West Ham: Relegation Candidates

West Ham United currently sit 18th in the Barclays Premier League and are only one point away from climbing out of the relegation zone, the only problem with this is that so are the other 2 clubs behind them and both Cardiff & Sunderland are posing a more attacking threat, and even if West Ham did claim the point that would take them above Fulham they would still be 2 behind Stoke. Now the gap between 20th place Cardiff City & 10th place Swansea which shows the up and down nature of this season thus far.

Big Sam has a massive task ahead of him as West Ham have only scored 4 goals in January whilst being on the end of a massive 6-0 thumping by Manchester City (which is nothing to be worried about as City have played some brilliant football this season) and a 5-0 humbling in the FA Cup by Nottingham Forrest meaning that they conceded 21. So what have been West Hams problems? And how do they sort them? Well you have to point to the obvious lack of Goals. Their top scorer in the league is Carlton Cole with a lowly 5, this is the same striker who didn’t have a future with the club at the end of last season and was hastily re-signed when an injury occurred to record signing Andy Carroll. The Hammers would have expected more from Kevin Nolan as well, whose physical presence as always caused defences around the premiership problems but it seems the former Bolton front man has had issues off the pitch which have affected his performances and has also seen him dismissed twice this season. Nolan, along with the now fit Carroll, Joe Cole & Mark Noble all need to lift themselves and the team by at least 50% if West Ham are to stand a chance of staying up.

Two new recruits in the shape of Marco Borriello & Antonio Nocerino may also help to keep West Ham up but without some serious money spent on their defence in the last few days on the window it may all be in vain. Stuart Downing is another who needs to look at his performances this season as he simply hasn’t been good enough, this was a lad who before his move to Liverpool was one of the hottest properties in English football but he struggled at Anfield and his confidence has never recovered. Ravel Morrison started the season like a man possessed but has faded away once the spotlight was shone in his direction, a theme that’s prevalent throughout his short career to this point. James Tomkins is another baffling case. He is a product of the fabulous academy system there but he has been highlighted more than for his fights in nightclubs than the talent he has.

If we are honest in the pre season predictions we didn’t see West Ham involved in a relegation battle but unless things change at Upton Park it’s a very real possibility.

Ryan

Toronto FC: Could they be the next MLS Bloody Big Deal?

Toronto FC was formed in October 2005. Since then, despite showing a lot of promise in the Canadian Championship and winning it four times, TFC has shown little in the CONCACAF Champions League (getting into the group stages twice and semifinals once) and even less in MLS (never qualified for the playoffs).

By the end of the 2013 season, fans were becoming restless, not only by the lack of trophies but also lack of quality in the team which produced mediocre football and less and less fans were showing up to the games. Management knew that if they wanted to reach their goal of making Football (Soccer) a big sport in Canada, together with Hockey, Baseball and Basketball, change was required. That’s when they bring in Mr. Tim Leiweke whose main job is to give TFC a lift and capacity to compete in all the competitions they enter. To everyone’s relief, he didn’t waste time to get things going.

It’s a bloody big deal. Those were the words on all the Toronto FC fans’ lips on January 13 2014. 11 a.m ET and TFC was about to make one of the most anticipated unveiling of players in its short history. Speculations have been raging about TFC making a few high profile signings during this off season but to all the fans, one signing in particular was the center of attention. Jermain Colin Defoe.

There are not a lot of Football fans who do not know Jermain Defoe. He started his career at West Ham United and had two (2) spells at the heart of Tottenham Hotspur’s attack since 2004, with a move to Portsmouth during the 2008-2009 season sandwiched in between. Over the course of his career, he has shown that he has the capacity of taking his chances at goal. He is currently the highest goalscorer in European competitions for Spurs and also holds the EPL record for most goals scored when coming on as a substitute. Defoe is exactly the kind of player that TFC needed, someone with a proven scoring record and also, due to his experience at European and International level, has the ability to nurture the upcoming young players.

Now, as we all know, one man can make a team better but that’s not enough. That’s why on that exciting January 13th, TFC also presented Michael Sheehan Bradley to the Toronto FC family. He has played at several clubs in Europe, most recently at Aston Villa, Chievo and Roma. Bradley made his first international appearance for the US in 2007 and has since been a vital element. He is a high energy kind of midfielder who is also capable of looking for the killer pass and put in a few goals of his own. At only 26 years old, he is in his prime years and is also a player for the future.
With these two major signings, TFC seems to be heading the right way and hopefully will be firing on all fronts once the 2014 season starts. Only hiccup is that they are still to prove that they have enough quality at the back but as the saying goes ‘the best defense is a good offense’.

Jade.

Let us know your thoughts.

David Moyes – Stuck between a rock & a hard place.

” I’d also like to remind you that we’ve had bad times here. The club stood by me, all my staff stood by me, the players stood by me. So your job now is to stand by our new manager, that is important”

The words above were said by Sir Alex Ferguson on his last home match in his long and illustrious career. And after reading our Twitter timeline in the last few days many a Manchester United fan would do well to remember them and get behind the man Sir Alex chose as his replacement David Moyes.

In his first 6 months in charge of Manchester United, Moyes has had a few highs but in the eyes of most fans more downs, in all fairness to him though he was always in a slightly losing battle unless he came into the club and announced he was signing Messi & Ronaldo in exchange for Tom Cleverley and Anderson. Also let’s not forget he is also working under a Chief Executive who is new to the club as well and eager to make a good impression.

So after defeats to Spurs, Sunderland & the early exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Swansea what could Moyes do to turn it around?

    Squad

      The current squad is the same squad which won the league last year so is it a case of them not performing well, losing their edge or poor selection by the manager?
      When you look at the squad you look at some of the players who are backup players and you have to think that some of them are not good enough. Anderson, Fabio & Nani all spring to mind as “dead weight.” it’s disappointing in the case of Fabio who when you look at the progress made by his brother Rafael should have been looking to kick on although it’s worth noting Fabio couldn’t force his way into the QPR team that was relegated last season. Then there is the likes of Cleverley, Valencia & Young all of whom feature regularly in the Manchester United line up but never impact the game as much as their talent dictates, Moyes needs to be tough with them and say “shape up or ship out”

      There are a few fringe players who would also benefit from a bit more game time, the likes of Büttner who is a left back with a decent amount of pace and a ferocious shot on him. With Evra advancing in years and also rumblings of him wanting to return to his native France for me Büttner would be a more than capable replacement. Jesse Lingard is just back from a lightning loan spell in the Midlands and has staked a claim for the matchday squads, indeed he was an unused substitute in the home victory against Swansea this past weekend and hopefully he gets a look in because as Birmingham City fans will tell you he makes daring late runs in to the box and finds space. Nick Powell is currently out on loan and is another who is getting rave reviews, with talk of Moyes recalling him to send him back out on loan to a Premier League team it seems silly, let’s see if the lad is Old Trafford material, same with Zaha. If someone asked me who would be my future a United midfield would be at the moment I would say Zaha,Powell, Lingard & Januzaj.

        Transfers

          There has been talk of a “£200m war chest” but I can’t see Moyes spending all that in January, especially with the potential risks involving January transfers taking a while to bed in. A lot of the talk is centred around this apparent gaping hole in the center of Manchester United’s defence and whilst the first choice of Vidic & Ferdinand may be creaking a bit and in the formers case rumours of him wanting him to leave the club, there is more than enough decent cover already contained within in the 25 man squad with the likes of Evans, Smalling, Jones & Michael Keane all possessing great talent and potential.

          An area United may look to strengthen this window is the forwards, with Rooney & van Persie having an injury hit season and also murmurs of them eyeing the exit it may be time for United to bite the bullet and hit Diego Costas rumoured £32m release clause and get him in tone squad, yes he wouldn’t be eligible for UCL but United have to concentrate on their league campaign to make sure they are in the competition again next season. Another forward they could move for would be Jeremy Menez of PSG, out of contract in the summer he is a player who they would save on the transfer fee so could afford to offer him a bit more. Menez is a great player to tuck in behind the main striker owing to his reading of the game and overall movement and if Rooney or RVP do move on he could help Hernandez or Welbeck really kick on.

          Another area they realistically need to strengthen is the holding midfield role. The holding midfielder should provide you with a bit of meat in the tackle and also cover for the defence so in that respect Phil Jones would be your ideal man but with him constantly being switched from one position to another he isn’t getting the time to really master any. Arturo Vidal has been linked to United and would be a great addition to the squad, a midfielder in the same mould as Paul Scholes with a never ending reserve of energy and a ferocious and fiery temperament he may provide the engine room that United need. Another midfielder United could look at bringing in is Real Madrids Nuri Sahin. He didn’t really show his true potential when he was loaned to Liverpool last year although that may have been down to Rodgers playing him in a more attacking role than he played in his time at Dortmund, he also doesn’t seem to have settled in too well at Madrid where he has been sent out on loan from for nearly two seasons after some understated performances for them so he may be available for around £10m. Jonathon Dos Santos may be a purchase with one eye on the future, the Mexican seems to have fallen back down the pecking order at Barcelona despite some impressive performances at he start of the season.

          Fantasy purchases for me come in the form of Reus, Gündoğan and Bojan Krkic but to move for any of those in this window seems to run a risk of not giving the players enough time to settle and expecting them to hit the ground running which sometimes they don’t and it ruins their hype and the fans soon turn against them. Either way it seems any business will be done late on the window again but United fans may be hoping that it doesn’t turn into another Felliani.

          Give us your views in the usual way. By commenting on this or shouting at us on Twitter & Facebook

          Ryan

Costa? Morata? Berbatov? Who will Arsenal sign this month?

It’s January transfer window time again, that beautiful time of year filled with rumours sprayed across social media by the ‘ITK’s’, whilst the ‘reliable’ media link just about every player to every club. The truth is, no-one really knows for certain what will happen, which is what makes it so exciting. Hopefully there is another blockbuster finish to the window in store for us, with many top clubs still needing to bring in a player or two.

No team needs a new player more so than Arsenal, who are currently mulling over their striker dilemma. With Theo Walcott unfortunately ruled out for the season, Arsenal having been caught short in the striking department, especially now with Nicklas Bendtner thought to be out for another 3 weeks. There’s no doubt Arsenal are still short up top, so if there’s anything we can be fairly sure of in the turbulence and uncertainty of the January market, it’s that Wenger is on the hunt for a forward. Internally, the options are limited. Lukas Podolski seems to lack the movement to play as a lone striker, and with everyone else out injured (and with even Akpom loaned out), Olivier Giroud is left as the only fit and capable Arsenal striker.

Arsenal’s potential options are limited, especially in a World Cup year. There have of course been several strikers linked to the club, but the fans favourite option (and mine) seems to be Diego Costa. The 25 year old Athletico Madrid man would provide an outstanding long term option to give Giroud more competition upfront. There is no doubt about Costa’s goal scoring ability, impressively scoring 19 goals in 18 games this season in La Liga. With a reported buy-out clause of around 32 million, it seems a no brainer for the Gunners to sign the Spaniard, especially now that Wenger seems to have now found his wallet after the big money signing of Mesut Ozil last summer. However, Costa is very unlikely to want to risk leaving Athletico in a World Cup year when he is in such great form, and he has no need to, as Athletico are having a very successful season sitting 2nd in La Liga joint on points with Barcelona at the top, and an impressive 5 points above Real Madrid. He would also be cup tied for the Champions League, leading me to think that a summer move is more likely.

Alvaro Morata on loan is probably the most reported rumour around at this moment in time; however I have my doubts about how successful he would be at Arsenal on a short term basis. The loan would be for only 6 months, leaving him very little time to settle and to get used to the premier league’s physicality. The 21 year old has had limited game time at Madrid this season, making only 10 La Liga appearances scoring a mere 2 goals. However, 9 of these 10 appearances in the league have been from the bench to be fair to him. Signing him would be a definite gamble, and with a loan fee reported to be around 2 million pounds, I don’t think it’s worth the money or the risk of bringing in a raw and inexperienced forward at such a crucial point in Arsenal’s season.

From the inexperienced, to the very experienced, as the final rumour concerns Arsenal’s potential signing of 33 year old Fulham forward Dimitar Berbatov. I have mixed feelings about this one, as Berbatov has undoubted quality, but is also infamously a very lazy player. His work ethic is much lower than Giroud’s, so it is questionable if he would be able to play as a lone striker in Arsenal’s system not to mention his past history with Spurs. However, his style of play could fit in with Arsenal’s intricate build up, with his skilful flicks and ability to find space. I really think it could go either way, making signing him a risk too, but I guess you don’t win titles without taking a few risks along the way. With his 4 goals in 15 Premier League games this season, the signing of Berbatov would be very underwhelming, but his moments of brilliance could turn around crucial games.

For me, I wouldn’t mind signing Javier Hernandez from Manchester United. He’s quick and a great finisher but doesn’t get much game time at United, so it’s possible he might want to jump their sinking ship. I also haven’t even considered getting ‘The King’ Thierry Henry back on loan, which would be another interesting one!

Let me know who you think Arsenal should sign: Costa? Morata? Berbatov? Hernandez? Henry!? Or perhaps somebody else?

Luke Hastings

Why Non-League Football Needs 3G Pitches

Excellent article, and raises a good point.

The Inside Forward

If I were to travel to every non-league game across the country on Saturday, I guarantee I would hear two things at most, if not all, stadiums. The first conversation is highly likely to be multiple groups of middle aged men complaining about how their weekend’s are routinely ruined by these constant postponements due to the weather. Sure, it’s bad, but that’s football. Football is a winter sport, and we know it as the game played on a muddy pitch in freezing cold temperatures. Nevertheless, it seems every one of these middle aged men would have the solution, and it’s always the same outcome. 3G pitches. Of course, 3G pitches have taken a massive boost within the footballing industry over the recent years, but are yet to progress extensively to the level of certain games, notably lower-leagues and non-league football.

View original post 1,354 more words

Why Manchester City’s engine is starting to purr

Many an eyebrow was raised in the summer when Manchester City parted with the best part of £30m to sign the relatively unknown Brazilian Fernandinho from Shaktar Donetsk. A man who at the age of 28 had only earned 5 caps for his country and hadn’t been tested at the very highest level. It’s fair to say in the early stages of the season, we were none the wiser as to how talented he really was.

Fast forward to January 2014 and Man City sit comfortably in 2nd place in the league, with a place in the Champions League knockout stage confirmed for the 1st time in the club’s history. Their early season problems away from home under Manuel Pellegrini seem to be a thing of the past and the City juggernaut looks like running over any team that gets in their way. Suddenly Man City look like the team to beat, but why?

Some will point to Sergio Aguero, but he has been missing from City’s impressive run of results over Christmas. There’s no doubt the return to form of Joe Hart has been a factor, as has the presence of an injury free Vincent Kompany and the quick adoption of English football by Alvaro Negredo. However, it has been the engine room of Fernandinho alongside Yaya Toure that has really stood out.

We all know Yaya Toure is a beast of a player. He literally can do it all and while some players are likened to a finely tuned Rolls Royce, Toure is a tank with all the bells and whistles you need. He has hit double figures from midfield and continues to add to his own personal highlight reel of stunning freekicks, something no one knew he was capable of. Despite all of this, it has been his partnership with Fernandinho which has impressed me the most, with both continuing to grow in stature.

20140108-141432.jpg

Most teams these days play with three men in the middle of the park, with one being a conventional defensive midfielder. With these two, City have been able to play with just two, such is their ability and dominance. They seem to be capable of doing the job of three men with relative ease, combining powerful attacking play and goals with destructive defensive work and protection. Their talents allow the likes of Jesus Navas to play wide, Samir Nasri to play anywhere and perhaps most importantly allows City the rare luxury of two strikers on the pitch.

This attacking mentality has reaped it’s rewards as City continue to smash goal scoring records without a care in the world. I’m sure there won’t be many teams in modern times to be able to boast putting 6 goals past both Arsenal AND Tottenham. The bonus for Pellegrini is that if they have to play more defensive to protect a result, they have hardworking players like James Milner, Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell waiting for their chance.

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So it turns out that the often derided Jamie Redknapp was right when he picked out Fernandinho as ‘one to watch.’ His partnership with Yaya Toure has grown to be a formidable one and it’s hard to see anyone stopping Man City’s drive to the Premier League title whilst those two are firing on all cylinders.

@adamdellboy

Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain; The Dilemma

I am currently writing this on the 29th December. Arsenal have just won 1-0 away to Newcastle, and are currently sitting top of the league going into the New Year. Small stat for you, in the last 4 years, the team top of the league has gone onto win the league. Pressure. However, I am writing about one of Arsenals missing players, who could make a huge impact in the second half of the season, and one they have solely missed. He goes by the name of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and is, in my opinion, Arsenals and England’s biggest prospect.

At Arsenal, the formation generally used is a 4-2-3-1 or 4-2-1-3. The 1 in this formation is vital, as it is to initiate attacks, directing our play forward. It is the stop gap between the full backs, the middle 2, and the front 3. The success of this role is measured in different ways, one, by how often we attack, what the quality of the ball is into the attacking 3 is. It has a great overview of the whole field, something which is vital. It requires quick decision making on and off the ball, accurate execution of passes, which will require a variety of different types. The player needs vision, close ball control, speed, agillity, can get the ball out of your feet, drive and stamina. A good ‘man in the hole’ gives the team shape and purpose by conducting the play, and hopefully will produce a great number of indirect, or, assists.

This might seem gibberish to you. However, where has Oxlade Chamberlain played for the majority of his career at Arsenal? Wide midfielder. Looking at the range of skills i just posted, how many has the Ox gathered over the last 2 years? I can safely say all of them. One advantage he has, is the fact that he has played out wide. “Get used to using the ball in a small space, as the touchline effectively divides the space that’s available to him by two; when you move the same player back to the middle, he breathes more easily and can exploit space better.” That is the beliefs of Arsene Wenger, and is shown it works, with players like Samir Nasri, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey all having spells out wide before coming into the middle.This means that the Ox will be more aware of the space he will have when coming inside. Where do you play him?
As I mentioned, the Ox can play every role in the front 6 of the pitch, depending on the team around him.

    Box to box midfielder:

In the role deeper behind the 1 in Arsenal’s formation, is a position the Ox had to play in with great maturity in the past. He had to play there against AC Milan in the Champions League, trying to turn around a 4-0 deficit from the first leg. He showed the physical, mental and technical attributes to be arguably the best player on the pitch that game, performing so well in that game that Dutch legend Marco Van Basten called him a little gem. High praise from someone of that calibre in a position you haven’t really played in before. The Ox has the right attitude, chomping at the bit to get a chance wherever he plays, which is a great attribute to have in someone so young.
However, one of his greatest performances was against Newcastle at the end of last season. Arguably Arsenal’s biggest game of the season, and biggest in my opinion since the 2006 Champions League final, the Ox started on the bench. He had to be in the right frame of mind and mentally ready to step in for anyone, and unfortunately (or fortunately) he had to step in for our defensive midfielder, and captain Mikel Arteta who suffered a calf injury in the 28th minute. The Ox came on for him, and sat alongside Aaron Ramsey, and had to show a completely different side to his game that we had never seen before. He showed a remarkable ability to screen the back four, sitting in front of them and breaking up the play. He kept the ball in a calm fashion, always picking the easy passes for his team mates, whilst also doing a good amount of attacking duties.
A player like him is he always good to have in the starting line up, because of the possibilities he can give you during the game. He allows you to change your team shape during the game and can give you many varieties including the ability to overload in attack. His ability to glide past players in midfield is easier for him because of his experience on the wings, which is what I touched on earlier.

    False #9

The False #9 is a interesting one, and one that wont be used very often, but can be used to dangerous levels if used effectively. The false #9 is a interesting formation, one that must be understood by everyone in order for it work properly. For me, for this system to work you need 2 direct, pacey wingers with a good eye for goal (see Walcott, Gnarby, Cazorla to a extent, and maybe any additions such as Draxler, Reus, El Shaarawy) and midfielders with exceptional passing abilities (see Özil, Ramsey, Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta, Zelalem, and again any new additions, Pogba, Gundogan, etc) this is why it is a hard formation to master due to the complexity of it. Now, with the Ox, we all know about his immense talent especially his direct running, decisive passing and excellent decision making for someone still so so young. The ideal template for this role, is arguably the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi. He has mastered this role to perfection.

Now, I wont go into the attribute the Ox has had, because it feels like I have taken a trip on the Magic Roundabout. However, they all directly link into the False 9 system made so effective by, Bayern, Germany, Spain and Barcelona.

Now, is the dilemma with the Ox. Where do you put him?
Bare in mind, he is still extremely raw. He has a lot of potential, but still has a lot of learning to do.
Comments on the Ox are welcome and feedback appreciated.

Billy

Happy New Year & Thank You.

Firstly, Happy New Year. I hope you had a good one and are not suffering to much.

Of course with the clock striking midnight two things happened. Firstly the transfer window has opened! I love it, reading all the rumours and trying to second guess where a player will end up. Secondly we entered a World Cup year! That means no boredom for the average football fan, let’s be honest England won’t win it but we can at least hope that we go out to a team playing decent football, unlikely though as England will probably stutter and struggle in the group stage.

With a new year it’s always worth looking back at the previous one and it’s been brilliant. I first got an idea, for the site at the end of last year and I have been lucky enough to have an amazing team so Adam, Andy,Annelies, Billy, Elijah, Pete, Jade,Ross & Ryan DF thank you once again for doing what you all do so well and in your own styles.

My final thanks is to you; the readers. Without you guys what we do would be pointless, you reading it, giving us feedback and interacting with us on social media makes us want to carry on and the number of readers we hit in our first 5 months was more than I could ever have hoped so thank you.
Happy New Year.
Ryan