This is my blog on the unpredictable world of football. Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Inaugural Beautiful Game Premier League awards

Yes that's right folks it's time for the first time ever the Beautiful Game Premier League awards. I'm going to also choose the best XI of the season plus some bench warmers because we all know the Premier League can get physical. This will be the first in a series of awards for the leagues around the world. Anyway lets begin with the goal of the season award:
This goes to the one, the only, Wayne Rooney with this pearler from the Manchester Derby
Next award is the Robert Green blunder of the season award, awarded to the biggest 'keeper blunder and this season it goes to Ali Al Habsi from Wigan for this terrible mistake against Manchester City
The next award shall be known as the Roy Kean's Red award, awarded to a player who is a tad loco and goes in for that too rash tackle. Although this tackle was not in the Premier League it was produced from a Premier League club in the Europa league. The award goes to none other than Mario Balotelli for this imitation of his club mate Nigel De Jong's effort in the World Cup final
Here is De Jong's tackle if you were wondering

On to the next award called the Landon Donovan award, awarded to the player who had the worst goal miss of the season. This year it goes to Marouane Chamakh for this absolute howler against Blackpool

The next award is the Bend it like Beckham award, awarded to the player who scores the best free kick of the season. An honourable mention must go to Carlos Tevez's effort against Stoke which was a close second to this one. However the winner was Leighton Baines with this stunning left foot effort for Everton

Everton shot stopper Tim Howard has got the Gordon Banks award for save of the year. It is at 1 min 12 seconds of this video.

Now onto the rest of the awards. We will begin with the biggest flop of 2010/2011 season award and its absolutely no contest for this one. It goes to Fernando Torres. After securing a £50 million transfer to Chelsea at the end of January he appeared 14 times for the Londoners only to score one goal! Oh Fernando.

To the other end of the scale its time to award the bargain buy of the season award. There are a few honourable mentions to be given here. Chiek Tiote to Newcastle was an absolute master stroke and has been solid all season. Peter Odemwingie of West Brom broke the clubs Premier League goal scoring record by netting 15 this year and to think West Brom only shelled out around £2 million for him. But the award goes to wheeler dealer master Harry Redknapp for nabbing Dutchman Rafael Van Der Vaart of Real Madrid for the measly fee of £8 million. He went on to be top scorer for the club with 13 in the league and created just as many, nice work Tottenham.

The debutant or young player of the year was a tough call. There has been a couple of real talents to emerge in the Premier League this season. Jack Wilshere for Arsenal is one, along with Andy Carroll - originally for Newcastle - now for Liverpool but the award has to go to Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) of Manchester United. He also could have fallen into the last award, as Fergie managed to pay only £6 million for his services. The 22 year old Mexican went on to score 20 goals in all competitions and counting with the Champions League final this weekend, not bad for your first season.

Finally we come to the team of the season. There have been some fine performances by players this season so it has been a tough choice. The team is as follows, lining up in a traditional English 4-4-2 formation:
'Keeper: Joe Hart
The lad has been outstanding for this star studded squad. He was introduced last season due to an injury Shay Given - a superb 'keeper himself - and has never looked back. He has managed to keep Given out of the City starting XI permanently thanks to his consistent displays between the sticks. Hart has also landed the English number 1 gig as well thanks to his performances.

Right Back: Micah Richards
Hart's City team mate Micah Richards gets the nod marginally over Branislav Ivanovic due to his consistency and constant starting place in his team. Richards has a bit of pace and quite a lot of strength for a right back and uses it to good effect. The right back position has been the problem area for a lot of squads this season.

Centre Backs: Nemanja Vidic and Vincent Company
Again a Manchester City player makes it, this time in the form of Company. He has been the rock in City's defence this season and could well be on his way to getting the armband depending on Tevez's decision on his future. Vidic needs no introduction. He has been part of the United set up for seasons now and has been the skipper in Ferdinand's absence in a tight nit United defensive unit. Robert Huth and Brede Hangeland narrowly missed out but have been excellent for their respective clubs this season.

Left Back: Leighton Baines
Everton's Baines has been outstanding this season nabbing some brilliant goals, but more importantly was equal third for assists in the league with 11. Not bad from your left back. He also managed to win himself four caps for England for his performances and thats why he beat Ashley Cole to the team of the year.

Right Midfield: Nani
Has been instrumental for Manchester United this season, topping the assists charts with 18. With not much help from his central midfield partners at times, Nani has taken it upon himself to be the midfield maestro that United rely on. 

Centre Mid's: Scott Parker and Charlie Adam
Although both Parker's and Adam's clubs were relegated they were the heart and soul of their clubs fight to stay in the Premier League. Parker won the Football Writer's Association award for good reason working tirelessly for a club that never seemed to gel under Grant's management. Adam was just as important for Blackpool with 9 assists and 12 goals. The Scotsman gave everything for the Seasiders and attracted interest from both Tottenham and Liverpool in January.

Left Midfield: Rafael Van Der Vaart
Although its not Van Der Vaart's favoured position, there was no way he was going to be left out of the starting XI for his efforts this season. 13 goals and 9 assists is a superb effort for adapting to a new league.

Strikers: Carlos Tevez and Robin Van Persie
Yes I left Dimitar Berbatov out of the starting XI, mainly down to the fact he was not consistent enough to warrant a starting place compared to these two. Whilst Tevez's future is still unclear his on field performances show no sign of his indecision off of it. 20 goals and sharing the golden boot with Berbatov is a wonderful effort from the Argentine. City look a completely different side without him in it, his fighting spirit and leadership has been crucial in City's third place finish. Robin Van Persie has assumed the captain's armband in the absence of Cesc Fabregas and boy has he stepped his game up. The Dutchman racked up a tally of 18 goals for Arsenal this season, mainly from the turn of the year as he shrugged off injury and hit form. Mind you he scored the bulk of his goals when Arsenal were under performing as well which is the reason why he is in the squad.

The Bench:
'Keeper: Edwin Van Der Sar
Left Back: Ashley Cole
Centre Back: Brede Hangeland
Centre Mid: Joey Barton
Attacking Mid: David Silva
Right Mid/Striker: Clint Dempsey
Striker: Dimitar Berbatov

Hope you enjoyed the inaugural Beautiful Game Premier League awards, was a pleasure to present them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pulsating Premier League finishes

What an enthralling season of football it was. Manchester United wrapped up their 19th title under the guidance of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. Blackpool and Birmingham were relegated on the tense last match day of the season along with West Ham the week before. This cost Hammers manager Avram Grant his job. Chelsea's second place finish in the league coupled with their semi-final knock out by Manchester United spelled the end of a productive two year stint in the Chelsea hot seat for Carlo Ancelotti. A cruel decision by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich considering Ancelotti delivered his club their first ever league and FA Cup double last season. Speaking of managers getting the sack unfairly what about Newcastle's dismissal of manager Chris Houghton in December? Newcastle sat in mid-table at that stage and went on to finish there at seasons end despite Houghton's sacking. Chris Pardew was the man to take his place and got a big result in his first game with a 3-1 victory over Liverpool at St James Park. The most ironic part of this victory was that Carroll condemned his future club to a loss with a superb left foot strike from distance.

In total there were six managers relieved of there duties this season, including Ancelotti's 'please don't return' next season. Sam Allardyce felt the full force of new owner Venky when they took over Blackburn Rovers. He was sacked not long after their take over and they appointed his assistant Steve Kean. Blackburn then floated an audacious move for the out of favour Ronaldinho only to be cut down within days of the story breaking, as he announced his return to his homeland Brazil. Kean however did get the chance to bolster his squad in a mad January transfer window, mainly through loan deals that saw crowd favourtie Roque Santa Cruz return from Manchester City for the rest of the season. They also acquired the services of Jermaine Jones from Schalke as well.

However the big news was saved for Liverpool. After a season of utter failure in there high standards, Rafa Benitez was relieved of his duties. Club legend 'King' Kenny Dalglish put his hand up for the job, but former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett went with former Fullham manager Roy Hodgson - after a stellar season of guiding his club to the Europa league final. This was a move that ultimately back fired on the former debt ridden owners. It also saw the end of their tumultuous reign and the dawn of a 'new era' at Anfield as Fenway Sports Group overturned the clubs debts and took ownership of the club. They gave manager Roy Hodgson a chance to prove himself, however after pressure from Kopites singing Kenny Dalglish's name during matches, saw Hodgson sacked from the job and Kenny Dalglish returning to the job he held twenty years ago. Hodgson didn't have to wait long for a return to the Premier League coaching merry-go-round as West Brom relieved Roberto Di Matteo of his duties in late January and installed Roy Hodgson the next week. Back at Anfield, John Henry - owner of Fenway Sports Group and now Liverpool FC - stamped his authority on the club by making a raft of staff changes that most notably saw Steve Clarke become first team coach and assistant to Kenny Dalglish, Damien Comolli as director of football and Ian Ayre promoted to managing director. The most shrewd piece of business was still to come from the new team. On the last day of the transfer window in January Liverpool pulled off what has turned out to be the most profitable move for the clubs future. They secured the services of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez from Ajax for $35.4 million (£22.8 million) to partner Fernando Torres, however Torres had other ideas handing in a transfer request to go to Chelsea. Liverpool reacted and told Chelsea they wanted £50 million for Torres. Abramovich obliged and Liverpool went after Andy Carroll to replace him by offering Newcastle a record $54.1 million (£35 million) for a British player. Carroll inherited the famous number 9 at Liverpool but was unable to start straight away due to a thigh injury that limited his appearances to seven at league level (a further two in Europa league) and two goals. Suarez was even more fruitful, making 13 appearances - scoring on debut - and scoring 4 goals and setting up many more. Compare this to Torres who has made 14 appearances for Chelsea and only scored one goal! Just one goal. A flop yes, Liverpool cashed in on his reputation at the right time.

To the statistics, the 2010/2011 season broke the record for the most goals scored in one season in Premier League history. The amount of goals scored this season was 1063, beating the previous record of 1060 set in the 1999/2000 season - a season in which Manchester United won, deja vu perhaps? A particularly interesting statistic points out that the three goals scored to break the record were scored in stoppage time, two of those goals had factors in the fate of teams being relegated as well. It also means that this season had an average of 2.8 goals per match. Chelsea fans can also look back on the first two rounds with misty eyes as their team amassed six goals in each match without conceding one, far from the days when they purchased Fernando Torres eh? Before this season there has never been a round of matches in which every one of the twenty teams had scored one goal, this season it happened twice on the 27-28 November (41 goals scored) and the 7-9 May (33 goals scored). Another record broken this season was the amount of hat-tricks scored, this season 17 were scored. The Premier League's three broadcasters also managed to beat their own individual records for the 'biggest audience for one match' with the BBC's match of the day for the 5th of February attracting 5.49 million viewers, Sky Live managed to get 3.23 million watching the Manchester United V Tottenham match on the 16th January and ESPN Live's broadcast of Wolverhampton Wolves V Manchester United managed 806 000 viewers. Who could forget - especially United fans - Manchester United's 7-1 hammering of Blackburn where Berbatov score one quarter of his twenty goal haul in the league this season? Berbatov showed in that match why he would end up sharing the golden boot with former United player Carlos Tevez - now at Manchester City - at the end of the season. The eight goal games didn't stop there as Everton held on for a thrilling 5-3 victory over new boys Blackpool. But the best come back of the season belongs to Newcastle. Arsenal lead Newcastle 4 nil after 26 minutes of the match. Arsenal's season collapse can be traced back to this match and a couple of others around this time as Abou Diaby was sent off for a silly push of Newcastle's Joey Barton. Barton went on to claim two penalty goals, Leon Best chipped in with one. But the best goal came last as Cheik Tiote smashed home a brilliant left foot volley from outside the area to send the Toon into raptures, and possibly Newcastle's greatest ever draw.

Arsenal's season collapsed not long after this match as they fell to Barcelona in the round of 16 in the Champions League. They also surrendered the Carling Cup (League Cup) to Birmingham after a calamitous defensive era from Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny gave Birmingham the trophy. Arsenal's lack of experience and winning mentality have cost them again with another season without any silverware. Their porous defence has been the focus of everyones criticism and very rightly so. A statistic that will haunt most Arsenal fans is the fact they only managed to win two of their last eleven matches. Not good enough to be title contenders and is the reason why they crashed to fourth place after a chance of lifting the trophy.

Manchester City finally managed to win their first trophy in 35 years by defeating Stoke 1 nil in the final. The club also secured its place in the Champions League for next season by overtaking Arsenal for a third place finish. It looks as if City will go on another spending spree to strengthen their squad for Champions League football next season. However one major question remains to be answered, will Tevez stay? The conclusion of the British summer is the only thing that will answer this question as the lad seems to change his mind every few days.

United's season got off to a shaky start by only being able to win at home seemingly. The Rooney controversy then hit mid-season which looked to destabilise everything, however he got what he wanted a new contract worth millions more than what he was already earning. With this United's season rose to yet another title winning season. 'Chicharito' (Javier Hernandez) has to be one of the buys of the season as the 22 year old nabbed a total of 20 goals in all competitions, not bad for a player bought for £6 million. United also have the chance to win their forth European Cup in the Champions League final against Barcelona at Wembley stadium this weekend. It should be another enthralling encounter in a replay of the 2009 final.

Tottenham can only wonder what could have been as they managed to secure fifth spot and a Europa League place for next season. Rafael Van Der Vaart was bought from Real Madrid on the last day of the pre-season transfer window for a fee of only £8 million. It was yet another wheeler-dealer move from Harry Redknapp as Van Der Vaart proved crucial in Tottenham's charge to the quarter finals of the Champions League. They were knocked out by Van Der Vaart's former employer Real Madrid and a lot of the blame has to lay with Peter Crouch's silly double yellow card act at the Bernabeu. It is likely there will be some movement in the Spur's camp in the British summer as numerous players are seeking more game time and Redknapp unhappy at his striker's whom only managed a paltry amount of goals.

The most competitive Premier League season so far has been an absolute joy to watch. With the surrounding soap opera of transfers, manager sackings and new club owners, off field scandals and refereeing howlers fans have had plenty of entertainment. On this final note it's time to congratulate QPR and Norwich City for being promoted to the Premier League for next season. Also good luck to Swansea and Reading as they head for Wembley stadium to compete for the last place in the Premier League next season on the 30th May. Let the silly season of summer signings begin!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Liverpool lay out lacklustre Newcastle

The much hyped return of Andy Carroll against his former club Newcastle provided plenty for Liverpool fans as they romped home 3 goals to nil. It was a dominant performance from the Reds, further highlighted by a lacklustre effort from the Geordies.

The first half was dominated early on by Liverpool with all the possession, the Kop only had to wait 10 minutes for the first goal. Young right back John Flanagan provided an enticing cross from the right flank, that Suarez could not quite reach. It however fell back to last weeks hat-trick hero Maxi Rodriguez who slotted home after a deflection from Newcastle right back Simpson. Jay Spearing - an academy product - one of Liverpool's in form players in recent weeks had some space just outside the box and fired a dipping low shot towards goal that was saved, only just by Newcastle 'keeper Krul who had two onrushing Liverpool players to keep him worried. Liverpool's next opportunity also came from Spearing as he picked out his central midfield partner Lucas. He headed tamely at goal for Krul to catch comfortably and waste a brilliant opportunity to go two goals ahead. Jonas Gutierrez was the shining light for Newcastle in this match, as he caused many problems for John Flanagan in the first half. He was the reason why Flanagan received a yellow card in the first half as well. The first half ended at 1 nil to Liverpool.

The second half began with a brilliant chance for Newcastle to get themselves back in the game with a goal. That man Gutierrez was involved in the lead up play and a cross was delivered from the left flank to a undetected run by Joey Barton who could only shoot wide and waste a superb opportunity. The second half also saw Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish swap young Flanagan to left back to avoid him being troubled by the flying Gutierrez and being sent off with a second booking. Luis Suarez then showed his fight as he chased down a misguided pass on the right side of the field to cut inside onto his left foot and shoot powerfully, only for it to be deflected by a Newcastle defender almost into their own goal. Minutes later Suarez once again chased a long ball that looked to be blocked well by centre back Williamson, only for Luis Suarez to burst around the side and collect the ball racing into the penalty area. Williamson had other ideas as he cynically pulled Suarez down resulting in a penalty for Liverpool and a yellow card for Liverpool. Replays showed that he may have been pulled down marginally outside the box, but the penalty was awarded. Dirk Kuyt slotted the ensuing penalty kick away making it 2 nil to Liverpool. Not long after Kuyt had another chance from a free kick. He was unmarked but facing the wrong way to try and head home. Only minutes later Luis Suarez scored his third goal for Liverpool since joining in January. He dribbled up to the box looking to play a one-two with his team mates, before passing it into a defender. The ball rebounded off the defender into the path of Kuyt who unselfishly passed back to a free Suarez to fire home and give Liverpool an important 3 nil victory, moving them into fifth place. You can watch the highlights here.