Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Season Preview Double Header! Man City and Liverpool

Well last night Liverpool suffered a 3-0 stomping at the City of Manchester stadium after a man of the match performance and goal from Gareth Barry, and a brace from Carlos Tevez gave the Citizens the 3 points.

With both teams from last night giving performances that just may well sum up their season, I thought it appropriate to give an season's preview double header.

We'll start with Liverpool who had a shocker last night, being out-played, out-manoeuvred and out-classed by a Manchester City side that many will argue, wasn't at their strongest. Javier Mascherano was the key man missing last night, with reports stating he refused to play, which will only fuel Barcelona's transfer attempts, then there's the choice of formation - 4-4-2, something Liverpool haven't played for quite some time and a system which didn't suit either Steven Gerrard or Lucas Leiva.

A lack of general talent however, amongst the Liverpool squad and especially the bench is Liverpool's biggest concern still. It was a problem last season and looks to be a problem again this season. David N'Gog may have had an okay game against the Gunners last Sunday, but last night he was nowhere near good enough and his talent in general shows little promise. Joe Cole last night begun his 3 match suspension, but whilst the lad has been keen to show off in front of the Kop, he's missed a penalty and been shown a red card first game of the season, surely then you'd hope there's more to come very soon. The only signing that has performed to any credible standard so far is Milan Jovanovic and he's nowhere near good enough to drag Liverpool back into that Champions League spot.

BBC 5Live's Robbie Savage hit the nail on the head when he said Liverpool need another World Class Striker in order to compete with the Premier League's big boys. It's the sad to hear then that Liverpool's transfer target in mind is Swedish and PSV striker Ola Toivonen, who with the greatest respects, doesn't inspire faith. I do put this lacklustre transfer budget and targets down to the Club's situation rather than the manager. Roy Hodgson is a good man and can help steer this rapidly sinking ship to some sort of safety, if the Club's ownership is soprted out sooner rather then later.

From a club in crisis then to another club that is on the up, Manchester City, owned by the Mighty Sheik Mansour and managed by the stylish figure of Roberto Mancini. City's millions have completely revamped the first team squad and brought in the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Super Mario Balotelli.

Their first nil-nil draw away at Tottenham was, for some fans, alarm bells who thought the team wouldn't gel and it would be a repeat of last season, so-near-yet-so-far. However last night Mancini proved he's got the magic touch and is gradually getting his philosophy of attractive, attacking Football across the team. Last night's result was a good one, let that not be in doubt, but don't expect it to be a one-off, it's more than likely that the like of the other Premeir League Top 4 could suffer the same fate as Liverpool did. Last night wasn't enough the strongest City side they can put out - no Boateng, no Silva, no Balotelli, no Adebayor, no Vieira and no Kolarov. All of those players are still to return to the team and to full fitness, frightening stuff really.

All this though, couldn't be possible without the man in charge, Roberto Mancini. Last season he did little justice in proving he was a competent successor to Mark Hughes. He promised fourth and then achieved fifth, so many football fans in England may have already dismissed Mancini's ability. Let's be honest however, Mancini has brought these players in, strengthened every position on the pitch and made Carlos Tevez club captain, showing the Argentine just how much he means to the club. A clever man really who tactically outclassed Liverpool last night.

The Man City squad is so strong, their manager is very accomplished and together the club can overcome a clear majority of the Premier League's opposition. I can't see City losing very often at home, the Italian mentality of Mancini will mean he'll want to make the Home ground into a fortress, akin to that of Chelsea's Mourinho years.

However, one thing that City's miillions can't pay for is history. Man City at the minute are a great squad, however in terms of stature and history, they aren't a great club. The opposite for Liverpool then, is perhaps the truth as well. Liverpool are a great club, with a proud history and an accomplished past, but at the minute, they haven't got a great squad.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Manchester United - A season of new Promise

With the first few days of the new Premier League season already behind us and the sumer transfer window closing soon, I thought it only appropriate to look at the Premier League clubs that will be making all the headlines this year.

Starting today with the title challengers Manchester United, I'll be looking at the old top four and whose contending for fourth this year, the also rans of last year who are Europa band and finishing off with the relegation candidates and certainties.

So Manchester United, always in the running for the title and always winning something every season and as usual led by the one and only Sir Alex Ferguson. I've said before that the Red Devils need a more attacking midfielder than the bunch they have got now. However, after their 3-0 thrashing of Newcastle orchestrated in large part by iconic United playmaker, Paul Scholes, perhaps maybe they'll get by and manage just fine.

Whether they can go on to win the League is another story altogether, however they did look good at home against newly promoted Newcastle, but Chelsea looked twice as good agaisnt also newly promoted West Bromwich Albion.

One thing we can say about the United squad is their pure strength in depth will come in handy, especially under the new Premier League squad rules. Many of their second and third string players would easily be snapped up by any other Premier League club, just look at the transfer battle over Danny Welbeck, (currently on loan to Sunderland for the season) between Stoke, Birmingham and Sunderland as proof of the quality of their fringe players.

Like Welbeck, a lot of United players will be looking to prove their worth this year after disappointing World Cup campaigns and the European Championship looming closer. The spotlight will surely be focused on the likes of Wayne Rooney, after a poor World Cup showing and the jury is still out on whether Nani and Valencia are good enough on the Wing-play, both had sporadic form at best last season. Berbatov is another player looking to silence critics. He may have bagged his first goal of the season against Newcastle but he's never replicated the form he showed at Tottenham and the fans the fans are losing patience and possibly the manager too.

Then there's the new talent, Javier Hernandez aka Chircharito and unknown entity Bebe, two strikers that will be looking to make the jump up to the Premier League. Hernandez has already showed his ability against Chelsea with a goal in the Community Shield and Bebe's rags to riches story may be just enough to pull on the heart strings of the Manchester faithful. However Fergie will want goals and good performances from both, with Wayne Rooney his only in-form striker from last year, he'll want his newly bolstered strike force to show some killer instinct and rack up the goals.

The thing to look forward about United this season though, is for once a Premier League club lacks any major squad problems, minimal injury crises, they've retained their best players, still got an experienced manager and have a diverse squad full of experience talent and youth. This season United will surely win a trophy (if you don't count the Communtity Shield), be it whatever shape or form, whether they'll win the League and beat Liverpool's record is a different matter, but the pundits for sometime have declared the league a two horse race and United is the one to have a cheeky punt on.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

3 Days until a new Season Dawns...

Yes, just three days at the Premier League starts all over again. Another 38 games will decide the winner of the 10/11 season, with the usual suspects of Manchester United and Chelsea looking like the only real contenders for the title. United though have already succeeded in getting the first honours of the season, winning the Community Shield in comfortable fashion, hammering Chelsea 3-1 with d├ębutante Chicharito getting on the score sheet in the progress, as well as Dmitar Berbatov looking like the player he was at Tottenham, scoring a beautiful chipped goal. However let's not forget that it was Hilario in goals for Chelsea...

Martin O'Neil has resigned just three days before the season has even begun, well...we might as well get the managerial sackings started, after all every year someone loses their job. My money would be on Roberto Mancini to be next, too many signings, no squad stability and heavy pressure to succeed might prove too much for the superstar Italian to stay committed to the Eastlands outfit. I think Roy Hodgson will be safe enough, after all Liverpoool could barely afford to get rid of Benitez!

This season will also mark a comeback for the veterans of the England squad who flopped at the World Cup in South Africa. Those who deserved to be booed: Lampard, Rooney, Green, Carrick, Barry, Terry, Glen Johnson. Those who maybe don't deserve to be booed but will be: Gerrard, Lennon, Wright-Phillips, Milner, Defoe, Upson. Those who we still can't work out why they went: Joe Hart and Emile Heskey.

With that in mind, this season and today in fact, should be an opportunity for the youngster of English football to try and make their mark. Jack Rodwell really does need to have a brilliant season to prove he's the sort of midfield player the future England squad needs, same goes for Wilshere and James Milner (who failed to convince some whilst in South Africa) and of course the enigma that is Adam Johnson, some think he's crap, others think he should have been in South Africa for the World Cup. Carlton Cole is another one who needs to have a great season, more because some West Ham fans still think he's a waste of space, England fans have already labeled him, perhaps unfairly as another Emile Heskey (who scores more often than not at both levels). Then of course there's Joe Hart who might be reduced to bench fodder or the man who forces Given to retire, most likely the former unfortunately. Finally Michael Dawson; good player who should do well if he remains injury free.

Then of course there's the race for fourth which will begin much, much earlier than it did last year. Many will have you believe Tottenham are the favourites yet again, but Man City will get third or Second...no. Liverpool in theory have the experience and pedigree for fourth place finish, whether they get it might rely yet again on the form of Gerrard and Torres, but the arrivals of Wilson and Joe Cole may give the squad some freshness and depth which they've lacked for a few years now, plus they haven't lost any of their stars.

City will win something. They have to. Spurs on the other hand are very hit and miss, hopefully with Redknapp at the helm they'll be more hit and should challenge the whole league table. Obviously I want Liverpool to do well, but I'll have to wait awhile to be convinced because a season that begins away at Arsenal cannot bode well.