Archive for August, 2009
Premier League champions Manchester United recovered well from its shock midweek defeat to Burnley with a 5-0 crushing of Wigan Atheltic while Arsenal regained top spot for the day at least with a 4-1 win over Portsmouth.
A goalless first half at the JJB paved way for a goal fest for the Red Devils in the second half as two goals in as many minutes from Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov put the visitors in front.
A second home defeat in four days was sealed with Rooney netting his second, Michael Owen scoring his first competitive goal and Nani rounding the rout with a stoppage time effort.
More of this story on MyNaijaNews.com through this link http://www.mynaijanews.com/content/view/3259/29/
Due to that faltering ambition in the league, Liverpool could soon be in danger of becoming the other club of the Merseyside, a place held by an ever improving Everton that has the third longest serving manager in the Premier League, David Moyes.
The Toffees did very well last season, capping it with two wins in all competitions over Liverpool as it wrestled 5th spot from Aston Villa before losing gallantly to Chelsea at the final of the FA Cup.
And with Jo extending his loan deal for the whole of this season from Manchester City; wise choice, coupled with Louis Saha on the field more than under the knife, Tim Cahill being the thorn he always is from midfield alongside Marouane Fellaini and the return of James Vaughn and fan favourites Mikel Arteta and Yakubu Aiyegbeni from injuries, getting the goals won’t be a problem for Everton.
Keeping the back tight however could be, that is if the club succeeds in keeping Joleon Lescott from the lure of City’s approach all through the summer. Last time, City improved its bid for the fine defender from £18m to £22m.
And if Lescott were to leave, Moyes could find someone else to fill the void left with the money ala Philippe Senderos from Arsenal or from the reserves but either way, you get the feeling the club would come through whatever the outcome.
That cannot be said of Aston Villa which is struggling to keep Ashley Young from lurking suitors while former captain Gareth Barry moved on, but to Man. City and not a club playing in the Champions League as he had advertised all through last season.
Add that to a thin squad of players and 6th place might just be quite a shot to aim at for Martin O’Neill, the burn-out of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Young last season was evident in the destrucitve dip in form plus, John Carew and Emile Heskey; good as they are, do not have age on their side.
That allows a club such as Fulham to take the place of the Villans. Just as Redknapp at Spurs, Roy Hudgson as been able to manage the Cottagers well enough. Same can also be said of Steve Bruce at a new look Sunderland which has seen the arrival of striker Darren Bent, Lorik Cana from Marseille and Frazier Campbell from Manchester United to add to the likes of Kenwyne Jones and Kieran Richardson, hopefully the new era would bring better luck over the season for the Black Cats.
The exit of Emile Heskey mid last season to Villa plus Valencia to Man. United and manager Steve Bruce to Sunderland, Wigan Athletic has itself an uphill task of matching its 11th place finishing of last season.
Over at Upton Park however, Gianfranco Zola can work his relatively young West Ham United side higher up the Premier League cadre owing to a good first season in Premier League management though managing a young squad burdened with a league, Cup and Europa League programme could be the undoing of the London club.
It would be interesting to see how Portsmouth fares this season, especially if it is finaly bought by…you guessed it, a stinking rich Middle Eastern. But all the money comes to nothing when it is not matched with performances on the field of play and manager Paul Hart has a wealth of experienced players at his disposal but a bit more speed and youth would do a lot of good for the south coast club, the loss of Glen Johnson to Liverpool though…not a good sign for an already tired defence.
At Ewood Park, Sam Allardyce looked like he was still getting used to the change of environment from neighbours Bolton Wanderers evident in Rovers’ indifferent form over last season. The exit of Roque Santa Cruz to Man. City can be well managed knowing the sort of manager Allardyce is and he would be hoping his Croatian recruit along with Franco di Santo on loan from Chelsea till January help with issues upfront.
Bolton meanwhile found the ride even harder than Rovers and manager Gary Megson probably is not looking forward to the upcoming season with few key players lost last season and main striker Johan Elmander still getting accustomed to the Premier League after a very disappointing first season on arrival from Toulouse.
Even more disappointing however was Hull City. Then newly promoted, the Tigers were contenders for the Premier League title a quarter games into the season but a severe dip in form saw a reverse in aspirations and it had become a dg fight against relegation which the KC Stadium outfit achieved on the final day last season; a far less reliance on part time preacher Geovanni would go a long way in retaining the club’s Premier League status at the end of this season.
Finally, Wolverhampton Wanderers leads the newly promoted clubs into the Premier League, the others being Birmingham City and Burnley. And really, much cannot be said of newly promoted clubs…Hull were title contenders at the start of last season, by the end they were desperately fighting off relegation.
A word though on Burnley, it took Tottenham extra time to knock the club out at the semi-final of the League Cup last season after three Premier League clubs, including Arsenal and Fulham, had failed to do same in earlier rounds.
The season begins on the weekend of August 15 with Arsenal’s visit to Everton the star match of the opening weekend alongside the reverse north London-Merseyside clash between Tottenham and Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Champions Man. United begin at home to Birmingham while Chelsea also start at home to Hull and Mark Hughes takes his star studded Man. City to old club and Lancashire neighbours Blackburn Rovers.
Opening weekend – Saturday, 15 August
Aston Villa v Wigan
Blackburn v Manchester City
Bolton v Sunderland
Chelsea v Hull
Everton v Arsenal
Manchester Utd v Birmingham
Portsmouth v Fulham
Stoke v Burnley
Tottenham v Liverpool
Wolves v West Ham
The league season in England today officially kicked off with the Community Shield match between Premier League winners Manchester United and FA Cup holders Chelsea at the Wembley Stadium.
The Red Devils took the lead after just 10 minutes with a 25 yard shot from Portuguese winger Nani past Petr Cech off an excellent cross field pass from Scot midfielder Darren Fletcher.
Chelsea however pulled level six minutes into the second half with a header from another Portuguese Ricardo Carvalho, before taking the lead through a Frank Lampard shot.
England striker Wayne Rooney however took the game to penalties with a neat finish deep into stoppage time, chipping over Cech after being found by veteran Welshman Ryan Giggs.
United fell apart in penalties as Giggs missed the league champions’ first kick after Lampard had scored his while Evra lost United’s third after Didier Drogba had put the Blues 3-1 up, leaving fellow Ivorian Salomon Kalou to win the season opener for Chelsea.
Following a frenzied summer in the transfer market, Premier League champions Manchester United have boosted its squad with the arrival of talented Ecuadorian winger Luis Antonio Valencia and veteran, well travelled 29 year old striker Michael Owen along with French youngster Obertan.
But it was a frenzied transfer summer and Real Madrid parted with a world record £80m for Portuguese ace Cristiano Ronaldo, before city rivals Manchester City paid £25m for the services of Argentine striker Carlos Tevez.
The major depletion of the United squad as well as the injury setback suffered by midfielder Owen Hargreaves has however left some doubt to the ability of the Red Devils to win a record fourth consecutive league title in 2010.
In come Chelsea that has brought in experienced Italian tactician Carlo Ancelotti and the arrival of Russian Yuri Zhirkov to boost an already strong squad that has the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, the three midfield Michaels and Ivorian forward Didier Drogba with his strike partner Nicholas Anelka who believes title rivals United are a tad bit weaker than last season now that CR7 (now CR9 by the way) and Carlito have left.
Which brings Manchester City into the picture. The richest club in the world (hate it or love it, that’s the fact) have mentioned themselves as serious contenders for the title and why not, Elano may have left for Galatasaray but Robinho, Craig Bellamy, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stephen Ireland have been joined at the Eastlands by Gareth Barry from Aston Villa, Roque Santa Cruz from Blackburn Rovers, Tevez from city rivals United and former Emirate Stadium duo Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure.
Of course, these players arrived with the cliche of “it wasn’t for the money” but that is discussion for another time. However, City does look like they could challenge for the league title, on paper. In reality though, City could just end up finishing in a Europa League spot.
This is so because of the obvious imbalance in the team evident in the forward line; an attractive line but one that would be very difficult to manage, or more aptly satisfy with Santa Cruz and Adebayor not likely partners while Tevez has joined due to the promise of regular starts when Craig Bellamy and Robinho are around (?).
So maybe Tottenham Hotspur could be the club that would break the hold of the fabled ‘Big Four’ and last season’s form at the end after Harry “Houdini” Redknapp took over the reigns at White Hart Lane shows much promise for fans of the lilywhites that this season may just be it.
It would be even sweeter of it was arch-rivals Arsenal that was displaced from the Four at the end and just as it was at the start of the previous three seasons, Arsenal looks the weakest of the Four and most likely not to finish in the top four.
But just as in the three seasons before, Arsenal could yet go for the title and implode at the crucial stage, or simply meddle with 5th and 6th spot before a late surge sees the Gunners into fourth.
Unfortunately, Gooners may have to wait yet a further season before winning the league title last won in 2004 with manager Arsene Wenger again likely to not spend money in the market; not even half as much as gained in the same market.
The only arrival of reasonable mention at the Emirates is centre back Thomas Vermaelen from Ajax and the French tactician would rather rely on returning players Eduardo and Tomas Rosicky along with the core of the team ala Cesc Fabregas, Russian maestro Andrey Arshavin and (an injury unresistant) Robin van Persie to carry a young side through a gruelling season that once again will involve Champions League qualifying matches.
Arsenal, despite the ever present cloud of doubt, could fare better than Liverpool who have seen Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso join Real Madrid while long time target David Villa has become rather too pricey.
Star striker Fernando Torres got a good dose of tackles last season thus reducing his goal return (which however remained impressive to note) but more of those tackles and the work would be left to captain fantastic Steven Gerrard…not the ideal scenario when you’re desperately after a first league triumph in 20 years…and counting.
This weekend will see the start of the French Ligue 1 and German Bundesliga with Girondins Bordeaux and Vfl Wolfsburg under much pressure to replicate or improve the form that saw the duo win its respective league titles.
First in France and Bordeaux will have mainly Olympique Lyon; winner of the seven previous league seasons, and Olympique Marseille to contend with this season as well as the likes of Paris St. Germain and OSC Lille.
Bordeaux manager Laurent Blanc has kept the core of his team for the season with the main player being Youann Gourcuff along with fellow midfielder Youann Gouffran and strikers Wendell and Fernando Cavenaghi while Marouane Chamakh could remain with the club till January owing to the protracted transfer saga with him, Bordeaux and Arsenal.
While Blanc can be confident of going for the Ligue 1 title having finished runner-up two seasons ago but holding off Lyon this season may be much harder than it was last season.
Lyon may have lost top scorer Karim Benzema to Real Madrid but the money from that transfer has been used to orchestrate the arrival of Lisandro Lopez from FC Porto, Spanish striker David Guiza and Bafetimbi Gomis from local rivals St. Etienne.
The third main challenger for the French title is Olympique Marseille that have former French national team captain Didier Deschamps at the helm following the resignation of Eric Gerets after a good season.
Marseille have retained top striker Mamadou Niang, talented midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa and Nigerian left back Taye Taiwo; the trio named as the key players ahead of the season by Deschamps. The Veldrome club have also strenghtened with the arrival of defender Lucho Lopez from title rivals Bordeaux but the key to Marseille’s title challenge would be thoroughly improving on its home record and keeping the away record of last season.
PSG, Toulouse and OSC Lille have kept the core of their team with PSG favoured to be the outside fourth challenger after running close last season, despite finishing 6th after a final day slip-up allowed Lille and Toulouse to overtake the Parisiens.
At Germany, Wolfsburg finds itself under even more pressure to retain its first league title just as its strike partnership will have all of Germany and not a few in the rest of Europe watching for a repeat of last season’s record goal haul.
Grafite and Edin Dzeko scored 54 goals between themselves to win the league for Wolfsburg and the addition of Obafemi Martins from Newcastle United will help a long way in easing that pressure of the Wolves.
Wolfsburg however find itself up against Bayern Munich that has brought Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal as manager and added prolific club scorer Mario Gomez to its ranks to bolster an already potent attack that has Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni.
By a mile, Bayern as always enter the season as favourites for the title but if last season’s close competition is to be taken into account, the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen would be rank outsiders for the title.
But the strongest looking challenge to the title is Schalke 04 courtesy of the capture Felix Magath who has won the Bundesliga title at Stuttgart, Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg last season.
Magath has, along with his experience in Europe’s highest scoring league, he has the core of last season’s team to work with at Schalke.
Both leagues begin their season this weekend with champions Bordeaux starting at home to RC Lens back from Ligue 2 while Lyon travel to Le Mans, Marseille will be at Grenoble and PSG also away at newly promoted Montpellier.
In Germany, Wolfsburg ironically face former boss Magath when Stuttgart visit the Volkswagen Arena on Friday while Bayern is away at Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi’s TSG Hoffenheim that has top scorer Vedad Ibisevic back from injury.
culled from http://www.mynaijanews.com