Thursday, December 23, 2010

Is It A Two Horse Race For The Premiership Title?

Today Man United winger Nani, boldly claimed that Arsenal and Man City should not be considered as serious title contenders. I can see where he is coming from to a certain degree but to count out any team at this early stage is a bit arrogant. Even Tottenham have a shout of winning the league. For me, the league table doesn't lie, so why should Man City and Arsenal be ruled out even though they are both ahead Chelsea.

Since the season of the "invincible's" in which they went the entire 2003/04 season unbeaten and picked up the title on the their way, Arsenal have struggled to succeed in any competition. In fact, they haven't won a single trophy since that season. They have come close of course but just fell a little too short. But we all know that they play some of, if not the, best football around today. With their elegance and their lack of "Route One" football, it's almost hard not to watch them play. So although they have been known not to hold their nerve, I think it's harsh to say that they shouldn't be considered as serious challengers for the title.

Now to Man City. Yet again I completely see where Nani is coming from when he says that City shouldn't be taken seriously as Premiership contenders. But at the same time, when you are third in the league at Christmas, and you wasted the chance to go top, to be told that you don't really have a chance, I think this is slightly harsh. But like I said I do see where Nani is coming from, after all, City were only taken over two years ago and we have seen that they are far from the complete package. But they should be taken seriously because on their day, they do look impressive.

As for Chelsea, even though they are the current champions, they have been far from convincing this season. They have lost points on countless occasions when really they should have had the three points in the bag. With the loss of Ray Wilkins, it seems they have lost their rhythm and with players like Drogba and Malouda not on form, they have struggled to grind out victories. They did show an improvement against Spurs though.

So do you think Nani was right to say this? Which teams do you think have a genuine chance of winning the league?

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Benitez's "Holiday" At Inter Comes To An End

After just little over six months in charge, Inter Milan decided to call it a day with Rafa Benitez. After such great success last year for Inter, nothing really materialised under Rafa Benitez. With failure to get top spot in the group stages of the Champions League and a poor display in Serie A which leaves them lying in 7th position obviously wasn't enough.

It seems that the now famous press conference in which he ranted on about Sir Alex Ferguson and other topics, not only had an effect on Liverpool's season but also his career. This might come as a surprise to some after Inter Milan just picked up the FIFA Club World Cup title over in Abu Dhabi. But it seemed it was only a matter of time before he got the sack. But I can't see why Inter fans would expect more of the same from last year because we all know that Mourinho is somewhat in a league of his own.

Benitez, 50, will now be on the minds of many club owners who are manager-less, especially in the Premiership you would think. But how much of a fall would that be, to go from the European champions to the likes of Blackburn. No disrespect to Blackburn fans but I think you would agree that you're not at the same level as Inter Milan. Of course Benitez does have Premiership experience as a manager after being, for the most part, a success at Anfield. Who can ever forget that memorable night in Istanbul back in 2005.

I think it was the right decision, as it didn't look like it was going to get any better, especially now that we're into the Last 16 of the Champions League and a repeat of last years final is coming up. But who will take his place? There aren't that many quality managers that are just hanging around and I'm sure they don't want to go many weeks with a caretaker boss. I just don't get why you would sack a manager half way during the season. Now they have to get a new manager who has to settle in and chances are he won't have enough time to get the results he wants.

So what do you think will happen now with Rafa Benitez and more so Inter Milan? Was it time for him to go or do you think he should have got at least the full season?

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chelsea Interested In Tottenham Star....But It's Not Bale

There is just over a week to go till the transfer window for January opens and if we are to believe what we read, Carlo Ancelotti is lining up a move for Luka Modric. Modric, 25, has been under the radar because of the excellence of Gareth Bale this season. Luka Modric signed for Spurs just before Euro 2008, and just as well, as the little Croatian impressed in the tournament. Overall, he has impressed up to now in the Spurs jersey and that seems to be enough for Chelsea and Carlo Ancelotti to be interested in the Croatian.

Chelsea seem to be struggling this season and Ancelotti must feel he is the missing ingredient in the hunt to retain the Premiership title. I don't think it will be a good move for Modric because with Lampard coming back and a whole host of world class midfielders and forwards, where would he fit in? If he did go, there would be a high possibility of it being like the Shaun Wright-Phillips saga way back in 2005. As a result of him going, he got bare minimum when it came to starting appearances and at times he struggled even to get on the bench.

Anyway, why would you want to leave Tottenham at this moment in time. In the last 16 of the Champions League and only seven points off the top of the league in fifth place. Saying that, that's only if Ancelotti is interested in signing the Croatian this January, we might have to wait till the Summer of 2011 for Chelsea to splash the cash. And like every other transfer story it could be just rumours. Although, I wouldn't be 100% surprised if this transfer does go through.

This could hinder Tottenham's season if it did happen. Just because there might not be room for Modric in the Chelsea side, there is more than enough room for him in the Spur's side with many of the midfielders at White Hart Lane being defensive-minded. He links up the midfield to the attack and without him, for me, it would be a huge loss whether people are talking about him or not.

So what do you think he should do should Chelsea offer him a contract? For me, Bale edges Modric overall, but do you agree?

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Monday, December 20, 2010

He Betrays United, Then City And Now He Wants To Go Back To United?

Unless your TV is broken or your mum has confiscated it, you would have seen a lot happening regarding the future of Carlos Tevez. The City front man released a statement a week or so ago clearly declaring that he would like to leave the City Of Manchester stadium. Now, if he wants to go that badly let him leave but now rumours are spreading that Man United would be his club of choice should he go. But like many other people are wondering, not only the fans but the players as well, would he be accepted back? 

For me, he has already betrayed Man City. Even though he is still under contract at City, we do know that he would prefer to leave the club and that's enough to count as betrayal. But to supposedly say that he would like to walk a couple of miles back up to Old Trafford, I'd say that would make any Man City fan clench their fist. After months of speculation, Tevez finally put pen to paper in 2009 to sign a contract for City, snubbing United in the process. 

So would you (Man United fans in particular) relish the chance see Tevez play in a United jersey again or would you prefer to see Alex Ferguson, in a way, punish the Argentine for not signing back in the Summer of 2009? I can see why Tevez would like to join the Red Devils again, after all they probably do have a better chance of winning the Premiership for this season at least anyway. But if you had to look at the plan that City have for the long term future, which the new owners said that the investment would be, a long term plan, then I think he should play with City.

Man City play Everton tonight at the City Of Manchester stadium. The match will go ahead after the pitch survived the awful, but delightful weather in some respects, that we have been getting over the weekend. It is believed that Mancini will give Tevez a place in the starting line-up but it is yet to be seen if he will lead out the team as captain. It will also be interesting to see the reaction of the crown towards the Argentine. You can see all the action on "Monday Night Football" which starts at 19:00 on Sky Sports 1.

I would love to hear any comments that you may have

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is He The Greatest Manager Of All Time?

Today, Sir Alex Ferguson passed Sir Matt Busby's record of the longest running Manchester United manager of all time. You probably don't need me to tell you this, but this is quite an achievement. How often do we see on the news that a manager has been sacked, especially from one of the big teams. It's almost kind of strange not to hear about a sacking in the Premiership at least once every one or two months but to keep your job for twenty-four years or so is just incredible.

There are a few examples to show you how long he has been United manager. First one would be that he has faced a lot of managers that he had at United as a player. For example you have Steve Bruce, Roy Keane and Bryan Robson, all United legends in their own right. The other obvious one is to see how many Man City managers have come and gone while Sir Alex has been Man United boss. The amount of City managers that have been sacked during Ferguson's time as United boss comes up to a staggering seventeen managers with the longest running, believe it or not, being Kevin Keegan.

Not really known as a player, partly because he played all his football in Scotland, Sir Alex has definitely left his mark on the football world as a manager. He has a long list of achievements with Man United, most notably the season where he led United to the treble in 1999 and who can ever forget the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in the Nou Camp. He has won an unprecedented amount of Premier League titles, winning eleven in total.

So is he the best manager around or even of all time? There is no doubt, for me, that he is the best manager in Premiership history. There aren't many that even come close to his caliber. I can only think of maybe two, and no it's not Jose Mourinho, Franz Beckenbauer or even the inventor of "Total Football", Rinus Michels. It would have to be the greatest manger England never had, Brian Clough and the reason Liverpool F.C are who they are today, Bill Shankly. But I think Sir Alex Ferguson tops the list.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

World Cup 2022 In January?

Michel Platini has announced that there is a chance that the FIFA World Cup in 2022 could be held in January. If the fact that FIFA gave the honor of hosting the World Cup to Qatar wasn't strange enough, it now seems that there is a possibility it will be held the in Winter. Obviously, it won't be snowing in Qatar but with many matches going on in the European Leagues during winter, what are they going to do. Take a break?

I think everyone was baffled to hear that Qatar were the name of the nation that came out of the envelope that was held by the despised Sepp Blatter. I don't want to get into the argument of whether or not Qatar should have won the bid because I think I've already made myself clear that I think it's rather ridiculous that they did. But now with the prospect of the tournament being held in January, I think it's just gotten ludicrous by this stage.

I don't know how anyone can take FIFA and UEFA seriously at times because of some of the desicions they make. Sepp Blatter said the decision to make Qatar the hosts of the 2022 World Cup was purely to spread the game, not for money. I don't see why that would be the reason, I thought it was whoever who had the best proposed bid. Some of the stadiums look like something out of this world, a little bit too good in other words. I can't see them being 100% built the way they were designed.

You can't have the World Cup in January, it's, as you might have guessed, not the norm. The football association's of a lot of countries will have to restructure the format of the league and fixtures for just that season. What happened to the proposed air conditioning stadiums? Already there is, what seems to be be, a bit of a porky pie in the Qatar bid. But it's still early days, so this could just be speculation.

So what will FIFA decide to do? Platini had this to say "The temperature in Dallas during the 1994 World Cup was 45 degrees Celsius, if I'm not mistaken, in 1994 and nobody criticized the USA at the time." So is this a sign that it is just rumors and a bit of speculation?

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Round Of 16 Draw Doesn't Fail To Disappoint

We found out today the fixtures for the round of sixteen in the Champions League. There are a few, with no disrespect, "mickey mouse" matches such as Copenhagen v Chelsea, which should be one sided in the favour of Chelsea. You also have Valencia v Schalke, which isn't necessarily a "mickey mouse" match but I won't really be paying much attention to it. On the plus side, we have some tasty matches. Tottenham will be facing AC Milan, Inter Milan host Bayern Munich in the first leg, and of course, Arsenal v Barcelona.

If Arsenal fans thought it was ok that their team could only achieve second in their group, they'll think again as the Gunners got none other than Barcelona. We have seen how good Barca can be this season, with the perfect example being their performance against Real Madrid, thrashing the renewed "Galacticos" 5-0 at the Nou Camp. However, we have seen the brilliance in Arsenal's attack. With both attacks second to none, I am really hoping for a classic over the two legs.

A week or so ago, I was discussing about whether or not it was better to get second in the group stages because a few top sides had failed to impress such as Arsenal and Inter Milan. But it seems that Inter are better off than Tottenham, who of course were both in Group A, as they managed to get Bayern Munich while Tottenham have to face Inter's arch rivals AC Milan, even though Spurs managed to get top spot. I don't know about you, but I would prefer to face Bayern Munich rather than AC Milan, even though I would fear facing the German giants.

Typical Man United and Chelsea, but more so Chelsea, got it easy as Man United got Marseille and as I already mentioned Chelsea got the Danish side Copenhagen. I think if Ancelotti fails to get his side through to the quarter final it's bye bye to the Italian. I don't expect them to fail to progress, but you never know with the Chelsea as of late. 

The first set of matches will be played in the week of the 15th/16th of February and the second set the week after. Whatever happens, big names are guaranteed to get knocked out, whether it be Arsenal or Barcelona or, Tottenham or AC Milan. Both matches shouldn't be missed.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Premiership Managers All Feeling The Pressure

With two Premiership managers, Chris Hughton and Sam Allardyce, both being sacked within a week, is any manager safe from getting the sack? The only manager who I can think of, who more than likely won't get his marching orders is Sir Alex Ferguson. To some extent I would say Harry Redknapp and Arsene Wenger as well, unless they have a huge drop in form. The pressure is on for the managers with top teams, not just the teams in fear of being in the relegation battle.

Mancini has been convincing but some silly lost points surely must have had the owners questioning their decision to hire him last December. Another top manager for a top team who is most certainly under pressure to pick up points is Carlo Ancelotti. After such a great start, the sacking of Ray Wilkins seems to have had a big effect on their performances, and more importantly, their results.

If we are to believe what we hear, Avram Grant has three games to get his teams to winning ways or else he will be a jobless manager. In fairness, he hardly has a lot to work with. I think it's ridiculous to give a threat like that six months after you give the former Chelsea and Portsmouth boss the job. They have shown they can play a bit of football as they were unlucky to get losses against Sunderland and Arsenal, and of course the 4-0 thrashing of Man United in the Carling Cup. But watching West Ham face Man City at Upton Park, Scott Parker was West Ham, he was that influential. I don't know if that's telling us something about how good he is or how poor the Hammers actually are.

Roy Hodgson has been feeling the pressure since he arrived at Anfield but I don't think, like Avram Grant, he has had a lot to work with. There aren't many managers that could have done a better job than he's done. I'm sorry Liverpool fans, you can blame Roy Hodgson all you want but at the end of the day, when your second best central midfielder is at the caliber of Lucas, you know that you are going to struggle at times. If Liverpool did decide to get rid of Hodgson, it will only make things worse.

Who will be the next manager to go? Who knows, I don't know anyone who could have predicted the Sam Allardyce and Chris Hughton sackings. If managers have been given a fair whack at the job and it's just not working out then by all means, it's time to go. But sacking the manager after just a couple of months is just ridiculous.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What Have Blackburn Got Themselves Into?

On Monday, I was shocked to see that Sam Allardyce had got sacked by the new Indian owners who have just taken over less than a month ago. These lads must think they know what they are talking about, but they must be off their head's if they think they're going to get anywhere without a manager, especially with the Christmas fixtures coming up. With so many matches at this time, it is one of the most important parts of the season.

When I heard the news, I kind of saw it coming, this is always the case when teams get taken over by men who have money growing on trees. But just yesterday they announced that they were looking for a British manager and apart from maybe Harry Redknapp and Sir Alex Ferguson, there aren't many better than "Big Sam". If you don't remember, when the FA confirmed the manager after Fabio Capello will be British, Allardyce was one of the front runners with a lot of the bookies and with a lot of people.

Allardyce, 56, is now the second manager within a week to get the sack. As we all know, Chris Hughton got sacked after a 3-1 loss to West Brom away from home and in fairness he was missing two or three key players. The omens don't look good for any managers that are losing matches. With managers like Roy Hodgson and the likes of Mick McCarthy, who's side are second from bottom, are bound to feel the pressure in the next few weeks unless they get their respective teams to winning ways.

Steve Kean, who if I'm being honest I don't know a lot about, will now take charge of Blackburn for the foreseeable future until they find a manager who they think is fit for the job. However long that is, is for the owners to decide. But if we are to believe what they say, if Kean impresses, he will get the job. No matter how unknown he is, it seems. But I wouldn't take their word for it. Blackburn will face West Ham at Ewood Park and with no disrespect to West Ham and their fans, I don't think Kean could have got a better fixture to start off his new job.

So what are we to expect from the new owners, is it, to the disgust of everyone, Man City all over again? Will they try and "buy" the Premiership? Will they get the same abuse that Man City got for their crazy spending? They've already made a big decision with the sacking of Allardyce, was it the right one?

I would love to hear any comments you may have

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FIFA World Cup 2010 - Easy To Forget

Yesterday, Sky Sports News showed a report on how the World Cup affected the people of South Africa and the country itself. The answer, not really. It is easy to say that the World Cup that we saw throughout June and at the start of July was not really at the standard we are used to seeing.

Not even the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could make any difference. It took my cousin Cathal, (who runs the very successful blog Football Corner) to make me realise how woeful the World Cup actually was. We are now six months on from the tournament that crowned Spain as champions for the first time and it's fair to say that it's pretty much forgotten. There wasn't much to show for it with a lot of matches and teams disappointing. 

A lot was expected from nations such as England, Brazil and to some extent France but none of them ever got going. We all saw what happened with England, a Rob Green error and the failure to beat Algeria meant that they could only manage second in their group. They capped off a quite awful tournament by losing 4-1 (should have been 4-2 if you all remember Lampard's disallowed goal) to an impressive Germany side in the quarter finals. 

Going into the tournament, they weren't really a liked side after they got through to the finals thanks to the hand of Thierry Henry. Of course I'm talking about France. They made themselves look like more of a joke by refusing to train which resulted in Anelka being sent home.

Spain proved they were the best side in the world. After a shaky start everyone thought, as usual, that they wouldn't have the bottle. But they proved that you have world class players along with the passion and I don't think they're short of world class players. The final normally is the culmination of a great tournament and showcases some of the best football. Instead, we got a boring final in which Holland literally "kicked" Spain around the pitch. So why would it make a massive difference to South Africa? Yes, it's changed for the better but not by a huge amount. 

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Arsenal Aim To Keep Top Spot

Later tonight, Arsenal play Man United at Old Trafford on Sky Sports' "Monday Night Football". This fixture never fails to deliver and as we are getting into the Christmas spirit, hopefully both teams can give us an early Christmas present. Arsenal go into this match with a one point advantage at the top, but Man United can overtake
both the Gunners and City with a win tonight.

I am quietly confident that Arsenal can get a point, if not all three. They have been the team to beat so far this season with United and Chelsea both not reaching their peak. With players like Nasri, Arshavin and Fabregas they can, for me, beat any defence in the world today. We all know that they play some of the best football in the league but sometimes they fail to try and grind out a result.

United have had two weeks off now, so any knocks players might have had after their game against Blackburn, in which they destroyed Sam Allardyce's and his players defence, should be gone. Like their rivals City, their star player has gone on a rant and threatened to walk out on the club. While all this drama has been going on, no player has really stepped up and confirmed his place as United's main man. Yes, some might say "well what about Berbatov" but before the Blackburn game, his last convincing performance was against Liverpool some way back at the start of the season. Nani has been hot and cold as well. One week brilliant, next week not so brilliant.

I am genuinely so excited for this match with both teams, seemingly, really up for this. With Arsenal trying to maintain their challenge for the title and not fade away like in previous seasons, and United who can confirm they are the team to beat. You have Arsenal's attack versus Man United's tough defence, but you also have United's "on-off'" attack, versus Arsenal's defence, who have shown us that they are not that reliable especially for a team who want to win the Premiership.

I'm not going to predict the score because last week I thought Aston Villa would get the three points and then we all saw what actually happened. Liverpool won 3-0. All I can say is that it shouldn't disappoint, so I wouldn't miss it.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Carlos. What Are You Doing?

Man City have announced that Tevez wants to leave the club after he handed in a transfer request. I'm sure to the delight of every City fan, well me anyway, City rejected the request. But why, when you're the captain of the club that is going places, would you decide to call it a day? I'm quite shocked by this, although I do want him to stay, I will never want a player to stay at the club who won't show his full commitment.

We have seen some worrying signs in the past few weeks between the relationship of Roberto Mancini and Carlos Tevez. Most notably,  the row that was the result of Tevez being taken off against Bolton. I think I should add that there was no more than five minutes left, so I think it was Tevez being a little bit immature. It looked more like what you would see at an under 13's match on a Sunday morning. He was clearly showing a lack of respect to the Italian man.

He was City's player of the year last season after quite a slow start under Mark Hughes and confirmed himself as a fan favourite. He doesn't stop running and his goal scoring record ain't half bad either. 30 goals in 50 appearances. My only criticism of the Argentine would be that he hangs on to the ball for a second too long. I would hate to see him go for he is one of the best strikers in the world and would not only be a loss for City but for the Premiership as well.

But I don't know why you would want to keep a player that obviously isn't happy and wants to go and it's, for me, nothing but disrespect especially when your the captain to hand in a transfer request. Mancini will obviously have a lot on his hands with Tevez adding to the list of "keep players happy" along side the not-so-super Mario Balotelli. Balotelli must be giving a bad vibe, players must be thinking "if he can be a pain in the backside, why can't I?".

With the aim of the club being to bring in world class players and get rid of the players that were at the City before the takeover, this must come as a real surprise to the club and the owners in particular. It will be quite an interesting saga, one that will grab most of the headlines during the January transfer window which is less than a month away.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Man City Show They Have A Genuine Chance Of Winning The Premiership

Today, Man City convincingly beat West Ham 3-1 at Upton Park. After a few poor performances, even though they were getting a result, it was nice to see they can win comfortably especially without Carlos Tevez. This result leaves City in second place with Chelsea and Arsenal having one game in hand, and Man United having two after there match with Blackpool was called off last week.

Yes it was West Ham, but United lost to them with an embarrassing 4-0 defeat in the League Cup. And don't give the "they didn't have their first team out" excuse. Although a few of the players have disappointed, in fairness, you do have players that have impressed such as Yaya Toure, who scored a scorcher with his left foot and even though it will go down as an own goal by Rob Green, I think he deserves all the praise for the second goal. You also have David Silva who hasn't failed to impress and has been the play-maker in many of City's matches..

Mario Ballotelli continues to show he was quite a ridiculous signing after yet another, quite awful display. He doesn't show any passion and seems to be a bit of a pain in the backside. Today was his big chance to show that he should be starting week in, week out and he disappointed throughout the match with the exception of one or two chances. He reminded me a bit of myself, moaning and complaining when he doesn't get his way, just sub in my mum for the ref.

So overall, I was very impressed. I don't want to get too complacent or put the hex on it, but I am more confident than I have ever been about them getting that fourth spot. It seems after a bit of a rough patch in late October, early December that Mancini has either got his, or the players' act together. Either way, what ever he has done, he has got back to winning ways and in the week where everyone said that they have to score more, they scored three and Tevez wasn't on the score sheet.

And why should they be satisfied with just fourth spot, why can't they win the whole thing. A few new faces in January might help that cause.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why Alan Pardew?

Yesterday, Newcastle United announced that Alan Pardew would be taking over as toon boss after agreeing terms. If all goes to plan he should be staying there for five and a half years, but like that's going to happen. In recent times, Newcastle sack managers faster than they hire them. But why Alan Pardew? We don't know, but I'm guessing that he was their first choice.

The former West Ham boss hasn't really done anything too spectacular in his managerial career (or playing career for that matter). The Newcastle board said they wanted a manager that has more experience than Hughton. That is the biggest excuse I've ever seen.  You don't sack someone because they lost 3-1. If that was the case, the only thing that would be in the news is managers getting sacked.

 I just think if they were going to sack Hughton, they would have got a top class manager with a couple of trophies under his belt. Instead they go, for me, for quite a mediocre choice who just got sacked by a club (Southampton) that are mid-table in League One. He is no better or worse than what they had with Chris Hughton.

You're going to have bad patches in your season. Newcastle should be happy it wasn't later on in the season if they are struggling to get out of the relegation fight. And yes Newcastle fans, last time Pardew was managing in the Premiership, he went down to the Championship and brought Charlton down with him. I'll give him a bit of slack though, he didn't have much time to gain lost ground that was caused by Iain Dowie.

Pardew doesn't have a particularly easy match to start his Newcastle career. Liverpool are travelling to St. James' Park and even though I said that they are not a top-four side anymore that doesn't mean they are not, at times, a force to be reckoned with.

I would love to hear any comments that you may have.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Was It Better To Get Second In The Group Stages?

Last night, the Champions League group stages for the 2010-11 season came to an end. Looking at the final standings, it doesn't look, as usual, as if it is an advantage getting second position. But saying that, it doesn't look like it is an advantage to have got the top spot with Inter Milan, Arsenal and other quality sides only managing to get second place.

Obviously you do have the big teams not disappointing such as Barcelona, Chelsea etc. but because of teams like Tottenham and Shakhtar Donetsk doing so well, we might see some very interesting ties in the last 16 stage.

It shows you how great the competition is when you see that the champions could only manage second as well. Inter Milan boss, Rafa Benitez, has failed to impress this season after only being able to secure second place behind Spurs and are fifth in the league. That is less than impressive for Inter especially after such great success last season. The Inter fans have come to expect a lot better from their side.

Even though it is great to see the smaller teams do well, you do wonder why the big teams are failing to do so. The pressure is on them now to get to the the quarter finals but first they will have to face a tricky tie no matter who they get. The draw for the round of 16 is on next Friday, December 17th.

Of course the European adventure isn't over for all those teams that came third in their respective groups. Quality teams such as Benfica and Ajax will now go into the Europa League, which by no means will be a walk in the park for them. You have Man City, Porto and Byern Leverkusen all in contention of getting to the Aviva Stadium in May. The group stages will come to an end next week with the draw for the round of 32 being on the 17th December also.

I would love to hear any comments that you may have.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Give Credit Where Credit's Due

On Match Of The Day 2 on Sunday, as awful as his punditry is, Robbie Savage made a very good point that we don't give credit to the lower team when they beat the so called "Top Four". This has happened on many occasions, from when Sunderland beat Chelsea 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, to when Arsenal lost to West Brom at home 3-2. I don't think I've seen one moment where the pundit has given credit to the lower team or at least enough credit.

Ever since Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool were dubbed the "Top Four" it seems to everyone that they are invincible and if they lose, it's the end of the world or else it's a bad day at the office. But when has it become the case that the lower side have beaten one of the "Top Four" purely because they were the better side. The two occasions that I've mentioned, after the match Andy Gray almost insisted that it was the poor performance by one of the big four that won it for the likes of Sunderland and West Brom.

Like everyone else, I think that Sunderland just took advantage of getting a Chelsea side that are not on form, but fair play to them. Like the old saying goes  "you can only beat the side that is put out in front of you" and Sunderland did just that. I am really enjoying this Premiership season, for reasons like this. The "Top Four" can't be too casual, but sometimes they show their pure brilliance like Blackburn had to find out against Man Utd. losing 7-1.

I think with the exception of Liverpool, this perception that the "Top Four" (well I guess you can call them "Top Three") can only lose to each other and no one else, will go on for many a year. I just wish people would face the fact that they don't have to win every single match and that the other teams can play a bit of football themselves.

I would love to hear your comments that you may have.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Martin Jol Resigns As Ajax Boss. Is This Just Coincidence?

Last night, Martin Jol resigned as Ajax manager just hours after the shocking dismissal of Chris Hughton from Newcastle United. Martin Jol, 54, said that he left because the pressure on him was too high and too hard to handle. But is this just an excuse, is he next in line for the Newcastle United job? Was the the Hughton sacking planned way before the 3-1 loss away to West Brom?

I'd like to say before I go on to Martin Jol's chances of getting the Newcastle job, how much of a disgrace it is that the Newcastle owners sacked Hughton. As if the way the some of the owners treat their managers isn't ridiculous enough. After all, if it wasn't for Hughton, Newcastle wouldn't be in the top flight. Many people feared that it would be deja vu after seeing the mess that Leeds United got themselves into. But fair play to Hughton, even though he doesn't have quite the profile of some of the best managers, he delivered for the toon army.

I'm sure Martin Jol would love to come back to England, after a great time with Tottenham. Unfortunately, he couldn't emulate Harry Redknapp and get Spurs to the Champions League. Of course, it didn't help that he was missing many players due to food poisoning on the last day of the the season in a must win match against West Ham. To some extent, he has felt the way Hughton is now, miss treated by his employers after he was sacked in a unmannerly fashion by Tottenham.

Some of the bookies favourites to get the Newcastle job are Alan Pardrew, Alan Curbishley, Glen Hoddle and of course the man I'm talking about, Martin Jol. Martin Jol would seem a obvious choice for Newcastle United owners since his departure from Ajax.

I would love to hear any comments you may have on this issue.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Liverpool Are NOT a Top Four Side Anymore

I was watching Sky Sports News and their preview for the Villla and Liverpool match tonight at Anfield. As they were advertising it for tonight, I thought I heard one of the newsreaders mutter the words "This could be an important match in the chase for that top four spot". If it was Georgie Thompson I would have forgiven her but it wasn't her. I don't know if my ears were playing tricks on me or if I heard it wrong but I would just like to make it clear, as far as I'm concerned, Liverpool aren't a top four side.

If I thought my ears were mistaken, the Sky Sports website made sure my eyes weren't as they had this to say "Three points against Villa would lift the Reds back into top-four contention."

I think most Liverpool fans, not just me, would admit that Liverpool are, most likely, not going to get that coveted fourth spot this season. If you had to draw the line somewhere, I would say that the three teams that have a chance of getting Champions League football are Aston Villa, Man City and of course Tottenham. For me, it will be a similar story to last season. Aston Villa will probably be too far behind with a few weeks to go, and I honestly can't decide between my beloved Man City and Tottenham.

Of course with it being Liverpool v Villa tonight, that means a return to Anfield for old Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier. The current Villa boss enjoyed a successful time on Mersyside with the main achievement to his name being a cup treble in the 2000-01 season, winning the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup.

I'm expecting a close but entertaining game, and I have a feeling that Villa might just nick it, giving Villa and Houllier all three points. But no matter what happens tonight, for me, Liverpool still won't be able to get back into the top four.

I would love to hear any comments and predictions that you may have.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Players Of The Season.....So Far

We are coming up to the midway point of the season and I thought I might take this opportunity to point out a few players that have impressed me this season. Some you might have expected to see and others you might be surprised to see. My aim is not to pick all the superstar names such as Drogba, Malouda, Berbatov etc.

Samir Nasri- He has had to fill the shoes of Fabregas as Arsenal's main man ever since Fabregas got injured, and what a job he's done. He is already in double figures for goals and has led the Arsenal attack. I expect much more of him for the rest of the season and if he keeps it up, a PFA Player Of The Year award could be on the way to his trophy cabinet and maybe a Premiership title for Arsenal.

Gareth Bale- After a very slow start to his Spurs career, he has really impressed this season. In the Champions League and Premiership. My only negative comment would be that he isn't as consistent as he probably should be. His name is now known all over Europe after two fantastic displays against Inter Milan. He would definitely be in my Premiership XI based on current form. I'm sure Spurs regret not trying him on the left side of midfield sooner after he signed for the North London club as a left back.

Tim Cahill- My dad, who is an Everton fan, yesterday told me that he thought Cahill was Everton's player of the decade. How can you disagree with him, I know Everton haven't had the greatest selection of players in the 2000's, like for example you had Nuno Valente and Tony Hibbert. But not only has he been a great player for Everton, he has been a great player to watch in the Premiership. Yet again he hasn't failed to impress this season with some great performances and a large percentage of Everton's goals.

Rafael Van Der Vaart- I am adding the Dutchman into this category because not only has he really impressed for Tottenham but what some people tend to forget, is that he was signed on the last day of the transfer window. We all know that some foreign players struggle to find their feet in the Premiership in their first season but Van Der Vaart has flourished with some of his performances this season, most notably his game against Arsenal where he played a huge part in helping Spurs get back from 2-0 down back to 2-3 winners. Unlike Bale he has been incredibly consistent.

Other players that deserve a mention are Adam (Blackpool), Nani (Man United), Tevez (Man City) and Carroll (Newcastle United).

I would love to hear any comments that you may have.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chelsea Fail To Capatalise While Arsenal Take Full Advantage

With Blackpool v Man United being called off due to the dreadful weather we have been getting for the past week or so, this gave Arsenal and Chelsea a perfect opportunity to make ground on the Red Devils.

Arsenal didn't miss the opportunity, but Chelsea, who haven't been themselves as of late, didn't.

Chelsea scored just before half time through a Drogba penalty after Tim Howard brought down Nicolas Anelka in side the eighteen yard box. He was lucky Distin was behind him or else it could have been a sending off for the American goalkeeper.

It was looking like they had all three points in the bag until a lapse of concentration, as the on form Leighton Baines ran past three Chelsea defenders as they could only watch the Everton left back float the ball in to the area. Cahill nodded back towards goal to set up Beckford the chance to get his second goal of the season, which he took.

I'm sure this more than made up for his last minute sitter against Sunderland to deny the Toffees the chance to bring back all three points to Merseyside.

A Nasri double was enough to secure all three points for Arsenal. We have seen in the past week or two that the Gunners look vulnerable to concede after having a comfortable lead. Fulham clawed their way back to get to 1-1 through a Diomansy Kamara goal.

It seemed to be the same old Arsenal, not capitalising on chances and end up paying the price. Arsenal had Nasri to thank for the victory after he secured the win with a 75th minute goal. The Frenchman has been player of the season for Arsenal so far and proved his excellence with two fabulous goals today.

In other matches today, Man City got back to winning ways with a 1-0 win over Bolton, while Blackburn had a comfortable victory over Wolves beating them 3-0 and Tottenham couldn't keep their winning streak going as they only managed a 1-1 against Birmingham at St.Andrews.

Arsenal are now one point ahead of United, but what is going on with Chelsea. Is it something behind the scenes?

I love to hear your comments on this topic.

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Media To Blame" Says FIFA.

Yesterday, I wrote a post saying how surprised I was that Russia and Qatar won the right to host the World Cup. I thought it had gone right down to the wire between Russia and England with Russia eventually getting the honour. But, just after I finished the post, I was then surprised to see that England only racked up two votes by FIFA.

 I thought it was a joke that England didn't get the World Cup, so I guess you know how much of a joke I think it is that they could only manage two votes. FIFA said England have the media to blame but I thought you gave the honour to the nation with best bid, and England had the best bid. Yet again, FIFA have made themselves look like tools.

This leads me to believe that BBC and "Panorama" knew what they were talking about. If you didn't see the show, it was investigating if there was any bribery by bidding nations towards the FIFA Board. I read the magazine "FourFourTwo" and in a poll, 17.1% of people said that Sepp Blatter and FIFA is the biggest problem facing football. I'd have to, to some extent, agree with that.

Sepp Blatter announced that two new nations would be hosting the World Cup. I don't know if he was saying that because that was the truth or because that was the direction FIFA were heading in, to try and give to nations that hadn't hosted a World Cup to try and promote football in that country. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, but if it is it's a bit of a joke.

You should give it to the nation that you know has the best bid and is going to put on a great show. Who better to give it to than the founders of the game, England. Why not the world champions, Spain (who were obviously bidding along side Portugal).

Instead they decide to give it to a nation that knows a bit about football but doesn't really look nice (Russia) and a nation that looks beautiful but doesn't have a clue about the game (Qatar).

I would love to hear any comments you may have.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I Don't Blame FIFA, Qatar Do Know Their Football

Earlier today, the FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced that Russia would be hosting the 2018 World Cup. I wasn't too surprised at this even though I did think England and their bidding team had just clinched it. But then he went on to announce the nation that would be hosting the 2022 World Cup and amazingly, the nation that came out of the envelope was Qatar.

"We love football","It's part of the fabric of our nation", "We have some fantastic stadia". These were a few things said in some of the bidding teams' presentation. I don't know what Qatar said but I would have loved to seen what they had on offer. Unlike most countries at the moment, they  have money. But what they don't have, are the key ingredients to hosting a World Cup. Stadia, passion for the game, knowledge of the game.

Although the line up of bidding nations for the 2022 World Cup was poor, I didn't expect FIFA to give it to Qatar. I thought USA or Australia would have been the safest bet. Do Qatar even have a league never mind a national team. Basically, it's an awful decision. The picture for this post, do you think it looks right?

Russia beat England, Belgium/Holland and Spain/Portugal to get the chance to host the 2018 World Cup. Yet again, I'm quite surprised by this decision. For me, I might be a bit biased when I say this, but England had the best bid on paper and off it. If I have enough money and decide to go over for a game, it might take me twelve hours to get to the next match. It would take that long with a good transport system, so I hope Russia don't have a bad one.

I would love to hear any comments you may have.