1)The closest Title race in Premier League history.
Four different teams could technically be top of the league as 2013 walks off into that good night and 2014 dawns. Only eight points separate Arsenal in 1st and Spurs in 8th place, only six between 1st and Newcastle in 6th, and only three from 1st to Liverpool in 4th. This isn’t the first couple of weeks either; this is half way through the season.
Many pundits have labeled this game as the one that is going to decide the Premier League title. Even though it is premature to make such claims in December, it is a fact that Manchester City and Liverpool have been it outstanding form in recent weeks. They have been scoring for fun, while defeating their close rivals in emphatic fashion. It is fair to say that this was a game between two genuine title contenders.
It was around this time two years ago that things were looking so rosy for Reading Football Club. After a slow start to their Championship campaign, perhaps understandably after suffering playoff heartbreak at Wembley, they eventually stormed to the league title.
Malky Mackay’s last game.
Vincent Tan continued his quest to become the second incarnation of Venky’s this week when in arguably one of the most tactful and considered moves ever, he sent an email to current manager Malky Mackay, telling him to resign or he’ll be sacked. Looking past the ignorance of this move, if Mackay knows his time is up either way, why would he resign and sacrifice a huge pay-off?
Wednesday's edition of the League Cup not only saw Spurs lose at home again but also David Moyes managed to win a game without Wayne Rooney - is this an early sign of the changing fortunes at Manchester United?
Tottenham 1 - 2 West Ham
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of seeing four teams duke it out in the most pointless trophy among England's elite teams - the Capital One Cup. Often used as a reason to give reserves a run out, towards the end of the tournament teams generally start to field stronger teams as they have hopes of lifting it. But how did that go last night? Ahead of today's games between Stoke and Man Utd, coupled with Tottenham vs. West Ham United, we take a look back at yesterday's action.
Matty, Hux & Lizzi tackle all the recent sackings in football in recent weeks. From AVB at Spurs to Owen Coyle at Wigan; we ask whether chairman are sacking too early and who might be up for the chop next!
Until a few days ago there was a bit of a quandary facing the fans and owners of Watford football club. What to do with a problem like Zola? On the one hand Gianfranco Zola had done a great job getting Watford Football Club to the final of the play-offs last season, playing the best football in the Championship and arguably in the country.
Yesterday’s UEFA Champions League draw for the first knock-out stages of this season’s competition didn’t fail to excite with the mouth-watering ties it produced. English football is well represented in the Round of 16 this year, with all four Premier League sides making it through their groups, Chelsea and Manchester United as winners and therefore seeds, Manchester City and Arsenal as non-seeded second placers.
So, where now?
I’m serious, where the fuck do Tottenham Hotspur go now?
Because going into the busiest part of the year with no manager, with players who seem to barely know each other, while only eight points away from the top of the table doesn’t really seem like a good situation to me.
In modern-era football, the playmaker has evolved into one of the most crucial positions on the field. Be it a deep-laying midfielder, or one of the three more advanced players behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1, almost all teams rely on a no. 10 to pull the strings in midfield and add some creativity to the side. Even more so, this classic no. 10 role has changed in recent times, with the offensive pressing game of Guardiola’s Barca becoming so popular. The advanced playmaker is required to be very versatile; mobility, determination, vision, passing range, attacking threat and defensive contribution are all very equally important aspects of this player’s game. In today’s game, the saying that ‘the forwards are the most important defenders’ carries a lot of weight.
Arsenal’s visit to the Etihad Stadium was touted as the game that could decide the Premier League title. Even though I think it is premature to talk about title deciding games with less than the half of the season gone, no one could have questioned Arsenal’s quality had they won this game. At the same time Manchester City has been irresistible at home. This game was undoubtedly their best chance of shortening the gap between them and the league leaders.
Liverpool put in a performance of the highest quality at White Hart Lane on Sunday to leave André Villas-Boas staring down the barrel at his second sacking in English football. For Liverpool, it was their first win at White Hart Lane for five-and-a-half years, but for Spurs, they failed to muster a shot on target for the first time since Opta Stats began.
The best banter of 2013. Coming Soon
Last year was a bad year for the English Clubs in the Champions League, make no mistake. Manchester City and tournament holders Chelsea were both eliminated in the group stage, City set an all-time record for the lowest point total by an English team in the process, and Chelsea offered one of the most feeble defences of a Champions League title in history, confirming most people’s theories that they won it the previous year through luck rather than design.
Last Tuesday night, all Arsenal had to do to qualify from the so-called Champions League ‘Group of Death’ was to not lose to Napoli by more than 3 goals. The Gunners did not fail to deliver, qualifying in the most boring, underachieving and stumbling way possible.
Now, before you assume, I’m not being typically English – I understand we probably won’t win the World Cup and I’m not setting high expectations of England in Brazil next year. However, some of the coverage of the World Cup group draw, mainly England’s group, has somewhat annoyed me.
Manuel Pellegrini achieved the task he was brought to East Manchester to do with two games to spare, after City’s stonking 5-2 victory over CSKA Moscow at the beginning of last month. With qualification assured, City went into Tuesday’s game against the reigning Champions of Europe with the weight temporarily off their shoulders; here was a chance to avenge Bayern’s 3-1 victory over the Blues at the Etihad back in October, and to avoid utter humiliation at the hands of the best team in the world before Saturday’s crunch Premier League tie against Arsenal.
A superb game from Serie A this weekend – it has it all, dodgy penalties, even dodgier celebrations, A KEVIN PRINCE BOATENG HAT-TRICK OF BULLETS and a dramatic last gasp winner. Who needs the Manchester derby, ay?
Classic Match: Portugal Vs. Greece, Euro 2004 Final, Estadio da Luz, Lisbon. July 4th 2004 “If you want entertainment, go and watch clowns” Tony Waddington, Stoke Manager 1960-77 I don’t think it would be too controversial to say that football isn’t the most gentlemanly of sports. It’s a game where all is fair in love and war, and if that means a whole generation of kids emulating Ronaldo’s abilities to dive in their parks and back-yards as much as his skills then so be it. After all, the cost of winning is no cost at all.
With both the red and blue of Manchester making some very good business over the summer it’s going to be even harder for Andre Villas-Boas to keep his job, or in other words bring some major silverware back to the bridge. The biggest challenge I can see for the young manager is getting the frontline right.
Well, if the headline wasn’t self-explanatory enough for you, I would say I’m not exactly hopeful of England’s World Cup prospects, no matter how much Roy implores me to ‘put a tenner on them’. Picture it though; wasn’t it just written in the stars? All the teams from the first three pots were drawn. England were in the final pot. You could see which groups you would want to be drawn in (E & H). But then, the media pauses. They realise what the next group involves. Uruguay. Italy. They start to sweat. Could this be the proverbial group of death England desperately needed to avoid? Then, Sir Geoff Hurst steps up. He hands over the ball he has chosen. They open it. They think it’s all over….. IT IS NOW! England are drawn in Group D with Uruguay and Italy, as well as Costa Rica.
I don’t think it would be too controversial to say there’s not a lot of love lost for Steve McClaren in England. He probably has to go down as the worst England Manager in the Modern Era, and in that ill-advised moment of brashness one day, when he thought saying ‘ Judge me on the results’ was a good idea, he created the noose with which he was hanged when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008 under his leadership.
Because, when Berbatov put through Dejagah for 1-0, I thought it was over for Andre Villas-Boas. The media’s turned on him and (allegedly) so have the board and for good reason – no wins in four games, including utter humiliation at the hands of Manchester City meant that things weren’t going to stay easy for long. Added to his needlessly abrasive style with the press of late and it seemed like the writing was on the wall.
Let’s start with some facts. Joao Moutinho is one of the players produced at Sporting’s world-class academy and is a regular in the Portuguese national team, having made 48 appearances since 2005. He has two league titles, three cup titles, five Supercups, and a Europa League winners medal, all at the age of 25. He became the second youngest man ever to captain Sporting, aged 20. On the face of it, it sounds like the tireless midfielder has had a flawless career, free of controversy. But that could not be further from the truth.
After an opening 12 games which saw the Reds lose just twice and revealed the emergence of Daniel Sturridge as the country’s leading striker, Hull City brought Brendan Rodgers’ team back down to earth with a bang in a chastening 3-1 victory on Sunday, the first defeat of Liverpool in their history.
A 4-0 drubbing at Everton does not necessarily a disaster make, but the worry is there for Stoke; only three points above the drop zone, there’s no question that the Potters could soon find themselves in one almighty dog-fight very soon indeed.
Despite last night’s 2-1 loss to bottom of the league Barnsley, a result that ended Brighton’s unbeaten run of six games, many fans are now asking if the Seagulls can repeat last year’s success of reaching the play-offs and possibly taking it one step further by securing promotion.
Chelsea hosted Southampton on Sunday evening. The Londoners have almost lost their unbeaten record at home against West Bromwich Albion prior to losing against Basel in the Champions League. Southampton were looking to bounce back from their defeat against Arsenal with a victory.
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Ladies and gentlemen, we bring you the Ballsy Banter Roll of Honour 2011.
At the end of every year, our presenters and bloggers will tell you who and what they think was the best of the best over the past 365 days. They have carefully chosen from every kick of the ball and player to cross the white line on the planet to show you who they think deserve to be on this illustrious list.
Okay – it was decided over a pint of beer and a few messages on Facebook, but the first one sounds better.
The categories this year are:
Player of 2011
Goal of 2011
One to watch in 2012
So, here are our thoughts on the year in football, two thousand and eleven.
Player of 2011: Mario Gomez
There is another Super Mario in world football you know. A man who has scored a half century of goals in a calendar year cannot be sniffed at. After a so-so first season at Bayern, scoring just 10 goals in 29 appearances, 2011 became Mario’s redemption,bagging 38 goals in the 2010/2011 and netting three braces and two hat-tricks in the start of this years Bundesliga. He has also netted six times in just five games in the Champions League for Bayern, showing his pedigree on a wider skill. A lethal finisher, an all-round complete striker and I feel one of the best forwards in the world today. Euro 2012 looks to be his apex, if the past year is anything to go by. The scary thing is, it looks like he is only going to score more in 2012.
Goal of 2011: Kevin Prince-Boateng: AC MILAN vs Barca
This boy has come on leaps and bounds since joining AC Milan, and this superb goal highlights his skills in a classic Champions League tie. Beautiful trap down, flick between the legs to lose the defend and drilled near-post finish. Never mind that this is against Barcelona, and it’s in the Champions League. A great world-class finish in a world-class game.