Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Week 13: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Weekend

Liberty StadiumThe most devastating news of the week was without a doubt Gary Speed's death by apparent suicide. My thoughts and condolences go to his family and friends. I saw Football Focus on BBC on Saturday where I watched him chatting about the game and reminiscing about his successful career. The more of a shock it was when the news came on Sunday. I just cannot shake off the thoughts of WHY?!?!?!
R.I.P. Gary Speed!

Vincent Kompany (left) and Luis SuarezTop game: Liverpool's 1:1 home draw against Manchester City was a delight to watch. The visitors dominated the first half but were kept at bay by a very well organised homeside, the back line especially, as solid and reliable as ever. The second half was much more of a competition, Liverpool taking over the attack, hammering the City back line and goal with everything they had. Lucas Leiva and Luis Suarez were the stars of the show with intimidatingly sparkling displays. The draw was a fair result in the end, both top sides not deserving to lose.

Charlie Adam (right)Top team: Liverpool are unbeaten in ten matches since the 4-0 defeat away to Tottenham in September which sees them in the sixth spot of the league on 23 points, two behind Chelsea in fifth who have lost three out of their last five games and three behind Newcastle in fourth. Manchester City kept their unbeaten season record intact with their second draw added to their eleven wins taking them to 35 points which keeps them at the top of the league still five points ahead of their United rivals. You have to go back 15 Premier League games to find the last time City failed to score at least twice. Looking at those records and the table, December promises to be a mouthwatering month with some decisive fixtures and some surprises guaranteed, I am sure.

Top player: Joe Hart kept the goal saving his team's grace and ensuring them a point. His display with many breathtaking and exemplary saves serves very well as an ideal model for every goalkeeper to follow and be led by. Andy Carroll and Suarez were kept wondering what the hell they had to do to get a goal. In this case, Hart wouldn't even have let the ball be beamed through! Pepe Reina had a good game too proving his experience and status in the team but was not challenged anywhere near as much. Petr Cech and Tim Krul made some beautiful and crucial saves too for Chelsea and Newcastle respectively - it seemed to have been a goalkeepers' weekend!

Tim KrulTop goal: City's opener against Liverpool was a set-piece like out of the book. David Silva's inswinging corner was met decisively by Vincent Kompany. It looked like a fine header at first but on the second viewing the came off his shoulder and beat Reina. Javier Hernandez was in the right place at the right time too when he netted Wayne Rooney's volley which had ricocheted off Steven Taylor - although I have to say it looked very close to being offside. Both were not exactly breathtaking goals, but just nice goal exactly how they should be done!

Top news: A lot of cup action on and off the pitch this week: Carling Cup quarter finals and the semi finals draw; Europa League football with the group stage slowly but surely reaching its final stages; and last but not least the Euro 2012 group draw.

Shay GivenFlop game: Swansea's goalless draw against Aston Villa was hard enough to watch, I cannot and don't want to try to imagine how difficult and distressing it must have been for the players to get a game together after receiving the news of Gary Speed's apparent suicide. The images, tears and emotions of his close firend Shay Given marked the game and day. I would not have blamed them if they would have called the game(s) off on the day. It just puts everything into prespective and shows that football isn't everything.

Juan Mata and Chelsea celebrateFlop team: Chelsea did find back to their winning ways with their 3-0 home win against Wolves but I feel they should not try to fool themselves that everything is back to perfect. Wolves are fourth from bottom, hovering over the relegation zone and made the win nearly too easy for Chelsea. The Blues face Liverpool in the Carling Cup quarter final next and then have a trip to Newcastle to look forward to in the Permier League on Saturday. Those displays and results will show how much Andre Villas-Boas has learnt and changed from their defeats.

Mario Balotelli is sent offFlop player: Mario Balotelli proved himself as the ticking timebomb he is. It took him 17 whole minutes after coming on as a substitute to see two yellow cards and get the marching order after his elbow met Martin Skrtel in the air. Roberto Mancini was not happy with the decision but Kenny Dalglish correctly suggested for the Italian striker to 'look into the mirror' to find who was responsible. Too many times has his attitude cost him and his side and Mancini certainly showed his discontent to the player when he left the pitch so cannot deny his player's contribution to his own downfall.

Emmanuel Adebayor scores for TottenhamFlop goal: The penalty decisions of this weekend have baffled me. How was Aaron Lennon's dive a penalty for Tottenham against West Brom when there was no contact made by Nicky Shorey? How was Rio Ferdinand's clean tackle on Ben Arfa a penalty when he obviously got the ball? And I think Victor Moses went down a bit too easily on Sebastian Larsson's tackle too to win a penalty for his Wigan side against Sunderland. Too many times do the referee's fall for the theatrical drama performances of the players and don't look at the physical facts and then they scare away from making the right decisions when it matters most! It makes me sick!

Flop news: Steve Bruce has become the first manager of the season to be axed, Sunderland are now eyeing up Martin O'Neill as his successor. I think it was a rather harsh move by the club, I can think of plenty of other managers that are (or I thought they were) walking on much thinner ice (Villas-Boas at Chelsea, Steve Kean at Blackburn, Roberto Martinez at Wigan, ...).

My predictions - Actual Results
Stoke 3:2 Blackburn - 3:1
Bolton 1:2 Everton - 0:2
Chelsea 0:0 Wolves - 3:0
Man Utd 2:2 Newcastle - 1:1
Norwich 3:1 QPR - 2:1
Sunderland 3:1 Wigan - 1:2
West Brom 0:2 Tottenham - 1:3
Arsenal 2:1 Fulham - 1:1
Swansea 2:0 Aston Villa - 0:0
Liverpool 2:2 Man City - 1:1

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Week 12: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Week

Maxi Rodriguez scoresTop game: Liverpool's 2:1 win at Stamford Bridge showed the difference between the new boy and the old school. Tactically Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his assistant Steve Clarke got everything spot-on and outclassed and outplayed André Villas-Boas' side. David Luiz and John Terry fell victim to Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez on the flanks and Craig Bellamy supporting Luis Suárez and could not recover after a dire first half. With Manchester City next on the fixture list, Liverpool will hope they can continue that trend.

Micah Richards celebrates with teammatesTop team: The records keep on tumbling for Manchester City. With 11 wins and one draw in the first 12 league fixtures, City have made the best start by any team in Premier League history. And with 42 goals, they have the highest goal tally at this stage since Tottenham with 44 goals in the 1963-64 season. Who needs Carlos Tevez? Talking about Tottenham, they are enjoying their best start to the season since 1966, scoring at least two goals in the last nine games.

Robin van Persie scores his secondTop player: Robin Van Persie was the man again, scoring both goals in Arsenal's 2:1 win at Norwich. He has scored 31 goals in 29 league games this year, only five away from Alan Shearer's record of 36 goals in a calendar year. Theo Walcott partnered brilliantly with the Dutch striker as attacker and provider, although the Gunners still showed worrying signs at the back after conceding the 18th away goal this season, the worst record in the Premier League.

Glen Johnson scoresTop goal: Glen Johnson's fine run and left-foot shot, after steering the ball through Ashley Cole's legs off Charlie Adam's probing pass to the right wing, summarised and won a match where Liverpool dominated a flawed Chelsea side. Emmanuel Adebayor's acrobatic finish put a sweet touch onto Tottenham's win against Aston Villa, a game they also dominated and never saw or got much opposition to fear.

Top news: The Champions League is back in action this week, the decisive stage of the group phase kicking off.

Damien Duff and Lee Cattermole vie for the ballFlop game: Fulham's goalless draw at Sunderland had its opening 15 minutes of excitement, the home side hitting the woodwork twice and visitors seeing a chance cleared off the line, but that was about it. Mark Schwarzer's right-leg save after diving the wrong way when Stephane Sessegnon's shot had taken a wicked deflection off Philippe Senderos was the most sensational and crucial action of the game, Fulham's 25th game of the season, their fatigue showing.

Chelsea's defenceFlop team: Losing three out of the last four Premier League games after their fourth defeat of the season against Liverpool, Villa-Boas will most certainly feel the fans, the players and a certain Russian breathing down his neck. Everyone will have a sell-by-date in mind for the Portuguese and if Chelsea continue like this I don't think he will reach 2012. Too negative, too scrambled and too leaking, that is how they looked against the Reds. And we all know Roman Abramovich's patience.

Mario BalotelliFlop player: Ryan Taylor will want to forget this weekend as quickly as possible. The Newcastle's defender's mistakes led to two goals conceded within four minutes against Manchester City. First he gave away a penalty with an obvious handball, netted cooly by Mario Balotelli, and then he let Micah Richards score an easy one without much of a challenge. What makes these kind of errors the more frustrating is the fact that Newcastle were everything else but outplayed. The were in it with a shout, testing Joe Hart thoroughly and constantly.

Steve KeanFlop goal: The media and press have covered Blackburn's 3:3 draw at Wigan as controversial with a corner and penalty that should not have been. I don't agree with that. I see the prior as a last minute change of heart, Morten Gamst Pederson taking the (ball from) the corner rather than Yakubu Ayegbeni, providing David Hoilett to head it in. And the penalty given in injury time was a penalty-and-a-half, even if it was goalkeeper Paul Robinson attacking a late corner in the opposition's box and being kicked in the face for it by David Jones, it was still a penalty which saw Yakubu net the eqaliser in the 99th minute. That is what the game is all about, making the most of what you have and (can) (maybe) (hopefully) get!

Flop news: Believe it or not, the FA confirmed the possibilty of goal-line technology from the 2012-13 season. Yeh, I won't believe that until I see it!

My predictions - Actual results
Norwich 1:2 Arsenal - 1:2
Everton 1:1 Wolves - 2:1
Man City 3:1 Newcastle - 3:1
Stoke 1:2 QPR - 2:3
Sunderland 2:0 Fulham - 0:0
West Brom 1:1 Bolton - 2:1
Wigan 1:1 Blackburn - 3:3
Swansea 0:1 Man Utd - 0:1
Chelsea 2:0 Liverpool - 1:2
Tottenham 2:2 Aston Villa - 2:0

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Week 11: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Week

Mark Schwarzer can't stop Defoe's strikeTop game: Both Man City and Tottenham were made to work very hard for their wins at QPR and Fulham respectively. The goalkeepers had plenty to do, Fulham keeping Brad Friedel the busiest with 20 attempts! All the action and scrambles ended up with Tottenham (and City) on top and a fully entertained crowd on all sides, everyone definitely getting their money's worth.

Ivan Klasnic scoresTop team: Owen Coyle's Bolton shut up the critics this weekend with their 5-0 smashing thrashing of Stoke. Tony Pulis' side obviously have too much on their plate at the moment with the Europa League, so the Potters were literally just brushed away by the Wanderers, who recorded their first home win of the season. I feel sorry for the one but relieved for the other manager, as both are doing their job to the point and very well.

Darren Bent scores for Aston VillaTop player: Aston Villa's Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonlahor were in top form, the prior scoring two and the latter scoring one and providing one in Villa's delightful 3:2 win against Norwich, a perfect watch for England manager Fabio Capello before making his mind up who to pick for the England friendlies against Spain and Sweden.

Newcastle's second goalTop goal: Newcastle right back Ryan Taylor's 25-yard smash against Everton was a sweet one for the born and bread Red from Liverpool. The strike looked to go over but dipped and beat Tim Howard and crashed into the top right-hand corner. It ended up being the decisive difference between the two, the Toons won 2:1 after they got a lucky escape as Everton should have been given a second-half penalty for Dan Gosling's obvious handball.

Top news: International break coming up - England facing World Champions Spain and thorn-in-the-eye Sweden.

Manchester United's manager poses in front of the Sir Alex Ferguson StandFlop game: Apart from the 25th anniversary of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign and the renaming of the North Stand in his honour, there was not much more to report from Old Trafford in their unusually quiet and unspectacular 1-0 win against Sunderland. Well, still three points in the bag either way, unlike Liverpool...

Dirk Kuyt's header is disallowedFlop team: Liverpool's goalless draw against Swansea was frustrating to watch, not just as a Liverpool fan, but as a football fan. It just showed, it doesn't matter how many chances you have or how close you get, if the ball doesn't cross the line you get nothing from it. I'm taking nothing away from Swansea, goalkeeper Michel Vorm especially after his late spectacular save of Glen Johnson's shot, but it is getting more and more frustrating for the Reds!

Newcastle United fans in morph suitsFlop goal: A couple of own goals to write about this week, Wes Brown netting one for his former employers United, costing his current employers Sunderland two points and Everton defender Johnny Heitinga turning in Danny Simpson's cross to gift Newcastle a goal, both incidents ending up being crucial to the games and results and with it the points. That is the cruel world of football.

Flop news: Sepp Blatter is a joke! And he is (still) FIFA president!!!???!!! And on a different note, Man City have recorded a record loss of nearly £200m! Who ever thought it was all cash sweet and easy nowadays... It's only a matter of time until the sweet bubble will burst and they will all come crashing down HARD!

My predictions - Actual results
Newcastle 2:1 Everton - 2:1
Arsenal 3:1 West Brom - 3:0
Aston Villa 2:1 Norwich - 3:2
Blackburn 1:1 Chelsea - 0:1
Liverpool 2:1 Swansea - 0:0
Man Utd 2:1 Sunderland - 1:0
QPR 1:2 Man City - 2:3
Wolves 2:1 Wigan - 3:1
Bolton 1:2 Stoke - 5:0
Fulham 1:2 Tottenham - 1:3

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Week 10: Premier League Tops and Flops

Sports - Football - Premier League - Picks of the Week

Arsenal's Robin van Persie celebrates scoring their fifth goal of the game to complete his hat-trickTop game: With 38 goals in total, all 10 games had their spoils of action and entertainment, but my vote goes to the big London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal. Stamford Bridge saw eight goals, five bookings, a lucky goalkeeper in Wojciech Szczesny and loads of missed chances including some good saves at both ends. It could have been 10 goals each!

Newcastle's Demba BaTop team: Newcastle continued their high ride with their win at Stoke, taking them up to third, just one point behind Manchester United! They are definitely in the top four race with more than a shout, joining an impressive Tottenham (with a game in hand!), adamant Arsenal and persistent Liverpool. Chelsea have to watch out!

Robin van Persie scores Arsenal's fourth goal at ChelseaTop player: Robin van Persie pinned down his mark on the game and team with his hat-trick at Stamford Bridge, if it needed any further consolidation. It just shows what he is for Arsenal, that he IS Arsenal, the question is whether he will stay put or go and condemn his team to doom. With his second hat-trick of the season, Demba Ba needs a shout out too again, riding high like his side, the sky is the limit.

Junior Hoilett of Blackburn Rovers Top goal: Juan Mata's equaliser to make it 3-3 was breathtaking. The 25-yard swerver looked to grab Chelsea a point with only 10 minutes left on the clock, but van Persie and Arsenal had another idea. Both sides' first goals at Carrow Road were stunners. Junior Hoilett put Rovers ahead with a sweet 20-yard finish before Steve Morison's smashing strike drew Norwich level. And that just got the game started!

Top news: Plenty of Champions League action this week, the week which marks Sir Alex Fergusons 25th anniversary at Old Trafford!

Robin van Persie of Arsenal scores past Chelsea goalkeeper Petr CechFlop game: Both Chelsea's and Arsenal's defence had a nightmare of a day, the prior letting in five, the latter "only" three. The back line rarely got it right, leaving too big gaps, giving away too easy chances, hence the scoreline. As mentioned above it could have been 10-10 the way the defenders were going!

Frank LampardFlop team: Chelsea have to be careful they do not slip and end up too far away of grabbing a top four spot after two consecutive defeats. It is not just the fact they have lost two games in a row that is all too worrying, but the way and it what fashion they lost them. The were taken to pieces by Arsenal this week and crumbled to bits against QPR last week with two players seeing red! They will not want to see a repeat of either!

John Terry Chelsea vs ArsenalFlop player: As mentioned above, Szczesny was a lucky man not to see red for his tackle on Ashley Cole outside the box (as he confessed himself on twitter), but John Terry added to his shame after the whole racism debacle when he slipped and missed Florent Malouda's pass for van Persie to slot in his second and Arsenal fourth, condemning the Blues to another defeat.

Grant Holt scores for NorwichFlop goal: As mentioned above, Terry's slip up was a cringer but the last-minute handball penalty given against Steven N'Zonzi was just outright cruel! The Blackburn defender was squeezed between two Norwich players and put his hands up to appeal for a free kick. He did not see the ball and could not help it bounce of his arm, HARSH penalty and harsh result on a Blackburn side that finally made manager Steve Kean more proud and able to hold his head up high with an impressive performance. Just the wrong result.

Flop news: Whilst a police investigation has been launched against Terry in the racism row and the Tevez malarkey is bubbling on, Harry Redknapp has undergone heart surgery without making a drama of it! It puts things into perspective doesn't it? I hope it wakes up certain whiners and idiots to reality and what really counts.

My predictions - Actual results
Everton 1:1 Man Utd - 0:1
Chelsea 2:1 Arsenal - 3:5
Man City 4:0 Wolves - 3:1
Norwich 1:1 Blackburn - 3:3
Sunderland 1:1 Aston Villa - 2:2
Swansea 3:1 Bolton - 3:1
Wigan 0:0 Fulham - 0:2
West Brom 1:2 Liverpool - 0:2
Tottenham 5:1 QPR - 3:1
Stoke 2:0 Newcastle - 1:3