Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Season Of Sixes But Nine Goals At Old Trafford Still The Record To Beat

What an amazing start to the new Premier League 2010/2011 season! Defending champions, Chelsea kicked off their campaign with two successive 6-0 wins, prompting Carlo Ancelotti to declare that Chelsea are playing "Playstation football" at the moment. It's not the first time the Blues have thumped Wigan - last season they put eight past Roberto Martinez' Latics.

While it's true that West Brom and Wigan are among the relegation strugglers in the Premiership, to score six goals in two matches (and not conceding) is a feat to be lauded in any league. Not to be outdone, Arsenal blasted six of their own against Blackpool last weekend. Theo Walcott's second and third goal were reminiscent of a former French Arsenal legend. Will this season be the one in which Theo finally fulfills Wenger's belief that he can be a devastating striker?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stoke Goal Enhances Gareth Bale's Burgeoning Reputation

Gareth Bale capped a superb personal performance by scoring a sublime second goal which won the match for Spurs against Stoke City. If the first goal was a little fortuitous, there was no denying that the second goal was testament of what a wonderful left foot the Welsh star possesses. Easily man of the match, I was awestruck by the technique, power and accuracy of his volleyed goal. No keeper in the world could have saved that shot.

On the 29th minute, Aaron Lennon decided to take on two Stoke City players and ran towards the edge of the penalty area. Gareth Bale ghosted in on the left of the Stoke defence, virtually unmarked as the Stoke leftback was napping. With all attention focused on Peter Crouch, Lennon (for once!) lifted the ball over the entire Stoke defence in the direction of Bale. Everyone in the Britannia Stadium watched as the Welshman judged the flight of the ball to perfection and connected sweetly to send the ball past Thomas Sorensen into the top right corner of the Stoke goal. Amazing stuff from the lethal left foot of Gareth Bale!

Just Like Last Season - Deja vu For The Hammers

In West Ham's second game of the new 2010/2011 season, there is a feeling that they will struggle again. Whatever that Avram Grant have managed to instill into the team, it still looks like deja vu all over again for the Hammers. Just like last season, West Ham plays well in the first half and then capitulate in the second. I remember vividly how at one stage last season the Irons were in 8th league placing based on first half performance only. The same situation seemed to be recurring and is not improving.

Beaten again by bogey team, Bolton once more at home, this defeat makes it three losses in a row against the Trotters at Upton Park. Some may say that Bolton got lucky and that West Ham were all over them in the first half. Although it is true that Grant's players were great in the first half, the developing pattern is frighteningly familiar. I fear the phrase "West Ham turning the corner very soon" will once more be a well-used statement to describe how good the boys are playing but that "corner" will remain, like last year, elusive.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Error-Strewn Hammers Start To New Premier League Season

A solid pre-season, a string of "astute" signings and an experienced manager in Avram Grant would have filled most Hammers fans with renewed optimism. I was also pleased from reading reports about victories at Monchengladbach and thought that last season's poor showing will be forgotten.

Unfortunately, the same West Ham (bar Winston Reid) lined up against a managerless Villans and were made to look pretty much like what they were last season, utterly hapless. Watching the first-half performance could have made a grown man cry and the Hammers clearly could not settle into any sort of rhythm. Passes were terrible and the one West Ham threat, Carlton Cole was forced to come deep to collect the ball. The big Hammers striker did have one good run towards the Villa goal, outpacing Dunne but forced wide, Cole dragged the shot wide of goal.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Growing Scottish Influence in English Football

Written by Martin Domin, a Scottish football enthusiast

In the not-too-distant past, Scotland's top footballers were prevalent in England's top flight. Archie Gemmill, Denis Law, Billy Bremner and Graeme Souness are but four who played in the old English First Division in the 1970s and 80s. Indeed, 15 of the 22 players who went to the 1978 World Cup plied their trade south of the border, including four who were on the books of Manchester United. Now, 30 years on, Scotland's finest are once again making themselves at home in England including 13 of the original squad named to face Sweden, eight of whom play in the Premier League.

There is little doubt that Scotland can only benefit from these players' presence in what is widely considered to be the best league in the world. The gulf in class between England's top flight and the Scottish Premier League is growing ever larger with more and more players electing to make the move. What is of concern however is the number of Scots who have moved from the SPL to the Championship. Middlesbrough's Scottish spending spree has been well documented with Kris Boyd, Kevin Thomson, Andrew Halliday, Stephen McManus, Barry Robson and Lee Miller all moving since the beginning of the year. Indeed, four of those players have swapped European football and the prospect of winning trophies with the Old Firm for England's second tier.

The conveyor belt of talent leaving Glasgow in particular, and the SPL as a whole, is a damning indictment of the SPL, and it hardly comes as a surprise. Kris Boyd recently alluded to his delight at escaping from the goldfish bowl that Glasgow often become for Old Firm stars while the prospect of playing four games against Inverness and St Mirren every season is enough to drive any player to a division which has twice as many clubs and which offers the chance of a path to the promised land, something Charlie Adam will happily attest to.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Valencia Strike Sets Red Devils On Way To Premier League Curtain Raiser Win

It was a statement of intent by Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United. Their 14th FA Community Shield capture is a record for the Red Devils and they are looking in good nick as the new Premier League season starts next weekend. Chelsea were unable to snap out of their pre-season slump and succumb to their fourth pre-season loss, this time at Wembley. The good news for Blues fans is that they start the season next weekend against relegation candidate WBA at home.

Antonio Valencia set United on their way to victory with a sweeping move which exposed the lack of pace in the Chelsea defence. Wayne Rooney created that goal but he had a quiet game by his high standards. However, the Red Devils did not have to rely on Rooney as much in this match. Valencia had the better of Ashley Cole all afternoon and he exploited it to the best of his abilities.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Liverpool Heading In The Right Direction Under Hodgson

At the tail end of last season, Liverpool FC looked to be in free fall. Heavily in debt, American owners that nobody liked and a manager who had outstayed his time at the club. Since then, the club has at least three suitors negotiating club purchase, the elder statesman Roy Hodgson became manager, inexpensive but quality signings walked into Anfield and suddenly optimism is high among Liverpool fans.

Joe Cole was perhaps the highest profile free transfer signing of the season. The fact that he chose to join Liverpool boosted the sagging confidence of the players at the club. His experience as a Premier League winner will help a Liverpool squad short on title challenge experience. Cole will undoubtedly be the most important influence on Liverpool's 2010/2011 season.

Animated Spoof - Thierry Henry At Heaven's Gate

France's record goal scorer, Thierry Henry recently added his high profile name onto the MLS soccer roster. This once again puts the MLS on the road towards global recognition. Henry joined the New York Red Bulls late last month on a designated player contract and will link up with fan favourite Juan Pablo Angel in a mouthwatering frontline.

Almost legendary for his footballing exploits, he sullied his reputation by two deliberate handball in a crucial World Cup playoff match against Republic of Ireland. To go to New York which has a substantial amount of Irish immigrants and descendants would literally be like walking into the lion's den. How the Irish community will take to this obviously talented footballer is anybody's guess.

Here's an animated spoof of Thierry Henry at Heaven's Gate confessing his "sin". It's great stuff.

Winston Reid A Budding Hammers Legend?

News have filtered through that Winston Reid is the fifth player to sign for West Ham in time for the 2010/2011 season. He completed his medical on Thursday and will begin life to become a Hammers legend. New manager, Avram Grant has gained my respect by making the right moves in the transfer market.

Firstly, the lack of width has been addressed through the signing of Pablo Barrera who excelled in Mexico's World Cup campaign. Then, stone-faced Grant convinced Frederic Piquionne to sign on the dotted line, providing cover and competition for Carlton Cole. Thirdly, the lack of a quality playmaker was alleviated when Thomas "Der Hammer" Hitzlsperger joined the Hammers. And now, that final piece of jigsaw is complete once Kiwi Reid steps through Boleyn Park. He is the right type of versatile defender West Ham need, able to play in that problematic right back slot as well as provide cover for Da Costa and Upson at centreback.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Red Devils Youngsters Primed For A Breakthrough 2010/2011 Season

Written By Abir Ahmed Chowdhury

Abir takes a look at the youngsters at Old Trafford who are ready for a major role in the upcoming season. These are, in his own words, Fergie's whiz kids at Old Trafford.

Nearly all United fans have expressed that Sir Alex won't be able to move on to greater things next season, unless he splashes-out on a new striker or midfielder (or both). But if you take a look at players like Kiko and Chicharito - who needs to spend when you have the most valuable asset of all: Youth...

Chief executive David Gill reiterated this week that Sir Alex Ferguson has cash for new signings if he needs it. However, most fans fear the money needed to service the huge debt heaped on the club by the Glazer family means their manager has no choice but to build from within.

With fans hoping that United will buy at least one more 'quality' player before the end of the transfer window, Fergie insists there is no value in the transfer market for the second summer in a row. For the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Van Der Sar and Neville, this season may be their last. Owen Hargreaves has been out for two years and he will never be the same player again. In this present situation, there are many who feel United will fail to win a trophy this year.

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