Monday, 12 December 2011
After having a terrific start to the season, Newcastle United are steadily starting to fall off the rails. After a tough run of games which brought them 1 point in 9 against Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea, they went to Carrow Road Saturday with an injury hit squad, especially at the heart of the defence. When playing against a very physical side like Norwich, you need commanding center backs at the heart of your team who are going to win the ball and be strong against the likes of Grant Holt and Steve Morrison. With Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor both on the sidelines (the later of which unfortunate to be ruled out for the entire season), the Magpies had to have a make shift center back partnership of Danny Simpson and James Perch.
Paul Lambert got his tactics spot on seeing the slim lined defence partnership and ensured Norwich kept on getting crosses in the box, which was a very successful tactic to play. It certainly paid off with all 4 goals coming from crosses into the box in a 4 vs. 2 win for the Canaries. Newcastle were lacking a strong physical presence in their team, which opened them up to the airial attack of Norwich.
Newcastle without their early season formidable defensive partnership and also missing players in the middle of the park including Cheik Tiote and Danny Guthrie, were starting to suffer from a lack of strength in depth. This is something that Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have consistently been able to create in-order to finish in the top 4 season after season. The premier league season can be brutal on the players, especially with the addition of cup and European football. Good quality squad players are not easy to come by, as all players want to be playing week in week out and managers have a very difficult task trying to keep everyone happy within a club. But the development of quality younger players is always a good way of solving that problem and could be the answer for Newcastle in the long term. In the short term however, they will certainly need some investment into their squad in the January transfer window, to build up a stronger squad to try and stick around at the top part of the table.
If the investment is made I believe that it will be a guaranteed top 10 finish for Newcastle United.
Monday, 5 December 2011
The age old debate about referee's in the game of football continues after this weekends Premier League action and the number of controversial decisions given. You either love them or hate them and unfortunately for the referee's in action this weekend, the majority of people are thinking the later right now. They have a very difficult job to do in a sport that just gets faster and faster and in my opinion they are in desperate need for help, I just wish we would hear from them to make the plea.
The main referee at the center of the most controversial decision of the weekend is Mike Dean. He failed to send David Luiz off for bringing down Demba Ba in Chelsea's game against Newcastle on the weekend. A decision that completely changed and affected the outcome of the game. This was one of the most blatant decisions I have seen in recent times, a decision that the referee actually made, as he gave the foul, but failed to send off Luis. To Mike Dean's credit, he has come out after the game spoke to Alan Pardew and apologised for getting the decision wrong. This is something that I admire so much and only wish more referees do this after the games to explain their decision. In my opinion it will help solve the anger and anguish towards referees from fan's players and managers. As a football fan, I accept that they are human being's and like everyone they too can make mistakes. The question is, is this acceptable in the current game of football?
What has outraged Newcastle United and fan's of the game is a decision made at White Hart Lane on the same day, where referee Stuart Atwell sent off Gary Cahill for bringing down Scott Parker just 10 yards into the Bolton half and by the touch line. Perceived to be a goal scoring opportunity, one which another referee on the same day failed to make that decision on a foul by the last man on the edge of the penalty area. Inconsistency. The main annoyance of referees in the game of football. A game that causes managers to lose their jobs, for players to be dropped out of teams and for clubs to lose millions of pounds. Which answers my question previously that it is not acceptable. So the next question asks, how can we get more of these decisions right?
Is video technology the answer? Well it could well have changed the World Cup Game as you can see above, and it would certainly help clear up obvious wrong decisions in the game. My problem with it is solely the debatable decisions in the game. There are so many opinions from one to another on crucial decisions and I do not believe with video technology that it can always decide once and for all the correct decision. With far too much simulation in the game, players are making it very difficult for referee's to make the right decision. But again the problem is, how can you tell from one challenge to another whether a player has dived or not as it is not always that simple. In my opinion there are too many question marks over its usage to be incorporated into the game. Goal line technology, yes. But that is all that I believe should be in the game.
Other opinions raised on the issue have been to add another referee on the field of play. This is something that I am intrigued about if done correctly could help to improve the positioning of referees throughout the game.
The referee's must be fed up of being scrutinised and surely would benefit some assistance with decisions during the game. I would love to hear their opinions and what they believe, if anything, could help them make more correct decisions. But if we found the right method, and all decisions were correct, what would we be debating after games? What would manager's moan and complain about after the game? And what would newspapers write about? It could take a lot of the tension, the excitement and the sheer joy of talking about the game out of football. Only time will tell if it eventually gets implemented in the game In the mean time, the referees are still going to be loved by so many and loathed by many more.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Andre Villas Boas has been talked about a lot in the press in recent weeks and more so after Chelsea's 2 vs. 1 defeat at home to Liverpool. They are already questioning his position as manager of a team he has been in charge of for just 12 Premier League games! Can a manager have such a negative affect on a top team like this? A young manager who performed very well in his previous year at Porto with a glowing reputation in the game. I don't believe he is to blame.
AVB inherited a team on the decline in my opinion. A team that has been greatly affected by the non stop chopping and changing of managers in the past few years. A team that has been built successfully on a fantastic talented spine of the team in Cech, Terry, Lampard and Drogba, the later 3 are all on a rapid decline as they reach the end of their careers. Players like these need support from a new breed, something that doesn't seem to be happening too much at Chelsea. Instead they are opting to buy players in and midfielders such as Mikel, Ramires and Meireles are not of the quality of the previous crop. The Fernando Torres situation is continuing to bring the team down. A player bought for £50 million with Premier League experience is a shadow of his former self and continually struggles to find the net in the Blue colors. Defensively David Luiz has been bought in to support the experience of John Terry, but he too has struggled immensely, proving to many he is not really a natural centre back.
This is only the half of it, as Ashley Cole is in poor form at left back and the other full back Bosingwa has struggled a lot this year, leaving centre back, Ivanovic to fill the gap, something he is not exactly 100% comfortable with. I have mentioned positions all over the pitch that are a current problem for Chelsea, so how is this down to new manager AVB?
Yes he picks the side, yes he picks the formation and yes he instructs how he wants his team to play. But it is ultimately down to the players on the park who are not performing to their potential. Maybe Chelsea are in a similar position to that of Arsenal at the start of the season, in a stage of transition. I believe this is certainly true for Chelsea and it is at this stage the chairman, Roman Abramovich, needs to give a manager time for the rebuilding process. This does not happen over night, but if done correctly, like Manchester City, it can be very successful.
Only time will tell, but I believe AVB should be given a chance to rebuild the ageing Cheslea team. The players for me need to take the majority of the brunt of the recent poor performances and rectify this throughout their next games. The only thing standing in the way is whether Abromovich has got the patience to stick with AVB, something he hasn't shown much of in the past.
Friday, 18 November 2011
It is shocking to realise that in 2011 and the way our world is, that racism is still a big problem around the world, let alone in the sporting environment on the football pitch. But it is. We have the investigation into the alleged racist offences by John Terry and Luis Suarez taking place by the FA and the police in this country, one which if found guilty should bring about huge punishments. For John Terry it could seriously mean no more England career with the FA very keen to clamp down on racism. However, innocent until proven guilty certainly exists and I would not make any comments until that's the case, unlike that of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
The man is the head of FIFA, the world governing body for football and he's put his ageing foot in it again. Sepp Blatter has been in charge of FIFA since 1998. He has made gaff after gaff including stating that in the women's game the players should wear tighter fitted jerseys, and that during the World Cup in Qatar where homosexuality is illegal, he stated that homosexuals should refrain from any contact during this time. And now this one, the biggest gaff of them all:
"Racist language on the field is like foul play and foul language. It happens in the heat of the moment on the football pitch and should be settled after the game with a handshake."
Words cannot describe how disgraceful these comments are. It is yet another sign of a man who's beliefs are out of date to the current state of the world. This is not the man that should be leading the charge against racism, as he claims to be doing. This is not the man that should be in charge of leading the fight to get more young people into the sport no matter what social or racial background their from. This is not the man that has the capabilities to take this sport forward. Simple.
Blatter has been explaining that he has been miss quoted, which is impossible because these comments were made straight out of the horses mouth. He claims that he is strongly against racism, that he led the fight against racism across the world, even using the fact he awarded the 2010 world cup to South Africa as part of his protest. None of these points go to explaining why he believes using racist language on the football field is acceptable.
These comments made could have a devastating affect on the football world from the lowest level up, and we could see issues sore across the world. Too prevent this devastating affect on the game, Sepp Blatter needs to be a man and hand his resignation in. We need to have somebody in charge of football with the beliefs of someone in touch with the 21st century.
GET BLATTER OUT
Sunday, 30 October 2011
What a start to the Premier League season we have seen so far. Goals galore, incredible football being played and a huge amount of drama too. But none more so than in the games with the top teams this term, something that has differed greatly from previous years. Gone are the days of the tight, tense affairs between the teams roaming the top of the Premier League. Welcome the attacking style and flair of the best teams in the league, battling it out for 90 minutes. But the question on so many people's lips is, why are these games so open now?
There could be a lot of reasons why and I have heard a lot been said already from journalists around the country. More attacking players in teams, better attacking quality in teams, poor defensive performances are all reasons that have been mentioned and all of which are valid. In my view though the main reason is that teams are so desperate to win these games and to make a statement to the rest of the league, that they put a large emphasis on attacking football. The battle for the Premier League and the Champions League places are more competitive than ever, and teams want to ensure that they not only beat their rivals, but induce a level of humiliation on them by concentrating on beating them heavily.
The first of which we saw at Old Trafford with Manchester United's 8 vs. 2 humiliation of Arsenal. This was certainly not a tight affair and Arsenal earlier on had a lot of chances to get very quickly back into the game, including a penalty miss by Robin Van Persie. There was so much open attacking play from both teams, but especially United, who were not satisfied with defending a lead, but wanted to attack throughout the 90 minutes. They inflicted a defeat on Arsenal that left the Gunners confidence trounced for future games and it showed.
It didn't end with that game though, last week we saw Manchester City offer Arsenal some payback on Manchester United, by beating them 6 vs. 1. Nobody would of predicted this, but Manchester City's quality and attacking football certainly played a big part. Both teams went all out for the win, playing a very open form of football to ensure they won the game, rather than having the mentality of ensuring they didn't lose, which is a very different mind set. City were never satisfied with 3 goals and continued to attack, running riot at the end of the game.
Yesterday's game summed it up more than any other, Chelsea 3 vs. 5 Arsenal. The game had so much attacking prowess on show by both teams not performing very well defensively. But the main reason the game was so open again was pure and simple down to their want to win the game. Both teams were not afraid of losing the game or keeping things tight at the back to protect their leads. We saw that as both teams lost the lead during the game and they continued to look to go forward throughout. There were plenty of chances for both teams and at the end of the day it was Arsenal who took their chances. On another day it would have been Chelsea that came out on top.
I hope we continue to see these games between the top teams, as for fan's it becomes much more exciting than the close defensive 1 vs. 0 score lines that we have been used to in previous years.
Tuesday, 18 October 2011
When I first heard this idea come to press, I thought it was a joke at the start, then started to hear more and more rumours about it and realised that this seriously could come to fruition. Money holds the key and the power in sport as we all are quickly realising, but that does not mean we as football fans and lovers of the beautiful game would accept that. This includes the players of all the teams in England who will be greatly affected by this change, if it ever happens of course.
The damage to the English game and the national team would be catastrophic, and that is no exaggeration at all. What happens to the rest of the teams in England? Well, the Championship would be the top league and teams winning that league or coming second would go no further. It would be a disaster for the competitive nature of the Football League, as currently teams are desperate for Premier League football for a number of reasons. The financial rewards for getting to the Premier League are huge. The fan's are desperate to see their team compete at the top level and success at a club brings about more support as well. The players want to play at the highest possible level and all strive to compete in the Premier League, currently the best league in the world.
The affect on the National Team would be huge, as the Premier League turning into a franchised league would attract players from around the world, thus limiting the amount of opportunities for young English players to shine. This would reduce the quality of talent in the National team and the competitive mind set within the team as well.
But let's break down the reasons for this discussed change, and that is the power of the foreign owners in the Premier League. There are currently 13 foreign owners in charge of Premier League clubs and they can start powering their influence on the Premier League. The one thing these owners all have in common is money. They want have invested a lot of money in each of the clubs they have taken control of and they want to ensure they don't lose any of this money by suffering the fate of relegation. Understandable. But that is not how it works, and that is not how we pride ourselves on our fantastic professional leagues in England.
As much as fan's love the excitement of the chase for the Premier League title, often the most exciting moment is the battle against relegation and the play off final in the Championship. We love seeing the drama, the celebration and even the despair when clubs stay up or slip down a division to the Championship.
This is our league and please do not let these foreign owners rip it apart.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
The Premier League is still quite clearly in my opinion the best and the toughest league in World Football. But within this special league are 5 individual leagues, with teams vying to come out of the season on top of.
1. To win the Premier League
This season there seems to be just 3 teams competing for the Premier League title with serious ambitions on winning it. Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are already showing the consistency in performance to win the league this year and at such an early stage in the season too. For the competitive nature of the League, I hope that more teams come into the race, but this season that looks highly unlikely.
2. To claim the 4Th Champions League Place
There is now a gap appearing between the teams at the top of the table and the teams chasing 4Th place. Last season that gap certainly wasn't there, but with the demise o the Arsenal team this year, it has started to appear. But what that has done is make the race for 4Th wide open and highly competitive. Tottenham seem to be leading this race, with Liverpool chasing behind them and I'm sure (and hope) Arsenal will sort themselves out and start getting closer to these 2 teams.
3. The Race for (7Th) and the potential for Europa League Football
This could be the most competitive chase of the season in my opinion with a gulf of teams fighting it out for a high top half finish. Teams like Fulham, Aston Villa, Stoke City, Everton and on their early season form, Newcastle, could be fighting it out between them for the top half finishes. These teams year on year certainly want to chase down the league above (4Th place), but I believe this year they maybe quite short of the mark.
4. The Top of the Bottom Half of the table
This is the league for teams to be able to claim they were no where near relegation from the Premier League and to feel good about finishing mid table. This can be a huge achievement for many teams after a gruelling season. But this I believe will be decided late on, as this season there seems to be a lot of teams who could quite easily go down to the Championship. Teams like Sunderland and usually Bolton (although an unimpressive start to the season could change their season expectations) will certainly have a minimum aim to reach this point in the table.
5. The fight against Relegation
This season, even more so than last year, the most competitive league within the Premier League. There are numerous teams throughout the season who will be taking points off each other throughout and it will certainly go down to the wire. All promoted clubs will be working hard to achieve Premier League survival (QPR, Norwich and Swansea), plus there are a lot of established sides struggling to ignite their season this term. That includes the current bottom 3 Bolton, Blackburn and Wigan, also in the mix will be West Brom and Wolves.
With teams desperate to finish higher than pre season expectations, and with Premier League survival on so many teams minds, this all adds to making the league extremely competitive throughout the table. These 5 league titles will be very tight to predict for so many and there is a long season ahead before we get to see the outcome.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
There were so many titles than sprung to mind when preparing this post, but I thought treachery was a perfect word to add to the situation. Harsh word? Maybe. Relevant to what happened this week? You bet. The definition of "treachery" is Betrayal of trust; deceptive action or nature. We saw this and much more this week from the most disrespectful football player I can ever think of that has graced our presence in the beautiful game.
If I went into work and prepared for a shift doing my TV presenting and turned round to my producer and said, "I don't want to present today, and I am not going to come on air", what do you believe would happen to me? Sacked in a second. If anyone turns up and refuses to do their job, they will most likely be sacked and rightly so in whatever situation. Why should footballers be treated any differently? This is a pathetic excuse of a man who gets paid an astronomical £200,000 a week! It beggars belief still, how much football players get paid to do a job that people all over the world pay so much money to try and participate in. But when the supporters watch a player give his all for his club and country, it makes it all worth it. When they watch Tevez refuse to come off the bench and play for his team, his employers, and a team that supporters pay so much of their hard earned money to watch, it is absolutely disgraceful.
I recently was told that I shouldn't ever play football again, something that I wept about and continue to worry about as I cannot imagine not being able to play the game I love. This is socially with friends. Not in the best competition in World Football, the Champions League, against one of the best teams in world football, Bayern Munich in front of 65,000 people in the impressive Allianz Arena. How can anyone who has respect for himself, his friends, his work colleagues and employers refuse to play in that situation? People make so many huge sacrifices to their lives to be able to make it to a high level in the game. What tevez has done is disrespected every single person working so hard to play the game, and to make a living from the game.
Manchester City should set a precedence to the World of Football by sacking him and throwing him out of the club. I believe FIFA need to act also and send out a harsh punishment and ban him from our game for a period of time, to let anyone else know that this behaviour is not tolerated within our game. Footballers are, whether they like it or not, role models to the young, which is a small price to pay for the money they earn from the game. Many would say it isn't even a price to play to be looked up to by millions around the world. Act now, or these belated ego's will wreck our game.
Monday, 26 September 2011
When I was in my very early teen years, I played for a team, Doddinghurst Olympics, who were by far the best footballing team in our area at that time. We passed the ball around, kept the ball on the ground as much as possible and we were privileged to have a great amount of speed throughout the team. We never really won anything though, however we were always extremely close season after season. But the area we struggled the most was in the height and strength department. Whether it was something in the water from my village or what, we were never ever the biggest team and 99 times out a 100 we were the smallest team on the pitch. Often this didn't make a difference, until we were put up against a tough tackling, strong, tall team and we always let things slip. These teams that always had the upper hand against us are the Stoke City of our local leagues.
Stoke City have been built since winning promotion to the Premier League on being a tough tackling, strong, tall unit of players, from the back 4 throughout to the forwards. These tactics include playing the long ball and of course those long throws. Tony Pulis has been the pinnacle of this creation and by employing these tactics he has turned Stoke City into a solidified Premier League club, something all promoted teams aim to do. But do you agree with the way they play the game? This is a big question on so many people's lips and it often divides opinion down the middle. On one side, are they playing outside the rules of the game? No. Is this football you would teach your kids to play? No.
There have been times where Stoke have taken this aggressive game playing too far, and none other than the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey (as seen above). Ramsey was out for almost a year with a broken leg following this shocking challenge. This is the risk of Stoke's aggressive tactics. We are not talking about bumps and bruises, but about players careers and livelihoods. However, what are the referees doing to clamp down on this? Are they handing out the correct punishments? Are Stoke the only team to deploy these tactics? Well, again there are many divided views on this, but Blackburn Rovers and Bolton under Sam Alladyce were criticised heavily for this in the past. Referees are giving out warranted yellow and red cards for bad tackles by any players in the game. My view on their aggressive nature is that as long as we don't see a repeat of tackles like that on Aaron Ramsey, then as long as they keep inside the rules of the game then why can't they play that way. As a fan, that can get quite exciting watching tough challenging games with a bit of an aggressive nature.
This is my main problem with Stokes tactics and my problem does not just sit with the football club, but also with the officials. The time taken setting up for a long throw is ridiculous. If a normal player stood on the touch line with the ball behind his back for the same amount of time as Rory Delap takes for a throw on, the official would give the player a yellow card for time wasting. I have no doubt about this. But why are they not cracking down on this? It seems so obvious to everybody watching it, but it hasn't seemed to have warranted a discussion by the referee's board. This is something I feel very strongly about. Spectators don't pay their money to watch one play dry a ball with a towel and his shirt for 10 - 15 seconds, walk about and steady himself for another 10-15 seconds, before eventually throwing the ball into the box. You are taking so much time out of game this way.
As regards Mr Pulis and his long throw tactics, would he teach his kids to play football this way? No chance. It is not a good advert for the game of football for children to emulate in my opinion. Also, Rory Delap, a Premier League first team player? I would love to hear the honest truth that if he did not have this consistently incredible long throw, would he be anywhere near the Stoke City starting line up? I believe not.
Until the referee's start cutting down the time it takes Stoke to take long throws, then they will continue to use the extra height in their team to their advantage. With the addition of Peter Crouch to their ranks and their incredibly big back 4, I am certain Tony Pulis will continue to play the game this way. I just hope he can control the aggression of his players so that it doesn't boil over to anymore incidents like what we saw in the Aaron Ramsey case.
Saturday, 17 September 2011
I'm sure so many people often wonder why teams in the Champions League struggle so much away from home. We saw Manchester United, last season's beaten finalists, struggle in Benfica and draw the game 1 all. Arsenal really struggled in Dortmund, Madrid won just 1 nil away to Dinamo Zagreb. Lyon couldn't win away and nor could Valencia achieve an away victory and these are top teams in European football.
I believe the intensity of playing in a completely different atmosphere is the main reason for this. The unfamiliarity, the obscurity of these challenging away games make it very difficult for teams to pick up points away from home. The unfamiliar styles of football make a big difference too, as teams playing in the same leagues know each other inside and out, but in Europe it's a different story.
The travelling to these venues doesn't help the situation either, as you incorporate a touch of jet lag, the inconvenience of travel and players staying in unfamiliar environments.
The referee's are also a big factor in the Champions League games and can often influence the outcomes in games. I believe you see more of the referees buckle under the pressure of an intimidating atmosphere and favour home teams. Who could blame them at times? The atmospheres being created in Dortmund on Tuesday night and the barrage of noise teams are put under when they travel to Turkey, as an example, is astronomical.
These are just a number of factors that I believe affect teams playing away from home in Europe. It brings about a completely different game, but a game that also is very exciting for the fan's. The fan's love European nights and the different styles of football that is seen across a week in Europe is fascinating.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Tottenham decided after Rafael Van Der Vaart injured his hamstring against Manchester United that the midfielder will be out for a minimum of 2 months. They took the decision, away from the players knowledge, to leave him out of the Europa League squad list. Much to Tottenham's surprise, Van Der Vaart has recovered from the injury in super quick time and is available for selection in Sundays game against Liverpool. How a Premier League club could make that mistake with a player is beyond me, and even more shockingly, with a player of the calibre of Rafael Van Der Vaart.
He along with Modric were their shining stars last season and Tottenham play to go through Van Der Vaart and rely on his goals, his passing and his dead ball ability. He is very influential for the team, with great leadership qualities that are vital when competing in domestic and European games. For the fan's to accept that one of their best players is not available for Europe due to this reasoning will be very hard to take. I can imagine a huge amount of frustration will be apparent and a lot of questions will need to be answered by Harry Redknapp.
But is it a reflection on the attitude of some English clubs to the Europa League? Does Harry see it as protecting a vital player to their team? Maybe he wants him fighting fit for the teams bid to get back into the top 4?
Tottenham fan's would love to hear your opinions on the matter.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
I was sat there in the stadium in Cape Town in June 2010 at the World Cup and watched in horror at the horrendous performance of the English National team against lowly Algeria. It was a 0 vs 0 draw that lacked absolutely everything from the England team. No passion, no creativity, no leadership and no inspiration. The England fan's clearly showed their displeasure afterwards and rightly so after so many spent so much money to get out there. I met a group of 5 guys who each spent over £10,000 to be there, and to suffer in watching that shocking game was the biggest waste of money I have ever known. A year later, has it improved that much?
The performances in South Africa couldn't get any worse, and it also made the management shake things up and start bringing through younger players to the team who want to be playing for their country. This is the major problem for the National team. Players in England see the importance of the premier league and Champions League as being streets ahead of International football. It is very frustrating to see this and it is no excuse what so ever and is quite simply down to the mentalities of the players and the manager. The players have no excuse, as other nations around the World such as Spain, Germany and Holland all have players playing in the top leagues in the world and the Champions League and still produce startling performances for their countries. The manager though, being Italian, has not got that underlying passion from the heart for a country that he is not from. This is a major problem for me and the return of an English Coach in charge of the team is essential.
The one thing Capello has shown since taking charge of England is how to qualify comfortably for major tournaments. The team away from home, away from the pressure of the home crowd and the set up of the team has been very encouraging. The media always praises England away from home, as do the fan's. It is at home where the problems occur. Capello, renowned for being defensive and keeping things tight at the back, shows too much of an emphasis at home. The players seem to feel under pressure to deliver in front of a big crowd at Wembley and never seem to be at their fluent best. Also the defensive set up of the opposition causes a lot of problems for the England team to try and break through. But this for me is an emphasis on how short we are in the squad of creative players, who can create chances at an instant.
England are ranked 4Th in the world. I had to rub my eyes a few times and take a moment to read it properly again when I saw the latest FIFA world rankings. England are a long way from this in truth, and big improvements are needed if we are going to compete at the top end of the major competitions again. There are still a lot of concerns surrounding our National team that need to be overcome. We do not want to hear excuses after excuses coming out, especially from Fabio Capello, who continually passes the blame for anything that goes wrong.
The fan's just want the answers, and not on a piece of paper or spoken in an interview, but on the pitch. We want to see the passion back and the players fighting for the true meaning of those Three Lions on their Shirt. We want the blood, the tears, the heart, the cries, just like we did around back in Terry Butcher's days.
Thursday, 1 September 2011
Firstly, wow!!!! The excitement of the final day transfer window is nothing short of breathtaking! The rumours, the bids, the rejections, the hope, the pain, you name it, every emotion under the sun comes out during this final day of transfers. And that's just from the fan's! Imagine the stress and tensions of the managers and of those players that are desperate to move clubs? Harry Redknapp when interviewed late last night looked absolutely shattered, and not surprising either. I'm sure most managers were feeling that if they had business still to do.
Where to start....
Stoke City. Not mentioned too much of Stoke in this blog this year and I'm not a huge fan of the team and their style of football. They play an aggressive style, play a lot of long balls and look to bully teams, not something I want young children to emulate. However, it is effective. I am certainly not disputing that, and what a transfer window for the Potters. Tony Pulis has signed Peter Crouch, a fantastic signing for their club and still a very underrated player, with a heap of Premier League experience and of course perfect for Stoke's style of play. Wilson Palacios also another solid signing and some depth up front with the arrival of Canreon Jerome. Add that to the experience of Matthew Upson and Woodgate, you have a very strong Stoke side this year that will be extremely difficult to beat.
QPR have literally brought a new team in this transfer window, including the final day deals for Shaun Wright-Phillips and Anton Ferdinand. Very good signings for a club that looked like they were going to be the whipping boys after their first day of season defeat to Bolton.
Bolton will be delighted to have kept hold of wanted man Gary Cahill, which will feel like a success in the transfer window. They have also added David N'Gog to their ranks as a final day deal, which will help bolster their attacking prowess.
Arsenal fan's (like me) delighted with the work put in to the transfers to finally secure some experience throughout the team. Arteta is a great signing and well help fill a creative void in the Arsenal midfield that looked completely bare after Sundays defeat. Santos looks an exciting attacking left back and Benayoun on loan for a year is a positive signing who will slot straight into the team's style of play. The big one for Arsenal fan's and he is a big one at that is the 6'6 German defender, Per Mertesacker. An absolute quality experienced center back that will toughen up the frail Arsenal defence. Very positive transfer window for Arsenal, just the one question, why so late for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger in particular to finally bring in some experienced and quality faces to the club? Did Arsene Wenger seriously believe his squad was capable of competing at the top before the United game? Worryingly I think the answer to that question is, yes he did.
Liverpool were very busy and managed to capture Craig Bellamy on a free, returning to his former club and what I believe a fantastic signing for the club. He wears his heart on his sleeves and still has a lot to offer for a top club and should fit in very well to strengthen the Liverpool sign. Joe Cole left to go to French club Lille, a good move for Joe who can look to resurrect his career again and fall back in love with the game. One last minute problem for Liverpool however was the surprising loss of Raul Meireles to rivals Chelsea. Chelsea will be extremely pleased with their business throughout this window and also lie in the positive section.
Fulham managed the capture of Bryan Ruiz from FC Twente, a much sort after striker that will help offer some assistance to Bobby Zamora up front. They will be very happy with their capture.
Top of the list by a country mile is Newcastle. There will be some angry fan's this morning who will be furious with the way the clubs finances have been dealt with. Where is the money received for Andy Caroll? Then they sold Nolan and Barton, their 2 best players from last season and have not replaced them in the market. More importantly no striker brought in. I would be extremely disgruntled if I was a fan and I would be asking a lot of questions to Mike Ashley and Alan Pardew.
Everton another club that will be frustrated with the state of affairs at the club. David Moyes has done a great job at Everton, but unfortunately not a lot he could do to hold on to Arteta and with no money available to spend they could only bring in two players on loan for the season. Difficult to take when Jermaine Beckford also left the club to leicester and Yakubu headed to Ewood Park, leaves them extremely short. It's going to be a very tough season for the Toffee's this time around.
Now Tottenham. A mixture from Spurs and I am putting them in the negative because I know the reaction of the fan's have been negative towards their transfer window activities. Worryingly is how many players left the club, notably Crouch to Stoke, but palacios, Jenus, Hutton and Bentley all departed. The arrival of Scott Parker will help soften the blow for the fan's and the loan signing of Adebayor is positive, but a lot of departures and the failure to sign Cahill is a disappointment to the club.
Finally, Luka Modric. What a saga it has been. He will remain a Tottenham player, but are Spurs fan's happy? He clearly wanted to leave the club and has openly been very unhappy with the behaviour of Daniel Levy. Arsenal sold the players who didn't want to be at the club and we shall see if that works out for them and if it works out for Tottenham in keeping a player that doesn't want to be there. I'm not so sure it will for Tottenham and believe Modric will be gone in January when the saga's and the drama's start all over again.
Monday, 29 August 2011
Unfortunately it is very difficult to hold back my feelings on the Arsenal performance and situation for this blog and to be completely calm and neutral about it. So, I have decided to just hold nothing back and let my true feelings come out.
Those fan's who seriously believe Arsene should go, really don't know too much about the affects of manager change on a club. It would be a disaster to change the manager now. Now I am a huge Wenger fan, and I am not defending him in this situation, please believe me. He is making mistakes, and he needs to come through with these promises of new experienced signings as promised at the back end of last season. However, sacking him now is not the answer. It would be like kicking someone whilst they are on the floor, something that you should never do.
Let's start looking at our ageing out of date board who need to go! This is the main problem with the club right now trust me! They are slowing every deal up, they are the ones who don't want to pay the money for players that we need. SACK THE BOARD. It is needed. And what of our new owner, Mr Kroenke? We as Arsenal fan's have heard nothing from him, seen nothing new of him, and wonder to ourselves what on earth he is doing at the club? He is not a fan, he has no heart in the club and quite simply is only looking for profits of his investment.
I think the whole of Arsenal had lost this game before the kick off. The shock in the team sheet and the lack of quality and experience was extremely worrying. But that is no excuse for losing 8 vs. 2 and showing no fight and heart in a performance that lacked everything. There was no game plan, no defensive cohesion, no tactics, no leadership and worryingly no management. If a struggle to qualify for the Champions League, something that I actually said afterwards may not have been the best thing for the club this season (which sounds insane to think, right?), was a wake up call to the manager, then this is like someone is violently shaking Arsene to make changes in the squad.
Rosicky????? Are you being serious! What a disgrace of a player, no heart, no fight and his behaviour when that free kick was taken is truly frightening. He was in the wall and never once turned round after the ball was kicked by Rooney. If the keeper had saved it and pushed it out, he was walking away from the goal not paying any attention to what was going on. His performances have been abysmal, and that's being kind. What worries me the most about Rosicky is that he is a senior member of the team, one that young players look up to. Shocking.
Johan Djourou! Where do I start? In parts last year he was showing massive improvements, particularly remember against Chelsea last year. BUT now he is the most error prone defender in the premier league. This is no exaggeration, just look at the goals we have conceded, 5 of which are down to his poor commitment and more importantly shocking decision making! He was at fault for so many goals, by making basic errors that you wouldn't find in kids football. I am being kind in this piece about him because there is so much more I can say about this second rate defender.
The full backs! Traore never has been good enough, still isn't even after all his loan spells. And poor Jenkinson. Yes, he had no protection from anyone around him, but my word he is a million miles away from being an Arsenal player. He lacks pace and another with shocking decision making. He was playing non league football in December and then straight into the Arsenal team at Old Trafford. Poor management Arsene, this kid is not ready, and I do not believe he is showing signs that he is anywhere good enough for premier league football.
Wenger failed in his lack of game plan, and left our full backs exposed. Walcott and Arshavin had to play deeper and our key should of been protection. We needed to squeeze the ball more, but we let them play through midfield, which allowed those easy balls over the top and in behind our league 2 defence.
Only positives were Ramsey, who on the ball is showing massive improvements. And I though Coquelin on his debut was very impressive. He worked hard, he ran, he tackled and gave his all, something the experienced players around him didn't.
Where to go from here! Scary times when you hear Wenger refusing to admit we need to buy, making every Arsenal fan gulp. After yesterday a Full back is a new priority in my book, and with Jag's ability to play along the back line, he would be essential, just please Arsenal pay the money!!! Cahill in as well no question. Arsenal should do everything they can to prize Kaka from Madrid (he is rotting on their bench) and sign Eden Hazard from Lille. It means investing every bit of money available and the board finally adjusting the wage bill.
A note to the best performance from Arsenal yesterday was the amazing support of the fans, who did not stop singing throughout.
Friday, 26 August 2011
I have to say the standard of the premier league this season has certainly started with a bang! The football being played by the top teams has been exceptional and the battling qualities of the teams expected to be at the bottom has been a breath of fresh air. QPR's reaction to a heavy and some what embarrassing start to the season at home to Bolton was swiftly put to the side after a fantastic away win to slow starters Everton. Wolves starting with a 100% record is great to see after they struggled so much last year. Looks like Mick MacCarthy is really installing a great work ethic amongst his players.
The exceptional football was emphasised by the champions Manchester United, playing Tottenham off the park with an extremely young, but exciting line up. Their strength in depth looks frightening (in a good way), their new boys really shining through, in particular Phil Jones who looks a sensational young player and Ashley Young, one who is improving week on week. And the emergence of Danny Welbeck, never forgotten by Sir Alex Ferguson and his assist for Anderson's goal was quite tremendous.
Man City are looking like a completely different team to last year. Remember that game they played at the Emirates stadium, when Arsenal were flying and they just played for the draw. Never attacked throughout the game, and their sole intent was to just not concede. Could you imagine seeing Man City this term playing like that? They are an exciting outfit and playing some great attacking football and will be a joy to watch for the neutrals this year. Adding more attacking strength to their squad with the inclusion of Samir Nasri this week, will bring them more prowess in front of goal, and their strikers mouths must be watering at the prospect of having Yaya Toure, Nasri and David Silva feeding them this year.
Chelsea have scrapped through unimpressively so far to 4 points, but with a couple of new signings, including that of the exciting talent of Juan Mata from Valencia, I think they will be back to their fluent ways very soon. Liverpool are looking good after a nice result away to a struggling Arsenal, who have their work cut out and a fast rebuilding process is needed to compete back at the top.
When we see the European games start on a regular basis, then we will see if their continues to be a golf in class between the top few teams and everyone else. But I am very excited that we're right underway with the season and the excitement of knowing there is still so much to come.
Monday, 15 August 2011
The first weekend was here
Not one person is talking about the real problem with the game, the Referee. He was absolutely shocking, and was the cause of all what happened during the game. Song reacted (wrongly) to a tackle from behind by Barton. Yes Barton got the ball, but the laws state that any tackle from behind is a foul and a yellow card. The referee should have immediately blown his whistle and dealt with this challenge. And yes, the referee should have dealt with Song too as it was a red card and rightly so will be punished. (absolutely shocking discipline from one of Arsenal's experienced players, which will cost them in the coming games against Liverpool and United).
If, as the referee determined, that Gervinho did dive, then the referee should have blown up, given a free kick and booked him for simulation. Problem solved. But he failed to do his job, again. His assistant did not help, as Joey Barton lifted him from the ground, very aggressively which can't be allowed and should of been a red card. Again the referee was wrong. No wonder Gervinho reacted, though the slap was wrong and he did deserve his punishment, one thing the referee actually got right.
I would like the referee's to start coming out, speaking and explaining their decisions. If they come out and admit to mistakes, then I believe everybody will move on straight away and except that they are humans and do make mistakes.
My final points on all this is the actions of Steven Taylor to get the Arsenal player sent off, lying and saying it was an elbow, when there was nothing of the sort. Is he going to get punished? Joey Barton's reaction to the slap was disgusting. And he has spoken out about how he hates people diving, well him going down like that is just the same. And finally, Alan pardew. A manager I have very little good things to say about, and he continued his shocking attitude, with his post match comments defending any player being able to lift someone off the ground as aggressively as he did. Also, funnily enough not condoning the way Barton went down too. Yes all managers defend players, I mean we have Arsene Wenger the king of it all, but that was something else.
The second most talked about opening weekend moment is this man, Sergio Aguero. What can you say about his impact coming off the bench for Man City against Swansea? Incredible! Yes it is Swansea, a promoted team with very little premier league experience amongst their ranks, but Aguero had trained for one week (not always with the squad) after a long summer with Argentina, came in and transformed the game from a tight 1 vs. 0 to a 4 vs. 0 demolition job. A fantastic signing for Man City, joining the vast talent in their ranks and showing the Premier League big boys that their here to compete for the title this year, and on that performance, who would bet against them?
I have to say I was impressed with Swansea though. They played some very good football, attacked extremely quickly with the likes of Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer and I believe they will surprise plenty of teams this term. A bit more of a physical presence in the center of midfield would certainly help their team.
Poor poor QPR need a vast amount of improvements after Bolton destroyed them at Loftus Road. Worrying for me is the defence and how light they look there. If there is time for Neil Warnock to get in and improve this area of his team, then I believe definitely some investment is needed. Impressive start for Owen Coyles team though.
Manchester United continued their way of winning, by scraping a 2 vs. 1 win against West Brom. The only problems coming out of the game were injuries to both Vidic and Ferdinand, which could be crucial in seeing how they respond with a couple of tricky fixtures coming up for them. West Brom I thought played pretty well and look set to have a much better season this time around.
Chelsea lacked a bit of spark from their midfield to push them forward and struggled to create too many chances against a difficult Stoke team. Stoke proving they are going to be a tough opposition this season, especially at the Britannia stadium. Just missing some creative talent from the midfield like Chelsea.
Wolves started well with a nice win and Mick MaCarthy will look to push on with his team this season and build from a good away result. Poor start for their opponents Blackburn though and my belief is that Steve Kean could be the first manager casualty this term.
Liverpool and Sunderland both showed their talents during their 1 all draw at Anfield, with that classic cliche "Its a game of two halfs" very apparent. Luis Suarez looked very classy and Downing showed some patches of his talents too. For Sunderland, new signing Wes Brown looks to be an absolute steal at £1 million, and was extremely dominant at the back for them. A fantastic goal from Seb Larsson showed they will not miss Jordan Henderson too much this term, with Larsson a ready made replacement.
Very little to say about the Fulham vs. Aston Villa game, a goal less draw from two very lacklustre sides, who will need to really step it up in the coming weeks.
And finally Wigan against new boys Norwich, a potential relegation scrap on day 1 of the season for both teams. A 1 all draw seeming a fair result in this competitive game, where new boys Norwich showed a lot of fight and bottle, which will stand them in good stead this year.
Friday, 12 August 2011
The longest transfer saga in premier League history has finally come to a conclusion, with Cesc Fabregas being unveiled as a Barcelona player today. He will go back to his boyhood club, after learning and developing all his talent at Arsenal FC to becoming one of the best players in World Football. This is no exaggeration and the stats do not lie either. When people said he had a poor year last year, they are wrong. Fabregas suffered from a lot of injuries last term, but still managed to lead Arsenal's assist table. He still managed to create the second most chances out of every premier League player and the biggest stat of all is that for the past 5 years, Fabregas has created the most chances out of the top 5 European leagues. He is that good!
As an Arsenal fan, I want players playing for my club who want to be there, who want to drive the team forward and who want success for the team. That classic saying, "nobody is bigger than the club". This also applies with the Nasri situation, who clearly is intent on leaving the club considering he does not want to sign a new deal. Arsenal need to now accept the situation and move on. But the fan's want to know, what's next?
Arsene Wenger has come under a great deal of criticism this past couple of years by football fans, pundits and from his own fan's. Never from me though. I will never criticise a man who has transformed the game in England, transformed the club of Arsenal and transformed the way Arsenal play the game of football. "In Arsene we trust" and I am a firm believer of this. However, if I ever have had any questions that need to be answered for the future of Arsenal Football Club then this is the time.
Many people target Arsene Wenger for the current situation, but people need to start focusing their anger and questions to those higher up at the club and to an ageing out of date board. In my view this is what needs revolutionised at the club. The board need to step into the 21st century and focus the club on the changes that are fast apparent in football. Yes we have a fantastically run football team financially and have a great amount of stability at the club, which is not very apparent at so many clubs across the country, but something is not right, otherwise we wouldn't be letting go of our best players. Plus it is very unfortunate that the time has come in football where you have spend millions and millions of £'s to be successful, but if that's what brings in success, then let's do it!
Where do Arsenal go from here in the transfer market?
Arsenal have already improved their defensive line with having Thomas Vermaelen fit again, which will definitely offer some strength and more importantly, leadership in the back line. But it is a defensive partner we need for him, a no nonsense type, and preferably some British steel in the side. For me, Gary Cahill will be the perfect addition to the squad, as he ticks all those boxes. Unfortunately for Arsenal, when players like Koscielny and Djourou have come in, they have made crucial mistakes and haven't been consistent enough with their performances. The consistency is the difference between winning the premier league and not, it's simple.
However, one area that people are forgetting that we need to improve is at the other end of the field. We need another forward to support the key role that Robin Van Persie does for the club and we now need replacements for Fabregas and potentially Nasri too. The money received needs to be immediately spent on new players, and fast. Juan Mata is a start, but this deal is struggling to really get going. So, the question lies, who can we get?
I do not have these answers and I am sure head coach Steve Rowley will be working day and night in search for an answer. The one thing Arsenal need is to finally start putting up the cash and paying what is necessary to secure the services of top players. So many have failed to make the trip to the Emirates, due to Arsenal not wanting to pay the money. Xabi Alonso is one of a list that Arsenal let slip through their fingers. Change is needed and the next 16 days are going to be crucial for Arsenal FC.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Very interesting summer for Arsenal, and still a lot of unanswered questions within the squad as well, with the future of Fabregas and Nasri still undecided. This is not ideal preparation for a season to come with just days until the start. But last season a certain young player in the name of Jack Wilshire stood strong with a big season, and with the support of a fit Van Persie and the exciting new attacking talent in Alex Chamberlain, Gervinho and the now granted visa for Japanese starlet Miyaichi, it could be a new era for the club. Those defensive question marks continue to be raised and will be a key factor in Arsenal's season to come.
Prediction 4th (just)
New manager, busy summer and improvements expected for the club after a poor season last term for Villa standards. Although, replacements will be needed for Young and Downing and support at the top end of the field for Darren Bent will be essential. The signing of N'Zogbia is a positive move and Given in goal will help fill the boots of the departed Brad Friedel. The way the manager gets the team playing consistently will be key to Villa's season.
With a full season ahead, with newer owners of the club and with a new manager in Steve Kean entering the start of a season in charge of Rovers, I expect them to have a mixed season. Keeping hold of some key players, particularly Chris Samba is key to keeping the strong backbone of a tough Blackburn team. Premier league experience within the squad should be enough to ensure they are not fighting relegation this term.
This is a club with a lot of potential for the forth coming season. A strong manager in place in Owen Coyle, with some good leadership throughout the team in Kevin Davies and if they keep him, Gary Cahill too, could see the club start moving forward. Some new creative and attacking players into the club are needed for the club to push up to the top half of the table.
New manager in charge, fresh energy around the squad and exciting new signing in Romelu Lukaku should see Chelsea challenge once more. A somewhat quiet transfer window so far for the usually active West London outfit, but with a fit again Benayoun, the return of Daniel Sturridge on loan and Lukaku could bring some exciting new attacking flair to the team. If Torres can find his scoring boots and maybe their midfield strengthened a bit then I believe they can challenge very closely for the title.
A club that has always been knocking on the European door for a while now, has had a quiet summer, but importantly kept hold of key personnel so far. The young talent coming through the club is exciting and with a further years experience will be looking to have an improved season.
New manager in charge, a European campaign underway, but a strong squad of players that could lead to a good season for Fulham. They must improve their away form and turn Craven Cottage into a fortress next season (never an easy place to play anyway). The form of Bobby Zamora and some creative additions to the squad could give Fulham a good season, as long as they are not distracted by Europe.
A team that I have had much debate over during this exciting summer for the club. "King Kenny" at the realm for a full season in charge, with new players brought in, Charlie Adam, Downing and Henderson adding to the strengthening in January gives Liverpool a much needed strength in depth. A lot have predicted a champions league finish, but my view is these are good signings, but are not Champions League quality players. However, a much improved season should be had by the club.
So much to say about the "new" City team. Improved yet again with Sergio Aguero signed to provide goals at the top, and if Tevez stays at the club, it could be an incredible partnership up top. Clichy with a whole host of Premier League experience and the retaining of their top players, means it could be an even better season for City this year. The distraction of Champions League Football could be the key to their season in the premier League and if they can cope with the demands of competing in two high quality competitions.
A fantastic pre season for the champions, with early transfer window signings in Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea given time to gel with the rest of the squad. Great Charity Shield result and the emergence of loanees from last season Welbeck and Cleaverly, looking like perfect additions to last seasons squad. Valencia fit again, Nani hoping to reach all his potential and with the new additions I cannot see past United to have an even more successful year this season.
Another team starting with a first full season of a relatively new manager to the club in Alan Pardew, have an interesting season ahead after a controversial summer. Kevin Nolan sold to West Ham and the dramas surrounding Joey Barton, who were two shining stars in the team last term, leaves a some what question mark for the upcoming season. The addition of Obertan from Man Utd is a positive signing, but more is needed to come at both ends of the field, in order for Newcastle to have a better season, without this, I believe it could be a struggle for them.
New boys to the premier League Norwich, have had a busy summer strengthening their team, including the signing of James Vaughan and Steve Morison, which will hopefully breed some goals in the team. Defensively is often the key areas however for new teams, and although manager Paul lambert has done his best to bring in some good players in the shape of Ritchie De Laat and Kyle Naughton on loan, I believe it's going to be a tough season ahead and a relegation fight is almost a certainty.
Another of the premier League new boys and with a strong manager and ownership in the club, it could be an interesting year for the club. Good summer signings made from Neil Warnock includes Kieron Dyer, Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell, will give the team some strength in the attacking half of the field. Defensively they worry me slightly and hopefully the experience of Gabbidon well help the club fight for their survival.
Prediction 17th (just)
A frustrating summer for Stoke boss Tony Pullis, has lead to just the arrival of 2 free transfers in the experienced centre backs of Woodgate and Upson. This will certainly strengthen up the team defensively, but attacking wise it is looking very light. Attempted transfer of Carlton Cole broke down and now I'm sure the manager is looking at other options, with Tottenham's Peter Crouch being one name mentioned as well as Arsenal's Bendtner. If these attacking signings are made, I believe Stoke could have a good season, as well as hopefully a nice European run too.
Exciting summer for Sunderland with some much needed strength added to their team. The loss of Jordan Henderson is a blow, but some experienced signings, especially defensively in John O'Shea and Wes Brown from Man Utd will help strengthen the team. Conor Wickham, Craig Gardener and Seb Larsson will add some creativity and attacking prowess to an exciting Sunderland team for the season ahead. If Steve bruce can get the team to gel together quickly, then this could be a promising season for the Black Cats.
Exciting times for the Swans with their first season in the Premier League and I am looking forward to seeing what impact they can make, in particular at home, where the stadium atmosphere will no doubt be electric. A good manager in charge in Brendan Rodgers has brought some good players to the club in Danny Graham and Wayne Routledge in particular, adding to the spark given to them by the talented Scott Sinclair. However, the Premier League is a massive step for teams and I think they may struggle to cope with the demands of the season.
Tottenham have had a quiet summer with regards players coming in, but knowing Harry that will change as we get closer to the end of the transfer window. Keeping hold of Modric is key to them having a successful season, but with teams above them improving their squads, I believe the gap may widen between the top 4 and 5 and Tottenham. If they can keep key players fit, bring in some fresh faces and keep hold of the squad then I think Tottenham could have a good season ahead of them.
I believe Roy Hodgson was out of his depth at Liverpool, but actually is better suited at smaller clubs and I believe will do a great job at West Brom. Not a team with a lot of money, they have made some sensible summer signings including the return of Zoltan Gera and signing Ben Foster on loan for the season to replace Scott Carson, something that many feel is a positive move. I believe West Brom could have a much better season this time around, with maybe the addition of one or two more experienced names to the club.
Wigan have been struggling to survive the past few seasons in the Premier League, but they have been doing through grit determination and have a fantastic manager at the healm in Roberto Martinez. Retaining Martinez was the key this summer as well as the signing of a good goalkeeper permanently in Ali Al-Habsi from Bolton. But the sale of star player Charles N'Zogbia will be a big loss, and with very little money available for new players, I believe it's going to be a tough season for the Lactics.
Wolves have made 2 important signings this summer in the permanent move for creative midfielder Jamie O'Hara and the defensive wall of Rodger Johnson from Birmingham. This will help solidate the team for the battle to come, and I believe it's going to be a big battle for relegation like last season. They will be in the mix, but if they keep there best players injury free then I believe they could stay out of the drop zone and have a decent season.