Monthly Archives: April 2008

Title Race open,a scuffle and PFA player of the year

Chelsea beat Manchester United at home to keep the title race open with two more games remaining in the season. Ballack scored with a header and converted a penalty to outscore a gift of a goal from Rooney handed by Carvalho. The advantage still lies with Man Utd due to their far superior goal difference but anything can happen in this league. West Ham and Wigan hopefully can give them some challenge and take a away a few points, which means the excitement of the title cannot be writen off unless Chelsea lose in between.

Alex Ferguson would be to blame if Manchester United do not win the title from here. He rested Tevez and Ronaldo and started with Nani and Anderson in the middle of the park with Rooney on his own. A tenth minute casualty was Vidic who caught Drogba’s knee and it is reported that he lost a teeth and has got stitches on his lowe lip. It was all Chelsea in the first half and it ended with Ballack scoring off a wonderfully taken header. Carvalho’s lapse in concentration meant Rooney got a free goal  to his credit. But he was the second casualty and I wonder if his hip injury is responsible for his poor performance in the last few matches. Even Ronaldo couldn’t rescue a point as a penalty sealed the fate of  United hopes.

There were enough incidents in the match, like Drogba and Ballack arguing on who should take a free-kick and that incident involving Rio Ferdinand. But the biggest scuffle happened after the match when some of the United players got involved with the Chelsea staff.

And tonight the PFA awards get announced. Cristiano Ronaldo is the favourite to win the award and here is a list of the previous award winners. Courtesy Telegraph

PFA Player of the Year 1974-2007

1974 Norman Hunter – ‘Bite yer legs’ Hunter was a central defender for the feared Leeds United tean of the 1960s and 70s, he was also a member of the 1966 World Cup winning squad.

1975 Colin Todd– Currently manager of Randers FC, Todd won two Football League titles with Derby County in the 1970s, and was capped for England 27 times.

1976 Pat Jennings OBE– Former goalkeeper for Northern Ireland, Jennings played 119 games for his country. He played 1,000 top level games for clubs and even managed to score a goal in the 1967 Charity Shield.

1977 Andy Gray – Former Scotland striker, Andy Gray is now a football pundit for Sky Sports. He began his career with Dundee United before moving to Aston Villa, until Cristiano Ronaldo won in 2006-07, Gray was the only player to receive the PFA Young Player of the Year, and the Player of the year the following season.

1978 Peter Shilton OBE – England’s most capped international player, Shilton earned 125 caps in goal for his country over 30 years. His career included eight clubs, three World Cups, two European Cup finals and over 1,000 competitive matches.

1979 Liam Brady – Former Ireland international, Brady is the current assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland senior team. He was a renowned midfielder with a notable left foot. He found success with Arsenal and Juventus and earned 72 international caps.

1980 Terry McDermott – Liverpool fan McDermott was initially overlooked by his local club and was signed to Newcastle in 1973. He met Liverpool in the 74 FA Cup final which Newcastle lost 3-0, but McDermott’s dreams were fulfilled when six months later Liverpool manager Bob Paisley signed him to the Merseyside club.

1981 John Wark – John Wark was a defensive midfielder with an astonishing goals coring record – 165 over 22 years. He began his career at Ipswich, returned there after four years at Liverpool and finished his career there after a spell at Middlesbrough.

1982 Kevin Keegan – Kevin Keegan is widely regarded as one of the greatest English footballers – and the only one to be named European Footballer of the Year twice. He finished his playing career at Newcastle United where he is currently manager. He has also managed Fulham, Manchester City and the senior England team.

1983 Kenny Dalglish – Former Scottish international Kenny Dalglish is renowned for his success with both Celtic and Liverpool in the 1970s and 80s. He was the first player to win 100 caps for Scotland, and with 20 goals he shares the top scorer title with Dennis Law.

1984 Ian Rush – Welsh striker, Ian rush was well known for his partnership with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool. He scored 254 goals over a 21-year career at eight different clubs: Chester, Liverpool, Juventus, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Wrexham and Sydney Olympic.

1985 Peter Reid – Peter Reid started his playing career in 1974 at Bolton, he also spent a number of years with Everton and Queens Park Rangers. He won 13 caps for England and was one of the players passed by Diego Maradona when he scored his second goal of the quarter-final of the same tournament.

1986 Gary Lineker – Former England striker Gary Lineker, scored 10 goals in two World Cups and is currently a sports broadcaster for the BBC. He had a prolific career at a number of clubs, including; Leicester, Everton, FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur. During his career he was never cautioned or sent off by the referee.

1987 Clive Allen – Son of former Spurs forward Les Allen, Clive Allen enjoyed a career as a prolific goals corer at a number of clubs. He made big headlines in 1980 when as a teenager he was sold for £1.25 million.

1988 John Barnes -Former Liverpool player John Barnes was scouted by Watford as a schoolboy playing for non-league Sudbury Court – his signing fee was a set of kit. He is currently acting as a part-time scout in the Caribbean for Sunderland and is also a broadcaster channel Five.

1989 Mark Hughes – nicknamed ‘Sparky’, Mark Hughes is a former Wales international and currently manager of Blackburn Rovers. He played for a number of high profile clubs, most notable were his two spells at Manchester United during which he scored 119 goals.

1990 David Platt – a strong-running, free-scoring midfielder who enjoyed a successful career in the 80s and 90s. He had shown little promise as an international until he was taken off the bench against Belgium in the second round game and scored the goal to put England through to the quarter-finals.

1991 Mark Hughes – Before his retirement in 2002 Mark Hughes played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and Blackburn Rovers. His first managerial post was for the Welsh national side, he was appointed in 1999 and remained in the role for five years.

1992 Gary Pallister – Gary Pallister made up one half of one of the most notable defensive partner ships in English football at Manchester United with Steve Bruce. During his nine years at United, Pallister won three FA Cups, four Premier League titles, one League title and one Cup Winners’ Cup.

1993 Paul McGrath – Paul McGrath’s background of Irish and Nigerian saw him become one of the first Irish celebrities of a mixed-race background. He was a key defender for Manchester United, Aston Villa, Derby County and Sheffield United. He also earned 83 caps for Northern Ireland.

1994 Eric Cantona – Referred to as ‘King Eric’ by Manchester United fans, Cantona is praised for reviving the club – he put them back to their status as a footballing powerhouse. He is also remembered for an incident against Crystal Palace where, after being sent-off he launched a kung-fu kick against a Palace fan – he was banned from playing for nine months.

1995 Alan Shearer OBE – Alan Shearer became the world’s most expensive footballer in 1996 when he was bought by Newcastle for £15 million. He was a huge success at Kevin Keegan’s club scoring 25 goals in 31 games. Shearer still holds the Premier League goals coring record with 260.

1996 Les Ferdinand MBE – Les Ferdinand is a former England striker, and most remembered for his time at Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers. He is the cousin of Premiership players Rio and Anton Ferdinand, and was the first player to score for six different Premier League clubs.

1997 Alan Shearer OBE – Alan Shearer made 63 appearances for England and scored 30 goals making him joint-fifth in the England all-time goals corers list with Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney. He was named England captain for two years before he announced his retirement from international football after Euro 2000.

1998 Dennis Bergkamp – Widely regarded as one of the English Premier League’s all-time greatest players Dennis Bergkamp played his best games as a support striker at Arsenal. In 2007 he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame – the first ever Dutch player to receive the honour.

1999 David Ginola – David Ginola, the former French international began his career in France with Toulon in 1985. He played with three other French clubs before signing for Newcastle United in 1995. After two years he moved to Tottenham and quickly became regarded as one of the best wingers of all time.

2000 Roy Keane – Current manager of Sunderland, the Irish midfielder has been hailed as one of the greatest players ever. He was noted for his aggressive and competitive style of play, an attitude which earned him the captains armband at Manchester United for eight years. He has been called Sunderland’s saviour – the club was 23rd in the Championship when he took over, he has helped them climb their way back to the Premiership.

2001 Teddy Sheringham MBE – The veteran England international is currently playing at Colchester United but has enjoyed a prolific career which has seen him win almost every domestic honour – most notably the Treble with Manchester United. He was capped 51 times for the England senior team and scored 11 goals. After a 26-year career he announced this year that he will retire at the end of the 2007-08 campaign.

2002 Ruud van Nistelrooy – Currently playing with Real Madrid, van Nistelrooy holds the record at Manchester United for being the club’s top scorer in European competition. He has also been the top scorer in three different European leagues as well as being the Champions League’s top scorer in three different seasons.

2003 Thierry Henry – Renowned for his pace, goals coring and ability to create assists, the French striker is currently playing at FC Barcelona. He made his name as a world-class footballer after his move to Arsenal. He initially struggled with in the Premiership however, he emerged as Arsenal’s top goals corer almost every season that he was there.

2004 Thierry Henry – Thierry Henry became Arsenal’s all time leading scorer with 226 goals in all competitions. While under Arsene Wenger’s leadership he won two league titles and three FA Cups. He was twice nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year, and was named the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year three times. HE left Arsenal after eight years for a fee of £16.1 million.

2005 John Terry – Chelsea centre back John Terry has previously been voted best defender in the 2005 Champions League and was included in the FIFPro World XI for 2005, 2006 and 2007. He was also the only English player to make the all-star squad for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

2006 Steven Gerrard – Liverpool’s captain grew up as an Everton fan but is now nick-named ‘Mr Liverpool’. He has been named European Midfielder of the Year, Premier League Most Valuable Player twice and UEFA Most Valuable Player. He has been nominated three times for the FIFA Player of the Year, in 2005, 2006 and 2007. On 5 February 2008, it was announced he had been voted by fans as the Nationwide England Player of the Year for 2007.

2007 Cristiano Ronaldo – This season’s leading goals corer (28) Cristiano Ronaldo came third in the 2007 World Player of the Year. He is widely regarded as one of the most talented footballers of his generation. Johan Cruyff enthused in an April 2, 2008 interview, “Ronaldo is better than George Best and Denis Law, who were two brilliant and great players in the history of United.”

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Filed under Alex Ferguson, Ballack, Chelsea, Cristiano Ronaldo, Drogba, EPL, Manchester United, PFA, Rio Ferdinand, Ronaldo, Rooney, Stamford Bridge, Tevez

A weekend of consequence

As Manchester United travel to London to take on Chelsea in their virtually unbeatable home turf, the EPL fans around the world will be watching if this exciting team of United are able to deliver the punch and take all three points, last done by an Arsenal side about 4 years ago. A win or a draw to United would mean one hand on the trophy. The other hand will have to wait as I think West Ham United and Wigan are capable of upsetting some Fergie calculations and if Chelsea deliver this could be a very interesting title run in.

Chelsea has been quite a formidable outfir at home and however strong the United line up will look, they still will settle for a draw if they can afford to. Chelsea has come back from so many goal-down scenarios to draw and preserve their record at home. But if there is one team currently in the EPL who can damage that, then it is Manchester United. Maybe Tevez like he has done so many times this season will score that crucial goal.

The return leg of the Champions league will be in their mind but towards the end of the season, you can expect both the managers to put up their best team for the rest of the possible five matches they have for the year. Whatever happens today, the title race can still go all the way to the wire as I feel that an upset can come at any time in the league. So all eyes would be on Stamford Bridge tonight or afternoon, wherever you are watching it.

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Filed under Alex Ferguson, Champions League, Chelsea, EPL, Manchester United, Stamford Bridge, Tevez, West Ham, Wigan

Champions League Semifinals preview

Liverpool take on Chelsea at Anfield on Tuesday night in the first semifinal and Barcelona play Manchester United at Nou Camp on Wednesday night in the second. Would it be an all English Final at Moscow in May? For that Barcelona will have to be beaten over two legs by Man Utd. Well anything is possible, though United look the stringer team on current form.

Talking about the first Semifinal, these two teams have met before in the semifinal stage before and played one of the more boring matches in the history of Champions League seminfinals. Both the teams approach an away match as a match not to concede and play and score at home and then defend. Liverpool are masters at this and they realise that this tie is decided over two legs and the make the most of the home advantage at Anfield. The only difference this time is that the second leg is at Stamford Bridge this time.

There is a very interesting read about how these two teams play by former Real Madrid coach and World Cup winner Jorge Valdano;

Chelsea and Liverpool are the clearest, most exaggerated example of the way football is going: very intense, very collective, very tactical, very physical, and very direct. But, a short pass? Noooo. A feint? Noooo. A change of pace? Noooo. A one-two? A nutmeg? A backheel? Don’t be ridiculous. None of that. The extreme control and seriousness with which both teams played the semi-final neutralised any creative licence, any moments of exquisite skill.

If Didier Drogba was the best player in the first match it was purely because he was the one who ran the fastest, jumped the highest and crashed into people the hardest. Such extreme intensity wipes away talent, even leaving a player of Joe Cole’s class disoriented. If football is going the way Chelsea and Liverpool are taking it, we had better be ready to wave goodbye to any expression of the cleverness and talent we have enjoyed for a century.

I will not say anything more than that 🙂

While the second semifinal should be a display of attacking football. I cannot see either of the teams sitting back and defending, home or away. Manchester United have firepower in Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez (who has been scoring some very important goals for his team lately) while Barcelona will have the livewire Messi, Bojan Krkic, Henry and Eto in their ranks. This match would be worth waking up at 3 and watching!

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Filed under Anfield, Champions League, Chelsea, Eto, Jorge Valdano, Liverpool, Messi, Nou Camp, Ronaldo, Rooney, Stamford Bridge, Tevez

3 points at Emirates and an exciting title race in prospect

Arsenal won at home atlast. It came courtesy a wonderfully taken goal from Adebayor and from a deflected goal from Gilberto, his first of the season. The quality of Arsenal was in display as Reading were left with the scraps though the scoreline should have reflected atleast for two more goals, but for Arsenal’s poor finishing.

For me Song has been looking increasing like our answer for the centre back, good with headers and strong against opponents. If he gets a run in for the next 3 matches, we could be having a strong back up for centre backs. Gilberto came into the team and played a decent game, but somehow Flamini’s bite was missing. Fabregas had a good game but for his finishing. He needs to get his one-on-one situations sorted out. But the stand-out performance was from Walcott, who started the match and justified his selection with a lot of running on the right side of the park.

One of the problems that Arsenal has had this season has been there inability to kill of the game after taking the lead. That was taken care of today but if Reading had put one back, it would have led to some nervous moments. The third goal was always there but finishing let us down yet again. But when Walcott plays we seem to be creating more chances. Maybe he will also benefit from this run in.

Last but not the least,the title run in has opened up a bit for Chelsea with Manchester United drawing at Ewood Park against Blackburn Rovers. I thought Blackburn played really well and Brad Friedel was in his elements coming up trumps in more than one occasion. But it is still Man Utd’s to lose as their superior goal difference means they can still afford to lose against Chelsea, win the other two matches and still win the league. Easier said than done!!! But full credit to Tevez for a wonderful goal. How many times has he done this, this season.

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Filed under Adebayor, Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Brad Friedel, Chelsea, EPL, Fabregas, Manchester United, Reading, Song, Tevez, Walcott

Flamini mystery & Reading

As Arsenal get into the last 4 matches of their season in which the best they can hope for now would be a 2nd place finish IF Chelsea screw up in between somewhere in their pursuit of Manchester United, Wenger stepped up the pressure on one of the star performers of the season Flamini. Guardian reports the deadline that Wenger has set for Flamini, month end of April. Flamini’s injury means that he is not going to play anymore in this season and there has been renewed interest coming from Juventus, Bayern Munich etc.

With Clichy, Sagna, Hleb and Fabregas, Flamini has been one of the most outstanding players of the season for Arsenal. And his renewed vigour in midfield has been one of the reasons for Arsenal’s great run in this season. He has been virtually irreplaceable this season with Gilberto being a shadow of his past there has been no player in this team who had the bite to replace our Terrier. Wenger is right in saying that Flamini has to respect the team and the manager and sign on the dotted lines if he intends to stay. If he doesn’t then Wenger needs those extra weeks to sign a replacement.

It should be interesting to see how strongly Arsenal finish the season and 12 points from the next 4 matches starting tonight with Reading would be the way to go. Here is to three points and lost pride.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Bayern Munich, Cesc, Chelsea, Clichy, EPL, Fabregas, Flamini, Gilberto, Manchester United, Sagna, Wenger

Arsenal go down fighting…for the next season

Yes this is the end of this season’s title bid for this season. And I am sure Ferguson would be the more relieved of the two managers as I am sure he would accept a 1-1 score line as Arsenal wrecked havoc in Old Trafford. This match was described by Ferguson as the best match of the year so far and credit should be given to Arsenal for playing bravely in front of the Old Trafford crowd. It was all Arsenal in the first half but United showed their depth by bringing in Anderson and Tevez and the game changed. The winner from Hargreaves was a well taken free-kick which sealed the win for Manchester United.

Hleb had a wonderful match and his flowing football was in display as he weaved through the United defence as though they were not there. Fabregas sprayed passes around the ground as Gilberto held ground for one of his better performances of the season. Clichy as usual was brilliant and Song getting a rare call up for this key match also gave a decent performance despite the few blips in concentration. On the other hand, Ronaldo was reined in by the Gunners and Rooney had couple of chances in the first half. Lehmann had a wonderful game to show that he is still agile and fit to be under the bars.

I am proud of my team. They played well to be on top of the league for a long period of the season. Injuries to Van Persie, Rosicky, Eduardo, Sagna and Hleb means that this team had not got to play its first XI for a long time. I think of all the people missed, Eduardo was the key as he would have put away a lot of the chances that Adebayor missed in this match and in many before this one. Bendtner was also the culprit in heading straight at the goalie. What we need is a striker like Torres who will finish most of the many chances that the midfield creates.

This was the team that many of the so called football experts and pundits had written off. Liverpool and Tottenham will all finish above Arsenal and without Henry this team would be no competition lik before. Come the offseason, there are going to be more rumours on Hleb, Flamini and Fabregas leaving for clubs in Spain and Italy. Like Wenger said, his biggest challenge would be to keep this team together for next season as I think, they will be the best gelled team in the league next year and hopefully we will fight for the title next year.

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Filed under Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, EPL, Fabregas

How on earth???

I was too upset about the Champions League second leg at Anfield that I seriously did not feel like writing anything about the match. If you are an Arsenal fan then you are going through a very tough time. How youthful exuberance of a certain Theo Walcott can make you happy at 4.30 AM and a minute after that how the experienced wisdom of Gallas & Co and the referee can cause you a heartbreak. It was an European night of scintillating football. But at the end of 93 minutes, Arsenal hopes were dashed and a run from Theo which would have dominated back pages of newspapers for weeks and weeks together got over-run by their more experienced European campaigners’ temperament to comeback on an European Night at Anfield enthused by the Kop.

It is not strange that the ref awarded the penalty at the Kop end of Anfield. You can argue that yes, Toure had contact on Babel, but how minimal was it is another issue. You need to be lucky and also careful when you are having the advantage of scoring a goal which is taking you to the semi-final. But Toure and co. did just the opposite as Liverpool pressed hard for their 3rd. Luck was certainly not in favour of Arsenal as they were at the receiving end of two very critical decisions from the refs over two legs. But I think we should stop blaming the refs and start to look at the team and what needs to be done to stop the rot at back. Arsenal have been conceding goals from the right flank where, Sagna has been sorely missed and Toure is not a natural right back. Gallas has had some edgy moments in the last few matches and Senderos looks vulnerable sometimes.

Would Walcott have played with the same vigour over 90 minutes is a argument that can go both ways. Eboue’s use or uselessness at the right is another contentious issue. Fabregas needs a replacement for atleast 25% of the season and maybe someone from the reserve needs to be fast forwarded into the team as Denilson is not consistent in the chances that he has got. But for me the biggest problem is the inconsistency of our forwards. In Van Persie we have a player who might or might not last half the season. In Bendtner we have an over-enthusiastic player who will do a little too much to show his pedigree. In Adebayor we have a striker who will score one in five chances. Unfortunately Eduardo was looking like the answer to a lot of this problems before he got injured and how he responds post his injury is again a question mark.

Walcott comes out with this occasional sparks of brilliance underlying his status as a star in the making once in a while and for the second away European match in the running this year he shone. His run from the Arsenal box to the Liverpool box, getting around some 4 Liverpool players and pulling the ball back for Adebayor for a simple tap in is what legends are made of and I hope he continues on this vein for the rest of this season and many more seasons to come. He could be the next big star that Arsenal needs.

So what is now left for Arsenal? A lot, if you ask me. How this season is going to end will be the spark needed for the nest season, if Wenger buys new players or not. The team needs to keep the momentum going and winning all the matches from now on would be one way of reclaiming that little bit of confidence lost at Anfield. Utd is a big away match this weekend but I think they are beatable and for that matter any team is beatable, even Liverpool was the other night. But if Arsenal can play a part in keeping the title race till the end of the match, they should.

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Filed under Adebayor, Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Champions League, EPL, Fabregas