Filed under: England, European Football | Tags: All-EPL Team, Blackburn Rovers, Cheik Tiote, Chelsea, Clint Dempsey, Everton, Fabricio Coloccini, Fulham, Grant Holt, Juan Mata, Kyle Walker, Leighton Baines, Liverpool, Martin Skrtel, Michel Vorm, Newcastle, Norwich City, Premier League, Stephane Sessegnon, Sunderland, Swansea, Tottenham, Yakubu
The ink has barely dried on the final pages of this last English Premier League campaign and I find myself already looking forward to next season’s thrilling chapter. From both a neutral and Manchester City point of view you couldn’t ask for a more enthralling final day of action. From the viewpoint of a Manchester United fan (me) it was one of the most heart-wrenching five minutes of stoppage time ever suffered through. The last time I was so devastatingly disappointed at the end of a game was during the 2002 World Cup when the United States was denied a clear cut penalty after Torsten Frings handled on the goal line. Like I said last week, however, United have no one to blame but themselves after letting an eight point lead slip through their fingers. It pains me to say this, but kudos to Manchester City for not giving up. They did what champions are supposed to do, find winning goals when it seems all hope is lost. Oh yeah, Joey Barton is now my least liked player by far now. I don’t think his dismissal mattered too much in the grand scheme of things (QPR scored after he was sent off), but it is nice to direct some ire at him.
I always enjoy reading other people’s teams of the season from the Premier League, so I am giddy at getting to do one of my own. However, I am going to do mine a little differently. I am not going to include anybody from the teams that finished in the top three. If I did that, then just like everybody else’s picks this year my list would be dominated by Manchester City players as well as Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie. There are some big names on here, but I want to give a shout out to some of the little guys, the ones that don’t make the headlines week in and week out. (more…)
Filed under: England, European Football | Tags: Arsenal, Bolton, Everton, Fulham, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, QPR, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, West Brom
So here we are at the final weekend of the Barclay’s Premier League and in order for Manchester United to lift the trophy again I find myself rooting feverishly for Queens Park Rangers, the team with possibly the worst road record in England’s top flight. I’m not sure which is more likely to happen, QPR getting a result at the fortress that is the Etihad Stadium against the rolling Manchester City or Manchester United putting at least eight goals past Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Well, there’s always next year, right my fellow Red Devils fans? Of course I am going to keep my fingers crossed and do whatever little good luck tricks I need to do until the final whistles, but does anyone realistically see QPR getting anything other than a spanking against the Sky Blues?
How about a shout out to Chelsea? On Saturday they won their first trophy of the campaign by beating Liverpool 2-1(the score line I magically predicted, only without the extra time) in the FA Cup final. It was the fourth time they’ve won the competition in the last six years, which is quite an impressive feat. Didier Drogba became the first player to score in four FA Cup finals, while John Terry set his own record by being the first captain to hoist the trophy into the air four times with the same team. Ashley Cole, however, has now won the FA Cup a staggering seven times! Didier Drogba was immense and played like I thought he would, but for me the real hero of the game was Peter Cech. Somehow he was able to paw an Andy ‘I decided to show up at the end of the season’ Carroll header off the goal line to keep Chelsea in the lead. My initial thought was that the ball had crossed the line, but the replays showed that Cech single handedly kept the ball out. Kudos to Cech, a keeper that has had some undue criticism this campaign. (more…)
Filed under: England, European Football | Tags: Blackburn, Chelsea, FA Cup, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Premier League, Wigan
When I saw the starting lineup for Manchester United ahead of their 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Monday night I got a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. I had a feeling that United would go with a conservative approach, but I didn’t think they would go as conservative as they actually did. It looked to me as though Ferguson sent them out hoping to get a draw. I said last week that I thought Park Ji Sung would be brought in, but I didn’t think that it would be at the expense of Antonio Valencia, one of United’s most consistent and dangerous performers this campaign. I was hoping that Nani would be the one relegated to the bench because of his disappointing form over the past few weeks. I know that he’s scored two goals in his last two games but for me he can be a little too selfish with the ball and he doesn’t track back enough defensively, and sure enough on Monday he was about as ineffective as I expected him to be. I thought Ryan Giggs was a strange choice to start on the left wing. If Ashley Young isn’t going to start on the left wing then I would have rather seen either Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez (what did he do to not be able to get a game in?) start up front with Wayne Rooney pushed out left. But who am I to second guess Sir Alex Ferguson? The defensive unit played acceptable together, the lone exception coming when Chris Smalling lost Vincent Kompany on a corner kick to let him score the lone goal. Phil Jones had an okay game, but he has faded a lot these last few months. As an offensive whole, United played a flat, nonthreatening game. They didn’t even register a shot on target the entire game. That is unacceptable for would be champions. (more…)
Filed under: England, European Football | Tags: Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Premier League, QPR, Wigan
By Jonathan Richardson
Before Sunday, United had won nine of their last ten, and while that is an impressive run there were signs that United might stumble a bit heading towards the finish line. Sure, they beat Aston Villa last weekend by the score of 4-0, but truthfully it was a not very good Aston Villa team they played. The week before that United lost to Wigan, and, though Wigan is playing attractive football at the moment, they had not beaten United in fifteen previous meetings. Prior to the Wigan defeat, United had unconvincingly, and maybe a bit fortuitously, ground out positive results against QPR, Blackburn and Fulham.
I felt that a well organized and stubborn Everton team would give United a tough game, especially after the Toffee’s heartbreaking semi-final defeat against Liverpool. It seemed like David Moyes had taken notice of the way Athletic Bilbao had come to Old Trafford and aggressively played the Red Devils instead of sitting back and soaking up pressure. Deployed in a more advanced role, Marouane Fellaini was an absolute beast against the United defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans. He won key headers and found plenty of space for himself and others inside the opposition penalty area. Nikica Jelavic (a good piece of transfer business for Moyes) was another Everton player that had a strong game by scoring two goals. United’s midfield, led by Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick , had a somewhat ordinary day. They weren’t very effective and had trouble staying on the ball. Carrick played a few long passes that were neat, but Scholes had what I feel was his most sluggish game since coming back from retirement. Oh, and what can I say about the offensive threat that is Phil Jones being brought on for Scholes? Did Ferguson forget that he had Ashley Young, Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-Sung on the bench as well?
So with United twice blowing a two goal lead against Everton, the door remains open for Manchester City to stroll right in and steal the Premier League trophy right from the tips of their fingers. City’s 2-0 triumph at Wolves on Sunday left them needing to win their last three games to claim the crown, and what is the first of those three games? Manchester United, of course. There are other important games this weekend and I’ll get to a few of those in a moment, but first let’s talk about the big one, the Manchester derby.
Filed under: Champion's League, England, European Football, Germany, I Know I Think, Spain | Tags: AC Milan, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, Champions League, La Liga, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle, Premier League, Real Madrid, Tottenham
The close of the European season is fast approaching. Here are 5 things I know I think about the next two months.
Filed under: Champion's League, England, European Football, UEFA | Tags: Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle, Tottenham
By Jonathan Richardson
One of the things I dig most about European soccer is the fact that just about every team has something to play for regardless of their position in the league table. Whether it is fighting for a place in the most elite club competition in the world, the UEFA Champions League, or attempting to stave off relegation into the league below, teams give fans and neutrals alike plenty of reasons to stay excited until the end of the campaign. In the English Premier League, the top four teams claim a place in the Champions League. With the top two spots having essentially been decided for last half of the campaign by the red and blue clubs from Manchester, there is a white hot race for those coveted final two spots with Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Newcastle United right in the thick of it. With only five games left until the end of the league campaign (six for Arsenal), it is coming down to the nitty gritty. Four teams are knocking on the door, but only two will be invited to play with the big boys. Who will it be?