Game, Team and Player of Matchday 3

Arsenal continued their great defensive start to the season with yet another clean sheet at Anfield which has left Liverpool in the bottom three along with pointless Southampton and QPR. There are still eight teams without a victory though so none of the teams should be worried at this stage. Somewhat surprisingly Tottenham Hotspur are one of these teams and after two draws in a row is the pressure already building on Andre Villas Boas? Aston Villa picked up their first points with a draw against Newcastle United which will make Paul Lambert feel a lot better and Stoke City picked up their third draw out of three so it is looking like it could be another midtable finish for them already.

But, now onto team of the weekend, Arsenal deserve great credit for the way they conducted themselves at Liverpool and were the better team throughout, creating the better chances and finishing them off superbly, while also being very tight at the back and not allowing their oppositions flair players to have a major impact on the game which has not always been the case in the past. Norwich City picking up a point at White Hart Lane is a fantastic achievement (they did win there last year I know) but they are expected to struggle a lot this year and hadn’t shown enough to suggest that they were going to be as good as last season. But, they battled and probably should have won the game in all honesty so they deserve a lot of praise and if they can perform like this for the rest of the season they will stay up. Newly promoted West Ham are not expected to struggle this year but not many will have expected them to have disposed of a confident Fulham side so easily. Debutant Andy Carroll looked very happy and within a minute he had a positive impact and the team never looked like losing from there. However, my team of the week has to be West Brom, they have started their season fantastically and their performance against an inform Everton was very good. I personally didn’t expect the Baggies to start this well and they know it is only three games in but they already have seven points on the board so this could be an interesting season for them.

There were some standout performers this weekend with Robin Van Persie scoring a hatrick but unfortunately for him, even though he did win the match for Manchester United against Southampton, I am not giving him the player of the weekend simply because of his awful penalty. His movement was great and all three of his goals were different and showed how good of a striker he is (if that was ever in doubt). Another new signing impressed this weekend and that was Steven Fletcher who scored twice for Sunderland against Swansea City and although his first was gifted to him he still had to finish it and that wasn’t easy at all. The price Sunderland paid for him may have been slightly over the top but if he can get them between 15 and 20 goals then it could turn out to be one of the best signings of the season. My player of the weekend goes to Brad Friedel who must have been feeling the pressure after Hugo Lloris was signed on transfer deadline day but the 41 year old produced the goods and kept Tottenham in the game, pulling off save after save including two spectacular ones. He couldn’t do anything about the goal and it would be a real shame if he was dropped after this performance.

Finally, game of the weekend is a difficult one to choose as always because the game at the Liberty Stadium between Swansea and Sunderland had everything, including goals, red cards, mistakes and injuries. Sunderland took the lead twice through two Steven Fletcher goals but were pegged back each time with Wayne Routledge and Michu grabbing the goals for the Swans. Chico was sent off for a ridiculous challenge on Louis Saha and was rightly sent off. It was a fiery game and a draw was probably the right result in the end. Wigan against Stoke may not have been a game that caught many people’s attentions but in my opinion it was really entertaining and had a lot of drama in it, with two converted penalties and a lot of chances for either side with Franco Di Santo and Peter Crouch also scoring to make it 2-2. Plus, the save of the season from Ali Al Habsi made it a very fascinating game to watch. But, the match of the weekend has to go to Southampton and Manchester United because they produced an epic game which could have went either way. The away side pinched in injury time but it could have been very different. Rickie Lambert opened the scoring but when Van Persie scored his first everyone expected it to be a rout and Fergie’s men to walk it but a slip from Patrice Evra allowed Morgan Schneiderlin to get free and put the Saints back in front. But the runners up from last season never lie down and came back to win like they have done on so many occasions over the years.

Who do you think should have got the player, game and team of the weekend?

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Will David Villa leave Barcelona this summer?

David Villa came back from his horrific injury recently in a friendly for Barcelona and has vowed to become a better player but will he be given the chance to shine at the club once more?

Villa has scored 265 goals in 530 games

You would imagine that they will give him the opportunity to get back to his best but with them not winning La Liga or the Champions League last year they may not want to take the risk and bring in a striker that is 100% fit and in form which means that he may get shipped out, most likely on a permanent transfer with him being 30 now. In his two full seasons at Barcelona he has scored 32 goals with 23 coming in his first season so they may look at that and see he is was already on the decline anyway. He only managed to score five goals in 15 appearances in the league last season and is that really good enough for a team like Barcelona with all the chances that they create? To me David Villa is still one of the best strikers in the world as not many can match his movement and finishing ability and should be playing for the best team in the world but if they don’t want him where should he go?

Arsenal could be very keen on the striker especially if Robin Van Persie gets his move away from the Emirates and it could potentially be a swap deal between the two as they are a similar age but I think Arsenal would be getting the better of the deal if Villa can get back to his best and adjust to the Premier League. There are a lot of ifs there but I have no doubts he would be successful in England and would be vital to Arsenal’s challenge for the title.

Manchester City have also been linked with a move for Spain international with them seemingly missing out on Van Persie (this transfer is starting to get on my nerves now, the player needs to leave and Arsenal should accept an offer around £15 million). Roberto Mancini has been linked with quite a few strikers but to me none of them are at the same level as Villa and it would be frightening strike force of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Mario Balotelli and David Villa. This would obviously mean that Edin Dzeko would have to leave.

Finally, Liverpool have been linked with him for a very long time, I believe since Rafael Benitez was the manager when he wanted Fernando Torres and Villa to be his front two but it didn’t ever come to be but since then no matter how Liverpool have been doing his name is always linked with Anfield. I really cannot see this happening even if he would enjoy their managers style of play, the lack of Champions League football and the fact that they aren’t genuine title contenders will put him right off the move.

If Andy Carroll leaves Liverpool who would sign him?

Andy Carroll could be on his way out of Anfield this summer if the rumours are to be believed and a lot of clubs may be interested in his services.

Carroll has scored 2 goals in 7 games for England

The Geordie striker hasn’t had a great time at Liverpool, missing chances and performing poorly in general which has made everyone wonder why former manager Kenny Dalglish paid £35 million for him? In his 56 games as a Liverpool player he has only scored 11 goals but should that put teams off trying to buy him or get him in on loan? In my opinion, no because he showed at Euro 2012 he does have a lot of qualities and can be a good player. Maybe he has struggled because of the pressure of the huge price tag, which should never have been paid for him anyway, or it could just simply be, he isn’t the right fit for the club and this does happen quite often. He’s a powerful striker that on his day can cause any defenders in Europe problems and just needs a manager that will give him some confidence. It is not clear whether he will leave but new manager Brendan Rodgers, only likes to play one up front and with Luis Suarez and new signing Fabio Borini most likely ahead of Carroll in the pecking order it could be time for him to move on.

Newcastle United will always be linked with Carroll, probably for the rest of his career because of the affection he has for the club and his previous performances for them, however, I would be shocked to see this happen as when he left there were conflicting stories on why he joined Liverpool. He said he was forced to leave and some people in the Toon camp claimed he was going to put in a transfer request if they didn’t allow him to leave. Obviously things would need to be patched up before a move is even thought about but with Demba Ba’s future still unclear and Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands leaving the club in the summer, he could be the perfect signing.

West Ham United are also linked with the striker and it wouldn’t surprise me if this rumour was true, manager Sam Allardyce likes to play with a big striker that can hold up the ball for his team and Carroll has all these attributes. In my opinion, he is better than Carlton Cole and will get more goals than him if he joined. With rumours of Ricardo Vaz Te being unhappy, they need another striker and a loan option could work out perfectly for both Liverpool and the Hammers. However, his wages could be a deciding factor, I am not sure whether West Ham would be able to afford his wages at present. One thing that does work in their advantage is that Carroll and their captain Kevin Nolan seem to be good friends and this could sway his decision to join the club.

Finally, the next Premier League club linked with him is Fulham and I am a little surprised at this because he doesn’t seem like a Martin Jol type of player but they do seem to be in desperate need of a striker with them losing Bobby Zamora, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Andy Johnson and Orland Sa in the last two transfer windows. With less pressure on his shoulders at Fulham he could be a fantastic signing and fulfil his potential and possibly even guide the club towards a European place.

Which clubs should be interested in signing Klaas Jan Huntelaar?

Klaas Jan Huntelaar has been linked with a move away from his current club Schalke and a lot of Premier League clubs will be interested in his services.

Huntelaar has scored 31 goals in 56 games for Holland

The Dutch striker didn’t have the best of times at the European Championships playing second fiddle to Robin Van Persie but that shouldn’t worry potential suitors as he had a fantastic season at club level scoring 48 goals in just 47 games which is a remarkable record. The 28 year old has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe including Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan so he will not be fazed by joining any of the big teams in England. Personally I believe that at these clubs he was never really given a chance and if he was his goal scoring record would be even more impressive, at Real Madrid he only scored 8 goals in 20 games but he only started 13 of these and it was a similar story at Milan where he only got 7 goals in 25 games. He has proved he can score goals at all levels and I would love to see him in the Premier League.

The favourites to sign him would have to be Manchester United as he would fit into their style of play and I am sure winger Antonio Valencia would love to play with him as he is a striker that likes to attack the ball in the box and doesn’t mind putting his head in where it hurts. With the number of crosses the team puts in, Huntelaar could easily get 20 goals if he is first choice. With Dimitar Berbatov’s future at Old Trafford in doubt, I think Man United need another proven goal scorer to play alongside Wayne Rooney. Danny Welbeck has potential but he showed last season he isn’t always on his game and Javier Hernandez not quite replicating his first season form last year, Sir Alex Ferguson may just want to bolster his attacking options.

Liverpool are also linked with Huntelaar and he could easily strike up a good partnership with Luis Suarez. However the Uruguayan’s future at the club is also in doubt and he may be on his way this summer. I don’t see this as a bad thing and Huntelaar would be an ideal replacement, plus he may fit into new manager Brendan Rodgers’ style of play. He usually only plays one up front and he can play this role very well as he can hold up the ball very effectively. He is a lot better than Andy Carroll, so if they can sign him, it would be the end of the Geordies’ career at Anfield.

Finally, Tottenham Hotspur should definitely be looking at him as they only have one recognised striker in their squad at the minute in Jermain Defoe so they need more firepower for next season. They had Emmanuel Adebayor on loan last season but to sign him permanently they would have to pay his huge wage which they don’t seem to want to. Huntelaar, in my opinion is a better player anyway and would give them more than Adebayor. Plus his national teammate Rafael Van Der Vaart would help him settle in and would already have an understanding with him.

Who will be the next Swansea manager?

Swansea City are looking for a new manager after Brendan Rodgers decided to leave for Liverpool and will be hoping their new man can continue the good work of Rodgers.

Swansea finished 11th in the Premier League

It was a bit of a shock to me how well Swansea did in the Premier League this year and the problem with success is that your best players will get linked with moves away from the club and on some occasions like this, the manager also gets offered new jobs. Liverpool must have been difficult for the Northern Irish man to turn down and I’m sure all the Swansea fans will wish him every success but personally I believe he has took the job too early and could be yet another flop at Anfield. He should have stayed with the Welsh side and tried to keep them up for another season because of a few reasons. One being they gave him a chance in the Championship and Premier League after he failed at Reading and another reason being second season syndrome. Towards the end of last season, Swansea were getting found out and teams knew how to beat them for example Newcastle United set a blueprint of how to beat them when they won at the Liberty Stadium 2-0 and they may struggle next season.

So I think the next manager has to get it right and not only continue the work that Rodgers has started but also develop a little bit more of a plan B. Graeme Jones has been made the favourite, this seems strange to me as he has no experience of managing in the Premier League and even though he is a very good assistant we have seen recently that it doesn’t always mean you will be a good manager. Terry Connor failed to win a single game when he was appointed Wolves manager and a few years ago when Sammy Lee took over from Sam Allardyce at Bolton he ultimately failed. So I think this would be very risky and they should look elsewhere.

Personally, I think they should try and get Ian Holloway, he has proved he can overachieve with teams in the past and it was very impressive the way he has got Blackpool challenging for promotion again after losing many key players in the summer. However, he has only managed one season  in the Premier League and it obviously ended in relegation which would be quite worrying for the fans. Holloway, would follow the same style of football as Rodgers and may even make them more adventurous which would add something to their game.

Gus Poyet, is also linked with the job and he also likes to play a passing game at his current club Brighton so it would be easy for him to adapt his tactics to the way Swansea already play. At Brighton he has won 46.15% of his games which is quite impressive considering they only just gained promotion to the Championship and were close to getting into the playoffs last season. It may be too early in his career to get a Premier League job like this but he could still succeed as I think he will become a very good Premier League manager in the future so could just need a chance.

Dave Jones is also one of the favourites for the job and I just think this is a very strange one as he has just got Sheffield Wednesday promoted and will not want to leave them so soon and I cannot imagine the fans taking too kindly to a former Cardiff manager being in charge. He does have Premier League experience and does like to play good short passing football but other than that, I don’t see why he is even linked with the job.

This could be one of the most important managerial decisions Swansea will have to make as staying in the Premier League is a must not only for them, but for English football, as more teams that get promoted will feel that playing football can keep them up, instead of long ball tactics as a lot of teams revert to when they gain promotion.

Who will be the next Liverpool manager?

Kenny Dalglish has left Liverpool and now the club are clearly trying to get the right man as they have reportedly talked to a number of managers.

8th place is not good enough for a team like Liverpool

With Brendan Rodgers the latest to have been linked with the role at Anfield, but he has declined to talk to the club as he feels it may be too early. This may be a good thing for both parties as Rodgers has only had one season in the Premier League and we do not yet know how Swansea will cope next season. Even though Liverpool is a massive club, they do need to re-evaluate where they are right now and make sure they are looking at the right sorts of candidates. A lot of fans have thrown around names like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp who realistically wouldn’t be interested in the job as they were both managing Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund who unfortunately right now are a lot better than Liverpool.

So who is it going to be? Roberto Martinez is clearly the favourite at the moment and it is easy to see why. He has done a terrific job at Wigan Athletic and to keep them up playing the way they do is a real achievement, they were in trouble this year and were written off by a lot of people but he changed the tactics and formation and it worked superbly. People may argue he has only managed small clubs but he is working his way up the ladder and people questioned him when he left Swansea City for Wigan and said his style of football would get them relegated but he proved them wrong and in my opinion with better players at Liverpool, he will prove the doubters wrong again.

The question for Liverpool is, do they want some that is going into the job with confidence (Martinez) or do they want someone that is wanting to come in a prove a few people wrong? The man that could do this is Andre Villas-Boas. He was sacked by Chelsea only a few months ago but in my opinion was trying to do the right thing and clear out the older players, for the new. It is hard to argue that Chelsea’s best two players this season have been Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge who he brought into the starting 11 at the beginning of the season. He wouldn’t have as much of a problem with player power at Liverpool and could be a good fit. If he is given the time, he can build something at Liverpool and in a few years I could see them challenging for the title again if he is backed in the transfer market.

A third option for Liverpool could be giving an old manager a second chance at the club. Rafa Benitez is still available after leaving Inter Milan and he delivered the club the Champions League and almost a Premier League title so the fans love him and he still loves the club which is clear to see whenever he talks about it in interviews. Would it be a backwards step? No in my opinion, he has enough knowledge and quality to get Liverpool back into the European places and will already know a lot of the players and they in turn will also know what he wants them to do in training and in matches. But the owners may be put off by the fact they have tried this once with Kenny Dalglish.

Personally, I think if the new manager is going to be given a few years to build a squad, the best option would be AVB just simply because he deserves another chance in the Premier League and I’m sure he will be a success. Plus, he is a young manager and could even be in charge for the next 10 years if it is going well. Liverpool need someone to take them back to where they belong but it won’t be easy and it will be a long process.

Brian McDermott rejects Wolves by signing a new contract at Reading

Brian McDermott has signed a new contract at Reading which puts an end to the speculation that he will be leaving the club.

Wolves were rumoured to be interested in McDermott to take charge of the team after sacking Mick McCarthy but this now must show the Royals fans that he is determined to succeed at the club and would rather have a go in the Premier League with his own team rather than trying to keep up a team that are one of the favourites for relegation now with players that he does not know very well.

Some people may criticise his decision as football can change very quickly and if Reading fail to get promoted this season and have a bad start to next season he could be shown the door and then will have missed his opportunity to manage in the Premier League anyway. But, I have a lot of respect for him because of this decision because he is trying to build something and managers are too quick to leave jobs in the lower leagues just to have the chance to manage at a higher level. Eddie Howe at Burnley is an example of this as I thought he should have stayed at Bournemouth and basically learnt more about the role there but he decided to move on and he didn’t have a great season last year and had a bad start to this one and there were rumours he was going to be sacked. Thankfully the board stuck with the young manager and that is now paying off because the team are now challenging for the playoffs.

Back to McDermott, he has had some great games as manager of Reading and probably none more so than his first victory which was against Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup thanks to an extra time goal from Shane Long and this victory was also the first time that Reading had won at Anfield so he the gaffer was always going to be in the record books no matter what. He has had more good days than bad days with a win percentage of 47% but unfortunately one of his defeats was against Swansea in the playoff final and this seemed to damage moral at the club, leading to them having a poor start to the next campaign but obviously McDermott raised the spirits of his young players and brought in some experience and has guided the club to fourth place, only six points behind table toppers West Ham.

The players seem to love playing for him because he gives them a blueprint of what he expects and makes sure everyone knows their job defensively. But when his team have the ball it is a joy to watch as he takes the shackles off the attacking players and lets them express themselves however they want which is paying dividends at the minute. It’s not surprising to see his name linked with arguably bigger jobs but he knows success will come in time at Reading and he wants to be there when they are back in the Premier League.

Scott Parker finally has the chance to succeed

Scott Parker proved again against Liverpool what a vital player he is to Tottenham Hotspur, when all the flair players underperformed, he stepped up and made sure he did his job brilliantly. Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor most notably had off days while Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric could not get involved high enough up the pitch to cause the Liverpool defence any problems.

At the age of 31, Parker just keeps getting better and better it would seem however he has played like this throughout his whole career, but he is finally getting the recognition that he deserves because he is playing for a big club. Plain and simple, he just wants to win the ball back for his team and will keep chasing and tackling until he achieves his target, he does not allow the opposition a moments rest and it is little wonder he is a fans favourite at every club he has been apart from possibly Chelsea. But I think Chelsea missed out here because they most certainly did not give him enough playing time and he deserved more of a chance to succeed at a big club earlier in his career.

But for some reason his career has not really kicked off until quite recently as he was constantly overlooked by England who persisted in playing Gerrard and Lampard in the middle of midfield when clearly this wasn’t working. He should have won more international caps than he has but now hopefully his time has come and he will grab it with both hands.

Even in his early days at Charlton Athletic you could see he was going to be a fantastic asset to any team even though he was probably more attacking back then and has now adapted his game to focus more on being a holding midfielder. He can easily play both roles and he does still occasionally try and get into the box to score a few goals.

He singlehandedly kept West Ham in the Premier League one year and then stayed on for another even though the club were facing another relegation battle which tells me that he has a lot of heart and doesn’t mind rolling up his sleeves when the going gets tough. It must be difficult playing in a very average team when you are being linked to better teams who are competing in Europe but he did and was the best player in the league because of it. It isn’t very often you see a player that has just suffered relegation being praised and given awards from fellow professionals and pundits.

Finally his time has come to be a success because in his career he has suffered many let downs, not getting a real chance at Chelsea, getting sold by Newcastle when it looked like the club had finally got it right and were challenging for European places. Then signing for West Ham who seemed to have a bit of money and a few good players coming in so there was plenty of potential there which the club as a whole failed to live up to. So he has one final chance to make it work at Tottenham and he is doing everything possible to achieve this and his performance against Liverpool shows he is going to fight to win trophies before the end of his career.

Solid defensive work at Newcastle United

Newcastle moved up to fifth place with a victory over Blackburn with a very good defensive performance. Mike Williamson, Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul have been getting praise and all season and rightfully so as yet again they both out in flawless performance. Mike Williamson has came back into the team in recent weeks and yes he has problems when dealing with players with a bit of pace and good movement but when the ball is in the air he is one of the best as he very rarely loses a header. With Steven Taylor missing, the club needed Williamson to step up as last year he started off very well but fell away towards the back end of the season and was dropped after a few dismal performances particularly against Liverpool at Anfield.

In the full back areas they also have players that are consistent rather than brilliant but this has worked for the team so far this season. Danny Simpson at right back at times looks very good and dependable but then at other times he looks very suspect like against Brighton in the FA Cup when he was beaten far too easily on the halfway line and it eventually led to the winning goal. He does always provide an attacking threat and constantly tries to put crosses in although his final delivery can also be very inconsistent and lack the necessary quality for the Premier League. On the other side Davide Santon has had a decent start to his Newcastle career, but like Simpson can look suspect defensively, like against Fulham when in the second half he was targeted and led to a capitulation eventually losing the game 5-2. But going forward he is confident with both feet and likes to play the ball around, he seems to be developing a good understanding with Jonas Gutierrez who in my opinion can make any left back look good because he is always helping them and providing support and not leaving them too exposed. It is a great credit to Gutierrez but you can definitely see why Santon was very highly rated at Inter Milan.

But I am going to give a lot of praise to James Perch who for long periods has been criticised by the Toon faithful because of some of his performances from the early part of last season. He tried to make tackles he couldn’t win and was inevitably booked, he was caught out of position and I’m sure not many will forget his own goal against Stoke. But this season he has turned a corner and has become a fantastic addition to the Newcastle squad as he has played at centre back and the centre of midfield and has not disappointed anyone. He came on at halftime in the game against Blackburn and deserved man of the match because he changed the game as at the end of the first half Rovers began to take control of the game and it looked as though they would get an equaliser. But Perch came on and steadied the ship and made some vital blocks and put in some good challenges and then when he had the ball played it simple.

It just shows in football how quickly opinions of certain players can change very quickly and James Perch deserves praise because he has clearly trained hard and wants to become a success at St James’ Park so he deserves a lot of credit for this and I just hope the fans will now cheer his name when it’s read out.