Posts Tagged ‘Chelsea’

It was a keenly contested one. In fact, I was at the edge of my seat when the players lined up to shake each other’s hand. The Handshake Showdown last night was just in-fucking-sane.

The football however was definitely a sweet moment for Manchester United, for no other reason than the fact that they go top even if it is only for twenty four hours or so. You can’t really do much about your opponents, you can only win your games and hope for the best.

It is for this reason that the Devils will be happy with their performance, not because they defeated a Liverpool team that contained a member of the Nazi Party. Of course, the media will have you believe otherwise.

This bit however will only focus on the football that was played, the rest being nothing more than a distraction as far as I’m concerned.

1) The first half was very ordinary, nothing remotely exciting happened. United held the lion’s share of possession throughout the match, but especially so in the first half. Liverpool didn’t really have an attempt at goal barring that Glen Johnson opportunity, if I remember correctly.

2) Here’s the customary “Paul Scholes is so fucking good” sentence. Who would think that Paul Scholes hasn’t played between May and January? I certainly wouldn’t. He and Michael Carrick combined really well in the middle of the park. They passed really well and switched the play from left to right really quickly, feeding Valencia and Rafael on the right who gave Luis Enrique a forgettable match for sure.

However, as good as United’s midfield was, Liverpool’s was (there’s really no other way to say this) shit. Henderson, Spearing and Gerrard were abysmal and gave all the time and space in the world for Carrick and Scholes to play the ball around.
I was a little disappointed with Giggs though, I thought he had a fairly average game then again he’s been very consistent this season, so he’s allowed one off game now and then.

3) Danny Welbeck has been improving with every game this season. He’s added a lot of new things to his game – he drifts out wide, he makes runs in behind the defender, he holds the ball up really well and therefore connects play between midfield and attack. The last reason is probably why he’s being picked ahead of Hernandez consistently.

Welbeck also plays those quick one-two’s with Rooney and both of them have a good partnership going.

4) Wayne Rooney takes his tally to 21 this season, if I’m not mistaken. His brace was definitely well taken, but he should’ve perhaps had a hat trick to his name after Scholes’ dummy saw him get the ball in the penalty area, but toe poke well wide. It was a good quick two goals, killing off any bit of Liverpool enthusiasm.

5) For all those Liverpool fans that are expecting me to say something about the match from a Red Mersey perspective, let me tell you that there isn’t much to say. Liverpool was ordinary throughout the match except when Suarez got that poacher’s goal.

6) That goal was Suarez’s second most telling contribution to the game (the first being the handshake). Naturally, he’ll be remembered for the handshake and not the goal.

The defending from United was piss poor. What was Rio Ferdinand doing? Last week against Chelsea, he should’ve maybe been tighter to David Luiz when he scored and this time he just watches as the ball hits him and falls to Suarez.

Naturally, injuries have ravaged United’s central defensive pairing, but I think they have missed Vidic the most. They have a whole bunch of young talented defenders, but Vidic just makes your team so much more impenetrable.

A word of praise for Jonny Evans who looks like he’s getting his mojo back. He definitely looked a more capable defender than Rio Ferdinand yesterday.

7) After the goal, Liverpool started to push players up and De Gea was called upon to make a good save from Glen Johnson. The last ten minutes was the only period in which Liverpool looked like they were participating in a competitive football match. I’m sure the supporters were glad they finally woke up.

8) You’d have to wonder how long Liverpool are going to stick with Dalglish. This was a rotten performance by Liverpool, if you’re a fan I’m sure. There was no desire to win it. It looked like a stroll in the park for United, although the score line doesn’t really suggest that. The desire and passion definitely does come from the manager and if this is the kind of desire and passion they might as well have stuck with Rafa Benitez, who would (if nothing else) lit a fire in them and sent them out for a game against United. You’d have thought Kenny would know all about this fixture, but well, you saw it yourself.

A word on a few other Saturday fixtures

 

1) How long before Andre Villas Boas gets the sack? Yesterday the fan’s too got on his back with chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” and “You don’t know what you’re doing”.

Even Sir Alex has been at the receiving end of such chants at the beginning of his United career, but he had a far more boss in Martin Edwards unlike AVB who has Abramovich.

A 2-0 defeat at Everton a week after they squandered a 3-0 lead against United isn’t exactly the best for Chelsea.

In the fight for that fourth Champions League spot, Arsenal were the biggest gainers after Chelsea and Newcastle suffered defeats.

2) Swansea were beaten for only the second time at home this season by Norwich. That’s an incredible stat. Any team that’s played at the Liberty Stadium will tell you how hard it is. So cheers to Norwich who are now 8th in the Premier League.

And there’s La Liga

 

Where Barcelona managed to lose to Osasuna giving Real Madrid the chance to open up a ten point lead at the top of the table if they win tonight.

Transfer records went tumbling on deadline day yesterday. I expected a lot of activity but the amount of money that was thrown around really surprised me. January transfer window is usually full of speculation but very little transfer activity takes place. Mid-Season transfer are considered to be risky and unless there is an emergency clubs usually stay away from buying. Even players like Nemanja Vidic have struggled to make an impact immediately after coming in during the January transfer window.

The most high profile transfer was that Fernando Torres to Chelsea.The Blues also signed David Luiz from Benfica. The Luiz transfer had been going on and off the entire window, but I think it was a necessity for the Londoners to sign a Center Back given their lack of cover in the area. Chelsea fans would now love to see the back of Paulo Ferreira.

Once auditioned for a role as Side Show Bob.

Considering Liverpool’s position at the moment, I expected Torres to leave Liverpool soon. But I never expected him to hand in a transfer request 3 days before the window shuts. Torres has not been great this season but then again their whole team is struggling badly. The arrival of Dalglish has made a difference but it seems it wasn’t enough for Torres. One can’t blame Torres for wanting to leave but the manner in which he has left would have certainly angered the Liverpool supporters. A £50million offer was too good to refuse as far as Liverpool were concerned (and we privately agree, £50million for a player who is crocked so often?).

LFC fans surely feel let down by a man they called a Club Legend

Let us get down to the most mind boggling transfer in the history of transfers – Andy Carroll. I think he has been excellent this season. But £35millon?? £35millon for a player who has only 41 appearances in the league has 14 goals! This is the 8TH most expensive transfer in football – more expensive than World Cup winning David Villa. Andy Carroll (and every other English player still active in the world) has no idea what a World Cup medal looks like. Andy Carroll – much like his most expensive English brethren also suffers from disciplinary issues off the pitch. We clearly see him following in the path of Rooney, Ferdinand and Gerrard in that sense.

If he's worth 35 million, how much is Ronaldo or Messi worth?

This clearly is a panic buy from Liverpool. The Merseysiders are seventh in the league. Regardless of who they sign (barring maybe Messi) they are not going to get into the Champions League. Why spend so heavily in the January window when you have to pay twice the price?  Also Dalglish doesn’t seem like the kind of manager who would approve this kind of transfer which makes you wonder how much say he has over transfers.

Final Verdict regarding these two transfers- I have a feeling Torres won’t make that big an impact at Chelsea like many think he will. I think Chelsea needed a creative midfielder more than a striker. It will be interesting to see where he plays, probably Anelka will be dropped. He will score goals but I doubt he will be able to justify the £50million Chelsea has paid for him. He will not be available for the Sunderland game which means he could make his debut against Liverpool! It will be a real heated game.

Darrent Bent went to Aston Villa for £24million.So Carroll who is younger should fetch more than that. Only if you apply that kind of logic will this transfer make sense. This is a lot of pressure on a young player. After all he is only 22.He could crumble under the weight of expectation. But if keeps his head Liverpool have a good player in hand. But like Torres, I think he will struggle to justify the £35millon transfer fee.

In one corner of Manchester, some people are really happy that some other club is paying ridiculous prices for players who aren’t quite up there. City have been surprisingly pretty quiet throughout this transfer window, splashing £27 million pounds in the direction of Edin Dzeko, which looking at all the other transfers in this window seems like a well thought out, measured and financially prudent move.

 

Transfer Round-up

Tottenham went on a rampage in the last 3 days bidding over 30 million for nearly  every single striker playing in La Liga and got rejected by all.Harry Redknapp is not too happy about it. Peter Crouch was video taped doing The Robot outside White Hart Lane.

Denilson last night shocked the football world and Arsenal supporters by demanding a move away from Arsenal.He later on changed his mind after the best bid he received was  £5.99 from Crawley town! Crawley then withdrew the bid thinking it was over priced.

Rangers have signed Kyles Bartley and El-Hadji Diouf on loan. Glad to see Diouf leave the premier league. Fulham have signed Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan and Aston Villa have secured Michael Bradley on loan till the end of the season. Paul Konchesky joined Nottingham Forrest on loan. Daniel Sturridge moved to Bolton on loan.

Seria A

Lot of transfer has taken place in Seria A.The best signing has to be that of Antonio Cassano by AC Milan. Milan have also signed Emanuelson from Ajax, Van bommel and Nicola Legrottaglie from Juventus.

Inter Milan made 2 excellent signings in the January window.They have signed Pazzini from Sampdoria and Andrea Ranocchia from Genoa.This will certainly help their squad.

La Liga

No major news in La Liga. Adebayor of course moved to Real Madrid on loan. Also don’t forget that Ibrahim Affelay’s transfer from PSV to Barcelona went through during this transfer window.

 

Hurray! The assorted knick knacks column is back after a really really long time. Snow prevented me from putting up updates for the past few weeks. I mean, what is up with that? Damn global warming. Or is it global cooling? Anyway, back to more important matters.

Man United beat Sunderland to stay on top

That’s the way its done best, if you’re on top, but you still have to come first if you know what I mean. Dimitar Berbatov bagged a brace in a game that started off with a bang for the Red Devils. Anderson hit the frame of the goal once and so did Berbatov. Berbatov took his chances quite well and played a very good role linking up play with the midfield.

Rooney too looked sharp, at least he did in the first half with some glorious cross field balls. However in the second half, Roonaldo was anonymous. Its a good thing United didn’t win a penalty though.

Anderson had a really good game. His midfield runs sometimes leaves the opposition wondering as to how to stop him – its somewhat like a bull charging at you. His touches could be better and his execution when it comes to passing should definitely improve. He sees the pass, but when he releases the ball, its a fraction too late or a shade too powerful. Evra has challenged him to make consistent his sporadic pieces of brilliance. I hope he proves Evra wrong.

Like a bull in midfield (at times)

All in all a good game for Man United, not so much for Steve Bruce though. Bruce was without a lot of players especially in the Center Back role. Danny Welbeck was also ineligible as per the conditions of his loan deal, meaning Bruce was without a real goal scoring threat. Darren Bent was largely anonymous and Gyan just ran around a lot.

London Derby

It is official. Chelsea have forgotten how to win. And Drogba has forgotten how to score. Hah! I’m glad United aren’t the only team where the main striker has lost his goalscoring touch. Even he missed a penalty, mind you.

Lets be very fair, on the topic of Arsenal versus Chelsea, Arsenal deserved to win. They were the better team, they looked more incisive and most importantly they scored more goals.

Frank Lampard made his long awaited return for Chelsea but even he couldn’t inspire the Blues to a win or even to snatch a draw. It was a cracker of a game for neutrals, even in the first half to be honest, where only one goal was scored.

Chelsea started out better, with a little bit of creativity and some forward runs by Lampard. However once Arsenal got off first gear, there was no looking back. It was a really good move by Arsene Wenger to play Johann Djourou along with Koscielny as his Center Back pairing. Djourou was commanding in the air and won a lot of the air balls, and perhaps even negated the physical threat of Didier Drogba.

Good move, Mr Wenger

After Alex Song scored the first, I was pretty sure Arsenal were on their way to winning the game. Then when the second half kick started, Arsenal scored again through Fabregas. Chelsea had the ball nicked off them in midfield, well not really, but they did lose the ball in that area. Essien’s tackle put the ball in Walcott’s pass who squared the ball to Fabregas in order to avoid Cech’s charge and the Arsenal skipper made to mistake.

The third goal happened within two minutes of that. Chelsea had the ball nicked off them in midfield. Feels like I just typed that. Oh wait, I did. This time Fabregas played in Walcott who put it in the net.

Chelsea did look like they might recover actually. Ivanovic headed a goal home from Didier Drogba’s free kick and you wondered whether Arsenal were going to, well.. do an Arsenal. Ivanovic later on made another charging run only for Drogba to take the ball off him at the crucial moment and hit an Arsenal defender from his shot.

It didn’t look like Chelsea’s day and to be very fair, Ancelotti didn’t have too much on the bench to change things around. Mikel had started but was anonymous so he was subbed at half time for Ramires (who did close to nothing). Malouda lost the ball for Arsenal’s third and he paid the price by making his way for – – GAEL KAKUTA, an experienced youngster – isn’t that an oxymoron? Ancelotti’s third attacking move was to bring on Bosingwa for Fereirra. Bosingwa’s only contribution was to shoot from really far out and miss completely.

On the Arsenal squad – Van Persie did a good shift as center forward. Held the ball up, good link up play. Only disappointed with him for this one chance where maybe he could have played in Walcott but instead decided to go for it himself from a really difficult angle. He didn’t get a goal, but his contribution wasn’t unnoticed, for sure.

Walcott was good, his pace troubled the Chelsea defence. Although initially he struggled to get the better of Ashley Cole, but towards the second half it could be fair to say he made Ashley Cole his bitch – much to the delight of all the Arsenal fans, world over!

Fabregas was really good, even though he started off with a few misplaced passes. One of his turns in particular was simply sublime and he left two Chelsea players in his wake with that. Arsenal are glad to have him back I’m sure. Alex Song also put in a really good shift and even had a goal to his name at the end of the day.

Glad to have him back

Jack Wilshere ought to take a bow for his performance. I thought he’s be easily bullied out of the ball by the likes of Essien and Mikel, but he did really well to hold off the physical threat of Chelsea’s three man midfield. In particular there was an instance where he held off Essien and Ramires and eventually won a free kick for the Gunners.

Even Clichy didn’t look as vulnerable as he always does and you know that means that Arsenal are going to win the game.

So that means that Arsenal have gone to second place two points behind leaders Manchester United and on top of Man City because of superior goal difference.

Tottenham’s victory over Aston Villa

Just a small note on Arsenal’s arch-rivals as well. They were fantastic against Villa. Period. Even after Jermaine Defoe got sent off, they kept the ball really well and to be honest it looked like Villa was the team that was down to 10 men. Modric has rarely been given credit for the Lilywhites’ performances thus far. But hear this – Modric is sublime, they’ll miss him more than Gareth Bale in my opinion, some of the balls he picks out is simply beautiful. If you don’t believe me, go watch Spurs’ first goal against Villa and check out his pass to Alan Hutton, just before the goal was scored.

Take a bow, Luka.

 

The draws are out and Arsene Wenger will probably be wishing he kept his mouth shut.

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk

AC Milan v Tottenham

Valencia v Schalke

Inter Milan v Bayern Munich

Lyon v Real Madrid

Arsenal v Barcelona

Marseille v Manchester United

Copenhagen v Chelsea
We’ve watched most of these ties last season. Last seasons two finalists get it on and Munich have a shot at revenge which they’ll most likely get. Tottenham get to face the other team from Milan and they’ll find themselves at familiar ground when they go back to the San Siro.

Arsenal draw Barcelona. Nuff said.

 

 

Before I start of my weekly entry, I have to apologise to Dimitar Berbatov for not putting one up last week. I’m sure he’ll feel really bad that his 5 goal haul against Blackburn wasn’t mentioned on the illustrious blog that is Fever Pitch.

I’m sorry, Dimi.

The reason I didn’t update last week was because I thought I would do it after the Carling Cup ties and after the mauling United took at West Ham, I think I was just too depressed. Arsenal are now clear favourites to go on and win the Carling Cup and just as I predicted are on course to win a trophy, unless they really screw up like United did.

On to this week’s action though..

Manchester United’s tough game at Blackpool

I am, of course, joking. There was no game at Blackpool because their ground was frozen and they do not have under soil heating. I had read reports about this early in the week, last week and I was hoping they’d thaw it out in time. I think its ridiculous that Blackpool do not have under soil heating and and since they don’t, United should be given 3 points and consider the game a walkover. This is just my two cents of course, Ian Holloway will tell you something else.

Super Samir

Arsenal were playing at a place they’re not very comfortable playing at against Fulham this weekend. Most Arsenal fans were worried since the game was at the Emirates. Eventually the match was settled by two super strikers by Samir Nasri who showed such fantastic composure that you would be forgiven for thinking that he was an out and out striker.

Superman

Arsenal started off really well and created chance after chance after chance but failed to put them away until Samir Nasri’s strike gave them the lead. Fulham shockingly equalized very quickly after Kamara found himself onside and one on one with the keeper. It was quite amazing, both center backs just switched off and the score was 1-1. Arsenal looked like they might throw away a lead at home again.

Arsenal, however, managed to grind out a win, something they haven’t been able to do in previous seasons. Winning matches like this keep you in contention for the title. Van Persie played a gentle ball to an oncoming Samir Nasri who danced past the defence and maybe should have taken a shot, but then he made space for himself after luring out Mark Schwarzer but kept his cool and finished from a really tight angle. Any football fan should definitely watch the two goals.

That win propelled Arsenal to the top of the table since United didn’t play this weekend and now next weekend when Arsenal take on Man United at Old Trafford its a 1st versus 2nd clash like back in the good old days.

Champions still struggling

Another title contender and current Premier League champions only managed to pull of a draw at home against Everton. The last ten minutes or so of that game felt like they were playing at Goodison. Its rare that you see Chelsea on the back foot at Stamford Bridge, unless you saw the Sunderland game, that is, but here they were getting pushed back and back by Everton’s attack. Drogba put Chelsea in front through a penalty after Howard brought down Anelka in the box. Jermaine Beckford equalized for the Toffees and Everton earned a very good point at Stamford Bridge, but that makes it their 6th game without a win.

Serie Ahhh

In Italy, current European champions and league holders Inter Milan slipped to 6th place after losing to Lazio. Lazio are now in second place and AC Milan are top courtesy of a crushing victory over Brescia. Rafael Benitez has managed to screw things up at Inter Milan so lets all give him a big round of applause and a pat on his back. All I hope now is that he becomes the next Barcelona manager.

The one man who can screw up any utopia

Speaking of Barcelona..

What about the Clasico piece you ask? Well, what’s there to write about? Madrid got hammered and humiliated and Jose Mourinho claimed otherwise. Who is he kidding? It definitely was a humiliating event. If that isn’t humiliating, I don’t know what is.

But they managed to brush off their defeat to the Catalans and overcame Valencia thanks to a brace from Cristiano Ronaldo. However, Barcelona too won their match against Osasuna 3-0 courtesy of a brace from Lionel Messi and one from Pedro.

And to finally round off things..

Reigning Champions aren’t doing too well anywhere except in Spain. In Germany, Bayern Munich suffered another defeat and are in 7th place with 23 points. Leaders Borussia Dortmund are on 40 points, a good 17 points clear. So one good season and thats it?

North East London Derby

You have to credit Harry Redknapp for the victory at the Emirates. After watching his Spurs team go down 2-0 against Arsenal in the first half, he had the courage to change things around and go with a more attacking formation. The goals for Arsenal came from Samir Nasri who is fire for Arsenal and from Maroune Chamakh, a striker’s finish – the second goal.

The introduction of Jermaine Defoe at the start of the second switched Tottenham’s formation from (the generally used in tough games) 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2, a formation which Redknapp loves (given that he used it at the Inter Milan game at the San Siro). However, over there he was criticized for using the formation and maybe he realized himself that he made a mistake cause he switched it at half time.

Got it Right

I didn’t see Spurs coming back into the game. I didn’t think they had the will to do it. I thought they would in a sense “do a Spurs” and end up on the losing side, but they showed great heart and great urgency to come out on top. Rafael van der Vaart, Spurs’ signing of the season, played well for about 5 minutes during his entire time on the pitch, but what a difference he made in that time.

His first contribution was controlling the ball brilliantly and toe poking it to Gareth Bale who finished past Fabianski. His second was converting the penalty Fabregas gifted to Spurs. And his third was delivering the free kick which Kaboul headed past the Arsenal goalkeeper. Then he was taken off.

I do not understand what happened to the Arsenal players in the second half that they performed so abysmally. They were cruising in the first half having scored two and all they had to do was was keep possession of the ball, contain the Spurs offense and counter quickly, things they’re good at. Except perhaps containing the Spurs offense was a little bit too difficult and you have to credit the Lilywhites for that.

I read an interesting article on the Republik of Mancunia about the power shift in North East London, comparing it to the power shift in Manchester and perhaps the article has a point. Spurs have finished closer to Arsenal than City have when compared to Man United, yet nobody talks of a power shift in North London.

Spurs have another interesting fixture coming up, at home against Liverpool and it’ll be interesting to see if they can come up with the goods there as well – and I really think victory is possible for Spurs next week given they’re playing at White Hart Lane.

Rooturn

Excuse me for the really bad title for this one. It sounds like something right out of the Daily Mail. Nonetheless, the point is, Rooney returned and the fans didn’t boo him, nor did they ecstatically cheer him on as they would have if he hadn’t gone around whoring himself.

Oh yes, sorry. All this happened during a football game. Manchester United were playing Wigan at Old Trafford and Wigan were giving United some very nervous moments. N’Zogbia got the better of Rafael time and again and it was quite scary to see him charging down our right wing. After Nani started on the right, he was switched to the left, and Obertan played on the right.

Hernandez and Berbatov both had a poor game last time out at Villa Park and therefore Macheda got the nod. I do not understand why he has been played up front and alone. He really hasn’t thrived in that position. Macheda does well when he’s got a strike partner with him – which in this case was apparently Obertan, but nobody can really say for sure.

United did go ahead in the first half after Evra headed the ball into the goal post – a rare sight, that one. In the second half, Alcaraz chose to leave his common sense in the dressing room and unnecessarily tackled Darren Fletcher to pick up his second yellow card and he was off. Rodallega decided that Alcaraz shouldn’t feel lonely and decided to follow him after a two footed tackle on Rafael just a couple of minutes later. Wigan were down by one goal and down to nine men.

But they held on. Two seasons back if the same thing had happened you would have expected goals galore! But it didn’t happen. While United did boss possession (as you would have expected them to), and created chances, they really didn’t hammer Wigan for 5 (which they did twice last season when Wigan had 11 men!). Evra got a fantastic chance. Rooney did as well. Once the threat from the left had reduced, Rafael got up quite well and delivered some really good crosses in.

In the end, United won 2-0, not an outstanding display, but the result was fantastic considering the other results across the Premier League.

It really is Roman Abramograd FC

Carlo Ancelotti was looked on the bright side after losing their game to Birmingham. Then he was later quoted as saying that he doesn’t have as much control in Chelsea as Ferguson does at Man United. Contrast this to Ferguson’s statement “I am the most important man at this club and that’s the way it has to be”.

Not the most important man at Chelsea

At Chelsea, Abramovic is the most important man at the club and any manager working there should realize that they will never get full decision making powers. One third of the way into the season, your assistant manager may be sacked. Then you will have no say in the replacement either. After sometime you may get sacked, but then you just have to accept this as the hazards of being Chelsea manager.

Goal Fest in Spain

United couldn’t hit more than two past a 9 man Wigan, whereas Barcelona put 8 goals past Almeria. Madrid scored 5 against Athletic Bilbao. You have to compare the teams in Spain and England because I think eventually there may be a clash in the Champions League.

Look at the teams that are playing in the Champions League from England – Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Spurs.

Spurs – First timers in the Champions League and doing really well. Is their squad big enough though? They really don’t have enough center back cover when Michael Dawson is out. King is pretty much out all the time and Gallas can be very injury prone. Take out Van der Vaart from the equation and their creativity in midfield suffers. Pavlyuchenko, Keane and Crouch are all good strikers but none of them are World Class.

Man United – United have a decent number of strikers – Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Macheda, Owen – all good players. Its the width that matters at United. With Valencia out till February, no real wingers are available for Sir Alex. Giggs is an option, but he’s getting old and can’t play every game. Obertan has shown good skills at times, but isn’t really good enough for the Champions League in the knock out rounds. Nor is Bebe for sure (at the moment anyway). Park isn’t a winger, only he knows what he is.

Arsenal – They have a decent squad – Fabregas, Wilshere, Ramsey, Diaby, Denilson and Song in the center. Nasri, Arshavin, Rosicky, Walcott wide. Chamakh, Van Persie, Vela, JET up front, but then they are Arsenal and they might just screw it up nonetheless. I still feel that Arsenal has the best squad from England to compete in the Champions League, it’ll be interesting to see how they do compared to the other English teams.

Chelsea – Not a big enough squad. Full stop.

And now Spain –

Real Madrid – Attacking options – Ronaldo, Ozil, Higuain, Di Maria, Canales, Granero, Benzema. Midfield – Diarra, Diarra, Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Gago. Defense – Carvalho, Pepe, Albiol, Marcelo, Ramos, Garay.

FC Barcelona – Attacking options – David Villa, Messi, Iniesta, Pedro, Krkic. Midfield – Xavi, Keita, Mascherano, Busquets. Defense – Puyol, Pique, Alves, Milito, Maxwell, Abidal.

I’m just highlighting the difference in quality in depth of the squads of the English teams and two Spanish teams playing in the Champions League. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare in the knock out rounds (assuming they all qualify, that is). Will a Man United team filled with Bebe, Obertan and Park be capable of knocking out a Real Madrid team with Ronaldo, Higuain, Ozil, Alonso? Even as a United fan I have to say that it is highly unlikely. Can Chelsea’s Josh McEachren and Gael Kakuta plot Barcelona’s downfall? I doubt.

Of course, the players I mentioned aren’t the first choice for their teams when it comes to European fixtures, but the fact of the matter is that in certain areas, both Madrid and Barcelona have better second choice players than English teams have first choice players.

Ps — All is not well in Inter Milan. They lost to Chievo 2-1 this weekend.


I’m sorry, but I didn’t watch most of the games from this weekend, I’ll speak about the two games that I did watch – Aston Villa versus Man United and Chelsea versus Sunderland.

I’ll start off with the game at Villa Park. I was pretty sure this would be the game where it all changes. United would come out, stamp their authority on a young and inexperienced Villa team and then we’d all go home happy. I was completely wrong. United were outplayed by the “young and inexperienced” Villa team. Stuart Downing, Mark Albrighton and Ashley Young were causing problems to United’s back four. Vidic and Ferdinand were really good and solid (I’m glad to have that center back pairing back together) up until the 72nd minute when Wes Brown bundled over (I think it was) Agbonlahor to give Villa a penalty. It was a definite yellow card.

Four minutes later, United substitute Kiko Macheda gave away the ball way too cheaply at the Villa end and Villa countered like lightning. They moved so quickly with the ball that within second Mark Albrighton had put the ball in the back of the net. It was a fantastic performance by a team that consisted of players like him, Bryan Bannan and Hogg, with Stuart Downing, Ashley Young and Agbonlahor putting in their share of experience.

But United fought back with 14 minutes left to go, and Macheda managed to pull one back after Fletcher’s clever flick back to him. 2-1 and the game looked like changing. And then Nani (about whom we will speak in a bit), puts in a beautiful cross to find Captain Vidic on the far post and he heads the ball in. 2-2, and perhaps if there were five more minutes we would have seen United walk away with all three points and a grave injustice done to Aston Villa who definitely played better football for large parts of the game.

Lets talk about Nani, United’s biggest threat when it comes to goals. He’s got, I think, 9 assists this season and he’s scored a few himself as well. But he’s still not matured fully. He’s still got to be a little bit more consistent when he’s on the field and he should DEFINITELY stop rolling around on the fucking floor so often. I’ve noticed that there are many times he just gives the ball away and rolls on the floor hoping the ref gives him a free kick. When he doesn’t get one, he can’t obviously get back up and chase after the player, so he rolls around for some more time. I think Nani is going to be hugely influential this season and which is why, I hope, that if he ever reads this awesome blog, that he will note these things and I’m sure it’ll help him improve as a player.

Needs to stop rolling around

But other than that, all I can say about United is this – Its the midfield, stupid! There’s not enough creativity, something United fans have been moaning about from the start of the transfer window. Lets be very clear, if Ferguson does pull a rabbit out of his hat and delivers the Premier League (which really isn’t unlikely, I think as a Man United fan) it should definitely go down as his most memorable because he did it with a very thin squad and perhaps an average one as well.

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Steve Bruce mentioned that Sir Alex had asked Bruce to keep him informed about Jordan Henderson. So I had to check out this player who Fergie was interested in, apparently. So I brought out all my voodoo equipment, the Drogba doll with needles stuck in it and everything (which must’ve worked) sat down to watch Henderson take on the champions – he was good, but I really liked the way another youngster, on loan from United, played. Take a bow, Danny Welbeck.

Chelsea suffered a humiliating home defeat at the hands of a well organized Sunderland side. This was Chelsea’s starting 11 – Cech, Cole, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Bosingwa, Ramires, Zhirkov, Mikel, Malouda, Drogba, Anelka. And if you ask me that’s enough quality for them to be winning at home against Sunderland.

A very well organized Sunderland who were crisp with their passing managed to put 3 goals into the Chelsea net and most surprisingly keep a clean sheet as well! Even more surprising was that Cattermole did not get booked!

The team that Chelsea put out was good enough to beat Sunderland but it doesn’t ooze with quality. In a way, Chelsea are just like Manchester United but with fewer injuries and fewer defenders. A decently strong starting 11, but after that there isn’t too much you can call on.

Ramires, Chelsea’s biggest buy this summer, hasn’t been as effective as I’m sure Ancelotti would’ve wanted him to be. He’s done okay in the absence of Frank Lampard, but most Chelsea fans would much rather have had Lampard back instead. He’s not gone out and grabbed a game by the throat.

Then they have McEachren and Kakuta, two talented youngsters but throwing them into the Premier League might be a problem as they’ll definitely take time to adjust to its demanding nature. They’re still learning, and they will make mistakes. Even Wilshere, perhaps the most exciting talent at that age in the Premiership gives away the ball cheaply once in a while and not to mention jumps into tackles too early as well. Their midfield will be boosted when the suspended Essien returns, but will their squad run thin?

I’m also fairly surprised with Ancelotti’s substitutions – why did he take off Malouda and play Kalou? I’m disappointed not only because Malouda is in my fantasy football team, but also because I genuinely think that Malouda has more in him than Kalou when it comes to changing a game.

What you’ve really got to question though is the sacking of Ray Wilkins. I’m sure it has had an impact on the player’s mindset, because Wilkins was a really good Assistant Manager, as Ancelotti himself put it. It was abrupt and completely uncalled for, much like the sacking of Jose Mourinho. So long as Abramovich makes stupid mistakes like this, I’ll be glad we have the Glazers who hardly interfere in these matters as owners.

Will definitely be missed - Ray Wilkins

Credit to Sunderland for really taking the game to Chelsea. I thought they put in a fantastic team performance. Welbeck comined really well with Gyan and Richardson. Zenden played everywhere for them and provided them with some fantastic experience. They kept the ball really well, they pressurised Chelsea and they tested Petr Cech on a number of occasions. It could easily have been 5 nil if Cech wouldn’t have saved Welbeck’s header and his shot.

Thanks to this defeat, Chelsea no longer have the comfort of a wide gap between them and the second placed team. Arsenal are within two points of Chelsea, and United would’ve have gone within a point if they’d won, but as it stands they’re 3 points behind – which isn’t too bad to be honest. Its a crazy old league and it doesn’t look like I can see a clear winner!