It’s FA Cup week and every year it’s the first time where I think about the possibilities of a lower division team getting the chance to win something. It’s an unrealistic view despite the fact that some over-aged pundit thinks the FA Cup has lost its luster and I thought I’d rid my life of him when all the competitions got bought by bigger networks.
Anyway, there is always the hope that Watford might go back… until they draw Chelsea away…. but they’re on the back of a bad loss to Spurs so maybe there’s hope? Nope, just like Watford will always lose to Everton no matter how much of his glove holds on to the ball. Though apparently, the hairdos will be different…less curls and Peter Reid has started to dye his hair gray.
But there is always the potential upset. Aston Villa, anyone? They can’t score so who knows? Will MK Dons be able to upset a bigger team in Liverpool? It’s happened.
I’m not one that puts much stock in the match up. Wimbledon were nowhere near as bad as anyone pretends now. Dave Beasant was in peak form. More relevant to now the only thing that the 3rd Round match has in common with the past is the name Liverpool and “Dons”. I have no idea what “Dons” has to do with Milton Keynes at all. It’s really about time they changed their name to something sensible like MK United, MK Villains… or what are they famous for.. MK Grids.
But I still think it’s unlikely a little team will win the Cup. Five of the last Six have been taken by Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City (who lost in the other final). The big fish eat the little fish.. .but I’m still going for Spurs to get the glory of victory (if they can get past Burnley).
An odd week that reminds me of the golden age of football before TV rights and subscription football – all teams playing on one day. It used to be a ritual to sit down at at about 4.40 p.m., turn it on to Grandstand and watch the vidi-printer kick-off and start posting the results. As they came through you would look for the results that had been picked for score-draws. The astute of you would notice that we didn’t change the channel, for these were the days when there were only 3 legitimate channels and we’d have been watching Grandstand earlier in the day. On occasion, it would have been left on Saint & Greavsie – the slightly less serious side of football. And yes, the Pools, the forefather of pick ’ems was looking for score draws. Not wins. Not losses. Draws. How English, how decidedly un-American.
The greatest evidence for how culturally relevant the vidi-printer was back in the day was that Rory Bremner would take on the role of the slick Des Lynam recreate it in comedic fashion. The uncyclopedia entry for Des is worth reading.
Once all the final scores had come in, Tim Gudgin would read the results in that famous voice… the intonation and pitch such that you knew the away team goals before he had completed the line. Slight depression was a home win, slight raise and the away team won. Some would prefer the Mel Smith version of events. Look how far Burnley have come!
We also had CEEFAX to keep us up to date with scores, but perhaps the most iconic use of the vidiprinter was in Championship Manager/Football Manager to keep us watching the screen with the hope that we would ignore the time taken to simulate results. A discussion on Championship manager is warranted, but maybe another day…. whatever did happen to Nii Lamptey?
West Bromwich Albion
Manchester United have been playing well enough to get to the top 3 but it’s not been entirely convincing but that’s good enough against most teams. Stoke are, as I say all the time, stubborn. Man Utd will continue to give up far more chances than they create so a draw seems a fair result. Good result for the Littlewoods/Vernon’s pools this week.
Q.P.R. have, in Austin, found someone who can consistently find the back of the net playing well and Swansea. Swansea had won a couple before they were soundly beaten by a Liverpool team that haven’t scored a whole lot. I figure that if you get soundly beaten by Liverpool you’re not that good at the moment (it’s hard to believe Liverpool are 8th on their form)… and with Q.P.R. pressing for goals it should be a home win.
Southampton were unlucky against Arsenal early in the winter period when they were down to 10-men and it’s hard to see them giving it away cheap or being easy at home (they are Saints, are after all ;-)). Arsenal are on a decent run with Sanchez and Cazorla playing well but they will be missing Giroud who, for a couple of games, almost looked like a striker – rather than the french gay icon model he sometimes appears to want to be standing around looking pretty (according to some). It will be hard fought but I see Rosicky scoring again with Danny Welbeck failing to score again. He’s scored more than Falcao though, so maybe it wasn’t a bad bit of dealing by Arsenal in the end. Another one for the pools!
The two Wests in the premier league fight it out but one North of the table and one South of the table. It’s hard to see Upton Park see an away win, or a 2-2 score draw. Chalk up another Hammers victory… when are they going to fall down the table? Perhaps Teddy will leave and their goals will dry up? In the meantime, here’s another photo of him for the ladies.
Burnley managed a miracle draw in the week to rival Crystal Palace’s comeback from the dead against the not-so-mighty reds last year. A 2-2 draw against Citeh at the new Maine Road was quite the game fitting of the team. We always used to say about Manchester’s favorite team that “If there’s a way to screw it up, they will”. It’s unlikely Burnley can do the same again, and with Alan Pardew seemingly on his way out, it would be the perfect time for Newcastle to win.
Manchester City coming off disappointing win will try and take it out on a team with the fewest wins in the premier league (3) tied with five others. Unfortunately, they don’t have the firepower of last year and will have to settle for a dominating midfield and a measly two goals. As predicted, they are a much better team with Silva and it’s hard to see them losing, or tying, for that matter.
Aston Villa remind me of The Big Bang Theory’s Koothrappali …. they can’t score.
Crystal Palace are looking like they are interested in Alan Pardew so it’s a good time to put in a dour performance.
Last week Roberto Martinez used the standard cliches that David Moyes used at Manchester United – “we were unlucky” and “things went against us”. The difference is that Roberto just speaks openly and honestly and also assesses his teams shortcomings. Hard to see their luck continuing on the negative with a team largely unchanged from last year’s success. Ross Barkley continues to be that player we talk about because he’s English… if he was continental we would be wondering what all the fuss is about. Everton win, and I expect this year to be better for the Toffeemen.
Liverpool won in the week and I expect to see that great run of form continue into the New Year with another victory. It won’t be easy as they’re playing Leicester at Fortress Anfield against a team that has amassed a massive 13….. points. No Alan Pardew Project this week, but if Liverpool lose this game the pressure will mount on BR. How he needs Sturridge back from his strange multi-injury thigh mystery.
It’s the Spuds at home.. a sure victory, Pochettino has turned them around playing a number of youngsters. Harry Caine will knock in another and the spuds will keep things interesting for a while but I’m sure Chelsea finds a way to do what they do all the time… annoy everyone at the weekend that’s not living in SW6. It’s likely to get worse because most of the big games in the second half of this year will be at the bridge (City, Liverpool – it still counts!, Manchester at the Old Toilet).
No Alan Pardew project candidate this week because Alan Pardew is undergoing his own Newcastle/Crystal Palace storyline. It will resume next week, or as soon as AP’s future is clarified.
Thought it might be interesting to pick my all Premier League XI (with 5 subs) as I had seen the list put together recently Brendan Rodgers which interestingly didn’t include his “unsigned” Old Aged Midfielder, Steven Gerrard. I also saw the team of Jamie Carragher who had his selection transcribed by a Scouse translator and was found to have five Manchester United players (and the rumour was he supported Everton?)
I didn’t expect any one team to dominate my selections but it seems that Arsenal and Manchester United lead the way. I’ve tried to pick an aggressive 4-3-3 formation (despite everyone’s penchant for a “False Nine” and the current desire for a “Back 3”). It’s probably closest to Jose Mourinho’s 4-2-1-3 formation because Ya-Ya could step back and cover the back four – but why would we want that? This back four is more than capable of holding the line and covering the gaps.
It is often debated whether a team of hand selected top drawer players would be superior to a team that plays together on a regular basis but I chose to ignore that so as not to just select the league and Europ winning Manchester United team of 2007-8, the Chelsea team of 2004-5 or the undefeated Arsenal team of 2003-4 (It’s going to be a long time before we see another undefeated team).
So here are my selections and why – the main rule I held myself to was to select the team and not search or look through premier league lists of players.
The Starting Eleven
A winning team always starts with a great goal-keeper and Schmeichel was simply the best and for a long time. I didn’t even consider any other keepers as we’re really talking different class. Tim Flowers had a career season in 1994-5 that probably surpassed any one season but that’s not the consistency deserving of all time eleven. Schmeichel was also the only keeper that could yell at international center backs and command their attention – he was the defensive leader. If that wasn’t enough he knew his angles, kept tall longer and bigger than most goalkeepers could hold it and was the fore-runner of the release throw that would set his wide players on the break: the ultimate counter-attacker.
I dislike him immensely but cannot deny his talent. In his twenties he was the best defender at the position by some margin. Blessed with amazing recovery speed he was often seen sliding across the turf blocking everything. Used his pace going forward and able to whip in lethal crosses. I also considered the current commentator Graeme Le Saux who had similar speed and tremendous crossing ability.
Tony Adams & Marcel DeSailly
Despite drinking and despite lacking that technical ability, Tony Adams was a dominant player for many years. Had size, positional sense, and a reach that would cut out balls that were seemingly beyond him.
Marcel had more talent than Adams. I’ve paired him though because he has equal size and the pair would dominate the middle.
I considered the standard list here: Rio Ferdinand, John Terry(sleeps with Wives and Girlfriends), Jaap Stam (Nandrolone cheat), and others but they didn’t work for me.
Right back was a challenge to try and think of someone that wasn’t Gary Neville. It’s difficult to ignore a regular England player, regular starter for over a decade on a winning team. I considered Lee Dixon but his prime years were pre-Premier league… the fact that he played into his late 30’s at the highest level says a lot.
Paul Scholes & YaYa Toure
Holding midfielders. I’ve done it. I’ve gone with Scholes because I can’t think of anyone else that I would like there more and I’m tired of being told by my brother he’s the best of the best. Besides that, I need someone who doesn’t seek the limelight and can actually play the role laid out – confident in spreading the ball and competent in covering the space between midfield and defense.
Ya-Ya was the best player on the two Manchester City teams that won the league. I’m playing him deeper than he would probably like but he’s equally adept forward or back.
Really the player that transformed the Premier League. Hard to believe that he was a mere 7.5 million pounds or so when Bruce Rioch put him in an Arsenal shirt. Could score with either foot or with his head and an uncanny ability to always make the right choice with the final ball. Sheer class.
Some women also find him attractive and I want my team to appeal to everyone
As this is the best eleven it’s difficult to play everyone I would want but I can’t leave Henry out of the team. I’m going to play him out wide on the left where he can be happy flipping it inside and then curling it low into the corner. We know he’s going to do. The defender knows he’s going to do it. The goalkeeper knows he’s going to do it. He does it.
CR7 was still raw and young when he started at Old Trafford. He seemed to be obsessed with step-overs and being flash… but the talent was always their, and that pace and athleticism was a cut above everyone. I know people will be looking out wide for Beckham but I think he’s better off with his marketing guys than on the pitch with these other players.
I’m going to pick Alan Shearer even though I don’t feel tremendously comfortable with him being the best choice for the top eleven and I’m doing it based on his early premier league position of a pure central striker where he really dominated. His career, particularly with England, was marred by the constant request for him to go out wide and hold the ball. It seems England liked him facing the wrong way. In this team with the ability of the wingers and back coming forward a striker with heading ability is a must… as for his feet? One of the fiercest strikers of the ball the league has seen.
Andy Cole would probably score a hathful in this team too.
There are a lot of keepers I like but Peter Cech was probably the best of the left-overs, particularly before the injury years. Not as good but more consistent than David “Calamity” James. Van Der Saar was also on the short list.
I really wanted to put Matt in the middle of the starting eleven. I would definitely substitute him in if there was a penalty shootout. So much talent.
Santa has been and gone and has gifted us with a ridiculous schedule of games once again – two games in three days! For some, this will be a six-point end of year boon, and for others, a calamitous six-points drops. Everyone sees the New Year as a new beginning and a new opportunity but for those that slide out of 2014 will likely whimper into 2015. Am I saying that this week is important? Damn straight.
So I am going all out for the Scousers during this period because they believe that Santa might be a closet Liverpool fan (look at all the red he wears) and they have a good chance to redeem the year.
Looks like Brendan is still looking to tweak his team with some new signings – sounds good but with a list of names like Mario Balotelli and Joe Allen he hasn’t been the transfer wizard.
Meanwhile, further South, it still looks like Arse-ne is happy with his lot. New striker? New defender? No. He is happy with the team.
So here we go… just the boxing day games to start.
West Ham United
West Bromwich Albion
Chelsea, top of the table. West Ham are (checks table again) 4th. Wow, maybe it’s time we looked at things afresh and realized that West Ham aren’t a bad team even if they aren’t Chelsea. Call it wishful thinking, but what should be a 2-0 victory for the home team but I am really hoping for a crazy end to the year and what could be more crazy than West Ham winning at the Bridge? Please Santa, now that you’re done with Christmas spend some time plotting the Chelsea downfall.
Sunderland are not looking special and appear to have set their sites on amassing the greatest number of draws in a season but (10 in 17) but Hull have slowly been in a free fall to the bottom of the table and it’s hard to see much changing for them except in their management. Steve Agnew, the assistant, left the sinking ship in the week. Will Bruce follow soon? I don’t know but I think he’s an Alan Pardew Project candidate.
West Brom let me down last week. Going up 2-0 quickly I regretted my 2-2 pick until they rolled over and let QPR in to make it a perfect 2-2 result. Little did I know they hadn’t finished capitulating and would lose. Man City are on a positive run and Silva (the little engine that could) is making all the difference. Another win keeping the pressure on the top boys.
Aston Villa has performed absolute magic this year managing to accumulate 20 points from just 11 goals. That’s making something out of almost nothing. This clearly indicates that Aston Villa has a decent defensive posture and Ron Vlaar should soon be recognized for his efforts this year. T he Swans won away from home last week (albeit against Hull) and Aston Villa required a moment of magic to get a draw against Manchester United… magic tends to be a one-off so Swansea will win.
Getting to the end of the winter for Southampton and they still find themselves in 5th spot. An away point against Crystal Palace might not be the greatest results but it keeps them in the European spots.
Liverpool will turn it around. Liverpool will turn it around. Liverpool will turn it around. Liverpool will turn it around. Maybe.
If Roberto Martinez takes the time to look around he will see that a disappointing Liverpool season still has them higher in the table. This is not what he expected when he was spending time as an television personality over the summer. It’s hard to see where the team is failing but they’re just playing plain average. Goal difference of 0, middle of the table. Average. it’s time to start winning and a home game at the end of year, over a tough Stoke team, will be the perfect jump start into the New Year and Mr Martinez will be pushing his team to press hard.
“My Name is” Kane, Harry Kane…. seems to have been the catalyst that few saw coming. He’s unassuming in terms of speed, he’s the plain paper bag of wrapping paper, but he’s someone who knows where to be and when to be there and is banging in goals the same way Soldado used to. I see Spurs riding his purple patch as far as they can… and it will be at least beyond a results against Leicester.
The London derby of a team that had a remarkable win (QPR over West Brom) and the team with the disappointing tie (2-2 with Liverpool). I believe that Liverpool has defined the blue print for playing Arsenal: high pressure, allowing little time, and closing down the space. Liverpool played with a desire that had been largely missing this season and Arsenal found it hard to dominate a midfield without the comfort of time. This will be the same game-plan that QPR will employ and it will cause problems for the Gooners until Alexis proves once more why he’s the best player on their team (when it’s not Cazorla).
Alan Pardew Project:
Despite Alan’s efforts to get back on the list after manager of the month for November… it’s time to recognize the new favorite for getting that ominous seal of approval from the directors. Yes, it’s Brucey.
Stream of consciousness this week… as usual… so keep the expectations the same as Burnley’s when reading… low.
Just a couple of weeks left until we get to the post Christmas table and the plethora of predictions and prognostications that come with it. The so called “Curse of Christmas” that says the bottom club always gets relegated (except when they don’t – West Bromwich and Sunderland just last year with their improbable come-back). Of course, back in 2005-6 Watford has one win by Christmas and proceeded to go down back into First Division.
Last year was good for Liverpool fans: Suarez scored the most goals in a calendar month (10) and Manchester United stunk it up with back to back lossed. This year? Well Liverpool might not want to talk about it too much…
So how will things go this week?
West Ham United
Manchester City’s owners have tried to make it clear they have a long term plan. A youth program that has Paul Scholes concerned about the future of his team. Now the bosses are updating the University of Manchester’s Owens Park Campus. I can say first hand that it needed updating back in 1990’s… The point is, perhaps it’s time that we gave the owners credit for more than just pumping money into a team. I know it galls Man United fans but recent history points to the reds being more dependent on revenue streams than ever. Two shirt sponsors?
Anyway, Crystal Palace are a tough nut to crack and drew against a stubborn Stoke City team last time out. Citeh are missing key players Aguero, Negredo (yes, I count him) and it’s getting tough to see where the consistent platform is.. fortunately, they have Silva playing again. He’s the little engine that can and with movement that frees up the space for Ya Ya to move forward and really be the attacking threat he should be. They’ll take advantage of the big African before his nation comes calling for some tournament overseas that wrecks many an EPL game.
Last week the Spuds finally won against 10 men and have moved all the way up to 7th spot. Pochettino must really know what he’s doing now. I see Burnley and I see a team that has less wins than Q.P.R. and that’s not good. Another 3 pts will have us discussing the reality that the Y*d Army might actually be travelling to Europe next year.
I finally gave West Ham their due and West Ham continue to win. It has to end because it has to end, doesn’t it. There was a time when even the fans wanted Fat Sam “You Kill Football” Allardyce..so what is it? Maybe it’s their “attacking” coach? It might be, it might not, but if my wife was in charge she would approve of the attacking coach.
I think the Foxes will eek out a draw.
Southampton have been on a slide of late – which comes as no surprise with their schedule – but they need to halt it and they’re going up against a team that’s position is higher than its play deserves, but lower than their team should be. I think this will be a thoroughly entertaining game with both teams looking for a win to try and position themselves for success at the end of the Christmas run.
Queens Park Rangers and West Brom are two teams at the wrong end of the table. For one it is no surprise but for the other there was hope that they could start to cement their position in the Premier League. I expect this will be as dour a 2-2 draw as you can get 50-50% possession all in the middle of the park, 6 shots on goal 5 on target and 4 goals. I won’t know because I’ll be watching the other side.
Aston Villa are finally in the bottom half but keep pulling out the odd victory (2-1 over Leicester a couple of weeks ago). At half time they will be winning and the conversations will go both ways: are Villa better than their possession? are the team from near Manchester not as good as their six consecutive wins suggest? Did we call the recovery too soon? Nope – second half is dominant possession with a trio of goals and more talk that LVG is manager of the year….
Hull failed to score against West Brom. Swansea have failed to beat anyone recently. It’s a toss up but Swansea are better than Hull and that should count for something. I think it’s surprising to see Hull so far down the table.. if Leicester can pick up a surprise win against West Ham then Hull will be crowned winner of the Christmas Curse.
Newcastle are are officially in trampoline mode defeats at the front end of the season with speculation of manager of the football clubs future… followed by victories, manager of the month to a disastrous result against Arsenal and Spurs in the Milk Capital Coca-Cola Cup (4-0? Didn’t no Spurs had 4 goals in them!). So this is another key point in the season – a home game against local rival at a pivotal time. Will Pardew be hero or villain? Will Newcastle sink or swim….are we repeating last year? I think not, Newcastle will hover mid-table and it starts with a win.
The big game this week is Arsenal and Liverpool home of the fkw. I’m tired of picking Liverpool to do anything. Against Basel Brendan played a defensive team (if you could figure out what he was trying to do at all) and I don’t see that he has much of a plan other than praying that Sturridge is as good as we know he can be. That’s the most damning statement I can make – we can keep blaming the injury to Sturridge for Liverpool’s poor form but can that really be the cause? I guess Arsenal blamed last year on Ramsey being hurt.. and City are lining up the Aguero excuse … and even Arsenal are looking at Koscielny as an excuse.. yes….Koscielny??
Well it’s a bad week for Brendan and they will lose.
Chelsea are away against a decent Stoke team. Jose would never admit it but would take a solid 1-1 draw on the heels of a bitter defeat.
This week’s hotseat:
Would be Brendan but I think there’s patience to see how things progress with Sturridge.
So last week Brendan Rogers was in the hot-seat and the latest focus of the Alan Pardew project. So how did the week go? Not so well. While looking much better as a team they contrived to allow three goals on what appeared to be Man United’s only 3 shots on goal.
So exit Champions League, slowly drifting out of contention in the league.. time to focus on the Milk Cup.
The Milk Cup should remind any fans of the Reds of much better times when “The Moustache” ruled over Europe.
But why am I here? Because sometimes you have to make fun of fans.
So December 12th, Elton John is in the house and it’s all because of a new stand. He paid for a lot of the Rouse stand which they renamed the Graham Taylor stand…and now he gets his own stand. I’m fairly sure when he visits he gets a better seat though.
Let’s hope he gets to see a Wigan game that reminds us of the recent Fulham beat-down.
So, for those that are interested, this is the new layout.
Courtesy of http://www.footballgroundguide.com/watford/
Well it was the FA Cup draw this week and lo and behold it went really well for teams that in the former first division that enjoy the thrills and spills of a long cup run. Here’s to you Watford… a gift in the first real round… a trip to Chelsea. Not only is it Chelsea, it’s likely to be a Chelsea actually interested in winning every trophy there is to win.
On the bright side, there are those that will say that a loss early in the cup will allow the team to focus on the Championship and a promotion push. That sounds good in principle but that’s just a way to placate losers. The other member of my household has a little thing for Sheffield Wednesday and the Citeh – so that’s one team into the round of 4th.
Arsenal vs Hull is interesting because it’s a repeat of last year’s final but then it’s Hull so that’s about as interesting as it gets.
With Liverpool struggling an away game to Wimbledon will invoke thought’s of Lawrie Sanchez (though strict lineage makes it a different team).