Monday, 29 August 2011

Sports News Round-Up

If ever there was a weekend that defined the current state of English football, this is it. It's fairly safe for me to say that I would gladly place my entire sum of tuition fees on the top four including Man City, Man United, Liverpool and Chelsea. In which order? I'm not that careless with my money.

There is a case for saying that the weekend's results benefited Liverpool the most. With a comfortable 3-1 win over Bolton giving Dalgish some vindication for the signings of Henderson and Adam, the Anfield hype machine could have gone into overdrive, and the media could have been swept away with the belief that the title was their's for the taking. Thanks to the twin Manchester blitzes of yesterday though, Liverpool can continue to improve under the radar somewhat, and will remain probably the rank outsiders of my new aformentioned big 4.

Chelsea also recorded a 3-1 win, against newly promoted Norwich City. While Villas-Boas hasn't got off to the swashbuckling start many predicted back in May, let's not forget he is working with largely the same squad that was deemed too old for title success by many pundits. They will definitely put up a strong challenge again this year, and I will be shocked if they do not add some new blood before Wednesday night to bolster this.

However, I will be even more shocked if Arsene Wenger does not add more to his Arsenal squad than Park Chu-Young. It would be a greater shock than if I handled a live wire while sitting in an electric chair. For if Wenger does not take drastic action, he may find himself in the same position Roy Hodgson found himself last season - a sitting duck, waiting to be put out of his misery. Teams are no longer scared of Arsenal. It has got to the point where I am wondering whether a 0-0 draw for my own Newcastle on the opening day was as good a result as I had previously thought. If I was Wenger I would do all that was in my power to hyjack Tottenham's move to sign Scott Parker. How hard can it be? The current deal is being done between two fellow London clubs.

Scott Parker would not neccesarily solve Arsenal's problems on his own. But it is more likely to have an effect than doing absolutely nothing. The 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford was the end result of several months of stagnation. A few injuries and suspensions leads you to playing a 19 year-old at right-back, and his inexperience and frustration getting him sent off. And don't get me started on their bench....

For Manchester United, two free-kicks and a penalty for Rooney gave him his sixth hat-trick in red colours. He probably won't get a simpler one. In fact, United will probably never get an easier 8-2 win. I have a sneaky suspicion Sir Alex will be more concerned by the two goals his side let in than the eight scored, as there will be far stiffer tests to come. It was also a welcome sight to see him back on BBC cameras, as he switches the target of his anger from the BBC to the FA...

As for the noisy neighbours of Man City, they gave an arguably even more impressive performance against Spurs, who were admittedly quite flat and lacking in inspiration. Edin Dzeko will be right up thee challenging for the golden boot this year, and he showed Peter Crouch how to play the target man role with a bit of guile and finesse. The City midfield is beginning to ressemble a fantasy football line-up, and the addition of Nasri and Aguero to last season's impressively functional line-up will surely add the style that was lacking. The Manchester derbys are already ones to circle in the calendar..

I would like to also give a special mention to Wigan Athletic. Their football against QPR (I know, I know...) was of a quality that will surely see them finish relatively securely in mid-table... that's if they an add a more consistent cutting edge. Di Santo certainly provided that this week!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Sports News Round-Up

So the second week of the Premier League season has passed us by (unless you're a Spurs fan who has to wait until tonight for matchday numero uno). It's probably fair to say that the weekend's action will be remembered not for quality football, but for fascinating subplots, shocking refereeing decisions, and the occasional bout of handbags at ten paces. Not the mention some amusing missed sitters.

I may as well start with some self-congratulation. Like probably everyone except Arsene Wenger, I stressed the need for Arsenal to sign some combative Scott Parker-esque quality in the centre of the park. Sure enough, Liverpool's second goal was an embarassment in that department. Admittedly, Emmanuel Frimpong had been pretty decent up until that point, but his lack of experience, and knowledge when to stay on his feet cost him a full 90 minutes. The gaps he left were hence exposed to give Suarez an easy tap-in. The 2-0 defeat also threw light on an alarming statistic. For all the need for more experience and brawn in the more defensive positions, we cannot ignore the fact that Arsenal have scored 1 goal in 3 games in all competitions. That must be excruciating to watch for Emirates regulars and the travelling support. As must be the realisation that Liverpool are hunting down Arsenal's 4th spot from last season. Your move Arsene.

Now some more self-congratulation, as my beloved Newcastle picked up a hard-earned three points at arch-rivals Sunderland's Stadium of Light. I started the game bemoaning Enrique's sale and lack of replacement, and fearing the worst with Ryan Taylor, an average player in his correct position, being played at left-back instead. Fortunately, this was one of the games that keeps his set-piece specialist reputation intact. Just call him David Beckham. Yet again, Joey Barton was in the headlines, and not for his highly anticipated Chuck Norris vs Jack Bauer match-up with Cattermole, but for a header that was stopped on the line by one-time Toon target Sebastian Larsson's hand. No red card. No penalty. Howard Webb will be thanking his lucky stars that Newcastle went on to win the game.

At Goodison Park, Everton's need for striking reinforcements was again made painfully clear by a 1-0 defeat at the hands of newly-promoted QPR. Also by taking off a striker for a midfielder when trying to chase a game. Even Tim Cahill's normally reliable goal-getting ways deserted him, as he put forward an early Sitter of The Season contender. MOTD did a pretty good job with capturing shots of utter disbelief from Everton fans. Don't worry Mr Moyes, I'm sure your place at Old Trafford is secure once Sir Alex is carried from the dugout in a bodybag...

However, if Darren Ferguson's Peterborough keep up their current form, Sir Alex might just bestow the job to his son in the will! A 7-1 thrashing of Ipswich shot Posh up to 6th in the Championship table. I know it's crazy talk, but I would love to see a managerial father-and-son match-up next season in the Premier League. It's the kind of story that could be turned into a best-selling football thriller of a movie. Unrealistic perhaps, but maybe the FA Cup or Carling Cup balls will be kind to my dream.

Speaking of living up to a father's legendary name, Nigel Clough is doing a fine job at the moment. Hopefully this season his Derby County side can sustain their current world-beating form over a whole season, as their 3-0 win over Doncaster Rovers keeps them joint top of the pile for now with 4 wins from 4. Even now, it is their best start for 106 years. If you ask me though, that's a pretty damning indictment of their ability to leap out of the blocks! As for their victims, Doncaster, well last season, particularly in the second half, they were on the complete slide, and with no points on the board so far, Sean O'Driscoll's oracle looks to be fading...

Jumping into some transfer news, it looks like Juan Mata is finally on his way to Chelsea for £23m. Spurs fans will no doubt be sleeping a bit easier now. That is, until Roberto Mancini gets on the phone after securing Nasri.

After Blackburn's undoubtedly nightmarish bit for his services, 34 year-old Raul has announced his intention to stay at Schalke for the remainder of his contract. Pele was unavailable for comment amid rumours that Steve Kean was interested in his services...


Andy Murray has hit his way to victory at the Cincinatti Masters. He beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-0, but with the Serb retiring with a shoulder injury (plus general exhaustion from his superhuman efforts this year) it will take a lot more than this to convince doubters (and his own mind) that he is good enough to finally win a Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows this year. As Einstein would say, to keep expecting Murray to win a major is at odds with the very definition of sanity. To prove that I myself am of sound mind, I will predict the Scot's elimination at the semi-final stage. Sorry Muzza.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Sports News Round-Up

Having very unprofessionally skipped out a week, my weekly (or bi-weekly..) round-up is back! With a week if the Premier League season under our belts, I'm sure we've all picked out relegation certainties, and title bankers....

I may as well start off with Arsenal, as they seem to be making the most headlines, and not exactly positive ones either. That may seem a bit harsh, with 2 games played in 4 days and none conceded, but in a similar way to Newcastle, the Gunners, and more particularly Arsene Wenger are being lambasted for selling off key players and not having adequate replacements in tow. Cesc Fabregas has been at the centre of everything good about Arsenal's play in recent years, but perhaps his exit can be seen as an opportunity for Wenger to rebuild his side in a more productive manner. It's all well and good playing the martyr with pretty football and frustrating results, but I would argue that Fabregas would be best replaced by someone in the mould of Scott Parker. Even Nasri could concievably, although obviously not ideally, let go, as Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, and Arshavin all remain. Balance is key to lasting and meaningful success, particularly in English football. Sides like Stoke have the same (yet oh so different) problem, in that they focus too much on one (physical) side of their game, and will only go so far. Now is the time for true growth at the Emirates Stadium.

Speaking of growth, I'm sure David de Gea will have gone through some sort of personal growth in recent days. Hailed on arrival as the perfect successor to Edwin Van Der Sar, he has suffered some unkind comparisons from many (including myself) to such flops as Massimo Taibi. His error against West Brom bore echoes of that goal by Southampton's Le Tissier. But we should probably note that even Schemichel had the odd error in his opening games at the club. Give de Gea time to adjust and we will see his true qualities come to the surface. I was not too impressed with Lindegaard's remarks in the wake of the West Brom match, about not being scared of being number 1 goalkeeper. The gentlemanly and proper thing to do would be to keep his opinions to himself, quietly put forward his case in training, and show public support for his rival keeper. Then again, I can only imagine the dog-eat-dog scenario that must exist at the top of the professional game.

Speaking of dog-eat-dog, Gervinho v Barton is probably one of the more ridiculous incidents I have seen in recent days. Barton's fall to the ground is probably 'meme'-worthy for its sheer comic value. While indeed shameful, and probably worth a red card in my opinion for the audacity of it, Gervinho should not have raised his hand. A true baptism of fire for the Ivory Coast international. As for the match itself, well victory would have surely gone to Arsenal on points if it were a boxing match. Fortunately for the Magpies, the solid defence that represented the Hughton-manned parts of last season seems to have returned, against an admittedly toothless Arsenal side. Tiote continued his trend of getting booked in every other match, and that's pretty much all there is to say.

I will now draw attention to the unfortunately rife culture of sensationalism in journalism. Rows are being started between managers, without the knowledge of either party. A classic example of this was in the post-match discussion of Stoke's 0-0 draw against Chelsea. With no goals or outstanding performances to report, and only the ongoing search for goals from Torres, what do the media do? Ah yes, resort to the old "Stoke kicked us off the park" line. Which would be fair enough, if that's what Villas-Boas had actually said. Admittedly, the new Chelsea manager did refer to the abhorrent amount of pushing and pulling in the box, but he never referred to Stoke in particular. He probably wants Chelsea to cut such antics out too. Tony Pulis himself said he studied what was said, and didn't see anything particular insulting about him or the well-organised outfit he has put together. Like I already said, they will never truely scale the highest heights playing like that, but that doesn't mean certain media folk should put words in managers' mouths to mask the lack of a story.

That's all for now folks, you may see another entry later in the day, but it's time to be social!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Sports News Round-Up

Being a Newcastle fan, I may as well start this week's round-up with something on Joey Barton. The past week has seen his increasingly bizarre Twitter usage take a turn for the controversial. Long story short - he hates the Newcastle United board, and hasn't been afraid to let this be known over the Internet. This led to Mike Ashley making him available on a free transfer, before releasing a statement through the club claiming they would not be making any further comment on these turn of events. Cue Alan Pardew's press conference claiming that he had 'not closed the door' on Joey Barton's Newcastle career. With Pardew looking increasingly like the powerless fall-guy in this saga, let's not forget that he still has over 4 years on his contract. Whatever happens from now on, Pardew stands to be much more wealthy than hen he first walked into St James' Park.

As for Barton himself:

Has sport in this country, stooped so low as to quote, my nonsensical social media ramblings. They will probably quote this sh*t! How sad???"

I for one am quite happy to stoop that low!

How To Get Into The England Squad In One Easy Step:

Sign for Manchester United, that's how. Phil Jones made a highly-publicised £20m move from Blackburn over the summer, and has been rewarded with a first call-up to Fabio Capello's senior squad. Supposedly the Italian and his backroom staff were extremely impressed with Jones' performances at the Under 21 European Championships recently. Maybe I'm being overly cynical, but I can't help but suspect Jones would have been overlooked slightly longer had he remained at Blackburn. After all, big club equals better players on paper? Maybe one day an England manager will stop trying to shoehorn all the top clubs' players into their squad, and realise that it is a team blend that will bring success. Surely out of all the players in the country there is a combination capable of taking on the best. It might not include some of the star names, but is every member of the current dominant Spain set-up a star player?

Europa League

There was great success for British clubs last night in the Europa League. Stoke completed a 2-0 aggregate win over Hadjuk Split with a stoppage time winner. For a first foray into European competition in my lifetime, that's fairly impressive. Even if it's just the Europa League. Fulham did a similarly comfortable job, beating RNK Split 2-0. Andrew Johnson and Danny Murphy were the scorers, and who knows, maybe Martin Jol will finally win some silverware with an English club? Ha, maybe not...

Another crazy managerial merry-go-round is Hearts. Paulo Sergio began his battle to last until after Christmas in charge with a 4-1 win over Paksi.

Speaking of new SPL managers, I wonder how long before Ally McCoist is under real pressure. With a so-so start in the league, and an early elimination from the Champions League, he needs a few wins to give himself some sort of honeymoon period in the Ibrox job. More experienced managers than him have succumbed to bad starts and eventual dispension of their services, and he will want to avoid a similar fate to John Barnes at Celtic. Just because he worked under Walter Smith will not automatically make him a managerial genius. Let's reconvene at Christmas and see what the table says.


In the wake of England's memorable Trent Bridge victory over India, the plaudits are rolling in, with the likes of Andrew Flintoff and Shane Warne comparing the current side to the legendary Australian line-up, and England's own '05 Ashes line-up. I would say that English cricket is easily in its best condition in my lifetime, particularly in Tests. They have patient innings-builders in Cook, Strauss and Trott. They have Ian Bell, who just oozes class at the crease without being reckless. If quick runs are needed, Morgan, Pietersen and Prior (who is also in a rich vein of form behind the stumps) will not disappoint. Even the likes of Swann, Bresnan and Broad have made England's batting line-up one to be feared. Broad in particular is showing genuine all-rounder capabilites. Add those three bowlers to Anderson, Tremlett and Finn, and England's armour has few chinks in it. It will take a major shift in momentum for them not to end the summer at Number One.


And finally, Rory McIlroy is in the news again. He is rejoining the US PGA Tour. He says his game is better suited to American conditions. With tennis' World Number 1 Caroline Wosniacki waiting to take him in her arms, he has declined to confirm whether he meant his golf game, or his love game....