Archive for August, 2010
So who do you reckon will face whoever in the UEFA Champions League group stage, with the hour for the draws drawing ever so close now.
Pot One has last year’s finalists Inter Milan and Bayern Munich along with English trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, Spanish champions Barcelona, AC Milan and Olympique Lyon that I feel will make quite an impact again this coming season following their capture of talented midfielder Yoann Gourcuff from Bordeaux.
Pot Two is highlighted by Real Madrid; no thanks to losing out in the first knock round to Lyon last season, the sixth straight time los Merengues have bade bye to the competition so early, AS Roma, Werder Bremen and Olympique Marseille. A lot of eyes will be on Tottenham Hotspur in Pot Three that also has Scottish champions Rangers and Ajax Amsterdam while Pot Four has got among others, FC Copenhagen, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Auxerre, Spartak Moscow and MSK Zilina (no offence, who?).
Also watch out for the likes of Portugal’s Sporting Braga in Pot Three after knocking out Sevilla in the final qualifying round as well as a certain Bursaspor from Turkey…whatever happened to Fernabahçe and the likes?
My guts tell me Real Madrid would probably get their nemesis Lyon and I’m counting on Raul making a return to the Bernabeu as well in Schalke colours. The Red Devils could also draw Rangers, just to play up the Scot link with Sir Alex and Tottenham should get ready for one of Barcelona, Inter Milan or AC Milan, I’d prefer Barça!
But hey, it’s just my guts! The real draw will be known from 17:00 BST and the group stage will kick off from September 14 and 15…now the season’s completely started!
Just a day after Arsene Wenger made known his intention of adding at least one signing before the close of the transfer window, news is filtering in that 30 year old Sevilla defender Sebastien Squillaci is set to have his medical at Arsenal ahead of a move to north London.
Squillaci was part of the embarrassing France team at the World Cup back in June though he was helpless to the implode that took place and only played the final game when the damage had been done. At Sevilla, he was a constant starter for the Andalucians except in last season that saw him play just over a dozen games due to injury.
Will Squillaci, who only cloaked three decades just over a week ago, be a good signing for Arsenal? Is that the end of Wenger’s foray in the transfer market or should we expect one more? Speaking of new arrivals, why was Wenger’s second bid for Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer the same as the first? Clerical error?! And what do you make of Arsenal’s other new boys so far, Marouane Chamakh and Laurent Koscielny?
In my “Premier League Preview – The Challengers” post here http://wp.me/puIC6-34, I talked about the competitiveness of last season’s Premier League that among other things, saw one of the fabled ‘Big Four’ – Liverpool – finish in seventh place behind Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in ascending order. Liverpool’s poor finish coupled with the near alarming number of losses recorded by the other three – Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal – could also be traced to surprise defeats to teams these four would normally chalk all three points off such as Wigan Athletic, Birmingham City and a few others.
Two rounds into this season however, I like to think it’s safe to say three of the Big Four have taken good note of the value of getting the three points where it is expected of them and getting those points with authority. Champions Chelsea scored just over a hundred last term and don’t look like slowing down up front having scored a dozen goals in two games already without giving one away; half of the goals coming a few hours earlier at Wigan’s JJB where the Blues as well as the other Three struggled last term. Arsenal, following a typical lion’s-share-of-possession-comes-to-nothing draw against Liverpool, as should be expected brought Ian Halloway’s new boys Blackpool right down to the football field reality from the cloud nine highs of a four-nil win over Wigan (that’s ten conceded for the Latics…relegation candidature as stated in the note referred earlier). A major talking point was Theo Walcott’s performance which was enjoyable to all watching (Fabio Capello though fancied Wolves trip to Goodison Park instead) and the team performance was all the more impressive more so that Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie played the final half hour with scores at 5-0. What Arsenal fans should however truly note from this good win is that five goals came after Blackpool were reduced to ten men, Andrei Arshavin chose the weaker opposition to perform against when a semblance of same was really expected and much needed in the Liverpool encounter and finally, it was Blackpool. Had it been Everton like it happened in last season’s opening day, I then would’ve rated it a top draw win but alas…it’s just what should be expected of a club of Arsenal’s stature. If Arsenal can perform like this against similar opposition and pick the vital points where expected (against the likes of Wolverhampton, West Brom, West Ham, Birmingham Sunderland and Stoke) as well as against the stubborn ones such as Villa, Bolton and Blackburn Rovers that the Gunners visit next week, it will stamp firmly Arsenal’s title credentials. That then allows for games against rivals (the other Three, free spending Man. City and Tottenham, especially the latter two) to be real contest where a win would truly make Arsene Wenger’s talented lads mature and make the step to returning Arsenal to winning trophies in May and not August as they’re becoming accustomed to!
Their arch-rivals Liverpool may be England’s most successful club (on paper) but it is Manchester United that has enjoyed the most recent of title wins lately under the tutelage of the ageless Sir Alex Ferguson who, it seems, has pulled off quite a transfer coup with the arrival of Javier Hernandez from Mexican club Chivas and such has been the instant impact of the petite player also known as Chicharito or Small Pea that he scored against the Red Devils in a pre-season match with Chivas as well as getting the second United goal in the 3-1 Community Shield defeat of Chelsea, even if the ball bumped off his face…any goal would do for Sir Alex.
With his addition to an already formidable team made of the very vast experience of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar along with the likes of Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and talisman Wayne Rooney; who, I guarantee, will hit the heights again after a World Cup low, it once again is the Red Devils that are favourites for the title.
Fergie’s lads are however known to ‘gift’ the title away with a series of very unexpected results at stages of the season and should that happen, Chelsea look the most likely to pounce and win the title.
Or so I thought until Ricardo Carvalho completed his move to Real Madrid; reacquainting himself with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, because the Blues defence had shown cracks of weakness last season with Carvalho there and now that he is gone, will the goals of Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and the occasional from Nicholas Anelka spare the defence’s blushes as it did last term?
Time will tell for manager Carlo Ancelotti as he leads Chelsea in a campaign to defend the title from this Saturday (17:30 GMT) with what should be an easy opening fixture at home to newly promoted West Bromwich-Albion while Man. United begins its campaign with a classic encounter at Old Trafford against Newcastle United; back in the top flight after one season in the Championship, on Monday (20:00) just to allow for television arrangements.
The match of the opening weekend without doubt comes from Anfield where the title credentials of Liverpool and Arsenal will go through a litmus test in Sunday’s only match (16:00); television had a thing to do with that too.
The league season though kicks off with an equally interesting clash at White Hart Lane (12:30) where free spending Man. City are guests of Tottenham Hotspur in an early rematch of last season’s tussle for the final Champions League place that saw Spurs all but win the lucrative fourth spot from City.
Another match of interest will see Aston Villa begin the season at home to West Ham United (15:00) with an unlikely future lying ahead following the shock resignation of Martin O’Neill, an exit that could result in the Villans having to let go of prized assets James Milner and Ashley Young. The Hammers on their part will be out to start the season well with former Chelsea and Portsmouth manager Avram Grant leading the east London side into a new era after barely avoiding relegation last season.
Other games have Mark Hughes returning to Premier League management with last season’s surprise Europa League finalists Fulham in the tricky trip to Bolton Wanderers (15:00) that in my view are relegation candidates unless striker Johan Elmander comes to form this season. Everton travel to Blackburn Rovers (15:00) with playmaker Mikel Arteta signing a five-year contract extension, Sunderland host a promising Birmingham City (15:00) that I feel will do well in their second season under Alex McLeish and Blackpool may just be the surprise of this season like Hull City was two seasons ago, starting with a trip to Wigan Athletic (15:00) that are relegation candidates in my view along with Wolverhampton Wanderers that host Tony Pulis’ gritty Stoke City at Molineux (15:00).
…let the games begin!
The 2009/10 season saw a competitiveness that long has been missing from the Premier League and ensured the title race was more pulsating till the closing weekend as well as the tussle for European spots. This competitiveness most importantly broke the hold of the ‘Big Four’ on the lucrative top four places with Liverpool finishing poor at seventh behind Aston Villa, Manchester City and my team of last season, Tottenham Hotspur that grabbed the final UEFA Champions League spot in a fourth place finish; a position made so coveted by Arsenal’s knack of snatching it with a late season surge at it in previous seasons.
Arsenal have been unlike itself in the transfer market this term, resisting the urge of snapping up teenage talent and instead acquiring two players in their mid-twenties and one with quite some mileage of experience in Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh.
The tanned Chamakh will serve to truly bolster the Gunners forward line that heavily depended on Robin van Persie last season as evident in the grave reduction in goals average in the four/five months the Dutch striker was out injured. Now with Chamakh around, the Premier League should most probably brace up for a potent strike pair and in the event van Persie falls to injury; he can’t just help it, Dane Nicklas Bendtner will prove useful then along with Theo Walcott and Carlos Vela.
The Gunners hope to once again step up from being also rans to actually challenge for the title last won in 2004 is further fuelled by the arrival of Laurent Koscielny from Ligue 1 outfit Lorient; a similarly dicey buy as Thomas Vermaelen was when he arrived from Ajax last season. The defender with Polish descent is an even bigger gamble by manager Arsene Wenger seeing as he was only playing in Ligue 2 two seasons ago.
The most important part of Arsenal’s title potential is succeeding in keeping captain Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates after his home town club Barcelona tried once again to bring him to the Camp Nou. But will Fabregas have his heart on football for Arsenal this season?
Also going for an unlikely challenge for the title is bitter neighbours Tottenham, which performed out of their skins last season to finish fourth largely thanks to the ingenious of manager Harry Redknapp. The Lilywhites must however step their game up a notch or two to seriously make a title push especially with the added responsibility of Champions League football, pending the little matter of a final qualifying round duel with Young Boys of Switzerland that the Londoners are favourites to win.
Tottenham’s undoing however will be concentrating on performing better than Arsenal in all competitions, something not likely to happen for a while still and thus stunting the potential of Spurs this season as it has in previous seasons. Manchester City’s passionate push to be better than Manchester United is unmatched yet United still is better…same goes for the north London rivalry.
If Spurs and City can however concentrate on themselves rather than their rivals, then Redknapp’s genius and the millions at Roberto Mancini’s disposal will bring the much desired result both sides seek. Until then though, Spurs may likely perform just as they did last season…just not better than that and it can only be worse from their, same for City despite the arrivals of Yaya Toure, Aleksandr Kolarov and David Silva.
This opens a window for Liverpool to not only make a return to the top four after last season’s dismal finish but also to truly challenge for the title like in 2008/09 and with new manager Roy Hodgson bringing his compact efficient tactics of last season’s Fulham to Anfield, it is fair to see Liverpool being more than also rans.
Safe for an unsettled Javier Mascherano that has stated his desire to leave (illogical in my view), Hodgson has Kop favourites Steven Gerard and Fernando Torres to work with along with new arrival Joe Cole and since he could make the Europa League final with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Zoltan Gera and Danny Murphy, so much more is expected from Hodgson this term.
As if the pressure of replicating his success at Craven Cottage is not enough however, the two-decade yearn of Kop faithful to lift the league trophy and stay one better than arch-rivals Manchester United as (on paper) the most successful football club in England may just truncate the Reds ambition to end a long wait to win the league title.
I’m not a big fan of the Nigerian film industry aped Nollywood (I meant to say named) and if you asked me now I can think of only a very few productions that have really made/left their mark with Oléku still my favourite Nigerian film many years since it came, and a new film titled Ijé may just join that elite few…may.
I haven’t seen the film and I probably won’t anytime soon. My focus is the origin of the script for the film that reportedly sold out its first screening at a cinema on the Island. The script of Ijé is actually the (or part of the) thesis of a Nigerian student of the prestigious New York Film Academy… Ah! Someone’s final year project o!
I’m confident delivery of roles in the film isn’t an issue; Genevieve Nnaji’s come a long way to her current stardom, Clem Ohaneze more so and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde even more so. The foreign cast in the film, including Ulrich Que, also have pretty cool repute attached to them unlike previously where just any white-skinned fellows would do.
Otherwise all that, Ijé’s script most probably has been adapted in a previous production here but imperatively, the difference (what would be going for Ijé) would be the quality of the script (that New York school no be small thing o) and delivery from the cast…it’s about quality people.
So I wonder if the Federal Government, in the melee of its acceptance of every financial requests in the billions of recent, will consider a string of ideas from budding Nigerians as us who are just about prepped to pounce on the slightest window of opportunity at partaking of the infamous national cake or what’s the benefit of a documentary. The Director of this ‘epic’ production better retire when s/he’s done with it because N250m begins to describe what it takes to produce a Hollywood movie.
So here’s my proposal to the FG – an Obelisk 50ft high with lights at the top that will shine into the night sky; lights capable of illuminating whatever the FG wants illuminated, from a N5000 note to the EFCC logo. I’ll go with the latter.
If that seems far fetched for them, I’ll go with a proposal to create a Nigerian Thesaurus which should be greatly beneficial to those who want to know the real, present day Nigeria. A peek of what the Thesaurus will contain goes thus:
Loan (vrb.): the act of being approached for financial assistance without insurance or assurance of repayment. A popular action among undergraduates.
Maga (n./vrb.): where two parties or one party in cooperation with two or more parties become affiliated to/with each other for the sake of benefits inherent.
National Cake (n.): the whole of a lump of massive finance available to very few. Not to be mistook for national cakes made for independence anniversaries of other countries. Ambition for it is found rampant in the echelons of power.
Nigerian Factor (adv.): a concept used to describe the complex complicated nature of reality in an immediate environment and events therein. Similar to Nigerian Mentality which is genetically inherited, Nigerian Factor is physically inherited. Concept is aptly captured in the education sector, Admissions Office.
Nigerian Mentality (adv.): an aura of total pessimism displayed consistently due to influence(s) of factors in the immediate environment. Definition is aptly captured when a neighbourhood in the country enjoys uninterrupted power supply for 30 hours or more, residents start to wonder if the transformer won’t overload and pack up soon as a result.
©δ.õÁ 06/08/2010 ™