Tag: everton

The Glory of the FA Cup: Everton vs West Ham

And you all thought domestic tournaments could not bring the same passion and excitement of continental ones.

Going down to ten men is kind of like forgetting your tie and left shoe on your wedding day. You look awkward, you’re unsure how to continue the current task, and by the time you’re done dancing your unshoed foot is so tired you will need a week’s rest before you think of walking off the couch to the refrigerator and back. Everton got a red card in the 56th minute yesterday. Typically, this would lead to 34 minutes of agonizing work for the ten men that are left on the pitch. Yesterday was different in that the ten men found a way back in the game an exceptional dribble from Kevin Mirallas who found a streaking Lukaku whom clumsily tapped the ball home to knot the game at one and send it to extra time. Extra time was more of the same. Everton held on and defended well and found themselves with chances on the counter. Again, Kevin Mirallas was involved in the go-ahead Toffee goal. Check out his free kick below:
We thought it was written in the stars that Everton would come away victorious but Carlton Cole, after just two minutes on the field, scored the equalizer in the 112th minute.

This locked the game and sent it to penalties.

Penalties are like flipping a coin. My sister could score on Gianluigi Buffon if he guessed the wrong way. They are a difficult end to a hard fought game. What surprised me about these pens was that Leighton Baines shot so late in Everton’s lineup. But that doesn’t matter.

Continue reading “The Glory of the FA Cup: Everton vs West Ham”

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Mario Balotelli Gets Crazy New Haircut Before Liverpool Game Against Everton

Mario Balotelli got this for Liverpool’s upcoming derby against Everton. I believe the design is a Liverbird underneath a golden sky. Normally I would think these haircuts are too ostentatious but I think this is pretty cool. Only soccer players could get away with a haircut like this. Imagine going into your work tomorrow with this haircut? You’d be fired on the spot.

English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 2

6 weeks ago, I posted predictions for the upcoming Premier League season.  If you happened to miss it you can read the article here.  With the transfer window half over, here are my updated predictions based on rosters and rumors as of today.  Over at premierleague.com, you can view the latest up-to-date official transfers for all the Premier League clubs.

Tier 1

1) Manchester United (+0) – Eerily quiet in the transfer window for the Red Devils.  However, you know the old motto: “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it”.  If they start the season with their current squad, they should remain favorites to repeat.  However, losing Rooney would put a big chink in their armor, especially if it is to another Premier League club.

2) Manchester City (+1) – What a difference 6 weeks makes.  I had Chelsea at the #2 spot last prediction, but Manchester City has made two more key signings.  To go along with Jesus Navas and Fernadinho, they also added Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic to their attacking side.  These are two great signings and much needed with the departure of Balotelli last season and Tevez most recently.  Aguero, Negredo, Jovetic give City top class options at the attacking positions.  We’ll see how Jovetic fairs in his first Premier League season.

3) Chelsea (-1) – Chelsea has been quiet since the transfer window opened.  Only adding Andre Schurrle, who was an early summer signing.  They missed out on Cavani, who ended up at PSG.  Can they steal Rooney from United as the reports suggest they are trying to do?  If Rooney does make a move to the Blues, it would certainly close the gap among the top 3.  However, I was expecting another high profile signing or two by now which is why they dropped below the ambitious Manchester City.

Tier 2

4) Tottenham (+1) – For now, Bale is still a Hotspur.  However, if the latest reports are true regarding Real Madrid’s bid, maybe not for long.  As of today though, they have added Paulinho, who is a good signing to bolster the midfield.  They are also in advanced talks to sign Soldado which would be a great signing as they are in need of a quality striking option.  With that said, if Bale leaves, you can kiss 4th place goodbye.  I see 4th as their highest possible finish, but could drop to as low as 6th or even 7th should Bale depart.

5) Arsenal (-1) – Arsenal’s transfer rumors have been discussed at length on this site and there is seemingly a different development daily.  With that said, their ONLY signing thus far is Yaya Sanogo, a French U-20 International with a checkered injury record.  They missed out on likely transfers Higuain and Jovetic, and have put all their focus on signing the controversial Luis Suarez.  They have done very well in clearing out some of the dead weight that has plagued them for a few seasons, they just need to fill those spots with some quality signings now to challenge the top 3.  Suarez would obviously bump them up to the top tier while simultaneously dropping Liverpool into the Tier 3 range.  We’ll see how Arsenal’s summer plays out but this could be the make or break year as they always seem to be a few players away.  I don’t see them dropping any lower than 5th, so they can only go up from here depending on who they happen to acquire.

Tier 3

6) Liverpool (+0) – Not too much has changed with Liverpool since the last post.  Suarez is still on the squad, for now.  They did ship the struggling Pepe Reina off to Napoli and brought in Simon Mignolet as a replacement and potential upgrade.  Otherwise, they have been fairly quiet this offseason which doesn’t bode well for an above average squad.  Should they lose Suarez, they would need to replace him with two quality signings to remain in tier 2.

7) Everton (+0) – Also having a quiet transfer window thus far.  They did bring in Arouna Kone from Wigan, which could be a good risk/reward type of transfer should he stay healthy.  If they can hang onto Baines and Fellaini, and add another quality player or two, they could potentially fight for a Champions League spot, but as of now are a couple signings away from that level.

Tier 4

8) Swansea (+0) – Swansea has been relatively busy this transfer window.  They have added a few good players that should help them finish in the top half of the table yet again.  Wilfried Bony should prove to be a great signing to take some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.  Jonathan De Guzman could be a valuable loan signing that will solidify their midfield, while Jonjo Shelvey will look for a career resurgence after his move from Liverpool.  I look for Swansea to be a pesky team for the top clubs and certainly not an easy club to earn points from.

9) Newcastle United (+0) – Still no forward replacement for Ba.  However, they have retained all of their important players and look to rebound from a disappointing campaign last season.  They have the talent, let’s see if that leads to results this time around.  The chemistry should be there this season if they can maintain focus.

10) Southampton (Unranked) – Rounding out the top 10 I think will be Southampton.  They have only made two signings so far, but two signings that will greatly improve their squad.  By spending a combined 20m on Defender Dejan Lovren and Forward Victor Wanyama, they added quality to both ends of the pitch.  Wanyama could be one of the most underrated Premier League signings this season.

Dropped from top 10: Fulham

Tottenham and Manchester City have made the highest impact signings so far, which is represented by their bump up in the projected table.  I have a feeling this will be a very interesting final month of the transfer window.  I will post my final predictions following deadline day, once the clubs are finalized at least until January.

Have your own predictions?  Want to win a free jersey?  Check out the details on our Premier League Prediction contest and submit an entry before it’s too late!

English Premier League Predictions for 2013/2014 – Part 1

All of the top European leagues are now completed for the 2012/2013 seasons and the transfer season is now upon us.  What better way to close out a season than to look toward the next season?  There has been a noticeable increase in searches for Premier League predictions for the upcoming season so I will offer my personal predictions before, during, and after the transfer window in three separate parts.  The first part is now, mainly based on transfer rumors and the squads from last season.  Around the end July/beginning of August, part two will be available as an update to how the transfer window is shaking out.  Part three will commence on September 1st following transfer deadline day as all squads will be final for the most part.

Check out my first ever prediction post from last season as a part of my prediction history and also if you need to refer to last season’s final table.

Here is how I see the top 10 stacking up for the 2013/2014 season as of today:

Tier 1

1) Manchester United – I think they are strong enough to repeat as Champions, especially if they can keep Rooney and Chicharito.  If Rooney leaves, it all depends who they bring in to replace him.  But as of today, they are still the favorites in my book to win the title once again.

2) Chelsea – With the recent addition of Andre Schurrle, Chelsea have added a quality young (22 years old) forward who will only get even better with time.  Schurrle, Hazard, Mata, and Oscar are a great young nucleus to build a squad around.  With the impending departure of Terry, I could see Chelsea bolstering the back four with a transfer or two and if they do, they could contend for the title.  I think Chelsea adds at least 2-3 more high profile transfers.  Possible additions being Cavani, Hulk and a top defender or two.

3) Manchester City – They are definitely spending cash early on in the transfer window by adding Jesus Navas and Fernandinho for a combined £50 million.  Are they good players?  Absolutely.  Are they top class players that will propel Manchester City to a title?  Probably not.  I think there are better ways to spend £50 million than on two “good” midfielders in their late 20’s.  When you already have Yaya Toure, David Silva, Nasri, Javi Martinez, and even James Milner, it’s already a bit crowded in the midfield.  Also throw in the possible departure of Dzeko and Tevez and you have a squad that has not improved from last season.  They will have to spend wisely the rest of the summer if they wish to contend for the title.  However, if you throw Cavani and/or Hulk into the mix, that would instantly make them a much better squad so I don’t think they are too far away.

Tier 2

4) Arsenal – Finally a transfer window where they aren’t selling their top players.  The opposite is occurring as they are dumping the dead weight that has handcuffed them for the past few seasons.  With all the rumored purchases (some highlighted here), you would think they would get at least a couple of them.  However, Arsene Wenger has disappointed before so this is a ‘wait and see’ situation before anyone can tell if Arsenal will be contenders this season.  As of now, they are behind the top 3, but ahead of the next tier of squads.  They are in their own tier at the moment and it all depends if Wenger can bring in top quality this summer.  If they add a Higuain, David Villa, and/or Jovetic, then they could get a bump up into the top tier.  However, if they sit back and buy mediocre talent and don’t bring any top quality in, they will be forced to fight it out with Spurs/Liverpool/Everton for a 4th place “trophy” once again.

Tier 3

5) Tottenham – A 5th place finish here is solely dependent on retaining Bale.  They were a top 5 squad last season because Bale carried them and earned the squad countless points throughout the season.  If he leaves, so does their hope of finishing in the top 4.  However, if they can somehow retain Bale and add one or two quality starters, they can absolutely push Arsenal for a 4th place finish next season.

6) Liverpool – Similar to Tottenham, Liverpool’s spot here is dependent upon retaining Suarez.  He is their scoring machine who can single-handedly win matches, much like Bale for Tottenham.  They have added a couple decent transfers thus far in Kolo Toure and Iago Aspas, but nothing that will make them significantly better than last season.

7) Everton – The departure of manager David Moyes to Manchester United has been the biggest blow so far this offseason.  I would imagine Moyes would be looking to bring with him some of his top players he brought into Everton.  Rumors of Leighton Baines and Fellaini being linked to a move to United comes as no surprise.  Should they lose even one of those players, they are in trouble with regards to challenging for a Champions League birth.  On top of that, they are in desperate need of a quality striker.  They have some work to do this transfer window.

Tier 4

This tier is very difficult to predict considering just 8 points separated 9 clubs from 8th all the way down to 16th.  With that in mind, here’s the squads in the next tier that I see finishing in the top half of the table:

8) Swansea – A fairly young club with one of the best Premier League scorers from last season, they should improve upon a relatively successful season.  Michu is obviously the man that makes them tick.  As he scores, the club earns points.  Unfortunately, there is not much help from the rest of the squad in the scoring department.  Their defense should be better with 20 year old Ben Davies getting a full season under his belt.  I look for them to add a couple mid-level talent transfers to provide depth up front, which could go along way to taking some of the goal scoring pressure off of Michu.

9) Newcastle United – One of the more disappointing squads last season (aside from QPR), Newcastle looks to regain its 2011/2012 form that saw them push for a top 4 finish.  The loss of Demba Ba to Chelsea obviously hurt their goal scoring chances.  However, they are a relatively young squad and with players like Cisse, Cabaye, Tiote, and Ben Arfa, they have the quality to make a run at the Tier 3 clubs.  Let’s see if they can add a forward to replace Ba this transfer window.  If they do, I could bump them up to as high as 5th depending on the player(s) brought in.  

10) Fulham – Fulham had a horrible last two months of the season, only earning 4 points out of a possible 24.  This bad run of form entrenched them at the middle of the table after beginning the season with a promising run of form.  Fulham is an aging squad that will need to be replaced with some youth in the upcoming seasons.  Berbatov will be another year older, but he is still a clinical finisher.  The ageless Mark Schwarzer will also be 41 next season so his days are numbered, however, he is still one of the better Premier League keepers despite his age.  This doesn’t mean they can’t finish in the top half of the table next season, it just means they are a club on decline and need to infuse some youth if they would like to improve.

Keep in mind these predictions are mostly based on last years squads so obviously there’s not much movement from last season’s final table.  With that said, there should be some more shuffling in the  predictions as the transfer market takes shape so these are far from my final predictions for the upcoming season.

UPDATE: Make sure you read my updated predictions here.

Have your own predictions?  Want to win a free jersey?  Check out the details on our Premier League Prediction contest and submit an entry before it’s too late!

Transfer Rumors Heating Up

Even though some of the top transfer targets already found new homes, that’s not to say transfer rumors are lacking thus far.  Let’s take a look at some recent targets being linked with new clubs.

Edinson Cavani – ESPN is reporting increased interest by Chelsea as expressed by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.  The potential €63 million move (Cavani’s release clause) would be a Barclay’s Premier League record.  Demba Ba is a quality Premier League striker, but does not have the quality of the top strikers of the world.  Cavani is a special talent who would instantly propel Chelsea back to being Premier League favorites.

Fabio Contrao – Not exactly a ‘high profile’ transfer target, but it is noteworthy who he is being linked with.  Once again, Monaco is looking to splash even more cash and, most recently, has been linked with the Real Madrid/Portuguese defender.  After already booking the talents of Falcao, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho, and Ricardo Carvalho, Monaco looks to add top quality to become relevant again and with these signings, they may be more than just relevant in the near future.

Gonzalo Higuain – Arsenal reportedly has a substantial cash reserve and with another year in Champions League action, they should be able to attract some top talent and not be providers of top talent to the rest of Europe as was the case the past few years.  Out of favor striker Higuain is the latest, and most probable, world class player to be linked with a move to the Emirates.  Arsenal have reportedly submitted a £19 million offer to Real Madrid.  Let’s see how this one plays out but of all the Arsenal transfer rumors, this one seems the most likely.

Marouane Fellaini – It’s been reported that Arsenal have triggered Fellaini’s £24 million release clause.  Fellaini would be a big boost to the Arsenal defensive midfield that has been lacking since the departure of Alex Song prior to last season.  However, would Everton be willing to part with their star player?  He certainly would add a different dimension to Gunner’s squad.

Cesc Fabregas – After departing Arsenal for his dream club, he may not be as happy as he thought he would be playing at Camp Nou.  Which is why speculation is growing with a move back to England.  His family happens to still live in England.  He has always loved Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.  Arsenal is not the only club being linked to the Spanish International, Manchester United are also rumored to be interested.   However, Arsenal have the advantage with the transfer clauses they implemented with Barcelona as stipulations for the move.  Arsenal’s release clause for Cesc is set at only £25 million.  They also have a built in fee clause that gives Arsenal half of the transfer fee should Barcelona sell Cesc to another squad.  Meaning, United would have to offer Barcelona £50 million to match an Arsenal offer of £25 million since the £50 million would be split by Barcelona and Arsenal.  Should Cesc leave Camp Nou this summer, which is still unlikely at this point, it would most likely be back to Arsenal and not United.

Reviewing My Barclay’s Premier League Predictions

Back in early February, I posted an article that predicted the end of season table for the top clubs in the Barclay’s Premier League.  Lets take a look at how my predictions compare to the final table:

2012/2013 Premier League Table
2012/2013 Premier League Table

My predictions:

  1. Manchester United – I don’t see a collapse here, they are way too strong of a squad and look to finish out the Premier League season rather comfortably to win the title yet again.  Verdict: Correct.  United were under no pressure from the rest of the Premier League and won the title with weeks to spare.
  2. Manchester City – They do not have the firepower and consistency this season to catch United, but I do not see them slipping below 2nd  and I don’t envision another club going on an epic run to catch them.  Verdict: Correct.  City was under no real threat to give up the 2nd spot as the clubs below them were concentrating on 3rd and 4th.  
  3. Chelsea – They had a great start to the season then faded the last couple of months.  They should regain form and I believe they retain the 3rd spot.  Verdict: Correct.  Maybe I do know what I am talking about after all.  Spot on to how Chelsea closed the season.
  4. Arsenal – Arsenal’s summer signings (Giroud and Podolski) are now clicking on all cylinders.  Injuries have plagued them in the past and they do not have a deep bench so if they can stay healthy, I think they squeak into the last Champion’s League spot.  Verdict: Correct.  Arsenal was able to stay healthy and this is exactly where I saw them finishing with that happening.  
  5. Tottenham – With shades of 2011/2012, the Spurs miss out on the Champion’s League to their North London rival.  I think the 4th/5th spots will come down to Arsenal or Tottenham and based on how Tottenham finished last season, I don’t have much confidence in their ability to finish strong.  Verdict: Correct.  Up 7 points on Arsenal with 2 months to go, I was getting nervous until I remembered this is Tottenham we’re talking about and they love to collapse at season’s end.  3 collapses in 3 years.
  6. Liverpool – Recent draws against Arsenal and Manchester City should be seen as positives even though they had a 2-0 lead in the 2nd half against the Gunners.  They are starting to score goals with the help of a new signing in Daniel Sturridge.  Coutinho also provides a burst of midfield youth so I see them improving on last season and taking the 6th spot.  Verdict: Close.  I missed Liverpool finishing in 6th by 2 points, so sue me. 
  7. Everton – I think they finish at the same spot they finished last season.  They had a good run of form but have to start turning those draws into 3 points if they want to contend for a Champion’s League spot.  I think they pull a Tottenham and fade down the stretch.  Verdict: Close.  Everton did fade down the stretch, but not as much as I thought they would.  A physical squad that is just a couple of quality players away from Champions League action, in my opinion.  

After going through those predictions, you might think I knew what I was talking about somewhat.

Take that SkySports and ESPN Soccernet.

Over the summer, I will be providing my “expert” predictions for the 2013/2014 season.  I will also be providing analysis on the summer transfer window week to week so stay tuned for the latest signings and analysis of each.  In the meantime, enjoy the Champions League Final this weekend as there will be plenty to discuss following Saturdays German clash.

 

 

So Long Sir Alex, Hello _________?

You all already know that Sir Alex Ferguson has announced he will be stepping into an administrative role effective at the end of this season. You all know that he is the best British manager of all-time. You all know that his direction has created a global culture of mighty red soccer only rivaled by mega-giant Real Madrid. He is a legend. He is a footballing god. He is an incredible story and one that could have ending before it started when he was almost sacked in the early 90’s. And now he is gone in every sense but the literal one. Still a few games remain in the swan song of his career. And the question remains for us (apparently the team was told who the replacement will be at training this morning) who will replace this man? Who can come into an incredible opportunity and continue the ridiculous success that Manchester United has become accustomed to?

The answer is not overly simplistic. There are many viable candidates for the job.

1) The self-proclaimed Special One

Could we be seeing this celebratory slide at Old Trafford next season?

Mourinho is a great option for Manchester United. He has proven his managing ability in each of the top three leagues in the world. He has won trophies with Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He has managed some of the most unmanageable players in the world. But, he is rumored to be on his way back to the land of the overly rich and incredibly insecure, the Chelsea Abramovich’s. Does he really want to go back to where he was so cruelly sacked? I don’t think so. I also think that his close relationship with Sir Alex is playing a major role in why Ferguson is stepping down now. He has set it up. Mourinho’s desire to leave has already been out in the open. Manchester United is high profile. Mourinho is high profile. He wants to be back in England. I think it’ll be in red.

2) David Moyes

Does he have what it takes to succeed at this level?

David Moyes is an incredible manager. He has turned zero transfer budget into a well-built machine of a team that was only a few results away from a spot in the Europa or in an incredible season the Champion’s League. With the budget he has, there was never a chance to win the league but he has continually proven to mold a team that will fight and scrap til the end. Fellaini and Baines could possibly be out at the summer transfer window and it is the right time for this boss to make the jump to the big time. I am not convinced that this will happen but all the tabloids seem to feel that it will.

3) My man Klopp

That smile and energy could bring any team to victory

Brought a team from the bottom half of the Bundesliga with a less than satisfactory budget to become Bundesliga champions. Check. Brought said team to the Champion’s League final using many homegrown players brought through the Dortmund youth system. Check. Jurgen Klopp is touted as the next big manager in the game. “Next” should be switched to now. He is the real deal. He is devoted to his teams as he showed when he managed Mainz 05 even after they were relegated. He loves his job. His passion is relentless and his philosophies are apparent in his teams play. Could his style be successful in the Premier League with a team selected from the cream of the crop? Probably but it would be a transition from Fergie’s ways and do the Glazer’s have that kind of time to wait? I know the fans are expecting instant success. This is a long shot but a move I am secretly holding out for.

This is an exciting time for English Football Management. I use the term management because it can be argued that the Bundesliga has overtaken the Premiership as the best league in the world. Two massive jobs are open and there are plenty of well-qualified and hungry managers ready to grab the.

What do you think will be the outcome? Will United make the right choice or find themselves struggling to compete for a Champion’s League spot next season?