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 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.

Players of the day- Franck Ribery and Theo Walcott

Sweden are the second team to be knocked out of Euro2012 after their 3-2 defeat to England while France beat Ukraine.

The first game was suspended after the fourth minute because of terrible weather conditions and it eventually got under way almost an hour later. The first half saw both teams come close but neither could really take control of the game, although France had more of the possession they couldn’t quite carve the Ukrainian defence open. However, early in the second half the game was all but over after two goals in three minutes from Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye. Both goals were finished off brilliantly after some wonderful passing. Cabaye deserved his goal and once again was sublime in the centre of the midfield and along with Andrea Pirlo, has been the most consistent player in the tournament. Ukraine had a few half chances but couldn’t find a way past Hugo Lloris in the French goal.

Man of the match- Franck Ribery- The Bayern Munich winger was in and out of the game but whenever he had the ball he frightened the life out of the Ukraine defenders. His pace was crucial in the first goal and he looked the most likely all through the first half to open the scoring. France’s other flair players were slightly disappointing in my opinion with Samir Nasri never getting out of first gear and Menez being very wasteful at times. Ribery was the one that added some much needed creativity to the game and outshone the rest.

Ribery made his international debut in 2006

England managed to beat Sweden in a thrilling game with both teams pushing forward for the win. Andy Carroll gave them the lead with a good header from an accurate cross from Steven Gerrard and England seemed in control without every really posing a threat. The second half was very different as the Swedes knew that defeat would mean they were eliminated from the competition and when Glen Johnson couldn’t clear an Olof Mellberg shot, they looked confident and were forcing the issue a lot more and then Mellberg once again popped up from a free kick to score a header. This left the England fans with a feeling of oh no not again but Roy Hodgson made a positive substitution and brought on Theo Walcott who scored with one of his first touches. Goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson should have done a lot better though. The winner was scored by Danny Welbeck who flicked in a Walcott cross with an inventive effort that not many other players would have been able to pull off or even try.

Man of the match- Theo Walcott- He may not have been on the pitch for that long but he changed the game and proved to be the difference between the sides. James Milner hadn’t been able to get much out of the fullback Martin Olsson but he looked awful against Walcott. His goal may not have been the best but at least he had a try and it lifted everyone. For the Welbeck goal he was vital as he picked up the ball and was very direct, driving at the defence and pulling the ball across for the Manchester United striker. He may not have been involved a lot but when he did have the ball he caused problems and maybe will get a chance to start in the next game.

Walcott now has four goal for England

Players of the day- Yohan Cabaye and Andriy Shevchenko

England kicked off their European Championship campaign against France and co-hosts Ukraine took on Sweden in Group D.

The England fans were not the most optimistic before the game but afterwards they should be quietly confident they can beat both Ukraine and Sweden to qualify for the knockout stages. France had more of the ball and looked the more threatening but on the counter attack Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck caused problems for the French defence. Joleon Lescott scored the opening goal from a fantastic Steven Gerrard free kick and this capped off an impressive first 30 minutes for the team. James Milner had went close after rounding the keeper but he could not finish but after the goal France took control. Samir Nasri grabbed an equaliser with a long range effort which Joe Hart arguably could have done better with. The second half was all France and Karim Benzema had two efforts from distance that needed saving.

Man of the match- Yohan Cabaye- The Newcastle midfielder ran the show and has added another couple of million pound to his price tag after such an impressive performance. He may not have stood out to some people as he didn’t take players on or get into really threatening positions but he kept the ball for his team and stopped countless counter attacks. He completed 43 of his 46 passes which is impressive by anyone’s standards and he certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Spain side with his intelligent passes. He was unlucky not to score when his volley was just deflected wide but he was also lucky to escape without a booking as he did commit quite a few fouls.

Cabaye scored four goals in his first season in England

Co-hosts Ukraine are now top of the group after beating Sweden 2-1 and looking very impressive, they kept the ball brilliantly and very imaginative in some of their play. Wingers Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko were impressive and they tried to take on their fullbacks and put crosses into the box. But it was Sweden who opened the scoring with a goal from the inconsistent Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He finished off a move he started, and it looked as though they would go on and win the game comfortably but Ukraine had other ideas. Two headers from Andriy Shevchenko changed the game around and it left Sweden desperate to find equaliser towards the end with Olof Mellberg and Johan Elmander missing very good chances.

Man of the match- Andriy Shevchenko- He was already a national hero and now he will be considered a god in his homeland. The striker showed his fantastic ability and his movement was second to none in the tournament so far, the way he got away from Mellberg for his first was wonderful and getting in at the near post was genius from the former Chelsea man. His best days may be past him but he showed that if he is given a chance he will put it away, so France and England need to make sure they don’t give him a sniff.

Shevchenko has scored 48 goals for Ukraine

Super Sunday- The verdict

So it was the Super Sunday Sky Sports billed it as, long gone are the days when viewers had to watch Chelsea and Manchester United battle out a 0-0 draw, we finally have goals to go with the best players in the league, but where to start, should Balotelli have even been on the pitch to score the last minute penalty? Are Spurs genuine title contenders? Is Welbeck the man to lead the England strike force at Euro 2012?

Well, I am going to start with Arsenal and has Arsene Wenger’s time at the Gunners come to an end? He made a strange decision today that actually cost his team which led to half the stadium booing the manager’s decision. He took off arguably the best player on the pitch in Alex Oxlade Chamberlain for Andrei Arshavin who failed to defend against Antonio Valencia properly and he eventually set up the winner for Welbeck. There is no doubt Wenger has been one of Arsenal’s greatest ever managers but the club haven’t won a trophy in years and are finally losing their grip on a top four place and are currently the second best team in North London which must hurt the fans more than anything. He has failed to invest in experienced players and the team looks short of quality with only Robin Van Persie, Aaron Ramsey and Thomas Vermaelen looking like top players on a consistent basis. Koscielny at the back has improved this season but still looks like he is prone to mistakes and yes Arsenal are struggling with injuries as was shown with Johan Djourou ripped apart by Nani in the first half and then being replaced by an 18 year old in Yennaris, yet Wenger still refuses to spend any money.

If Arsenal fail to finish in the top four then Arsene Wenger should step down if he is not sacked as he has done a fantastic job but the team is going backwards and therefore needs a change or Tottenham will leave them behind.

So onto Spurs, they performed admirably against Manchester City and deserved at least a draw against the team currently at the top of the table, doing this without their main striker this season Emmanuel Adebayor. But, Jermain Defoe played pretty well and has also made it known to Capello that he wants to be in the England squad this summer. He capitalised on a defensive error and rounded Hart with ease and always looked a threat throughout the game. Tottenham are most definitely title challengers because they have players like Gareth Bale who can rip apart any team in the world with his direct running and incredible pace, when the Welshman gets going he is hard to stop. His goal was sublime and no keeper in the world would have saved it and then he showed all of his abilities in the last few minutes to run rings round the City defence and then square the ball for Defoe who agonisingly missed the ball by inches. Seconds later Balotelli won a penalty and scored it but earlier in the game he probably should have been sent off for a stamp however the referee must not have seen it clearly as he stayed on the pitch and ended up winning the game. When they went 2-0 up they must have thought the game was up after David Silva had shown yet again that he is one of the best players in the league by putting Samir Nasri through with an inch perfect through ball that Nasri finished clinically. But champions win games when it’s not looking likely which has now happened twice in a row with the result against Spurs and the 1-0 win against Wigan.

However, do not discount Manchester United just yet, as they pulled off another victory when they weren’t at their best. The first half they were comfortable and looked like the only team in the game but in the second half when Arsenal picked up the game they had to defend stoutly and remain resilient which they did and if it wasn’t for Van Persie’s brilliance then they probably would have kept a clean sheet although that same player missed an absolute sitter after a mistake from Chris Smalling. The difference in the game was the manager’s decision making as Fergie’s changes changed the game positively for the team, firstly bringing on Rafael for the injured Phil Jones which allowed Valencia to be at the back post to put them ahead, then taking off Rafael for Park Ji Sung so Valencia dropped back to right back and set up the all important goal for United.

Welbeck scored the winner and his partnership with Wayne Rooney is starting to look really promising and this can only be a good thing for club and country. He was making a lot of runs behind the defence looking for through balls while Rooney was dropping deep and looking to slide it through for him. Maybe he won’t be top of the list to start at the Euros but he is definitely one for the future but if he keeps performing and scoring big goals he may just find himself in the starting 11.

At the end of the day it is Manchester 2-0 London and with the way things are looking this trend could continue for a while to come. However, it is refreshing to see all four of the top teams like to play attacking football and I think Tottenham under Redknapp will continue to improve and could possibly break Manchester’s dominance at the very top of the league and maybe even win the trophy. But if the England job becomes available will he stay at Spurs or answer the call from the FA? Will Tottenham be as good under a different manager?