Sunday, January 31, 2010

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 22 - 24 Review: Chelsea Still On Top!

There were a lot of matches being played from January 18th to January 31st, just to catch up with the Premiership schedule and to make up for that snow-stopped weekend.

It was also a period where the Premier League leadership changed hands a few times. The week started with Chelsea at the top, and when Arsenal beat Bolton 4-2 (another great Fabregas display) in the Emirates, Arsenal became top for the first time this season. However, that did not last long as January 23rd, Manchester United, aided by a Rooney quadruple, wrested top spot from Arsenal.

Chelsea had something to say about that, as they took on an in-form Birmingham on Wednesday January 27th. A Frank Lampard double helped the Blues surge past Birmingham City and back as leaders of the Barclays Premier League.

The Premier League kicked on in proper fashion on Week 24 and clearly the highlight of the week has got to be the Arsenal v. Manchester United match at the Emirates.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Luis Jimenez - An Experiment Gone Wrong

The new Karren Brady executive management has come in and swiftly rung changes through the ranks of West Ham United. One of these cost cutting measures was to deem Luis Jimenez surplus to requirements. Originally on loan until the end of the season, the Chilean "El Mago" is now transferred to Italian Serie A strugglers, Parma.

But how did he perform in the Premiership? Telegraph has the statistics to show these.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rory Delap: From Midfield Dynamo To Awesome Throw-In Specialist

Rory John Delap first came into Premiership prominence after a big-money move from Derby County to Southampton. He was seen at that time as an uncompromising midfielder who couples impressive forward runs with strong tackling and excellent passing. That's what I remembered him as, a fantastic athlete who was never flashy but very effective. He could even chip in with some spectacular goals from time to time. But mostly, he was a midfield dynamo and battler.

That image of the former Republic of Ireland international stayed with me while he was at Derby, then Southampton and later on Sunderland.

West Ham Rumours: David Bentley And Benni McCarthy Reunited Can Guarantee Goals

David Bentley? That pampered, self-centred Arsenal and Spurs reject? According to the UK tabloids, West Ham is rumoured to be trying to bring David Bentley to West Ham on a loan deal. Spurs and Harry Redknapp are currently reported also to be enticing Eidur Gudjohnsen over to White Hart Lane in a hijack move. If that's the attitude that the Iceman has, then he's not the man to lead the Hammers out of Premiership relegation.

And why not David Bentley? Apart from a dire need for strikers, West Ham do need a little something extra on the right side of midfield. Let's face it, if Julien Faubert is the only attacking threat on the right, then it's something of a joke, Faubert just CAN'T cross the ball!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Next Five Matches Will Decide West Ham's Premiership Future

Getting knocked out of the FA Cup early allowed West Ham to rest up and recuperate from the injury problems which have plagued the club this season. This turned out to be a good thing, seeing that the next five matches will definitely decide if West Ham stay up or will line up alongside the likes of Queens Park Rangers next season.

First up is Portsmouth who are playing well but just not getting the breaks needed. West Ham beat them at home courtesy of Diamanti and Kovac and a similar result will fill the Hammers with great confidence. Much have been made of Portsmouth's absent African players and it would be great if West Ham can exploit this. Carlton Cole may feature at some point in this match which would give the players a massive boost.

Benni McCarthy? Benjani Mwaruwari? What West Ham Need Is A Carlos Tevez-Like Striker!

Ever since Gold and Sullivan took over the club with 50% ownership, they have been very active. Active in gaining fan support and eagerly showing each other off as lifelong Hammer fan. Truth be told, G&S are possibly the best recipient of a club in "haemorrage" (as they have put it). The spin that they have been putting on in the hunt for that prolific striker have been feverish and the media have lapped this up eagerly. Early this season, West Ham was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Now, the Irons are rarely out of the news and it's positive as the owners look to bolster the depleted attack line.

A number of strikers have been linked with West Ham since then, Benni McCarthy, Benjani, James Beattie, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Juan Carlos Menseguez and even the unlikely Robbie Keane. Let's face it, there was hardly any chance that Ruud Van Nistelrooy would relish a Premiership relegation scrap, is there? As good a master goal poacher, Van Nistelrooy is, I believe that he is only effective when chances are created for him, he is not a scrapper.

And that's the reality of the situation West Ham have found themselves....we have to scrap for survival. Therefore, we need terrier-like strikers, strikers who would fight for every ball, impose themselves on the game and generally give opposition defenders no rest. A Carlos Tevez-like striker is what we need and we need no reminding the huge performances and workrate that he put in to keep West Ham in the Premiership in 2006/2007. I am convinced that's the quality and attitude we need to bring in.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Brilliance Of Cesc Fabregas Steers Arsenal To The Premiership Summit

Cesc Fabregas has become the most important and influential part of Arsenal's season. Not only is he the Gunners' top scorer (11) and top assists (11), he is now to Arsenal what Steven Gerrard means to Liverpool - indispensable.

Eradicating the surliness and anger of last season, Cesc Fabregas have let his footballing abilities do the talking. There were three key matches that demonstrated the importance of Cesc Fabregas to Arsenal's Premiership title winning hopes.

Liverpool Fans Show Immense Support for Rafa Benitez and The Team

Liverpool have not been in the best of form lately and two days back, Tottenham Hotspur were relishing their visit to Anfield in search of what was to be their first win in a very very long time. Well, as it turned out, Spurs would have to wait a lot longer if the incredible fanatical support of Wednesday night continue to drive Liverpool Football Club on throughout the rest of the season.

Liverpool fans were determined to show that the 12th man effect was very much alive that evening and the atmosphere was so electric that it led Harry Redknapp to declare,
Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp hailed the Kop as “the most amazing sight in football” after seeing his side beaten 2-0 by Liverpool last night.
The Spurs manager believes the Reds  were inspired by the red-hot atmosphere generated all around Anfield by a vociferous capacity crowd.
“You have to give credit where it’s due, Liverpool worked their socks off. They closed us down and pressed us,” Redknapp said.
"I have said before you never get an easy game here.
"You stand out there and hear the crowd sing - it's the most amazing sight in football, and it lifts the players.
Sammy Lee added this after a fabulous night in which Liverpool caught up to the clubs in the race for fourth place.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Are Tottenham Hotspur Liverpool's Bogey Team?

An underachieving Liverpool team will face super-confident Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield this Wednesday. A match that should see Maxi Rodriquez and Alberto Aquilani in the starting lineup. But then again, who can read Rafa's mind?

After a great last season, Liverpool were looking to go one better than second and finally be Premiership champions. Spurs brought Liverpool crashing back to reality, beating the Rafa's men 2-1 in London. This setback pretty much set the stage for a turbulent season so far for Liverpool.

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Week 20 Review: Liverpool And West Ham Get Their Just Rewards

After a slew of cancelled matches due to snow in Week 19, Week 20 had much to make up for the disappointment. And as always, the English Premier League never fails to live up to expectation!

Chelsea showed that there is life even without Didier fact seven goals were the proof. Arsenal and Manchester United continued in hot pursuit of the Blues by posting comfortable wins of their own as well. While Fran Merida may have scored his first Premier League goal, it could also be his last as the Spaniard looks for first-team opportunities outside of England. Manchester United gave Brian Laws work to do as Burnley continue to slip worryingly down the Premiership league table.

But the focus of this week's review shifts towards two teams who in the weekend employed the same tactical gameplan but with differing reaction to the results. These two teams are Liverpool and West Ham United.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Keeping Possession May Be The Way To Victory For West Ham Against Villa

West Ham are down to bare bones for this match against Aston Villa at Villa Park. No senior strikers and possibly no Scott Parker and definitely no Mark Noble. Gianfranco Zola's motivational skills will be tested to the fullest this Sunday. At least Jack Collison will be back and his dynamic runs will be all the more important in this one.

This is as tough as it comes. It looks like the same team that played and played very well against Arsenal in the FA Cup will be the first team lineup this Sunday. It is also a West Ham team which is raw and inexperienced in a high-pressure away match. With the other relegation threatened teams playing tough opposition, a good result against the Villans will help the Hammers surge ahead of the basement battle.

It wasn't easy to think about how the Hammers could possibly win at Villa especially with a depleted squad that Zola has with him. And thus I started to look at possession play to see if we have the edge in that area. At least if West Ham can keep the ball for long periods in the game, we would not get beat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Could This Italian Kit Maker Be Somehow Linked To The West Ham Takeover Bid?

The popular Knees Up Mother Brown website reported an article from Italy suggesting that Cagliari President, Massimo Cellino has won the race in the West Ham ownership.

While Ken Dyer in the London Evening Standard still maintains that the West Ham takeover is a four-way fight but with the Italian in the driving seat due to his higher bid.

But, when I found this bit of news (bear with me, this was announced in September 2009), I just felt that the Italian connection was just too hard to ignore.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Liverpool Transfer News: Just Who Is Maximiliano Rodriquez?

Liverpool fans by now are waiting with bated breath on the confirmation of Argentinian international, Maxi Rodriquez transfer to Liverpool. Not only Liverpool fans, I might add but also Fernando Torres. It has been well printed that of all the players he would like to have in Liverpool, Torres would recommend Maxi.

Mention the name Maxi Rodriguez and World Cup fans would be reminded of that amazing volley against Mexico in 2006. A goal that was rightfully voted as the goal of the tournament that year.

To Atletico Madrid fans, Maxi is adored and respected as a player who helped them forget about Fernando Torres.

Three Great Liverpool Memories From Patrik Berger

Patrik Berger joined his boyhood club right after a fantastic performance with the Czech Republic in Euro '96. He is remembered as an attacking midfield player with a fabulous left foot and a great engine. Long range shots and runs into the opposition box were his specialities. Before Steven Gerrard, Paddy Berger was doing all the lung bursting midfield runs that Stevie G became famous for. Incidentally Gerrard's formative years were during the tail end of Berger's Liverpool career, quite clearly the now Liverpool captain and stalwart picked up some great tips on long range accurate shooting.

Berger also married a gorgeous hairdresser named Jaroslava, spot the similarity now?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Three Ways To Three Points: What West Ham Must Do To Beat Wolves

With the heavy snowy conditions, most Premiership matches have been canceled. However the match that matters most, West Ham v. Wolves, looked, at the time of writing, to be going ahead. With so many fixtures canceled, this is the most opportune time for West Ham to steal a march on their relegation threatened rivals.

West Ham squad will be boosted with the returning Scott Parker and Mark Noble from injury. The smart thinking of Guillermo Franco to draw the yellow card (hence sitting out the FA Cup third round) means that the wily Mexican is eligible for this match. Bar Carlton Cole and Herita Ilunga, Gianfranco Zola have a pretty useful squad to choose from.

After encouraging performances against Chelsea, Portsmouth and Arsenal, there is a growing sense of optimism and confidence the the club can play itself out of relegation danger.

So while in anticipation for this match to take place, assuming that it does, I have thought of three ways in order for West Ham to beat Wolves and gain those valuable three points. Make no mistake about it, a massive three points here could lift the Hammers up to 13th spot, level points (21) with Blackburn Rovers.

Here are the three ways:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fortress Upton Park Is The Final Piece Of Jigsaw To West Ham's Premiership Survival

As the crucial matches start coming thick and fast this month, Gianfranco Zola realises the need to rally the West Ham fans to get behind his young team. I had already touched on the 12th man effect in my previous post and am convinced that the Hammers will avoid relegation if the fans are in full voice, supporting the team.

Below is a table listing the average attendances at Premier League stadiums,

Little Ribery Tops Ligue 1 Assists, Beckham's Impact On Ronaldinho Assists, Nene Is Best Ranked Fantasy Footballer & Fastest 577 Goals In The EPL

Winter break is over, and the leagues around Europe will resume in full force this weekend. At this juncture, I felt it appropriate to present a snapshot of how the dust had temporarily settled and will start to pick up again this January 2010.

Fahid Ben Khalfallah or "the little Ribery" as he is known in France, is leading the assists table in Ligue 1 ahead of the more established Yoann Gourcuff. The Tunisian will not be pulling on the national team's jersey as he rejected the invitation to play in the African Nations Cup.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

West Ham Takeover Speculation: The Three Qualities Tony Fernandes Brings To The Club

West Ham takeover speculation dominates the early period of the January transfer window. Logical really, when you think about it. We do need the fresh injection of cash to be able to put together bids for a striker, rightback and central defender right?

Being a Malaysian myself, it fills me with pride and excitement knowing that a Malaysian could be on the brink of bidding and owning a historical and well-known English football club like West Ham United. That man is Tony Fernandes.

In 2008, Forbes Asia valued Fernandes' personal wealth at US$220 million ranking him at 15th on the Forbes list of Malaysia's Richest.

Monday, January 4, 2010

West Ham's January 2010 Transfer Targets: The Rumours

The January transfer window is finally opened and for West Ham, it is pretty good timing! With our threadbare squad decimated by injuries, there is a serious need for reinforcements. Perhaps Zola's desire to work with a smaller squad is backfiring on him and unfortunately, the young 'uns are not ready to pick up the slack. Hence Gianluca Nani, Scott Duxbury and Zola will definitely need to do some wheeling and dealing this January.

These are some of the names swirling around in the transfer rumour mill at this time.

Sol Campbell
A free signing as he is unemployed at the moment. Although questions can be raised about his fitness, pace and temperament, if he is motivated, Sol Campbell is a defensive rock! West Ham lacks a leader in defence and Campbell fits that bill perfectly.

Assessing The Young Irons and Young Guns From The West Ham-Arsenal FA Cup Match

The FA Cup never fails to bring romance back into the game of football. In classic David versus Goliath fashion, Leeds United relived moments of their past glories by shocking a strangely subdued Manchester United. That win brought about feelings of "can do" while approaching the subsequent FA Cup 3rd round match of the weekend, West Ham United versus Arsenal. Could West Ham do what Leeds had done to the Mighty Reds?

Well for about 65 minutes, West Ham were working hard to preserve a lead given by a well-taken first half Diamanti goal. It was inevitable really, as much as the workrate and effort was close to herculean (especially from Behrami!), West Ham could not sustain that kind of energy throughout the 90 minutes. And so in the last 25 minutes, the Hammers were pinned too deep in their half and were repeatedly chasing shadows as Arsenal finally penetrated the stout defence that West Ham had put up. Replacing two young potential stars with two experienced international (Diaby and Nasri) definitely tipped the balance in Arsenal's favour.

More interestingly was that this FA Cup 3rd round match allowed us to catch a glimpse of what's in store for the future as both teams blooded the youth. Young players who could be key players for their respective clubs in the next few years. Here, I want to assess their capability and readiness for the Premier League based on their performance in this game.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Christmas Week Review: 2009/2010 Mid-Season Conclusions

The Christmas weekend matches were possibly the round of matches that passed us by without much talking points. Apart from the sacking of Gary Megson, every match and result went according to script.

What are The Flat Back Four's conclusions from watching the matches over the Christmas period? Here goes...

1. Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard scored during Christmas period in which Liverpool secured two consecutive wins, it is a confirmation that Liverpool is officially a two-man team.

2. Chelsea without Drogba is easier to play against, the Drog hauled Chelsea past the finishing line against Fulham even though he was subjected to all kinds of physical abuse. Watch Chelsea struggle in his absence.

3. Life after Hughes looks to be rosy with two wins out of two for Manchester City and Roberto Mancini. The boasting has started.

4. Joe Hart's in the best goalkeeping form of his career and Birmingham is benefitting from it. Will Hart be England's no. 1 come World Cup time?

5. West Ham will need to take risk and sell Scott Parker to avoid relegation. Selling Scott Parker to Arsenal enables Zola to buy a striker and get Jack Wilshere on loan. A striker? Hmmm, how about prising an out-of-favour Andy Johnson away from Fulham?

6. Manchester United is awesome against the likes of Wigan, Birmingham and Wolves but cannot match up against the big clubs. That's been their biggest problem the last two seasons and will undoubtedly be their downfall in 2010.

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