Crystal Palace in the Premier League

Crystal Palace won promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs and they will be an interesting addition to the league.
Crystal Palace
Under Ian Holloway they will be a good attacking side but may struggle in defence and unfortunately for him this tactic did not work for him at Blackpool. Hopefully he will have learned from his last experience and Crystal Palace will have a good chance of staying up. I do like a lot of their players and I do like Holloway but this time he seems to be rehashing what he said during his time at Blackpool about them going to struggle and maybe this will work against him because now teams may not underestimate them as much as they did Blackpool. Holloway’s record at the club does not seem to be one that should have got promotion to the Premier League so a lot of credit has to go to Dougie Freedman who helped them get off to a good start. Out of his 37 games in charge he has only won 13 but one of them was against Watford at Wembley and against Peterborough United on the last game of the season to secure the place in the playoffs so he has proved he can win the big games. Plus defeating Brighton in the playoffs showed he has grown tactically as a manager.

Defensively I am very worried about the team because they have players that I do think are good in the Championship but maybe not good enough for the Premier League. Danny Gabbidon and Peter Ramage are two players that certainly fit into this category. However, I do think they have a very good goalkeeper in Julian Speroni who has improved massively and has got better and better every year he has been at the club.
Julian Speroni
The midfield will be losing one of their best players in Wilfried Zaha but there is no point in focusing on what they won’t have. Although there is a slight chance that he could come back on loan, but this does not seem likely at the moment. Jonathan Williams is someone that I am looking forward to seeing in the Premier League because he is a fantastic footballer and deserves to be in the top league now after injuries stalled his career slightly. He is only young so it will be a steep learning curve for him. Mile Jedinak is another that I think will be able to make the step up.
Jonathan Williams
They do look a little weak upfront too but Glenn Murray got 31 goals last season in all competitions and will be the man they rely on to get them the goals to keep them up like Grant Holt and Rickie Lambert have in recent seasons. Aaron Wilbraham started the playoff final and I would be very surprised if he started any games next season and a new striker was brought in to replace him. I think they should sign Kevin Phillips permanently because he can still score goals even if he is only limited to substitute appearances.
Glenn Murray

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Does Frank Lampard deserve a new contract?

Frank Lampard is one of the most in form players in the Premier League but he is yet to secure a new contract at Chelsea.

So this leads into the question, should he get a new contract? Looking at his time at Chelsea, the fans believe he should definitely get one and it is not surprising that they think this way given the fact that he is their second highest scorer of all time, and is quickly closing in on Bobby Tambling’s record. Lampard has 12 goals in 30 games in all competitions this season and a lot of strikers will be jealous of this record, including Fernando Torres.

So that is the first reason why he should definitely get a new contract, simply because of the goals he brings. 10 years in a row he has got double figures and 5 of those seasons he has got 20 or more goals. There is nobody else like him in the squad. Yes there are players that create a lot of chances like Juan Mata and Eden Hazard but neither of them will be able to score the amount of goals as Lampard on such a consistent basis. Can anyone currently within the squad replace him?

Another factor that plays into his and the Chelsea fans hands is the fact that he clearly loves the club and even when he is not starting he doesn’t cause problems within the dressing room like a lot of other players do. He wants what is best for the club and his experience could be vital for a number of years to come still and especially in the bigger games he could prove to be the difference. There aren’t many players around that have played in and affected as many big games as Lampard and this is usually scoring goals.

However, there are those that believe Chelsea will benefit from letting Lampard go and that because he is not getting any younger and this could be his last good season and if he gets another contract he might not be as influential as he has been in the past. Also, if he does step aside and leave the club it just gives younger players a chance rather than Lampard hogging the spotlight and taking all the plaudits. There has been some talented youngsters come through at big clubs and not given the chance and if Lampard does want the best for the club then giving youngsters much needed experience could give them a better chance of succeeding in the long term.

It could come down to what wages he demands and length of contract because Chelsea would not want to give a 34 year old a three year contract on huge wages when he might fizzle out next season. Another reason he may not get a new contract is because he won’t be able to play as many games as usual and he may get more injuries than usual which will reduce his playing time anyway.

So does Lampard deserve a new contract?

Manchester United and Manchester City crash out of the Europa League

Both Manchester clubs crashed out of the Europa League after being beaten by Sporting Lisbon and Athletic Bilbao.

Where to start? Manchester United were beaten both home and away by Bilbao and deservedly so, not at any point especially in the second leg did they look like they were going to go through. Bilbao, to put it simply were fantastic and didn’t give the United players a moments peace when they were in possession. Fernando Llorente looked like the best striker on the pitch over the two legs and scored some wonderful goals including a lovely first time volley in the second leg. He showed up the United front players even if Wayne Rooney did grab some goals himself, Llorente had the movement and the finishing ability which is attracting attention from bigger clubs and judging him on these two performances he can play well under pressure and in big games so I think a lot of clubs will be sniffing around him in the next transfer window.

So United failed and I believe that Alex Ferguson got it wrong in the second leg because he knew that his team needed to score twice to go through and this was if they kept a clean sheet which was never going to happen. He played a hardworking side and committed side but it did not seem likely that the team he selected would be good enough to win the game never mind qualify. He went with only one striker in Rooney and left Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck on the bench, while playing Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young in the wide positions. It seemed like Fergie was scared of this Bilbao side, why not go out and attack them, try and grab an early goal and see if they could deal with the pressure. But, no instead it seemed like he just wanted his side to stay in the game for as long as possible and then nick a couple of goals on the counter.

Maybe they will prefer being out so they can focus on the Premier League and Manchester City in the first half of their game seemed to take their eye off the ball because they were 2-0 down at halftime and losing 3-0 on aggregate. Losing the first leg was acceptable as it was away and Portugal can be difficult to go to but being 2-0 down at home is not something you see often from a team that wants to win trophies. In their defence they picked up in the second half and actually won the game on the night with goals from Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli which shows that Roberto Mancini did want to win the trophy and did not accept what he saw in the first half and let his players know what he thought of them at halftime. They were unfortunate to go out on away goals but they only have themselves to blame.

Both teams now only have the Premier League to focus on and that will be a fascinating race but it is a frustrating time for English teams in Europe with every team now out apart from Chelsea. This is a missed opportunity especially for Alex Ferguson as this is the only trophy he hasn’t won as manager of United so he probably wanted to see his team perform better. It is now up to Chelsea to win a European trophy this season.

Is Jordan Henderson a flop for Liverpool?

So Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-1 and this should have been important enough to write about but something else caught my attention and that is why does Andy Carroll get so much stick because of his price tag when Jordan Henderson doesn’t get slated anywhere near enough.

He simply has not been good enough, when it comes down to it, he just doesn’t perform in the big games and remains an anonymous figure for virtually the whole game. You could put it down to nerves because he is only 21 but when you play for Liverpool you have to grow up quickly, and yes he would have been under pressure and although he didn’t choose to be bought for the price he was, he still has to live up to it.

£20 million for a young player is extortionate especially when he has only had two full seasons in the Premier League and yes he was quite impressive for Sunderland last season but he isn’t good enough at the minute to be playing for a top side and he should have stayed in a mediocre Sunderland team and been a big fish in a small pond but fair play to the lad he was ambitious and did want to improve his chances to play for England. However, this move seems to have put his career in reverse as he is not playing very well and if stayed at Sunderland he would have stood out and caught the eye of Capello yet again.

He has got one cap for England when he started the game against France which yet again he failed to perform and looked like a fish out of water. Yes again you can put it down to nerves but the best players thrive under pressure and he failed to deliver unfortunately and now it seems he is way down the pecking order.

The 21 year old has been given a great chance of competing in the world’s best competitions in a very good side and he has scored a Premier League goal against Bolton Wanderers but this has been his only meaningful contribution to the side. However, in his defence most of Kenny Dalglish’s signings haven’t exactly lived up to their price tag. Andy Carroll, should never have been bought for £35 million and will never be worth that much although he probably should have played better than he has so far. Charlie Adam, another player like Henderson that performed for a team with lesser ambitions than Liverpool and hasn’t quite recaptured his form. A debatable one is perhaps Luis Suarez because the Liverpool fans think he has played brilliantly and is one of the best players in the Premier League yet his stats would say differently, he has only scored five goals and only has three assists this season. I know it’s not all about stats but when I have seen him play he has missed numerous chances and seems more interested in arguing with officials and opposition players which got him in trouble and got given an eight match ban after an incident with Patrice Evra. He reminds me of Craig Bellamy but if they were both running through one on one with the keeper I would be far more confident in scoring if it was Bellamy.

So who is to blame Kenny Dalglish or the individual players?

The most hated player in the league Craig Bellamy but I like him

Love him or hate him Craig Bellamy always turns it on in the big games and yet again in the Carling Cup semi final second leg against his former club Manchester City he made the difference.

He rarely plays two games in a week anymore due to injuries and fitness worries but every time he steps on the pitch you knwow exactly what you are going to get from him. He will keep moving, keep chasing and keep shouting and encouraging his teammates. He is everything you would want in your team because he will work right until the last minute and he thoroughly deserved his man of the match in the game as he made Stefan Savic look very poor, however in all honesty he is a very poor player and Mancini is making a huge mistake not buying another centre back as he is not capable of succeeding in this league.

Just watching Bellamy, you can see why fans of opposition teams hate him because he moans and shouts and gets your team’s players wound up which can lead them to retaliating and getting themselves in trouble with the referees. But we will not focus on the negative side of his game because he gives Liverpool so much, his pace is still frightening even though he is getting to the end of his career and his finishing is still up there with the best and he can score with both his left and right foot.

I am going to slate Mancini yet again because he let Bellamy go and why? Probably because yes he is a very big character and will probably be hard to manage but everyone has known this since the start of his career. Mancini let him go, he plays brilliantly for Liverpool and City at times look like they need something different in their squad which Bellamy would have given them. But, Mancini isn’t the only manager that the Welshman has clashed with as he had a very public fallout with Graeme Souness when he was at Newcastle which led to him getting sold by the club, where at the time he had formed a formidable partnership with club legend Alan Shearer.

Throughout his career he has scored memorable and important goals, none more so for Newcastle when in the Champions League the team needed to beat Feyernoord to qualify from their group. He opened the scoring after a flick on from Shearer and he expertly finished with his left foot, Hugo Viana then made it two and it seemed they were on their way through but the Dutch side scored twice and were back in the game and the Toon were heading out of the competition but Bellamy had other ideas when in the very last minute he scored from the tightest of angles to make it 3-2. It will live long in the memory of every Newcastle fans.

Even at City he scored goals that will be remembered with his double against Manchester United which should have at least got them a draw, however they did go onto lose the game.

I cannot think of a more hated player in the Premier League but it’s not only because he can be annoying and argumentative, it’s because he is one of the few players in the league that can change a moment in the blink of an eye.