Who will win the Premier League?

The Premier League will be very difficult to predict this season because of all the changes that have taken place over the summer.

Three of the top five have new managers so will that work in their favour or will it take them a while to adjust to their new jobs.
Manchester City under Manuel Pellegrini will be an interesting prospect because he does like his teams to play more attacking football and win every game that they play. This is different to former manager Roberto Mancini who at times was a little negative. The signings the club has made will surely improve the squad and I am excited to see how Stevan Jovetic does because he could easily be the signing of the season.

Jose Mourinho is back at Chelsea and this might just make them become the best team in the country once again. He has a great team to work with and will be hoping that he can replicate his first spell in charge. It will be interesting to see if he still favours the players that were there in his first spell like John Terry who should not be in a title winning first 11 anymore. He has a tough choice in picking his main striker this year because Romelu Lukaku, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba are all capable on their day.

Sir Alex Ferguson has left Manchester United in a very strong position so it should not be too hard for David Moyes to at least challenge for the title this season because they still have the same team. The Wayne Rooney saga over the summer will not have helped things and the fact that he has not been able to convince many players to join them will be a little concerning. There will be even more pressure on Robin Van Persie to succeed this season and Moyes has to hope they do not become a one man team.

Arsenal are another club that has struggled in convincing players that they are the team they should be joining but if they can bring in someone like Luis Suarez then they could be right up there come the end of the season. As much as Arsene Wenger thinks top four is good enough I believe this may be his last season in charge if they do not come close to the title again. They have been falling further and further behind their rivals and that is probably why they have tried to spend a lot of money this summer.

Tottenham Hotspur could be seen as outsiders for the title because at times they did play some good stuff last year but unfortunately a lot does rest on whether they can keep hold of Gareth Bale. I do not think they are a one man team but he did win a lot of games for them last year but the signing of Roberto Soldado is a very good one and if he hits the ground running they will have a clinical striker on their hands that will add goals consistently which Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor failed to do last season.

Advertisements

Who will be Manchester City’s next manager?

Manchester City are looking for a new manager after they decided Roberto Mancini had not done a good enough all round job.
Man City
In their statement they seemed happy with the work the Italian did on the pitch but his work off it was not up to standard. Mancini did not have the greatest relationship with the board or his players and this has ended up working against him. But, I think he still did a good job and even if the players didn’t like him they still performed to a high level. The question now then is, would they have played even better if they had a different manager? The City board obviously feel that they will and with no trophies this season it was time to go. I really hope this isn’t the start of things to come at the club because I thought they understood football a bit more than other foreign owners and won’t just keep sacking managers every time they have a poor season. Mancini is a good manager but even at Inter Milan he never really came close to winning the Champions League so he was always going to get sacked sooner rather than later at Man City if this didn’t change.

But who will get the job next? The clear favourite is current Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini. Make no mistake about it Pellegrini is a fantastic manager but he is also one of the most unlucky managers in world football. If you look down his honours as a manager there isn’t a lot to see but when you actually look at the statistics it makes you realise how brilliant he is. In his one season at Real Madrid they finished with 96 points, scoring over 100 goals and somehow still failed to clinch the title. It seems like he is going to get the job and he will yet again be a success but will he get the luck at Man City?
Pellegrini
Jose Mourinho is also being linked with the job and this seems very unlikely at the moment with everyone expecting him to join Chelsea in the summer. But if Man City really want the ‘Special One’ then I think they could convince him to join them because they have a lot of money and the board seem a little less controlling than Roman Abramovich at Chelsea so that may just sway his decision. Very unlikely at this stage though.
Mourinho
The next option is someone that I feel has been harshly criticised this season and that man is Rafael Benitez. In my opinion he has done very well at Chelsea and could leave the club with a European trophy and a third place finish. I understand with the team he has they should possibly be closer to the title but with a 56% win record in the Premier League he has proven that if he is given a full season then they will be right in the mix come the end of the season. He came close to winning the title with Liverpool and now with Alex Ferguson leaving Manchester United the title race will be wide open and his experience of being at the very top might just give him the advantage.
Benitez

Game, Team and Player of Matchday 7

Chelsea remain top of the table after beating Norwich City and more and more people are now starting to accept that they are genuine title contenders. With their attacking intent, they will be a threat to anyone and I am sure the two Manchester club are now very worried. The rest of the top four is now starting to take normal shape with Manchester United and City in second and third but Everton are still clinging onto fourth place with Tottenham just behind them on goal difference. At the bottom of the table it isn’t looking great for QPR, Reading and Norwich who haven’t won a game yet. But, they will still be positive as Southampton and Aston Villa seem to be struggling at the minute.

So, onto team of the weekend and in my opinion Manchester City deserve a lot of praise because they had to reshuffle their defence and were so comfortable against Sunderland it was unbelievable. They attacked well but more importantly they were solid at the back and kept their first clean sheet of the season so Roberto Mancini will be looking to build on this performance. They did exactly what was needed and didn’t give the away team a sniff, maybe it was a bad day for Sunderland because they never really looked like scoring but credit has to go to the two centre backs who probably haven’t played together that often in Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott. The other team from Manchester, performed brilliantly away to Newcastle United and deserved their comfortable victory and could have made it more if Danny Welbeck had his shooting boots on. But, in the first 15 minutes, I don’t think anyone could have lived with them, never mind an injury hit Newcastle defence. Everyone on the pitch played very well and they seemed to be enjoying their football and when they did come under pressure, they were strong enough to remain solid and not concede. However, there are still question marks over goalkeeper David De Gea who was poor again and almost cost them a goal. But, my team of the weekend is Arsenal, because they won a game a few years ago they certainly wouldn’t have away to West Ham. What makes it more special is that they came from 1-0 down and they even managed to control Andy Carroll for the majority of the game and often allowed him to win the first ball and just challenge for the second ball. The concentration of the back four was particularly impressive and when you have players like Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla you know they will create chances.

Unfortunately, no Arsenal players have made it onto my contenders for player of the weekend but Cazorla was very close, however fellow Spaniard Juan Mata deserves a mention instead because yet again he was fantastic, as he has been all season. He hasn’t been getting the headlines because of Eden Hazard but he has been equally impressive and is one of the cleverest players in the Premier League right now and it is remarkable that Spain can’t find a place for him in their squad. He got another two assists to his name and he also very reliable on the ball and won’t try silly things and if there is an easy option on, he will use it. Aleksandar Kolarov, though was equally impressive as he scored a fantastic free kick and set up Sergio Aguero in the second half to put the game beyond doubt. He has improved defensively in recent months and everyone knows what he is capable of going forward so Gael Clichy might find it difficult to get back in the team. He is always a threat to the opposition and certainly is a useful asset to the team, especially at home. My player of the weekend though actually goes to a goalkeeper who wasn’t first choice at the start of the season but after his performance this weekend, he is guaranteed a place for a while to come. Reading’s Alex McCarthy, produced save after save to secure what could be a vital point against Swansea City. His team may have thrown away a two goal lead but he was sensational and if it wasn’t for him then they would have surely lost the game. If they stay up by one point at the end of the season, I think Brian McDermott and the fans will look back at this performance and just realise how good of a performance it was. To pick up points away from home in the Premier League, you need special performances, and this was certainly one of them.

Onto, game of the weekend and obviously that Swansea Reading game will be high up the list as there were so many chances and both teams will be thinking that they should have an extra two points on their current tally. After Swansea came from two down, I expected them to win but as said Alex McCarthy was inspired form and couldn’t be beaten again. Reading will be the most worried though because they just can’t seem to get that first win and if they had held on last week against Newcastle then they probably would have seen this out too but that first win is usually the hardest. QPR, similarly need that first win and they put in a good performance away to West Brom but unfortunately, the surprise package of the Premier League so far were even better and the game went right down to the last minute and this could have also ended a draw after one of the sides were 2-0 up but it wasn’t to be and West Brom held on for a 3-2 win. The game of the weekend for me was actually West Ham against Arsenal because it was two very different styles playing against each other and just showed what English football is all about. Arsenal were sublime until West Ham somehow took the lead and from there it could have went either way and Arsenal just had enough on the day and finished off the game with a fantastic goal. Both managers know how they want to play and for that reason, the game was action packed and there were plenty of counter attacks leading to chances and all of the goals had a lot of quality about them.

Who will win the Premier League?

Manchester City won the title last season in the last minute of the last game which ended one of the best ever Premier League seasons.

This year in my opinion there are only three real contenders for the title but I will include five with two of them being very outside chances that even I don’t believe they could actually win it but you never know, football is a very strange game and even Blackburn Rovers have won a Premier League title (things were slightly different when they won it though).

Obviously, Manchester City are the favourites to once again win the title and they will be hoping it is a little more straight forward than last year. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on why they could win the title because it is obvious, they have the players and now the experience of winning the big one, and they will want even more success. One thing that does worry me though is this change of formation manager Roberto Mancini is trying and maybe he should remember the saying if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it.

Alex Ferguson will want his title back and I think this is his last objective as manager of Manchester United. He won’t retire in my opinion until he has toppled the noisy neighbours and he obviously wants to do it this year with the signings of Shinji Kagawa and they expected arrival of Robin Van Persie. They already look a more attacking threat and if all the players click then it may be an even closer title race than last year, if that is even possible.

Chelsea will be hoping for a much better season than last year and they have made their intentions known to the rest of the country with their signings this summer, in particular, Eden Hazard who was wanted by pretty much all of Europe so it was quite a coup for them. The big question is whether Roberto Di Matteo is good enough to challenge for the title? Yes he won the Champions League and FA Cup last year but he was also sacked as manager of West Brom not long ago, to me , this was a harsh decision but it happened nevertheless.

Now, we get onto the outsiders. Arsenal could challenge for the title if there team can perform well together both offensively and defensively. Their new signings Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud all have a lot of ability but with their lack of Premier League experience they may not be at their best till half way through the season and by then it will be too late. Losing Van Persie will obviously weaken them so they cannot afford to lose anyone else and with Alex Song linked with a move to Barcelona they definitely need to keep hold of him.

From Arsenal to a team that may not even finish in the top six in the coming season, Liverpool. This can only go in one of two ways for me, 1) Brendan Rodgers gets the team playing brilliantly and they adapt to his style of play and new signing Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez both score goals for fun leading them to at least a place in the top four, or 2) The players just can’t get to grips with the new tactics and have yet another season of disappointment, finishing around 7th place.

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.

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.

Close to the end for Shay Given?

Shay Given has been one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history but now it seems that he is acknowledging the fact that he is about to be overtaken by younger players. In recent interviews he has been showering Tim Krul and Joe Hart with praise which could suggest that he knows his time may be coming to an end or is he just pleased that his former clubs are succeeding especially in the position he played.

He is still a fans favourite at Newcastle and was given a warm reception by the fans when his current club Aston Villa played there recently. But maybe now with Tim Krul emerging as one of the best performers this season the Toon fans will have a new goalkeeping idol. Krul has played a big part in Newcastle’s season pulling off some fantastic saves at vital times, keeping his side in the lead or at least in the game. Rightly so he is getting praised by Given but I think Villa fans should be getting worried as he has started talking to the media more and working with the media and could therefore be looking to end his career soon which I believe would be premature as he is still an outstanding goalkeeper and has a lot to offer the Premier League. Yes, Krul may have had a better season than him so far but that’s not to say he is having a bad season and is still as consistent as ever.

With the European Championships coming up soon, Given will be hopeful for a successful tournament as this may well be his last opportunity to play at a major international tournament. He was number 1 for Ireland at the 2002 World Cup where they performed admirably and were unlucky to get knocked out. He has also captained the side on many occasions and this is a reason why he has been talking about Joe Hart being the England captain for the tournament. The Manchester City goalkeeper would obviously love to play as many games for England as Given has for Ireland and if he does, he should definitely be considered for the role but in my opinion it is too early in his career.

I really like Shay Given and I hope he is going to continue his career for another few years at least and follow the example of Brad Friedel and hopefully play until he is 40. He comes across very well and one day should be a very good goalkeeping coach if he chooses to take that route after he retires but he may be more interested in a career in the media as his recent interviews have suggested. If you ever need a goalkeeper analysed surely there is nobody better than the most consistent player in the Premier League, he never makes a mistake and was at the time harshly frozen by Roberto Mancini at Manchester City but as this season has proven maybe Shay Given is starting to slip down the league table of goalkeepers. However, Aston Villa can count themselves very lucky that he is their player.

Gibson is the hero for Everton and Moyes

So Everton somewhat unexpectedly made one of the biggest transfers on deadline day with the signing of Nikica Jelavic but another of their earlier January signings really put a smile on their faces. Darron Gibson scored the only goal of the game with a thunderous strike which took a slight deflection off Gareth Barry against Manchester City.

Gibson has probably now helped Manchester United more as an Everton player this season than he did as an actual United player. Everton deserve a lot of praise for their performance but yet again Manchester City have failed to perform when the pressure was really on. However, we should take nothing away from Everton because their defending was outstanding and the work rate throughout the who team was admirable. Also, the crowd played their part and must have surely inspired the players to keep running and keep pressurising the City players.

As a team they were brilliant because every man did the job they were asked and the two centre backs deserve the most praise as they do not play their every week. John Heitinga can play centre back and has done on a number of occasions but David Moyes has mostly employed him in a holding midfield role and he thoroughly deserved man of the match because he battled with Edin Dzeko in the air and came out on top in most cases and he had another pace about him to deal with Sergio Aguero as well as watching runners come from the midfield. He seemed to be the talker at the back and kept his partner Tony Hibbert in check. Hibbert, himself could also easily have won man of the match simply because he did not put a foot wrong in a position he has hardly played. He is usually a right back and obviously that means he does not have to deal with as many long balls and does not have to make as many headers but he looked comfortable all night and was very rarely caught out of position and you have to give credit to the manager to play these two out of position. It is a key area and if you make mistakes in there it is going to cost your team.

Every single player put everything into this performance and I think Denis Stracqualarsi deserves a mention as he battled away up front and never gave up on anything. The Argentine ran himself into the ground for the team and had nothing left to give. Mancini must wish a certain Argentine on his playing staff would do this for him instead of battling against the club for wages he does not deserve.

But, this result once again proves that David Moyes is one of the best managers in the Premier League and it is remarkable how he does it year after year with a very small budget. He knows he has to sell to bring in a player and most of the time he gets it right. If he can get Jelavic scoring goals, Everton will be challenging for a European place yet again because he has them well drilled and everyone knows their job. Everton seems like a good place to because the fans are fantastic and the manager is up there with the best and in my opinion should take over from Sir Alex Ferguson when he decides to retire.

Big mistake from Mancini

Roberto Mancini has let Nedum Onuoha join QPR in this transfer window which could prove to be yet another terrible decision and could come back to haunt him as Craig Bellamy has done so recently.

It is unbelievable that Onuoha who is largely underrated by Mancini has not seen much first team action this season after impressing on loan at Sunderland last season it seemed that he at least deserved a chance, at least as backup. When Vincent Kompany was sent off against Manchester United he must have hoped that the Italian manager would have at least played him in one of the Carling Cup semi finals against Liverpool just to see if he was able to fit into his defence.

But remarkably, Mancini stuck with Stefan Savic who ultimately cost City a place in the final of the competition with two shambolic performances, firstly getting bullied by the out of sorts Andy Carroll. If Carroll was in any type of form he would have destroyed him even more, he won most things in the air and brushed him aside with ease. In the City manager’s defence everyone is allowed a bad game and he may have been nervous because of how big the game was. But then he followed up this performance with another shocker against Tottenham and when he misjudged a simple long ball it allowed Jermain Defoe to score and allowed Spurs back into the game. Fortunately, City won the game with a last minute penalty and he was let off the hook.

In the return leg against Liverpool, Onuoha was once again left out and QPR were in talks with the young defender and therefore this basically signalled the end of his career at the Etihad Stadium. But before the deal was completed Savic had another chance to prove he was good enough for the Premier League or at least a more competent defender than the QPR bound man. But he struggled against the pace of Bellamy and he can’t have been completely confident when his own manager didn’t trust him 100% and changed the formation to five at the back so he had extra cover when he inevitably made a mistake. He was still a liability and got hauled off at halftime which must make the supporters of the league leaders worried as they have spent a lot of money yet they have no decent cover in the heart of their defence which is one of the most important positions on the pitch.

Kolo Toure is passed his best, therefore, the club only have two players that have real quality in this position in Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott. Even this is quite surprising as last season there were a lot of question marks over Lescott as he had failed to live up to his price tag.

If Man City do not win the league, I will blame Mancini because everyone can see where they need to improve and it’s not as if they have little money to spend. He needs to buy a centre back sooner rather than later or it could cost him his job. I’m not saying Onuoha could have won them the league but surely he would have played a lot better than an out of depth Savic and an out of form Toure.

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.