Monday, 27 August 2012

The future's bright: Why the youth at Liverpool is key to their success

Despite only managing a draw against Manchester City yesterday, Liverpool fans can still take a lot away from the game. Losing 3-0 away on the opening day of the season, things hadn't gone to plan for Brendan Rogers and as per, immediate pressure was heaped upon him. Rogers appointment brought a young fresh approach to the club, which was immediately shown in his line up yesterdays afternoon.

With the average age of the team under 25, it was the youngest fielded line up the club had fielded since 2003. In his line up, saw the selection of 17 year old Raheem Sterling. Despite being so young, the winger had a fine game and proved the justification for his selection. Sterling had figured last week in the club's Europa League game at Hearts where again, he showed his excellent talent. Sterling's selection meant that fellow wide man and England international Stewart Downing, was left sat on the bench. The former Middlesbrough man was at the heart of much criticism last season having failed to register a single goal or assist for Liverpool in the Premier League. Having witnessed Sterling's admirable display yesterday, Downing will have to expect to be sitting on the bench more regularly, especially with the way Rogers now has them playing.

Alongside Downing sat Jordan Henderson, who also had to settle for a seat on the bench. Much like Downing, Henderson also received a lot of criticism last season having cost the Merseyside club £16million. Henderson was a key figure in his former club Sunderland's side, but the step up to Liverpool for Henderson was a difficult one and was not helped with such a big fee paid for him. Performances last year under Dalglish were below par and a call up to the England squad for the Euro's last summer sparked much controversy. In his place though yesterday was Joe Allen. Having only played one season for Swansea in the top division, Allen was brought in by Rogers. At £15million, you may say that Liverpool have once again paid over the odds for a young midfield player. However in his first two games Allen has shown why he will be a valuable asset to them this year. In yesterdays game against Manchester City, Allen completed 93.5 per cent of his passes. At just 22, Allen could well be one of the signings of the season, especially if he has a similar season to the one he had with Swansea. But just like Downing, if Allen continues the way he's started, Jordan Henderson will be twiddling his thumbs on the Liverpool bench.

At the back, Sebastian Coates, the Uruguayan centre back, was used to partner Martin Skrtel ahead of club legend Jamie Carragher. Coates was brought in by Dalglish last season, and only featured ten times last season at the back. With Daniel Agger out through suspension, Coates was given his first start of the season yesterday and would have been happy with his performance against Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli. The 21 year old may be used more as a back up this year but certainly has a long future at Anfield and definitely under Brendan Rogers.

The three above weren't the only youngsters to feature in yesterdays game. Apart from Steven Gerrard, the remaining members of the team were all aged under 30. Rogers is keen to take on the youngsters at the club and give them a chance. Jonjo Shelvey was brought on the injured Lucas yesterday, ahead of Jordan Henderson, and Charlie Adam, who didn't even make the bench. Shelvey is only 20, but his display yesterday showed maturity and a willing to do well in the team. Martin Kelly has become a regular feature into the team and his call up to the England squad in the summer showed the progress the young right back has made whilst at Liverpool. Nuri Sahin has recently been brought in on loan from Real Madrid, and the 23 year old will add an exciting talent to the squad. Rogers took a wealth of youngsters to the club's pre season tour, with Adam Morgan, Suso Fernandez and Connor Coady making the trip and have all progressed through Melwood.

So Liverpool fans can expect to see more of Sterling and co this year. Yesterdays performance will give fans some hope that the team can improve on last season's poor efforts. Rogers is keen to bring youth to the team and after yesterdays performance there is a lot of encouragement to take into the season.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Capital One Cup: Second Round Draw

As the football season begins to get into full swing, eyes drew to the second round of the Capital One Cup. The first round games threw up some cracking games and some excellent entertainment. Seven Championship teams fell at the first hurdle with last years runners up Cardiff losing to League Two side Northampton Town the shock of the round. Derby were involved in a ten goal thriller at Pride Park which ended 5-5 after extra time. Their opponents Scunthorpe came out the eventual winners 7-6 on penalties and will face Norwich in the second round.

Other Championship casualties included Brighton, who were well beaten 3-0 by Paolo Di Canio's Swindon Town. Paul Benson struck early on in the second half for the Robins, and an Alan Navarro brace soon after booked them a second round tie against Premier League side Stoke City. Bristol City also crashed out losing 2-1 to League Two side Gillingham Town at Ashton Gate. 

Relegated side Wolverhampton Wanderers needed a penalty shoot out to get past Aldershot Town at Molineux. Michel Rankine had cancelled out a Sylvain Ebanks Blake goal in the second half and after the first 13 penalty kicks had been successful, Wolves keeper Carl Ikeme kept out Jordan Robert's penalty to give the Championship side a second round tie away at Northampton Town.

All Premier League sides come into the second round bar the clubs competing in Europe meaning there are 13 top flight clubs playing for a third round tie. Everton are involved in one of the stand out games playing at home to League One side Leyton Orient. Morecambe's reward for dumping Blackpool out of the cup, is a trip to the North East where they will play Sunderland. 

Both Wigan and Fulham will have to play to their best if they are progress as they both travel to a Championship club. Having been dumped out of FA Cup by Swindon last season, Wigan face a tough task in playing Nottingham Forest. Fulham face newly promoted Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. 

All ties will commence the week beginning the 27th August 2012

Second Round Fixtures: 

Aston Villa v Tranmere Rovers
Burnley v Plymouth
Carlisle v Ipswich Town
Coventry v Birmingham City
Crawley v Bolton
Doncaster v Hull City
Gillingham v Middlesbrough
Leeds United v Oxford United
Leicester City v Burton Albion
MK Dons v Blackburn Rovers
Norwich v Scunthorpe
Notts Forest v Wigan Athletic
Preston v Crystal Palace
QPR v Walsall
Sheff Wed v Fulham
Stevenage v Southampton
Stoke City v Swindon Town
Sunderland v Morecambe
Swansea v Barnsley
Watford v Bradford
West Ham v Crewe Alex
Yeovil v West Brom
Reading v Peterborough
Everton v Leyton Orient
Northampton v Wolves

Friday, 17 August 2012

2012/13 Championship: Season Preview

With eyes firmly fixed on the Premier League beginning this weekend, we turn to the Football League and the Championship. All 72 teams begin their seasons this weekend and will all be aiming for a good start. Cardiff and Huddersfield kicked off the season on Friday night where the Bluebirds clinched a late goal to claim their first three points.

Hector Rodas Martin Petrov (R) of Bolton is put under pressure by Hector Rodas of Levante during the pre season friendly match between Bolton Wanderers and Levante at the Reebok Stadium on August 05, 2011 in Bolton, England.
We begin with the three relegated clubs from the Premier League. All of them will be big  favourites to make an instant return. Bolton Wanderers failed to stay up last season, failing to get a needed win against Stoke on the final game of the year. Owen Coyle's men look big favourites to go up having kept the likes of David N'gog and Martin Petrov in their ranks. The signings of Matt Mills and Keith Andrews will add further strength to the squad. Blackburn and Wolves will also look to make an immediate return, with Rovers boss Steve Kean adding Danny Murphy, Nuno Gomes and Leon Best to his squad. Since finishing bottom of the Premier League, Wolves brought in new boss Stale Solbakken who will look to regain the players confidence for the new season. Newly promoted Huddersfield Town made the jump via last seasons play off's having beaten Sheffield United in a close penalty shoot out at Wembley. Striker Jordan Rhodes looks set to remain with the Terriers and after scoring 40 goals last season, his goals will be important if they are to remain in the Championship. Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday join Huddersfield in the Championship having gained automatic promotion from League One last year. Wednesday boss Dave Jones had brought in a wealth of players including injury plagued keeper Chris Kirkland from Wigan, and defender Anthony Gardner who made the move from Crystal Palace. 

The chase for the play off's will be hotly contested this season with a number of clubs eager for one of the four places up for grabs. Cardiff City will be amongst the positions as will the likes of Leicester City and Leeds United. Nottingham Forest have been recently taken over by new investors and immediately brought in a new boss and new players. Defenders Greg Halford and Danny Collins made the move and were joined by West Brom striker Simon Cox who will add to their strikeforce, who last season struggled to find the net. New boss Sean O'Driscoll will be eager to get off to a good start as they begin their campaign against Bristol City. Watford are another side who have new owners as they were taken over by Italian Giampaolo Pozzo. He immediately brought in new manager Gianfranco Zola, who has since brought in a number of players including former Arsenal keeper Manuel Almunia.

Down at the bottom of the division, the relegation battle with be contested by a number of clubs. Bristol City and Barnsley escaped last season and will once again become favourites to go down. The newly promoted sides will also find themselves down at the bottom, if they don't get a good start to their campaign, As mentioned, Jordan Rhodes will be critical to Huddersfield if they are to stay up and with Charlton, striker Bradley Wright-Phillips will also need to be hitting the net regularly if the Addicks are to remain a Championship side. Having finished in a very respectable 18th place last season, Peterborough United will want to improve their position this season. The Posh were relegated straight away the last time they achieved promotion, but boss Darren Ferguson brought in experience and quality to his squad meaning they comfortably stayed up second time around. Despite being placed on the transfer list, key players Paul Taylor and George Boyd will begin the season as Posh players, and alongside experienced midfield man Grant McCann, Posh will continue to be difficult opponents, especially at home.

2012/13: League One & Two season previews

League One was won by Charlton Athletic last season by a massive 8 points. They achieved automatic promotion along with Sheffield Wednesday who pipped rivals Sheffield United to second place. United had go through the play offs where they were cruelly beaten on penalties to Huddersfield in the final. Along with Sheffield United, Stevenage and MK Dons were the unfortunate teams to fall short in the play offs and remained in League One. MK Dons will once again be favourites for a top six finish having finished there in the past two seasons. Relegated from the Championship were Coventry, Doncaster and Portsmouth, who will start the season with minus ten points having entered administration.

Pompey have had to clear out their squad to remain in existence and the deduction at the beginning of the season makes them strong favourites to drop another division once again. Manager Michael Appleton has done a sterling job and through fielding youth team players, he has managed to put some sort of squad together for their pre-season.

Coventry will be favourites for a return to the second tier of English football, and will be joined by Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon Town who won League Two last year. The Italian has a squad filled with quality with the likes of Matt Ritchie and Paul Caddis who have remained with the club over the transfer period.  Along with Swindon, Shrewsbury and Crawley Town were the other two sides to achieve automatic promotion. Crewe were the fourth and final team to achieve promotion via the play offs. They went 19 games unbeaten to reach the play offs, and with the summer signing of creative midfielder Abdul Osman, they will be looking for a good finish in the league.

The relegation battle last season saw Leyton Orient narrowly escape along with Walsall who finished 20th and 19th respectively. These sides will want to get off to a good start to the season to avoid another battle at the bottom. Yeovil Town are another team who will be favourites to take the drop, but will go into this season playing their eighth successive campaign in the third tier of football.

Moving onto League Two, we welcome Fleetwood Town and York City, who achieved promotion from the Blue Square Premier League last season.  Despite it being their debut season in the Football League Fleetwood lead the way along with Southend and Cheltenham for automatic promotion. Bradford City are another side who may fancy their chances, but will need to get off to a great start if they are to be challenging anywhere near the top of the division. Manager Phil Parkinson has brought in a number of players including Gary Jones from Rochdale signalling that his side mean business this year. Don’t rule out the relegated sides from League One, as they will be desperate to make an immediate return. Wycombe, Rochdale, Chesterfield and Exeter City all struggled in League One last year and their poor form resulted in relegation. It has been a summer of change at Rochdale with John Coleman newly appointed as manager. He has made wholesale changes to the team and will want an instant return back to League One.

Oxford United fell away near the end of last season and missed out on a play off place. The team suffered with some rotten injury luck last season, with the club investing £150,000 in a new fitness and sports science department. Manager Chris Wilder has added some new faces to the squad and fans will want at least a play-off place by the end of the season. The battle for the drop was hotly contested last season and saw Hereford Town and Macclesfield Town take the tumble out of the Football League. Barnet, Northampton Town and Plymouth were all amongst the teams that were lucky enough to keep their status. Once again, these teams will be amongst the favourites to fight out the relegation spots again. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

2012/13 Premier League: Preview Part 2

As promised we look at the second half of teams in the Premier League and look at their chances this year as well as the transfer activity they have been involved in.

Queens Park Rangers: 
After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, Rangers have been one of the busiest clubs in the transfer market. Manager Mark Hughes has brought in a number of players which include South Korean Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United and Junior Hoilett who made the move from Blackburn Rovers. Pre season has been very productive for the London side who have gone through unbeaten winning four and drawing two in their six games. With a squad full of Premier League experience, Rangers will want a higher finish in the league this season and want to establish themselves as a Premier League club.
Prediction: 19th
Reading return to the Premier League after a four year absence from the top flight. They achieved automatic promotion last season finishing top of the Championship ahead of Southampton. Boss Brian McDermott has worked wonders at the Berkshire club and has significantly strengthened the squad during the summer transfer window. Chris Gunter has made the move from Nottingham Forest and is joined by forward Pavel Pogrebynak who chose Reading ahead of Fulham who he spent the second half of last season at. Left back Ian Harte is a set piece specialist and has gathered a number of goals and assists since he joined the Royals back in 2010. Strikers Jason Roberts and Adam Le Fondre scored a number of critical goals last year and they will be key if they are to remain in the top flight. 
Prediction: 16th
The Saints joined Norwich last season in achieving two successive promotions in two seasons. Having looked the favourites to win the league, the Saints were pipped to the title by Reading who they will join in the Premier League this season. Southampton open their campaign away at Manchester City, and will follow up with a trip to Arsenal and a home game against Manchester United. Manager Nigel Adkins paid £7million for Burnley striker Jay Rodriguez who scored 15 league goals for his former side last season. He joins a strong Saints front line with main man Rickie Lambert and fellow forward Billy Sharp expected to score the goals that will keep them in the league. 
Prediction: 20th
Stoke City:
Stoke had a busy season last year competing in four competitions and collecting plenty of air miles. Having finished runners up in the 2010/11 FA Cup, they achieved a place in the Europa League. The Potters made it comfortably past the group stages but their journey came to an end having lost to Valencia 2-0 on aggregate in the round of 32. Tony Pulis's men only managed four wins in the second half of the season meaning they finished in 14th place. The signing of Peter Crouch at the start of the season was a great acquisition by Pulis, and the frontman rewarded his manager by scoring one of the goals of the season against Manchester City. So far Pulis has only brought in three players in the window, Michael Kightly made the move from Wolves, and is joined by defender Geoff Cameron and midfielder Jamie Ness from Rangers. 
Prediction: 9th
Martin O'Neill brought in a breath of fresh air for Sunderland last season replacing former boss Steve Bruce. Bruce was sacked midway through last year having only won two games in 13. The Black Cats finished in 13th place last season, and fans will want a significant improvement this year. The development of James McLean was something positive to take from last year, with the winger making the Republic of Ireland squad at the end of the season for Euro 2012. Sunderland only mastered 45 goals last season with Nicklas Bendtner their top goal scorer with only eight league goals to his name. If they are to improve on this total this season then O'Neill will need to bring in a centre forward to give them a greater threat upfront. 
Prediction: 11th
Swansea City:
Brendan Rogers took Swansea to an impressive 11th place finish last season and excellent performances throughout the year, saw him snapped up by Liverpool. His 'Tiki Taka' style of play saw Swansea beat Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal at home and eliminated any thoughts that his team would be favourites to be relegated. The loan signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson was a masterstroke by Rogers as the Icelandic starred in many games scoring important goals. Striker Danny Graham scored 12 league goals and with Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer aiding him out wide, Graham will want to better his tally this season. With Rogers off to Liverpool, former Juventus man Michael Laudrup took the reigns at the club and has so far brought in Spanish defender Chico and Spanish striker Michu from Rayo Vallecano during the window.
Prediction: 13th
Tottenham Hotspur:
Tottenham ended last season in fourth place having been title contenders mid way through the season. Due to Chelsea's Champions League final win, Spurs will be playing Europa League football though this year and not in the Champions League. Harry Redknapp was sacked at the end of the season and was replaced by Portuguese man Andre Villas Boas. Striker Emmanuel Adebayor was the top goal scorer for Spurs last season and scored 17 league goals in his loan spell. The Togo man has since gone back to parent club Man City and a deal to keep him at White Hart Lane has yet to be agreed. AVB has so far only brought in two players during the window, snapping up midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, and defender Jan Vertonghen who signed from Ajax. 
Prediction: 6th
West Bromwich Albion:
Roy Hodgson's decision to become England manager has meant that WBA will start 2012/13 with Steve Clarke at the helm. Clarke spent the last season and a half as the number two to Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool, and was also Jose Mourinho's number two when the 'special one' was manager at Chelsea. Clarke's first competitive game as West Brom manager will be against former team Liverpool as they face each other at The Hawthorns on the opening day of the season. On loan last season, keeper Ben Foster signed permanently for the Baggies from Midland rivals Birmingham City. Swedish frontman Markus Rosenberg has also been brought in from Werder Bremen and will offer a further attacking threat alongside Shane Long and Peter Odemwinge.
Prediction: 17th
West Ham United:
West Ham made an immediate return to the Premier League coming up through the play-offs. Sam Alladyce's men looked likely to achieve automatic promotion but poor performances in vital games meant they needed to go through the play-offs to get promoted. Alladyce has been busy in the transfer window so far bringing in eight players including goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen and former Wigan man Mohamed Diame both on free transfers. West Ham will be looking to get off to a good start as they face Swansea, Aston Villa and Fulham in their first three games. Led by Kevin Nolan, goals shouldn't be a problem with Ricardo Vaz Te, Nicky Maynard and Carlton Cole all available to play up front. The experience of Matty Taylor and Mark Noble in midfield will help the younger players in the squad and guide the team through the season.
Prediction: 12th
Wigan Athletic:
Wigan made yet another remarkable escape last season avoiding relegation and finishing in 15th place above Aston Villa and QPR. This season will be their eighth successive season in the Premier League and will be manager Roberto Martinez's fourth in charge of the Lactics. The Spaniard turned down the chance to manager both Liverpool and Aston Villa to remain with Wigan. Martinez has been relatively quiet in the transfer market so far only bringing in just the two players. Fraser Fyvie has joined the club from Aberdeen and is joined by defender Ivan Ramis who decided to join Wigan when it looked like he was going to fellow Premier League side West Ham. 
Prediction: 18th

2012/13 Premier League: Star Games Part 2

As promised here is the second half of the stand out games for the up and coming season. Enjoy!

28/10/12: Chelsea v Man United

Brief Info: A stunning comeback from United last season saw one of the best games between the two teams. Three goals to the good, Chelsea were cruising until a Wayne Rooney penalty double and a late Javier Hernandez header saw the Red Devils clinch a well-earned point. The tie has always contained drama and United's 2-1 win at Old Trafford in the 2012/11 season saw Sir Alex Ferguson's men go within a point of clinching the title.

Past 10 meetings: Chelsea wins: 4 Man United wins: 4 Draws: 2 
Last meeting: Chelsea 3-3 Man United (Evans OG, Mata, Luiz, Rooney 2, Hernandez) 05/02/12
One to remember: Chelsea 3-3 Man United (Evans OG, Mata, Luiz, Rooney 2, Hernandez) 05/02/12

Interesting stat: There has not been a goal less draw between the sides in the league for 11 games since a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge back in 2007.

03/11/12: Man United v Arsenal
Wayne Rooney Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores his third goal from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford on August 28, 2011 in Manchester, England.

Brief Info: Like any other big game, Man United v Arsenal stands out as an excellent watch. Last seasons game at Old Trafford saw a remarkable score line with Man United winning 8-2. Wayne Rooney bagged a hat trick in a game that saw Arsenal's poor start to the season continue. Man United have dominated this fixture in the past ten games winning an impressive six with Arsenal not registering a win against them since 2006.

Past 10 meetings: Man United wins: 6 Arsenal wins: 2 Draws: 2
Last meeting: Arsenal 1-2 Man United (Van Persie, Welbeck, Valencia) 22/01/12
One to remember: Man United 8-2 Arsenal (Rooney 3, Young 2, Nani, Park, Welbeck, Van Persie, Walcott) 28/08/11)

Interesting stat: Former Gunner Thierry Henry and United striker Wayne Rooney, are level on eight goals in the top goal scorers in this fixture.

04/11/12: Liverpool v Newcastle

Brief Info: Newcastle have not recorded a win at Anfield since 1995. Liverpool outclassed the Magpies in their last encounter at Anfield where the Reds came out 3-1 winners thanks to a double from Craig Bellamy. Newcastle have always found it tough in this fixture. If they are to record an away win, then the strike partnership of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse will need to be on top form.

Past 10 meetings: Liverpool wins: 7 Newcastle wins: 3 Draws: 0
Last meeting: Newcastle 2-0 Liverpool (Cisse 2) 01/04/12
One to remember: Newcastle 1-5 Liverpool (Edgar, Gerrard 2, Babel, Hyypia, Alonso) 28/12/08

Interesting stat: Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, has scored seven goals in his last ten games against Newcastle.

11/11/12: Man City v Tottenham

Brief Info: Despite their poor history against Spurs, Man City dominated the fixture last season with two excellent victories. City beat Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane and again beat Spurs in the return fixture 3-2 thanks to a late Mario Balotelli penalty.

Past 10 meetings: Man City wins: 3 Tottenham wins: 5 Draws 2
Last meeting: Man City 3-2 Tottenham (Nasri, Lescott, Balotelli, Defoe, Bale) 22/01.12
One to remember: Man City 2-3 Tottenham (Howey, Benarbia, Perry, Davies, Poyet) 23/12/02

Interesting stat: Manchester City have only won six of their last 30 games against Spurs, but have won the last three meetings.

11/11/12: Chelsea v Liverpool

Brief Info: These two teams played each other four times last season, with Liverpool winning three of them. The two Premier League wins for Liverpool last year, meant that for the last two seasons Liverpool have recorded a league double over Chelsea. The Blues have struggled to beat Liverpool in recent times, but managed a win in the recent FA Cup final where they came out 2-1 winners.

Past 10 meetings: Chelsea wins: 2 Liverpool wins: 6 Draws: 2
Last meeting: Liverpool 4-1 (Essien OG, Agger, Shelvey, Henderson, Ramires) 08/05/12
One to remember: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool (Sturridge, Maxi, Johnson) 20/11/11

Interesting stat: Liverpool have come out winners in the last four league encounters between the clubs scoring an impressive nine goals, and only conceding just the two.

17/11/12: Arsenal v Tottenham

Brief Info: The North London derby is the biggest derby in the city and is well worth a watch looking back at the recent fixtures. Goals are always aplenty in the games with ten goals being scored in the two games last season. Arsenal came back from two goals down in the most recent game to win a resounding 5-2 at the Emirates.

Past 10 meetings: Arsenal wins: 4 Tottenham wins: 3 Draws: 3
Last meeting: Arsenal 5-2 Tottenham (Sagna, Van Persie, Rosicky, Walcott 2, Saha, Adebayor) 26/02/12
One to remember: Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham (Silvestre, Gallas, Adebayor, Van Persie, Bentley, Bent, Jenas, Lennon) 29/10/08

Interesting stat: Emmanuel Adebayor is only one of two players to have played and scored for both teams in this fixture. The other was Jimmy Robertson.

25/11/12: Chelsea v Man City

Brief Info: These two teams will play the first game of the season as they face each other in the Community Shield later today. The two fixtures last season resulted in a win and loss apiece for the two teams who have spent over £1 billion between them on players in the past few seasons. Chelsea have splashed the cash this year whereas Man City have yet to spend a penny. This fixture is always a close affair but home advantage for Chelsea may be key to victory.

Past 10 meetings: Chelsea wins: 6 Man City wins: 4 Draws: 0
Last meeting: Man City 2-1 Chelsea (Aguero, Nasri, Cahill) 21/03/12
One to remember: Chelsea 2-4 Man City (Lampard 2, Tevez 2, Bellamy 2) 27/02/10

Interesting stat: There has not been a goal less game between these teams in 14 meetings in the league. The last 0-0 match was back in 2005 at Stamford Bridge

25/11/12: Tottenham v West Ham

Brief Info: West Ham have struggled to overcome their London opponents having only recorded just the one win in the last ten games. The one win could have been two but for a stunning comeback made by Spurs back in 2003. Having been two goals up at half time, West Ham looked set for victory until four second half goals from Spurs meant they came away with the win.

Past 10 meetings: Tottenham wins: 7 West Ham wins: 1 Draws: 2
Last meeting: Tottenham 0-0 West Ham 19/03/11
One to remember: West Ham 3-4 Tottenham (Noble, Tevez, Zamora, Tainio, Berbatov, Stalteri) 04/03/03

Interesting stat: West Ham have not won a derby at White Hart Lane since April 99 where they beat Spurs 2-1

28/11/12: Tottenham v Liverpool

Brief Info: Liverpool will be looking to bounce back this year having been unable to record a win against Spurs in the last two seasons. The London side demolished their opponents at home last season beating them 4-0 thanks to a double strike from Emmanuel Adebayor. Tottenham ended their long win less run at Anfield in the 10/11 season, having gone ten years without registering a win.

Past 10 meetings: Tottenham wins 5 Liverpool wins: 3 Draws: 2
Last meeting: Liverpool 0-0 Tottenham 06/02/12
One to remember: Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham (Voronin, Torres, Keane 2) 07/10/07

Interesting stat: Tottenham have only managed to win once at Anfield in the last ten years. The victory came in the 2010/11 season where Spurs came out 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Rafael Van De Vaart and Luka Modric.

08/12/12: Man City v Man United

Brief Info: This fixture was the biggest game of last season as it had a massive say in the title race. City came out 1-0 winners and recorded a league double over their rivals as well as winning the league. City shocked the footballing world last season demolishing United 6-1 in their own backyard. This tie will once again have a big say in the season and will potentially see if City can retain the league.

Past 10 meetings: Man City wins: 4 Man United wins: 5 Draws: 1
Last meeting: Man City 1-0 Man United (Kompany) 30/04/12
One to remember: Man United 4-3 Man City (Rooney, Fletcher 2, Owen, Barry, Bellamy 2) 20/09/09

Interesting stat: There were four meetings between the sides last season. (2 Premier League games, FA Cup game and Community Shield) which included 18 goals, 24 yellow cards and 3 red cards

29/12/12: Arsenal v Newcastle

Brief Info: This tie will be remembered for the incredible 4-4 draw between them at St James Park two seasons ago. Arsenal sailed into half time four goals to the good, and could not believe their eyes as Newcastle staged a sensational comeback to get a point. Unfortunately the fixture did not live up to the season before last year as they played out a dull 0-0 draw on the opening day of the 11/12 season.

Past 10 meetings: Arsenal wins: 4 Newcastle wins: 1 Draws: 5
Last meeting: Arsenal 2-1 Newcastle (Van Persie, Vermaelen, Ben Arfa) 12/03/12
One to remember: Newcastle 4-4 Arsenal (Best, Barton 2, Tiote, Van Persie 2, Walcott, Djourou) 05/02/12

Interesting stat: Arsenal have had three players sent off in the last four games, in this fixture.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

2012/13 Premier League: Star Games Part 1

With the season only a week away we have looked at the stand out games and the derbies throughout the season. We have gathered  facts, stats and information about the meetings and games which starts in the first of two posts. From Man United v Liverpool to Tottenham v West Ham, we have covered them all.

25/08/12: Chelsea v Newcastle United

Brief Info: Newcastle finished above their opponents last season after an excellent season. Alan Pardew's men came out on top in the recent encounter, thanks to two excellent goals from Papiss Cisse. Chelsea meanwhile, have new recruits with Edin Hazard and Oscar drafted in meaning Newcastle will be in for a tough game.

Past 10 meetings: Chelsea wins: 5 Newcastle wins: 4 Draws: 1
Last meeting: Chelsea 0-2 Newcastle (Cisse 2) 02/05/12
One to remember: Chelsea 2-2 Newcastle (Ivanovic, Alex, Gutierrez, S Taylor) 15/05/12

Interesting stat: Newcastle's recent 2-0 win over Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, was their first win there since 1986.

26/08/12: Liverpool v Manchester City

Brief Info: Liverpool were battered 3-0 in the most recent fixture between these teams back in January. The last time the Reds tasted victory against City was in the 2012/11 season when Andy Carroll notched his first goals for his new club in a 3-0 win at Anfield. City bagged a draw the last time they faced Liverpool in the league but if Brendan Rogers side are to get back in the Champions League then they will need to be beating the likes of City.

Past 10 meetings: Liverpool wins: 3 Man City wins: 2 Draws: 5
Last meeting: Man City 3-0 Liverpool (Aguero, Y Toure, Milner) 04/01/12
One to remember: Man City 2-3 Liverpool (Ireland, Garrido, Torres 2, Kuyt) 05/08/08

Interesting stat: In the last 5 league meetings between the teams, the score line has been 3-0 three times, Man City winning two and Liverpool just the one.

02/09/12: Liverpool v Arsenal

Brief Info: An excellent double from captain Robin Van Persie meant that Arsenal came away with all three points at Anfield last time out. The win was the first time Arsenal had claimed a win since 2009. The two clubs love a draw and have managed six of them in the last ten games.

Past 10 meetings: Liverpool wins: 1 Arsenal wins: 3 Draws: 6
Last meeting: Liverpool 1-2 Arsenal (Koscielny OG, Van Persie 2) 03/03/12
One to remember: Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal (Torres 2, Benayoun 2, Arshavin 4) 21/04/09

Interesting stat: Liverpool's recent 2-0 win at The Emirates was the first time they tasted victory there, and the first time they came away from Arsenal with three points in 11 years.

23/09/12: Liverpool v Man United

Brief Info: One of the biggest games of the season. Liverpool v Man United at Anfield is always a huge occasion and always contains big controversy. Last season saw Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra spark a racism war dominating last season's fixture. The game ended all sqaure at Anfield and United came on top in the affair at Old Trafford thanks to a Wayne Rooney double.

Past 10 meetings: Liverpool wins: 4 Man United wins: 5 Draws: 1
Last meeting: Man United 2-1 Liverpool (Rooney 2, Suarez) 11/02/12
One to remember: Man United 1-4 Liverpool (Ronaldo, Torres, Gerrard, Aurelio, Dossena) 14/03/09

Interesting stat: In the history of the fixture there have been 157 league games between the clubs. Man United are ahead winning 61, Liverpool have won 53 and there have been 43 draws.

23/09/12: Man City v Arsenal

Brief Info: This fixture has always been a tight affair with the fact that in the past five league meetings there have only been five goals scored. Arsenal came out on top in the recent game thanks to a Mikel Arteta goal. City have a number of former Gunners in the side, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy the most recent to make the move. Striker Emmanuel Adebayor was the last player to have played for both sides and score in the fixture. The striker signed for City from Arsenal before scoring a header for City in a 4-2 win against Arsenal back in 2009.

Past 10 meetings: Man City wins: 3 Arsenal wins: 5 Draws: 2
Last meeting: Arsenal 1-0 Man City (Arteta) 08/04/12
One to remember: Man City 4-2 Arsenal (Richards, Bellamy, Adebayor, Wright-Phillips, Van Persie, Rosicky) 12/09/09

Interesting stat: Man City have not won away in the league at Arsenal in 29 trips, stretching to way back in 1975.

29/09/12: Arsenal v Chelsea

Brief Info: The recent 0-0 between the clubs was the first goal less draw since 2005. The tie has always contained goals and the game at Stamford Bridge last season certainly showed that. With Chelsea leading 2-1 at half time, captain Robin Van Persie inspired a great comeback with a superb hat trick meaning Arsenal came away 5-3 winners.

Past 10 meetings: Arsenal wins: 4 Chelsea wins: 5 Draws: 1
Last meeting: Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea 21/04/12
One to remember: Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal (Lampard, Terry, Mata, Van Persie 3, A Santos, Walcott) 29/10/11

Interesting stat: Robin Van Persie's recent hat trick against Chelsea was the second hat trick scored by an Arsenal forward against Chelsea. The other one was Nwankwo Kanu who notched three goals in a 3-2 win back in 1999.

29/09/12: Man Utd v Tottenham

Brief Info: Spurs have not had much luck against United having not taken three points from them since 2001. In total, since the beginning of the Premier League, Spurs have only ever won three league games and drawn just the eight. Spurs could and should have had one more win under their belt after a Pedro Mendes lob had clearly gone over the line, only for the officials to think otherwise.

Past 10 meetings: Man Utd wins: 7 Tottenham wins: 0 Draws: 3
Last meeting: Tottenham 1-3 Man United (Defoe, Rooney, Young 2) 04/03/12
One to remember: Tottenham 2-5 Man United (Bent, Modric, Rooney 2, Ronaldo 2, Berbatov) 25/04/09

Interesting stat: Man United have not lost home or away in the league to Tottenham since 2001 where Spurs came out 3-1 winners at White Hart Lane.

07/10/12: Newcastle v Man United

Brief Info: Like Spurs, Newcastle also struggle to win against United. The 3-0 win at St James Park last season was a result that matched there season where they finished an impressive fifth. Goals have been aplenty in the tie seeing 25 goals scored in the last eight league meetings.

Past 10 meetings: Newcastle wins: 1 Man United wins: 5 Draws: 4
Last meeting: Newcastle 3-0 Man United (Ba, Cabaye, Jones OG) 04/01/12
One to remember: Newcastle 3-5 Man United (Bernard, Shearer, Bellamy, Scholes, Van Nistlerooy 3, Solskjaer) 23/11/02

Interesting stat: Newcastle's 3-0 win over Man United last season was the first victory for the Magpies since 2001/02 where they beat United 4-3 at St James Park.

20/10/12: Tottenham v Chelsea

Brief Info: This London derby is one of the biggest of the season. The tie this season sees Spurs boss Andre Villas Boas come up against his former team who he struggled with so much last year. The most recent tie between the clubs came in the FA Cup semi final where Chelsea came out an incredible 5-1 winners.

Past 10 meetings: Tottenham wins: 2 Chelsea wins: 3 Draws: 5
Last meeting: Chelsea 0-0 Tottenham 24/03/12
One to remember: Tottenham 4-4 Chelsea (Woodgate, Berbatov, Huddlestone, Keane, Drogba, Essien, J Cole 2) 19/03/08

Interesting stat: In the last five league meetings between the sides only ten goals were scored compared to the 18 goals scored in the five fixtures before.

21/10/12: Sunderland v Newcastle

Brief Info: There were nine yellow cards in the last game between the sides. The Tyne-Wear derby is one of the most hotly contested games. Newcastle have come out the better side for the majority of the last ten games, with Sunderland only managing one win in the last ten, a 2-1 win back in 2008.

Past 10 meetings: Sunderland wins: 1 Newcastle wins: 5 Draws: 4
Last meeting: Newcastle 1-1 Sunderland (Ameobi, Bendtner) 04/03/12
One to remember: Newcastle 5-1 Sunderland (Nolan 3, Ameobi 2, Bent) 31/10/10

Interesting stat: Sunderland have not been able to keep a clean sheet in the Tyne-Wear derby since 1990. They were seconds away from getting one before Shola Ameobi scored in the 90th minute in their most recent meeting.

27/10/12: Everton v Liverpool

Brief Info: The Merseyside derby has been one of the most competitive derbies in the Premier League for a long time. The city of Liverpool has been consistently dominated by the red side who have won seven of the last ten games between the two. An excellent Steven Gerrard hat trick was the difference in the last game as Everton continued their long wait for a win at Anfield.

Past 10 meetings: Everton wins: 1 Liverpool wins: 8 Draws: 1
Last meeting: Liverpool 3-0 Everton (Gerrard 3) 14/04/12
One to remember: Liverpool 2-2 Everton (Meireles, Kuyt, Lescott, Beckford) 16/01/11

Interesting stat: There have been 20 red cards in the Merseyside derby, the most in any fixture since the start of the Premier League.

Part 2 to follow....

2012/13: Premier League Preview Part 1

Only a week away, the new Premier League season is upon us. After a mesmerizing season last year, we are certainly in store for another memorable year of football. In our first of two posts, we look at each of the clubs in the league, rate their chances, and look at the transfer activity they have been doing over the past couple of months.

Arsenal's pre season has been dominated by the everlasting story of captain Robin Van Persie's eagerness to move away from the North London club. As of yet, he is still a Gunner but has recently been linked with a move away to Manchester United. Rivals City have already ruled out a move for the forward, so Old Trafford looks the likely destination for the Dutchman. The Gunner's finished third last season ahead of rivals Spurs so will once again play Champions League football in what will be their 21st season in the Premier League. Manager Arsene Wenger has been busy in the transfer market bringing in two strikers to the team. German striker Lukas Podolski and Frenchman Olivier Giroud have been joined by Spanish playmaker Santi Cazorla totalling nearly £40 million between the three.
Prediction: 4th
Aston Villa:
Villa had a frustrating season last year, narrowly avoiding relegation finishing 16th only two points away from Bolton who were relegated on the final day last season. Manager Alex McLeish was sacked soon after the season finished with former Norwich man Paul Lambert the replacement. Lambert kept the Canaries in the division last year and impressed fans with the excellent performances taking points away from Liverpool and Tottenham away from home. So far he has brought in a number of players including Dutch defender Ron Vlaar and Moroccan Karim El Ahmadi. The key for Villa is to keep main man Darren Bent who picked up an injury last year. But if he is given the service then goals shouldn't be an issue with Bent upfront.
Prediction: 14th
Roberto Di Matteo ended last season winning both the Champions League and the FA Cup as the caretaker boss. He was rewarded with the permanent position at the end of the season after his success, and will want to build on that in the coming season. Talisman Didier Drogba left Chelsea on a high scoring in the FA Cup final and the winning penalty in the Champions League. His role has been left for Fernando Torres, who started to show small signs of promise at the end of the season. Roman Abramovich has invested big money already in players with Edin Hazard and Oscar brought in, both for mammoth fees. Under Di Matteo, Chelsea fans will expect big things this year, and with another couple of signings, they will be definitely challenging for a place in the top four at the end of the season. 
Prediction: 3rd
Everton finished above rivals Liverpool for only the second time in the last ten years. Despite losing both derby games to them, David Moyes guided his side to a very respectable seventh. The astute signing of Croatian Nikica Jelavic meant that goalscoring wasn't an issue and with his contribution of 11 goals in the second half of the season, meant his side finished strongly. The loan signing too of Steven Pienaar also was another key move by Moyes and after signing permanently for the forthcoming season, the South African will be a central role to their attacking moves. Australian Tim Cahill has moved on after 8 years of excellent service moving to the American league where he will play for New York Red Bulls. 
Prediction: 8th
Fulham are unbeaten in their pre season winning four and drawing two of their six games. Martin Jol took the club to a ninth place finish last season after he was given the manager's job at the beginning of the season taking over from Mark Hughes. The goals from Clint Dempsey were a massive factor in their final place after he scored an excellent 16 goals from midfield. The American has been linked with Liverpool throughout the summer but as of yet he will remain a Fulham player. Jol has brought in three players so far with Hugo Rodallega moving on a free from Wigan the most notable move. After a successful loan spell in the second half of last season, forward Pavel Pogrebnyak moved onto fellow Premier League side Reading. Captain Danny Murphy also moved on as he went to Championship side Blackburn Rovers on a free transfer. 
Prediction: 10th
Despite winning the League Cup, Liverpool suffered another poor season finishing in a dismal eight place. But with a new manager Brendan Rogers in place, Liverpool fans will have high hopes for the coming season. Rogers Swansea side impressed everyone last year with their style of football, and if Liverpool can begin to play a similar way, then they will be ones to watch. So far Rogers has brought in two former Swans with striker Fabio Borini arriving from Roma, and midfield man Joe Allen joining from Swansea. Frontman Andy Carroll has made many a headline this year and has been rumoured to be on his way out from Anfield. The former Newcastle man showed signs of his former self at the end of last year, but may struggle to make the first eleven this season meaning his future may be elsewhere. 
Prediction: 5th
Manchester City:
The reigning champions are the only Premier League side yet to bring anyone in during the current transfer window. Roberto Mancini's side have been relatively quiet as they prepare for their opening game against newly promoted Southampton. City won the league in the final minute of the season last year thanks to a late Sergio Aguero goal. They battled with their rivals Man United throughout the season, and despite doing the double over their rivals, United were continuously on their tails. City will go into the season as favourites led by captain Vincent Kompany who recently signed a new long term deal with the club. Bad boy Mario Balotelli shined at Euro 2012 and if he can avoid getting into any trouble this year, the Italian will be dangerous to teams who come up against him. With the return of Carlos Tevez last season, City's strike force were a real threat to defences and the club were the top goal scorers in the league mastering a huge 93 goals. 
Prediction: 1st
Manchester United:
Manchester United will go into their 38th consecutive season in the top flight. After narrowly missing out on the title last year, they will be looking to make it 20 Premier League titles edging further away from Liverpool's 18. Sir Alex Ferguson has brought in only the two players so far in the transfer window with playmaker Shinji Kagawa making the move from Borussia Dortmund and youngster Nick Powell making the step up from Crewe Alexandra. Ferguson has also stated his desire to bring in Arsenal frontman Robin Van Persie, and after rivals City ruled out a move for him, Old Trafford looks like his preferred destination. If he makes the move, he will link up with Wayne Rooney who scored an impressive 27 league goals last year, just three behind the Arsenal man.  
Prediction: 2nd
Newcastle United:
Alan Pardew was rightly awarded manager of the year last season after guiding Newcastle to an excellent fifth place in the league. The signings of Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse proved to be a master stroke by Pardew with the pair scoring 29 league goals between them. United registered league wins against both Manchester United and Liverpool at home making the Sports Direct Arena a fortress to play in. Following last season will be a big task for Newcastle. Pardew has Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa alongside his strike force and they will be key to creating the chances up front. Gael Bigirimana has made the move to the club after impressing for Championship side Coventry City last season. He has been joined by defender Curtis Good and midfielder Roman Amalfitano so far, and more signings are expected to arrive at the Magpies before the window closes. 
Prediction: 7th
Norwich City:
Norwich City made the giant leap straight from the Championship two seasons ago having gained automatic promotion. Finishing in 12th position last year, the Canaries impressed throughout the season under boss Paul Lambert. Due to this success Lambert was snapped up by Aston Villa leaving Norwich with former Birmingham City man Chris Hughton at the helm. With a new boss, striker Grant Holt made the decision to remain at the club having before made a transfer request at the end of the season. Holt's 15 league goals made him the second highest English goalscorer behind Wayne Rooney last season. Hughton has made some excellent signings so far bringing in defender Michael Turner from Sunderland as well as the impressive Robert Snodgrass, who made the move from Leeds United. 
Prediction: 15th

Part 2 to follow...