Football Station


Out of the Starting Gates

With the first round of games knocked down in the English Premier League, football fans across the globe now have their feet wet in one of the most appetizing leagues in the world.

A handful of games could have been dismissed as early season anxiety, however, some were worth note.  Newly promoted Blackpool took Wigan to the cleaners for 4 goals, and sit second in the table under Chelsea and above Manchester United.  They may want to relish the position, because not many can claim they’ve held it for long.  The reigning champions demolished West Brom by 6 goals to nil, Liverpool (i.e. Pepe Reina) surrendered their lead to Arsenal in the 90th minute after being reduced to 10 men, Tottenham and Manchester City played out a goalless draw in London and Manchester United cruised to a sweet 3-0 over

Impressive was an understatement for the reigning champions against West Brom.

Newcastle.

With the initial nerves fading fast and reality setting in, teams must soon realize that if they don’t snap out of their summer funk soon, they’ll be looking at a long season (we’re looking at you Wigan).  Standout fixtures are mainly Liverpool v. Manchester City and Manchester United at Fulham.  That’s right.  United have lost their last three visits to the Cottage, and you wonder in the Londoners can keep up the streak.

Liverpool will be looking to overcome their last minute draw against Arsenal in a tough tie against Chelsea look-a-likes Manchester City at Eastlands.  Manchester have yet to prove their credentials in the Premier League,granted their first game was against Champions League newboys Tottenham at White Hart Lane.  Liverpool will be without Joe Cole and with Aquilani seemingly on his way, it looks like Gerrard will line up behind Torres, with maybe Mascherano/Lucas paired up with Poulson, who looked rather impressive against Trabzonspor.  City have a slew of players in their ranks and Mancini has his pick.  Balotelli may well start up alongside Tevez, and, if he does, I will seem more like a statement from Mancini rather than a genuine selection.  Yaya Toure is expected to start and he will provide a great matchup for Gerrard and whoever wins that battle, controls the ebb and flow of the game and could very well control the outcome of the match.

Typically, a Manchester United matchup against Fulham would yield a full three points for the former, however, on Fulham’s

Danny Murphy nets from the spot as Fulham beat Manchester United at Craven Cottage.

ground, the Red Devils have lost three consecutive matches.  Will the fact that Roy Hodgson has moved on to Liverpool make a difference for the tie?  Or is Craven Cottage simply kryptonite for United?  Fulham may be without Mark Schwarzer between the sticks but Hughes is hopeful of a return for the Aussie stopper.  Patrice Evra was a doubtful for a little while, but it looks like he’s shaken off the knock and will suit up against Fulham.  Wayne Rooney hasn’t scored for his club since…United played Fulham at Old Trafford last March.  Since then, the boys gone dry.  Other than those little snippits of information, there isn’t a lot to be said about the tie until the teams actually take the field.

Predictions – Being so early in the season, it’s hard to try and call the shots.  However, that’s exactly what I’m going to do…

Saturday

Arsenal 2 – 0 Blackpool

Birmingham 1 – 0 Blackburn

Everton 2 – 1 Wolves

Stoke City 1 – 3 Tottenham

West Brom 0 – 0 Sunderland

West Ham 1 – 0 Bolton

Wigan 0 – 3 Chelsea

Sunday

Fulham 1 – 1 Manchester United

Newcastle 1 – 2 Aston Villa

Monday

Manchester City 1 – 1 Liverpool

A lot of close games, and, obviously, a lot can depend on who the head men select for the starting XI.  Until next week, we’ll see who is the quickest out of the starting gates…

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The Battle for 4th

Even at Christmas, we knew that the last Champions League spot would be up for grabs.  With Liverpool, Man City, Aston Villa and Tottenham all vying for the coveted position, there is serious potential for a dramatic climax to the end of the season.  It’s tough to get all the information you want and need about these four teams, their fixtures, tendencies and key players.  So, naturally, we’ve decided to compile what we think is a comprehensive analysis of the fourth place spot and all the parties involved.  Starting from our current (As of March 4th) fourth place team, we have Tottenham.

TOTTENHAM – 49 Points

The Spurs have been one of the seasons high fliers and now have a realistic chance at grabbing the fourth place spot as well as the FA Cup.  Despite some setbacks in injuries to players like Modric and currently Lennon, they have just as much bite as ever.

Remaining Fixtures:  Blackburn (h), Stoke City (a), Portsmouth (h), Sunderland (a), Arsenal (h), Chelsea (h), Man United (a), Bolton (h), Burnley (a)

Obviously the tough patch will be the Arsenal, Chelsea, United games on back-to-back weekends.  They play their two most hated rivals on home turf and then finish up with a monumental game at United.  They have the potential to knick full points from Arsenal and maybe scrape a draw of Chelsea, but if they fail to win either of the those games, don’t count on them taking points at United.  At home, they are a stingy group at the back, and are tied with Fulham for second fewest goals conceded at home (9, Birmingham and Man United only 8).  However, with Arsenal having scored the most away goals in the EPL (28) and Chelsea in a close third (24), it will be interesting to see how Redknapp handles them defensively.

Key Men:  Jermain Defoe, Luka Modric, Michael Dawson

With Defoe continually getting on the scoresheet, the Spurs will always be an offensive threat.  Combine Defoe’s speed with Crouch’s aerial ability and Pavlyuchenko’s knack for knicking goals and you have a potent mix. Luka Modric faced a lengthy spell out with a broken bone in his leg, but is back at his best in the heart of the Spur’s midfield.  The Croat is a genuine playmaker and will be essential to Tottenham breaking down defensively sound teams like Manchester United and Chelsea.  Despite not getting consistent starts in the beginning of the season, Michael Dawson has been omnipresent in the latter half of the season and is one of the main reasons Spurs hold such a strong defensive record.

MANCHESTER CITY – 49 Points

Who ever said money can’t buy happiness?  Who ever said money can’t win you a Premier League Title?  Abramavich?  Probably not.  Money bags City have been at the forefront of a boatload of media attention and for good reason.  They are the face stomping, trash talking, manager sacking bad boys of the EPL at the moment, and there’s no wonder there is speculation as to whether Mr. Jose Mourinho may be tempted to ply his trade at Eastlands.

Remaining Fixtures:  Sunderland (a), Fulham (a), Everton (h), Wigan (h), Burnley (a), Birmingham (h), Manchester United (h), Arsenal (a)

Easily enough to predict, the end of the season could be a nail biter for the Blue’s faithful.  Though, Everton and Birmingham shouldn’t be a walk in the park either.  Granted, City remain the ONLY team in the EPL who are unbeaten at home and that speaks volumes about their defensive line.  What has hurt City the most this year has been all the draws they’ve accumulated. If you look back, they dropped points to mediocre teams when they were in the driver’s seat.  Looking towards those last two fixtures, City only lost to United by seconds at Old Trafford and could certainly provide a game for the Red Devils at Eastlands.  They’ve met again in Carling Cup action in which the United dumped them out in the second leg.  As for Arsenal, City has already ousted them once at home and once in the Carling Cup.  Granted, Wenger followed the typical play-your-reserves type scheme whereas Hughes went for the jugular and grabbed a 3 – 0 win.  However, I’ll expect a goalfest at the Emirates as City have allowed almost as many goals they’ve scored on their travels and Arsenal boast the second highest number of goals conceded at home (Also Man City – 14, after Everton, 17).  Oh yeah, they also have a game in hand.

Key Men:  Carlos Tevez

City actually does a considerable job spreading the wealth in terms of goal scoring, but Carlos Tevez leads the line with 15 goals, with Adebayor coming in second with 9.  The little Argentine has been in a battle of words with several of his former teammates across the way at Old Trafford, and from a neutral supporter’s perspective, you can only smirk.  Should Ferguson have kept him around?  Put it this way, would you rather see Berbatov or Tevez on your teamsheet?  I know where I’d put my vote.  Tevez is like a bulldog.  A small, Argentinian, smiley, bulldog.  If he and Adebayor weren’t so efficient in front of goal, City would be miles down the table as they have a fairly high number of goals allowed at home.  Should, for some reason, Tevez or Adebayor be stricken with sickness or injury, Blues fans had better start praying to somebody.  It’s no wonder Mancini wanted Tevez back from Argentina so badly…

LIVERPOOL – 48 Points

“What’s happened?” could be the headline of Liverpool’s season so far.  That applies to the season in general, the game against Portsmouth and Manchester City as well as their illustrious history.  Really though, what happened?  The Reds were tipped to be right up there in the title fight and now face an embarrassing season outside the Champions League.  But now, with their big guns returning to the show, we may still have yet to see the Reds fight.

Remaining Fixtures: Wigan (a), Portsmouth (h), Manchester United (a), Sunderland (h), Birmingham (a), Fulham (h), West Ham (h), Burnley (a), Chelsea (h), Hull (a)

The script hasn’t yet been written by Benitez’s men, but a lot of people have surely started a rough draft.  Their remaining games aren’t anything to smile about as they face an airtight Birmingham defense (at least at home), Manchester United at Old Trafford and then the London Blues at Anfield.  Remember that last year at about this same time, Liverpool ousted United at Old Trafford to keep the title fight still alive.  Reds fans across the country will be hoping for a similar result.  And, in possibly their season defining fixture, host the mighty Blues.  The only thing they could have going for them going into this game is that Chelsea may already have one hand around the title, but still be gunning in the Champions League.  That could cause Ancelotti to field a weakened side which could allow Liverpool to take points.  Liverpool are known for pulling out magic comebacks, but Benitez has hopefully saved his biggest trick yet to get into the last Champions League Spot.

Key Men:  Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt

Anybody who knows anything can tell you that Gerrard and Torres are the backbone of this Liverpool team.  When they are fit, Liverpool’s chances of success increase exponentially, and now that they are, the Reds have a realistic chance at getting 4th.  Now the question is: can they stay fit?  Dirk Kuyt has been a hero for the Kop in Torres’s absence, ensuring wins at Tottenham, Everton and Bolton at home.  The Dutchman has a knack for popping up at the right time to grab points and could be instrumental in the dogfights they are going to face in coming weeks.  That plus Gerrard’s ability to be a game changer and Torres’s goal scoring record (13 despite being injured for a few moths)  just might be enough to see them through.

ASTON VILLA – 45 Points

The Clarets have been contenders for a top four spot from the start of the season, beating Liverpool, Chelsea, and Manchester United but dropping silly points to bad teams.  This season has been a fairly open one, and the difference between here and there has been slim.  Villa does have two games in hand which will come to immense in coming weeks as they look to break into the top four.

Remaining Fixtures: Stoke (a), Wigan (a), Wolves (h), Sunderland (h), Chelsea (a), Bolton (a), Everton (h), Portsmouth (a), Birmingham (h), Manchester City (a), Blackburn (h)

Unfortunately for Villa, they have to face Chelsea and City away from home.  The good news is that both defenses are prone to giving up goals at home, which could make for edgy, high-scoring affairs.  However, Chelsea’s home scoring has been free flowing and their goals for sits at 41 while their goals allowed is 12.  Aston Villa is quick, can break on the counter and has multiple angles that they can attack from which makes them dangerous in virtually any situation.  The big worry for the other contenders is Villa’s games played.  The Clarets still have two games in hand which, if they play it right, could essentially get them into fourth spot.  And by playing it right, I mean being stingy and hard nosed when it comes to playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.  Their result there will shape the end of their season, and, having already beat them once, Aston Villa are hungry for another “W”.  But it is hard to look past the fact that, recently, whenever faced with tough opposition they’ve drawn.  That list includes Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal, not to mention teams like West Ham.  Aston Villa must avoid silly draws like these if they want Champions League football next season.

Key Men: Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Milner, Richard Dunne

In Agbonlahor, Aston Villa has a young, talented striker of the ball who tears defenses up with his pace.  His goal count as of now is 11, but that’s likely to change with games at home against Portsmouth and Blackburn.  His pace and agility iscomplimented well by his strike partner John Carew.  The big Norwegian provides him with space that he creates through physicality and using his aerial ability to play Agbonlahor through.  James Milner is the lynchpin of the Aston Villa midfield, particularly the attacking aspect.  Petrov is key as well, but not in the way that Milner dissects defenses with his through balls to his forwards.  It certainly looks like City may have been somewhat rash in letting Richard Dunne go.  He is proving to be one of the most valuable defenders of the season as his defending style is physical and smart, not to mention he scores the occasional goal.

Verdict:  Whatever the outcome of this season, we are in for a treat.  Many of the crucial games for these four teams come along towards the end of the season.  Let’s not be cliché and say that the winner of the fourth spot will be the one who takes full points from the small teams.  With the way things have been going this season, it is a virtual certainty that there will be some “shock” upsets over more than one of these teams.  Now the question is, which one?

Villa must break their recent hesitancy with quality teams.  Tottenham won’t be able to pull the results they need to in order to pull it out.  Liverpool have two very tough fixtures in Manchester United away and Chelsea at Anfield, if they keep everybody healthy, they can do it.  Manchester City look likely to pull it out given their upcoming fixtures and the game in hand.



Transfer News – August 23rd

NEWS OF THE WORLD:

  • Wayne Rooney is to be offered a stunning new contract in line with the biggest earners in the Premier League.
  • Arsenal are ready to open contract talks with Cesc Fabregas to fend off Barcelona.
  • Everton will demand a Premier League probe into their claim that Manchester City tapped up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Gold and David Sullivan will step up their bid to buy West Ham next week.
  • Fulham defender Brede Hangeland will not leave the club in the current transfer window despite the interest shown by Arsenal and Everton.
  • Portsmouth manager Paul Hart plans to offer former Wigan striker Henri Camara a Premier League lifeline.
  • Martin O’Neill is plotting to prise Jermaine Jenas from Tottenham with a £12million bid.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

    The Republic of Ireland winger has been targeted by Redknapp.

  • Wigan are poised to make a £3.5million bid for Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott.
  • Harry Redknapp has targeted Celtic stars Aiden McGeady and Scott Brown to bolster his Tottenham squad.
  • Phil Brown could turn to Matty Fryatt to solve Hull’s striker problems.
  • Everton and Blackburn have stepped up their interest in Norway winger Erik Huseklepp.

    STAR ON SUNDAY:

  • Chelsea will smash the British transfer record with a £40million move for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.
  • Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou is considering his future, despite being offered a new deal.
  • PSV Eindhoven winger Balazs Dzsudzsak claims Arsenal are preparing an offer for him.
  • Daniel Cousin is facing showdown talks with Phil Brown at Hull.
  • West Ham have asked Livorno to name their price for Italian hitman Alessandro Diamanti.
  • Newcastle have held move talks with the representatives of free agent Peter Lovenkrands.

    SUNDAY PEOPLE:

  • Furious Everton chiefs are to report Manchester City to the Premier League for allegedly tapping up Joleon Lescott.
  • David Beckham’s contract at LA Galaxy has a secret get-out clause, which could see him move to one of Europe’s top leagues.
  • Thailand manager Peter Reid is poised for a shock return to English football – as assistant to Tony Pulis at Stoke.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

    The Argentine has long been linked with a move away from Atletico Madrid.

  • Chelsea are aiming to spring a major surprise before the transfer window closes – with sources in Spain claiming Sergio Aguero is on his way to Stamford Bridge in a £42million deal.
  • Joe Cole is set to be handed a new four-year contract worth around £90,000 per week.
  • Fulham will stage an ambitious late bid to sign Bordeaux hitman Marouane Chamakh.
  • Stoke boss Tony Pulis is ready to shatter their transfer record with a £12million bid for Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones.
  • West Brom’s wantaway midfielder Borja Valero will complete a deal to Real Mallorca this week.
  • David Moyes will spark a late transfer window buying spree with Russian star Vladimir Bystrov at the top of his shopping list.
  • Harry Redknapp is ready to make a cut-price move for West Ham midfielder Scott Parker.
  • Dietmar Hamann has turned down Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Notts County and will instead move to Portsmouth.

    SUNDAY MIRROR:

  • Dean Ashton is set to announce his shock retirement from football.
  • Everton will ask the FA to investigate their claim that Manchester City made an illegal approach for Joleon Lescott.
  • Rafa Benitez has told Liverpool’s fans they can put their money on him staying at Anfield for the remaining five years of his contract.
  • Arsenal want William Gallas to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Portsmouth are ready to sell Niko Kranjcar if a club will meet their £8million asking price.
    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    The Spanish mastermind looks set to remain loyal to his Liverpool contract.

    SUNDAY EXPRESS:

  • Everton are going to war with Manchester City after finally agreeing to sell Joleon Lescott for £24million.
  • Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez is bidding to end once and for all the rumours that he is ready to walk out of Anfield.


  • Vieri On Trial with Rovers
    July 7, 2009, 10:48 AM
    Filed under: premier league | Tags: , ,

    Sam Allardyce has confirmed that Christian Vieri is training with Blackburn as he seeks to resurrect his career.

    Vieri is being eyed by "Big Sam" Allardyce.

    Vieri is being eyed by "Big Sam" Allardyce.

    The Italian striker has been without a club since being released by Atalanta in April but has now linked up with the rest of the Rovers squad for the start of pre-season.

    Allardyce accepts that he needs to work on his fitness and there is no indication that a deal could be close.

    However, the manager has been impressed by the 35-year-old’s attitude and is happy to keep his options open.

    “He is obviously out of condition compared to the rest of the lads but joining us at this stage of pre-season shows a certain amount of commitment that he wants to try and play football again,” Allardyce said on Sky Sports News.

    “If he has got that desire and dedication and can adjust to the physical levels of the Premier League at his tender age of 36 then we have got a major player on our hands.

    “There is no harm in my point of view in watching his progress and then seeing if there is a situation where we can have him for next season.

    “He also has a desire to try and get in the Italy squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.”

    Analysis:  Certainly a surprising move by both Vieri and Allardyce, but like “Big Sam” said, if he can cope with the EPL, there’s no harm in looking at him.  His age will be a concern, there aren’t many players of that age that have actually managed to fare well in the Premiership (mostly keepers)He’s a proven goal scorer with just under 200 career goals, but he’s been club hopping for the last few years, which may be hard for him to find his confidence and get his touch back.

    Result:  Vieri will join on with Blackburn, but will get average playing time.  Allardyce will appreciate his dedication to the team, but will also want to get his youngsters on the pitch for experience as well.  He may be able to provide the Rovers with some stability and guidance for the young bucks.