Friday, 31 December 2010

Hello, Thank You and Happy New Year!

Hi everyone,

So far I have readers from UK, USA, Singapore, Denmark, Malaysia, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Slovenia, Germany, India, Croatia, Bulgaria, Mexico, France, Iran and Botswana. Wow!

I want to send a big Thanks and Happy New Year to every last one of you. Every view gives me confidence to keep writing and more so to improve my skills.

I hope you have enjoyed reading and sometime laughing as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I love football and I hope you love the way I present it to you.

Best wishes,
Natasha Henry x

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Method to the Madness.

A lot of people seemed surprised that Sir Alex recalled youngsters Ritchie de Laet and Joshua King from Preston after the club sacked his son Darren Ferguson. I'm not. Not one little bit. Most loan agreements are about who the manager of the club is rather than the team.

Jack Wilshere was originally going to be loaned to Burnley in January but when Owen Coyle took over at Bolton, that's where the midfielder went. I saw this as a clear sign that Mr Wenger was interested in his player being looked after by a man he believed, shared his ethos and would look after the player in the way he deemed necessary.

Premier League Review - Match Day 20

Many fans and the clubs they support can't wait to see the back of 2010 in the hope certain managers New Years resolutions are 'to win more games'. Either way it's been a sterling first half to the season and here's my last round-up of this years last Match Day, that I decided to entitle:

                                                Handballs at Dawn


Apparently women and children were leaving the stadium first to miss the aftermath of Sir Alex spontaneously combusting. Or maybe, that was a dream!

Lee Bowyer netted his 55th PL goal to maintain the home sides record of one loss at home. Kudos has to go to Brum who played to their strengths to frustrate the Red Devils and their travelling fans. Birmingham took the game to the visitors before the 20th minute, when Ryan Giggs has Ben Foster showing why Sir Alex rated him so highly.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 20

So we're straight into another round of matches and hopefully no more postponements.

Birmingham City have only conceded nine goals at home this season, a better aggregate than second placed Arsenal. Although they sit 17th that's down to too many draws and with the table so tight a win could lift them four places. United may find them hard to break down but it is rare the Red Devils don't score.

Nani should return to the starting line-up after missing their Boxing Day win against Sunderland. With Paul Scholes still out Ryan Giggs should start again.

KEY MAN: Dimitar Berbatov - Another good performance would do his confidence wonders.

After their loss to Arsenal, Chelsea need to halt their dismal run at home to Bolton which I imagine won't be an easy task. Bolton can mix it with the best of them and they only sit two spots behind the Champions.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Premier League Review - Boxing Day 2010

Only two matches were cancelled today, one involving Blackpool who have now missed three matches since the 'cold-snap/arctic freeze/snow' started. I for one hope Ian Holloway got some under-soil heating for Christmas. We had the first of the two London derbies, a couple of impressive goals and not one draw among them (so far).

ARSENAL 3 - 1 CHELSEA (Monday)
As much as the win, Mr Wenger will like the fact his players didn't get bullied. Both teams started well and it was hard to guess who would win as the play went from both ends. John Terry was his normal boisterous self, barging and pulling Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott respectively. Most of Arsenal's play went the right hand side and Walcott was giving Cashley, sorry Ashley Cole a run for his money. Most of Chelsea's attacks seemed to be the long ball. Arsenal's first real chance was in the 41st minute when Samir Nasri had a nice shot, which Petr Cech did well to send over the bar.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Boxing Day 2010

Until we do have a winter-break, the holiday fixtures start with nine games on Boxing Day before Chelsea make their way through London to the Emirates on Monday night. Each team will play four games between December 26th 2010 and January 5th 2011, weather permitting of course. Every team will be looking for at least 8 from twelve, with those at the top and the bottom having so few points between them.

How do you solve a problem like Didier? Does Mr Wenger have any idea? Lets hope so because his team need to start picking up points when playing their nearest rivals having already lost to Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs this year. Didier Drogba hasn't been at his best this season but he has a very good record against the Gunners of a goal a game.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Let The Madness Continue: Part II - Manchester City to Wolverhampton Wanderers

For Part I - Arsenal to Liverpool. Click here

Oh Carlos, Carlos, Carlos! So now you don't really want to leave the club and you are completely committed to the club which makes you about as flaky as a WAG at a club's Xmas Party. Anyway, the candidates to leave include; Emmanuel Adebuywhore - who isn't happy about something, Roque Santa Cruz - who isn't happy about something and Shaun Wright-Phillips - well, you get the picture. Of the three, SWP will probably have several clubs come in for him as when he plays his work rate and scoring record isn't half bad, as for the other two.... Personally I hope they don't buy anyone else because I wouldn't want to see any more miserable young men earning ridiculous amounts of money.

Sir Alex Ferguson's key challenge over the next 6 months will be searching for a replacement for Paul Scholes who unlike the great man himself, cannot go on forever. With so many players reaching retirement age it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sir Alex spend some serious money after the Glazers found more money for him to play with. Maarten Stekelenburg has been touted as Edwin Van de Sar's replacement

Alan Pardew will be a very nervous man for the whole of January. Even though Andy Carroll has stated he is happy to stay at the club I doubt that will stop the Cockney Mafia - in this case 'Arry Redknapp - trying to lure him away. It is doubtful Pardew will have a big budget and he has made it clear all players will get a fair chance before being shown the door. Steven Taylor has also resumed transfer talks with the club though there may be too much water under the bridge for him to stay at the club long term.

Midfielder Danny Pugh has just extended his contract at the club and that may be all for Tony Pulis' men after the £11 million capture of Kenwyne Jones in the summer. With the club performing well he may not feel the need to spend and my just wait until the summer.

We keep seeing Charles N'Zogbia's name being linked with the club and all the column inches may come to fruition with Wigan needing the cash. Sitting comfortably in 6th place, Steve Bruce may finally feel happy with his squad as they look pretty good.

Robbie Keane is clearly becoming more disillusioned with his lack of playing time and could be the make weight in a deal for Steven Pienaar from Everton. It will be interesting to see how much money 'Arry actually has to spend as North London's second best team look to continue their run in the Champions League. Daniel Levy may be holding onto those purse strings very tightly even though Redknapp has made it clear he feels the squad needs additions. The club has assured fans that Gareth Bale will be staying at White Hart Lane and as he's currently the greatest player the World has ever seen, the fans should be happy.

Apprently the Midlands team are interested in capturing former Manchester City man Georgi Samaras for £2 million. The current squad looks capable of retaining Premier League tatus and Roberto Di Matteo may be happy to stick with what he has got.

Someone told me that the Hammers are looking at Joey Barton, I really hope this isn't true as they have enough problems as it is. If they were to raid Newcastle then Kevin Nolan would be a good buy, he would shore up the middle of the park and he scores a few goals. Although Karryn Brady has said the manager will get money in the New Year, it may be irelevent as Avram Grant may not be the man allowed to spend it. Scott Parker should leave for the good of him career but he's too decent for that and will probably see it out until the end of the season.

This will probably be the time for Charles N'Zogbia to go as transfer talk clearly unsettled him in the summer, but they will need to keep Hugo Rodellega if they do let him leave as I fear losing both would be too detrimental to the club. Roberto Martinez has said he would prefer to retain Ali Al-Habsi on loan before making an offer for him at the end of the season.

Mamadou Bagayoko had a two week trial at the club and Mick Mac was said to be impressed with the Malian player so may take him on loan until the end of the season or make a firm offer if the price is right. With his team struggling he my look to the Championship to get some loan players in.

But who knows until February 2nd 2011. I for one, can't wait!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 18

As I write this no Premier League matches have been cancelled and I'm still coming to terms with Arsenal drawing Barcelona in the Champions League - YES, AGAIN! But here's the matches to look forward to this weekend which includes another Midlands derby.

After their loss to unbeaten Manchester United last week here's hoping the Gunners can dust themselves down and get a well needed three points at home to Tony Pulis' men. After his substitute appearance last week Theo Walcott could start in place of the frustrating Andrey Arshavin. This is a key match for Arsenal, if they cannot win against the big guns then they have to collect points against teams siting lower in the league. Wojciech Szczesny is likely to continue in goal as Lukask Fabianski struggles to recover from a hip injury and Manuel Almunia has injured a tooth or some other body part.

Much of the pre-match media will surround Ryan Shawcross and his return to the ground where he was involved in Aaron Ramsey's leg break. This may be the ammunition Stoke need to make sure they show they are more than a physical long ball team. I doubt Arsene Wenger will underestimate a team who sit 12th in the table and who have won three of their last six matches. Stoke have missing Mamady Sidibe missing through injury but otherwise Pulis should have a full squad to choose from.

KEY MAN: Theo Walcott - Deserves to start ahead of the Meerkat.

The Geordies made a great start under new manager, Alan Pardew but I doubt they will have it so easy against a resilient Birmingham side who need a win to propel them up the table. They have drawn nine of their 17 matches which has left them at the wrong end of the table, while a win could leave them siting more comfortably around 13th. Alexnder Hleb and James Mcfadden are still out with injury.

Pardew has said he will give his fringe players a chance before he spends in January so Peter Lovenkrands may make an appearence from the bench. He no longer has defensive issues with Mike Williamson and Fabricio Coloccini both back from suspension. Steve Harper is pushing for a return although Tim Krul form may give the youngster the upper hand.

KEY MAN: Kevin Nolan - When he plays well, the Geordies play well.

So the new owners shocked the world of English football in the week when they sacked Manager Sam Allardyce and team affairs have been taken over by Steve Kean. Apparently he has a few months to stake his claim on the job and it would be a good start to get a win against the league's bottom club. Kean definitely has his work cut out if the owners want him to lead Rovers into the top five. No, seriously they do!

Avram Grant has been given three matches to save his job starting with this trip up north. Captain fantastic Scott Parker's return is much welcomed and Grant will be looking to him to rally the troops. The weeks trauma at Ewood Park may give the Londoners a much need three points that would help their fight to stay in the Premier League.

KEY MAN: Scottie Parker - Come on, who else could I pick?

I hope 'Arry and boys don't underestimate Blackpool or they could get badly beaten here! Blackpool sit five spots and points behind Spurs and I could see that many goals at Bloomfield road on Sunday as both teams love to attack and at times forget how to defend. It will be interesting to see how they will cope with Gareth Bale

Tottenham welcome back Rafael Van der Vaart, Wilson Palacios and Younes Kaboul while Ledley King is still recovering from the Christmas Party. Charlie Adam is missing through suspension while Marlon Harewood and chris Basham are still out.

: Jermain Defoe - Blackpool's open attacking play should give him various chances.

Stamford Bridge can breathe a sigh of relief as Carlo Ancelotti has said Frank Lampard will start against the leaders. It will be his first start in three and a half month and will restore some much needed experience to the Chelsea team that has been floating along during his absence. Alex and Jose Bosingwa still sit on the injury list, while they will need Didier Drogba and Slorent Malouda will need to find their early season form against a United side hitting their -annual- impressive Christmas form.

Paul Scholes is still out. joining Michael Owen and Rafael on the sidelines. Rio Ferdinand and Vidic held the line well against Arsenal although this will be a more physical test. Wayne Rooney may be taken off penalty duty after his Row Z miss on Monday but he seems to be recapturing his form, a fact that will please Sir Alex as they aim to secure their place at the top of the league.

KEY MAN: Nemanja Vidic - The Serbian is clearly thriving since getting the captain's armband and he will need another good performance here.

This match already had an edge to it with Roy Hodgson's first match against his old team since leaving in the summer. That fire has been stocked with comments allegedly made Paul Konchesky's mother. Fernando Torres should be back on the pitch following his no-show in midweek while Pepe Reina is looking to make his 200th league appearance for the club. Stevie G should also be back for the Scousers.

Fulham should go all out to win this match with manager Mark Hughes keen to get a win against an erratic Liverpool team. Carlos Salcido looked lively in the draw against Sunderland and if he can get a few balls into the box, who knows what they could achieve at Anfield. Andrew Johnson may start as he continues his return to match fitness.

KEY MAN: Fernando Torres - If he actually starts playing well he may get the transfer away that he so clearly wants.

Admittedly City won last week but following Carlos Tevez' transfer request and subsequent media circus the fans must be wondering what is going on. This is a perfect opportunity for the players to show their fans they can cope without the miserable Argentinian.

The Toffees continue to disappoint as much as City continue to confuse and they may not relish their trip to the City of Manchester stadium. Everton need to start winning asap before they get dragged deeper int the mire and Monday will be as good a time as any.

David Silva - Time for the other big names to come out and play.

Steve Bruce will not be feeling the Christmas cheer as he is without three defenders, as Anton Ferdinand joins Titus Bramble and Michael Turner on the crock list. Craig Gordon returns after a hamstring problem. I would also like to congratulate Asamoah Gyan who has won the accolade of BBC African Footballer of the Year, well deserved in my opinion.

Mark Davies is suspended so Fabrice Muamba should return to the starting line-up while Owen Coyle has no new injury worries. This match may be decided on who has the best defense with both sides having lively forwards.

Gary Cahill - Will have his work cut out with Darren Bent and Gyan up front.

If any game is gonna be a 0-0 then I get the feeling this would be it even if it is another Midlands derby. Top scorer Peter Odemwingie is a doubt as he hasn't trained for a week with calf and groin problems. Midfielder Graham Dorrans should return to the squad after illness.

Mick Mac has eight players missing through injury although he will be able to welcome back Matt Jarvis and Christophe Berra. Although Mick's job is said to be safe he knows his team could do with a comprehensive win against their more impressive local rivals.

KEY MAN: Somen Tchoyi - Looking increasingly like a future Premier League star.

Ali Al Habsi needs another good game to encourage Roberto Martinez to splash the cash on him come January. Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figueroa are both serving one-match bans while Gary Caldwell hopes to start on the bench after featuring in a friendly during midweek.

Ashley Young, Fabian Delph and Nigel Reo-Coker are all out although Gabby Agbonlahor should return. Gerrard Houllier will be hoping another win can increase the love between him and the fans. Spending too long in the bottom half of the table will not help matters.

KEY MAN: Gabby Agbonlahor - Needs to hit the ground running.

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Chelsea! In Crisis?

Personally I think reports of Chelsea decline are coming a bit early?

Admittedly they've not been great, at times they haven't even been good, obviously the stats don't lie. In the first ten games of the Premier League season they scored 27 goals, since then it reads: Seven games, four goals. No one associated with Chelsea is happy with numbers like that but I don't agree it warrants the word 'crisis'.

Chelsea's problem is that their most successful period has been over the last decade which makes it at the forefront, in the mind of a fan. A 20 year old supporter won't remember a time when they weren't challenging for the league, trophies will be all they know. They have won 14 trophies covering top-flight Championships, League and FA Cup, and of those nine have been since the year 2000. That's 64 %.

But all this counts for nothing as in football you are only as successful as your last result and right now that is a one all draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur. So rumours continue about Carlo Ancelotti leaving the club in the summer or before. The boss made it clear it wasn't his decision to sack Ray Wilkins and you have to wonder how much control the Italian has over his staff and it's affairs. He has looked increasingly unhappy in the dugout with his new assistant Michael Emenalo at his side, a man who was promoted from the position of chief opposition scout.

Unlike previous managers such as Avram Grant it is clear Ancelotti is in charge in the changing room with players regularly coming out in support of the manager, but will this be enough to keep him at Stamford Bridge? As the media continues to speculate over the clubs form will this increase doubts in the owners mind about whether he has the right man in charge? Roman Abramovich is a man known to make important decisions on his opinion alone but maybe now would be the time for him to look for the thoughts of those outside of the boardroom.

It is clear the fans have a lot of love for the man in the hot seat and in a league where managers are sacked for wearing the wrong colour tie it might be nice to see someone of Abramovich's stature being a little patient and removing his finger from the trigger. The longest serving managers are at the Premier League's most successful clubs. I'm sure even Mr Abramovich knows this isn't just a coincidence.

Monday, 13 December 2010

This is my Addiction, What is Yours?

I love football, I really do. I absolutely adore the game and I have so much passion when it comes to being a part of it as a fan and as a trainee journalist.

I think sometimes we forget how important the club they support is to a person, how much their favourite team's result can make or break a person's mood.

I saw just this at the weekend. Neil Ashton of the News of the World broke the 'Tevez hands in transfer request' story and was bombarded with numerous tweets from Manchester City fans. Most of them were personally abusive and downright threatening. As I was reading these tweets I was shocked at the level of hatred some people were showing towards him, for simply doing his job. They clearly felt he was lying or he had a vendetta against the blue half of Manchester. The fact is his story was true, it has all been confirmed by the club and the player. But has Mr Ashton received any apologies? I very much doubt it.

My point is: As much as I love this game, there are a lots of fans who use their support of their club as an excuse to be abusive to those not on the same side as them. And the more I think about it, surely it can't be healthy. Surely there must be something missing to wish someone dead because they say something you don't agree with or don't believe.

I'm all for being a true supporter and cheering for your team until your last breath but when it comes to wishing someone dead, I draw the line. I'm all for wearing the shirt, singing the songs and bantering with the fans of your local rivals. But I don't condone the hatred that is shown because matey down the road wears a different colour shirt to you. Where is the line for those needlessly angry fans?

The reason this affected me so much is because I am training towards being a sports journalist. I am working my butt off and this incident made me wonder if it's worth it. Tearing apart my work is one thing, but getting personal is another. There is no need for it at all.

At the end of the day if you can't tell Peggy Mitchell from Barbara Windsor, people would say you desperately need help. Surely confusing the journalist with the person should warrant exactly the same.
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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Premier League Review - Match Day 16

There was only one game called of this weekend due to weather although some players looked as if they were still playing with their snow boots on!

Here's a rundown of the winners and Mike Ashley's during Match Day 16.

Arsenal, like so many times before had the majority of the chances in the first half, with the home team doing all the attacking. Andrey Arshavin was clearly still buzzing from Zurich as he made chances for himself and Samir Nasri, the latter sending a shot just wide of the post. It was Nasri that broke the deadlock with a great piece of skill after being played in by the Russian captain.

But as this was Arsenal it was no surprise when they conceded a mere 15 minute later. A lack of clarity between Sebastian Squallaci and Laurent Koscielny saw the former head-butt his defensive partner, thus giving Diomansy Kamara a chance to level the scores. Mr Wenger was unhappy that Chris Foy allowed play to continue but in all fairness to the ref Koscielny did attempt to carry on before falling to the floor with concussion. He was replaced by Johan Djourou who was again unlucky to be left out of the starting line-up.

Mark Hughes' men came out all guns blazing for the second half and many Arsenal fans may have felt an inkling of de ja vu again. Fulham had a couple of chances, with Robin Van Persie hacking one ball off the line. But it was all over in the 75th minute with an absolutely beautiful goal from man of the moment Nasri. Some good link up play between Arshavin and RVP led to Nasri who tricked his way between four defenders before scoring from an angle reminiscent of a Nwankwo Kanu goal against Chelsea years ago.

STAR MAN: Samir Nasri - I don't possess the vocabulary to describe that second goal so I will just say: WOW!

Jermaine Defoe started his first game since August in a match 'Arry and his boys clearly wanted to win. Alex McLeish dropped his Carling Cup scorers with Cameron Jerome keeping his place up front. Spurs were their normal attacking selves with Gareth Bale's hard work setting up the goal. Liam Ridgewell's shirt pulling gave the away team a free kick, Bale took it and his shot was beaten away by Ben Foster, but only as far as Sebastian Bassong who scored.

Birmingham came out in the second half looking far more determined and Craig Gardner had a header which was saved by Heurelo Gomes. Jermaine Defoe may have had a penalty after a push from Stephen Carr in the box. Gardner was the man to give Brum a point with a sweet header into the bottom left corner after Gomes was caught out of his goal. Admittedly they deserved the draw after their good play in the second half although 'Arry won't be happy that his team haven't kept a clean sheet since the first day of the season.

Birmingham have made St. Andrews a fortress and this will be exactly why they stay up rather than fall foul of 'second season syndrome'. A good back line makes it easier for the forward players to go about their job without worrying although they need to improve their away form. Spurs need to find some consistency, to keep hold of their Champions League spot, 'Arry will feel more relieved once they get some of their players back from injury.

STAR MAN: Roger Johnson - Doesn't look out of place again sme of the Premier League's top strikers.

The disappointed continues for Mick Mac as he they seem unable of taking their chances, which is never good when you continue to concede in large numbers. Wolves had a few chances in the first half and it was a mixture of poor finishing and great goalkeeping that prevented them from taking the lead. Morten Gamst Pedersen won a corner which Ryan Nelsen headed into the action from the back post for the revitalised David Dunn to score his first goal of the season. One Wolves player tried to hook the goal out which is no use when 'YOU'RE BEHIND THE LINE!'

This just gave Blackburn the momentum they needed and they were 2-0 up just before half-time. There were doubts that Jason Roberts when he passed the ball to Brett Emerton who scored the goal to give Rovers a comfortable lead. The away tea started the second half pretty much the same way they started the first, testing former England man Paul Robinson from all angles, with a one handed save from Kevin Doyle catching the eye. But on 55 minutes it was all over when Milijas gave away a free kick, which gave Ryan Nelsen the chance to get his second goal of the season.

Wolves clearly have an attacking mentality but they need to convert their chances and it will be interesting to see if Mick Mac is able to delve into the transfer market come January. If not, Stephen Hunt, Doyle and the rest better get themselves some extra shooting practice. Blackburn looked a different team from the one at Old Trafford and although the fans can take heart from this performance, they will face far sterner tests this season.

STAR MAN: Paul Robinson - Looks like the man who was once England's no.1, he was composed, strong and agile for 90 minutes.

Firstly I would like to say a big thank you to Jermaine Beckford for winning me a nice little wedge by being the next goalscorer, now onto the match report ;-) Everton began the game fairly deep in their own half, clearly cautious of being on the receiving end of a Chelsea backlash that never materialised. I don't believe Chelsea are in crisis but they are not performing the way it has become expected of them. To me there seems to be a malaise running through the team, no one seems to have that passion that has become a part of their play.

Even John Terry and Michael Essien looked subdued, not something I say often about those two. After Ivanovic made a couple of mistakes it was clear Everton had a chance to get something if they took it. Before Didier Drogba's penalty, the only real chance was a Terry shot that hit the crossbar. Nicolas Anelka was racing towards goal when Tim Howard came out and more or less obstructed him after an awful backpass by captain Phil Neville. Some thought he should have got a red card instead the ref awarded him a yellow and Anelka gave him a bruise on his face for his troubles.

David Moyes obviously sensed blood in the air at Stamford Bridge and he sent his team out with a more direct game plan for the next 45 minutes. Leighton Baines went racing down the wing, sending in a sweet cross which led to Jack Rodwell hitting the post. Chelsea's discomfort grew as the Toffees took the game to them with Baines using his pace against their more mature defence. Replacing Saha with the lighter footed Beckford paid dividends as they drew level on 86 minutes. Baines beat 4 players as his cross was met by Tim Cahill who directed it to Beckford, who couldn't fail to score with a header.

Grumbles continue to grow in West London as the champions league form continues to be indifferent and disappointing. This unfortunate set of results has coincided with Ray Wilkins sacking from the club and that only leads outsiders like myself to ask more questions about what really went on. Again Everton have had a difficult start to the season but there is always light at the end of the tunnel with Moyes in charge. hopefully Beckford's goal against such high profile opposition will give him the confidence he needs to stat scoring regularly.

STAR MAN: Leighton Baines - Great second half performance to help his team to a well deserved point.

Gerard Houiller, return, disappointing, blah, blah blah. I'm sure you've already read all that so I won't bother covering it as I have nothing different to say! But I will say congratulations to Fernando Torres and his wife Olalla on the birth of their second child.

A much needed win for Liverpool as they look to return to the Champions League next season and a welcome relief for their manager Roy Hodgson. With Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Jamie Carragher missing this was a good test for other players to show they could cope without their talismen. David Ngog scored the first with a close range header on 13 minutes, while forgotten man Ryan Babel doubled their league with a very nice finish.

Aston Villa didn't seen to have any reply to Liverpool's play and David Dunne will want to wipe another match from his memory after a less than perfect display. In fairness to Villa they have their own injury worries and are playing with a group of players not steeped in Premier League experience. Maxi Rodriguez netted the third and it will please the supporters that this was very much a team performance rather than a one man rampage. Liverpool return to the top half of the table and we all agree that is where they need to make sure they stay.

STAR MAN: Raul Meireles - Looking more composed as he has got an extended run in the team and starting to show what Roy Hodgson saw in him.

City captain Carlos Tevez scored in the 4th minute to give his team a lead which they hung on to. Jussi Jaaskelainen came out too far and the Argentine took advantage to score from a Yaya Toure pass. City had their fair share of chances but they found Bolton hard to penetrate although there was good chances from Tevez and David Silva, who seems to be settling into English football. Bolton were more on the defensive side but they had a good chance when Joe Hart missed the ball and had to be saved by Vincent Kompany.

Aleksandar Kolarov had a good shot in the second half that hit the side netting. Although he left the pitch not long later after a second yellow for a two footed lunge on Ricketts. A definite sending off offence but there is a lack of consistency as Luis Boa Morte made a similar challenge in West Ham's match which only got a yellow card in return. Unfortunately it wasn't until the sending off that Bolton really started to attack and their manager agreed that it wasn't one of their best performances.

STAR MAN: Carlos Tevez - Great awareness for his goal and blatent passion for his team. Some may not like his reaction - stand up Robbie Savage - but at least he actually cares for his club.

West Ham continue to be as hot and cold as the English weather and I can't quite decide if they really unlucky or just simply, very bad. It was all Sunderland with their 7 shots on target to the Hammers one. Steve Bruce started with Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan upfront and the Hammers travelling fans must have feared the worst. That's not to say that West Ham didn't attack, they did just not as well as Sunderland. Victor Obinna looks a bright spark and if others had his mindset, they might not be where they are now.

Bruce will be pleased with the way Gyan has slotted into the team and it was him that set up Jordan Henderson for his first goal on his 50th league appearance. It was clear how much it meant to the youngster as he celebrated with his teammates. Kieran Dyer still doesn't look quite right and Avram Grant replaced him with Frederic Piquionne although it was too little too late. By then the Mackems were in full control and if it wasn't for Robert Green they may have finished the match with a bigger scoreline.

Sunderland are unbeaten at home in eight games and they look like they could finish in the top half, especially with their forward line of Bent and Gyan who looks like a very good buy. With West Ham there are times when some of the players just don't look good enough unless you are planning for a future in the Championship. Lets hope the two David's keep their word and support their manager in the transfer window.

STAR MAN: Lee Cattermole - when he is not making reckless tackles we can see what a good young layer he is. Bruce is clearly whispering the right things in his ears.

This match had everything except a winner but I don't think that would've been fair on either team who gave the 15,100 fans at the DW Stadium lots to cheer about. Four goals from two teams who love to attack though two teams who don't appear to love defending so much, something I am sure will be discussed in training this week. If they want to keep their Premier League status than neither can continue to play a openly as this. Neither goalkeeper was really at fault for the goals with three of the four being deflections.

Charles N'Zogbia was the main man and while he didn't get on the score sheet - although he clipped the post - he was at the heart of all Wigan's good work. Matthew Etherington played his 200th game as I imagine he played his first. Both teams show they don't have to rely on the long ball it's about playing as neccessary at that time.

STAR MAN: Charles N'Zogbia - Good passer and getting better at working for his team.

I don't know much about cricket but I'm guessing Sol Campbell should have been 500 and out with this performance, the worst I remember since his traumatic last few days at Arsenal. The first time around. The Baggies were passing the ball so sweetly that Newcastle at times looked like the piggy in the middle. Scott Carson didn't have much to do but what he did was done with the least amount of fuss. The away team clearly weren't at the races and there were a few half-hearted challenges on show. The first was very much a team goal with Chris Brunt, Somen Tchoyi and Jerome Thomas involved in play before Peter Odemwingie scored after coming back from a non-interfering offside position.

Newcastle looked brighter in the second half with Wayne Routledge crossing to Steven Taylor who had his header saved by Carson. It was Odemwingie who got the second goal after a slip by Danny Guthrie and Campbell which led Tim Krul to rush out leaving the West Brom forward with a pretty easy shot. Odemwingie got another before Peter Loverkrands consolation on 90 minutes.

The records will say that Chris Houghton lost his job as Newcastle because of this match but football fans far and wide know the truth. Today's dismissal has left us all calling for a ounce of decorum to return to the world of football. It's one thing to sack an employee but it's another to sack him with stories coming out that you were plotting for months behind his back. Mr Houghton: You are better off out of it! Okay, rant over.
NB: West Brom WILL stay up this year.

STAR MAN: Somen Tchoyi - Looks better and better with every match. definitely a player you want on your side in a fight.


Arsene Wenger: "The goal came from the flexibility in his hips."

Samir Nasri: Lush (the 2nd goal)

Chelsea's lacklustre showing. Not befitting of Champions.


Carlos Tevez: He looked so serious but he looked like a 15 year old who wasn't allowed to go to the 'big' party.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Premier League Preview - Match Day 16

After the midweek Carling Cup and Europa League fixtures, teams are back to earning their bread and butter in the Premier League. It will interesting to see who has a cup hangover and who has benefited from a few days extra rest.

Arsenal v Fulham
This London derby sees Mark Hughes taking his boys to the Emirates after Arsenal's exploits in the Carling Cup. Lukasz Fabianski should continue in goal after Manuel Almunia's injury setback while captain Cesc Fabregas is still out with that troublesome hamstring. Hopefully Andrey Arshavin will celebrate Russia's World Cup bid with an impressive performance against a team lying 17th in the table.

Andy Johnson should return to the squad and it would be good to see him get his second match of the season following his 10 month lay-off. Fulham still have several long-term injuries although former Arsenal man Phillipe Senderos has reportedly returned to training this week. They will look to Clint Dempsey for goals as they aim to leap up the table. Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer has signed a new contract and will want to show Mr Wenger what he missed out on in the summer

Key Man: Danny Murphy - Fulham will need their Captain to be on top of his midfield game if they are to get anything.

Birmingham City v Tottenham Hotspur
Birmingham will be buoyed after their league cup win against their local rivals on Wednesday although all will hope there is n repeat of the crowd trouble that followed the match. Marquee signing Alexander Hleb is still out for another couple of weeks with a calf strain while Craig Gardner should return to the starting line-up in place of Lee Bowyer who will have some bruises after his treatment against Villa.

'Arry Redknapp will be pleased to have Michael Dawson on the bench with the defender having been out for three month with ligament damage. Jermaine Jenas and Rafael Van der Vaart are still out but Jermaine Defoe should start having not shown any problems since his return from injury.

Key Man: Jermaine Defoe - Spurs and 'Arry need him to hit the ground running with other attacking players out.

Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers
One suspects Fat Sam has been doing some serious defensive work after the home teams capitulation against Manchester United. Although any loss will again be blamed on their 'devastating' injury list. Mama Biram Diouf will return after being ineligiable against his parent club and Blackburn also welcome Morten Gamst Pedersen back from a hamstring injury.

Mick Mac will expect his men to build on last week's win and this match could well be decided by which team takes and doesn't waste their chances. Wolves have no new injury news but need the win to drag themselves clear of the bottom three which look harder by the week.

Key Man: Matt Jarvis - Will need another consistent performance to help his team win crucial points.

Blackpool v Manchester United
A goalkeeping crisis has been averted for the Seasiders as it transpires Richard Kingson's knee is not as bad as first though. There is sad news for Chris Bashan after breaking his leg in a reverse match - I'm sure you join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

You can expect a completely different team from the one that Sir Alex sent out at West Ham in midweek, I doubt anyone other than Ryan Giggs will keep their place unless they have injury worries. Veteran Paul Scholes is still doubtful with a groin strain.

Key Man: Charlie Adam - It will be interesting to see how Manchester United cope with Blackpool's exuberant youngster.


Chelsea v Everton
Two teams with varying levels of turmoil within their club, Chelsea off the pitch and Everton on it. Chelsea have nine wins to Everton's three and the Gooner in me hopes the Toffees can pull off a shock though I won't be betting on that. Yet sometimes it takes that unexpected result to kick-start a clubs season. John Terry will be back for the home team which is much appreciated after Alex's mishaps but Frank Lampard is still not ready after three months out with groin and hernia issues. But hey, we've all seen Christine Bleakley so that's completely understandable.

Mikel Arteta starts his three match ban after last weeks sending-off while Captain Phil Neville and Marouane Fellaini will return to start at Stamford Bridge. Centre-back Phil Jagielka took a knock last week and is a serious doubt. Davd Moyes will need a good tem performance from his men to beat the champions.

Key Man: Tim Cahill - Well, his superman super-head. You know what I mean!

Liverpool v Aston Villa (Monday)
The loss of Jamie Carragher is a big loss to Roy Hodgson, even when the Bootle man isn't performing his presence alone on the the pitch is a massive plus for Liverpool. Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger are still out with no return date set for latter although the Englishman should be back in the next 7-10 days. Sotirios Kyrgiakos will partner Martin Skrtel in defence after the teams draw at Steuna Bucherest.

Villa can't seen to get it right although at times they look extremely good. They are less reserved than they previously were and there is a good basis for a stable defence. Yet, this will all be for nothing if they don't manage to take their chances when they get them. Ashley Young serves a ban after his fifth booking of the season while homegrown Barry Bannan looks likely to join an ever growing injury list. Ex Manchester City man Stephen Ireland may be recalled to the starting eleven.

Key Man: Joe Cole - Time for the winger to give the fans something to smile about.

Manchester City v Bolton Wanderers
Stuttering City need a top attacking performance this weekend and I don't expect them to find that easy against Owen Coyle's increasingly impressive Bolton. Three pints separate the teams and the noisy neighbours have a full squad to choose from so there is no reason they shouldn't go all out attack.

Stuart Holden is likely to need another week so Mark Davies should continue in the side and with another good display would show Bolton now have their best squad in years. In their last six games they have won three and drawn two while scoring 15 goals. Congratulations to Owen Coyle and Johan Elmander who won the Barclays manager and player of the month trophies.

Key Man: Johan Elmander - Can he continue his good form and team work against the big-spenders?

Sunderland Athletic v West Ham United
Two teams who have recently found their stride with the Hammers win against Manchester United a particular high point. After that loss against their newly promoted local rivals they have improved and hitman Darren Bent has returned from injury. John Mensah should start as Titus Bramble and Michael Turner are still out with knee injuries.

Even though he scored a brace in midweek, Jonathon Spector may lose his place to a fit-again Scottie Parker. Junior Stanislas and Mark Noble are still out. They need to use their Carling Cup performance against Manchester United as a springboard to get some wins in the league forget telling their fans to 'Save our Season' in November. I would imagine that makes the players and coaching staff feel severely undermined.

Key Man: Carlton Cole - He needs another good performance to restore some faith.

West Bromwich Albion v Newcastle
Both these teams were promoted from the Championship. Roberto Di Matteo made it clear the league is his priority so now he needs to prove he made the right decision. He will check on the fitness of Chris Brunt and Peter Odemwingie amongst other on the morning of the match. The home team sit in 12th even though they have lost four in six.

Joey Barton has completed his ban for punching Bolton's Morten Gamst Pedersen so will be expected back in the starting line-up. I think it's ridiculous that Chris Houghton is supposedly in trouble, they sit ninth and have only lost 2 of their last 6 games.

Key Man: Andy Carroll - Newcastle will need him to be wearing his scoring boots.

Wigan v Stoke City
Wigan's depleted forward line could give Stoke a good opportunity to get another three points on the board against a home team who sit 18th. There is hope Mario Boselli could be fit and they could do with him as Victor Moses is out and Hugo Rodellega still suspended.

Loanee Jermaine Pennant will have a late fitness test and top scorer Kenwyne Jones should relish his pace and crosses. Tony Pulis knows his best team and will see this as a winnable game.

Key Man:
Ricardo Fuller - This is the sort of game when the Jamaican sparkles.