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New Arsenal Shirt Leaked

5 Apr

The 2012-13 Arsenal home shirt was leaked yesterday and no matter how you look at it, you cannot avoid the obvious fact: it looks very much like a Manchester United jersey. More specifically the away kit from 2010-11.

Perhaps this is a new strategy for Arsenal seeking a bit of luck in claiming their first piece of silverware since 2005. After all, their whopping outlay of transfer funds in that period on sub-standard talent has brought Arsenal to a very proud and consistent level of mediocrity (yes, losing to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final and celebrating 4th place each year is a sign of mediocrity).

On the surface it seems like a good idea. Make yourselves look like the champs and maybe you’ll play like them. Maybe the players will enjoy court-ordered injunctions to keep their mistresses quiet, much like the United players have benefited from over the past decade. Or maybe it will simply anger Arsenal supporters. I vote on the latter.

Photo courtesy of arsenalnews.co.uk

EPL Kit Preview – 2011/12

16 Jun

With most of the Premiership clubs already settled on their new kits for the upcoming season, lets play Joan Rivers and take a look at what to expect from these walking billboards. Explanations and grades included. Continue reading

Matches You Can’t Miss This Weekend

17 Sep

Amid the endless number of football matches available for viewing this weekend, here’s three can’t miss encounters. That means – unless your girlfriend is dragging you to some lame brunch with her parents (which is still not a decent excuse), get your ass to a TV and watch!

MANCHESTER UNITED VS LIVERPOOL

The bitterest and most hotly contested of the northwest derbies. Pride and much needed confidence boosts are on the line Sunday at Old Trafford – perhaps more for the players involved than the teams themselves.

Wayne Rooney, who as one United correspondent so aptly described as filling ‘more column space than the Iraq war in recent week,’ needs to get back in the headlines for good things. Between cheating on his pregnant wife and playing terrible, anonymous football, Rooney needs to up his game and what better platform than this. Luckily for United, Berbatov has started to show his £30 million worth. Rio Ferdinand is back from injury. Can he sure up a United defense which has shipped four points and more injury time goals in the past two weeks than SAF’s already red face can take?

As for the Scousers, Fernando Torres is reeling from a week where former player Jamie Redknapp called him ‘diabolical, just diabolical.” Rather harsh from a relatively mediocre player in his time. Not to mention the fact that Liverpool fans are already questioning Torres’ attitude and overall form in general, which have been well below his standard recently. More than simply a good game, Torres needs to score. And what about the new manager thrown into his biggest league match to date? Can Woy stop being the nicest man in England and show some grit to lead his team to victory?

Looking at the larger picture, Liverpool cannot afford to lose more ground on those European spots. A point would do, but three would be better. Manchester United need to recoup some confidence as well, since it seems unlikely Chelsea and Arsenal will drop points in the near future. All to play for.

REAL SOCIEDAD VS REAL MADRID

This is one of those games where the football is secondary. Where the patches on the shirt and regional pride go to the very heart of the matter, not just the game on the field. It may not be the lion’s den of San Mames, but Anoeta will surely be an intimidating setting for the Royal Whites as 32,000 raucous Basque supporters will make every touch of the ball a living hell for the Madrileños.

Nothing – no derby, no cup final, no 1 vs 2 – can rival the atmosphere that will engulf San Sebastian on Saturday afternoon.

As for the football itself, there is no reason it shouldn’t be an entertaining affair. Real Madrid are clearly still finding their identity under Mourinho and have not impressed by any means. Real Sociedad, on the other hand, are coming off a disappointing draw on Monday at Almeria (if only because they blew the lead twice – the equalizer in the 90th minute) but have begun the campaign positively with productive football. No real favorite in this one.

The cherry on top is Xabi Alonso’s homecoming – returning to his childhood club for the first time since leaving for Liverpool in 2004. The final game of that season, Alonso pitched in a goal as they utterly demolished Madrid 4-1 at the Bernabeu. It will surely be a bittersweet return for one of Sociedad’s most successful exports.

Previous encounters: Real Madrid won 2-1 on their last trip to Anoeta. Eight of the previous ten matches have been close affairs with neither team scoring more than two goals a piece.

ATLÉTICO MADRID VS BARCELONA

Open, flowing, beautiful football will be on display Sunday.

I mentioned in a column the other day that this would be a game for Barcelona to dread. Atlético are the only club in Spain in recent years to successfully exploit Barcelona’s high defensive line with ruthless speed and precision.
 
From Barcelona’s standpoint, this trip to the Vicente Calderon could not have come at a more inopportune time, depending on how you look at it. That loss to Hercules has not faded from fans’ memories and the midweek thrashing of Panathinaikos was simply a band aid. So on the one hand, a win on Sunday against a club which has always given them problems will bring some much needed confidence back to the Camp Nou. However, lose and drop farther down the table a week after the Hercules debacle, and there will be more than a few nervous supporters (including this one).

As for Atlético Madrid, are they for real? UEFA Super Cup champs and top of the league after two impressive wins, are they the team to finally challenge the top two? This match will go a long way to answer that question.

Expect plenty of goals. 31 goals have been scored in the previous six matches. No less than three in each of those games. Atlético has also won two of the last three in absolutely breathtaking fashion.

GERMANY – DERBY WEEKEND

There are FOUR regional/city derbies this weekend. Not too shabby – especially when you consider the Bundesliga is the most competitive league in Europe right now. Do your best to catch any of the following:

Schalke vs Borussia Dortmund – The nastiest of them all. A large number of Dortmund fans have boycotted the match since Schalke decided to raise ticket prices for the visiting supporters by 50%. Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp then took the opportunity to throw a jab at his last place adversaries, ‘fans are apparently not in the mood to finance Huntelaar’s [€14 million] transfer.’

St. Pauli vs Hamburg – Hamburg derby

Kaiserslautern vs Hoffenheim – Regional derby

Wolfsburg vs Hannover – Lower Saxony derby

EPL Week 2 Wrap-Up

23 Aug

The number 6, scribbled three times in succession, has haunted the superstitious and religiously fanatic world for centuries as the mark of the devil. To be honest, superstitions don’t quite do it for me. All they do is incite and create unnecessary fears. I do believe in karma though, and with a capital K, Karma swept through West London and Craven Cottage as the real Red Devils of United got bit in the ass. However, it’s still impossible to ignore how the remainder of England witnessed devilry in the South, Northeast, and middle of the country as Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle each put their opponents to the sword by a score of 6-0. In Chelsea’s case it’s the second successive game doing so.

Chelsea are running rampant having scored 29 goals in their last 5 league games. They already enjoy a +12 goal difference and don’t appear to be letting up one bit.  It’s hard to truly judge their dominance after wins over the likes of West Brom and Wigan. Especially Wigan, who have now been outscored 10-0 in the first two weeks following an opening day drubbing to newly promoted Blackpool. I was wrong to predict Roberto Martinez being sacked by Thanksgiving. It looks to be an overly generous prediction at that, and he could very well be axed by the end of September depending on how things progress. As for Chelsea, they’re next three games are home to Stoke City, away to West Ham, and home to Blackpool. Sounds like another 20 some-odd goals. We’ll get a better idea how good they really are the last week of September when they travel to Manchester City followed by a home stand against Arsenal. In the meantime, enjoy the goal-fest while it lasts Blues fans.

Speaking of Arsenal, they too ran riot putting up six against a hapless Blackpool. To be fair to the Tangerines, they played with ten men for the better part of an hour following a deserved red card for Ian Evatt. Prior to that, it was only 1-0 and Blackpool looked keen to expose Arsenal’s consistent inability to safely deal with crosses into the middle. Nevertheless, Evatt’s expulsion spelled the end for Blackpool as they were completely out-passed and out-classed by the Gunners. A typically beautiful and artistic showboat by Wenger’s boys. Obviously, the talk of the town is Theo Walcott, having netted a hat-trick just like he did two years ago against Croatia. I do hope people see it for what it was – a young lad having a great afternoon scoring thrice, and nothing more. Capello was right to leave him home during the World Cup noting his tendency for inconsistency. Theo reached a high point this weekend. Now, it will behoove him to silence his doubters (yours truly) and continue playing like this for the rest of the season if he wants the England call-up everyone claims he deserves. Same goes for Arsenal as a whole. If they continue to look pedestrian against the big clubs (Liverpool last week) and then turn it on for the minnows, a 3rd or 4th place finish will be nothing short of guaranteed.

Finally, Premiere League football returned to Tyneside as Newcastle welcomed Aston Villa to St. James’ Park. Pitiful, pitiful Villa. How a club of Aston Villa’s status can be completely man-handled like that in only the second game of the season is shocking. You would have maybe expected it in the first week following their manager’s resignation three days prior, only they won 3-0 and any anticipated sluggishness was thrown by the wayside. Well, Newcastle had different plans for their opponents. An atrocious penalty miss by John Carew in the 10th minute opened the floodgates as Newcastle scored two minutes later and never looked back. Andy Carroll, the 21-year old striker, claimed his first hat trick for the club and Joey Barton ensured his pornstar mustache would disappear for good. A quality win for Newcastle and extremely important in terms of confidence as they look to reassert themselves in England’s top tier. As for Villa, owner Randy Lerner better find himself a full time manager and fast. After watching them implode to, let’s be honest here, lesser opposition, Lerner must know his team needs leadership if they have any inkling of achieving success this campaign.

Elsewhere, in arguably the most entertaining match of the weekend, Fulham scored late to draw with Manchester United at Craven Cottage. Alex Ferguson was surprisingly honest and candid in the post match interview claiming Fulham fully deserved the point. And he was right. United dominated the first 15 minutes and went ahead off a Scholes screamer, but after that they went flat. With Rooney at home suffering from a virus, Berbatov and Chicharito failed to truly threaten the Fulham defense save a few chances on goal. Fulham worked the ball around marvelously throughout, leading to their equalizer soon after halftime. Not surprisingly, United’s second highest scorer last season (the opposition) struck again as Brede Hangeland fumbled a corner off his knee and into his own net. Karma is a bitch though. Nani’s terrible penalty take gave Fulham a lifeline, and Hangeland seized it with the equaliser to cancel out his screw-up 5 minutes earlier. A great point for Fulham. A hiccup for United. But Red Devil fans may worry just a bit, as Rooney’s malaise and his replacement’s ineptitude to score may leave United in a spot of bother moving forward.

Elsewhere, West Brom rebounded by defeating Sunderland 1-0. Birmingham defeated Blackburn 2-1. West Ham continues to suck, getting tonked 3-1 at home to Bolton. Tottenham defeated Stoke City away 2-1, while Everton can’t seem to find a way not to start slowly as they threw away a lead and two points drawing with Wolverhampton 1-1 at home. Manchester City and Liverpool meet Monday afternoon in a very important game for both clubs.

EPL Week 1 Wrap-Up

17 Aug

First weekend is in the books and to be quite honest, it was as exciting as any opening weekend in recent memory. Opening match days are always an entertaining affair – newly promoted teams, reigning champs setting out to defend their trophies, the one month of the year when the UK enjoys sunlight and warm weather… This weekend had a different feel to it though. A sense that there was so much more at stake for every team involved. Whereas in years past the EPL has mirrored Spain and Scotland’s two horse race, but with four teams, there are new kids on the block disrupting the established order. It is no longer a formality that Chelsea, United, Arsenal, and Liverpool will claim Champions League spots. Clubs are in economic shambles, so the money earned by qualifying for a European tournament is a vital lifeline. Throw in the fact that an extremely quiet transfer window has resulted in minor changes (except on the blue side of Manchester of course), and you can see why this past weekend made first impressions ever so important.

The results were a mix of the expected and the extremely unexpected. For the latter, we go straight to the DW Stadium in Wigan.

Making their first trip to England’s top flight in 39 years, Blackpool were on everyone’s relegation list to start the season. Mind you this was supposed to be a home game, except for the small inconvenience that their stadium expansion remains unfinished. So an opening day at Bloomfield Road in front of 13,000 home fans in neon orange turned into a less-than-lavish road trip up to Greater Manchester. Didn’t matter one bit. Marlon Harewood scored twice as The Seasiders tore apart Wigan by a final score of 4-0, prompting seven year old Kian Kelly to strike the above pose landing him on every back page in Britain. A truly unbelievable result which nobody saw coming. Wigan on the other hand are in trouble. My pick to be relegated couldn’t have made me prouder, although I do feel bad for manager Roberto Martinez – a genuinely nice guy who exudes nothing but class on and off the pitch. Maybe a bit too nice though, because he’ll be out of a job by Thanksgiving.

Elsewhere, in arguably the second most anticipated match of the weekend, Liverpool faced off against Arsenal at Anfield. This had the feeling of a Champions League night, as the Liverpool fans were enraptured in song and involved in every movement of the game. They had plenty of reason to be excited with a clean slate, a new manager, and a more positive outlook than last season. After a straight red for Joe Cole late in the first half, Liverpool still managed to take the lead through David Ngog only to lose it on a rare Pepe Reina blunder gifting Arsenal the equalizer. Call it karma for Reina, who Arsenal fans were none-too-pleased with after his shenanigans with Cesc Fabregas. A 1-1 draw isn’t terrible for either club after such a difficult opening day match, although Liverpool will rue the missed opportunity at the full three points. Liverpool looked decent, and actually played much better with ten men. Carragher looked rather useful, although I expect his form to dip dramatically. Overall, Liverpool’s defense held firm led by an inspiring performance from Javier Mascherano in the midfield.

As for Joe Cole’s debut, aside from the red card, he was pretty bad. He rarely worked his way into the game on offense, and numerous times got in Gerrard’s way, literally. As for Arsenal, tons of possession and pretty passing got them nowhere near the goal, and I suppose Fabregas’ presence would have made a difference. They got a lucky point, but Arsene Wenger must have seen his team falter in the areas where they’ve needed to sign players for a while now – and he’s been reluctant to do so.

They need a goalie and they need one badly. Almunia is terrible. On the bright side, it looks like either Mark Schwartzer or Shay Given are on their way to North London which will guarantee the Arsenal at least 3-4 more wins than last season. New center-back Laurent Koscielny showed some bright spots, but will need to get much better and more disciplined. Nasri had a great game and young Jack Wilshire did his best to impress for 60 minutes. A healthy starting 11, a new goalie, and some depth on the back line isn’t too much for Arsenal to hope for with two weeks left in the transfer window. Acquire all three and the Gooners should challenge the top two easily.
The most anticipated match of the weekend ended up rather boring, save Joe Hart’s performance. England found their new #1 as Hart racked up 8 heroic saves to keep his team in the game. Tottenham could easily have been up 5-0 in the first half were it not for City’s young keeper. Tottenham needed to finish their chances, but all in all this team looks legit. Manchester City on the other hand looked like a collection of players – not a team. Mancini also looked like a man with no balls. ZERO testosterone. If you want to challenge in the Premiere League you need to attack and do everything to win. Mancini came to London not to lose, rather than seek a victory. It was evident with Tevez deployed as a lone striker up front and a midfield of De Jong, Barry, and Yaya Toure. SWP is a useless midget, while the future of England’s right wing in Adam Johnson sat on the bench for 68 minutes. If earning a draw was his game plan, then he succeeded. Let’s hope he starts going after teams, because a fourth place finish won’t be handed out to City on a silver platter.

I said Chelsea would win 8-0. So I was off by two goals and they only scored six. Coming back in style, the defending champs let the league know they will be a force this season. Or will they? It was telling to see ZERO new faces in the starting line-up for the Blues. Their biggest issue will be depth this season, even with the upcoming signing of Ramires. A comfortable opening win, but I’ve got my doubts if they get hit with some injuries.

Newcastle returned to the top flight only to get thumped by Manchester United 3-0. Best sign for United? Three different players scored and none of them was Rooney. United will need contributions from everyone in addition to Rooney if they want to unseat Chelsea.

Elsewhere, Aston Villa beat a hapless West Ham 3-0 less than a week after their manager upped and left. Everton got off to another pathetic start losing 1-0 away to Blackburn on a howler from Tim Howard. Bolton and Fulham drew 0-0, as did Birmingham and Sunderland 2-2. And Wolverhampton, accompanied by a top goal nominee for the season, defeated Stoke 2-1.

Remember it’s still the first week. In a month’s time this table could be turned on it’s head. But it sure is good to have club football back on the weekend docket.

Congratulations again to Blackpool…you’re still finishing dead last.

Weekend Couch Guide

13 Aug

If you love your couch, you’ll love this weekend. Um, there’s a couple games on…

Saturday, August 14
7:45am  Tottenham vs Manchester City —  ESPN2

10:00am  Aston Villa vs West Ham — FSC

10:00am   Blackburn vs Everton — FSC Plus

12:30pm  Chelsea vs West Bromwich Albion — FSC

2:00pm  Wolverhampton vs Stoke City (tape delay) — FSC Plus

2:30pm  Bolton vs Fulham (tape delay) — FSC

Sunday, August 15
11:00am  Liverpool vs Arsenal — FSC

Monday, August 16
3:00pm  Manchester United vs Newcastle United — ESPN2

English Premiership Predictions

13 Aug

With the season getting underway tomorrow, it’s time for predictions!! Here’s how it’s all going to end up in May…for serious:

1. Manchester City

2. Chelsea

3. Manchester United

4. Arsenal

5. Liverpool

6. Tottenham

7. Everton

8. Birmingham

9. Aston Villa

10. Fulham

11. Stoke City

12. Bolton

13. Blackburn

14. Newcastle

15. Sunderland

16. West Ham

17. Wolverhampton

18. Wigan

19. West Bromwich Albion

20. Blackpool

Let’s see how you think it’ll pan out. Top 4? Relegation? Champion? Feel free to drop a comment and contribute whatever predictions you have for the upcoming season.

Steinbrenner buying Tottenham?

21 Jul

There are always perks to owning the highest valued team brand on the planet. One of them, of course, is the ability to buy pretty much anything you want. Now, leave it to the English rags to release a story like this only days after The Boss passed away, but it is nonetheless intriguing. The Daily Star reported on Sunday that the Steinbrenners have considered a bid of £450 million to buy Tottenham Hotspur. Hank supposedly turned down an approach by Tottenham some years ago to buy a 33% interest in the club for about £20 million.

You can take the story for what it’s worth. English tabloids like the Daily Star are less believable than even the National Enquirer by some margin. But let’s just remember that the precedent already exists for American ownership in the English Premiere League. Four of the biggest clubs in the country are owned by Americans – The Glazer Family owns Manchester United, Tom Hicks and George Gillett own Liverpool, Randy Lerner owns Aston Villa, and Stan Kroenke is very close to owning a majority stake in Arsenal. Everyone has mixed reviews but to be fair, Steinbrenner would be better than all of them combined.

In both Manchester and Liverpool, things are getting ugly. Fans are protesting en masse. American flags are being burned. Tom Hicks’ son is getting spit on. It all stems from these guys going in there to make a profit. They couldn’t care less about the passion or history of the clubs – only their fat wallets. And aside from the flag burning, I have no problem at all with how the fans are reacting. Lerner is different and has put together an extremely manageable situation at Aston Villa although the club’s performance of late has been stagnant. Arsenal have a Board of Directors and shares are sold publicly on the stock market – so while Kroenke owns almost a majority of the shares (29.9%), he doesn’t really have all the say like a singular owner does (believe me though, having a Board is the way to run a club and Kroenke is well respected by all).

Now let’s look at the Steinbrenners – a family of the most ruthless winners in history. And I don’t use ruthless lightly as we are all aware of how George ran the Yankees organization in his time. Hank and Hal, I would imagine, are no different in their desire to win. In football, and more so in England, that’s all that matters. The desire and passion they could bring to Tottenham and English football would be a shot of much needed adrenaline. Financial stability is an issue now more than ever, but something tells me that with all the money they have, Steinbrenner Inc. is too smart to invest in an English football club without knowing they can support it for years to come.

And as far as ownership goes in America, the English only have respect for one other man other than the Steinbrenners and that’s Robert Kraft. Kraft was in the works for a bit as he contemplated taking over Liverpool only to back out mainly because of the lack of caps on player salaries (that should tell you more than enough about the type of man he is).
For now though, Tottenham is as good a club as any other to take over. They qualified for the Champions League last season for the first time in history, the team is on the rise and looking for more glory. I don’t think there’s a better candidate than the Steinbrenner family to try taking them to the next level. If they brought even a fraction of their winning attitude over there the fans would adore them. Better yet, with the New York market at their disposal, Tottenham would get massive marketing incentives from the Steinbrenners.

It’s a smart move, a very smart move, should they decide to buy.

Vuvuzela Ban

21 Jul
(Dirtytackle)

I have no idea why anyone thought these stupid pieces of plastic would make their way to stadiums abroad after the World Cup. I’m still pissed that nobody saw it for what it could be, a weapon, and threw it onto the pitch during one of the games so they’d finally be banned.

Luckily for us, England is good at something other than playing football. A number of clubs in the Premiership including Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham United, Sunderland and Birmingham City have banned the horns from their grounds. A number of others look set to follow suit. Some cited the need to ensure the most enjoyable environment for fans while others noted the health issues due to the incredibly high decibel level.

Lets be honest though. This is England. If a fan blows that horn in someone else’s ear, at the very least something like this could happen.  If you bring a couple more vuvuzelas into the mix, all hell could break loose. And obviously, the last thing you want to do is piss off the police!!

This ban is preventing WWIII from erupting in the stadiums, short and simple.

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