Game, Team and Player of Matchday 5

The top two in the Premier League so far is expected with Chelsea and Manchester United leading the race for the title but directly below them Everton and West Brom are having fantastic starts to the season and not many would have expected them to have been in the Champions League places after five games. At the other end of the table, there are six teams still to register a win and the most worried out of them will surely be QPR and Reading who are currently in the relegation zone. Liverpool are the other team in the relegation zone and all of them will be thankful that Norwich City also haven’t picked up a win yet.

I have already mentioned them but they don’t usually have a great start to the season and that is why it is so remarkable that Everton are third in the table and will surely finish in a European place because they usually leave their unbeaten runs just too late in the season to have an effect on them positions. Yet again, they produced a fantastic display against Swansea City and brushed them aside with ease, all of their attacking players were on form and Kevin Mirallas has fit straight into the David Moyes way of playing football and even added a goal to his good performance. Victor Anichebe has now got two goals in two games and he will have a lot of confidence and maybe they won’t miss Nikica Jelavic as much as they thought they would. Another team that are performing well in areas we don’t normally expect is Arsenal because at the back they have been superb and followed it up with another good performance away to Manchester City. I will still give them a lot of praise even though the goal they conceded was an error because in years gone by they definitely would have lost this game and went home with nothing. They also created chances and if their finishing and final touch was better, in particular Gervinho, they could have got all three points. But, the winner of team of the week has to be Southampton. After finding themselves 1-0 down their fans must have thought that their time in the Premier League was going to be very short indeed but they didn’t get on the players or their managers back and they got to see their side come from behind and beat Aston Villa. Two goals from Rickie Lambert, an own goal from Ciaran Clark and a tidy finish from Nathaniel Clyne gave them exactly what they deserved and that was all three points. If they can replicate this sort of form then they may be able to stay up this year but they will need their fans on their side and the rumours of Nigel Adkins being replaced need to go away or it could cause some uncertainty among the players.

Hugo Rodallega may have came back to haunt his old club Wigan Athletic but it is his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov that is a contender for player of the week in my mind because he has shown that he can perform just as well away from home as he does at Craven Cottage. This is what he often gets criticised for but against Wigan he did everything that was asked of him, he held the ball up well and brought teammates into play. His movement was also very good and the Wigan defence weren’t ever sure on who has supposed to be picking him up, and his cross for the first goal was superb so it was a very good day for the Bulgarian. Marouane Fellaini is another player that is proving he is worth every penny his club paid for him. In yet another outstanding performance he goes about his business so effectively, joining up with the front man and getting beyond him whenever he can. He is a lot better in the advanced role where he is playing now and like Yaya Toure at Manchester City he can make the difference in the final third. Another goal was added to his tally this weekend with a powerful header that left Michel Vorm with no chance. However, the man that is getting player of the week is none other than Southampton’s goal scoring hero Rickie Lambert. There were question marks raised on whether he will be able to score goals at the highest level but against Aston Villa he proved he not only knows where the goals is but can set up chances for his team to score. A lot of people just think that Lambert is a big target man but he is much more than that, he likes to drift out wide and get involved in the play dragging defenders away with him so there is more space for midfielders to run into and I’m sure Gaston Ramirez in particular will make the most of that.

Game of the weekend can be a little difficult because some of the bigger games get a lot more attention and don’t really end up being that exciting. But, in my opinion the Liverpool Manchester United game was decent enough with both teams having chances to win the game towards the end. The home side were probably just the better team and will feel a little annoyed that they didn’t get anything from the game, but maybe they just couldn’t push themselves anymore after playing a lot of the game with only 10 men after Jonjo Shelvey was sent off. There were some good goals in the game with Steven Gerrard reminding us all that he can still be a threat going forward and Rafael scoring a goal that some of the Old Trafford greats would have been proud of. The winner did come from the penalty spot after Glen Johnson clumsily fouled Antonio Valencia which makes you wonder how he is England’s first choice right back but that discussion is for another time. Another game that was really entertaining, but a lot more one sided was West Ham versus Sunderland. Steven Fletcher gave the away side the lead and that is basically all they did and had to withhold heavy pressure for a lot of the game, eventually leading to a late goal from one of their arch nemesis, Kevin Nolan. Nolan must love playing against Sunderland as he always seems to score past them and with him being a former Newcastle United player, it must have been extra sweet for him. Game of the weekend, however goes to the Swansea Everton match as it was a really enjoyable game and was played in a very different way to how I expected it. Everton controlled most of the game and Swansea struggled for large periods but they even create some chances that they should have done better with. Everton are getting better and better while Swansea are beginning to slip could this be the game that sends the clubs in two very different directions?

Was there anyone that impressed you? Who would you give the team, player and game of the weekend award to?

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Why Andy Carroll failed at Anfield and shouldn’t go back

Andy Carroll has started his career at West Ham with an almost perfect debut against Fulham but will this only be a short stay at the club?

It is now believed that Liverpool have the opportunity to recall Carroll in January if they want and it would make sense if they did because they didn’t bring anyone in to replace him. They tried but unfortunately could not get Clint Dempsey on deadline day and are now only left with Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez as recognised experienced strikers. Borini, is new to the Premier League and may take time to settle and for some reason has been played over on the right wing in the last few games instead of down the middle where he will surely get more chances to open his Premier League account. Then they have Suarez who misses a lot of chances, there is no doubting his ability when he isn’t complaining and is focused on his own performance rather than arguing with officials and diving around. So, Liverpool will definitely need another striker in January even if they do sign Michael Owen who is still a free agent and in the last few days has been linked with a move back to Merseyside. But will Andy Carroll be the right option?

In my opinion, no I think they should just cut their losses and get rid of Carroll permanently as sometimes a player just doesn’t work out a club and this is exactly what has happened here. He has a lot of talent and when he is used properly as the main point of an attack then he will create chances and cause problems for the opposing defence like he did against Fulham. He will never succeed at Liverpool because I believe he will never be used right. Firstly, it is because the fans will demand the ball to be played around, instead of hoofed forward and they will want to see their better passers involved in the play such as Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Luis Suarez so even though the fans supported him, they were never wanting to see their team play to his strengths. Another reason he won’t succeed in the future is because of current manager Brendan Rodgers who I think would have given him the chance but he also does not want to see players pumping the ball into the box from the fullback positions as West Ham and Newcastle United were willing to do in the past. Rodgers would rather see his left back and right back pass it back to the centre back if there is no other option on.

I can’t see him playing in a Liverpool shirt again and West Ham will definitely profit from his signing and he could lead their front line for a number of years. Kevin Nolan will also be thankful for this signing and he will score more goals now as he seems to just know how to play with Carroll. Also, Matt Jarvis’ signing makes a lot more sense now and I can see him getting a lot of assists this year.

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.

Who will win the Championship playoffs?

It is that time of the year again and the unpredictability is bound to cause a lot of excitement for the neutrals but for West Ham, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Cardiff City fans it is one of the most nerve wracking times of the season.

So who is going to come out on top? West Ham will playing Cardiff at home in the second leg so does that give them an advantage over their Welsh rivals or does it not matter like in the Champions League this season where both away teams in the second leg went through. Will Blackpool’s attacking and sometimes gung ho tactics work against a hard working Birmingham side or will Chris Hughton secure a second promotion to the Premier League?

First of all, let’s start with West Ham as they finished third and were in contention of an automatic spot right up until the final day but ultimately lost out to Southampton. This can sometimes knock your confidence and the players may feel quite disappointed with their season as they were favourites to return to the top flight. But in there squad they have enough experience to steer them to Wembley and into the promised land once again. Their key player will be Kevin Nolan who is a fantastic player and in my opinion has been unlucky not to receive an England cap in his career. He can grab a goal from midfield and always seems to score important goals when he is needed, he may not have done as well as the last time he was in the Championship but he still needs to be watched and 12 goals this season has been quite a good return.

Birmingham City have had such a long season and there is a worry that they might burn out as they have played in the Europa League and took Chelsea to a replay in the FA Cup. But  don’t see this as a problem as they just keep getting better and better. With manager Chris Hughton in charge you know the camp will be in high spirits and everyone will be enjoying themselves. But maybe the speculation that West Brom are interested in Hughton might just put the players off slightly and they might lose focus but I honestly don’t think this will happen. The key player in my opinion will be Curtis Davies who has had a fantastic season and will want to play Premier League football next season. He has been a rock at the back for the club and has been crucial in their good form all season, he knows he will have to be at his best to keep out the opposition in the next few games.

Blackpool are also looking for an instant return to the Premier League under the always entertaining Ian Holloway. The way the team play their football is fantastic to watch and his players are very brave to keep playing the way they do which may give them the advantage in the playoffs and the fact they have won the playoffs with a very similar team only two years ago will also help their cause. Key player to watch for me is Kevin Phillips, he has scored 17 goals this season and is looking as threatening as ever, he may not be able to start both legs because of his age but when he is on the pitch his movement will worry defenders and like Nolan always has an important goal in him. With him on the pitch I think defenders know they need to mark him which gives more space for wingers Matt Phillips and Thomas Ince who on their day can take apart any defence in the Championship.

Cardiff City have possibly been one of the most unlucky teams in the playoffs with them losing in them time and time again. What has made it worse is that Swansea City are in the Premier League and are doing well. But manager Malky Mackay has brought together a new squad this year who look hungry and determined to get to the Premier League. The goals haven’t quite flowed as much this season as they have done previously but all that matters is that they are in the playoffs once again. Key player will be Peter Whittingham as he has really quality from midfield whether he plays out wide or in the middle and has contributed 13 goals this season as well as many assists. If he is on form it will be difficult for their opponents to stop him and he can change a game in the blink of an eye.

So now it is prediction time, I believe that the final will be between Cardiff and Birmingham with Birmingham winning the final. I just think that West Ham may crumble under the pressure and the expectations and Blackpool will be unable to break down the Birmingham defence often enough. In the final I think it will be a case of déjà vu for Cardiff and they will sadly underperform on the big stage.

Do you agree with my key players and my predictions?

Coloccini and Krul sign new contracts at Newcastle United

Newcastle United fans will be delighted with the news that Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul have both signed new contracts at the club.

It is yet another step in the right direction, with the team battling for a European place this season and an outside chance of qualifying for the Champions League. The team will be delighted at their progress this season after losing several key players of their squad in the summer and pundits expecting them to battle against relegation. Kevin Nolan was captain last season and when he left for West Ham, the team needed a new leader and Coloccini was the man to take up the armband and his performances this season have justified Alan Pardew’s decision. He has been a rock at the back, and has arguably been one of the best centre backs in the division, which is a far cry from his first season at the club when he was ridiculed by opposition supporters not only for his hair but his horrific decision making and his inevitable mistakes at key moments in games.

The season in the Championship has made him improve as a defender as it helped him adapt to the physical side of the English game and now you will hardly ever see him getting bullied by strikers. But you can still tell he is from Argentina because he is not afraid to pass the ball out of the defence and try to set up an attack. He has already stated he wants to lift a trophy with the Magpies and it will not be this season but if he can help his team get into the Europa League then it will have been a fantastic season.

Krul and Coloccini celebrate

Not forgetting Tim Krul as he has been sensational between the sticks for the Toon this season and this has been an even more impressive achievement as in pre season it was unclear whether he will be the number 1 with both Steve Harper and Fraser Forster battling for the position. In all honesty I thought Harper would be first choice because of his experience but Pardew took a gamble and it is paying off. He has performed heroics in many games this season and gained valuable points this season for Newcastle and whenever he has been called upon he has never let anyone down. It is worth remembering that he is still young and can make the odd mistake when dealing with crosses as he is unsure whether to come for them or not but the more he plays the better he will get. Krul must now be considered as one of the best in the league and if he keeps progressing the way he is, then surely he will be one of the best in the world.

At the moment it is looking bright for Newcastle but with Mike Ashley in charge there will always be that fear that something will go wrong and there will be some fans saying he has only given them new contracts so he can demand a higher transfer fee from potential buyers. Newcastle are a huge club and deserve to be in Europe and if they keep the core of the squad together this summer then being a United fan will be very exciting next season. But that is definitely a big if.

Papiss Cisse to sign for Newcastle

Newcastle United have once again shocked fans but this time somewhat surprisingly it is in a positive way. Papiss Demba Cisse is close to joining the club from German side Freiburg. The Senegalese striker is expected to sign before he goes away for the Africa Cup of Nations to join up with current Newcastle striker Demba Ba.

This may come as a surprise to the Toon faithful as they were not expecting to sign a striker this January because their manager Alan Pardew said it was unlikely they were going to sign one after Modibo Maiga failed a medical. There were rumours that they were in the market for other strikers and in particular Andy Carroll who left the club at this stage last season.

Mike Ashley will be hoping this will at least get the fans off his back for a short period of time after he controversially renamed St James’ Park, The Sports Direct Arena which caused a backlash not only from fans but also from pundits who categorically said they will always call the ground St James’ Park. Adding this to the many other things he has done such as sell the club’s best players such as Carroll, Kevin Nolan, Jose Enrique and Joey Barton and then not spending a great deal of this money on replacements. All you have to look at is the fact that they sold for Carroll for £35 million and replaced him with Demba Ba who was a free transfer. Although, with Ba already hitting 15 goals for the club and Carroll struggling at Liverpool this seems to be a good decision.

But back to Cisse who has been on fire this year scoring nine goals in 15 games and last season scoring 24 goals in 34 games. He is the type of striker you need in your team because he is a great finisher and seems to put away a lot of chances as his goals to game ratio suggests. He likes to play on the last man and never panics when running through on goal in a one on one situation with the goalkeeper. A major plus for Newcastle is that he has played with Ba before with Senegal where he also has a good record scoring seven goals in 12 games. He is a goal scorer and the Newcastle fans will be hoping if and when he does sign that he can adapt to the Premier League quickly and aid them in their quest to finish in the top six this season.

However, there will be a few cynical Newcastle fans who will be thinking that they are only trying to sing Cisse because they have already accepted a bid from someone for their leading marksman Demba Ba. Therefore Mike Ashley has only signed Cisse as a replacement for Ba rather than to pair the two together, but in my opinion this seems unlikely as the two will be together with the Senegal squad and surely Ba will have a major influence on whether he signs. If he is leaving why would he tell another player to join the club?