Football Station


Turn Around Time

The first half of the EPL Season has almost come to a close in what is one of the tightest tables we have seen in years.  Manchester United sit top and deservedly so after going undefeated in all competitions (scratch the Carling Cup defeat to West Ham).  Neighbors City hold the coveted 4th place spot with Tottenham snapping at their heels and riding a high after topping their Champions League group and beating would-be Top 4 contenders Liverpool in a lively game in London.

There has been no shortage of stories coming from England this season, and it’s our job here at Football Station to bring you the best, brightest and horrible.

Owen Coyle and Bolton Wanderers

The Scotsman came from a sinking Burnley ship to manage the Wanderers in what has become the managerial success story of the season so far.  What was once a hard nosed defense-first Northwestern outfit has become a slick passing and clinical side

Cocky, seductive and just plain sultry. Coyle's proved part genius this season in the EPL this season.

under the guidance of Coyle.  The Wanderers sit 6th currently, and one has to wonder: just how long can they keep this up?  Boasting a win over Tottenham, a hard fought draw against United and having a win at Everton snatched from their grasp with a last gasp goal from Jermaine Beckford, Coyle’s boys have maintained that defensive resolve while learning to press as a unit into the attacking half. Keys to their success are: American Stuart Holden and South Korean Lee Chung-Yong and Bolton’s record signing Johan Elmander putting in more than his fair share of goals up top.  Other than their monthly opener at Eastlands and closer at Chelsea, Bolton’s games in December are all winnable and could easily maintain a 6th or 7th spot going into the New Year.

Liverpool’s Stop-Start Season

Just what the hell is going on in the Northwest this year?  The humiliating defeats to Manchester City, Everton and Blackpool highlight a Liverpool season that hasn’t had a heap of good news coming its way.  With the exit door blaring, Roy Hodgson’s

Skeptical Roy

ill-advised outbursts seem to be making him more friends than enemies.  Benitez hits out at Roy, Roy hits back, Benitez hits back again, Roy apologizes.  Roy criticizes Glen Johnson’s form, Glen Johnson responds, Roy apologizes.  Roy says he is disappointed his Daniel Pacheco, now he says he has a bright future at the club.  Is he manic?  He’s like a 5 year old version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a speech impediment.  The January transfer window will either be his saving grace or nail in the coffin, so he had better make it count.  But with names like Keisuke Honda (reportedly a bid has been tabled) and Eden Hazard (more of a rumour) being linked, he just might have a little genius inside that huge coat.  They do have a run of fixtures coming up that most would fancy and don’t face too stiff of competition until the 5th of Februrary when they travel to Stamford Bridge (if you don’t count Everton and Stoke).  If Roy plays his cards right (e.g. playing Pacheco and more youngsters and not playing Poulsen) he could find himself knocking on 4th place’s door.  Oh, also Tom Hicks and George Gillette are taking LFC back to court. Awesome.

Zero to Hero

£30m has never looked so good.  Dimitar Berbatov is firing in goals like it’s his job.  Finally. Because it is his job.  And he used

Andytar Berbacia

to suck at his job.  That said, the Bulgarian ace has been in a rich vein of form with the Red Devils and is currently sitting Top Scorer of the Premier League with 11 goals. And with Blackpool next on the fixture list at Old Trafford, the Andy Garcia body double’s odds of scoring are looking pretty decent.  The Seasiders have allowed 18 away goals this season (2nd in the EPL).

Shape of Things to Come

While it may be fruitless to try and lay down a prediction for the second half of the season, I may as well try.  Chelsea have Tottenham coming up, United have Arsenal, then Chelsea have United, then Arsenal have Chelsea…as you can see, there will be much movement within the top 5 or 6 in coming months.  Nothing will be set in stone until May 22nd rolls around.  However, with the look of things, United and Chelsea are still looking favorites for the title.  Arsenal have a fantastic squad, as do Spurs and City, but shortcomings in each squad will prove decisive in their respective bids for the crown.  Arsenal have proven time and again that they can’t last the full season and often drop results come the tail end of the season.  Manchester City are going through issues within the squad and with the manager (shocking) and that will eventually provide their fall from the Top 4.  Tottenham have a legitimate shot at going for 3rd or even 2nd should results go their way.  They have a solid squad, a good looking schedule and are playing football that wins games.  The only blotch on their otherwise shiny squad is the injury to Rafael Van der Vaart.  The Dutchman has been instrumental this year in providing goals and scoring them himself, and it will be interesting to see how the Londoners cope without the big man.

Prediction – The Top 4 won’t have the same occupants this year as it did last year.  Manchester City should rest in 4th but may even snag 3rd spot from under Arsenal’s noses if they don’t clean up their act in the latter half of the season.  Who says money can’t buy happiness?  It will be a slug fest for top spot and the May 7th game where United host Chelsea could well decide the title.  Tottenham and Liverpool will find themselves in 5th and 6th place, respectively after a fruitful transfer window for the latter pays dividends.



Battle in Bloemfontein

 

 

 

 

 

ENGLAND – GERMANY

“THE BATTLE IN BLOEMFONTEIN”

Preview

June 27th, 2010

Bloemfontein, South Africa

Football fans are drooling over this historic tie, and for good reason.  Both teams appear packed to the brim with talent, have very capable managers and the expectations of their nations thrown heavily on their shoulders.  Individually, England are spectacular, as a unit, they lack connection.  Despite the fact that they started to look like a real team against Slovenia, that was Slovenia.  This is Germany.  The two are different.  Germany were a little bit of a grab bag in Group D as they romped Australia, lost to Serbia (who were beaten by Australia) and narrowly beat Ghana.  Calling a winner will be tough, as typically just the mention of either country’s name triggers a reaction in the football fan’s brain that they are favorites to win the match.

 

 

All business.

England – Almost more than any country in the world (save Brazil, maybe), England are expected to win the World Cup every time they enter it.  The UK is a nation obsessed with watching the Three Lions romp to victory, so it has been understandably tough for the country to sit by idly and watch their national team play a limp draw with the United States, an even limper draw with Algeria and finally find a little rhythm against Slovenia, but still nothing of what is expected of them.  Then again, the things that are expected of them are seemingly impossible.  Show me a “realistic” England fan and I’ll show you a liar.

Player for player, England might actually be better than Germany, but that is not the case, obviously.  It is almost impossible to predict which players will actually come to play for the Brits.  Wayne Rooney absolutely lit up the Premier League but can’t buy a goal in South Africa.  John Terry has offset the balance of the team with his well publicized scandal with Ms. Bridge and his outburst with Capello.  The question is: why doesn’t England win every game by 3 goals?  Maybe their egos?  Not enough chemistry?

Rooney can't believe his luck as he fails to find the target once more against Slovenia.

Starting from the front, England are gifted by all means.  Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey are all capable of making an impact in just about any game…funny thing is that none of them really have at the World Cup except Defoe who netted a lovely winner against Slovenia.  Wayne Rooney is paramount to this tie against Germany.  So much so, that we’re calling that if he doesn’t turn up tomorrow, England is out.

The midfield is jam packed with talent in Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney and hopefully for purists out there Joe Cole.  Cole would be a lovely inclusion for the very defensively rigid Germans and his creativity would counteract that of Mesut Ozil’s, who is guaranteed to give England problems in the back.

Speaking of which, the back line for England is suspect.  John Terry has performed, but hasn’t been amazing, Jamie Carragher shows age, Glen Johnson can’t, well…defend, but Ashley Cole may be England’s top performer thus far in South Africa.  The ‘keeper situation is well known and David James will be aware that the Germans will test him early and often.

Keys for England are Rooney coming to play, Gerrard motivating, and no calamitous error from David “Calamity” James.

Germany – There is never a time that Germany enter the World Cup with expectations lower than an appearance in the final.

Doesn't like Capello's attitude.

Why should they?  They have a great squad every time they come to the World Cup.  Even without Michael Ballack, the Germans have one of the most surprising players filling the void with great skill.

In Group play, Germany sent a message to the world with their 4-0 thrashing of Australia.  They looked genuine contenders for the final and cut open the Australian back line like they were Hertha Berlin.  Mesut Ozil in particular looked impressive as he didn’t find the scoresheet but he had two assists and was the architect behind most of Germany’s moves.  After that display, however, the team crashed 1-0 to Serbia after Miroslav Klose was received a red card (twice yellow carded) for a cynical foul in midfield.  Germany had their chances, though, as Lucas Podolski had his spot kick saved.  But the Germans put that behind them and picked up 3 points over a good Ghana side from an even better Mesut Ozil goal.

Coming in to the game, the Germans will be looking to capitalize on the shakiness of England’s back four, goal keeper and overall play.  Despite the fact that the Brits started to look better against Slovenia, the Germans are more than able of tearing all their work to pieces.  How?  Glad you asked.

Bastian Schweinsteiger – The 25 year old midfielder has been a main stay in the German side as he was in the Bayern Munich side that forced their way into the Champions League Final.  He’s a box to box midfielder who has a great eye for the smart pass and an even better one for the creative one that so many players wish they had.  He can and has played all across the midfield, so don’t be surprised if he comes in on the wing or in the middle of the park.  He’ll put in a show either way.

Mesut Ozil – Despite being 21 years old, Ozil plays with the composure of Andrea Pirlo and the creative edge of a player like Joe Cole.  Those are BIG comparisons, I know, but Ozil is destined for greatness, and there is no doubt in the mind of most football pundits that he will be a force to be reckoned with.  Be sure to watch him against England (#8) as he will battle with Gareth Barry and Ozil’s opposite number Frank Lampard.  He has a great knack for finding the soft spots behind the midfield and in front of the defense, a space key for the kind of passes he makes to the strikers running behind the back line.  If Carragher starts for England, Ozil will take him to the cleaners.

Analysis – Both teams are talented, no question.  Both teams are well coached, I won’t disagree.  But one team has to walk away the victor tomorrow morning.  The key match up will be Mesut Ozil vs. Gareth Barry (the more defensive minded of the two central midfielders).  Watch for it.  Who will win it?

We think Ozil.  His pace and youth are the going to be the decisive factors in his overtaking of Barry, who is a good player but has been exposed by speed and trickery before.

Prediction – England 0 – 2 Germany



Grass Green-er for United States

What started out as looking like a long match for the United States, turned into a fighting display to claw back and snatch a point from Group C favorites, England.

After Steven Gerrard had put the Three Lions up in only the 4th minute, all looked like it may be a tough match for the States.  But this didn’t put the United States off, says midfielder Landon Donovan.

The newly crowned English captain nets the opener.

“The Czech Republic game four years ago (in the World Cup), when they scored that goal early, there was this sense of ‘Oh no’,” said Landon Donovan. “Today, I didn’t have that feeling. We just felt like ‘Okay, let’s get back in the game. We don’t have to go get it in the next five minutes. Eventually we’ll get back in the game.  And, sure enough, we got back in the game.’

However, the Yanks weathered the English pressure after allowing the early goal and were rewarded 36 minutes later when Robert Green allowed Clint Dempsey’s shot to trickle through his hands and across the line.

A howler.

The English might have found it hard to rebound from the calamity of Green’s and looked disjointed for the rest of the match.

Tim Howard clutches his ribs after the tackle from Heskey.

That’s not to take credit away from the United States’ defense.  The back line, coupled with Tim Howard performed admirably and stifled out Wayne Rooney & Co. with aplomb.  Oguchi Onyewu is finally showing he has recovered from his knee injury in October and, after the lax defending for the 4th minute opener, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo all had their hands full with the English but held their own against a talented attack force.

The dark spot on the match is the fitness of Tim Howard.  Howard was bundled into by Emile Heskey in the second half and may have broken some ribs.  If that is the case, we will likely see Wolverhampton Wanderers keeper Marcus Hahnemann or Aston Villa’s Brad Guzan.

Also, as many probably guessed, Ricardo Clark was mediocre at best, and could easily be replaced with the choice of Maurice Edu or Jose Torres.  Though he had some moments against Frank Lampard when he put in some crunching tackles and simple passing.  Regardless, the fact that Bob Bradley stays with Ricardo Clark is a worrying fact.

Robbie Findley made a start alongside Jozy Altidore, which was slightly surprising to the United States fans.  Neither found the net in the match, but Altidore came closest in the 64th minute after he shrugged off Jamie Carragher to fire at Green, who turned the ball onto the inside of the post and out of the goalmouth.  Probably the best chance of the second half.

Clint Dempsey celebrates his gift of a goal with Michael Bradley (R) and Jozy Altidore (L)

Wayne Rooney was fairly quiet given his form at Manchester United and failed to cause the United States defense grave concern.  He was wily enough, but failed to make an impression on the match and live up to the pressure that millions of British have placed on his shoulders.

The result doesn’t do either side much hard, despite the fact that Slovenia picked up a win (albeit a rather lucky one) against Algeria to top Group C.  Slovenia plays the United States in their next game while Algeria will play England.  All to play for in Group C, and the fireworks could still go off there in South Africa.



Silly Season Breakdown- Top 5

On May 30th, I imagine every manager and assistants waiting outside a giant department of superstars like Mom’s and daughters on Black Friday.  As soon as the doors open, the transfer season explodes.  Newspaper gossip columnists lick their lips and get busy in the rumor mill.  Managers are running to and from different sections, knowing they need a new defender but can’t spend more than £10m (£18m if you’re Rafael Benitez).  Some forwards are on sale over by the midfielders on free transfer, but you’re stuck debating whether or not you want to buy like Argentine starlet dubbed ‘the next Messi’.  Better hurry though, before they all get snapped up.

That’s I see it, at least.

Some people call it ‘silly season’ and for good reason.  In recent weeks we’ve watch, slackjawed, at some of the transfer activity that’s been keeping the papers busy.  Manchester City are essentially offering any superstar about £200,000 per week (most recently Samuel Eto’o) and offering their clubs probably close to double what they are actually worth.  They’re quickly becoming one of the most hated clubs in England for their cavalier spending and public exploits (read The Abramovich Effect further down for more on subject).

Cristiano Ronaldo trailed Kaká (£55m) to Real Madrid for a fee of £80m from Florentino Perez for the beginning of the new ‘Galacticos’ era.  Hot on the heels of those two monster transfers are rumours of David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Karim Benzema, Carlos Tevez, Franck Ribery, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano.  The only other club to rival Manchester City’s sheer arrogance and greed.

Who, of their actual targets do they actually require?  You could argue none, but a domestic thrashing from Barcelona and a European one from Liverpool suggest otherwise.  The question for any player linked with Real Madrid at this point is:  Unless you’re a superstar, where do you fit into the Real Madrid equation?  They can’t field 20 players.  Would they just rot on the bench, or are they better off somewhere else?

That is the question that several players will have to ask themselves before joining outfits like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea…etc.

So we’ll look into it…

Manchester United won yet another Premier League crown, the League Cup, the Community Shield and the FIFA World Clup Championship, and reached the Champions League Final.  With Ronaldo & Tevez (something SAF will deeply regret) out the door, who comes into play, where, and how much of the void will they fill from those players who are leaving?

Manchester United In’s:
Antonio Valencia from Wigan (undisc) – No Ronaldo, but with SAF guiding him along, could develop into an even greater player.

Rumoured:
Douglas Costa – Gremio – ‘next Ronaldinho’.  Only 18 but would prefer Spain over England.
Karim Benzema – Lyon – Linked with United for some time.  The club has recently stated that they won’t stand in his way if he wants to leave, but this is just because they want him to publicly come out and say he wants out.  Then the club don’t get slated for getting rid of him.  But, like Costa, seems to prefer Madrid over United.
Sergio Aguero – Ateltico Madrid – One of the best young talents in the world.  It would take an enormous fee to pry Aguero from Madrid’s clutches.  Craves first team football AND Champions League play.
Iker Casillas – Real Madrid – Won’t leave.  He’s is to Real Madrid what Gerrard is to Liverpool or Terry to Chelsea

Outs:
Cristiano Ronaldo – Real Madrid – £80m

Liverpool In’s:
Glen Johnson from Portsmouth (£17.5m) – England’s first choice right back and former Chelsea man will add a more attacking element for the Rafael Benitez’s men.
Aaron King from Rushden & Diamonds (undisc)
Jesus Fernandez from Cadiz (undisc)

Rumoured:
David Silva – Valencia – If it happens, it is said to be in the range of £22m plus Ryan Babel in a part exchange.  Benitez has been an admirer of the Spanish playmaker for some time and would love to slot him in on the right, left, or right behind Torres.
David Villa – Valencia – Rafa would have to cough up big bucks to see him leave Valencia.  The club have said they won’t let him go, but it is silly season for a reason, and if Rafa plays his cards right and pays enough Villa could find Anfield, though highly unlikely.
Juan Mata – Valencia – In the same mold as Silva, but much cheaper.  Creative young winger from Spain.

Outs:
Jack Hobbs – Leicester City (undisc)
Sami Hyypia – Bayer Levekusen (free)

Chelsea In’s:
none

Rumoured:
Yuri Zhirkov – CSKA Moscow – The Russian left winger/wingback is said to be close to signing for the Blues to give Ashley Cole and Malouda some competition for their starting places.
Alexandre Pato – AC Milan – Pato is regarded as very promising young talent.  He’s proven himself in Serie A and he’s still 19.  Chelsea have had bids of £45, 50 and 60m rejected.
Daniel Sturridge – Manchester City – Said to be a done deal, but I’ll believe it when I see it.  Another young striker who would fit into the Champions League’s Homegrown Rule.

Outs:
Ben Sahar – Espanyol (undisc)

Arsenal In’s:
Thomas Vermaelen – Ajax (undisc)

Rumoured:
Brede Hangeland – Fulham – The American born Norweigian defender has shown in Roy Hodgeson’s ranks.  He would absolutely give Arsenal some more grit next season.  Though, with European football guaranteed for the Cottagers, it might be more difficult than expected to sign him.
Felipe Melo – Fiorentina – The physical holding midfielder was beckoned by Gilberto Silva to join the Gunners.  Melo would offer great support to Fabregas’s forward runs, and he would be a physical presence for Wenger’s men.  One they need.

Outs:
Amaury Bischoff – released
Rui Fonte – released

Everton In’s:
Anton Peterlin – The unknown American is a little surprise for the Toffee’s but then again, is there anyone better than Moyes at finding a bargain in the Premier League?  I think not.

Rumoured:
Michael Owen – Newcastle – What happened to Michael Owen?  Ever since leaving Liverpool, he was a shadow of his former self.  In his best season since Anfield, he netted 13 times for Madrid, not bad, but not what he was.  Regardless, a lot of people forget he is only 29…if he could just sign with a doctor’s note.  Though I’ve heard more info of him joining Stoke or Hull (Phil Brown has a man crush on the man) than Everton.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy – Real Madrid – The aging Madrid man is supposedly in Moyes’s crosshairs for about £3m which would be a good buy for a player who flourished in the Premier League under Ferguson.

Outs:
Nuno Valente – released
Andy van der Meyde – released

More to follow…

-Caleb Sonneland