Week of Jan 17, 2015 Premier League Picks

Last week was as strong week: 10 selection, 8 correct results with 4 correct scores, and only 2 games wrong.  The Law of Averages says this week will be a weak one.

So here are the picks.

17-Jan 2015  
Swansea1-2Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur 2-0Sunderland
Queens Park Rangers 1-2Manchester United
Leicester City1-1Stoke City
Burnley 2-1Crystal Palace
Aston Villa 0-1Liverpool
Newcastle United 1-3Southampton
18-Jan 2015  
West Ham United 2-0Hull City
Manchester City2-2Arsenal
19-Jan 2015  
Everton 3-0West Bromwich Albion

Week of Jan 10, 2015 Premier League Picks

Starting with this year’s first major disappointment: there’s no more Alan Pardew Project.  Alan left “the club” and has joined another “the club” in a move that benefits him more than anyone.  There are many questions that will remain unanswered: Why did Crystal Palace paid £3.5 million for a manager on the brink of being fired?  Why didn’t Newcastle have a replacement lined up for when he was fired?  What has Alan Pardew ever done in the Premier League?

Actually, that last one I can answer:

Matches W D L GF GA Pts Win %
155 58 34 63 198 238 208 37

But even a losing manager gets to drive to his new club in a nice ride.  Look what fancy car being a 37% winning manager can earn you.

Nice Car

To be fair, as a winning percentage that’s better than his time at Charlton or West Ham.   Call be a prognosticator extraordinaire but I have a feeling that his winning percentage won’t be going up at Crystal Palace… in the Premier League anyway.

10-Jan 2015  
Sunderland0-1Liverpool
Swansea City1-1West Ham
West Bromwich Albion2-1Hull City
Leicester City1-0Aston Villa
Everton0-1Manchester City
Burnley2-1QPR
Chelsea 2-1Newcastle United
Crystal Palace1-2Tottenham Hotspur

Sunderland will be looking for a draw about as hard as Liverpool are looking for striker, defence, and a goalkeeper who doesn’t have an issue with his feet.  I’m not sure why Brendan Rodgers insists on bashing his players but after putting Balotelli on the bench and informing him he needed to “get used to it” it seems that the hard-nosed, no-nonsense, father-figure tactic is in play.  I hope he doesn’t play hardball with Raheem’s new contract because he’s one of the few bright spots for the team.  With Gerrard finally admitting to being too old for the premier league ready for a trip to the retirement franchises of the MLS things can only look up for Liverpool. It’s his senior send-off so the team should be up for the game and ready grooming younger players to take over. It’s a positive to have him start his retirement track. Some will say that he scored twice last week and is still a valuable player. To those people I say? I say that even Balotelli would have converted one penalty.

It will be 0-0 with Sunderland hanging on until a late goal from someone unexpected will turn the game – the unexpected player? Someone in a Liverpool shirt.

Swansea are  a decent team sitting around the middle of the table.  West Ham are a decent team sitting on the low end of the upper tier of the table. Two equally matched teams? This can only be a draw.

West Brom are better than their position and Hull are, according to the form books, not very good.  The difference maker is that Tony Pulis has had a chance to teach the team the ways of survival for over a week behind closed doors.   What makes Pulis refreshing is that he says what he says and he means what he means: “Saido Berahino is for sale”.  Unlike most new managers, like say Pardew, that insist they are some major purchases away from being good, Pulis says their goal-scoring machine is available if the price is right.  In other words, if you offer a team like WBA enough money they have to say yes.  Tony Pulis 2-1 Hull – we’ll give him full credit for the points.

Leicester City are bottom, basement, one place from the Championship.  This will change as they face an inept Aston Villa who can’t score.. and worse, will be without defensive player of the year Ron Vlaar with injury.  That hole in the back will make all the difference as the Foxes break through the defensive unit who just haven’t had the time to gel.

Roberto Marinez needs to channel his inner David Moyes and start looking for creative ways to play boring and winning football.  Manchester have been disappointing in recent wins but maybe someone other than Lampard will score and free us from having to listen to NYFC fans complain about how they bought tickets just to see Frankie.  Is the MLS so dearth of talent that Lampard sells tickets?   City will scrape it.

I did analysis of my picks this year so far (not good – lower percentage than Lawro by some margin, though more perfect results) and did learn that over the course of the season so far I had not picked Burnley to do anything at all!  Not even 6 points.  This pick is rectifying that situation.   They should have a decent shot at Turf Moor against QPR.  Maybe they will have two decent shots? and let’s suppose both of them results in goals? Could happen.

Chelsea are playing Newcastle in a revenge match.  Newcastle seemed to turn it on whenever their manager looked like he was close to leaving, saving him from the end.  The question becomes, what will they do when their manager has left?  You could say the players will play to impress the new manager; however, there isn’t one yet.  Maybe Newcastle will play for their caretaker coach John Carver.  Then again, maybe not.   It will be a flattering score-line for Newcastle as Chelsea will pepper their goal all afternoon and just fail to put anything away.

I’m riding the Harry Kane train until it gets derailed.  He’s young and talented but no one can put forward the effort he does for the long term.  He has been clocked traveling 8 miles during a game!

11-Jan 2015  
Arsenal2-1Stoke
Manchester United1-2Southampton

One of the other items I learned is that I have seriously overrated Arsenal.  This does nothing to improve my reputation as a closet Arsenal fan.  But nothing changes here as I pick Arsenal once again to get a victory over Stoke.  Pete Crouch will maintain his recent scoring record.  To fuel his fire, Monreal said “Peter Crouch is slow and bad at dribbling… but Arsenal fear his ‘dangerous’ aerial prowess”.  I believe that means he can reach the high branches at lunch time because I think he a player with two left feet and a poor header of the ball.

Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut

Next up, a quick mid year round up.

Southampton proved over the winter break they are, as the pundits say, “for real”.  Buying Victor Valdes shows me that the turtle featured LVG doesn’t know as much as people claim (unless DeGea has said he’s leaving and nothing can change his mind).. and that the Barcelona implosion is almost complete.  I suspect that soon we’ll hear Rooney is off because he’s not one to take his marching orders well.

FA Cup Round 3 Picks, January 3rd 2015

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.

Watford v Everton

 

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.

Wimbledon v Liverpool
Wimbledon v Liverpool
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).
Well, here are the picks.
 
Jan 3 2015
Cardiff City2-1Colchester
Charlton Athletic1-2Blackburn Rovers
Rochdale 1-2Nottingham Forest
West Bromwich Albion 3-1Gateshead
Blyth Spartans 0-1Birmingham City
Rotherham United 1-2AFC Bournemouth
Huddersfield Town 1-1Reading*
Tranmere Rovers 1-2Swansea City
Bolton Wanderers 2-0Wigan Athletic
Millwall 2-1Bradford City
Derby County 2-0Southport
Brentford 1-0Brighton & Hove Albion
Fulham 3-3Wolverhampton Wanderers*
Leicester City 1-2Newcastle United
Cambridge United 1-1*Luton Town
Barnsley 2-0Middlesbrough
Preston North End 1-0Norwich City
Doncaster Rovers 1-0Bristol City
Jan 4 2015
Dover Athletic 1-2 Crystal Palace
Sunderland 3-0 Leeds United
Queens Park Rangers 4-2 Sheffield United
Southampton 4-1 Ipswich Town
Stoke City 1-0 Wrexham
Manchester City 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Aston Villa 1-2 Blackpool
Yeovil Town 0-2 Manchester United 
Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Arsenal*2-2 Hull City
Jan 5 2015
Burnley 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur*
AFC Wimbledon 0-1 Liverpool
Jan 6 2015
Scunthorpe United 1-1Chesterfield*
Everton 2-1West Ham United

Week of Jan 1, 2015 Premier League Picks – A New Year

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?

1-Jan 2015  
Stoke City1-1Manchester United
Q.P.R.2-1Swansea City
Southampton 1-1Arsenal
West Ham 2-0West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United2-1Burnley
Manchester City2-0Sunderland
Aston Villa0-0Crystal Palace
Hull City1-2Everton
Liverpool3-1Leicester City
Tottenham Hotspurs1-2Chelsea

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.

What a Hottie...
What a Hottie…

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.

Not Scoring Much

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.

All Time Premier League Team

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?)

team

 

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

Peter Schmeichel 

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.

Cashley Cole

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.

Gary Neville

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.

Dennis Bergkamp

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

Dutch Maestro

Thierry Henry

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.

Cristiano Ronaldo

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.

Alan Shearer

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.

The Substitutes

Peter Cech

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.

Matt LeTissier

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVEcbvrxHQ0

Count how many are left foot and how many are right foot.  It didn’t matter.  The only player to admit that corners are shooting opportunities.

Sol Campbell

Was looking for another defender… and Sol is top of the list for me.  Strong, powerful, commanding.  No idea why his England career wasn’t so much more than it was.

Ryan Giggs

Had a gear more than everyone else.

Patrick Viera

It was close between him and Ya-Ya in picking a midfielder that could hold the back four and power forward.

Week of December 26, 2014 – Premier League Picks (Boxing Day Edition)

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.

All I Want For Christmas (Img Source: GreatNorth)

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.


All I Want For Christmas (Src: Mirror)

So here we go… just the boxing day games to start.

26-Dec-14  
Chelsea2-0West Ham United
Sunderland1-0Hull City
West Bromwich Albion1-3Manchester City
Manchester United1-1Newcastle United
Swansea City1-0Aston Villa
Crystal Palace1-1Southampton
Burnley 1-2Liverpool
Everton 2-0Stoke City
Leicester1-2Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal 2-1QPR

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.

sb

Week of December 21, 2014 – Premier League Picks

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…

That Stink is not my Diaper, it’s My Team

So how will things go this week?

20-Dec-14  
Manchester Citeh2-1Crystal Palace
Tottenham Hotspuds 2-0Burnley
West Ham United1-1Leicester Foxes
Southampon1-1Toffee Men
Q.P.R.2-2The Bromwich
Aston Villa 1-3Man U
Hull Tigers1-2Swansea

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.

Gratuitous Shot of Handsome Man

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.

14-Dec-14  
The Magpies2-1Sunderland
Liverpool1-2Arsenal

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.

22-Dec-14  
Stoke City1-1Chelsea

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:

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Would be Brendan but I think there’s patience to see how things progress with Sturridge.

 

 

Liverpool – Season of Destiny

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.

Aside:
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.

Week of December 14, 2014 – Premier League Picks

So it’s already the weekend and there are some key games this week.  For those players that are playing one game at a time, this is that game at that time.

13-Dec-14  
Sunderland1-0West Ham
West Bromwich Albion2-2Aston Villa
Leicester City 1-3Manchester City
Crystal Palace1-1Stoke City
Chelsea 4-0Hull City
Burnley 1-3Southampton
Arsenal2-1Newcastle

I picked West Ham last week after my brain insisted that their run of form can’t be a fluke.  This week my brain insists that West Ham just aren’t that good.   Are they good enough to beat a team that has managed just two wins this whole year?  I would hope so.  But they won’t.

Every week I’m convinced West Brom will play well and score 2 good goals only to allow their opposition in to level it up.  Every stopped clock is right twice a day.. this prediction might hold once a season but I feel very good about it this week.  Local derby, at home and the undeniable truth that West Brom need to start moving up the table as much as I expect Aston Villa to move down the table.

It’s hard to see Leicester putting up much of a game against a team from Manchester (despite winning at the team from near Manchester 5-3 earlier in the season) with Sergio in the team; but the Kun Aguero is out and Dzeko is again set to take a starring role as the under-appreciated goal-scoring machine he is 48 in 114… now if he could finish as well as he gets chances, it would be closed to 90 in 114.  He’s like a loaded gun that gets jammed rather frequently but is quite effective if it actually goes off.   I think Silva is back though and that bodes well because his movement frees up Ya Ya and makes him more effective.  David Silva is the little engine that can and does – he could setup Dzeko ten times.. so I expect at least two goals.

Crystal Palace will draw with Stoke and of all the games being televised this should be one of the least watched.   Stoke work hard as a team, Crystal Palace work hard as a team.  All that hard work sounds like a grind it out draw.

Chelsea lost last week.  Hull have won only one game in their last ten.  Time for Chelsea to show their dominance once again.  I do hope they hit a long injury spell in their second team so that the FA Cup game against Watford in January will be fair.  For this game, the result is going to be as lopsided as a rubber faced male post-stroke.

This is a critical game for Southampton ( aren’t they all? No they aren’t).  Suffering two losses in a row against top teams could dent confidence at a time when they have more tough matches scheduled over winter.   Points against the top teams are bonus, losses against the lower teams is poor form.  I fully expect a comfortable win though to show that they are still European material.  If they lose?  Expect a lot of chatter and a potential downswing in expectations.

Arsene was going to be Alan Pardew but he went to Europe and fixed all the negativity by winning with Podolski (guy needs more starting time).  I know Newcastle are playing decent football but Arsenal should still hold on for the victoire!  Allez-Giroud!

14-Dec-14  
Manchester United 2-2Liverpool
Swansea City 1-1Tottenham Hotspurs

This week’s Alan “I’m a part of this club and not being fired” Pardew award goes to a rather surprising entry this week.  Brendan Rodgers is looking at a team sitting almost at the top of the table, the top of the bottom half of the table.  He’s looking at a team that got bounced from Europe with a lackluster must win game.   There has been chatter about team selection, team style, and team substance.  Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson (no creative juices really flowing there) are playing while Mallela sits on the bench.  Meanwhile,  Rickey Lambert is on the bench with Balotelli.  It’s not the fact that they’re not playing, it’s the fact that this is what BR has brought in to the club.  Ouch.

Looks like BR has got his cannons ready to fire at the arch nemesis team from near-Manchester.

I will press the Launch button if pressed.

So this week, being in the Alan Pardew seat means that his team gets a result against Manchester United at the old toilet?  No..

What is there to say about the disappointing Spurs?  Basically that they’re really no more or less disappointing that any other team in terms of position, mid-table.  That said, they are disappointing because there were high expectations set with Soldado scoring in Spain, Dembele once looking like one of the most gifted possession midfielders in the league, and the likes of Lamela showing speed in the gaps.  Kyle Walker got hurt, Soldado stopped scoring, and Ryan Mason become the play-maker.  That just does not look very good.  Soldado scored so maybe there is a run coming? I’m not sold so I give them a tough draw.   Money at the bookies should be on “My Name is Harry Kane” scoring the equalizer late on.

Bookmaker Tip:  Combination bet on 1-1 with Kane scoring.

15-Dec-14  
Everton 2-0Queens Park Rangers

While Rodgers is enjoying the current hot-seat, Martinez gets to watch his team continue to struggle: 18 pts from from 15 games is a bad record but that’s really not the worst of it. Everton are below Aston Villa and the “Chosen One” Mourinho is looking like a genius in getting great value from Lukaku.  I haven’t given up on on him yet – he’s young, he’s big, and he has potential.  I’m hoping he doesn’t end up being like Kevin Campbell – always so close to being great (37 goals in 130+games doesn’t scream disappointment but not very mind blowing) but Everton and Martinez need him to start showing up consistently.

They’re playing QPR though, so while the game will be tough, I see them pulling out a decent victory.  So….Martinez, be careful, the APP is looking for it’s next manager.

Not the Alan Parson Project
Not the Alan Parson Project