- Man United’s priority is not getting back Wayne Rooney, but sorting out a defence that is lacking in cohesion.
All the hype surrounding Everton’s remarkable comeback against Man Utd on Saturday focused on the absence of Wayne Rooney. Although it was a surprise and bound to create extra tabloid fodder, that it remained the headline at the end of the game was a disappointment. Both teams deserved more. Everton started superbly and by scoring two goals in injury time did to United what no team has done for almost ten years, cancel out a two-goal deficit with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
Both teams attacked with creativity and imagination, the game flowing from end-to-end, but United’s weakness lies in an unsettled defence. Patrice Evra’s wild attempt at a clearance led to the first goal, while Johnny Evans is struggling alongside Vidic at centre back. Neville is no longer a first choice, but Brazilian Rafael appears to have lost favour with Ferguson for the time being.
However, up front, Berbatov played well, stretching the Everton defence at every opportunity and taking the third goal with the confidence of a 40 goal-a-season striker. Rooney was hardly missed, while Nani delivered two superb crosses for the goals. Unlike the media love-in for Scholes, I didn’t feel he had a great game. Everton restricted his presence going forward by having Cahill and Fellaini as their attackers, both tough-tackling midfielders.
- Don’t believe everything you read in the media about players’ form or confidence:
If Fernando Torres wakes up this morning and feels a little harshly treated by the media, well it’s because he’s been a little harshly treated by the media. Football writers around the country sat in stunned silence as Jamie Redknapp lambasted Torres for his first-half performance at half-time in Liverpool’s 0-0 with a superb Birmingham side.
The same writers then took their lead from the Sky pundit as newspapers criticised the man they claim is not right, still unfit, looks like he “doesn’t care” was another oft-repeated quote. This then the same Torres that got the winner against West Brom the previous Liverpool game and got two for Spain the following week, admittedly against Liechtenstein, but the two were good goals and Spain only managed four.
The same writers were also slamming Pepe Reina after his mistake against Arsenal on the opening day. And they were asking questions as to whether he retained the confidence of his teammates. Well he made some of the best saves you’ll see this season (as he did against Arsenal too by the way) to show that form is exceptionally temporary, class is permanent. Oh and Torres will come up against Vidic next Sunday. If that doesn’t boost his confidence I don’t know what will.
- The league table is lying.
Fair enough, Chelsea and Arsenal deserve to be up there. No-one is about to begrudge Blackpool their spot, but the likes of Everton shouldn’t be in this position after four games. Outstanding commitment and skill, Moyes’ men will start climbing the table very quickly with a decent run of games put together. West Ham are another team who deserve better than the zero points they currently have. With some tough games already behind them and a manager whose demeanour doesn’t exactly scream “give me some time because I’m loveable”, it’s been a tough start but the table is all topsy-turvy right now and we are going to boldly predict West Ham will finish in the top ten. Boom. Please keep reading the blog, I regret nothing.
Thank god for that we can stop talking about Rooney and his effect on the England team and can start talking about…Rooney and his effect on the Man Utd team…
Everton V Manchester United
After surprising no-one here at TheFC100 by scoring first against Switzerland, Rooney will be Man Utd’s star man against Everton tomorrow in the early kick off on Sky Sports. The Everton fans quite rightly get stuck into Rooney whenever he returns to his boyhood club due to the fact he buggered off just after breaking onto the Everton first team in a big money move to Manchester. However he has stuck the boot in several times since with the usual badge-kissing, Moyes-bashing shenanigans and now the Everton fans will be relishing their chance to chant several brands of filthy at the former Toffee.
This game is more interesting in determining Rooney’s state of mind. The England fans gave him a great reception on Tuesday but tens of thousands will be doing their best to wind him up. That Everton have had a nightmare start to the season makes the pressure fall on both Rooney and Everton. A good start to the game for the home side is crucial, if they can get their noses in front and get Rooney and company frustrated then this could be a bad day for Man Utd fans. In fact, despite their problems so far, we fancy Everton to nick something here and we’ll throw in a card for Rooney at the same time
Prediction: Everton 2 Man Utd 1
Arsenal V Bolton
Arsenal have lost another few players for their game against Bolton (what are they feeding them at Arsenal, cereal with barbed wire?). Walcott, van Persie and Thomas Vaermaelen all miss out this weekend, however Samir Nasri could return from injury sustained against Liverpool on the opening day. Bolton are missing their inspirational keeper Jussi Jaskelaainen though, after the Finn was sent off last time out.
Slightly early perhaps, but as Italy beckons for a week they will have to do.
An interesting weekend to come, an interesting weekend indeed.
While the Premiership has already begun to assume a familiar leaderboard at a worryingly early stage of the season, there may well be slip-ups this weekend.
Starting with Blackburn Vs Arsenal. Wenger’s men never liked a face-off with Sam Allardyce’s Bolton teams of the past. And why would they, starting with Big Sam himself there were some real bruisers.
But now the man who would be England manager (unless the FA start taking things seriously) will put out his Blackburn team against the Gunners, high from a 6-0 rout of Blackpool.
There may be a surprise here though. Blackburn, as expected, are well organised under Allardyce and after a good opening day win were unlucky to lose to Birmingham having taken the lead and missed a penalty.
Fabregas and Van Persie should start (finally) for Arsenal, but may still lack sharpness. While Nasri misses out for Arsenal, they are slowly coming back to their best, but this will be a nice early test to answer the usual criticism that they can’t handle the more physical side of the Premiership.
Man Utd will be confident of getting back to winning ways against Arsenal, likewise Liverpool over West Brom, but Man City may be brought down off their perch following an exhilarating win over Liverpool on Monday.
City will be up against a team desperate for its first three points of the season, and while they were superb against Liverpool at home, City were woeful away at Spurs the week before. Steve Bruce has been arguing that he may have made too many changes to the squad leading to an unsettled atmosphere in the team, but Darren Bent’s two goals in the Carling Cup in midweek will get a bit of confidence flowing again and on Sunday they will look to bounce back, while City have another game tomorrow night in the Europa League to get the team playing as a unit.
The most intriguing game may be at Villa Park, where two teams arrive short on confidence after unsettling starts to Premiership life this season. Everton have only registered a point from two games they would expect to win, while Villa took a 6-0 hiding from Newcastle on Sunday, a game in which debutant Stephen Ireland barely got a kick.
While it is far too early to say it is a must-win game, the clash will tell us an awful lot about the future of both teams.
For one thing, Kevin MacDonald is rumoured to have been given two games to land the Villa job on a permanent basis. This then, is a must win for the man who would be boss. Everton meanwhile are fully fit and would have expected to set a blaze early on. However the blue side of Merseyside tend to be bad starters and this is a very tough game to try to get their season going. With Manchester United their next opponents, David Moyes will be itching to register three points while defeat would leave Everton looking sorrowfully into the distance at the top of the table.
Elsewhere, the focus hasn’t really been on Spurs yet, despite their solid start to the season Their next four fixtures are against the four Ws: Wigan, West Brom, Wolves and West Ham. All four are games Spurs will expect to win, meaning they could be looking pretty come October. For Wigan however, and boss Roberto Martinez, this game is needed like a kick in the nads. Spurs may have had a tough Champions League tie to get out of the way but despite injuries and any fatigue, they will expect a win. Injuries and fatigue may not even matter. Wigan have been woeful to-date and the fans are staying away as the half-empty JJB Stadium showed against Chelsea. Defeat could leave Martinez in big trouble, especially after the lacklustre comments in support of him by chairman Dave Whelan.
Predictions in a semi-serious sort of fashion:
Chelsea won’t beat Stoke 6-0. In fact they will struggle, but yeah of course they’ll win.
Liverpool will thump West Brom by three goals or more. West Brom fans will sing tributes to Javier Mascherano.
Wolves bring Newcastle back down to earth to continue their impressive start to the season. Andy Caroll will be sent off.
Man Utd thump West Ham, including a penalty not taken by Nani. Ferguson will thump a BBC reporter.
Blackburn will beat Arsenal. And Wenger will not be happy with their “physical style of play.”
(1): There are plenty of unhappy strikers kicking their heels on benches.
It was a difficult weekend for some established Premiership strikers. Tuncay is clearly not a favourite of Tony Pulis at Stoke and had to sit on the bench while Jon Walters made his debut just days after signing. Emile Heskey watched on from the bench as John Carew had a stinker for Villa, perhaps wondering whether he should have drawn the line at international retirement. Louis Saha was relegated for Everton and watched Jermaine Beckford being talked up by boss David Moyes after a game in which he failed to score and Everton failed to win. Not to mention the lads at Man City who may never play for the club this season.
But most interestingly, when Javier Hernandez was selected for Man Utd against Fulham, we wonder if Michael Owen
regretted all his media statements about being “happy to be selected less regularly for Utd than selected all the time for another club.” While we understand the sentiment, Mr Ferguson can’t have been particularly enthused to hear that Owen was content to sit on the bench.
Wonder if that had anything to do with Hernandez getting the nod away to Fulham, a team that possess a top-class central defender in Brede Hangeland and are a difficult team to break down at all, for nearly any striker. With Stockdale again deputising for Schwarzer in goal, did Ferguson not think Owen’s experience could be crucial in any one-on-one scenario. Granted, Hernandez looked good in pre-season, but then again it was pre-season. Owen must have been wondering what he has to do to get a starting place while Ferguson must be wondering what he has to do to get a win at Craven Cottage.
(2): A little confidence goes a long way.
-Villa miss a penalty, Newcastle score. Villa are denied a legitimate goal, Newcastle score another five.
-Wigan dominate the first half hour, Chelsea score. Wigan heads go down, Chelsea score another five.
-Arsenal score, Blackpool look dangerous on the attack. Arsenal penalty, Blackpool man sent off, Arsenal score another five.
(3): Any English striker who bangs in a few goals will be “on the verge of an England call-up”.
Andy Carroll was very, very good against Villa. He plundered a hat-trick including a swivel and low shot, left foot volley and one-on-one with Brad Friedel. All very impressive. Unfortunately watching it you couldn’t help but feel that ‘Carroll for England’ would be the inevitable cry from the press. And this morning, true to form, people seem to think he’s worthy of a place in the squad.
Now to be fair, if he carries on that way he’ll be in the 2012 squad as England need a good quality striker. However let’s all calm down for a moment and realise that he scored Newcastle’s third, fourth and sixth goals when Villa heads were not so much dropping rather plummeting. He missed a good opportunity against Man Utd the week before but didn’t enjoy himself as much up against Vidic and co. Had Richard Dunne been employed to mark him, maybe the result would have been different. Excellent performance Andy, now do it week-in, week-out.
And in brief:
- Alex Ferguson has earned Man Utd a £1,000 fine by refusing to speak to the BBC. It is inevitable he will have to speak to them at some point. We cannot wait.
- West Ham were good in the first half against Bolton. They lost 3-1. A bad start to the season, especially when the likes of Bolton, Wolves and even West Brom and Blackpool have picked up early points.
- Theo Walcott is far from the genius people are willing to portray him as this morning. Arsenal could have had 10-12. His final ball and decision is still in vast need of improving. However if it does and he stays injury free, he can rule the world. And he should definitely be in the England squad. Shaun Wright-who?
- If you decided on removing Gareth Bale and Andy Carroll from your fantasy football team in favour of Martin Petrov and Jermaine Beckford, now would be a good time to kill yourself.
As I sit in the airport waiting to fly to London, it occurs to me that this seems to have been the shortest period without football I can ever remember.
Granted it seemed a lot longer when you were a kid, dying to see your team for the first time in a new season, but with the World Cup, exciting signings and interesting pre-season happenings, it seems the summer break barely occurred. Which in our book, is a good thing.
Tomorrow’s festivities kick-off with a cracker. Spurs V Man City at White Hart Lane is the 12.45pm kick-off. Will City play one or five of their new gaggle of galacticos? Will both sides go for the jugular, aware that an early win against a big rival will do their squad the world of good. Will Spurs look tired as the same team without any new faces, or will they be able to play like a team unlike City’s superstars playing together for the first time.
Our money is on goals, and a potential thriller. City don’t look like they’ll be sitting back this season, with their new signings. Spurs play fast attacking football too and might fancy their chances of nicking it. We’ll go with a 2-2 draw.
Elsewhere this weekend all eyes will be on Anfield as a new-look Liverpool team take on Arsenal. Much has been made of Arsenal’s injury problems this week but expect a strong team with Fabregas involved at some point. However there is something slightly lacking with Arsenal, they still desperately need a new keeper, we’re gonna go with Liverpool to nick it 2-1.
Newcastle and West Brom get the ultimate reward for promotion, trips to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge respectively. Both will struggle to get points early with these clashes, with home wins in both. Manager-less Aston Villa take on West Ham with their new man in charge Avram Grant. How the past week has taken its toll on the players will be interesting to see.
Enjoy it folks, it’s back and it’s going to be closer to call than ever….
Has there ever been a summer with more transfer activity surrounding English players? For a team that did pretty poorly in the World Cup it would appear that the likes of Cole, Gerrard, Milner and co are still hot property.
However one man who didn’t make it to the World Cup is Scott Parker. Spurs have the right idea in bidding for one of the Premiership’s top midfielders in Parker. Outstanding for West Ham last year, Parker played like a man attempting to lift his team to a Premiership crown, rather than a man playing for a team on the slide in West Ham. That Fabio Capello thought he wasn’t worth a place in the squad is to the Italian’s detriment as Parker would surely have played with passion and intensity that was lacking elsewhere. Which is why Hammers fans will be thrilled to hear some pretty strong words coming from chairman David Sullivan when quizzed about Parker’s future.
On the club website, Sullivan said: “I made a promise that I would not sell Scott and I will not, for any amount of money, break that promise to the West Ham supporters. Scott is not for sale at any price, to anyone. West Ham supporters, for far too long, have had owners that sell their best players and promise one thing and do another. This is a new era. We are building a bigger, better West Ham and when we make a promise, we honour it.”
A statement added: “The club would like to state that regardless of the size of the bid, nothing will break the promise that chairman David Sullivan made to our supporters. As repeatedly stated, Scott Parker is not for sale and there are no circumstances and no amount of money that will cause us to break that pledge to the fans. The club informed Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy prior to him making the offer that we would not welcome any approach to unsettle the player. Scott Parker has three years left on his contract and the club has opened talks with his agent over a new five-year deal.”
Liverpool are also believed to be sniffing around Scott Parker if, as expected, Javier Mascherano leaves for pastures new and for a hefty fee. However the smart money has to be on Parker going nowhere as Sullivan would be made to look like a complete fool if the 29-year-old leaves now, although he would command a bigger fee now than he will in a years time.
The only question now is whether Parker’s interest in a move will come to the fore. Playing for Spurs would be an attractive proposition, particularly given the lure of Champions League football. Player power has never been more prevalent in the modern game, so watch this space.
Perhaps Spurs have been using their scouting department to look at videos such as this:
- Tottenham 1 (Bale) Arsenal 3 (Adebayor x2, Fabregas)
- Chelsea 0 Blackburn Rovers 0
- Birmingham 1 (Kapo) Bolton 0
- Wigan 1 (Koumas, pen) Fulham 1 (Dempsey)
- Portsmouth 0 Liverpool 0
- Everton 0 Manchester Utd 1 (Vidic)
- West Ham 3 (Bowyer, Young o.g., Ashton) Middlesbrough 0
- Sunderland 2 (Jones, Wallace) Reading 1 (Kitson)
- Playing Sunday, 18th: Man City Vs Aston Villa
- Playing Monday, 19th: Derby Vs Newcastle
So, new leaders (Arsenal), same old problems (Spurs) and winning games like potential champions (Man Utd). Throw in a poor performance from Liverpool, the goal that got away for Chelsea, Sunderland doing it for the old boy, West Ham playing like Brazil, Fulham and Wigan getting a draw as predicted by anyone who’s ever watched football and Birmingham taking another valuable three points, and it looks like the Premiership is back.
Unfortunately, Saturday kicked off with three entertaining games being played at overlapping times. Utd’s trip to Everton is rarely easy, sometimes comical (last season’s 4-2 win) and occasionally dull as a politician’s wife (see yesterday’s game). Utd toiled, Everton toiled and 0-0 looked about right until the game’s outstanding performer Nemanja Vidic powered what is fact becoming a signature bullet header into Everton’s rarely tested net. While the goal was seemingly harsh on Everton, Vidic has established himself as an absolutely vital part of Utd’s team. Everton may wish they had shown greater attacking threat and they could have been the happier of the teams, however Ferdinand and Vidic were in no mood to be bullied by Yakubu and Johnson.
Liverpool were desperately dissapointing in their stalemate at Fratton Park. Portsmouth occasionally played some outstanding football, creating excellent chances and having a penalty saved, Jose Reina diving to his right to keep out what Harry Redknapp later described as Kanu’s “crap” penalty. While the decision to award the spot-kick caused controversy, thefc100 stands by the decision. Arbeloa clearly uses his grip on Kanu to gain an advantage in getting to the cross, the fact that Kanu barely thought it was a penalty shows how far wrestling in the box goes unpunished these days. Liverpool didn’t conjure up enough, James had a quiet day in goal for the home side, and the midfield of Benayoun, Alonso, Sissoko and Pennant never sparkled.
Arsenal racked up another impressive win to keep confounding the critics, this time winning at Spurs, who continue to struggle against the top 4 sides. Spurs took the lead through Gareth Bale’s free-kick that will have had Lehman giggling at his deputy’s attempt to keep it out. Does Lehman giggle though? Or even laugh? Probably not. Probably goes hunting to express his amusement. Local sheep beware. Spurs had several excellent chances against a makeshift Arsenal back four. Berbatov’s one-on-one the pick of the bunch, rounding Almunia before attempting to round Kolo Toure. One too many attempts to round methinks. The kind of situation, according to RTE pundit Graeme Souness, that will have Martin Jol “tearing his hair out”. Really Graeme. Which hair is that then?
Goals from Adebayor (why Robinson went charging out to swipe at thin air we’ll never know), Fabregas (why Robinson went for it with his left paw we’ll never know) and an absolute beauty for Adebayor’s second (why Robinson bothered diving we’ll never know) ensured Arsenal fans went home absolutely delirious. Top of the league. Oh and Spurs are kicking their heels down by the relegation area.
Elsewhere, West Ham put on a great show for their fans. Lee Bowyer got to perform his ‘i’m the world’s biggest scumbag’ celebration for the second time in three weeks. Nice. Dean Ashton in silly blonde hair and shiny red boots prodded in the third. His first goal in nearly a year and a half. And it showed; celebration was a bit rusty. Birmingham beat Bolton 1-0 to leave the Trotters in the relegation area and looking in big trouble. Failure to pick up points is one thing, but against potential relegation rivals…..uh-oh. The only team Bolton have beaten this year is Reading who lost again, this time to Resevoir Dog wannabe Roy Keane’s Sunderland. Kenwyne Jones apparantly played a blinder on his debut. Gotta wonder how impressed Keane is by the man’s ‘cirque du soleil’ impression for a celebration. Man wasn’t built to do ridiculous flips through the air. Just ask Lua-Lua. So Sunderland are back on track. Fulham are not. Kinda. Despite dominating for periods against Wigan, a ridiculous challenge by Bouazza on Melchiot (ooh if I just knee him from behind chances are there won’t be a goalscoring opportunity. What? Penalty? Ah so that’s the downside…..) meant Wigan continue their decent start to the season.
European Previews will be up shortly. Peace.