Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Leading Lights Of Newcastle's 2011/2012 Season

Newcastle started this season strongly, confounding critics and pundits in the process. When Andy Carroll left for better pastures with Liverpool, everyone predicted the end of the road for Newcastle. Alan Pardew had his detractors and now he is actually being considered to be Capello's successor as England manager.

However you look at it, Newcastle, being a historical and colourful English club, they are exactly where they should be this season. The Toon Army are where they are this season due to the superb efforts of three foreign players.

Tim Krul's performance this season has been sensational. Against Manchester United, he was the reason Newcastle salvaged a 1-1 draw. 45 saves this season with six clean sheets marked him out as one of the outstanding keepers in the Premier League this season. Krul's stellar performances again shunts the unlucky Steve Harper into his all-too-familiar no. 2 spot.

Unlucky Reds Home Form Are Reminders Of Rafa's Title Chasing Season

Liverpool huffed and puffed once more but came up against another excellent goalkeeping display. A feat that Mark Bunn probably will and could not repeat even if he tried. The journeyman goalkeeper showed far better reflexes than Paul Robinson have had this season to deny Andy Carroll a confidence-boosting goal. As if to add insult to hurt, Blackburn defence only had Chris Samba as the experienced defender, the rest were youth team players elevated to emergency first team action!

SIX home draws have surely dampened Liverpool's hopes for a Champions League spot. Drawing against the Wigans, Fulhams and Blackburns of the Premiership are of course nothing new for the mighty Reds. We should remember that home draws against inferior opposition costed Liverpool the Premiership title. There is a strange Benitez resonance to this season's results and this problem to kill off the lesser Premier League teams at home is rearing its ugle head again.

The Reds need to be ruthless like Manchester United if they want that fourth Champions League spot.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Premier League's Forgotten Men Emerges Impressively During Christmas

The Christmas fixtures brought about a change in team line ups. Clubs which could afford to rest key players relied on their bench to tide them over this hectic time. This meant first team starts for a trio of Premier League superstars who have somewhat faded from this season's football action.

Dimitar Berbatov, Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun made the most of rare starts to remind the Premiership world what they are all capable of. In a word, these forgotten men impressed during the Christmas period.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cole And Aquilani Regain Form Away From Anfield

Joe Cole was the flagship signing of the ill-fated Roy Hodgson era, and he was a Rafa signing that Hodgson inherited. For me, like Bellamy, Cole was not given chances to impress at Anfield. It was also unfortunate that he got sent off in his very first game for Liverpool against Arsenal. His Liverpool career seemed to go downhill since then. Hodgson clearly preferred a method of play that stifles any kind of flair and creativity hence Joe Cole watched as Liverpool faltered under Woy.

Alberto Aquilani was brought in (was it a rash Benitez signing?) in the hope of appeasing the Anfield faithful after the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid. Then from Roma, Aquaman walked into Liverpool, still nursing an injury. It took the Italian a while to get accustomed to the pace and strength of the Premiership but at the tail end of 2009/2010, Aquilani showed glimpses of why he is nicknamed "Il Principino" with some masterful performances.

Both these players have grabbed their chance for a new start with relish. Cole and Aquilani are now mainstays with Lille and AC Milan, becoming vital cogs as the two clubs chase trophies in their respective leagues.

Five Excellent Goalkeeping Displays Thwart Liverpool's Champions League Aspirations

Liverpool have been terribly unlucky this season in front of goal. This fact all Liverpool fans know. 17 shots against the woodwork and four saved penalties testify to the Reds' dominant and yet strange lack of goals. Also Luis Suarez is the Premiership striker with the most number of attempted shots to goal (75) but only scored five goals. Nevertheless El Pistolero is Liverpool's top scorer this season with just eight in all competitions, underlining why Liverpool's supremacy in matches are not being converted into three points.

There is one other reason that has dented Liverpool's Champions League ambition. Excellent goalkeeping displays by the opposition has kept the Reds from winning at least five of their six drawn matches thus far. Under Kenny Dalglish, Liverpool have taken the game to the opposition whenever possible. And it has only been fantastic goalkeeping displays which have stopped Liverpool from winning against Manchester United, Norwich, Swansea, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic.

This is how these clubs' outstanding goalkeeper have kept out the rampant Reds...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Liverpool Homing In On Fourth Spot With Villa Win

Liverpool have taken more points off Aston Villa than any other team in the Premiership, 68 points to be exact. Villa have let in seven goals through opposition setpieces prior to their match against the mighty Reds. And so, it was inevitable that Liverpool would get three points against the toothless Villans and that the goals came from corners meant that Liverpool exploited Villa's weakness.

Bellamy was fantastic throughout the match and poignantly in that 15-20 minute first half spell, Craig Bellamy was involved in everything that was good about Liverpool. He created one and scored one, Kenny Dalglish could not have asked more from the veteran Welshman.

He even took on the role of a playmaker as he sprayed passes left and right in that dominant Liverpool first half spell. The Reds have been excellent away from home, winning five of their eight away matches.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Swansealona's Urgent Search For Prolific Striker

Leroy Lita had the chance to cover himself with glory against Villa last week. After superbly turning the Villa defender, he dragged his shot just wide of the post. That sums up Swansea's problem in their first Premiership season. This lack of a cutting edge may eventually drag the Swans back into a relegation dogfight.

Against Blackburn, Swansea must sought to make their customary lions' share of possession count. This is the sort of game that City must try and score a handful to improve their poor goal difference. Blackburn has the second worst defence in the Premiership and Lita will get another chance to bury a few this time round.

Liverpool's Unbeaten Run To Stretch Against Fulham

Other than against Bolton, Liverpool played their best football of the season against an out-of-sorts Manchester City last weekend. Due to their physical exertions in the Champions League, the Citizens looked short of match fitness and were sluggish against the mighty Reds. But that does not take away a great performance by Liverpool at Anfield. Another draw at Anfield though sooner or later, the Reds will put things right at home no doubt.

It is Liverpool's away form that has been awesome this season and even without Lucas, if Kenny Dalglish gets his lineup right, it will be another three points. Maxi and Bellamy have been excellent every time they have started and Suarez clearly enjoys playing with these two as they create space with their intelligent movement.

Maxi scored a hattrick against Fulham last season and he could well do it again if he starts. A repeat of the 5-2 result of last season may be wishful thinking but all the omens are there to suggest Liverpool are peaking in time for the Christmas schedule.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Big Hair Season In The Barclays Premiership

This season has been special for many reasons, one of which is the chance to watch Manchester City emulate the great Arsenal "Invincibles" and get through the season undefeated. The second reason has been the insane results, the 8-2 Red Devils win over the Gooners being the highlight. The third reason and focus of this article is how some Premiership players have embraced the "Big Hair".

Not since the time of Kevin Keegan have players sported "Big Hair" with such aplomb. This season of 2010/11 is truly the season of "Big Hair".

Leading the way in terms of skill, controversy and divided opinions is the much maligned David Luiz. The Brazilian was bought to be the new Ricardo Carvalho and he almost succeeded until last season's match against Manchester United where Ancelotti blamed him for the defeat. Since then, Luiz has been a walking timebomb in the Chelsea defence. A shame, as Luiz and Torres were meant to be the new faces of Chelsea future.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Daniel Sturridge Emergence As Goalscoring Threat For Chelsea

Daniel Sturridge scored yet again in front of AVB at The Bridge against Liverpool last weekend. What more does he HAVE to do to earn a permanent place in Chelsea frontline? AVB has so far persisted with both Torres and Drogba while only allowing Sturridge to shine as an impact substitute or on the right of a front three.

And shine is what the young lad has done and kept on doing repeatedly. He has scored six goals this season and he is the Blues second best goalscorer behind Lampard. Even when not playing in his favored position, Sturridge strike rate (43%) is better than Torres, Anelka, Kalou and Drogba combined.

Friday, November 25, 2011

United Then Chelsea And Now Liverpool Can Dent City's Title Charge

Liverpool employed speed merchants against Chelsea last weekend, with Johnson, Bellamy, Maxi and Suarez all starting against the Blue Champions. It turned out to be shrewd decision by Dalglish and his coaching team as the Reds pressed high up the pitch, robbing Chelsea players of time and space to move the ball.

Charlie Adam was especially instrumental in the win over Chelsea last weekend. Though his corner kicks are yet to reach the heights and standards that he set at Blackpool, his passing against Chelsea finally resembled Xabi Alonso, the player he was brought in to replace.

In recent seasons, Liverpool has become a team feared by title contenders and this season is no different. Without any real aspirations to be Premiership champions, the Reds are still "spoilers" as evidenced by victories over Arsenal and Chelsea. Only Spurs out of the top six have beaten Liverpool. At Anfield, Liverpool are unbeaten, but has not been able to turn home advantage into wins rather than draws.

Newcastle Must Not Waste Their Goal Chances Against Red Devils

Newcastle lost their incredible 11-match unbeaten streak against Manchester City last weekend. Yet, Alan Pardew's Toon Army had played very well. Just that they were up against a superior Blues side that was world class in all department, from Joe Hart in goal right up to Sergio Aguero in attack. There is no misery or shame in losing to an awesome team like City.

However, Manchester United is a slightly different animal. Wounded after a demoralising 6-1 derby defeat, the Red Devils have tightened up, preferring to win efficiently. And with a midfield clearly the weakest among the top six Premiership clubs, Newcastle United must fancy their chances against Fergie's side.

Typically top Premier League sides do not let you get away with missing chances, and the Magpies found this out the hard way against Mancini's men. Three gilt-edged opportunity botched by Demba Ba, Ben-Arfa and Guthrie could have changed the final outcome of last weekend's match, and Newcastle must take heed of this. In Demba Ba, they have a forward with a 42% goals/shots ratio and he is the in-form striker to watch.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Swansea Looked Like Barcelona Against Liverpool

Once again, Liverpool flattered to deceive. At Anfield, against a Swansea that does not travel well, the mighty Reds laboured to a disappointing draw. An out-of-sorts Liverpool performance was made worse because of a superb goalkeeping display by the Swans' Michel Vorm. His two saves from Suarez highlighted his sterling performance. Another worrying observation was that a poorly performing Luis Suarez automatically meant a disappointing Liverpool.

The Reds used to be known as a two-man team when Gerrard and Torres were in Liverpool red. Now, Liverpool is looking like a one-man team with El Pistolero. When the Uruguayan performs, Liverpool performs. Against Swansea, he seemed strangely lethargic but yet was still the Reds' most dangerous player.

To be honest, Swansea passed the ball extremely well. The Swans hardly lost possession and Liverpool were made to work very hard to get the ball back. So, when Daniel Agger commented "we were like headless chickens", he was spot-on. Barcelona turned possession football into an art-form and if Swansea had Messi instead of Danny Graham. the Swans would have left Anfield with three points.

Collective Rear Guard Action Stretches Toon Unbeaten Run

Newcastle United kept up their unbeaten run with a 2-1 win over Everton. That's eleven matches already and tongues are complimentary at the prowess of Alan Pardew in building a solid team spirit in spite of losing Kevin Nolan, Andy Carroll and Joey Barton in the summer. The Magpies remain the only other team yet to be beaten this season.

Last weekend's win was a result of Newcastle's ability to dig deep and defend as a team. The collective defensive display from Tim Krul to Demba Ba secured a vital win for the Toon army, sending them into the international break sky-high in confidence.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Toon Ba Loves Scoring Diving Headers!

Demba Ba almost did not make it to the Barclays Premier League. His hat-trick against Stoke ensured that Tony Pulis will continue to rue "the one that got away". But then would Demba Ba fit in at Stoke with their rugged, physical and direct footballing style? I doubt it.

The Senegalese however is excelling at Newcastle after a difficult start to the new season. Luckily for Newcastle, Leon Best did his utmost initially to allow Ba time to settle at Newcastle. And since then, Demba Ba goalscoring form has been superb. The football statisticians have listed Ba as the most efficient goal scorer currently in the Premiership with 47% conversion rate.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Suarez And Carroll Partnership Blossoms For Liverpool

Luis Suarez never has a bad game. A body of perpetual motion, the Uruguayan's movement and elusiveness remain Liverpool's most dangerous attacking threat. El Pistolero's immensely positive contribution in games are often tinged with slight regrets. He does not score as many goals as he should have, considering the amount of chances he creates game in game out. Having said that, his presence in a Liverpool red alone is worth the admission fee to the match as he gives his all and tries his all for the team and for the fans.

True to form, the wee man, Luis had a major influence against West Brom. His very presence in the Baggies' penalty box frightened the life out of Olsson and forced Jerome Thomas into conceding a penalty. A penalty that allowed the Reds to take early control of the match against their former manager's team.

Adam Johnson's Stunning Strike Glosses Over Citizen's Gritty Win

Mancini and his Manchester City have shown us many sides to their character this season. They are resolute in defence, even without the collossal Nigel de Jong. City have shown that they are not content to sit back on a lead. They have served up game after game of excellent attacking football, never resting but always probing. And against Wolves, they showed that they can be patient, they confirmed that they have believe in themselves and more importantly, City proved that they too know how to win while playing "ugly".

This match against Wolves at home, was supposed to be the crowning glory of an excellent week as Mancini's City came back expecting to bask in the adoration of their fans. Unfortunately, Wolves proved tougher to subdue with Welsh No. 1 Wayne Hennessey equal to everything that Aguero, Silva, Nasri and Dzeko threw at him.

In the end, Manchester City had to wait before they scored their customary three goals against Premier League opposition. Adam Johnson racing all the way from defence, collected a pass from Yaya and fired home a 20-yard curler past the Wolves keeper.

Captain Vantastic's Derby Hattrick Makes It 29 Out Of 28

A high scoring game was not something that I had expected from a Chelsea-Arsenal derby match. Then again I had forgotten that Arsenal does not know how to defend this season nor did I remember that Chelsea has yet to keep a clean sheet this season. And so, we were treated to an eight-goal slugfest in which the Blues and the Gunners went after each other blow-for-blow until that defining John Terry slip. If blame throwing would be allowed, Florent Malouda's right foot must take sole responsibility for this heavy Chelsea defeat.

And so Arsenal's inspirational Captain Vantastic struck a much deserved hat-trick against their London rivals. He also scored his 29th goal in 28 matches, a remarkable record huh? He must surely be the most in-form striker in the Premiership, ahead of even Kun Aguero and Super Mario. The flying Dutchman has had so many injuries in the last two seasons, we had forgotten just how good he really is. This season RVP's goals has lifted Arsenal from the bottom three into seventh place.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Manchester United In For A City Mauling?

Sir Alex Ferguson, in retrospect, bottled it at Anfield last weekend. In contrast, Roberto Mancini decided to freshen up after the international break and Manchester City got their just reward. It is the "noisy neighbours" who are stepping onto the "prawn-sandwiched" 75,000 capacity-filled Theatre of Dreams as the Premier League leaders.

United starts and finishes all their games strongly. Their movement and quick passing right from the get-go, often forces the opposing teams to make mistakes. The Red Devils also finishes matches very well. No team in the Premier League (bar Liverpool two seasons ago) has ever come back from losing positions more times than the "comeback kings" of Manchester United. This is reflected by their 22 goals scored at the 0-30 mins and 66-90 mins period.

City has a more controlled game, a bit like an Italian team. Their patient buildup play usually stretches defenses and creates numerous goal mouth opportunities. The Citizens have scored 19 goals between the match periods of 31-75 mins, showing that they kill off the opposing teams while able to conserve energy in preparation of the next game.

Both teams have been playing football that is exciting, full of flair and entertaining to watch. The Manchester Derby has been highly charged in the recent seasons and this meeting at Old Trafford will have the added significance of Premiership leadership at stake.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Talismanic Robin Van Persie

When Robin Van Persie stalled on his Arsenal contract talks earlier in the month, there were tremors felt everywhere. Clubs were perking up their ears, waiting for new development. Arsenal fans were quaking....dismayed that yet another "home-grown" star is on the verge of leaving. Arsenal has not been known to keep their stars with huge wage packages and therefore it will not be hard to imagine the departure of the Dutch star come end of this season. After all, Arsenal in recent times, have turned into a selling club, more intent to balance finances than winning silverware.

It has been frustrating times for RVP. Hardly fit last season, he has been in sterling form in this campaign. The one bright spark for Arsenal all season, Van Persie was Arsenal's talisman again against a stubborn Sunderland at The Emirates. His two goals put the gloss on an indifferent and difficult Arsenal performance as Sunderland worked extremely hard to thwart the famed Gunners' short passing game.

Arsenal still look shaky in defence, even with the addition of Mertesacker and Andre Santos. Sessegnon had an excellent game tormenting the whole of the Arsenal backline but his efforts were let down by a lack of adventure from his Black Cats' team mates.

Are We Finally Seeing the Mature Super Mario?

Mario Balotelli is knuckling down to life in the Premier League. How else can you explain two accomplished performances in his two latest outings? Scoring goals has always been easy for the Italian, his attitude has always been questioned. This season, however, he has let his boots do the talking.

With Tevez sulking, Aguero injured and Dzeko returning from international duty, Super Mario made his second successive appearance in Man City colours. He repaid Mancini's faith in him with a goal and looked to be the one player capable of unlocking the Villan defence. If anyone can get the best out of the temperamental Italian, it is his old Inter boss who knows Balotelli better than anyone.

Balotelli have learned from his earlier outbursts and now is contributing to Manchester City's relentless pursuit of the Premier League title. Although City have had fairly easy opposition (apart from Spurs), their attacking play has been breathtaking and the likes of Aguero, Dzeko and Balotelli have to be credited for making the Blues an awesome attacking unit

Chicharito Breaks Anfield Reds Hearts

I don't know what Sir Alex Ferguson was thinking, but he showed no respect for Liverpool by fielding an understrength lineup. No Nani, no Rooney, no Hernandez and no Anderson. By playing two defensive midfielders in Fletcher and Jones, Liverpool should and could have done a lot better than just a draw. The return of Steven Gerrard was the focus of the match and though he wasn't quite the marauding midfield giant of previous seasons, he was still our Steven Gerrard. He started the match as the most advanced of the midfielders and ended it playing as a defensive midfielder.

The first half was rather lethargic which could be expected considering the heavy international schedule last week. The match could have been so much more interesting had Luis Suarez scored instead of shooting straight at De Gea. Kenny Dalglish left Andy Carroll out of the starting lineup which seemed like a poor decision, given the quality of Steven Gerrard's corners and crosses. I would put my money on Carroll scoring if it was he and not Henderson's head had met Downing's delicious injury-time cross.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Manchester City Shows Strength In Depth While Berbatov Blows Bubbles

Roberto Mancini had learned from the Fulham lesson and as David Platt said, Mancini freshened up his team after the Champions League defeat at Munich. He rang in changes for the match against Blackburn and the replacements repaid his faith in them by scoring four goals against Rovers.

Mario Balotelli, Samir Nasri and Adam Johnson together with David Silva were the difference in another routine match for the Citizens. Everytime Adam Johnson plays, he always makes an impression on those who watch him. Fabio Capello obviously feels the same way as I did since he selected Johnson for the England squad.

With Tevez and Dzeko benched for their Munich outburst, Balotelli took his chance and produced another excellent performance. He even afforded a smile after his goal, and this is a player who does not celebrate goals. Mancini has got the Premier League's most talented squad and he must utilise its potential to its fullest advantage.

Dirk Kuyt's Vision Created Andy Carroll's Derby Goal

My buddy, Ed and I continued our almost weekly dissection of Liverpool's weekend performance after a friendly game of indoor futsal. Now Ed is a guy with a rather thought provoking mind. While we were both thrilled that "The Beast" Andy Carroll opened his Premier League account this season with a brilliant derby goal, he remarked how Dirk Kuyt's excellent run and "dummy" duck created the room for Carroll to rifle the ball past Tim Howard.

That got me thinking. Did the Dutchman know what he was doing when he ducked under the ball as Enrique cut the ball back from the byline? Or was it just that the ball was hit at a speed that Kuyt had no choice but to avoid contact with the ball? I watched again the video replay of Carroll's first goal for Liverpool to make up my mind. In the lead up to the goal, Kuyt ran to the near post taking Distin with him, he knew Carroll was centrally placed, showed great vision by avoiding the ball, allowing Carroll to pick his spot with a sweet left footed finish.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reds Back To Winning Ways And Ready For Merseyside Derby

Finally Kenny Dalglish have Steven Gerrard back and in time for Derby day! Couple that with the excellent showing of Andy Carroll against Wolves and the Reds are looking capable of beating Everton this Saturday. The right back position is now solid once more with Martin Kelly back from injury and though Carragher and Skrtel are still weak links in central defence, Everton's lack of bite upfront will suit Liverpool as they sought to make it back-to-back wins.

Young Jordan Henderson should make way for the Liverpool captain and Luis Suarez must be preparing to prosper from Gerrard's passes this weekend. Thus why the magical Uruguayan was upset, he wanted some playing time to forge an understanding with Steven Gerrard. Instead, El Pistolero will need to work on developing that telepathy with Stevie G on the training ground.

Carlos Tevez Definitely A Premier League Success

Since the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to the Spanish La Liga, the Premier League was searching for a new world class player who could be as brilliant as the phenomenal Portuguese. Fernando Torres threatened briefly until he started sulking more than scoring, Didier Drogba could never be that star face as he is all brute force but Carlos Tevez could have been that world class marquee player that the Barclays Premier League needed.

Instead for all the important goals he had scored for West Ham, Manchester United and City, he will forever be remembered for refusing to play in last night's Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich. Carlitos' two-year stay at Manchester City has been an ongoing saga. This latest episode has all but hasten his exit.

It's easy to forget the talismanic effects of Carlitos for City, after all the well documented problems he had faced. For West Ham fans though, this man can do no wrong, forever remembered for singlehandedly keeping the Hammers in the Premier League in his first season. No other player is more closely associated to conjuring up a miracle relegation escape as the effervescent Argentine star. Here's how he did it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Arsenal Defensive Frailties? Unthinkable!

Arsenal has long been associated with impregnable defences. Superb organization and fantastic man marking defenders were the hallmarks of many an Arsenal triumph over the years. To watch Arsene's defenders during the last two seasons have proven to be quite painful. Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Steve Bould and Nigel Winterburn must all be wondering how it has gone so wrong. Two own goals in one game is more dismal than watching a Jamie Carragher own goal!

Since the departures of William Gallas and Kolo Toure, Arsenal have been short of defensive steel and it has showed. Last season, Arsenal were in the leading positions until they famously capitulated defensively at Newcastle (4-4) and Spurs (2-3 and 3-3).

And yet, Arsene Wenger did not sign a top defensive midfielder nor did he splash the cash for Gary Cahill. Thomas Vermaelen threatened briefly to be that defensive stalwart but he is now the new "Sicknote". Per Mertesacker for all his experience, could be found out in the hustle bustle of the Premiership. Furthermore, an English spine is desperately needed if Arsenal plans on winning trophies.

Who Can Stop Manchester United Now?!

Amazing, amazing, amazing. A truly awe-inspiring display of swift attacking football by the Red Devils killed off any hopes Chelsea had in gaining three points at Old Trafford. Let's face it, Manchester United is not afraid of any team in the Premier League. It may be an inexperienced defensive lineup with Smalling, Jones, Evans and Evra and a weak central midfield with Fletcher and Anderson but yet, the champions despatched an expensively assembled Chelsea team with ease.

When Chelsea saw the line up, the Blues must have felt they had a chance to take the game to United. And so they did. But Chelsea just could not cope with the pace and quickness of the United passing. The Red Devils passed the ball with intent, always moving forwards with the ball and so Chelsea lumbering defence could not cope. By half time, the game was sewn up in front of the Stretford End faithful.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Torres, Mata and Sturridge Perfect Chelsea Frontline

Andre Villas-Boas is trying hard to change the way Chelsea has played over the past six years and mini-Mourinho is getting closer with every game. In all aspect, it was an aging team that AVB inherited at the Bridge.

Ancelotti started the rejuvenation process, bringing in David Luiz and Fernando Torres. Villas-Boas signed Raul Meireles and Juan Mata. Along with Sturridge and McEachran, these players are the future of Chelsea and they will be part of a newer improved Chelsea.

Daniel Sturridge proved again with that eye-catching backheel goal why he is a striker that Chelsea cannot afford to leave out of their starting lineup. He has what Torres currently lacks - goalscoring ability. But that does not mean that Torres have no part to play in the Blues' pursuit of Champions and Premier League glory.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Manchester Clubs Setting The Premier League Pace

These are exciting times to be supporters of either Manchester United or Manchester City. The two Manchester clubs are currently slugging it out at the top of the Premiership. Whatever City can do with their expensively assembled superstars, United are outdoing them with their expensively acquired youngsters!

You just have to raise your hat to that legendary statesman, Sir Alex Ferguson. Just how does he do it is the question I want to ask. Credit must be given to the Red Devils coaching team. Phil Jones, David De Gea and Ashley Young are talented players but they aren't mentioned in the same breath as City's signings of Aguero, Nasri and Silva. And yet, Young, Jones and De Gea are contributing to the best start that United has had to a Premiership season.

Manchester United are traditionally slow starters in the Premiership. The coaching staff at Melwood have done such a great job with Fergie's Fledglings Mk II that the Red Devils have been nothing short of explosive in their Premiership matches. West Brom, Spurs, Arsenal and Bolton could not keep up with the movement and pace of this young team. Not many in the Premiership can, in actual fact.

Wayne Rooney's transformation from sulky star to United's only superstar has been more telling. Eight goals in four games including two hattricks represents a complete turnaround to a player who wanted to leave United a year ago. His goals should dry up eventually as he is a notoriously streaky striker. When that happens, Rooney will simply thread killer passes to Hernandez in order to maintain United's goal scoring threat. Such is his importance to United that Rooney must already be regarded as one of United's greatest ever players.

Liverpool Still A Work In Progress After Stoke Stumble

International matches are proving a bona-fide bane to Liverpool. It has been so since the Benitez days. Charlie Adam came back from Scotland international duty with a slight injury concern. That clearly hampered his performance at the Britannia last weekend. Even the hardworking Dirk Kuyt looked very lethargic and contributed little at Stoke.

Still it wasn't a completely insipid performance. 24 shots on goal and 72% possession time on the ball typifies another solid Reds' performance under Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool must show lots of heart and combative spirit whenever they go to a fortress like the Britannia Stadium. For the first time, no one shirked their duties, and everyone in a Reds' shirt fought hard. Going behind early to Walters' penalty goal allowed Stoke to effectively park the bus and they did that expertly with Shawcross a key man defensively.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Raul Meireles Blameless For Leaving Liverpool

Well, it's hard to refuse when a team like Chelsea comes knocking at your door. Even harder when possibly the best Portuguese coach in the business wants you. Extremely irresistible when Chelsea can offer you first team playing minutes and Champions League football. Thus, Raul Meireles weighed up his options and decided to join the Andre Villa-Boas Chelsea evolution.

While watching the Chelsea-Norwich match, I had argued that Chelsea needed a playmaking midfielder. Little did I know that Chelsea was tracking Liverpool's 2011 PFA Fans Footballer of The Year. To be fair, Meireles is the second best option after Modric. His energy and intelligent footballing skills will be perfect for the Blues once he is fully fit from injury. Fernando Torres must really be licking his chops now knowing that he will soon have the service he craved to become a Blues legend.

Transfer Day Deadline: Top Five Most Intriguing Transfers

The transfer day deadline was a flurry of activities and I loved it! Sitting down sifting through TFB4's twitter page, there was a feeling of major surprise signings and it did take place albeit in small measures. I compiled The Flat Back Four's top five most intriguing transfer signings.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Awesome Red Devils Arsenal Humiliation Leaves All Speechless

Alex Ferguson has done it again. He has reinvented a new Manchester United team every bit as dangerous and driven as the ones in previous years. United must be the Barcelona of the Premier League in the way they keep churning out fantastic youngsters season after season.

Danny Wellbeck, Tom Cleverley, Fabio and Rafael Da Silva are the latest products of the youth system conveyor belt, and augmented by smart money signings of David De Gea, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones, Ferguson have sure-handedly laid the foundation for another decade of dominance.

The way the "kids" and the "seniors" played together in a "team" to totally humiliate Arsene's Arsenal left me speechless. It may not be the Arsenal we knew, but it was Arsenal all the same. In retrospect, the 8-2 scoreline seemed like the right scoreline.

Mancini's City Slickers Confirming Title Credentials

Manchester City, despite their riches, struggled last season for goals and lacked enough creativity. Mancini employed a cautious defensive approach utilising the leadership of Vincent Kompany last season. The splurge on Edin Dzeko in January was aimed at giving Man City a huge goal threat. This season, the continued faith in the big Bosnian is paying off.

Edin Dzeko's performances this season are streets ahead of what it was in the second half of last season. Manchester City and Mancini are pleased for the player to be on fire in the early stage of the season.

Tottenham and Harry Redknapp may look back on this game and rue the chances missed by Bale and Crouch but in truth, City were simply brilliant and converted their chances ruthlessly. A major part of the win was attributed to the performance of ex-Gunner, Samir Nasri. Even without much training, the Frenchman linked up excellently with the world class stars in the City midfield. His industrious running has added an extra unpredictability to the Blues attack.

Come Back To Liverpool, Torres!

Come Back To Liverpool, Fernando!

As I watched Chelsea toiled to a late victory over Norwich City, I just felt sorry for El Nino. Finally looking sharp in pre-season, this was THE season that Torres resumes his Premiership goalscoring feats in Chelsea blue.

Three games on and yet no goals from the World Cup winning Spaniard. And I feel a sense of frustration building up inside me, as I saw the inability of Lampard, Mikel, Malouda and Anelka to exploit Torres' undoubted talents. The old Chelsea boys are not creating chances for the ex-Reds legend or could it be that they do not fancy him at The Bridge? Time and again, the Blues midfield do not look to pass to Torres and the Spaniard look like a lonely soul on the pitch.

Torres, with his pace, likes the ball played in front of him and somehow, Chelsea do not have the midfielders who could or want to provide these passes. Which is why Nando was instrumental in convincing Juan Mata to sign for Chelsea. The star of the Euro-21 tournament, Mata has the intelligence and passing ability to get Torres firing again.

Impressive Reds Outplay Trotters For 10th Consecutive Win

With over £110m spent over the summer and more to come, Liverpool impressively outplayed Bolton at Anfield over the weekend. As a true measure of Liverpool's stylish performance, Kevin Davies was substituted in that match. Liverpool completely subdued the Trotters' captain and talisman!

Two summer recruits, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam scored two excellent goals in a game that Liverpool could have won by four or five. Luis Suarez once again became the Reds' one-man demolition team, and he literally brought Bolton to their knees. Liverpool's quick movement in the Bolton half truly left Owen Coyle's men chasing shadows and Liverpool always found a free player to start attacks from.

Though Suarez was menacing, his theatrical dives and rants do make him walk a tightrope with referees. El Pistolero will need to be a lot more clinical with his finishing if he harbours hopes to win the Premier League golden boot. Nevertheless, the Copa America winner remains King Kenny's most creative player and he is such a thorn for opposition defenders.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Quiet Off-Season Thus Far

I haven't been posting a lot in recent times. But in retrospect, there hasn't been much to be excited about. Prior to the off-season, immense focus was put on the next destination of Cesc Fabregas, Scott Parker, Carlton Cole and the likes. Just like the Premiership season that the Red Devils clinched, the transfer activity has been a damp squib.

With only David de Gea as the highest profile transfer signing, Premiership giants are hardly tripping over each other to sign and strengthen their playing squad. Only Liverpool have been making a flurry of signings, although it is more a case of adding depth and quality rather than signalling a serious intent to threaten the newly established Premiership powerhouse of United, City and Chelsea. Even so, Wayne Rooney now recognizes that Liverpool, through their purchases, are genuine title contenders. Good news by my reckoning!

Fernando Torres seems to be struggling to find his feet in pre-season friendlies. Chelsea fans must be hoping that El Nino does not become another Shevchenko. Torres in Chelsea blue has been the complete reverse of Torres in Liverpool red. Chelsea and Torres struggled to a fortunate 1-0 friendly win over the Malaysia U-23 team. It won't be surprising if the prolific and powerful Radamel Falcao, heavily favoured by Andre Villas-Boas, is signed to bolster a weak attack.

Three weeks before the start of the new season, anything and everything can happen. Cesc Fabregas could yet seal a move to Barcelona. Wesley Sneijder and Samir Nasri could head to Manchester United. And Scotty Parker may end up at Arsenal and put an end to Arsene Wenger's youth policy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Demba Ba Effect Fail To Save Hammers

Demba Ba arrived from Hoffenheim full of promise and boasting a great scoring record in the Bundesliga. However there were skeptics out there who laughed at the wisdom of West Ham to bring in a striker who failed a medical at Stoke and therefore deemed questionable. Still 40 goals in 103 Bundesliga appearance meant that this was a striker who could make a difference at goal-shy Hammers.

And so it proved, seven goals in 10 starts, including a diving header against Liverpool threatened to give West Ham a lifeline that they did not deserve. Unfortunately, the desired "Demba Ba" effect could not keep West Ham afloat. The Hammers woeful defending put paid to any hopes of survival.

Yaya Toure Becomes Blues Cult Hero

Eyebrows were raised when Yaya Toure swapped Barcelona for super-rich Manchester City. After all, Barcelona was the best club in world football and Manchester City was...well, Manchester City. Labelled as a football mercenary, his much publicised wages surely did not make the Ivorian out to be anything but. And yet, he has been the most outstanding player on Mancini's City. Once he understood the rigours of the Premier League, he has been awesome. The "Tower of Power" showed that he is the best box-to-box midfielder since Patrick Vieira in an Arsenal shirt.

And so, when he scored the winning goal in the weekend's FA Cup final, he repaid 100% of his monster transfer fee and wages to the owners of Manchester City.

10 Liverpool Long-standing Records Broken In 2010-2011 Season

It has been a season of two halves, definitely for Liverpool fans. The first half was full of woeful, embarassing and most times, disjointed performances. The second half of the season was packed with joyful, eventful, spirited and without a doubt, title-contender performances.

Liverpool over the autumn and winter period of this season had a manager, Roy Hodgson who clearly was ill-fitted considering the traditions and pedigree of the historical club. Match performances suffered due to archaic and timid tactics more suited to middle of the table football teams. Come January 2011, King Kenny took over the reins and everything changed. Kenny's second coming brought back the old attacking verve and imaginative play, Luis Suarez being the catalyst of all that was exciting about the Reds in the second half of the season.

After the disastrous start to the 2010-2011 season, who would have thought that Liverpool will finish the season 5th or 6th in the Premier League table?! Just to put things into perspective, a 5-6th place finish is higher than the 7th place achieved in 2009-2010. One would have figured that it's been a successful end to a troubled season but 5-6th placing only looked good on paper.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Jay Spearing Future Reds Playmaker

Under the management of Kenny Dalglish and Steve Clarke, Jay Spearing has enjoyed a consistent run in the Liverpool's first team. His displays have earned plaudits and excellent reviews both from Kenny himself and from others in the football world. The continued absence of Steven Gerrard has propelled Spearing into a key man for King Kenny. Well, the lack of depth on the Liverpool bench may have something to do with that but generally Jay Spearing has grabbed his chance with both hands and made a strong case for himself.

For someone who started out as a centreback in youth football, he has exceptional passing ability. In the games that he has started, he has been composed on the ball and passed intelligently. In Liverpool's best run of form this season, the Spearing-Lucas partnership have controlled the middle of the park against the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Joey Barton, Danny Murphy and Craig Gardner.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gunners Falls Short, Winning Mentality Questioned Again

Arsene Wenger, after the draw against Spurs, vehemently denied that his Arsenal boys do not have a winning mentality. Always fighting, he is developing a siege mentality within Arsenal which may prove detrimental to their already fading season. Remonstrating with referees, ungracious in defeat or draw and a stubbornness to accept that his Gunners team are anything but world beaters has been the theme of this season's title challenge.

In his calmness, Arsene Wenger points to the fact that Arsenal is unbeaten since the turn of the year, and that means they are on a 16-match unbeaten run. If that is the case, then Arsenal should be top of the Premier League by now and not slipped down to third in the standings. In a season without any dominating force, Arsenal have been the team with most consistency. And yet, they look like a team with questions frequently asked about their fragility.

Premier League Young Player Best XI

Congratulations to Jack Wilshere and Gareth Bale for being voted PFA Young Player and Player of The Year respectively. Funnily, there is no Liverpool representative in the PFA Team of The Year although I would have put Reina (probably on sentiment) above Edwin Van der Sar.

Here's my best eleven of Premier League young players.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rash Eboue Challenge Ends Arsenal Title Charge

Prior to the match against Liverpool, Arsenal had a run up as difficult as is conceivably possible. Liverpool, Spurs, Bolton and Manchester United are a very tough set of fixtures for any aspiring title contenders. For a team as fragile as Arsenal, this looks a very daunting task. And their crucial title run-in crashed against Liverpool. Once more, Arsenal lacked the ability to deliver when needed. This draw, where both goals were scored in injury time, meant that Arsenal is psychologically out of the title race.

In the wake of this disappointing result, Andrew Weber from Arsenalblog started out by talking about how Arsenal seemed to be a master at throwing away leads this season. Emmanuel  Eboue did clatter into Lucas and it was a rightful penalty. In the end, Liverpool got a point from a match that they did not deserve to lose. Their brilliant defensive display alone, even with Krygiakos and Skrtel as the central defensive pairing, deserved a point.

This remarkable match had Liverpool finish the match with four Academy players, following injuries to Carroll, Aurelio and Carrragher. Performances from Jack Robinson, John Flanagan (who started), Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing has Nate from ohyoubeauty gushing positively at the future of Liverpool. He sees great things happening at Liverpool with the youngsters that are being blooded by Dalglish. It's hard to argue with him when these youngsters show that much composure in such a high pressure situation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Arsenal-Liverpool Preview: The Forgotten Duo

It was Liverpool's best season since the start of the Premier League. A season which saw Liverpool scored the most goals and lost the least games but yet could not win the Premiership title.

But the Reds under Rafa Benitez gave us some wonderful moments with last minute winners and high scoring games. One of the most memorable game from that season came for the Anfield April 2009 match against Arsenal. The result? Liverpool 4 Arsenal 4.

Two of the players who starred at that match are now looking pale shadows of their old self. Fernando Torres and Andrei Arshavin.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Celebratory Camera Kiss

What's with footballers these days? Steven Gerrard started it by kissing the camera when overwhelmed by the emotion of scoring a goal against long time rivals Manchester United. Suddenly, every footballer worth his salt could be seen planting his smackers against a camera as a celebratory move.

I am all for it, I love it. Here are Mark Noble and Scott Parker kissing the camera in response to scoring goals for West Ham United.

Liverpool's Andy Carroll Off The Blocks!

Andy Carroll finally proved his worth to Liverpool against Manchester City on Monday night. In his fourth full game for the Reds, the giant Geordie scored two brilliant goals underlining his potential and ability as a big-game player. The goals showcased Carroll's talents and strengths, a lethally accurate left foot and superb heading ability. I have not forgotten that powerful shot he scored from against Dalglish's Reds at St. James Park in December last year.

Carroll was frightening in the first half when the damage was done. Manchester City was left shell-shocked by the early onslaught from Liverpool and could not keep pace with the Reds. Unlike against West Brom away, Liverpool swarmed forward at every opportunity, Meireles, Spearing and Kuyt were taking up good positions at the edge of the box to keep the pressure on City. That pressure kept City on the back foot and helped Liverpool maintain the upper hand.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Terrific West Ham Withstood Late Liverpool Surge

Liverpool had not lost to West Ham in 17 meetings prior to this season's fixture at Upton Park. If Liverpool had thought that bottom-placed West Ham would be easy pickings, they were dead wrong. The Hammers came out with guns blazing and quickly took control of the match, outpassing and outrunning their more illustrious counterparts. Quite clearly the Europa League exertions had taken a toll on the Liverpool players as they were second to every ball.

The first half truly belonged to West Ham and they deserved their two goal lead at the end of a sterling first 45 minutes. Thomas Hitzlsperger got his first assist when he returned a pass for the inspirational Scott Parker to curl the ball beyond Pepe Reina. Not to be outdone, Demba Ba scored his third goal in two games when he guided a flying header into Reina's net. Liverpool five-man defence did not pick up the run of the Senegalese, allowing him to add the finishing touch to a nice Hammers move.

Der Hammer Poised For Hammer Showdown With Dalglish's Reds

There was an article in The Independent yesterday featuring Thomas Hitzlsperger. In that article, Hitz commented how much he enjoyed the English game and also how the fans are a lot more forgiving over here. He struck a note with me particularly when he said that the English gets excited with a good pass here and a great goal there.

It cannot be truer than that, and it is exactly this sense of quick gratification that lead to the English players always failing in major tournaments. The players believe in their hype much too easily and sad to say, us fans are guilty of over-hyping them as much as the media.

In an unrelated Daily Mail article, Jamie Redknapp said that a Hitzlsperger tackle left him a mark when the then-teenaged German was on trial at Liverpool. Even then, Jamie remarked that Hitz had everything to be a top midfielder.

Here's a reminder of what West Ham fans have missed since the start of this wretched season.

Daniel Sturridge Provides Trotters Delight

"He can finish left foot, right foot, he can score headed goals and he has got pace to burn. There's no doubt he is a natural goalscorer, but he is more than that, he is a natural footballer." said Owen Coyle.

Daniel Sturridge is proving every bit a loan success as Jack Wilshire had been last season for Bolton. His fourth goal in four games is turning Owen Coyle into a very successful bargain hunter. Pretty soon, Owen Coyle will have a reputation for a bargain as formidable as Big Sam or Harry Redknapp.

His instinctive talents have moved Bolton up to seventh place, nicely positioning the Trotters for a late assault on a Europa League place next season.

Chicharito Two-Goal Show Puts Pressure on Berbatov

The Red Devils went into a crucial away match against Wigan, needing to put some distance between themselves and Arsenal. Considering that Manchester United are due to face Chelsea and then Liverpool, three points would be a comfortable cushion in Ferguson's eyes. United romped to a 4-0 win but the lineup raised some eyebrows with the exclusion of the Premiership's top scorer, Dimitar Berbatov.

Manchester United started with Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez as striking partners. In previous games, Ferguson left Berbatov out whenever he felt the need to go with a 4-5-1 formation. Against Wigan, Ferguson put out a more positive lineup and yet preferred Hernandez over the Bulgarian.

Dimitar Berbatov simply does not have Fergie's trust in big games.

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