Game, Team and Player of the Weekend

The Premier League kicked off this weekend and there is a lot to talk about but as from now after every weekend, I am going to decide on my game, team and player of the weekend. It will be difficult to narrow it down but I will try.

So onto the first thing, team of the weekend. This could go quite a few ways, should I give it to Swansea City under new manager Michael Laudrup, who destroyed QPR away from home 5-0 after being tipped as one of the teams to struggle this year (although it has only been one game and that may still be the case). Maybe, Fulham deserve it as they also won 5-0 against Norwich City, under difficult circumstances with their main man from last season Clint Dempsey not wanting to play. Although impressive, I have decided to go with Everton as they performed wonderfully and beat Manchester United 1-0. Everyone in their team played their part with Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin phenomenal at the back, Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini causing problems from midfield and up front Nikica Jelavic worked his socks off. They may not have scored as many as the others but they certainly created a lot of chances and even hit the bar a couple of times. Defensively they didn’t put a foot wrong and each one of them, Jagielka, Distin, Baines and Hibbert all get at least nine out of 10 from me. It is a great start to the season for them but they must play like this in every game if they want to finish in the top six.

Player of the weekend is another tough one to choose as all of the teams that were in contention for team of the weekend obviously had stand out players. Michu obviously grabbed the headlines for Swansea and rightfully so, I don’t even think in his or his manager’s dreams his debut would have went that well. He grabbed two goals, one with a little assistance from QPR goalkeeper Robert Green and the other a fantastic finish. Mladen Petric also had a debut to remember by also scoring two goals but one of these took a massive deflection, however he has opened his account for the team so that will give him the confidence to push on and get more. He showed nice touches round the edge of the box and looks like he can create goals for others too. Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United deserves a mention because he won the game for his team by winning and scoring a penalty, but he offered a lot more than just that with many mazy runs and great skills which forced the Tottenham players to bring him down. Yet another Premier League debutant is also a contender in Eden Hazard who in the first seven minutes of Chelsea’s game with Wigan Athletic showed why most clubs in Europe wanted him. Hopefully, he will show a lot more of that in the future. But, the winner for me has to be Marouane Fellaini who scored the winner for Everton, as I have already mentioned the whole of the backline got 9’s but this guy got a 10 and was fantastic from start to finish. He won everything in the air against both Michael Carrick and Nemanja Vidic, and was simply unplayable at times and he is definitely looking like he could have his best season yet in an Everton shirt. I prefer him to play in a more attacking role so he can do exactly what he did against Manchester United.

Game of the weekend isn’t quite as tough I don’t think, because 5-0’s are good but I would like a game to be less one sided and as I have said Everton played fantastically but Manchester United definitely weren’t great and couldn’t get out of first gear. So, my game of the weekend is Manchester City versus Southampton. The away side almost came away with a very unlikely win never mind just a point, after going 2-1 up but unfortunately couldn’t hold onto their lead and ended up losing 3-2. Both teams played the game in the right way and kept the ball on the floor and tried to pass through the opposition. When Carlos Tevez was brought down in the box for a penalty, I thought that was it for Southampton but Kelvin Davis managed to save David Siva’s penalty and there was renewed optimism, however, this didn’t last long as Tevez then did put City ahead. Game over? Not quite as sub Rickie Lambert scored with a fantastic finish and all of a sudden the momentum switched, and when fellow sub Steven Davis put them 2-1 up with an equally good finish, there was a feeling of worry growing round the stadium. But, just as he did against QPR on the last day of last season Edin Dzeko managed to get an equaliser, leaving enough time for Samir Nasri to fire home the winner. Good start from both teams but I think Nigel Adkins will be the happier of the two managers.

Which teams, players and games impressed you this weekend? How did your team do, were there any standout players?

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Who will be the Premier League’s top scorer?

The Premier League season is nearly upon us and the fight for the title, European places and the relegation battles are always very interesting but what about top goal scorer, will it be a one horsed race or will it go right down to the last game of the season.

Last year’s winner Robin Van Persie is expected to join Manchester United and that will surely only help him to become the winner of the Golden Boot for the second season running. Unlike at Arsenal you know that Alex Ferguson’s team will be right up there come the end of the season and they have the players to create even more chances for the striker and if he can develop a good understanding with Wayne Rooney then it could be his best season yet.

Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero had a fantastic year last season capping it off with the Premier League title but this year he will want to score even more goals and now he has had a full season in England he will just keep getting better and better so he will definitely be up there come the end of the season. He didn’t have the best of times in the Community Shield but there is no doubt he will come good.

Fernando Torres may have been branded a flop by a lot of people but this could be his season as he is now definitely first choice and won’t have to worry that when he misses a chance he will be replaced in the line up by Didier Drogba. He is the main man and now is the time to prove that he was worth the £50 million price tag. With Spain, he finished top scorer at Euro 2012 so he will obviously be very confident and the way he took his goal against Manchester City in the Community Shield shows that he hasn’t lost his finishing ability.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney has scored a lot of goals already in his career and even though he had quite a poor European Championships he will be back to his best in the coming season. He has proved over the years that he can score a wide range of goals from long rangers to scrappy goals in the six yard box and now has a knack of scoring a lot of goals with his head so he is always a massive threat.

Finally, maybe a little bit of an outsider as he may not always be first choice but Carlos Tevez owes the Manchester City fans this year I feel, because of the way he acted for a long period last season. He did come good at the end of the year but it was almost too late, however his performances were obviously good enough and he ended up lifting the title at the end. But, I am sure he doesn’t feel he deserved his medal and will be doing everything he can to make sure he deserves one this year if they win it and what better way to do that than score the most goals in the league.

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.

Who will Robin Van Persie sign for if he is allowed to leave Arsenal?

The transfer saga that will dominate the headlines this summer will once again involve Arsenal and their captain.

This time it is Robin Van Persie when in previous years it has been Cesc Fabregas, however it does still go even further back than that with both Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira getting linked away from the club every summer. I am not going to go into whether Arsenal are a ‘selling club’ or not because they in my opinion work the transfer market the right way by basically living within their means and even though the fans may not like it, they must accept it.

Van Persie has scored 132 goals in 279 games for Arsenal

I am going to focus more on Van Persie and you can see why he is being linked with the champions from a lot of countries around Europe after last season as he was phenomenal and was probably the best player in the Premier League. He scored 37 goals last season in all competitions but Arsenal still failed to win a trophy and you can understand the reason he wants to leave the club as even with his impressive goal tally, they never looked like winning the Premier League (mostly because of a poor start) and were easily knocked out of the Champions League after a very poor first leg.

Most clubs in the world would love to have the Dutchman in their squads but surely there are only a few that he would want to join. Unsurprisingly, Manchester City are the favourites to sign him and out of everyone in the Premier League I personally think this is the only team he would contemplate signing for. City have bought quite a few players from Arsenal including Samir Nasri last summer so they know they can do business with Arsenal and they won’t refuse to sell RVP to them. But in my opinion they would have to sell a striker first as they have Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli all fighting for a first team place already. Personally, I would only have Van Persie over Dzeko so I don’t see the need of them signing him but they will probably try anyway.

Juventus are also heavily linked with RVP and you can see it is because they lack a real goal scorer in their team and if they want to challenge for the Champions league next season then they most definitely need more goals in their side with Alessandro Matri only getting 10 league goals and Mirko Vucinic not even hitting double figures, they need someone that is going to get at least 20 goals. Andrea Pirlo showed at the Euros that he can still be a brilliant player and RVP would score goals for fun with his playmaking abilities. At times, Van Persie made Alex Song look like a pass master with his movement so imagine how good Pirlo will look.

Finally, Barcelona are also linked with him and yet again it is not very surprising to see their name come up however some of the rumours are. If they sign the Arsenal man, they may be looking to offload David Villa who is now 30 and has been out for eight months with a broken leg. If I was negotiating this deal I would definitely try and make it a swap deal. I think Villa is a better player than Van Persie and if he can recapture his form before he suffered his injury then he could actually make Arsenal a better team.

Darlington in a lot of trouble

Sad day for the North East as Darlington go into administration for the third time in nine years and are facing a points deduction in the Blue Square Premier.

Sitting in 13th place is not where the club want to be after many years in the Football League but now with all their mounting problems could be facing another relegation. Club chairman Raj Singh has been through many different managers with very little success, the managers have been quite well known as well. Colin Todd was the first in charge but was sacked after losing seven out of their first nine games of the season. Steve Staunton took over afterwards and when he arrived it was a lot different to his former role as the manager of the Republic of Ireland. Even with his many contacts in the game he could not bring any joy to the Quakers fans who only won four of his 23 games.

They inevitably got relegated to the Conference but still worse was to come in managerial terms as Simon Davey who managed the club till the end of the season then left the club. Raj Singh thought he had hired the right man in Davey’s long time assistant Ryan Kidd but without making a single signing and not even picking a single starting line up he left the club. 11 days was all he lasted and goes down as one of the shortest managerial reigns in history.

Mark Cooper was the next man in the managerial hot seat and he seemed to bring back a little bit of stability and consistency as he lasted the full season but in October he was inevitably sacked by Raj Singh who doesn’t seem to know exactly how to run the football club.

The Darlington fans must be sick to their stomach, they have a fantastic stadium and deserve better as the 128 year old club have spent most of that time in the Football League. At least last season they had some joy in winning the FA Trophy with a last minute winner from Chris Senior. Amazingly Senior was released four days later by Darlington.

The worst part about this whole debacle is that Carlos Tevez could pay for Darlington to get out of administration with one weeks wages. This is a man who allegedly refused to play and he could save a club from extinction by giving up a small amount. It’s not just about football players, it is everyone that works at the football club from the grounds man to the tea lady at training ground that are facing uncertainty. Real people in real situations and Mr Tevez is sitting with his feet not doing a single thing, footballers are frustrating people and surely it’s time for them to try and give a little more back.

I hope Darlington recover because nobody wants to see a club fold and they need all the help they can get like a lot of other football clubs in the country.

Alex Ferguson works his magic yet again

How do Manchester United keep doing it? Losing at home to Blackburn yet still not losing any ground in the title race. It seems to happen year after year, why can no team take advantage of them slipping up. Manchester City have easily the best squad ever assembled in the Premier League and they have now gone two games without scoring.

After watching the game against Sunderland, I am very tempted to back United to take the title because City need to win games like this if they want to be champions. It’s not like they were terrible but this is what a lot of teams do against the big teams- put 11 men behind the ball and defend for their lives. Manchester United always seem to find a way and yes there is the joke in football about ‘Fergie Time’ but it’s not just by chance that they keep scoring last minute winners unlike their rivals in the past, whether it has been Chelsea, Arsenal or Newcastle.

The most frustrating thing about this defeat for City is the fact that even though they had a lot of shots they didn’t seem to create many clear cut opportunities apart from the Richard’s header that hit the bar, which would have been harsh on Sunderland seen as though he was arguably offside. With all their talent and wealth they should be able to create a lot of chances against a team that had players playing out of position, with Craig Gardner a central midfielder at right back and Jack Colback at left back, Sunderland must have been fearing the worst. This was an even more daunting task when midway through the first half one of their most experienced defenders Wes Brown went off injured for a player that has been in the wilderness at Sunderland since basically the day he signed Matt Kilgallon.

The Sunderland players will be very proud of their victory but Manchester City should be ashamed of their efforts at the Stadium of Light. However, I am going to point the blame at Roberto Mancini because I thought he had realised the way to win the league was to attack as he had been doing at the start of the season when they looked unstoppable but for some reason he went back to his old ways and played De Jong and Gareth Barry in front of the back four with only one player upfront. Surely when your nearest rivals get beaten the day before you play, you do everything you can to win your next game, why were David Silva and Sergio Aguero warming the bench in the first half especially when  City don’t have to worry about playing in the Champions League for the rest of the year. Yes they are in the Europa League but I cannot see them taking the competition seriously.

One last comment on where Mancini has failed is keeping his players happy mainly Carlos Tevez. I’m not defending the player’s actions but this was his type of game where his effort and determination would have grabbed a goal for City like he did so many times for United when he was there.

Being top of the table means dealing with pressure, Manchester City bottled it today and if the Red Devils get a similar opportunity later in the season they will take advantage and Sir Alex Ferguson will have won the mind games yet again.