World Cup

A First Time Footballer

Having watched snippets of last weekend’s games and spent a fair bit of time with two of my football-mad friends, I feel relatively clued-up about the Premier League’s latest happenings. The core theme of my post this week is the unpredictable, exciting and, often, cruel nature of the Premier League.

I’ll begin with Manchester United. A couple of weeks ago, after Man United’s surprise loss against Swansea, I appealed to fans to give poor Louis van Gaal more time before giving up hope. I felt bad for the United manager – who hadn’t had much time to settle into his new role and was dealing with injuries plus a lack of decent arrivals over the Summer. So, I was pleased to see their hefty 4-0 win over QPR at the weekend: “By the end I hope to be a Premier League champion, if not this year, then in the second or third”, rejoiced van Gaal. Now Louis, whilst it was great to see a stadium full of delighted fans and a team refuelled with self-belief, you can’t afford to get too carried away. Even I am fully aware of how quickly the fate of certain teams can change from match to match.

Take Brazil in the 2014 World Cup – they more or less cruised through the group stages and were many people’s favourite to go all the way in the competition. This was before one of the biggest shocks in footballing memory took place where Germany thrashed the Brazilians 7-1 in the semi-finals – a game that will go down in history! The Man United manager might want to calm down a bit and not get supporters fired up in a frenzy with rash predictions about a league that has only really just started. Not only is it a rather hasty projection so early in the competition, but also the impressive victory was down to a number of factors that have the potential to drastically change throughout the season.

Di Maria was supposedly the man that made the difference at the weekend, scoring his first United goal within half an hour of his home debut – it seems that the £59.7 million signing was worth every penny. However, it’s a dangerous idea to put all your eggs in one basket – we saw how Uruguay lost all momentum after superstar Suarez was banned in the World Cup. Di Maria’s future performance is dependant on a lot of factors – not meshing well with his new club, personal issues or injury all have the potential to rule him out of the season. Furthermore, QPR put on a particularly poor performance and United still face some challenging games.

Aston Villa have also showcased the unpredictable nature of the Premier League – with a pleasantly surprising victory against Liverpool at the weekend. I was busy in my kitchen late on Saturday afternoon, when I heard an ecstatic screeching, followed by a series of bangs, coming from my living room. When I went to investigate, I found my Villa obsessed friend grinning on the sofa after Agbonlahor had just scored, 9 minutes into the match. From my limited knowledge of Villa, I knew better than to let him get over-excited – there was still plenty of time for it to go to pot. I was surprised to return, 63 minutes into the match, to find the score line still at 1-0 to Aston Villa. When the final whistle was blown, there was further screeching from the sofa followed by more than a couple of beers. To my restricted Premier League knowledge, Villa don’t have the most fantastic reputation with regard to their performance, so I have to hand it to them – they’ve had a brilliant start to the league, where they currently sit in 2nd place.

There is, of course, a however. They haven’t had such a promising start to their Premier League campaign since 1998-99 and even then they dropped from the top spot at Christmas 1998 to finish 6th at the end of that season. Furthermore, their next four games are going to be extremely tough, even the most optimistic Villa supporter isn’t expecting four wins, and so it looks like their luck could be rapidly changing fortunes. Even just by looking at the first few games played by only two Premier League teams – with an array of surprise wins and shocking losses – it’s easy to see why it can be such an addictive sport to watch. Hopes are regularly raised and dashed as the unpredictable, exciting and, often, cruel Premier League progresses. 

Advertisements

A First Time Footballer

Unsurprisingly, I am still struggling to get to grips with the ins and outs of Premier League football. I certainly feel like I understand a bit more about the different clubs, where they are from and who manages them – so that, at least, is a step in the right direction. However, while I continue to try and get my head around it all, I’ve been finding it interesting to look a bit more into the footballing world outside the actual matches.

Last time, I briefly looked at the behaviour of football fans after the tragic incident involving Albert Ebosse – https://originalfooty.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/a-first-time-footballer-11/ – in which I logically concluded that enthusiasts ought to find less extreme ways to express their disappointment (preferably not involving injury or death…). After criticising the inappropriate actions of die-hard supporters, it is difficult to ignore the actions of the players themselves.

I am sure that we are all familiar with the infamous Luis Suarez of Uruguay. Suarez sunk his teeth into the tasty Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup this summer and was consequently suspended from all football-related activity for 4 whole months. Extreme? No. I might feel a little bit of sympathy for the star player being handed this harsh punishment if it had been his first warning. But it wasn’t. And it wasn’t even his second. In 2013 Suarez was banned from a total of 10 games after taking a bite of Branislav Ivanovic during a Premier League match. Previous to that, it was PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal who had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting Luis. I appreciate that he is a phenomenal football player but how many times does he need to be warned? He’s like an insolent child who refuses to do as he’s told. I hope he will have learnt his lesson after the most recent incident that also cost him a whopping £65,680 – although that probably didn’t dent his bank account too heavily.

This week, it was a lesser-known player that hit the footballing headlines. Austrian player Ismail Gunduz was given a hefty 70-match ban for head-butting the referee. Gunduz, playing for SK Rum, was far from impressed after being shown a second yellow card and assaulted the referee without warning. Naturally the club immediately threw the player out, assuring fans and the press that they firmly distance themselves from such behaviour. “This sentence is madness,” claims the Austrian, who maintained that he slipped and fell into the referee. To be honest, denying the offence just makes the whole debacle more embarrassing – he should take the ban like a man and apologise for his actions.

Whilst I am not a professional football player, I have been in my fair share of pressure situations. There have been countless occasions where I have had to hold back from lashing out at someone, so I understand the feeling. If I were to head-butt an annoying person in my life, my Mum would be far from impressed. However, as a full-time footballer, you’ve got your Mum and the rest of the world judging your actions…

Possible solutions?

  • See an anger management counsellor on a regular basis
  • Find a new, more relaxing, job e.g. beautician
  • Calm the hell down

Top Signing Per Club: M-W

The transfer window has now closed and the Premier League sides will have to make do with what they have until January. Here @0riginalfooty takes a look at the top signing made by each club whose name begins between M and W.

Manchester City
Fernando (FC Porto, undisclosed). Fernando was signed to bolster City’s options in midfield and has slotted seamlessly into the side thus far. He is a strong and powerful midfielder who will do the dirty work in midfield to allow Manuel Pellegrini’s attacking options more freedom so they can maximise the damage they inflict on the opposition.
Other notable signings: Willy Caballero (Malaga, undisclosed), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto, £32m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal, free).

Manchester United
Angel di Maria (Real Madrid, £59.7m). Louis van Gaal has smashed the British transfer record by acquiring the services of Argentine winger di Maria. Di Maria was influential in Real Madrid’s Champions League victory last season and was a key member of the Argentina side that reached the World Cup final. United have signed a world class player and one that has the ability to turn their fortunes around.
Other notable signings: Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m), Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco, loan), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon, £16m), Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m).

Newcastle United
Jack Colback (Sunderland, free). Sunderland fans were furious that Jack Colback was allowed to move to their bitter rivals for no fee. Sunderland’s loss is Newcastle’s gain and Colback should play a big role at the heart of their midfield. He was recently called up to the England squad and, although he had to leave the squad with an injury, has a bright future in front of him.
Other notable signings: Remy Cabella (Montpellier, undisclosed), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Siem de Jong (Ajax, undisclosed), Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed), Ayoze Perez (Tenerife, undisclosed), Emmanuel Riviere (AS Monaco, undisclosed).

QPR
Steven Caulker (Cardiff, £8m). QPR manager Harry Redknapp has been keen to add solidity to his back line this summer and highly rated English centre-back Steven Caulker fits the bill perfectly. QPR kept their first clean sheet of the season in their last match against Sunderland and there were encouraging signs that the Caulker-Ferdinand partnership is ready to blossom.
Other notable signings: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, free), Leroy Fer (Norwich City, £8m), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, loan), Alex McCarthy (Reading, undisclosed), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Jack Robinson (Liverpool, undisclosed).

Southampton
Fraser Forster (Celtic, £10m). A lot of the focus of Southampton’s summer spending has been on replacing the key players who left for pastures new. There are question marks over how successful their recruitment drive has been, however, one position they have certainly strengthened is in goal. Forster is a top young goalkeeper who has the potential to challenge Joe Hart for the England goalkeeping jersey and represents a major coup for The Saints.
Other notable signings: Toby Alderweireld (Atletico Madrid, loan) Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, loan), Florin Gardos (FC Steaua Bucharest, £6m), Shane Long (Hull City, £12m), Sadio Mane (Red Bull Salzburg, £10m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, undisclosed), Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, £10.9m).

Stoke City
Victor Moses (Chelsea, loan). Mark Hughes has largely spent the summer bolstering his attacking options and Victor Moses represents a good piece of business for The Potters. After an uninspiring loan move at Liverpool, he will be keen to get back on track with Stoke and rediscover the form that made him heralded as a highly rated prospect.
Other notable signings: Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool, loan), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, free), Bojan (Barcelona, £3m), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover 96, free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, free).

Sunderland
Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, free). Rodwell’s career may have stalled at Manchester City but The Black Cats have pulled off a major coup in landing him. He is a tall combative midfielder but has rediscovered the attacking side to his game that was evident in his goal against Manchester United. Sunderland fans can expect Rodwell to really kick on and become a key player for them.
Other notable signings: Patrick van Aanholt (Chelsea, undisclosed), Ricardo Alvarez (Inter Milan, loan), Will Buckley (Brighton and Hove Albion, £2.5m), Sebastian Coates (Liverpool, loan), Jordi Gomez (Wigan Athletic, free), Billy Jones (West Bromwich Albion, free), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City, free), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, loan).

Swansea
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Spurs, undisclosed). Sigurdsson has been one of the stars of the Premier League season so far and has played a large part in guiding Swansea towards the top of the table. Swansea fans will expect more of the same from a man who looks to be enjoying his football again after an indifferent spell at Spurs.
Other notable signings: Tom Carroll (Spurs, loan), Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, undisclosed), Lukasz Fabianski, Federico Fernandez (Napoli, undisclosed), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon, free), Raheem Hanley (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk, undisclosed), Jefferson Montero (Morelia, undisclosed).

Tottenham Hotspur
Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m). Spurs haven’t splashed too much cash this window as Mauricio Pochettino has been briefed to bring the best out of the players already at the club. However, the signing of Eric Dier looks to be an excellent piece of business. Not only is he solid at the back, he is also a threat going forward and already has two league goals this season. He is still a young prospect and will be a major asset to Spurs in the future.
Other notable signings: Ben Davies (Swansea, £10m), Federico Fazio (Sevilla, undisclosed), Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier, £4.7m), Michel Vorm (Swansea, £5m), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC, undisclosed).

West Bromwich Albion
Joleon Lescott (Manchester City, free). It’s been a summer of change for West Brom. The Baggies have brought in more new faces than any other side in the Premier League as they hope to draw a line under last season. Their most impressive signing is that of Joleon Lescott. Lescott has vast amounts of Premier League experience as well as playing international football and in the Champions League. Once fully fit, he will be a vital part of West Brom’s plans to stay in the division.
Other notable signings: Chris Baird (Burnley, free), Sebastian Blanco (Metalist Kharkiv, undisclosed), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo, undisclosed), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg, undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland, free), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96, undisclosed), Georgios Samaras (Celtic, free), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, loan)

West Ham United
Alex Song (Barcelona, loan). Sam Allardyce has been told he must bring style rather than just substance to Upton Park and he has brought in some exciting attacking prospects to do just that. However, The Hammers’ most high profile signing is Alex Song who has joined on loan from Catalan giants Barcelona. The former Arsenal man is a quality defensive midfielder who has an excellent range of passing and will drastically improve the quality of the London club’s midfield.
Other notable signings: Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich Town, undisclosed), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan), Cheikhou Kouyate (Anderlecht, undisclosed), Diego Poyet (Charlton Athletic, free), Diafra Sakho (Metz, undisclosed), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Mauro Zarate (Velez Sarsfield, undisclosed).

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.

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 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.

Premier League Preview: Manchester United

There are only 4 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 Manchester United.

The last year has seen turbulent times for the red half of Manchester. Alex Ferguson departed and was replaced by the so called “Chosen One” David Moyes who endured one of United’s worst seasons in living memory. Moyes has since been sacked and replaced by Louis van Gaal who has just guided the Netherlands to third place in the World Cup. United fans are expecting a big response to last season’s failings and a top 4 place will be the minimum expectation.

The Manager
Louis van Gaal is a very experienced, well-respected and outspoken coach who has won league titles in Spain, the Netherlands and Germany. He is no stranger to managing a club having been in charge of Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich and he looks far more comfortable in this environment than David Moyes ever was.

Louis van Gaal is expected to be an instant his at Old Trafford

Louis van Gaal is expected to be an instant his at Old Trafford

Biggest Signing
United have already spent £56 million on two major signings: Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera. Herrera has been signed from Athletic Bilbao and will be a much-needed new option in the centre of the United midfield. Shaw has moved from Southampton and will replace Patrice Evra, who has completed a move to Juventus, as United’s first choice left-back.

Shaw has joined United for around £27 million

Shaw has joined United for around £27 million

Who is tipped to join them?
The list of players that are linked with United is probably longer than any other Premier Club this summer due to the huge shakeup expected under new management and the numerous weak spots in United’s squad. High profile midfielders such as Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba have been continually linked throughout the summer as the centre of the park has been highlighted as one of their weakest areas. United are also believed to be linked with winger Juan Cuadrado but face a battle with Bayern Munich and Barcelona to secure his services. Finally, Dutch centre-backs Ron Vlaar and Stefan de Vrij have been touted as possible replacements for the departed Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Vidal has been heavily linked with United all summer

Vidal has been heavily linked with United all summer

Who should they sign?
Ed Woodward has claimed that United have a large amount of money to be spent on new players this summer and van Gaal will most probably need it all. Replacements for Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand must be near the top of van Gaal’s priority list, as the heart of United’s defence looks particularly weak with their departures. Another area that they appear short of quality is in the centre of midfield so it’s no surprise to see them linked with Vidal and Pogba. In reality, United are 5 players away from challenging for the title: two centre-backs, cover at left-back, a centre-midfielder and a winger. If they can complete the signings of all the players they are linked with, then they will be in a very strong position coming in to the new season.

van Gaal should make replacing Vidic his priority

van Gaal should make replacing Vidic his priority

Key Player
Robin van Persie. Van Persie endured a tough season in Manchester last time around, suffering through injury and loss of form. However, under van Gaal, who named van Persie his Dutch captain, he has felt much more at ease. United will be hopeful he can transfer the form he has shown at international level to club level and return to being one of the world’s deadliest strikers.

United fans will be desperate for van Persie to return to his best form

United fans will be desperate for van Persie to return to his best form

Prediction
I am expecting van Gaal to bring in several new players and to inspire United towards the summit of the table once more. There are many other strong sides at the top end of the table that should still finish above the Red Devils but a fourth place finish would represent good progress and a much desired return to the Champions League. Expect United to finish 4th.

A First Time Footballer

So, the World Cup has come to an end in Brazil. After one thrilling semi-final and a second, far less thrilling one, it was Germany and Argentina that met in the final of this worldwide spectacle. From what I’ve seen of the Germans, they thoroughly deserved to win the competition and it probably helped ease the pain of the Brazilian population – the team that, quite frankly, destroyed them, came out victorious.

I have to say, I was a little bit nervous about the reaction to the Brazil vs. Germany semi-final. It’s safe to say that nothing like it has ever happened before and the final score (Germany 7 – 1 Brazil) means that it will be going down in history as one of the most shocking games of all time. I am sure that we are all aware that Brazil has it’s fair share of problems and the amount of money thrown into creating this year’s World Cup was very controversial. It all seemed to be going swimmingly and, as long as Brazil remained in the competition, the population appeared to push aside the aforementioned issues and enjoy the event. After the humiliating semi-final, I felt like the world was holding it’s breath to see the fallout. However, the Brazilians were remarkably gracious and the Germans knew that they ought to celebrate respectfully. In fact, the majority of Brazil went on to support Germany in the final!! I think the nation of Brazil accepted the defeat knowing that it was one that will forever be remembered and they can be safe in the knowledge that their World Cup was one of the most exciting and surprising ever.

But now what…?

As I have mentioned before, the World Cup is infinitely easier for a football newbie to understand and follow – people playing for their own country just makes sense. If you have a little look at the blog’s most recent posts, you will see that we are preparing our followers for the upcoming Premier League season. With detailed previews of all the teams, @0riginalfooty are brimming with knowledge for you all. I have read all the posts so far and, to be perfectly honest, I still feel woefully clueless… I suppose we’ll just have to see how I get on!

If you have any questions that you need answering or if you need any of the football jargon translated get in touch @0riginalfooty and we’ll try our best to help out!

FINALLY – After pointing out the impracticality of Belgian Fellaini’s mass of hair, he went a shaved it off! Coincidence? I think not…

Fellaini old hair

World Cup Final Preview

Germany vs Argentina: Sunday 8pm

This is a clash between two of the World Cup’s most decorated teams. It will be Germany’s record-breaking eighth final in the competition, but they have been victorious on only three occasions. The Argentines will equal the Germans’ World Cup titles by defeating them on Sunday. This is a battle between the best team and the team with the best player, which should make for an intriguing encounter.

Can Messi guide Argentina to World Cup glory?

Can Messi guide Argentina to World Cup glory?

Germany have waltzed into the final with relative comfort and never really looked likely to exit the tournament at any point. This was particularly the case in their semi-final match where they were at their rampant best, spanking the hosts Brazil 7-1. Conversely, Argentina have not performed particularly well in any match during the tournament and have been largely reliant on moments of magic from their talisman Lionel Messi to drag them through. They were taken to penalties in their semi-final match in which Sergio Romero, the often-maligned goalkeeper, proved an unlikely hero by saving 2 penalties to secure Argentina’s passage to the final. Having not performed to the best of their ability at any point thus far, many people believe that this is Lionel Messi’s time to engrave his place permanently alongside the greatest players of all time. The Germans, however, will be no pushovers and enter the match as favourites.

Sergio Romero proved an unlikely hero for Argentina against the Netherlands

Sergio Romero was an unlikely hero for Argentina against the Netherlands

It is unlikely that there will be too many changes for either side coming into the match. The Germans were in scintillating form in the last match and will probably keep faith in the XI that performed so ably. That said, Andre Schurrle has made some impressive cameos throughout the tournament and could possibly replace Miroslav Klose if Joachim Low does decide to implement a change. Argentina will be praying that Angel Di Maria can return to full fitness in time for the match but there is at least positive news regarding Sergio Aguero. The Man City man came through his brief involvement against the Netherlands unscathed and should replace Enzo Perez in the starting line-up should Di Maria be declared unfit.

Argentina face a nervy wait on Angel Di Maria's fitness

Argentina face a nervy wait on Angel Di Maria’s fitness

Tactically, I think both sides will keep it pretty much the same. The Germans will believe they can outplay and break down any opposition whilst also being able to pick off any opposition attacks with consummate ease; a deadly combination. Argentina won’t be fazed, though. They boast a wealth of attacking options such as Messi, Aguero and Higuain who have the ability to turn a match on its head in a matter of moments. On top of this, in Javier Mascherano they have an excellent defensive midfielder who has had a wonderful World Cup and has the ability to upset the German midfield’s rhythm and break down their attacks continuously for 120 minutes if necessary. It should be an enthralling contest that both sides will be confident of winning.

Javier Mascherano has been one of the players of the tournament

Javier Mascherano has been one of the players of the tournament

There are also a large number of sub-plots within the match. Firstly, both Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller could win the golden boot. Messi needs a hattrick, which is always possible with a player of his quality, whereas Muller only requires one goal to become the first man to win the golden boot in consecutive tournaments. In addition to this, the world’s best attacker Lionel Messi will be testing the world’s best goalkeeper in Manuel Neuer and arguably the world’s best player at breaking up play, Javier Mascherano, comes up against some of the most incisive passers of the ball in the game today: Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil.

Manuel Neuer has established himself as the world's best goalkeeper

Manuel Neuer has established himself as the world’s best goalkeeper

All in all, this should be a fabulous contest and one that is extremely tough to call. My heart says that Lionel Messi will guide Argentina to victory and declare himself to be the greatest player of all time once and for all. However, my head knows that the Germans have no room for sentiment, have more quality than their opponents and should have enough to win. Whilst it would be a fairy tale ending for the Argentinians to emerge victorious in South America, I can’t look past the rampant Germans raising the trophy aloft after a fabulous contest this Sunday evening.
Prediction: Germany 3-1 Argentina

3rd Place Playoff Preview

Brazil vs the Netherlands: Saturday 9pm

On paper this is a game in which both teams can restore a bit of pride for their nations. Both these sides will be bitterly disappointed with the manner in which they crashed out their respective semi-finals. The Netherlands, on the one hand, lost on penalties after a dour 120 minutes with no goals and barely a chance of note. Their fans will be furious that at no point their team really tried to go and get a goal, with Van Persie offering nothing and Robben below his usual high standards. Brazil, on the other hand, were well and truly mauled by Germany who fired 7 past Julio Cesar. It was a shambolic performance from the hosts, with their whole team looking as if they’d never played with each other before. If truth be told, neither side will particularly want to play this match and would much rather trudge home. Sadly for them, that is not an option and both sides will be keen to avoid further humiliation before leaving the competition.

Van Gaal has been outspoken in his criticism of this fixture

Van Gaal has been outspoken in his criticism of this fixture

Whatever the result of this match, the Netherlands have surpassed expectations in this tournament. They were superb in the group stages and claimed the maximum 9 points from a group containing both Spain and Chile, but they looked to have run out of steam in their last game. They do not have the strength in depth when compared with the likes of Germany; reaching the semi-finals signals a good performance for them. Brazil will be disappointed but they were always up against it without their two most important players in Neymar and Thiago Silva and facing a terrifyingly strong German side. However, that is still no excuse for losing by 6 goals, a game that will go down as one of the greatest embarrassments in World Cup history.

Brazil really missed captain Thiago Silva against Germany

Brazil really missed captain Thiago Silva against Germany

It remains to be seen whether either side opts to experiment with the rest of their squad or whether they stick to the players that served them well in reaching the semi-final stage. The Netherlands are in the easier position in this regard. Despite not playing at their best, they were only narrowly defeated in a shootout by the Argentines and although the loss will be painful, they will be in far superior mental place than the heavily wounded Brazilians. Scolari has some really important decisions to make. Does he give the 11 who were humbled by the Germans another chance with the risk of a similar thrashing from the Dutch? Or will he give some peripheral squad members the opportunity to shine and prove that they are deserving of a chance in future international competitions. The Brazilians do have players with top-level experience in reserve such as Dani Alves, Maxwell, Ramires, Hernanes and Willian, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see all five make an appearance. Scolari will also almost certainly recall the suspended Thiago Silva, which should hopefully bring some organisation to their defence. The Netherlands are less blessed with depth in their squad, but the likes of Memphis Depay, Jeremain Lens and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar could be given an opportunity.

Dani Alves could be recalled by Scolari against the Dutch

Dani Alves could be recalled by Scolari against the Dutch

Regardless of the squad selections, I feel Brazil will come out on top in this encounter. This is largely down to the fact that it will be a more important game for them to win to save some face after the complete and utter humiliation suffered at the hands of the Germans. Their fans will be desperate to see a positive performance and show of character from their team to prove that while they may be down, they can come back stronger from this set back. The game will be more open for the Netherlands than it was against Argentina and they will expect to score but Brazil should have enough to seal victory in front of their home fans.
Prediction: Brazil 2-1 Netherlands