Saturday, March 27, 2010

Big weekend in the Premier League

With two points separating Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal respectively, at the top of the table, every game takes on greater significance this time of year. This week Chelsea are hosting an Aston Villa squad who are trying to get through a handful of injuries, affecting their defense, midfield, and forward line. Chelsea can ill afford to drop any more points and will surely look to pounce on Villa early.

Manchester United head to Bolton having won their last four while the Wanderers are undefeated in their last six. The big story here is the fitness of Wayne Rooney. United should be heavy favorites regardless of whether he plays or not, but what manager Sir Alex Ferguson will do is anybody's guess. I think Rooney will get a rest ahead of the mid-week Champions League match against Bayern Munich.

Arsenal have won six straight in the Premier League and will likely have a chip on their shoulder as they take on Birmingham City. It was against City two years ago that Arsenal's Eduardo suffered a horendous broken ankle following a wayward tackle by Martin Taylor. Eduardo has yet to regain the form he had two years ago and this could be a chance for him to exorcise whatever demons may be lurking in the back of his mind. Birmingham have only lost twice at home this campaign, so Arsene Wenger's men can ill afford to look ahead to their highly anticipated match against Barcelona later this week in the Champions League.

My predictions:

Chelsea 2-0 Aston Villa

Manchester United 3-1 Bolton

Birmingham City 1-2 Arsenal

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm baaaaaaack!

I apologize for the blog lapse. This is a very busy time of year for me and this year has been the busiest in quite a while. I won't bore anyone with the details, I'll just get back to the blogging.


Fox Soccer Plus: Here's my fuss

We're coming up on the one month anniversary of the demise of Setanta U.S. and the birth of Fox Soccer Plus(FSC+). The initial reports suggested that other than losing the Scottish Premier League and some fringe programming like hurling and Gaelic football, the content would roughly remain the same as Setanta. And in fact, the English Premier League, Coca-Cola Championship, Magners League Rugby, and various rugby tournaments have made their way to FSC+. But what has also made it's way to FSC+ is much of the same content that is also being broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel, i.e. Sky Sports News, Serie A Weekly, Fox Soccer Report, UEFA Champions League(both matches and review shows), The Contenders, Premier League Archives, The Greatest, and others. If I wasn't paying $15 a month I wouldn't have a problem with it. Other sports networks such ESPN/ESPN2 do similar things...but they are not subscription channels.

Now Fox executives will tell you that FSC+ has no commercials and therefore a monthly fee is required to make ends meet. That sounds very similar to Steven Cohen and the World Football Daily bunch. They had a nice little daily football call-in show on Sirius Radio called World Soccer Daily. I won't get in to all the details, mainly because where the truth lies regarding the cancellation of the show is a bit of a mystery...a big he said/she said sort of affair. A few weeks later World Football Daily appeared on the scene. It was available by live web feed and podcast and commercials were no longer a part of the show, though they still had "breaks". Not long after the "re-launch", it was announced that in order to receive "premium content", which is roughly 75% of the show, a monthly fee was being introduced. Now this show was part of my daily routine for 5+ years, but I am not paying money for a podcast. I'm just not.

Ultimately my point is, I'll take the commercials over a monthly fee. There is still a break in programming regardless of whether it's a commercial or some sort of pre-produced product, and the filler material FSC+ uses between programming is very limited. I appreciate the history lesson the snippets provide, and friendly voice of Issy Clarke as narrator, but the variety numbers wise is severely lacking.

I also feel like for $15 I should be getting an HD quality signal. The quality of the picture during EPL games is ridiculously bad. Now in fairness, it wasn't any better on the Setanta feed. But now that Fox Soccer Channel is in HD, I'm hoping FSC+ won't be far behind.

Since FSC+ is only a month old, I'll give it some more time before I gripe anymore. And who knows, next season could hold a whole host of changes for the channel. Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

World Cup Player Profile-Philipp Lahm

Unlike 2006, Bayern Munich's 26-year-old defender won't have the comforts of home to help ease the pressure on he and his German teammates. Then again, maybe the roughly 5,000 mile gap between Germany and South Africa will prove to be a respite from the sometimes over indulging passion that football fans provide. Either way, the Germans will be leaning heavily on Phillipp Lahm's experience to help them lift their fourth World Cup Trophy.

Traditionally a left back, Bayern's manager, Louis van Gaal, has often played him at right back this season, much to Mr. Lahm's dismay. Bayern struggled early in this year's Bundesliga campaign and Lahm was not shy about voicing his opinion. Munchen have since regained their form and sit level on points with Bayern Leverkusen atop the the Bundesliga table.

I liken Lahm to a point guard in basketball at times. He starts the link up play and is often a tempo setter for his team...bombing up the left flank and providing service in to the box or cutting in to central midfield for some one touch football. He's not afraid to unveil a powerful shot, from either foot, as well and his speed was an immeasurable component to Germany's success at Euro 2008.

Let's take a look...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

World Cup Player Profile-Marek Hamsik

Keep your eyes and ears open for the name Marek Hamsik. The 22-year-old Slovakian is all over Chelsea's radar and will continue to be the subject of many a transfer rumor until, at least, that "big transfer move" is made. With 8 goals in 23 games for Napoli this year, Hamsik is looking to lead Napoli in scoring for the third year running.

The attacking midfielder will be a key component for Slovakia this summer in South Africa, as they compete against fellow Group F participants, Italy, Paraguay, and New Zealand. Hamsik will be need to be on top of his game to advance out of the group. Here's a sample of his game...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

World Cup Player Profile-Giovani dos Santos

Mexican national Giovani Dos Santos is today's World Cup player profile. Currently own loan to Galatasaray of the Turkish Super Lig, Tottenham Hotspur's "Gio", as he's often referred to, will be a key component of Mexico's midfield at World Cup 2010 in South Africa. A mere 20 years old, Gio is a seasoned veteran in footballing terms. Having played for Barcelona under Frank Rijkaard and been the recipient of the both the adidas Silver and Bronze balls as a Mexican youth national player at FIFA U-20 & U-17 World Cups, Dos Santos had some envious teenage years to say the least.

After a move to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2008, Giovani's injuries and a poor run of form by the club led him to a late season loan to Ipswich, and an eventual loan deal to Galatasaray last month. The more first team football he can get, the better Mexico's chances of advancing to the knockout stages of the World cup will be.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Euro 2012 Group Draw

The Euro 2012 qualifying draw took place yesterday, and as with any group stage draw, there are talking points and also a few groups that aren't worth talking about at all.

Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Italy, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Slovenia??? Sure the Serbian squad boasts a number of recognizable names likes Vidic, Stankovic, Zigic, Ivanovic and the Italians are always full of headline grabbers, but what else does this group have to offer. Yes I realize Slovenia will be a part of this summer's World Cup in South Africa, but an underachieving Czech Republic side certainly helped their cause for qualification.

Group D: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Luxembourg, Romania. Could France have an easier run of games? Now they will probably endure some speed bumps as they usually do during qualifying, but this is a ridiculously weak group.

What I'm really looking forward to over the next few years is the transition a lot of national teams will be going through. The Italian team is already as old as Rome itself and Coach Marcello Lippi doesn't appear to have any interest in bringing along youthful Italians like Sebastian Giovinco, David Santon, and Mario Balotelli. Now maybe Lippi will leave following the World Cup. Regardless, aged ones like Fabio Cannavaro, Mauro Camoranesi, and Andrea Pirlo need to be put out to pasture.

England will also be looking at a changing of the guard. John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, and Gareth Barry are or will be over the age of 30 by Euro 2012. Luckily they have some promising young players already in the fold. James Milner, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Theo Walcott are the youthful future of the Three Lions. Can they take the next step and become superstars? It'll be fun to find out.

Here's a look at the full group draw:

Group A: Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Germany, Kazakhstan, Turkey

Group B: Andorra, Armenia, Ireland, Macedonia, Russia, Slovakia

Group C: Estonia, Faeroe Islands, Italy, Northern Ireland, Serbia, Slovenia

Group D: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, France, Luxembourg, Romania

Group E: Finland, Hungary, Moldova, Netherlands, San Marino, Sweden

Group F: Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Latvia, Malta

Group G: Bulgaria, England, Montenegro, Switzerland, Wales

Group H: Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal

Group I: Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Scotland, Spain

World Cup Player Profile-Tim Cahill

Sorry folks. Living in New Orleans as I do, I was a bit preoccupied yesterday with the Super Bowl. But now that I'm back, I want to bring you the magic of Tim Cahill. Everton's Australian midfielder has a knack for getting goals when he has no business beating bigger players to the ball. "A great head on his shoulders" would be an understatement. If the Socceroos are to make it out of the group stage this summer, much of the responsibility will lie with Tim Cahill.

Friday, February 5, 2010

World Cup Player Profile - Maicon

Today I offer a video compilation of arguably the best right back in the world. Brazil's Maicon had a spectacular Confederations Cup last summer and will no doubt will be a vital part this summer's World Cup affair. He currently plies his trade for Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, who are well on their way to a fifth consecutive scudetto. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

World Cup Player Profile-Andres Iniesta

Today is the first edition of my World Cup 2010 Player Profile segment. I will try to profile one player everyday who is scheduled to participate in this summer's World Cup in South Africa. I don't want to give you every player's biography, etc. I simply want to give you a video introduction along with their current club and country information. It may be a montage, a breathtaking goal, or just a bit of skill.

Today I want to start with one of my favorite footballers and possibly the most underrated player in the world. Barcelona's Andres Iniesta...the man looking to bring the World Cup trophy to Spain. His footwork at the :45 mark is SICK!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ugly Americans 4 the Beautiful Game fantasy league standings


Goalfatha 27-15-20 96
Alt Nathan 26-13-24 91
Kid Slumber 25-16-23 91
Trout 25-16-23 91
SCA 20-18-24 78
BILB 20-15-26 75

Happy MLK DAY! Freezing temps and postponements in the UK have reeked havoc with the table as some owners have played, while others have missed many games. Chaos or not, the new year has brought a dogfight to the table as ALT has continued his acsendancy with FUL and ARS continuing to impress, while KSFC and TROUT maintain with big guns CHELSEA (note their 7-2 SUND victory) and MANU respectively. Meanwhile, SCA has finally overtaken the bumbling BILB FC who is simply out of answers for the complete failure of his 3 squads. (ctsy BILB aka "The Commish")

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Berbatov v Robinho: A Tale of the Tape

Has any Premiership player been more criticized over the past eighteen months than Dimitar Berbatov? When he came to Manchester United from Spurs at the start of last season, he had never scored more than 15 league goals in either of his two plus seasons for Tottenham. His career best is 21 league goals, for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, in the 2005-06 season. Obviously his 9 goals in 32 league games last year was a big disappointment for United supporters, but it's not all that surprising to me. He came into a squad that featured the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney. I think any player would find it tough to outshine those two stars.

At 32.5m pounds, Manchester City's Robinho came into the Premier League as the most expensive signing of the 2008 summer transfer window. He was the first piece in what was hoped would be a transformation in to the next super club of European football...a stepping stone to bringing even bigger names to the blue side of Manchester. Looking back, that may have been a bit too much to ask of a man who had never scored more than 15 goals in three seasons at Real Madrid, where his supporting cast included Raul and Ruud van Nistleroy, two of the more prolific strikers in all of football. Robinho went from a medium fish in a big pond to a big fish in a small pond.

Ultimately, I think a bit too much was expected of Berbatov and Robinho. They didn't negotiate their overly inflated transfer fees. They simply agreed to switch clubs per an agreement on wages. Is a player going to double or triple his output because of a huge wage increase? Unlikely.

Are numbers a true measure of a player's productivity and worth? Well, I believe that depends on the type of player. Are they a skill player? A specialist? Injury prone?, etc. Statistics can be deceiving and are subject to interpretation in my mind. So let's compare Berbatov and Robinho's "contributions" over the last season and a half.

Dimitar Berbatov

Transfer fee: 30.75mGBP

Wages: 100-110k wk

2008-09 games: 40

2008-09 goals: 14

2009-10 games: 17

2009-10 goals: 7
(all competitions)

Shots/Goal ratio 0.185(better than avg @ Spurs)


Transfer fee: 32.5m GBP

Wages: 160k wk

2008-09 games: 31

2008-09 goals: 15

2009-10 games: 11

2009-10 goals: 0

Shots/goal ratio: 0.12

These numbers are just that, numbers. A player's contribution to his team is not measured by statistics alone. It's his work off the ball, his versatility, attitude, fitness, and much more. So judge for yourself which club got the better deal. Manchester United, with the unassuming and oft perceived lazy Dimitar Berbatov? Or Manchester City and the flashy showman Robinho?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Has Big Sam lost the dressing room?

Sam Allardyce's recent post game comments, along with Blackburn Rovers form over the last few months, leads to me wonder if Big Sam has lost the players. A 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Manchester City Monday night was followed up by a dressing room tongue lashing from Big Sam, which apparently saw some of the senior players hit back following his outburst.

Sam has had no problem criticizing his squad this year and I just wonder if it hasn't started to take a toll on his players, especially the veteran members of the squad. It's no secret Allardyce and Benni McCarthy aren't on the best of terms and the likes of Morten Gamst Pedersen and Jason Roberts don't appear to be buying in to Sam's system either. And now there are reports that David Dunn has rejected a new contract offer from Rovers.

Rovers currently sit 13th in the Premier League table, 3 points off the drop zone, but more worrisome is the recent run of form. 1 win from their last 10 league games and Allardyce was on medical leave for that victory.

Despite what you think about his brand of football, Allardyce has had success with it in the past, most notably at Bolton in the 2004/05 season, where he led them to European qualification. But it just doesn't appear to be working at Blackburn. There's a decent mix of youth and proven Premiership players, but things just aren't clicking on the pitch.

Many Rovers supporters feared these kind of days when Allardyce was hired to replace Paul Ince a little over a year ago. Big Sam was able to win the fans over last term by keeping Rovers in the top flight, but I'm not sure how much longer the Ewood Park faithful will remain in his corner. A victory over Aston Villa in the Carling Cup on Thursday would certainly help his cause.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

African Cup of Nations starts superbly...on the field

Following Friday's ambush on the Togo national team bus, which has left three dead to this point, could this tournament have bounced back in a better way. We should never forget Friday's horrific attack, but let's not let it take too much away from a terrific opening match between the hosts Angola and Mali.

Gerrard & Torres up for sale

Rafa admits that offers are welcome for Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Why the Togo shooting shouldnt be a surprise

Anytime major events are held in volatile areas, it should come as no surprise when tragedy follows. I'm sure many more details will surface over the coming days, but it seems to me the groundwork was already in place for a incident to occur. That's not to say we should run from fear or bow down to opposition, but organizers should definitely take the proper steps to ensure the safety of all those involved. It's a little early to fully blame those at the top, but the info in the following article should've raised some eyebrows.
Togo National Team Ambushed

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Fox Soccer Plus"

EPL Talk has been all over the rumors that Fox Soccer Channel is in negotiations to purchase struggling Setanta USA. The ? is where do they go from there. I, as well as many others, will be hoping Fox keeps Setanta's programming on air and/or expands it in to a bigger and better entity.
Well, once again courtesy of EPL Talk, we have more info on the situation. It appears Fox has done some trademarking of names for a possible new football channel. On the surface this seems like positive news. Let's hope so.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Goodbye Max

Max Bretos has given his resignation to Fox Soccer Channel and will be moving to ESPNews. I'm sure we'll never know exactly why he's making the switch, but he seemed to have a pretty "cush" gig at FSC, often going weeks without making an on-air appearance.

He seems like a nice guy and all, but I certainly hope the suits in Bristol are not lining Max up for their World Cup coverage. His work with Christopher Sullivan at Fox was often painful to listen to, including the random outbursts that launched through his vocal chords.

Best of luck to you Max. You're still more watchable than Christian Miles.

Stoke hold off Fulham

Three first half goals saw Stoke City get their first league win since November 22nd. The win also sent them in to the top half of the Premier League table. Boss Tony Pulis will be far from pleased with their second half performance though, including Clint Dempsey's wonder strike in the 85th minute. The 3-2 defeat is Fulham's ninth consecutive away game without a victory.

Carling Cup semi-finals postponed

Tonight's Carling Cup ties from Ewood Park and the City of Manchester Stadium have been postponed due to surrounding weather conditions.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Premier League has confirmed that the transfer window will close on Monday February 1st.

Bye Bye Burnley?

It looks as though Owen Coyle's rumored move to Bolton is in the works.

Viera to City???

If there's one position Manchester City don't need to solidify it's the holding midfielder role. Nigel de Jong and Gareth Barry are two of the best, but it seems as though Roberto Mancini is keen to bring his former Inter Milan midfielder back to England.

Monday morning's latest transfer news

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The window is open!

Note to football executives around the world: It's January 3rd. The transfer window is open. Let's get cracking!

Half the fun of this great game is the countless transfer rumors that swirl throughout the footballing world 365 days a year. The majority of these never come to fruition, but it's fun to envision "the next big thing" coming to your club. If you follow the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, or Real Madrid you'd like to think you can buy any player you want no matter the price.

Although the January window is not known for it's blockbuster deals, that could change this time around. Real Madrid are looking to offload big wages and Man City are looking to scoop up world class players. And as always, Chelsea have been linked with their share of big names.

Invariably, the majority of business usually gets done in the final week or so of the window. This often hurts the selling club because they aren't able to adequately replace the player they sold. So my request to owners and the like is to get the checkbook open early and get your business done. This is the best thing for all parties involved...players, clubs, and most importantly the supporters.

Hiddink bound for Serie A?

Bolton contact Burnley over Coyle,19528,11095_5829999,00.html