Month: August 2014

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the third weekend of Premier League football. Last week we got six out of ten correct with two correct scores, will we do better this time around?

Saturday

Burnley vs Man Utd (12:45)
Neither side has recorded a Premier League win this season and The Clarets are yet to register a point. In fairness to Burnley, they produced a good second half display against Swansea and they will be encouraged that they won’t be pointless for too long. United, on the other hand, have made a terrible start to the season and, worryingly, are showing no attacking creativity or incisiveness to strike fear into any opposition. Their midweek hammering by the MK Dons has made things even worse and confidence will be at an all time low. On the plus side, United have brought in a world class player in Angel Di Maria, one of the stars of Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season. Playing away from home should take some pressure off the players and they will hope that the signing of Di Maria will give them enough of a lift to record their first three points. Judging by their current form, however, don’t be surprised to see them slip up once more.
Prediction: Burnley 0-1 Man Utd

Man City vs Stoke (15:00)
Manchester City may not have hit their best form so far but they have still recorded two relatively comfortable victories over decent opposition. In contrast, Stoke have made a stuttering start to the season by losing at home to an unfancied Villa side and only managing a draw against ten-man Hull. On the plus side, they did record a comfortable victory against Portsmouth in the Capital One Cup, although they will face a much sterner test here. Stevan Jovetic appears to have put his previous injury concerns behind him and looks a real threat going forward, which will really please Manuel Pellegrini. Provided City aren’t overconfident, this should be a straightforward home victory.
Prediction: Man City 3-0 Stoke

Newcastle vs Crystal Palace (15:00)
Newcastle, whilst only having one point on the board, have made a solid start and look set for a good season. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace have had a nightmare start to the campaign, although they avoided an upset against Walsall in the cup with a confident three goal victory. They have appointed Neil Warnock as their new manager, so they will have some stability on that front, and are set to re-sign Wilfried Zaha on loan so there should be a slightly more positive buzz around Selhurst Park. Having said that, Warnock’s record at this level is fairly poor and fans may question the appointment. Newcastle will feel confident going into this one and should have enough to earn their first three points of the season.
Prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Crystal Palace

QPR vs Sunderland (15:00)
Harry Redknapp and his side have made a really disappointing start to the campaign and there is already talk of him facing the axe. Sunderland, in comparison, have drawn both their matches and performed very well against a struggling Man Utd last weekend. Redknapp’s players will be shot of confidence after their thumping at the hands of Spurs and the fans will be expecting a big performance this weekend. Sunderland look like a tough side to beat and they should come away with another point here.
Prediction: QPR 1-1 Sunderland

Swansea vs West Brom (15:00)
Swansea have made a truly magnificent start to the season and Garry Monk will be delighted with the performances of all his players thus far. West Brom may not have made such a glamorous start but they have a couple of points on the board and Alan Irvine will be pleased with the battling qualities his side have demonstrated to date. Irvine’s side seem well organised and won’t roll over easily so Swansea’s 100% record may come under threat here. A draw seems the most likely outcome in this one.
Prediction: Swansea 2-2 West Brom

West Ham vs Southampton (15:00)
The Hammers bounced back from opening day disappointment to easily dispense of Crystal Palace with the free-flowing football that Allardyce has promised. Ronald Koeman won’t be too disheartened by his side’s performances so far, although they appear less dangerous in attack this season. This is yet another game that’s very difficult to call but West Ham seem to be on a high and should just about manage a victory, although with less ease than last weeks encounter.
Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Southampton

Everton vs Chelsea (17:30)
Everton have thrown away leads late on in their first matches of the season and will be bitterly disappointed to only have two points when they could easily have had six. Chelsea have waltzed to two comfortable victories against the promoted sides but this is their first real test. Jose Mourinho won’t underestimate his opposition and will be likely to keep it fairly tight, making sure they don’t lose the game, and try to nick the three points. Roberto Martinez won’t change his attacking philosophy and will go all out to try and win this one but Chelsea have the quality to pick them off. This should be an entertaining fixture and one Chelsea will just nick.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea

Sunday

Aston Villa vs Hull (13:30)
The Villans had made an excellent start to the season until their midweek home loss to League One side Leyton Orient. Goals seem to be the biggest issue for Paul Lambert’s side but they will be happy enough defensively (https://originalfooty.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/villa-solidity-gives-great-reason-for-optimism/). Lambert will also be aware of their terrible run of fixtures following this match that combines trips to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park with hosting Arsenal and Manchester City. They will want to leave this match with all three points so they don’t slip too far down the table in a period where they are unlikely to pick up many points. Hull, like Villa, have also made a good start to the season and will be feeling buoyant about their chances of finishing well in the league. They will be disappointed to have crashed out of the Europa League on away goals but it could prove to be a blessing in disguise. Hull were, realistically, unlikely to win the competition and it would have added a large number of fixtures to their season that may have effected their league form. Villa could do with the win but a low scoring draw seems the more likely scenario.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Hull

Spurs vs Liverpool (13:30)
This should be a very interesting encounter and will give us more of an indication of how far Spurs have come since Mauricio Pochettino’s arrival. They have been very good so far this season and have won all their matches. Liverpool haven’t made the start they might have hoped for and, once again, defensive errors cost them against Manchester City. On current form there doesn’t seem to be too much between the two sides so we can expect an entertaining draw.
Prediction: Spurs 2-2 Liverpool

Leicester vs Arsenal (16:00)
Leicester have had a terrible run of fixtures to start the season but have performed admirably. Earning a point against Everton was a good result and there is no shame in defeat at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal have made a slower start than many people expected but showed good fight to score late goals in both their matches to earn four points as opposed to one. Arsene Wenger has been rocked by the news that Olivier Giroud has been ruled out until late December with an ankle injury and it remains to be seen if he drafts in a replacement for him. Leicester, on the other hand, have added experienced midfielder Esteban Cambiasso to their ranks and they will hope that he can provide some additional quality and bite to their midfield. Regardless of whether he plays or not, Arsenal should still have too much for them.
Prediction: Leicester 0-2 Arsenal

A First Time Footballer

This week our First Time Footballer reveals the results of the stadium quiz and takes a look at the tragic death of Albert Ebosse.

The results are in…
1. Who plays at Upton Park? West Ham
2. Crystal Palace play at which ground? –
3. The club that Alan Pardew manages play in which stadium? St James’ Park
4. The KC stadium is the home of which club? Hull
5. QPR play where? Loftus Road
6. White Hart Lane is the home of…? Tottenham
7. Brendan Rodgers’ team play where? Anfield
8. Leicester City play at which ground? King Power Stadium
9. Burnley play their home matches at…? Turf Moor
10. The Stadium Of Light is the home of? Sunderland

I make that an impressive 9/10 – an improvement on my last football knowledge quiz! A few of the stadiums have particularly memorable names, which made it quite easy to memorise them ‘KING POWER STADIUM’ and ‘STADIUM OF LIGHT’ sound especially grand and I would quite like to learn the stories behind the naming of these football homes.

Albert Ebosse. Not a name I’ve ever come across in football until two days ago. The Cameroonian, playing for Algerian team JS Kabylie, was last season’s top goal scorer in the Algerian league with 17 goals. He was only 24 years old and showed great promise as a footballer.

Albert Ebosse was tragically killed by fans throwing rocks

Albert Ebosse was tragically killed by fans throwing rocks

He died as a result of an object, thought be a rock or piece of concrete, that was thrown on to the pitch and hit his head. After Ebosse and his team lost 2-1 at home (Ebosse having scored his team’s only goal), angry and disappointed fans took to hurling objects onto the pitch. I have no doubt that whoever is responsible had no intention of killing anyone, let alone a star player, but how you can throw concrete slabs into a group of people and expect a happy ending? This certainly isn’t the first incident of angry fans acting unacceptably, but it is most definitely one of the saddest that I’ve come across.

I appreciate that fans may feel irritated and disheartened by a loss – but go and have a couple of drinks, punch a wall (gently) or shout about it (into a pillow)… There is no excuse for what the footballing world has seen this week.

Villa solidity gives great reason for optimism

For the first time since November 2012, Aston Villa have recorded back-to-back clean sheets in the Premier League with their goalless draw with Newcastle building upon their opening day away victory against Stoke.

At the end of last season, Villa’s leaky defence had conceded 12 goals in their final four matches to round off a miserable season where they had shipped 61 goals. However, Paul Lambert has used the resources available to him this summer to strengthen his back line to add some much needed solidity.

Lambert has spent his time this summer addressing Villa's problems at the back

Lambert has spent his time this summer addressing Villa’s problems at the back

Of the back four he largely deployed last season, only Ron Vlaar has retained his place in the side. Bomb squad castaway Alan Hutton has replaced Leandro Bacuna, a winger converted to a fullback last campaign. Although Bacuna offered several moments of attacking magic, he rarely looked comfortable in his primary defensive role and it is a wise move to allow him to return as an option further up the field. Conversely, Hutton has added much needed defensive strength and mettle with defending his primary objective. Hutton deserves particularly wholehearted praise for his incredibly positive attitude on his return having been ruthlessly pushed aside in previous seasons.

Alan Hutton has made an encouraging start to the new campaign

Alan Hutton has made an encouraging start to the new campaign

Aly Cissokho was drafted in as a replacement for the unconvincing Antonio Luna and the equally unreliable Joe Bennett. Cissokho may not have enjoyed the most successful spell at Anfield but he seems to have found his feet at Villa Park. His pace and power are huge assets and he caused Newcastle countless problems in the first half with his overlapping runs and dangerous crosses. Cissokho did unfortunately limp off towards the end of the match but Villa will be praying it’s not too serious.

Cissokho looks like a great addition to the West Midlands side

Cissokho looks like a great addition to the West Midlands side

Most importantly, however, is the addition of Philippe Senderos who has formed a formidable partnership with World Cup star Ron Vlaar. The Dutchman will be delighted to have the Swiss international alongside him rather than the clumsy Nathan Baker. Jores Okore is also regaining full fitness and will be hoping to push both centre-backs for a starting berth.

Senderos has a great understanding with Villa captain Ron Vlaar

Senderos has a great understanding with Villa captain Ron Vlaar

The key element that has been added to Villa Park over the summer is experience. Hutton, Senderos and Cissokho are all internationally capped defenders who have played for some of the top clubs in their respective leagues. Baker, Bacuna and Luna/Bennett are largely unproven and inexperienced. Teams will find it tough to break down this Villa team this term, particularly with the addition of the impressively industrious Carlos Sanchez who will be deployed in front of the back four.

Carlos Sanchez will add some steel to the Villa midfield

Carlos Sanchez will add some steel to the Villa midfield

Villa fan Andrew Philpot was critical of both sides attacking performances during his description of Saturday’s match by claiming: “both teams decided it was best to bring butter knifes to the sword fight today.” He is right in the sense that neither side was particularly fluent in attack, however, he can take heart from the fact that, for the first time in two years, Villa have kept two clean sheets in a row and have a solid base to build upon.

Weekend Preview and Predictions

@0riginalfooty takes a look at the fixtures for the second weekend of Premier League football. Last week we got six out of ten correct, will we do better this time around?

Saturday

Aston Villa vs Newcastle (12:45)
Villa made a fantastic start to the new season by beating a much-fancied Stoke team away from home. The Villans deployed a new look back four and one that looked infinitely more capable of dealing with the challenges faced in the Premier League. Newcastle may have fell to defeat in their first outing but they gave a decent account of themselves against a strong Man City team and can take heart from their performance. This one could go either way and I think both sides would be pleased with a point.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Newcastle

Chelsea vs Leicester (15:00)
Mourinho’s men demonstrated why they are heavily tipped to win the league this season by ably dispatching newly promoted Burnley on Monday night. They face another promoted side this weekend, in the form of Nigel Pearson’s Leicester, who began life in the Premier League with a commendable draw at Goodison Park. Leicester will be on a high from their performance last weekend but fixtures in this league don’t come much tougher than this. They should succumb to a comfortable defeat.
Prediction: Chelsea 3-0 Leicester

Crystal Palace vs West Ham (15:00)
Palace were left devastated by a late Aaron Ramsey goal to deny them a brilliant first point after the departure of Tony Pulis. West Ham suffered a similar fate against Spurs, who were down to ten men for the majority of the match, so both sides could be low on confidence. This is likely to be a cagey match that neither side will want to risk losing. A bore draw seems the most probable outcome. 
Prediction: Crystal Palace 0-0 West Ham

Southampton vs West Brom (15:00)
The Saints began their season with a decent showing against a Liverpool side, who plucked several of their stars in the transfer window, although they did succumb to defeat. The Baggies, on the other hand, earned an early point at home to Sunderland. Saido Berahino scored twice for the Midlands side in their first match and Alan Irvine will be praying that he can be the answer to their goal scoring problems. Both these sides are tipped to struggle this season and victory in these matches could prove vital in their bids to stay afloat. Southampton have the home advantage and should be buoyed by a positive performance at Anfield so they will win this one.
Prediction: Southampton 2-1 West Brom

Swansea vs Burnley (15:00)
The Swans made the unlikeliest of starts by beating Man Utd at Old Trafford and they were thoroughly deserving of their win. Burnley’s comfortable defeat to Chelsea was less surprising, although it is difficult to gauge how they will cope at this level having only played The Blues. Swansea will be on a high after last weekend’s triumph and the confidence they have should be enough to see off Sean Dyche’s side. If they are overconfident they could find themselves dropping valuable points but Garry Monk will hope to keep them in check.
Prediction: Swansea 2-1 Burnley

Everton vs Arsenal (17:30)
This is likely to be one of the best fixtures of the weekend where two sides who love to attack go against one another. The Toffees smashed The Gunners 3-0 in the same fixture last season so the London side will be aware of how big a threat Roberto Martinez’s side are. Everton will be disappointed to have dropped points against Leicester last weekend whilst Arsene Wenger’s team can count themselves very fortunate to have taken all three points off Crystal Palace in a very laboured display. Arsenal also had to play in Turkey on Tuesday night so they will hope that the trip won’t have taken too much out of them. This should be a lively encounter and one that could end in a high-scoring draw.
Prediction: Everton 2-2 Arsenal

Sunday

Hull vs Stoke (13:30)
The Tigers made a winning start to the season by narrowly defeating QPR thanks to a James Chester goal. Meanwhile, The Potters were surprisingly beaten by Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa side at home. Both sides will have pinpointed this as a potentially winnable fixture and it’s one that could go either way, as they’re two evenly matched sides. One thing that could tip the balance in Stoke’s favour was Hull’s midweek trip to Belgium, where they were defeated, in the Europa League. It should be a tight game but Stoke may just edge it to bounce back from opening day disappointment.
Prediction: Hull 1-2 Stoke

Spurs vs QPR (13:30)
This is a battle between two London sides and it features Harry Redknapp doing battle against his former club. Spurs kicked off their season with a well fought victory against West Ham, despite being down to ten men for the majority of the match. QPR, on the other hand, were defeated by Hull. Tottenham faced a midweek venture to Cyprus, where they secured an away victory, and that could take its toll but, in truth, this is a match that they will be confident of winning. Both sides looked well organised defensively so it will be a low scoring affair but Spurs should come out on top.
Prediction: Spurs 1-0 QPR

Sunderland vs Man Utd (16:00)
The doom and gloom has seemingly returned around Old Trafford after a poor display and result against Swansea last weekend. Despite the disappointment, the result could prove a blessing in disguise. Louis van Gaal knows he needs to add quality to his squad urgently and their showing against The Swans will certainly have convinced Ed Woodward to let the manager buy whatever he needs. Sunderland made a decent start with a point against West Brom and will have fond memories of knocking United out of the League cup over two legs last season so they will have no fears. It will be interesting to see how much of a reaction van Gaal will prise out of his players and we think they will pinch a victory.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Man Utd

Monday

Man City vs Liverpool (20:00)
This is the other massive match this weekend and one that is very close to call. Manuel Pellegrini’s side made a very impressive start away at Newcastle and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners. Encouragingly, Sergio Aguero featured off the bench and scored their second goal and they will be hopeful that he is fit enough to spearhead their attack this weekend. Liverpool also began the new season with a victory although it was less convincing than many expected. It remains to be seen how they cope without Suarez on the really big occasions such as this one. We are expecting a fast-paced and exciting encounter where City will find a win.
Prediction: Man City 3-1 Liverpool

A First Time Footballer

So, the Premier League is back in full swing and it seems that everyone is very excited. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have already been inundated with messages of support, disappointment and joy surrounding the first few games of the season.  It would appear that some people have simply spent the past few months mourning the end of last season and eagerly awaiting the return of the Premier League – their lives incomplete without the competition.

Having not actually watched any of the matches thus far, I can’t say that I am one of those people.

Via twitter and Facebook, I did manage to work out that 1.) Aston Villa won their first game and didn’t play too badly against a favoured Stoke and 2.) Louis van Gaal and his team did not perform to the high expectations placed upon them. I can certainly appreciate the disappointment that fans must be feeling to lose their first game (apparently it was Man U’s first opening-day loss at home since 1972), however, I do feel a strong pang of sympathy for poor Louis. The Dutch manager, after a pretty successful World Cup campaign, was welcomed into Old Trafford by rapturous applause, and after only one (albeit disappointing) game, the fans seemed to turn on him. Football can certainly be a cruel industry sometimes. The pressure, plus injuries, plus the lack of decent arrivals over the summer, meant that Swansea swept into to steal a 2-1 win. It certainly wasn’t ALL Louis van Gaal’s fault, and he can hardly be judged purely on that one performance. It takes time for a new manager to settle into the job and get his team working as best as they can. Don’t be writing him off just yet, give him at least a few more games to prove himself. I’ve got my fingers crossed for poor Louis, I dread to think what even one more loss would do to the frenzied United fans…

Now, back onto furthering my football knowledge. With a solid 80% in my Premier League managers test, it’s time to take another baby step. This time, I’ll be looking to memorise the Premier League stadiums – a topic about which I know even less than football managers. I reckon I’ve got a total of two…

Villa Park (Aston Villa) and Old Trafford (Man United). Looks like I’ve got a bit of work to do over the next week.

Arsenal – Emirates Stadium

Aston Villa – Villa Park

Burnley – Turf Moor

Chelsea – Stamford Bridge

Crystal Palace – Selhurst Park

Everton – Goodison Park

Hull – KC Stadium

Leicester – King Power Stadium

Liverpool – Anfield

Manchester City – Etihad Stadium

Manchester United – Old Trafford

Newcastle – St James’ Park

QPR – Loftus Road

Southampton – St Mary’s Stadium

Sunderland – Stadium of Light

Stoke – Britannia Stadium

Swansea – Liberty Stadium

Tottenham – White Hart Lane

West Brom – The Hawthorns

West Ham – Upton Park

Having written them down, I realise that I actually recognise more of the names than I thought I would. It’s just a matter of matching them to their team PLUS recalling the names of the managers that I learnt 2 weeks ago. Let’s see how I get on next week…

Weekend Preview and Predictions

The long-anticipated first weekend of the new Premier League season is set to begin. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the opening round of fixtures and offers predictions as to who will emerge victorious.

Saturday

Man Utd vs Swansea (12:45)
This is the first competitive fixture of Louis van Gaal’s reign and the Dutchman will be keen to get off to a flying start. Wayne Rooney has been announced as the new club captain, so don’t be surprised to see him get off the mark this weekend. This is a tough start for Garry Monk in his first full season as a manager and it’s hard to see them picking up anything from this one.
Prediction: Man Utd 3-1 Swansea

Leicester vs Everton (15:00)
Nigel Pearson will hope that his newly promoted side can carry their title-winning form forward to this season and establish themselves as a Premier League side. The Foxes have been disappointing in the transfer market, despite having money to spend, and face a tough encounter in their first match of the new campaign. Roberto Martinez, in comparison, has splashed £28 million alone on Romelu Lukaku and the Toffees will be hoping to challenge for a Champions League place. This won’t be an easy match for Everton but they should return to Merseyside with a hard fought three points.
Prediction: Leicester 0-1 Everton

QPR vs Hull (15:00)
Harry Redknapp’s team are the favourites of the newly promoted sides to survive in the division and will be hopeful of securing a mid-table finish. Their new signings, such as centre-backs Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker, signal their intentions of doing just that. Hull’s ambitions will be similar to their opponents and they should steer well clear of trouble this season, although a venture into Europe could test the depth of their squad. The sale of Shane Long to Southampton was a surprise, given that he only arrived in January, and Steve Bruce will have to replace him sooner rather than later. This match has draw written all over it.
Prediction: QPR 1-1 Hull

Stoke vs Aston Villa (15:00)
Mark Hughes is building a decent side at the Brittania Stadium and has instilled a much more exciting style of play than Tony Pulis ever did. The Potters have added some stimulating signings this summer, such as Bojan Krkic and Mame Biram Diouf, and should finish in the top half once more. Aston Villa have opted to add experienced players to their youthful squad throughout the transfer window and are desperate to avoid yet another relegation battle. Stoke are notoriously strong at home and should edge Villa in this one.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Aston Villa

West Brom vs Sunderland (15:00)
These are nervous times for Alan Irvine’s team. There are question marks over whether Brown Ideye can provide the goal-scoring touch that was so desperately missing last season. If he fails to hit the ground running then this could be a very difficult season for The Baggies. Sunderland, on the other hand, will feel relatively optimistic after an encouraging run of form at the end of last season. The Black Cats have added some decent quality to their squad, with the likes of Jack Rodwell and Costel Pantilimon arriving, and the mood around the Stadium of Light is generally positive. This one could go either way so we’ll sit on the fence and go for a draw.
Prediction: West Brom 1-1 Sunderland

West Ham vs Tottenham (15:00)
The Hammers have been proactive in the transfer market as Sam Allardyce attempts to develop a more expansive style of play. Players such as Mauro Zarate and Enner Valencia will bolster their attacking options in the absence of target man Andy Carroll. Mauricio Pochettino believes that his Spurs side is strong enough to secure a top four finish and if they are to achieve that then they will have to win matches like this one. Pochettino will be confident of bringing the best out of Tottenham’s misfiring stars and they should emerge victorious here.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Tottenham

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace (17.30)
The Gunners have enjoyed a terrific pre-season and there is a real buzz surrounding Arsene Wenger’s side. The transfer of Alexis Sanchez has been widely proclaimed as the best signing of the window and Arsenal fans genuinely believe that their team can be successful on all fronts this season. Conversely, Palace have been rocked by the news that manager Tony Pulis has left the club by mutual consent. Palace have suddenly emerged as possible relegation candidates, such was Pulis’ effect on their fortunes. The air of uncertainty around The Eagles should work in Arsenal’s favour and they should run out comfortable winners.
Prediction: Arsenal 4-0 Crystal Palace

Sunday

Liverpool vs Southampton (13:30)
This is arguably the tastiest fixture of this round of matches due to Liverpool’s continuous raid of The Saints this summer. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren have all moved from St Marys to Anfield, which should add an element of spice to this match. Southampton fans have been extremely disappointed by the mass exodus this summer and will hope that Ronald Koeman and his new signings can adapt to the demands of the Premier League. Liverpool should emerge victorious in this one.
Liverpool 3-1 Southampton

Newcastle vs Man City (16:00)
The Magpies ended last season in appalling form and will hope that the new season brings a halt to their dreadful run. Alan Pardew has been very active in the transfer market and players such as Remy Cabella and Siem de Jong will be expected to stop their slide. City have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, only adding quality to specific areas. In truth, their squad is already strong enough to compete on all fronts and they should enjoy another good season. It won’t be straightforward but City will have enough about them to see off Newcastle.
Prediction: Newcastle 1-2 Man City

Monday

Burnley vs Chelsea (20:00)
Burnley mark their return to the Premier League by hosting Chelsea, a side widely tipped to win the league. Sean Dyche’s team finished second in the Championship last season and are expected to struggle to maintain their Premier League status beyond this campaign. If they are to survive they will have to make Turf Moor a fortress and ensure that sides do not leave there with all three points. Chelsea have strengthened extremely well this summer and have added balance, as well as quality, to their squad. This could be a tough opener for the Blues as Burnley are likely to be tough to break down but Mourinho’s side should find a way through.
Burnley 0-1 Chelsea

A First Time Footballer

Last week, A First Time Footballer took on the challenge of trying to learn the managers of the Premier League teams. Having only known 3 prior to the test, I wasn’t feeling particularly confident. The results are in…

1. Who is Harry Redknapp the manager of? QPR
2. Who is Everton’s manager? Roberto Martinez
3. The manager of Leicester is…? Nigel Pearson
4. Man Utd have recently employed…? Louis van gaal
5. Liverpool are managed by…? Brendan Rodgers
6. Tony Pulis manages which club? Crystal Palace
7. Garry Monk is the manager of which team? Swansea
8. Who is the boss of West Ham United? Pass
9. Who manages West Bromwich Albion? Alan someone?
10. Alan Pardew manages which side? Newcastle

8/10

I am actually quite pleased with my 80%. By no means did I spend the past week or so studying the managers religiously. In fact, I’ve been on holiday and Premier League revision has been far from my mind. However, I did try and come up with some random yet memorable ways of getting the names to stick in my head (e.g. Surely the Queen and red-headed Harry don’t take knapps in the park = QPR Harry Redknapp) and I think it turned out pretty well. I’ve still got a little bit of work to do, but it’s all about baby steps when you are trying to tackle something as varied and ever-changing as football.

Whilst I was on holiday, I visited some family friends who live in LA. The son of the family is soccer mad and often stays up until the early hours of the morning to follow English football, particularly to support his beloved Manchester City. He plays for a team called ‘Santa Monica United’ and apparently it is quite a costly hobby.

A large reason for the high membership price is that a lot of very poor children want to play football for a team. In many cases they don’t speak English, can’t afford football boots and couldn’t dream of being able to pay for membership at a club. However, they play phenomenal football and are blessed with raw skill and talent. So, the families that can afford to pay their membership, cover the costs for the children that can’t. The system works because it benefits everybody involved – the kids desperate to train can do so, the families that are paying extra don’t mind because their team becomes stronger and improving the side is the main goal.

I don’t really know if this is what happens in all clubs or not, but I was really impressed with the idea. It just goes to show that despite the many criticisms of football and the money involved in the industry, it does bring together people from an array of upbringings and backgrounds because of their shared love of the game. Actually, football is pretty great.

Majestic Arsenal Batter Below-Par City

The Community Shield saw FA cup holders Arsenal run out 3-0 winners over Premier League champions Manchester City at Wembley.

Santi Cazorla fired Arsenal in front with an expertly executed finish whilst Aaron Ramsey smashed home a second just before half time.

Olivier Giroud completed the rout with a stunning long-range strike over Willy Caballero.

It was a very impressive team display from the North London side who looked solid at the back, dangerous going forward and were rarely troubled by their Premier League rivals.

City, however, offered an extremely flat performance and Manuel Pellegrini made no effort to hide his frustration on the touchline.

Calum Chambers, Alexis Sanchez and Mathieu Debuchy all made their competitive debuts for Arsenal whilst Fernando and Caballero made their first starts for City.

City were missing some key players such as Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta so Pellegrini won’t be too concerned by how easily his side were dismantled.

Arsenal were also without World Cup winners Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil and will be delighted to have performed so ably without them.

The result should give them a big boost for their match against Crystal palace next weekend but City will need to recover confidence before their opener against Newcastle.

Arsenal started the brighter and Mathieu Debuchy was particularly impressive down the right hand side in the opening exchanges.

Samir Nasri, the former Arsenal player, was verbally abused every time he touched the ball by Arsenal fans.

He almost silenced their jeers in the 13th minute but Calum Chambers was quick to block his goal-bound effort.

It was Arsenal, however, who deservedly took the lead in the 22nd minute through Santi Cazorla.

The Spaniard evaded Gael Clichy on the edge of the City area before firing a low left footed strike into the corner of Caballero’s goal.

Yaya Sanogo, who scored four goals in a pre-season friendly against Benfica, had a chance to score his first competitive goal for Arsenal but dragged his shot wide.

It was Arsenal who continued to impress and Clichy deflected a long-range Cazorla shot for a corner.

Sanogo had another chance from the resulting corner but his header landed comfortably in Caballero’s arms.

City almost equalised five minutes before half time after Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic combined well during a quick break, but a swarm of Arsenal defenders managed to block.

Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey scored moments later, however, to double their advantage. Sanogo held up the ball well in the box and fed Ramsey who smashed the ball past Caballero.

Alexis Sanchez had an opportunity to make it three at the end of the first half but Caballero was quickly out of his area to slide at Alexis’ feet and deny him.

David Silva, Nacho Monreal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Giroud were introduced at half time for Nasri, Alexis, Laurent Koscielny and Sanogo.

Fernando was booked early in the second half for pulling Jack Wilshire to the ground.

Jovetic came agonisingly close moments later after rising over Debuchy to thump a header against the post.

City had begun the second half much brighter than the first and Wojciech Szczesny was finally called into action to deny Jovetic, who fired a stinging shot towards the keeper’s right hand post.

James Milner and Bruno Zuculini were then introduced by Pellegrini to replace Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure.

Giroud scored an absolute screamer with his left foot from outside the area and bent it over Caballero to give Arsenal a three-goal advantage.

Jovetic, who was City’s most creative attacking force, attempted an elaborate overhead kick but it flew comfortably over the bar.

Mathieu Flamini and Tomas Rosicky were then called upon by Wenger to replace Wilshire and Cazorla.

Micah Richards came on for Aleksandar Kolarov as substitutions began to disrupt the flow of the game.

Jesus Navas was also withdrawn for Scott Sinclair and Aaron Ramsey replaced by Joel Campbell; Arsene Wenger’s final substitution.

Dedryck Boyata had a great opportunity to grab a consolation for City but his header from a corner went wide.

Premier League Overview

Now that we have finished our preview of each team in the League, it is time to take a look at our predicted league table and give a general view of the key battles that will occur between sides this season.

Predicted Table
C. Chelsea
2. Manchester City
3. Arsenal
4. Manchester United
5. Liverpool
6. Everton
7. Tottenham Hotspur
8. Stoke City
9. West Ham United
10. Hull City
11. Crystal Palace
12. Newcastle United
13. Queens Park Rangers
14. Aston Villa
15. Swansea City
16. Sunderland
17. Southampton
R. Leicester City
R. West Bromwich Albion
R. Burnley

The Fight for the Title
Whilst we reckon that Chelsea will emerge victorious in the race to be crowned Premier League champions, the title race could involve as many as 5 teams. It was desperately close at the top last season and the sides that finished 1st to 4th have all strengthened, whilst Manchester United seem to have direction again under Louis van Gaal. This could be one of the most exciting seasons in memory and the title race should be wide open.

Qualification for the Champions League
Qualifying for the Champions League has almost become as important as winning the title itself. The top 5 in our predicted table will be the main contenders to qualify for the Champions League but Everton and Tottenham will push them all the way.

Relegation Battle
There is a large gulf in class between the top 7 and the rest of the league and the remaining teams will be looking over their shoulders rather than at the teams ahead of them. Of the teams outside the top 7, Stoke are the only side we are confident will completely avoid a relegation battle and we think the rest of the league will be very tight. We would be unsurprised to see any of our predicted bottom half ending up being relegated as there is really not that much in it. Whilst we think Leicester, West Brom and Burnley are most likely to struggle, the fight to avoid the drop is always fascinating and could be even closer than the title race or the battle for Champions League qualification.

All in all, we @0riginalfooty expect this to be an enthralling season full of twists and turns and keeping us on the edge of our seats at all times. With only a week and a half to wait, we are all extremely excited and can’t wait for the action to begin.

 

 

Premier League Preview: West Ham United

There are only 2 weeks to wait ‘til the start of the Premier League. Over the next few weeks @0riginalfooty will preview the new season, take a look at each team and offer our predictions as to where each side will finish. Here we take a look at West Ham.

Last season could be considered job done for The Hammers. A 13th placed finish, with relegation never looking too threatening, could be considered progress for a club that were tipped by many to struggle. However, fans were furious and embarrassed by the shocking performances in both domestic cup competitions and continued to be disgruntled by Big Sam’s style of play that’s labeled boring and unattractive. Many are surprised that Allardyce kept his job at the end of the season but Gold and Sullivan have kept faith in their manager and granted him a sizable transfer kitty that, it appears, has been spent wisely on several signings.

The Manager
Allardyce is not at all popular with the Upton Park faithful but he has managed to keep West Ham in the top flight for a third season in a row. While he does prefer ‘long ball’ football, his teams are notoriously hard to break down and solid at the back. West Ham had an injury-plagued season with a number of defensive casualties whilst having to cope without new signing, Carroll, for much of the campaign. That said, Big Sam’s critics would argue that Carroll was too much of a gamble considering The Hammers blew the majority of their transfer budget last summer on the injury-prone target-man.

Sam Alladyce has been given a tough time by West Ham fans

Sam Alladyce has been given a tough time by West Ham fans

Biggest Signing
Enner Valencia is the marquee signing of this window for West Ham and their fans must be delighted that they snapped him up, especially given reported interest from ‘bigger’ clubs. The reported £12 million price-tag represents a fairly large outlay for The Hammers, but the Ecuadorian was in blistering form for Pachuca last season and, moreover, caught everyone’s eye at the World Cup in Brazil. He is a very pacey striker with an eye for goal, and is also surprisingly good in the air, possessing an incredible leap.

Mauro Zarate is another notable signing. We saw the little Argentine impress during a brief loan spell with Birmingham City and he certainly has the talent to be a real asset for The Hammers. However, he is famously temperamental and apparently lacks discipline so Big Sam will be praying he knuckles down to produce his best stuff this season.

Valencia could prove to be a fantastic capture for The Hammers

Valencia could prove to be a fantastic capture for The Hammers

Who is tipped to join them?
Despite having already made 6 first team signings so far, Allardyce has come out and said he fancies getting one more striker, another young centre back and added cover at left back.

Samuel Eto’o is odds on to arrive at Upton Park before the start of the new season, however Big Sam has announced that they will only sign the veteran attacker if he cannot find a younger striker. There is also reported interest in Peter Crouch, which could be a loan move until January to fill the void caused by Andy Carroll’s latest injury.

Shalke’s Antonio Rudiger is another player to be muted with a move to West Ham, and would be a fantastic signing. The young German international is an already an impressive, commanding centre back who would add steel to their back line.

Finally, Ronaldinho is set to name his new club this week and West Ham are amongst the list of potential suitors. It’s a move that would fulfill most Premier League fans’ dreams of seeing the Brazilian midfield magician grace our stadiums and would certainly see a soar in shirt sales. Unfortunately it does seem like an unrealistic venture.

Big Sam has said he would prefer to sign a younger striker than 33 year old Eto'o

Big Sam has said he would prefer to sign a younger striker than 33 year old Eto’o

Who should they sign?
Both Crouch and Eto’o would be good signings for The Hammers, with the latter showing last season that can still perform at this level with some decent displays for Chelsea. However, if Big Sam would prefer a younger model, Burnley’s highly rated Danny Ings could do a job for West Ham. At just 22, Ings would be a good option as young, able forward.

As for defensive cover, Croatian International Ivan Strinic would be an ideal candidate and could even challenge Aaron Cresswell, recently signed from Ipswich, for a starting berth next season.

Ings has shown that he is ready for the step up to Premier League football

Ings has shown that he is ready for the step up to Premier League football

Key Player
If Andy Carroll could have been fit for the start of the season he would be the clear choice as West Ham’s key player this term. However the big man’s 4-month layoff is a real blow to their chances of getting off to a good start. When fit he has shown that he has the potential to be a very good player and has caused some of the best defenders in the league real problems at times. Unfortunately they will have to cope without him for the start of the season. While new signing Valencia won’t be quite ready for the first few games, he could have a huge say in their fortunes this season. If he adapts well to the league and The Hammers’ style of play, we can expect to see him banging in the goals this season.

Carroll's latest injury is a big set back for Allardyce

Carroll’s latest injury is a big set back for Alladyce’s squad

Prediction
Despite the gloom surrounding Carroll’s injury, West Ham have strengthened remarkably well this summer and have done some of the best business in the league. Compared to other clubs around them, they look as if they will be in much better stead to push up the table and perhaps find themselves in the top half come May. Providing their new strikers can remedy their age-old problem of lacking goals, we’re expecting The Hammers to finish in 9th place this season, which would represent serious progress.