Sunday, 28 February 2010

Top Blues lose - Pompey get consolation win

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend

Champs: Arsenal showed showed team strength and attitude, unity and stamina - so too did Manchester City and Portsmouth. All three of them were put into a situation where other teams would have given up and crumbled but they fought on and got what they deserved - victory.

Hero: Tottenham's goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes made a couple of spectacular saves. Everton will feel unlucky having got nothing out of the match. Liverpool's win against Blackburn summarized their season and problem of how much they have to rely on Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to hit the net and net the points for them.

You Beauty! Martin Paterson's equalizer for Burnley against Portsmouth was a sleek showpiece. It was one of those elegant, back-foot flicks, that you will find in any selection of best goals. Tottenham's second against Everton was a fine combination of their Croatian trio.

Has-Beens: Where were Chelsea? They seemed to have forgotten where they and their heads stood. Manchester City cut them open and they could not recover. From the non-existent handshake, some (Henrique) Hilario(s) bloopers, to some red cards and heads - just nothing went their way.

Zero: I think both Wayne Bridge and John Terry should get a grip! The prior's actions I found childish (the non-existent handshake mentioned above), the latter's battered dog-face and fragile display I saw as crude. Both should be more mature and professional and get on with it.

Ouch! I need not mention the most painful incident of the weekend. I just cannot believe it is strike three for Arsenal. After Vassiriki Abou Diaby and Eduardo, now it hit Aaron Ramsey. In all three incidences, you cannot say the fowls were committed with malice, but nonetheless, they are career-threatening tackles and thereby require hard penalties as a consequence.

My Predictions - Actual Results
Birmingham 2:1 Wigan - 1:0
Bolton 1:0 Wolves - 1:0
Burnley 2:0 Portsmouth - 1:2
Chelsea 3:2 Man City - 2:4
Stoke City 1:1 Arsenal - 1:3
Liverpool 2:0 Blackburn - 2:1
Sunderland 1:1 Fulham - 0:0
Tottenham 2:0 Evert0n - 2:1

Friday, 26 February 2010

Premier League clubs earn and owe most

Sports - Football - Premier League - Money Matters

Talk about never judge a book by its cover:

A couple of weeks back, I read a BBC article which labelled the Premier League as "one of the richest sporting series in the world" with its main earnings coming from the sale of TV rights.

In the UK alone these are worth £1.8 billion over three years; overseas tv deals, internet and mobile phone rights add another £1bn. These deals were negotiated in January 2009 - at the hight of the recession.

The League's total assets add up to £3.8bn and constitute 48% of total club wealth across Europe.

However, another BBC article about a study on football club finances, headlined with the Premier League clubs owing more money than all the other European top clubs put together, with a total of 3.8bn euros (£3.4bn).

In other words, the Premier League clubs are top earners and debtors.

The European Club Footballing Landscape study looked at the 2007-08 accounts of all 732 clubs licensed by UEFA.

The total debt of 18 Premier League clubs is about four times that of the next most indebted top-flight league, Spain's La Lige with 978m euros in debt (and assets of 2.5bn euros).

The report says most of the Premier League's debt is linked to the takeover of Manchester United and Liverpool and does not include Portsmouth or West Ham into their research as they were not granted UEFA licences that year because of their financial problems.

And it has not looked any better for them since.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been able to follow more and more of the other side to the glorious game, the downside:

Portsmouth have become the first Premier League team to enter administration with about £70m debt and are most likely facing relegation after they will have points deducted for their financial plight.

But they are not the first, not the only and will not be the last in a sticky financial situation, that is for sure:

UEFA Cup and Champions League semi-finalists in 2000 and 2001 respectively, Leeds United were forced into a mass sale of players when they came into financial difficulties but could not avoid relegation from the Premier League in 2004. Administration followed three years later and a further relegation, from the Championship into League One.

Crystal Palace dropped out of the top-flight in 2005 and went into administration last January with debts of £30m.

Coventry City had nearly the same destiny three years ago but rejected the big spending approach and went back to its roots instead as a community club.

Manchester United have more than £700m debt by the Glazer family. Liverpool are indebted by more than £200m and are looking for new investors.

Their major profits from TV and sponsorship revenue have been covering them so far, but I would rather not dare to predict for how much longer they can survive that way without incurring further debts and similar financial problems, if maybe not as fatal.

Meanwhile, on the only positive financial note this week, Arsenal have announced a profit boost of £35.2m which has drastically reduced their debts (from £332.8m to £203.6m).

They raised £96.6m by selling 261 new apartments at Highbury Square, their former ground, and have also been rejecting the big spending approach other Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have been getting used to.

Analysts say other clubs should follow their and Coventry City's example.

I feel, rules and regulations should be introduced to draw a line under this multi-million misery and avoid any similar demise to Leeds United's, Portsmouth's, et al.

UEFA president Michel Platini has been pushing for a system where clubs should no longer be allowed to compete in the Champions and Europa leagues when they spend more than they can afford.

I think this is long overdue looking at what has happened over the last few years, but it has also its own risks which could escalate the matter even further.

The clubs need to make profit, which would be more difficult with less competitions, less matches, less tickets to sell, less TV and sponsorship deals, etc. etc. etc. It is a vicious circle which I think we are only getting a first taste of where it can all lead to.

During the last transfer window, Premier League teams have spent only £30m, £100m less than a year ago.

So, does this indicate that the Premier League teams have finally learnt for the better? Or will they continue to walk, dance and prance on very thin, cash-strapped ice?

Everton steal the show against United

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend

Champs: Everton showed great determination and coordination in their play. The capitalised on breaks which Manchester United could not deal with. United might like to blame the defeat on their tiredness after their win against Milan in the Champions League three days beforehand, however, they should have been full of confidence at Goodison Park, which was not the case this time around.

Hero: Steven Pienaar's performance for Everton was wonderful to watch. He owned the pitch, make or break, he did not let anything come in or past his way. A brilliant contribution to the game. It was only the third win for Everton against the champions in 36 matches, the first against United in five years, which made it the more extraordinary.

You Beauty! Didier Drogba's first goal was a wonderful team goal and made it nine in ten games for the Ivory man. Chelsea carved Wolves open at the back, taking five passes from Petr Cech's throw to Drogba netting it. That took Chelsea four points clear at the top of the table and makes it 25 goals for the striker this season, and counting...

Has-Beens: It was just not Hull City's day. Having gone behind within just three minutes of the match against West Ham, they had Craig Fagan sent off early in the second half and went down to nine men with ten minutes remaining after they had used up all their substitutions and Anthony Gardner had to be stretchered off, making a comeback impossible.

Returning to his former ground, Wayne Rooney's performance was oblivious. He did not seem able to focus, sending crosses, shots and free kicks high or wide. Everton covered their former striker well, with three or four players constantly covering him, knowing too well what he is capable of.

Ouch! The referees had everything but a good weekend once again. But the biggest howler came at the DW Stadium, where Jermain Defoe's goal was yards offside. He himself checked looking towards the linesman, giving himself away, but the flag stayed down. I know, mistakes are human, but it is so annoying to notice such key errors seconds after they occure, but not being able to do anything about it. Very disappointing.

My Predictions - Actual Results
Arsenal 2:0 Sunderland - 2:0
Everton 1:1 Man United - 3:1
Portsmouth 0:0 Stoke City - 1:2
West Ham 2:1 Hull City - 3:0
Wolves 0:3 Chelsea - 0:2
Aston Villa 1:0 Burnley - 5:2
Fulham 4:1 Birmingham - 2:1
Man City 2:1 Liverpool - 0:0
Wigan 1:1 Tottenham - 0:3
Blackburn 2:0 Bolton - 3:0
Man United 3:1 West Ham - 3:0

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Chelsea and United drop points

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Week

Champs: It is a very confusing season! One week you think they are on top, the next week they flop - with they I mean any of the "top-four" teams plus candidates, i.e. Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Aston Villa. I will not dare to guess the next results, not even mentioning how things will stand at the end of the season.

Hero: Louis Saha could have had a hat-trick or more against Chelsea as the Toffees came back from a goal behind at Goodison Park. His curl-winner that made it two for him and Everton against the Premier League leaders made up for his missed penalty. See how they will fare against Manchester United at the weekend, if they will serve another surprise.

You Beauty! Saha's was a beauty, the looping header and equalizer by Carlos Cuellar against Manchester United at Villa Park was unstoppable, too. But Alessandro Diamanti's cracking free kick against Birmingham wins my vote, giving West Ham the all important breakthrough, over the wall and into the top right-hand corner, easy does it.

Has-Beens: Just when you thought they were in form, they crumble. Liverpool and Chelsea that is. Both disappointed when it mattered most and were fairly beaten by their opposition. Well deserved and crucial three points for Arsenal and Everton respectively - what a contrast to last weekend! What will happen next, I wonder...

Zero: The referee at Pompey - called Friend ironically - nearly sent off the wrong man until eventually, after the linesman helped out, Ricardo Rocha left the field. He seemed not to be able to get enough after that: He sent the manager Avram Grant to the stands, gave Sunderland's Lee Cattermole a second yellow and sent sub David Meyler off having lasted only two minutes on the pitch... He must have put superglue on his red card...

Ouch! As brilliant as goalkeeper Boaz Myhill has been for Hull City, the first goal he conceded against Blackburn at Ewood Park must have hurt, from the tightest of angles and through the legs, to Martin Olsson's delight. A cruel but cool one.

My Predictions - Actual Results
Fulham 2:0 Burnley - 3:0
Man City 2:0 Bolton - 2:0
Portsmouth 1:0 Sunderland - 1:1
Wigan 0:0 Stoke City - 1:1
Arsenal 1:1 Liverpool - 1:0
Aston Villa 1:3 Man United - 1:1
Blackburn 2:0 Hull City - 1:0
Everton 1:2 Chelsea - 2:1
West Ham 0:0 Birmingham - 2:0
Wolves 0:3 Tottenham - 1:0

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Picks of the Big Derby Weekend

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend

Champs: This week saw two crucial derbies go the home sides' way, two very crucial results in who will finish off in the top four at the end of the season. However, my pick are Hull City. They have impressed me very much lately. They are fighting on and I would find it very cruel if they would not be rewarded for their effort and team work and stay up at the end of the season.

Hero: Didier Drogba is for Chelsea what Wayne Rooney is for Manchester United and what Arsenal are missing: A star striker, a saviour scorer. The Gunners looked totally exposed once again, Drogba was unlucky not to leave Stamford Bridge with a hat-trick.

You Beauty! George Boateng's smacker from outside the box that made it 2-0 for Hull City against Manchester City was unstoppable, breathtaking and crucial. It was a huge win for the Tigers, their first in 11 matches and only the fifth all season. Mohamed Diame strike for Wigan was a stunner, too.

Has-Beens: It was dreadful to watch Portsmouth, sad to see them crumble, like crippled and petrified, numb and rigid, leaving Manchester United time and space to thrash and push them over without much effort scoring an own-goal hat-trick in the process, to make matters even worse. Worrying times for Pompey.

Zero: David James could not have had a more embarrassing appearance in front of the England goalkeeping coach Franco Tancredi. It was an easy ride for United, as Pompey did not pressurize, move or touch them much, leaving James to pick up the pieces - well, from the back of the net that is.

Ouch! The referee Martin Atkinson was everything else but consistent with his decisions at the Merseyside derby at Anfield. He sent Liverpool defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos off but let Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar get away with similar if not even worse offenses. It was a typical rough and tough, brill derby match.

My Predictions - Actual Results
Bolton 2:1 Fulham - 0:0
Burnley 1:1 West Ham - 2:1
Hull City 2:2 Man City - 2:1
Liverpool 1:2 Everton - 1:0
Man United 4:0 Portsmouth - 5:0
Stoke City - 1:1 Blackburn - 3:0
Sunderland 0:0 Wigan - 1:1
Tottenham 3:0 Aston Villa - 0:0
Birmingham 1:1 Wolves - 2:1
Chelsea 2:1 Arsenal - 2:0

Saturday, 6 February 2010

10-man Reds beat Toffees

Sports - Football - Premier League - Liverpool 1:0 Everton

Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt took advantage of an absent Everton defence when he headed in Steven Gerrard's inswinging corner past a very frustrated goalkeeper Tim Howard (55). His 50th goal for the club was enough to win Liverpool all three very crucial points in the battle for a Champions League place.

The match and result could have been so different after Sotirios Kyrgiakos controversially saw red in the first half for clashing with Marouane Fellaini. Both men went into the tackle rather recklessly, the Greek defender going in with both feet whilst the Belgian midfielder stepped on his leg.

However, down to ten men, Liverpool surprisingly took control. Everton were unable to take advantage of their extra man on the pitch, creating hardly anything. Tim Cahill put the couple of chances they had either high or wide, giving Pepe Reina not much to do. The Spaniard did make a crucial save late-on in the match though, keeping out sub Yakubu's fine strike to the his left.

All in all, it seemed like the Toffees just fell asleep and the Reds got their act together after Kyrgiakos' sending off. It was a good old rough-and-tough derby which could have seen a couple more red cards if the referee Martin Atkinson would have stayed consistent with his decisions.
Steven Pienaar was lucky to get away with a yellow card for a clumsy tackle against Gerrard (29; however, he got a second yellow eventually, in the last seconds of the match, for head-butting the Reds' skipper) and Fellaini should have left the pitch with Kyrgiakos because he went into the tackle just as reckless.

The win takes Liverpool up to fourth place in the Premier League, Champions League qualification, five points behind Arsenal who face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow and the Reds at the Emirates next week. You never know, if Arsenal play anything like they did against Manchester United last weekend, Liverpool could make it up to third come Wednesday night.

Liverpool Reina; Carragher, Agger, Insua, Kyrgiakos; Gerrard, Mascherano, Lucas, Rodriguez (Aurelio 91); Kuyt (Skrtel 91), Ngog (Babel 63). Bookings Kuyt 21, Carragher 30, Gerrard 85. Sendings Off Kyrgiakos 34. Subs not used Cavalieri, Degen, Riera, Aquilani.

Everton Howard; Distin, Baines, Heitinga, Neville; Fellaini (Arteta 40), Osman (Yakubu 72), Cahill, Pienaar; Saha (Anichebe 72), Donovan. Bookings Pienaar 29, Heitinga 56, Anichebe 85. Second Yellow Pienaar 91. Subs not used Nash, Senderos, Coleman, Bilyaletdinov.

Referee Martin Atkinson
Man of the Match Dirk Kuyt

BBC Stats
Attempts: 7-6
On target: 4-3
Corners: 8-8
Free kicks: 23-11
Possession: 54%-46%

Sky Sports Stats
Attempts: 7-6
On target: 3-3
Corners: 8-8
Free kicks: 24-11
Possession: 48%-52%

Friday, 5 February 2010

Premier League Recap

Sports - Football - Premier League - Recap

Looking back at my pre-season blog, it makes a funny read. My predictions could not have been further off. Arsenal and Chelsea have been most impressive and whilst Manchester United and Liverpool especially have struggled to find consistency. A lot has happened since my last blog and I will dare not predict how it is all going to end this season. I am just going to recap on the last month-and-a-bit:

Champs: Arsenal certainly surprised me with their youngster's uprise over Christmas and into the new year. They reached top spot but that did not last all too long. The last match against Manchester United was definitely a wake-up-call back to reality and never to underestimate United. The ease with which United overcame Arsenal exposed the Gunners' weakness and lack of resilience and depth in the side.

Hero: Wayne Rooney has been riding the show for United and topped it all with his hat-trick against Wigan. At the other end of the table, Boaz Myhill starred for Hull City against Tottenham and has been the man of the team on more than just that occasion. We will see in a couple of months how crucial both players' performances and contributions will prove to be in the title and relegation battle.

You Beauty! Chelsea's thrashing of Wigan just showed their class just as United's cruise past Arsenal showed that there is a much bigger gap between the two teams as the table may show. The players, the team connection and performance, consistency and stamina showed extreme contrast.

Has-Beens: Portsmouth, West Ham, Manchester United and Liverpool have been in all the wrong headlines with their ownership fiasco and financial problems. I think it is sad when a team makes news with a crises which is out of the players hands, they cannot do anything about themselves, but it affects them on the pitch as much as off it.

Zero: John Terry has grabbed most of the headlines lately, also for all the wrong reasons. As a football star - or a professional/celebrity in general - he is a role model and cannot expect anything to stay unnoticed and undiscovered by the media and in general when he is followed and watched by (and paid) millions week in and week out.

Ouch! Rio Ferdinand's elbow-act against Hull City striker Craig Fagan was unprofessional, to say the least. He should have known better than to appeal and challenge the FA, which I found very childish when the cameras showed obvious and definite contact (Ferdinand may call it "frivolous" but it is still wrong). The FA was right to increase the ban, to stop players taking the mick and thinking they can get away with their stupid actions.

Last 6 games:

1) Manchester United - 5 wins, 1 draw, 0 lost - 16 of 18 points
2) Manchester City - 5 wins, 0 draws, 1 lost - 15 of 18 points
3) Chelsea - 4 wins, 2 draws, 0 lost - 14 of 18 points
4) Liverpool - 4 wins, 2 draws, 0 lost - 14 of 18 points
5) Everton - 4 wins, 2 draws, 0 lost - 14 of 18 points
6) Arsenal - 3 wins, 2 draws, 1 lost - 11 of 18 points
7) Tottenham - 2 wins, 3 draws, 1 lost - 9 of 18 points
8) Blackburn - 2 wins, 3 draws, 1 lost - 9 of 18 points
9) Aston Villa - 2 wins, 2 draws, 2 lost - 8 of 18 points
10) Birmingham - 1 win, 4 draws, 1 lost - 7 of 18 points
11) West Ham - 1 win, 4 draws, 1 lost - 7 of 18 points
12) Stoke - 1 win, 2 draws, 3 lost - 5 of 18 points
13) Bolton - 1 win, 2 draws, 3 lost - 5 of 18 points
14) Wolves - 1 win, 2 draws, 3 lost - 5 of 18 points
15) Wigan - 1 win, 1 draw, 4 lost - 4 of 18 points
16) Portsmouth - 1 win, 1 draw, 4 lost - 4 of 18 points
17) Hull - 0 wins, 4 draws, 2 lost - 4 of 18 points
18) Fulham - 1 win, 0 draws, 5 lost - 3 of 18 points
19) Sunderland - 0 wins, 3 draws, 3 lost - 3 of 18 points
20) Burnley - 0 wins, 1 draw, 5 lost - 1 of 18 points