole's return from injury and his blossoming partnership with Franco will be key to an achievable six points. And please please please please START Alessandro Diamanti!!

The Flat Back Four's weekly English Premier League reviews:
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 1 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 2 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 3 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 4 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 5 & 6 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 7 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 8 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 9 Review
2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 10 Review

A week's international break before the most exciting league action resumes, just what West Ham and Liverpool need to get their season back on track. Hmmm....I remember saying exactly that in the first international break and nothing seemed to change for both clubs.

Sunday, November 8, 2009 And Man On Platform 13

I came across a site last week which captured my attention. It's a site not dissimilar to most news aggregator websites like Footballblips, NewsNow and Soccerblogs. However, the nicest thing about is that the football news from blogs and/or broadsheets are segregated by teams. So one can read every news available on his/her team at

This is what's founder, Phil McThomas had in mind when he built the site:
The goal of the site is to improve the experience of reading football news. When my team has won a big game, I want to drink in all the reaction from lots of different sites. On other occasions, I just want to read the headlines and maybe dip into one or two stories. I also want to keep tabs on what blogs are saying about my team - even sites I don't know about. I couldn't find a good way to get what I wanted - so I decided to build it.
These were some of the great stuff I saw on the site.
Fergie: You Don’t Leave Manchester United
Tom Hicks: Star players will not be sold even if Liverpool FC don't make Champions League
Fraizer Campbell: Steve Bruce is a great manager

So don't just take my word for it, go experience!

If you are looking for a more offbeat football blog, Stefan Coutts from Man On Platform 13 gives a very refreshing outlook on football. Predominantly focussed on Scottish football with a touch of Premiership, it covers major news items as well as surprises readers with exclusive interviews. If you'd like to find out what Tony Meola thinks about David Beckham and US Soccer, then read it here.

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