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.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chelsea Rebuilding With David Luiz and Fernando Torres

One of the major concerns about Chelsea these past seasons have been the ageing of their senior players. Drogba, Lampard and Terry are all above 30 years old. These stalwarts have been the backbone of the most successful Chelsea side in the club's history.

The rebuilding process have started with the buying spree in January. 26-year old Fernando Torres was the biggest signing in the winter transfer window. Who wouldn't be interested in a Champions League available world class striker? Hardly anyone had seen Brazilian David Luiz until he signed for Chelsea. Luiz is only 23 years old, young and a potential jewel in the crown for the Blue Champions.

Scott Parker Brings Out The Best In West Ham!

Scotty Parker was one of the reason for West Ham staying up last season. Parker's goal against Wigan last season was the highlight of a personal desire to keep the Irons in the Premiership.

The other reason West Ham managed to stay up last season was because they won more points against fellow relegation strugglers. This season, they have been less fortunate, failing to win against Birmingham, Wolves and West Brom. Without those much needed points, the Hammers will find it extremely difficult to stay in the Premiership this time around.

Not if "Great Scott" Parker has anything to do with it. His involvement both in the dressing room and on the pitch has been well published and that's Scott Parker in a nutshell. A fighter, a braveheart, a loyalist and an all-action midfield dynamo. Parker is the leader on the pitch, the player that the team look towards for inspiration, much more now than ever.

Raving About Raheem Sterling

His former coaches think 16-year old wonderkid Raheem Sterling development as a footballer is at the same level as Wayne Rooney at the same age. Raheem has been likened to Arsenal's Theo Walcott but it is said Sterling is even better than Walcott. A fast, pacey attacking midfield player who can “pass, shoot, head, score goals, tackle, defend” according to his Steve Gallen of QPR.

Definitely a prodigious talent and he was outstanding in the FA Youth Cup against Southend. With Dalglish, Clarke and Sammy Lee watching from the stands obviously gave the boys a lift. Scoring five goals, however must have been beyond Raheem's expectations.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rooney or Berbatov? Whose Overhead Kick Is Best?

The Manchester derby over the weekend was termed as a possible do-or-die for Manchester City. Lose the match and the Blues would be virtually out of the title race. Manchester United once more did not play as well as they can, but yet the Red Devils got the necessary three points to stay four points clear of Arsenal and eight points clear of their "noisy neighbours" City.

The Citizens were unfortunate not to have left Old Trafford with a point, Wayne Rooney's strike was a goal worthy to win any match. Manchester City once again could not produce the goods when it mattered. Mancini's safety first approach is not paying dividends for the expensively assembled side.

With Rio Ferdinand injured, Mancini opted for Tevez as the lone striker, leaving Edin Dzeko on the bench. Dzeko's introduction in the second half gave Manchester City more options in attack. City's most outstanding player, Yaya Toure was noticeably anonymous against United. His marauding forward runs were missed, as City attacks continually broke down as midfielders hardly got forward in support of Tevez.

All in all, Sir Alex Ferguson put out a predictable 4-5-1 lineup (as he typically does in big matches) and Mancini should have tried to capitalise on the absence of Ferdinand by fielding Dzeko. Rooney's goal settled the contest and United was the happier side, going into the dressing room.

Woodwork Denied Liverpool Fifth Consecutive Win

Wigan had scored only ten goals away from home prior to Saturday and faced a daunting task of scoring against a Liverpool defence which had kept four clean sheets in a row. Hugo Rodallega ensured points were shared at DW Stadium back in November and Latics boss, Martinez was hoping for a similar result. Wigan came to Anfield facing a Liverpool without Gerrard and Agger.

Aided by the midweek international fixtures, Wigan started the fresher side and were passing the ball well in the first twenty minutes. Liverpool looked flat and lacked sharpness in midfield especially. Yet the Reds posed the greater threat going forward with Luis Suarez and Dirk Kuyt building a good understanding. Jamie Carragher was a giant rock in defence once more but was powerless to stop Wigan equalising later in the second half.

When Raul Meireles volleyed in his fifth goal in six games, it looked like Wigan would be in for a three-goal hiding. Suarez had a great game and should have had a penalty when he was brought down early in the first half by Gohouri. Dirk Kuyt, unfortunately, had a poor game and this was characterised by his continued poor passing in this match.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

King Kenny Has Got Liverpool Fans Dreaming Once More!

Liverpool ended the January transfer window positively, selling at £56m and buying at £57.6m. King Kenny had already brought back the feel good factor and now the wins are starting to come. Beating Chelsea was beyond my wildest dreams and so it looked like even to Dalglish.

The team he put out had a slightly cautious look to it, the Liverpool management team deciding that the Reds should play a counter attacking game. It all went to plan perfectly. Raul Meireles scoring his fourth goal in five matches. What's more awesome about the goal was the distance the Portuguese man 'o war had to run to get into the box and finish.

Kenny Dalglish's tactics subdued Chelsea's fearsome trio, rendering Torres and Drogba to mere spectator. Lucas Leiva continued to prove that he is as disruptive and effective as Javier Mascherano. Christian Poulsen is improving match by match, the aging Danish captain put in a good shift to protect the back five when Kalou and Malouda came on.

Young Albicelestes Potential Manchester United Stars?

Recently, I caught sight of news that Manchester United was interested in approaching Juan Manuel Iturbe. "Iturbo" as he is sometimes labelled, is touted as the new "Messi". The successful signing of Javier Hernandez meant that any potential transfer target of Sir Alex Ferguson's will bring about a good amount of scrutiny.

The other prodigious Albiceleste who could be a potential star is Erik Lamela who was coveted by Barcelona when he was only 12. This is his first full season as a River Plate first teamer, starting 12 matches and scoring three goals in the Apertura 2010. Lamela's first goal against Colon capped a fine move by River.

I caught a brief glimpse of  Juan Iturbe in the South American U-20 World Cup Qualifiers and although I could not make up my mind about his potential, I decided to ask Sam Kelly who specializes in Argentinian football at the excellent Hasta Gol El Siempre. Here are Sam's take on Erik Lamela and Juan Iturbe.

Bob (TFB4): Do you think Juan Iturbe and Erik Lamela can do well in England, skill, mentality and physical-wise?

Sam Kelly (HEGS): I can see both doing well. It's worth noting that no one in Argentina has really seen very much of Juan Manuel Iturbe at all prior to the current Sudamericano Sub 20.

Iturbe is the son of Paraguayan immigrants and though born in Buenos Aires, grew up in Asunci├│n from an early age and has hitherto only played professional football for Paraguay's Cerro Porteno. He's currently training with Quilmes and his registration is expected to go through to allow him to play for them during the Clausura, but until then we've only seen snatches of him here so far - albeit what he's done in the Sudamericano Sub 20 to date is as impressive as any of Argentina's hitherto uninspiring campaign.

From what I've seen of him, Iturbe is a little more direct than Lamela.

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