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Football August


Football

The

Euros So in the end the Spanish decided to play a bit and turned up for the final. Their 6 midfielders destroyed the Italians, particularly Pirlo and dominated the game. Torres even came on in the final ten minutes scoring one, setting up another and winning the golden boot to really rub it in.

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Mesut Ozil

What Spain were playing at before the final against Italy was anyone’s guess and if some of the teams like France had shown a bit more heart then they would have had a much tougher time. The Portuguese at least showed some fight and very nearly kicked the Spanish holders out. Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream of glory with taking the final penalty and putting the Spanish out went pear shaped because the other Portuguese players were pretty useless before him. The strutting peacock looked stunned when he realised that as captain he should have stepped up to the mark way before the fifth, but that’s his ego for you and utterly crushed he was too. If Portugal had a decent striker they could have won by two or three. Christiano Ronaldo

Italy played pretty well and deservedly got to the final after beating England and the Germans. Both these teams didn’t pick up on Pirlo and both were punished. England hung in there until penalties but as we’ve lost 7 out of the last 8 penalty shootouts the inevitable happened. Putting Ashley Cole up to take one was very weird.

In the previous games England had played particularly well in their first two. Gerrard played well in the midfield role and sprayed balls around the park nicely and the players looked like a team. We played well against France and staged an excellent comeback against Sweden. Theo Walcott, Welbeck and Andy Carroll took the opportunity and played well. All was well until the return of Rooney who had missed the first two games due to his gross stupidity in getting sent off for kicking out when we were as good as qualified. Clearly unfit he should have been used as a sub at best but he played and the team ethic collapsed. The ‘star’ had returned, and any hope of winning the tournament or proceeding at least to the semi-finals was lost. The FA did exactly that by appointing Hodgson who will always be safe but will never have the tactical nous to take chances. Harry Redknapp could have made the difference but he was deemed unsuitable. Bit like Brian Clough really. The Germans must have been kicking themselves because they didn’t play to their strengths and gave the Italians far too much respect. Changing a winning team with Ozil marauding behind the striker to be played out wide and thus limiting his influence on the game must be seen as one of the monumental mistakes of all time. Not playing Reus and Muller also played straight into the Italians hands. I’m not sure how Joachim Loew remains in the job to be honest as that’s two tournaments wasted. Realising his mistake he

Football

changed formation back to his previously successful ones but by then it was too late, the Italians can always defend a 2 goal lead. Balotelli was class that night though so they were worthy winners over the Germans in the end.

So any others to mention? France made a massive blunder in not taking Sweden seriously and by doing so they ended up playing Spain and got promptly knocked out. If they’d shown some ambition against the World Champions they might have given Spain a scare but they were tepid and the Spanish did just enough. The Czech’s played well and the Greeks made it to the knock out stages after creating a shock of their own in beating the Russians. The real underachieving side of the tournament was without doubt Holland. Fancied at the start by some to win the trophy they ended up with nil points and plenty of red faces. So was it a good tournament? Yeah I’d say so. There were no boring games and one always got the feeling that any of the games could go either way. Apart from the Germans who played well up until their semi-final debacle there was some pretty entertaining stuff because none of the teams played out of their skins. To be honest a lot of the players looked tired and it wasn’t until the final that the Spanish played with any gusto, maybe they were on cruise control before then and were playing to just do enough. Dangerous tactics though but it worked. In the end the cream raised to the top and Spain won the final with ease. Class shows in the end and they were worthy winners.

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Overview of the 2012/13

Premiership Campaign Arsenal With speculation rife that Robin Van Persie will leave the club this summer, due to one more year on his contract, Arsenal have at least prepared for his departure. Buying German/Polish Lucas Podolski and Olivier Giroud from Montpellier is a smart move by Wenger and makes sure that the Van Persie ‘will he won’t he’ speculation will undermine the club. In previous years speculation about Fabregas has unnerved Arsenal and ensured a slow start to the season, Podolski and Giroud are classy players who if they slot in quickly will greatly enhance Arsenal as they have become too reliant on Van Persie. If Van Persie decides to see out his contract and leave for free in the summer then Arsenal would have a potent attacking force and would again challenge for the League this season.

Lucas Podolski

With Walcott, Wilshire, Oxlade Chamberlain and Arteta, Arsenal have a very strong attacking unit. Even their defence and their goalkeeper show promise of being defensively sound, something you 10

couldn’t say about Arsenal for at least 5 years. Ending up third last season they may go one better for this one.

Aston Villa

Paul Lambert

All change at the Villa this season and it can only be for the better. The dour ‘defence is all’ Scotsman Alex Mcleish has been sacked and not before time and thankfully been replaced by Norwich manager Paul Lambert. Lambert plays far nicer attacking football which Aston Villa have long been associated with. Mcleish ruined much of the season for any supporter due to the dullness of his tactics, Lambert should bring far more out of the likes of Ireland, Nzogbia, Agbonlahor and Bent. Lambert has already strengthened by bringing in Brett Holman and El Ahmadi in midfield and Matt Lowton in defence. They only just survived last season, mainly due to the lack of ambition that Mcleish put in the players. I think this season though they should be safe in the mid table zone.

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Chelsea The king is dead, long live the king. Didier Drogba has gone and no replacement has been bought. Not that anyone could replace Drogba anyway, as he was pure class. Torres has begun to show glimpses of his former greatness and was pretty good in the Euros so now that he’s chief striker he may start to pay off that 50 million. Roberto di Matteo has been installed as manager after the heroics of the Champions league run last season. Largely untried Roberto nonetheless brought the trophy to Abramovich while other ‘bigger’ managers like Mourinho, Ancelotti and Scolari all failed. Didier Drogba

Being a manager at Chelsea though is anything but secure so they’ll have to get off to a good start and stay there, otherwise speculation will begin again. Terry and Lampard are another year older and Boswinga and Kalou have gone as well. They have spent 32 mil on Eden Hazard from Lille who will bolster the


I expect them to challenge for a top 4 finish once again.

Everton

David Moyes

Another season of over achievement beckons due to the work of David Moyes. Without Moyes Everton would have been long relegated and if they had the right investment, Everton could challenge consistently for Europe at least. Bringing in Steve Naismith from the disaster that was Rangers (and is now THE Rangers football club) is a good move and with Felliani, Cahill,. Drenthe and Jack Rodwell they at least have a good midfield. Baines, Neville and Jagielka show some class in defence and they have the tricky Jelavic upfront who can score a few goals. I expect a top 8 finish once more.

Fulham Martin Jol did pretty well last season and turned Fulham into a decent side. But with the departures of Danny Murphy and Andrew Johnson they may just struggle. Fulham have brought in Mladen Petric in attack and Sascha Riether to bolster the defence. There is also speculation over Clint Dempsey who hardly sets the world on fire and I have a feeling Fulham will struggle this season and just about avoid relegation.

Liverpool Liverpool were wise to sack King Kenny because let’s face it, he didn’t live up to the promise of that second half of his first season which hinted

at great things. The free flowing attacking interchangeable football between midfield and attack was replaced with lump the football at Andy Carroll. Liverpool despite 2 cup finals were pretty tepid in the main. I know this sounds like a contradiction in terms, but good football it was not and they were found out in the higher levels, only sneaking past the mighty Cardiff on penalties in the Carling Cup, and being 2-0 down before playing the best system with Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.

to deceive and all need to step out or be shipped out. Upfront is Suarez and Carroll who also need to play better, perhaps Rodgers can bring the best out of them. By buying striker Fabio Borini from Roma he obviously wants a stronger front line and as he only likes to play with one upfront then while I can see Suarez playing in an extended midfield, I’m not sure how Carroll fits in.

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midfield and with the likes of Mata, Lampard, Ramires, Essien, and Merieles they are a very strong unit.

Liverpool still need at least 3 quality players to challenge for a top 4 place. If Rodgers can get them and work wonders on the training ground then this season they may at least challenge for 5th place and Europe. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Manchester City

Brendan Rodgers

So the bright new dawn brings Brendan Rodgers from Swansea, who got them playing good football in a Barcelona type style. If he can get the underachievers at Liverpool to start playing similarly then you can say job done. Cole and Aquilani return from ridiculous loan seasons where other clubs paid part of the wages and how they could have used those players at the end of the season when injuries and the like resorted to playing some pretty useless stuff when quality was needed the most. Bizarrely Andy Carroll is now being linked with a loan move so the higher echelons of the Liverpool hierarchy obviously do not learn. Liverpool’s defence is pretty solid with Reina (still prone to a few errors thought), Johnson who impressed at the Euros, Agger likewise and Skrtel in defence. Jose Enrique needs to either improve or be replaced and as long as Carragher gets nowhere near the defence they will remain strong here. The problem for Liverpool is going forward, old stalwart Dirk Kuyt has gone to Fenerbache and Maxi has gone back to Argentina leaving few quality players like Gerrard and Lucas. The rest of the midfield flatter

So ‘Citeh’ won in the last minute of injury time in the last game of the season. This is what dreams are made of. So can they repeat the experience and continue to challenge for the title? There is every reason to see that if anything they are stronger than last season. The players will have an extra years experience and as a whole are still young. This summer they have lost Owen Hargreaves who played one game and Wayne Bridge whose backside must now be firmly made of bench splinters. No loss at all then. With Joe Hart imperious in goal, Kompany, Lescott, Toure, Nasri, Barry, Silva, Aguero and Balotelli all in the side then they have class in every area. That Tevez has decided to behave and play, can only strengthen their season. On top of this they will undoubtedly bring a couple of world class players in which does not bode well for the rest of the league. Will definitely challenge for the title.

Manchester United Dads army… sorry Manchester United still rely on the old guard. If the Glazer’s hadn’t taken up to 450

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million out of the club then I am sure that Sir Alex would no longer have to play the likes of Giggs and Scholes but if you sell your soul to the Devil and allow them to get away with it then you get what you deserve, just look at Liverpool now recovering after the tenure of the Carpetbaggers Hicks and Gillette, old players and current players made no sound of discontent at their daylight robbery leaving it to Rafa Benitez who promptly got sacked for his temerity. The Korean, Park Ji-Sung has been sold and replaced by Japanese Shinji Kagawa, thus maintaining the Asian market share. The 18 yr old prodigy Paul Pogba leaves for Juventus and Fabio loaned to QPR. This leaves Evra (31 yrs), Ferdinand (34 yrs), Vidic (31 yrs) Giggs (39 yrs), Scholes (38 yrs), Carrick (31 yrs) along with non starter Berbatov is 31 yrs as well. As age sets in injuries get longer and due to tiredness they can no longer last all the game. Nani

Only Nani, Rooney and Welbeck stand out as having sufficient class and without huge investment, Manchester United will struggle for the title this season. They’ll still be in the running for top four though.

Newcastle United So can Alan Pardew repeat the heroics of last season and challenge for a top four place? Will he be able to keep his top players with speculation about Cabaye, Ba and Coloccini in the tabloids? Newcastle have already brought in two unknowns from the Congo and France and if they’re anything like the other unknowns who arrived last season then they can only enforce the team. If they can keep most of the team then there’s every chance 12

that they can challenge for fourth again.

Norwich City Chris Hughton

so at least they want to fight for their place in the premiership and with Steven Davis the ex Rangers captain they’ve strengthened their midfield considerably. They also played some half decent football in the Championship last season so if they play that way then they have every chance of staying in the premiership.

Stoke City Manager Chris Hughton has taken over from Paul Lambert in the merry go round of management and this should not overly affect the team as both like to play good football. The problem is that the teams around them are strengthening and they’ll also need a few additions to aim for where they were placed last season in 12th.

Queens Park Rangers Mark Hughes has been busy in the closed season with the arrival of midfielder Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United, goalkeeper Rob Green from West Ham, Striker Andrew Johnson from Fulham and Fabio on loan from Man Utd. With the likes of Barton, Wright Phillips, Cisse and Zamora already at the club then these new additions should make them fairly safe from relegation. Mid table beckons.

Reading Newly promoted Reading will be favourites to go straight down again. Though they’ve added ex player Nicky Shorey and Danny Guthrie from Newcastle they’re still relatively inexperienced at this level and I expect them to get relegated despite the efforts of their manager Brian McDermott.

Strong and effective, Stoke used to be known to bully the opposition but they’ve started to play some good stuff nowadays. Stoke have a strong squad with the likes of Crouch, Walters, Pennant and Palacios and they should score enough goals to challenge for a top ten place. In defence Huth, Shawcross and their excellent goalkeeper Sorenson will limit the amount of goals scored.

Sunderland Sunderland are Martin O’Neill and with him at the helm they will challenge for European qualification. Canny buys of older experienced players such as Wes Brown, John O’shea and new buy Carlos Cuellar mixed with the likes of Nicklas Bendtner, Sebasatian Larsson (the Swede who scored twice against England in the Euros) and Stephane Sessegnon means a strong squad which will always give the opposition a problem. With O’Neills motivational skills as well they should do well this season and end up in the top ten.

Swansea City Michael Laudrup

Southampton Newly promoted and they’ll be already preparing for a relegation battle. They’ve spent 6 million on Burnley’s striker Jay Rodriguez

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With newly appointed Michael Laudrup in command Swansea should more or less settle for league safety. Laudrup made his mark


Tottenham Hotspur So after all Harry Redknapp’s flirting with the England job, the England girl goes off with someone else and Harry gets dumped for cheating. Harry has to accept that his flirtations made sure that Tottenham’s form dropped dramatically as the players were worried that he was leaving and only recovered once Hodgson had been appointed to the England post. Achieving fourth place should have been enough to secure his job though and they were a little unlucky to miss out on the Champions League due to Chelsea snatching their place off them by winning in the CL final. Owner Daniel Levy has taken a massive chance in sacking a man who took a team who had ‘achieved’ one point in 10 games to European qualification in a season. Whether Redknapp got too big for his boots or there were secret fears for his health after his heart scare remains to be seen. Levy has had previous in doing this after sacking Martin Jol who had got them playing good football, and replacing him with Juande Ramos who failed so badly. Redknapp saved the day that season but he’s now gone. So Andre Villas Boas (who was sacked in March from Chelsea) gets another chance at the premiership. Corluka and Kranjcar leave for pastures new but coming into the club are Emmanuel Adebayor, Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson that can only strengthen. With the likes of Bale, Defoe, Van der Vaart and Parker then Tottenham will challenge for a top four place. If

they manage to keep Modric (which I doubt once Real Madrid come calling) then they could get an even higher position than 4th.

Carlton Cole

West Bromwich Albion Roy Hodgson manages smaller clubs very well (it’s just at big clubs that he’s out of his depth) and he got West Brom playing pretty good stuff at times. He’s gone to the England job now (god helps us) and so a novice manager in the shape of Steve Clarke fresh over from the Liverpool coaching staff, has taken the reigns. Steve Clarke

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at Getafe and likes to play good football and he’s already brought in defender Jose Manuel Flores and midfielder Jonathan de Guzman from the Spanish league. With the past team built by Brendan Rodgers Laudrup shouldn’t have to change that much and I have a feeling that they could produce quite a few shocks and end up in the top half of the table.

Cole and Nolan can provide a lot of goals and they’ve brought in Jussi Jaaskelainen from relegated Bolton as their new goalkeeper. Diame (from Wigan) strengthens their midfield as George McCartney buffers the defence. West Ham have enough quality to be pretty safe from relegation.

Wigan Athletic

Steve Clarke worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, with Gianfranco Zola at West Ham and Dalglish at Liverpool. It’s now his time to step up to the mark and show that he has learnt from these managers and that he can hold his own. Goalkeeper, Ben Foster arrives from Birmingham as does midfielder Yassine El Ghanassy on loan from Genk. Add those two to the likes of Odemwingie and Shane Long then they have every chance to fight off relegation.

West Ham United

A strange team is Wigan. They looked doomed in January last year as they were marooned in the relegation zone and then suddenly they start to apply themselves and go on a winning run that keeps them safe and turns the manager Roberto Martinez from chump to champ. In that run they beat Arsenal, Newcastle, Manchester United and Liverpool so they’ve obviously got a fairly decent squad and if they could do this for the rest of the season they could easily end up in the top half of the table. Whether they do so is another matter and more likely is they’ll repeat the same process and be in the mix for relegation once more. If they keep hold of their current players (they’ve already lost Diame to West Ham) and they buy a better striker then they have a chance.

So the favourites for promotion from the championship got there in the end…just. Last season was expected to be a stroll for the Hammers but in the end it came down to the playoffs. Sam Allardyce played effective football but it can hardly be said that the fans took him to their hearts. If they start badly this season, the mumblings will begin again.

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Charity 12th August 2012 Roberto di Matteo

Shield Chelsea v Man City

This clash between the Champions League winners and Premier League winners should be a pretty tasty affair and a great opening to the new Premiership season.

Roberto Mancini

With Roberto di Matteo installed as new Chelsea manager after his achievement in winning the champions league, his opposite number Mancini will want to show that his team is best. Chelsea without Didier Drogba though will be weaker unless they spend big. So with Man City wanting to prove something, I can see them really going for a win here. I predict 1-0 to City.

England International Wednesday August 15th

Italy v England So the Charity Shield has come and gone which heralds the start of the premiership season, except for some reason this year, the FA in their infinite wisdom has decided to play a friendly with Italy in between. Brilliant. Watch all the supposed injuries come flooding in from the big clubs as they will want to miss this one. They’ll all somehow recover for the Saturday but if the FA treat the clubs with contempt they’re not going to receive much respect back in turn. As for the game this is an early opportunity to regain some revenge on Italy who kicked us out of the Euro’s. The Italian season starts later so their players may be rustier and not match fit. The result will depend on which English players turn up for the game. If it’s a strong line up, England might even win. With no clear winner decided though, I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.

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p i h s r e i m Pre . . . s n o i t c i Pred t 18th s u g u A y a Saturd Arsenal v Sunderland

The first home game for Arsenal and Sunderland will certainly be up for it. This will be a close affair but I still see an Arsenal win. 1-0 to Arsenal.

Fulham v Norwich City

With a new manager at Norwich, the players may want to impress quickly. Fulham have weakened over the summer but they’re still quite strong at home. So I’ll go for a draw here. 1-1.

Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur

An excellent game for the first day of the season and this could be an absolute corker as Newcastle will want to impress in front of their fans against a newly managed Spurs side. Goals and chances aplenty I’ll go for a high scoring draw. 2-2.

Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City

QPR are stronger this season and they need to be as they only just escaped relegation last time. If Swansea continue to play like they did under Brendan Rodgers then they will give many teams plenty of problems. Still see QPR edge this one though. 1-0 to QPR.

Reading v Stoke City

At the start of any season, newly promoted teams have no fear. They play with belief that they are as good as anyone in the league. And at this stage they are. I see a draw here as Stoke are hard to beat. 1-1.

West Bromwich Albion v Liverpool

Ex Liverpool coach Steve Clarke’s West Brom against the new Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers will be a very interesting game for all the right reasons. It’ll be the first chance to see if Rodgers ‘tic tac’ football has changed Liverpool’s underachievers into football maestros. This will probably take time but despite this they may just sneak it. 1-2 to Liverpool.

West Ham United v Aston Villa

Both sides should go for a win here, Villa should be a far more attacking side now that the dull dour McCleish has been sacked. This could be a very entertaining affair and I’ll go for a West Ham win. 2 -1.

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Wigan v Chelsea

Roberto Martinez’s Wigan will start the season with the hope that they can continue their good form from the last. This is the post Drogba era and we’ll soon see if Torres starts to pay back the 50 mil investment in him. This will be the first time we see Eden Hazard in Chelsea colours and how he fits into their midfield. Going for a surprise draw here 1-1.

Man City v Southampton

The Champions will want to show that they mean to keep their title and I see Southampton being on the receiving end. City to win 2-0.

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Sunday August 19th

0th 2 t s u g u A y a d n o M Everton v Man Utd

Everton are always up for the visit of Manchester United and there will be more edge to this as the draw against Everton where United gave away 2 goals in the last ten minutes was arguably where United lost the title. Everton are strong but they always start the season slowly so I’m going for a United win 1-0.

Saturday

August 2 5th

Swansea v West Ham

Early start for both teams and Swansea will fancy this. 1-0 to Swansea.

Aston Villa v Everton

Both teams may cancel each other out and so I see a draw. 0-0.

Chelsea v Newcastle United

Top game and the first home game for Chelsea. Newcastle will have no fear though which will provide top entertainment. Still see Chelsea edging this 3-2.

Manchester United v Fulham

Fulham were awful on their travels last season and unless they’ve had a personality change this will continue here. United to win 2-0.

Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers

Norwich at home were hard to beat and I see QPR getting nothing here. Close affair though 1-0 to Norwich.

Southampton v Wigan Athletic

A long journey down to the south coast might just enable Southampton to get a draw here. 1-1.

Sunderland v Reading

Sunderland are strong at home and I can’t see Reading getting anything from this. 2-0 to Sunderland.

Sunday August 26th Stoke v Arsenal

A notorious game for the last few seasons with Arsenal moaning that it’s not fair that Stoke don’t just lie down and allow them to pass the ball into the net. Stoke always fight and with the tackles flying in Arsenal will get similar treatment as usual. With Podolski and Giroud upfront though they should just have enough to edge Stoke 0-1.

Liverpool v Man City

Liverpool’s first home game at ‘fortress Anfield’. The problem is that for the last 3 seasons it’s been anything but a fortress. Way too many points dropped last season, the first thing Rodgers needs to do is rebuild the fortifications. Liverpool’s record against the top four was good last season and I can see the players being up for this game as well as the new Champions arrive. A draw 1-1.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion

Spurs at home against a West Brom side who are pretty poor away from home. 2-0 to Spurs.

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Football August