Thursday, October 29, 2009

Premier League Preview: Sunderland v. West Ham United

If the Hammers think that coming back to draw with Arsenal represent the proverbial "turn the corner" then the good work must be continued with another fine display against Sunderland. Playing at the Stadium of Light is not an easy task as the Black Cats have very passionate fans which can prove to be the 12th man for the home side. With nothing to choose between Sunderland and West Ham, the challenge is on West Ham to firstly, silence the home fans and secondly, to overpower Sunderland on the pitch.

The 4-4-2 formation that Zola fielded last weekend against Arsenal worked very well and it would be a good idea to stick with that formation. Mark Noble however have not been performing as well as he should and he must be the one to make way for the impressive Valon Behrami. A midfield four of Diamanti, Parker, Behrami and Collison looks combative enough against the pressuring and harrying Sunderland midfielders.

One worrying factor is the way Tomkins, Upson and Green have dealt with corners, crosses and free kicks into the penalty area. Worrying because this is a strength of Sunderland's. The Black Cat's twin terrors have demonstrated that they are a force by plundering 13 goals in the last 10 Premier League matches. If Danny Gabbidon is fit enough, he would be ideal to partner Upson as he has the experience and defensive expertise.

From the Arsenal match, the partnership of Cole and Franco would need time to gel and build an understanding. Yet it looks to be a potentially good partnership with Zavon Hines coming on as an impact substitute with his pace to unsettle tired defences. Carlton Cole has yet to finish on the winning side whenever he scored this season and that's a run that he will look to change this coming Saturday.

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

Spector --------------- Gabbidon ------ Upson ------------ Ilunga

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

----------------------------------------------- Behrami

Diamanti -------------- ----------- ---- ------------------- Collison

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

So relegation thoughts are not welcome at this stage! A draw seems a feasible target but it is the much needed win that Hammer fans are looking for. Furthermore, three points against a very good Sunderland side may finally mean that the Hammers have turned the corner. A good match is in store, for sure filled with passion, commitment and great passing football.

The Premier League WAG news scene whould be a lot poorer without the delectable Elena Bonzanni, the Italian TV presenter who is Valon Behrami's long time partner.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Best Goals From The Half Way Line

Before David Beckham popularised this art, goals from the halfway line were spectacular but rare. Since then, there have been more and more outrageous goals scored by really talented footballers.

Just recently, a college university freshman from SMU scored a 95-yard goal which bounced over the opposition goalkeeper and into net. Here is the video that's been making its round on the internet.

I have made a compilation of the best goals from the half way line that I have seen.

Xabi Alonso's 65-yard goal for Liverpool against Newcastle (2006)

David Beckham's goal for Manchester Utd against Wimbledon (1996)

Xabi Alonso's left footed goal for Liverpool against Luton (2006)

David Beckham's 70-yard goal for LA Galaxy against KC Wizards (2008)

Diego's 62-meter goal for Bremen against Aachen (2007)

Massimilian Porcello's 45-meter goal for Karlsruhe against Rostock (2007)

Clarence Seedorf's bullet for Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid (1997)

Matt Le Tissier's long shot artistry for Southampton against Blackburn (1994)

Arie Haan's thunderbolt for Holland against Italy (1978)

Roberto Carlos' insane touchline goal for Brazil against France (1997)

Okay...some of these aren't strictly from the halfway line. Nevertheless, these great goals are really something huh? These are the sort of stuff that make a football fan like me love this beautiful game.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reaction to West Ham's Draw Against Arsenal

Hammers fans who watched the riveting match against Arsenal voted in their player performances as such:

This was posted on Iain Dale's popular, West Ham Till I Die site.

Extremely good result for Zola and the boys, especially as I wrote previously in my preview that that victory would be a near impossible task. At halftime, it did look that way. The Hammers were down and out, being two goals behind and with only Cole looking dangerous.

Still there were plusses.
1. Zola forego the 4-3-3 formation that he loved and went with the traditionally English 4-4-2. West Ham looked more comfortable and solid in midfield at least.
2. Spector started instead of Faubert at rightback and he kept Arshavin quiet throughout the match.
3. West Ham now have players on the bench who could come into a game and make an impact. Even Liverpool do not have that strength in depth.

Defensively we are still soft though, and perhaps James Tomkins is still inexperienced. When Danny Gabbidon recovers from injury, I am sure he will start alongside Matthew Upson which will provide a much needed steel and experience. The elementary goals that the defence is leaking right now must stop. Gabbidon could be the answer.

So Zola made changes to his playing philosophy and that's a clear sign that he and Clarke are actively addressing the slump in fortunes. Perhaps the real rewards will come in the next two matches, Sunderland and Aston Villa. We definitely have the self-belief now after this come-from-behind draw.

Next change by Zola? Diamanti to start against Sunderland and Mark Noble relegated to the bench.

Come on you Irons!

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 9 Review: Liverpool's Title Challenge Back On!

It was another incredible weekend of English Premier League football. One single match was all it took to lift the doom and gloom at Anfield. A stunning 2-0 win over arch-rivals Manchester United was just the tonic that Rafa's men needed. An excellent all-round Liverpool performance got even better when David Ngog glossed the scoreline with a goal that put the issue beyond doubt.

The win brought about three notable quotes seen in today's (Tuesday 27th Oct 2009) backpages,
HATTRICK ZERO– Nemanja Vidic. Sent off for the third time in a row against Liverpool.

ADEBAYOR GOAL CELEBRATION RUN– Pepe Reina who ran the length of the field to congratulate David Ngog on his second against United.

– Escapologist - Rafa Benitez.

– Michael Owen. “Once a Man, never a Red,” was how the Kop greeted a player who scored 158 goals for Liverpool.

– Fernando Torres. Said Rafa Benitez: “You could see that he was not 100% and you could see he was not fresh - but still sometimes 80% of Fernando can make a difference.” Torres’ 65th-minute strike against United took his goal haul to an incredible 34 in 35 home league games for the Reds
The pictures were no less special:

Torres outmuscles Ferdinand, the unrestraint celebrations by Pepe Reina - Getty Images

West Ham's team spirit and determination to fight till the end brought them an unlikely draw against Arsenal. Unlike Samson, though shorn of his "Mad Professor" locks, Alessandro Diamanti showed yet again why he is now the NEW cult hero of Upton Park. His introduction turned the match around and West Ham reveled in his presence. Diamanti created one for Carlton Cole and scored the other from the penalty spot to salvage a point for the Hammers.

Mad Professor no more, cult hero status INTACT! - Getty Images

What did the backpages say about this comeback draw?
DIDIER DROGBA IMPERSONATION AWARD– Carlton Cole. The West Ham striker spent a lot of time on the ground and “won” a dubious penalty. Fumed Arsene Wenger: “Frankly, look at how many times he [Cole] went down in the game.”

– Jointly sponsored and jointly won, Wenger and Ferguson who both blamed the ref yet again for their team’s failings.
Frank Lampard cured his goal scoring Premiership blues by bagging two goals against Blackburn Rovers. The return of Joe Cole liberated his ex-Hammer mate and Cole could prove the most important "new" player to Chelsea and England. I personally tip Cole to be England's ace-in-the-pack in Capello's World Cup squad as he has that ability to do something different to change a match.
LONDON BUSES– You wait ages…Frank Lampard hadn’t scored since mid-August but now three have come along in two games.

– Sam Allardyce. “We’ve got Manchester United away next week. I’m going to try to play with 13 there.”

– (1) Pathetic – Sam Allardyce’s no-mincing word for Blackburn’s second half performance at Chelsea. (2) Genius – Carlo Ancelotti’s description of Joe Cole. Steady on, Carlo, wait till you see more of him.
Other than Chelsea and Liverpool, none of the top six won. Spurs lost at home to Stoke, Manchester City drew with Fulham at the City of Manchester Stadium, while Villa let slip a one-goal lead against Wolves.
NON-COMBATANT AWARD – Aaron Lennon. Like his Beatle namesake, the Spurs winger qualified as a fully paid-up peacenik after walking off against Stoke with an injured ankle – even though Spurs had no more subs to bring on.

– Bobby Zamora against Man City. The Independent added: “… in stilettos.”
Elsewhere, Louis Saha's excellent form continues with this wonder goal against Bolton. My candidate for goal of the month. Portsmouth could not overcome a Jozy Altidore and Jimmy Bullard-less Hull City. Chucho Benitez started and starred for Birmingham. A freak injury to Brian Jensen ended Burnley's unbeaten home record.
LOUIS SAHA CROCK AWARD – Jimmy Bullard – again. The man whose knee was described as a bomb site still needs the disposal experts. Yet to make his home debut for Hull a year after a £5m (RM27.5m) move from Fulham, he was supposed to play on Saturday but injured himself in a reserve game.

– Christian ‘Chucho’ Benitez. Birmingham’s Ecuadorian striker has a hair-cut that makes Carson Yeung glad he gave up the scissors.

– Brian Jensen, Burnley’s hippo-size keeper known as The Beast, twisted an ankle and stayed down after failing to cut out a routine ball. Unfortunately, it led to a Wigan goal, Burnley lost their home record and The Beast had to be replaced.
All in all, a great weekend of English Premier League football took place. There is space for yet another brilliant take on last weekend's matches.
TWIT OF THE WEEK– Jozy Altidore. Overslept and didn’t make it for Hull’s game against Portsmouth. Then dozy Jozy went on Twitter to explain. Phil Brown was not amused.
Finally, here are the results for Week 9.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
FT Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 - 1 Aston Villa
FT Birmingham 2 - 1 Sunderland
FT Burnley 1 - 3 Wigan Athletic
FT Hull City 0 - 0 Portsmouth
FT Tottenham Hotspur 0 - 1 Stoke City
FT Chelsea 5 - 0 Blackburn Rovers
Sunday, October 25, 2009
FT Bolton Wanderers 3 - 2 Everton
FT Liverpool 2 - 0 Manchester United
FT Manchester City 2 - 2 Fulham
FT West Ham United 2 - 2 Arsenal

You may also enjoy these 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

The backpages anecdotes are taken from theSUN.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Premiership Preview: West Ham Need Anti-Football To Win Against Arsenal

It's been seven matches since West Ham last tasted the joy of victory. Struggling from defensive lapses, visibly lacking goalscoring power and down on luck, West Ham faces a difficult London derby against "le magnifique" Arsenal. To hope for victory would be bordering on impossible but there is reason to be bullish.

West Ham's performance in the last seven matches have not exactly been bad. In fact, the Hammers outpassed and outplayed Stoke last weekend and were undone by mistakes at the back.

I am sure that Zola and Clarke would have worked on that all week and defensively, West Ham is focused on the tough task of keeping Fabregas, Rosicky, Van Persie and Arshavin at bay. I am yet to be convinced by Julien Faubert at rightback and so for me, a natural rightback like Jonathan Spector should start. Even then, Spector's defensive capabilities will be really tested by Arshavin's cunning and trickery.

To compete with Arsenal, Scott Parker's contribution will be crucial yet again. Breaking up the slick Arsenal passing is a must and that must occupy the thoughts of Noble, Collison and Parker throughout the match. I truly believe squeezing and stifling the Arsenal midfield is the key to a West Ham victory. The Arsenal defence do leak goals so the creativity of Diamanti or Jiminez and the pace of Stanislas can produce chances against the Gunners.

Guillermo Franco finally had his first taste of Premiership action coming on, about 5 mins worth at the Brittania Stadium. Now that Mexico has qualified for the World Cup finals in South Africa, I would expect more game time for Guille Franco. Carlton Cole need a capable partner in attack and Franco, on paper should be able to provide that much needed experience and composure in front of goal.

Guillermo Franco in action for Mexico - Will he feature this weekend?

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

Spector --------------- Tomkins ------ Upson ------------ Ilunga

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

----------------------------------------------- Collison

Diamanti -------------- ----------- ---- ------------------- Stanislas

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

But will Franco play? Or will Zola persist with the 4-3-3 formation and hope the likes of Diamanti, Jiminez, Collison and Behrami will provide the support and outlet for Cole's excellent hold-up play?

All I know is that to beat Arsenal, West Ham need to stop the Gunner's fluent passing game, making sure that the tackles are hard and forceful. Zola and Clarke will need to forego their beautiful football mentality and adopt a more anti-football approach this Sunday. I am sure the fans wont mind one bit since winning is everything, isn't it?

Premier League News: Alberto Aquilani Makes 15-Mins Debut in Liverpool Reserves Win

Alberto Aquilani's recuperation continues with a 15 minute reserve match run-out against Sunderland reserves last night. Here is a short video from highlighting the Italian's eye for a pass, vision and close control.

Aquilani has the makings of a very good playmaker, in an advanced midfield role. This should enable Steven Gerrard to drop back into midfield to partner Mascherano. Lucas goes back to the bench, to everyone's relief. This should give the Liverpool midfield better balance, more creativity and fluency in attack.

Aquilani's first team Liverpool debut is targeted for the Carling Cup fourth round against Arsenal on the 28th October. Looks like that plan is on track. Perhaps Rafa Benitez may even name him on the substitute bench this Sunday against Manchester United. I doubt if Rafa has any better options.

Could Aquilani be that missing link to bring the positive optimism back into Liverpool's season and soften the blow of Alonso's departure? Otherwise the only thing of beauty left would be Alberto's fiance, actress Michela Quattrociocche.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Premier League Football: The Big Liverpool-Manchester United Rivalry

There is no greater rivalry in English football than Liverpool and Manchester United. The two most successful club side in England will meet each other this Sunday at Anfield. And so with Liverpool reeling from four successive defeats - their worst run since 1987, Man Utd cannot have hoped for a better time to avenge last season's results.

Having lost four times already in the EPL, Liverpool are facing a "backs-to-the-wall" type game. Though the Liverpool players are no strangers to adversary and have always thrived when written off, this meeting with Manchester United may be a match that they would not look forward to. Rafa Benitez could be staring at a fifth Premier League defeat, a loss that could potentially end Liverpool's chances of becoming Premiership champions this season.

The fragile defence is a worry for Liverpool and the midfield has been poor against stronger opposition. The continued presence of Lucas in centre midfield means that Liverpool will never offer any creative attacking thrust. Just why Benitez keep selecting him remains a mystery to all long-suffering Liverpool fans. To make matters worse, the potential absence of both Gerrard and Torres this Sunday would render Liverpool's frontline toothless. It is worrying times at Liverpool and Rafa will need to rally the troops in order to get something this Sunday.

With problems in all areas of the team, even a draw on Sunday would be seen as a positive result for Liverpool. Are we in for a classic? Hardly, but there have been some very entertaining matches which ended in draws between these two clubs.

Here are my top five classics of Liverpool-Manchester United draws:
1. Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United (4th January 1994)
This amazing match had everything. In the space of 24 minutes, United had raced into a three-goal lead. Nigel Clough was the inspiration for Liverpool in this match. Lashing home from 25 yards and then running onto a loose ball to score a second 13 minutes later, he kept Liverpool in the match. Neil Ruddock completed an unbelievable comeback with a powerful header 11 minutes from time and Anfield erupted, celebrating an unlikely stalemate.

2. Liverpool 3-3 Manchester United (4th April 1998)
United travelled to Anfield 11 points adrift of champions-elect Liverpool, but the Red Devils still harboured hopes of overhauling their rivals. These hopes received a boost when Bryan Robson put United in front. However, in a whirlwind spell either side of half-time, Peter Beardsley, Gary Gillespie and Steve McMahon netted for Liverpool. Robson dragged United back into the game with his second, only for the dismissal of Colin Gibson to deal them a potentially fatal blow. Gordon Strachan had other ideas though, grabbing an equaliser 12 minutes from time. The rivalry between Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish also grabbed headlines that day, with Dalglish claiming that his daughter Lauren made more sense than Fergie.

3. Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool (1st October 1995)
Eric Cantona's return to first team football after the infamous kung fu kick was the highlight before the game. His assist brought the first goal for Manchester United. Roy Evans' Liverpool played magnificiently against a United side which would go on to claim the double. Robbie Fowler took centre stage that afternoon, cancelling out Nicky Butt's early effort with a unstoppable shot. He then scored a second, brushing off Gary Neville and then beating Peter Schmeichel with an exquisite lob. The script could not have been better written as Cantona, inevitably hit home a 71st minute penalty equaliser before twirling around the goal stanchion in celebration. Liverpool, under Roy Evans, had a lot of talent but could not fulfil the promise shown during those "Spice Boys" period.

4. Liverpool 2-2 Manchester United (5th May 1999)
United were locked in a head-to-head battle with Arsenal for the Premier League title and traveled to Anfield to face a Liverpool side with little left to play for in the season other than denying the Red Devils success and avenging their earlier FA Cup defeat. United, though, appeared unflustered as a first half Yorke goal gave them the lead before Irwin doubled the advantage from the penalty spot on 56 minutes. Liverpool were handed a lifeline when Jamie Redknapp hit home a controversial penalty to start Anfield rocking and Irwin then received his marching orders in equally dubious style to give the Kop a scent of a point. Former United ace Paul Ince duly obliged as he fired an equaliser with one minute remaining. United, though, were to have the last laugh as they went on to pip Arsenal to the title by one point.

5. Manchester United 2-2 Liverpool (18th October 1992)
Mark Hughes was Manchester United's hero with two goals in the final 11 minutes as the Old Trafford side clawed back from a two-goal deficit with fierce rivals Liverpool. Hughes struck in the 79th and 89th minutes to stun Graeme Souness' Merseysiders, who looked to be cruising to a comfortable victory. There was some consolation though, as Ian Rush claimed the goalscoring record from Roger Hunt when he scored his 287th goal for Liverpool.

What are your thoughts on this Sunday's game? Can Liverpool get their defensive act together and start winning again? Should Rafa Benitez be held responsible for Liverpool's poor run due to questionable tactical formations and use of players?

Michael Owen will relish returning to Anfield and I am sure the Kop will give him a reception that he will not forget. Anfield comes alive in the big games and this Sunday should be no different.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

2009 Ballon d'Or (The Golden Ball) Nominees Unveiled!

The 30-man list of nominees for the 2009 Ballon d'Or has been announced. The list consisted of a Who's Who of European football. The most glaring thing is that there is no Italian player nominated in the top 30.

2009 Ballon d'Or Nominees

Andrey Arshavin (Arsenal)
Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
John Terry (Chelsea)
Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Kaka (Real Madrid)
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Thierry Henry (Barcelona)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona)
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Xavi (Barcelona)
Yaya Toure (Barcelona)
David Villa (Valencia)
Luis Fabiano (Sevilla)
Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid)
Diego (Juventus)
Samuel Eto'o (Inter Milan)
Julio Cesar (Inter Milan)
Maicon (Inter Milan)
Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg)
Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich)
Yoann Gourcuff (Bordeaux)

Lionel Messi is arguably the favourite for this award this year. Adidas launched a video viral as a tribute to the player. Messi is known as "The Spark" in the Adidas brainchild "Every Team Needs..." series. In this series, Zinedine Zidane goes on a mission around the world to find the perfect eleven.

I would expect a high number of votes to come for Cristiano Ronaldo. Unlike other ex-Man Utd deserters, Ronaldo has done well in Real Madrid and his importance was emphasized by his absence in Real's only defeat to Sevilla. Too bad that he is now cursed by a hex placed on him by a voodoo attacker who is hired by a jilted lover. The description of this jilted lovers bears resemblance to a certain Paris Hilton. In the midst of all these nonsense, I hope that the 2008 Ballon d'Or winner, Ronaldo recovers quickly from his ankle injury and continue to shine for club and country.

This was Cristiano Ronaldo's moment, accepting the award in 2008.

My Ballon d'Or vote however goes to Cesc Fabregas who has really impressed me this season. He is the leader of the pack in Arsenal and his displays in the English Premier League have been awesome thus far.

The winner for this year's Ballon d'Or will be announced on 1st Dec 2009.

The Maradona Rant: Signs of An Impending Nervous Breakdown

On the most emotional night in Argentinian football history, Diego Maradona celebrated Argentina's direct qualification for South Africa World Cup Finals 2010 with a sexually provocative and profanity loaded outburst towards media critics and doubters alike.

This is what Maradona let fly during that now-famous TV interview,

“To those who did not believe in us, and I apologise in advance to the ladies present, they can go and suck my c*** and they can keep sucking it,” he said.

He added, motioning to the journalists: “You people take it up the a***. You treated me like dirt, but now you have to accept that we are going to the World Cup.”

Maradona was even more ambiguous: “I am sorry to those I offended and I am sorry to the women, including my mother, who heard that language, but those who spoke out against us are anti-Argentine and I’m not going to forgive them. My words were directed at them and I don’t have to apologise to them.”

If that was the end of it, it wouldn't be the Maradona we know, would it? Hence, this video merely adds more legitimacy to public opinion that the once footballing genius is definitely mentally unstable and should not be allowed to continue as coach of the two-time World Cup champions.

For me, Diego Armando Maradona the manager is just a disastrous gamble and the players are basically suffering from "circus" that surrounds Maradona. Perhaps the time is now right for Argentina to have a top-class foreign coach who could bring back some organization and sanity back to the team. Out of respect for Maradona (and his fragile self-esteem), he should still travel with the squad to South Africa as a father figure and source of inspiration for the side.

Which reminds me of another famous personality who broke down in the heat of battle and was never the same again. Once an up-and-coming English manager, his infamous "Love it" rant and intense title tussles with Sir Alex Ferguson left Kevin Keegan psychologically and emotionally scarred. Keegan's managerial career will only be remembered for his times at Newcastle United.

Diego Maradona's tenure as Argentina coach must come to an end, either willingly or forcefully. If only to preserve his status as a hero in the eyes of Argentina. Hardly a person with emotions in check, his tirade is a sign of an impending nervous breakdown.

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 8 Review

After the rather predictable World Cup qualifiers, the more exciting English Premier League football resumes. Week 8 features some noteworthy Premiership football news. Firstly, Liverpool must subdue an in-form Sunderland without Torres and Gerrard. Secondly, Manchester United had a home tie with the always tough Bolton without Wayne Rooney. Thirdly, Blackburn host Burnley in the first Premier League Lancashire derby in 43 years. So there was a lot to look forward to.

As it turned out, the results for week 8 were,
Saturday, October 17, 2009
FT Aston Villa 2 - 1 Chelsea
FT Arsenal 3 - 1 Birmingham
FT Everton 1 - 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
FT Manchester United 2 - 1 Bolton Wanderers
FT Portsmouth 1 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur
FT Stoke City 2 - 1 West Ham United
FT Sunderland 1 - 0 Liverpool
Sunday, October 18, 2009
FT Blackburn Rovers 3 - 2 Burnley
FT Wigan Athletic 1 - 1 Manchester City

Aston Villa kicked this week's round of matches off in superb fashion by doing the English Premier League chasing pack a big favour. Their win over Chelsea highlighted the importance of good set piece execution. Both goals came from corners and Chelsea just could not defend those well-drilled Villa routines. It looks like Martin O'Neill has finally plugged the hole left vacant by the retirement of Martin Laursen. In fact, he needed two replacements to cover that hole, Richard Dunne and James Collins. Both defenders have been in excellent form since moving to Villa, lending both defensive solidarity and aerial danger in set pieces.

Sunderland had help from a Liverpool fan - Getty Images

Liverpool were undone by a beach ball which was released at pre-match time by one of their own supporters. Imagine the feelings of distraught that boy must be feeling. Even so, Liverpool's play hardly helped their cause. Playing against in-form Sunderland with a totally experimental 3-4-3 formation was always going to be a tall order. In the end, Liverpool looked very ordinary without their twin terrors. Can they still lift the title having lost four already? Yes, historical events would suggest so. It will be tough though as they are now out of form, out of luck and with Torres injured, there is little chance of the Reds picking up three points in their next match against Manchester United. At least Mike Jones the referee will no longer be allowed to officiate Premiership matches for a while.

Onto the subject of Manchester, the Red of United were able to get the better of Bolton, scoring from a deflected Owen header and a Valencia goal after some nice interpassing play. Business as usual for Man United but Manchester City were slightly fortunate to get a draw with Wigan. Wigan had the major bulk of the possession but could not convert the chances that they had created. Definitely big improvement required from the Blue of City.

The overwhelming 62% of possession time count for nought for Zola and West Ham. In the end, defensive slip ups continued to plague the Hammers. I keep going back to the sale of James Collins and definitely that departure has weakened the defence. At least Guille Franco had some playing minutes although I'd rather see Zola give Carlton Cole a partner to work with in future matches. The feelings of "too good to go down" mean that West Ham's play will soon pay dividents but that corner had better come sooner than later. So far, Franco has done little perhaps with him getting some minutes against Stoke City, he could be the spark to light up the rest of West Ham's troubled season. Otherwise he could end up like Diego Tristan and that's not funny at all.

To round up the rest of the matches, David Dunn may no longer be in England reckoning but he is still a very talented and influential footballer. His equalizing goal was the catalyst for a very good Blackburn win. Burnley to their credit refused to give up but that spirit could not prevent them from going down to a fifth away defeat. Arsenal again showed why all the talk about them slipping out of the top 4 is nonsense with a clinical 3-1 win over Birmingham. Spurs overcame a tough Portsmouth side and emerged victors in a game that they would have lost last season.

After being starved of any English football news of note, week 8 was a great way to bring focus back to the league that really mattered.

The Flat Back Four's Form Guide
Who's Hot: Sunderland, Manchester United, Arsenal
Who's Not: Liverpool, West Ham United, Everton

Next weekend's fixtures will feature the biggest match for Liverpool thus far, another defeat will surely spell the end of Liverpool's challenge and so they have got to get it right against the Red machine of Manchester. Michael Owen will surely be expecting a hot reception from the Kop on his return to Anfield. This Big 4 clash is the top attraction for next weekend. Be sure to come back for my review of this Premier League match.

You may also enjoy these 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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The 12th Man: Can Fans Win It For Their Club?

In the dearth of English Premier League football news, I caught sight of the Adidas 12th Man contest. A contest on Facebook for football fans to post a supporter's profile picture on their FB page and encouraging many other friends/fans to do the same. The most supporter friends will win the contest.

But I digress, what really got me thinking was the lingering question if fans can win a football match for the club they support. When the match is seemingly heading for a draw, can the encouraging chants from the home fans spur their team on to get the three points? Can the continuous intimidation of the fans on opposition players help to tip the balance scales in favour of the home side? Can a technically inferior team beat a more talented side simply by riding on the enthusiasm and the "12th man effect" of their fans?

This season, Burnley has been the surprise package of the English Premier League. A strong home performance in which the likes of Manchester United, Everton, Birmingham and Sunderland have been on the losing end at Turf Moor. On the flipside, Owen Coyle's men have been terrible on the road, losing all four of their matches thus far. Quite clearly, the home fans wild support have made the difference.

Last season, Stoke City, cheered on by sellout crowds collected 32 out of their 39 points on home soil. The Potters fans were intent on giving their players a huge lift as soon as they entered Stadium Brittania. In so doing, Stoke City fans are currently the noisiest set of fans in the Premiership, recorded at 101.8 deciBels. Even this season, Stoke is sitting pretty in mid table, their two wins coming at home.

It is exactly this train of thought that inspired Wolves chief executive, Jez Moxey to roar newly promoted Wolves to Premiership safety. With the fans making up the difference at home, Wolves can make a decent fist of staying up.

Fans also add on to the colourful atmosphere on matchday. Who could forget Pompey's wild man, John Westwood? For more than a decade, he has supported Portsmouth through the best times and the worst times, with his bells, singing and drums. This is the reason why people flock to football stadiums, to soak up the atmosphere and cheer their teams to victory.

And so, looking at the evidence above, clearly fans through chants, songs and opposition intimidation can lift a team past more competent teams. This is particularly true for home matches where home fans would typically outnumber visiting fans.

These David v. Goliath matches with its 12th man effect brings with it that added romanticism and unpredictability to the sport that I love. Though club officials have requested for fans to tone down the ferocious support, it has to continue being a part of the beautiful game.

After all, what is football without its fans, I ask you?

Just a little trivia, the world's loudest cheer belongs to the Liverpool fans.

The occasion?
The time was February 2005 and it's the first minute of the Carling Cup final at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool surge forward from the whistle and Fernando Morientes crosses for John Arne Riise to fire home. The travelling Kop erupts and the noise is the loudest in history, registering 130.7 decibels. Liverpool lost the final 3-2 after extra time, but won the battle of the sound waves, with the recorded level being two decibels higher than the previous record set by the supporters of the Denver Broncos American football team in 2000. The "Riise roar", as it is now known, would have drowned out the Concorde on take-off.

This article is written with reference to the following:
Clarets crowd help team draw strength
The Bell that chimed Pompey to success is silenced
We must top noise league
Stadium Noise Levels in Premier League 2008
The Sound of Silence

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Road to South Africa: The Players Who Have Never Played In A World Cup

As the football world turn their focus on which nation will qualify for World Cup 2010, Sweden, Argentina, France and Portugal stand as the countries who might not make it to South Africa. If these countries fail to qualify, then some of the world's best players will not be gracing the biggest stage in football. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have to console themselves with their playstation while their club team mates strive to become a World Cup winner.

But these players, for sure will get a chance to enter into World Cup folklore, after all they are still young. If anything, Messi and Ronaldo should be peaking and aiming to lead their respective countries to glory in the 2014 World Cup.

Then who are the great players who have never or may never play in a World Cup tournament? The list goes on and on but here are some of the greats never to play in the World Cup.

Great Players Who Have Never Played in A World Cup
Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes, Dean Saunders, Neville Southall (Wales)
George Best (Northern Ireland)
Eric Cantona, Jean Pierre Papin and David Ginola (France)
Abedi Pele (Ghana)
George Weah (Liberia)
Jari Litmanen and Sami Hyypia (Finland)
Andrei Kanchelskis (Russia)
Matthew Le Tissier (England)
Bernd Schuster (Germany)
Liam Brady (Republic of Ireland)
Geovani Elber (Brazil)
Kazuyoshi Miura (Japan)
Georgi Kinkladze (Georgia)

On a more current and contemporary note, these are world class players who may never play in a World Cup due to an inferior national side.

Current World Class Players Who May Never Play in a World Cup

Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria)
Yossi Benayoun (Israel)
Alexander Hleb (Belarus)
Fredi Kanoute (Mali)
Goran Pandev (Macedonia)
Eidur Gudjohnsen (Iceland)
Stevan Jovetic (Montenegro)

On a more positive note, goals by Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic have given Bosnia Herzegovina a chance to qualify for South Africa. Definitely with new nations like Serbia and Slovakia in the World Cup, the variety of football in store will make very interesting viewing. These ex-eastern bloc countries would not be pushovers with stars like Martin Skrtel, Nemanja Vidic and Marek Hamsik.

Further to this, in Asia, two countries are fighting it out to make it to South Africa. The Oceania-Asia playoff pits Bahrain against New Zealand. Bahrain is looking to qualify for their first World Cup but will need to be less wasteful in front of goal. The All-Whites are aiming to reach the first World Cup tournament after 28 years. Either way, it will be a carnival atmosphere in South Africa for their group of fans.

This post is based on the following researched articles:
World Cup Blog's article's articles Part I and Part II
KC Mynx's Bleacher Report article

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Two Missed Ingredients In West Ham's Premiership Form

All through this week I have been trying to find reasons (and excuses) for West Ham's lack of form in the Barclays Premier League. But today I believed that I may have found the reason as to why the Hammers have failed to receive rewards for their slick one-touch football.

Filtering through the English Premiership news and results, two missing players stood out and Zola have not been able to compensate for their absence. These players are James Collins and Jack Collison. As soon as Collins was sold to Villa and Collison suffered that calf injury, West Ham had gone on a terrible winless streak.

Since the arrival of Collins, Aston Villa's defence have immediately strengthened as he formed a new central partnership with Richard Dunne. Villa have only let in three goals since transfer window deadline. In contrast, without James Collins, West Ham's defence have let in nine goals! West Ham have failed to cope aerially since his departure as four of the nine goals conceded were due to failure to win headers around the box.

Collison's calf injury has kept him out of West Ham's Premier League matches since September and the team have truly missed his all-round midfield game. Given the current defensive frailties and inexperience, his absence have been conspicuous.

Even more sorely missed are his late bursts into the opposition's penalty box. Without him, Carlton Cole have not found a suitable outlet for his excellent hold up play. Luis Jiminez and Alessandro Diamanti seemed content to play in the "hole" and does not get into the penalty box area as frequently as the young Welsh dragon.

Jack Collison's dynamic runs and box-to-box midfield plays are what West Ham need to overcome the alarming slump that they are currently in. Under fire boss, Zola will be a much relieved man once Collison is fit again.

Hence, Zola and Clarke will have to firstly, address the defensive hole left by the departure of James Collins and secondly, get Jack Collison back out on the pitch.

The good news is that Jack Collison seemed to have recovered from his calf strain. He played in a closed-door friendly today (Friday 09.10.09) against Valenciennes and scored! Let's hope that Collison gets back to full fitness quickly and is able to start against Stoke City. His drive and enthusiasm will really help the team immensely.

With Collison back, perhaps the Hammers' season can then get back on track.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson's Most Logical Successor: Steve Bruce

When Steve Bruce ended his playing career, everyone seem to know that the next logical step for him was to have a career in club management. His no-nonsense and inspirational defender's display was supposed to provide a springboard for him to inspire, motivate and drive a club forwards as manager.

Even when other former players are finding the transition to club managers difficult, Steve Bruce has proven himself to be a very good Premiership-level manager. Over the past ten years, Bruce has been a proverbial managerial nomad. Constantly searching for the next big club to satisfy his desire to progress and augment his managerial resume. In moving, Bruce will feel that he is stepping up the ladder in the dream of finally managing a club capable of winning trophies and satisfying his burning desire to be the best. A desire borne from years of excellence in a Manchester United jersey.

He is a shrewd manager, with a good eye for talent. Wilson Palacios, Amr Zaki and Antonio Valencia are talented footballers who were unknown but shot to prominence through Bruce's tutelage. Not afraid to reprimand his players, Bruce can also be counted upon to defend his players when the need arises.

Moving to Sunderland means that Bruce has the money (since Sunderland has new owners this season) and the club facilities (training, medical etc) to try and push for a European spot. On the evidence of Sunderland's progress this season, they looked promising. Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones have started the season very well, both sharing the scoring duties even in penalty taking. Bruce has bought well, bringing in ex-Marseille captain Lorik Cana, Michael Turner and Lee Cattermole, all proven players. Sunderland is enjoying their best start to a season and Steve Bruce should take credit for that.

Apart from the dour affair dished up in Birmingham, his teams have all been hard to beat and they play with wingers displaying an expansive style of football which continue to be the hallmark of the Fergie era.

His inside knowledge of the United dressing room means that he will not be overawed and his overall understanding of the history and heritage of Manchester United makes him the most ideal ex-United player to replace Sir Alex Ferguson when the great man steps down.

From Sheffield United to Sunderland and perhaps finally Manchester United, Steve Bruce could reach the pinnacle of his career as Sir Alex Ferguson's successor. That will definitely keep the United traditions ticking along nicely. The trophies, too could quite possibly continue to pile up at Old Trafford.

Posts about Managers:
World Class Managers in Premiership
Bryan Robson as Thailand National Coach
World's Best Football Managers
The Dreaded No. 2
Daily Mail: Why The Premier League Started With A Bang

The WAG of all WAGS: Sylvie Van der Vaart

I had been waiting and waiting for Rafael Van der Vaart to grace the English Premier League stage but the wait kept getting more and more frustrating. The reason? Well, I wanted to feature Sylvie Van der Vaart, Rafael's wife. She is THE WAG of all WAGs. See for yourself in this video by

And she looks real happy in Spain in this video by sporTVyou when Rafael signed for Real Madrid.

Will the Dutch equivalent of The Beckhams ever show up in a Premiership club? I hope so, a super talent like Rafael Van der Vaart should not be wasted on the bench! Lazio, Arsenal, Everton, Ajax, Hamburg and Atletico Madrid are rumoured to be chasing the Dutchman's signature. Arsene would definitely be sending out a statement of intent if he can bring Rafael onboard.

Other WAGS related blog posts:
Relegation Threatened WAGs
Promoted WAGs
Arsenal WAGs
100 Pictures of Sylvie Van der Vaart

Robbie Fowler Lets Out His Fury!

In his second match for the North Queensland Fury, Robbie Fowler showed that even in the twilight of his career, he has not lost a single bit of his agility when it really mattered. What was truly amazing about this ninja kick was that it went unpunished. I checked officially and Fowler did not even get a yellow card. The stuff of legends! Here is the video of that ninja kick taken from Footy Blog.

Fowler now captains North Queensland Fury and they are currently lying last in the A-League, winning one match thus far. However, only nine points separate top from bottom so there is still plenty to play for. Fowler himself has scored four goals and 14 shots on target for a team that is struggling to score goals but has the leakiest defence.

In short, Fowler as the Fury Marquee is doing his best to carry this team through a tough season. Their next game will be against Central Coast Mariners but with inside knowledge of the Mariners style of play, NQ Fury boss Ian Ferguson will be itching to overcome the Mariners.

Other Robbie Fowler articles:
The Contrasting Fortunes of Robbie Fowler and David Beckham

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Youngest La Liga Goalscorer: 16-Year Old Iker Muniain

Athletic Bilbao’s 16-year-old forward Iker Muniain became the youngest scorer in La Liga when he earned them a point in Sunday’s 2-2 draw at Real Valladolid. Muniain, who turns 17 in December and was a second-half substitute, picked up a loose ball on the edge of the area in the 77th minute and his snap shot was good enough to beat Jacobo Sanz in the Valladolid goal for the second equalizer.

That goal made him the youngest goalscorer in La Liga, at 16 years 289 days. Iker Muniain has been breaking records this year, becoming Bilbao's youngest debutant as well as youngest goalscorer. His introduction to the football world seem to draw parallels to Wayne Rooney's own journey in the English Premier League.

Very quick as are most teenaged players, he has a low centre of gravity and is deceptively strong. He has burst onto the scene both in Europe and domestically. Athletico Bilbao, by virtue of their final appearance in last season's King's Cup, plays in the Europa League with Muniain excellent against Austria Vienna, scoring one goal and assisting in one other.

See for yourself this newest potential superstar of Spanish football in this video highlights by ibrahimovicATHLETIC.

His development will be worth watching and his prodigious talents should be nurtured by a father figure. Wayne Rooney was fortunate to have Sir Alex Ferguson mould him into the determined and motivated competitor with medals to show. 17-year old Jack Wilshere's progressive introduction into the rigours of senior football is carefully planned by the professorial Arsene Wenger.

If interested, Barcelona's Pep Guardiola could be the man to bring the best out of Iker Muniain. What do you think? Could Iker Muniain, given time, become the world's best footballer?

If you like this post, you may also want to read this.
Youthful Impact

Monday, October 5, 2009

French Boss Raymond Domenech Has Admirers Beyond Football

Beleaguered French boss, Raymond Domenech is questioned widely in the French football circles for his tactics and abilities to guide France to the World Cup Finals in 2010. France is struggling to reach the Finals and may have to go through the ordeal of a play-off to get to South Africa.

Though vilified by fans and players, one person remain an ardent admirer of the French national team manager. Her name is Catherine Ringer and she has immortalised Domenech by penning a song about him in French called, Je Kiffe Raymond (I Fancy Raymond). This song currently is the hit song of the season in France and has been downloaded from the web 200,000+ times.

Raymond Domenech can thank Ringer for raising his profile during a time where his reputation is taking a severe battering. I wonder what his players think about this. Could this also be France's World Cup song assuming that they qualify?

Just for laughs, here is the lyrics in English to the song.

Je Kiffe Raymond (I Fancy Raymond)
Go on Raymond, you’re handsome, you’re good
And I imagine just one golden match and then everyone would adore you
And if he attacked my penalty areas I would be without defenders
A transfer, a good pass and long live our colours
Yeah, you’re good, you’re classy

If you are interested to listen to the song, you can download it HERE.

This Is What Martin Palermo Can Do!

Argentina boss, Diego Maradona in his desperation has called up Martin Palermo into his Argentine squad for the crucial World Cup qualifier against Peru and Uruguay. The last time Palermo was called up was ten years ago, when he was 25. To say this is a waste of national caps may be too judgemental but I would have thought that there could be better alternatives to Palermo as replacement for the injured Diego Milito.

Even then, Martin Palermo is a larger-than-life personality and perhaps that is needed to bring some spark and enthusiasm back into an Argentine national team lacking in cohesion and confidence.

Check out this 40-yard headed goal by Palermo from Off The Post.

Also his infamous three penalty misses in a single match!

Hopefully, Argentina gets back to winning ways as the World Cup 2010 will be so much poorer without the delightful skills of Messi and Aguero.

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 7 Review: The End of Liverpool's Title Aspirations?

Oh how different one week makes...last week's review had me raving about Liverpool's form and their attacking potency, I then had the displeasure of watching Liverpool lose in the Champions League against Fiorentina and the gut-wrenching loss to Chelsea, the team I disliked the most. The media is already writing off Liverpool's chances but I will defer my opinions until after the Christmas/New Year matches.

You see, Liverpool typically have a stronger second half of the season and besides, they are only 6 points behind the new leaders, Chelsea. Early days still in my books. For long periods in the game, all Chelsea had to show was Didier Drogba (the world class striker I disliked most) rolling around, clutching his ankles and feigning imaginary injuries. Ballack, Lampard and Deco were rendered ineffective up and until that grave error by Javier Mascherano. At that moment, Lampard intercepts, Essien lays it on, Deco spreads it wide, Drogba peels left and sends in a cross which Anelka scores. In two seconds, the best laid Rafa tactics were shred to bits in one clinical Chelsea move.

Beaten by an x-Red - Image from Reuters

To Rafa's credit, his substitutions were positive and Liverpool started looking more menacing while chasing the game, especially with Benayoun running at the Chelsea defence. Clearly Rafa will have to stop fielding Lucas so stubbornly but instead revert Gerrard to centre midfield and play Benayoun as the 2nd striker until Aquilani reaches match fitness. Give me Gerrard's "Hollywood" passes over Lucas' sideways ball anytime.

What next for Liverpool? For sure, a positive response is expected. None more so than the under-fire Skrtel-Carragher partnership. Jamie Carragher this season is looking past his sell-by date and the sooner Daniel Agger gets back on the field, the better for Liverpool.

The end of Liverpool's title challenge? Sunderland is next and that's a tough match at the Stadium of Light. The Reds shoddy defence will be up against statistically at least, the best strike partnership in the Premiership i.e. Sunderland's Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent. A combination which is quick, pacy, physical and menacing aerially. A currently shaky Liverpool defence will not enjoy visiting Sunderland in their next "must win" match.

The best strike duo currently in the Premiership - Getty Images

Elsewhere, Steve Bruce came within one minute of a maiden win against his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson. In a game where Sunderland looked good value for three points, Kieran Richardson will not be getting a Christmas card from his manager as he got sent off for acting stupid.

That proved to be THE turning point in the match as United launched wave after wave of sustained pressure on the Sunderland goal area. For me, Berbatov is now at ease with his stature within the United team and he has been turning in Cantona-esque performances for the past two weeks. That overhead kick for United's first goal was a beauty!

Berbatov's overhead goal - Getty Images

West Ham continue to mesmerize and frustrate all at once. Zola must be wondering what he and his coaching team can do to arrest the slump. All talk of a "Cup Final" against Fulham remained just that. The Hammers start games very well but cannot kill off their opposition. Not quite in the Arsenal "walk the ball into the net" standards but the killer instinct is just not there. To make things worse, the loss of James Collins have definitely weakened the defence significantly. Carlton Cole's unwanted record of West Ham not winning when he scores this season lives on but it could easily have been three points dropped instead of one point gained at Upton Park on Sunday.

Carlton Cole scores! and West Ham cannot win - Image from PA

Zola and Clarke will have the international break to figure out how best to boost confidence and concentration. Steel and determination are needed to get out of this rut and West Ham do not have enough leaders in the team to jolt them out of this worrying slump. And where is Guillermo Franco? His prickly style of play could be the antidote to our problems right now.

There is nothing Thomas Vermaelen cannot do - Getty Images

Finally, in their 6-2 thrashing of Blackburn, Arsenal is proving that total football may be back in style. The Premiership's most dangerous defender, Thomas Vermaelen scored his fourth goal striding out of defence and unleashing a killer left foot curler. Van Persie, Arshavin, Fabregas, Walcott and Bendtner proves that one does not have to rely on a specialist striker to be successful so long as total football is the footballing philosophy on show. Over the last few weeks, Arsenal have shown they can play ugly, winning 1-0 and be resolute, coming back from being a goal behind. Perhaps this could be a trophy season after all. Arsenal remains my favourite for FA Cup glory this season.

And so this is how Week 7 Premier League football ended,

Monday, September 28, 2009
FT Manchester City 3 - 1 West Ham United
Saturday, October 3, 2009
FT Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 - 1 Portsmouth
FT Burnley 2 - 1 Birmingham
FT Hull City 2 - 1 Wigan Athletic
FT Bolton Wanderers 2 - 2 Tottenham Hotspur
FT Manchester United 2 - 2 Sunderland
Sunday, October 4, 2009
FT Arsenal 6 - 2 Blackburn Rovers
FT Everton 1 - 1 Stoke City
FT West Ham United 2 - 2 Fulham
FT Chelsea 2 - 0 Liverpool

In the armchair of my living room, these are the best and worst of week 7
Peaking At the Right Time: Arsenal, Sunderland, Bolton
Some Soul Searching Required: Liverpool, West Ham, Blackburn

Finally, Portsmouth got their first three points of the season which is great news for everyone at the club. This should give the club a big lift and help them focus on a long struggling season ahead.

Related Articles:
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

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Boy's Done Good!: Bolton's Tamir Cohen

Israel have produced wonderful midfielders over the years...Avi Cohen, Ronnie Rosenthal, Eyal Berkovic and Yossi Benayoun. After four matches and three goals for Bolton, you can add Tamir Cohen onto that list.

Tamir Cohen joined Bolton in January 2008 for a mere fee of £37,000 from Maccabi Netanya. He was Gary Megson's first signing to try and add depth to a then thin midfield squad. Since joining Bolton, he has struggled with injury and has played in bits and pieces for Bolton until this season. This season, Cohen has been injury free and is finally showing his potential.

Tamir Cohen scoring against Birmingham - Image from Associated Press

Tamir Cohen has the technical ability to be a complete midfielder. Firstly from an attacking perspective, he is good in the air, has a powerful left foot shot and has the knack of getting into goalscoring positions. Defensively, he tackles and distributes the ball well. He is currently tied as the highest goalscoring midfielder in the Premiership, keeping company with Steven Gerrard and Michael Ballack. His defensive positioning, however is an area that he needs to work on.

Cohen got his first team chance this season due to injury to Ricardo Gardner. He has not looked back since. Scoring against Liverpool, Portsmouth and Birmingham has cemented his place in Bolton's first team. His performances have made him the surprise package so far this season.

Cohen in Carling Cup action - Image from Associated Press

Bolton has not had a goalscoring midfielder since Kevin Nolan left the club in January 2009. Tamir Cohen has the ability and the athleticism to step into those shoes. Bolton boss, Gary Megson has already challenged him to do so and it will be a true test of Cohen's character to respond positively and score more goals from midfield. In evenly balanced games, often you will find that goals from midfield tend to be match winners.

Even at this time of post, Tamir Cohen has just put in a great shift in a hotly contested 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur. It was his cross that gave Kevin Davies the opportunity to score his second goal of the season. His first assist for the season.

Watch for more great things from Bolton's Tamir Cohen.
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