Posts Tagged ‘EPL’

Arsenal’s summer of woes

Posted: August 13, 2011 by Balaji Ramamurthy in Cartoons
Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

          Balaji Ramamurthy

          Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

          August 13, 2011

 

I am a diehard Gooner. But well, this comic strip I just created out of frustration sums up our situation right now. Enjoy.

 

Artist - Balaji Ramamurthy

 

 

 

 

 

 


  Balaji Ramamurthy

  Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

  August 13, 2011

Arsenal have announced the signing of Costa Rica’s teenage striker Joel Campbell. The fee and contract details are unknown as of now but most believe it to be around the £1m region. The forward will most probably be loaned out in order to gain his work permit, according to many sources. But I do not have any concrete confirmation on that front. The signing of another unproven “prodigy” comes at a time when the club have their star midfielders Cesc Fabregas (done deal according to reports) and Samir Nasri loitering around the exit doors.

New gun: Joel Campbell arrives at Arsenal

Campbell arrives from Deportivo Saprissa S.A.D., a highly successful Costa Rican top flight club. He has just played a couple of games for them before being loaned out to Puntarenas F.C., another Costa Rican club. Here again he has played a handful of games. He has no goals to his name at either club at top level in the few games he has under his belt for the duo. Where Joel Campbell has really shown his ability as a lethal striker is at the international level. He has netted 18 times in 27 games for the national team (National, U17 and U20 combined). He was the team’s highest scorer at the 2009 CONCACAF U-17 Championship with 2 goals. He also struck 6 times at the 2011 CONCACAF U-20 Championship to end up being the tournament’s top scorer. This is again another Arsene Wenger “signing for the future”. I do not see Campbell coming into the first team this season regardless of the work permit issue. And on the striking front Arsenal are in the same position as before – lose RVP to an injury and who scores? And given Chamakh’s poor form we really need to hold on to Nicklas Bendtner. This “signing for the future” is going to do nothing to placate the frustrated Arsenal fans and especially so when Fabregas and Nasri are on the verge of leaving when the new football season is almost upon us.

Arsene Wenger had his press meet yesterday where he mentioned the team having the strength in numbers and depth and that no one is leaving the club.  I had a nice chuckle, but felt sad. It was a show of defiance and Arsene was just trying his best to keep the team morale at acceptable levels ahead of today’s kickoff at St. James’ Park. But the real situation at the Emirates is far from settled as the heart of the midfield is about to be ripped in a few days. Though the Arsenal fans see Wenger’s ploy of keeping the team morale high, they are equally frustrated and angry at the situation the club is in. The fans are not angry about Cesc or Nasri leaving. The fans are angry simply because this is not the situation any team enters the kickoff day for a new season in. Arsenal’s game is on today but the fans do not know who the captain for the season is going to be. Enough said! It is not that fans cannot understand players leaving, Arsene. They are dejected simply because none of this was handled properly at all. We had a solid couple of months to make key decisions, strengthen and settle in nicely but we have a mess on the day of the new season. The impending star departures could have been handled in a swift, decisive way and an equal show of ambition could have been displayed in the transfer market as well. Instead too much time has been wasted thinking and negotiating. Arsenal fans would have be a far more satisfied lot with swift decisions and a couple of signings rather than star players leaving after the season begins. There are a further two weeks left in the transfer window and I hope Arsene fixes this ridiculous mess. Till then we just have to pray that Arsenal are able to qualify for Europe and survive league clashes against Liverpool and Manchester United with a team as unsettled as this.


 Balaji Ramamurthy

 Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

 August 13, 2011

 

So finally it all starts again! The English Premier League kicks off today and barring the Tottenham vs Everton game (thanks to the idiot rioters), all remaining fixtures are on. I plan to make this a regular column for the English Premier League. No in-depth analysis nothing, just pure fun predicting results on match-day. And you guys can join the fun using the comments section for your predictions. Just copy paste mine and change the scoreline to your prediction. We’ll play week by week. And here we’re going to cover the games on Saturday, Sunday and the lone mid-week game on Tuesday.

Points system:

1. A correct prediction (correct result regardless of the scoreline predicted) = 1 point.

2. An exact god-like scoreline prediction = 3 points.

3. A wrong one = 0.

Please join in! More the people, more fun we have and a mini prediction league of our own! The winner based on cumulative points accrued over the entire English top flight season will win something neat. Well if I win (I’m playing mind games already!) the prize goes to whoever finishes second, else it obviously goes to the winner 🙂

So here we go! Mine first. And yes the home team comes first in every listing.

Saturday

1.  Blackburn vs Wolverhampton: 2-1

2. Fulham vs Aston Villa: 1-1

3. Liverpool vs Sunderland: 2-0

4. QPR vs Bolton Wanderers: 1-1

5. Wigan vs Norwich City: 2-2

6. Newcastle vs Arsenal: 1-2

Sunday

1. Stoke City vs Chelsea: 1-2

2. West Brom vs Man United: 1-2

Tuesday

1. Man City vs Swansea: 3-0

So keep them coming in! Use the comments section to post your entries. The prediction league table will be displayed on the same predictions post next week. Good luck! Comments with predictions (for Sat, Sun and Tue) coming in after the first kickoff at 15:00 GMT today will not be eligible.


          Balaji Ramamurthy

          Editor – Football, The CouchExpert

          August 12, 2011

This was too hilarious and had to find its way here. A light satire on the situation at Arsenal. Sure you do have your serious moments with the team you love or hate. But sometimes we need to chill and look at the lighter funny side of life 🙂

All credits go to Mr. GilbertoSilver. For all the diehard Arsenal fans, he is better known as the author of Gunnerblog

And kudos to the good spirited Arsenal fans world over who can see the humor and appreciate good comedy.


Mayank Gupta

August 11, 2011

August 2010 – Almost a year ago to this date, David N’gog scored a brilliant goal from an acute angle to get a 10 man Liverpool the lead against Arsenal at Anfield only for Pepe Reina to commit a howler in the last minutes to gift Arsenal a late goal. This was the kind of performance that became symbolic during the reign of Roy Hodgson at Anfield with just the two halves chronologically reversed for Liverpool. More often than not Liverpool conceded in the first half at Anfield and then scrapped their way back to share the honors. Away from Anfield, none cared to even mention anything worthwhile in their discussions.

September 2010 – our beloved club is in the relegation zone of the table.

October 2010, the Kop saw a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark tunnel conceived by two idiot Texans at Anfield. This hope was John W. Henry and his FSG group.

November 2010 – takeover completed after courtroom battle and a great performance to put away Aston Villa and West Ham 3-0 at Anfield. Finally!

December 2010 – loss to Wolves at Anfield. Christmas wish of every Kop –SACK HODGSON, GET DALGLISH!

2nd January, 2011 – Cole scores a late winner against Bolton at Reebok. Kops – ‘’Oh, WTF?? This could keep Hodgson at Anfield.’’

Then three straight defeats with the last one at Blackburn making LFC look like a championship side. That’s it, nail drawn in the coffin. We are doomed to finish around mid-table.

Liverpool fans will expect their team to do well this season

Wait a minute, who is that guy in the LFC Gaffer’s chair at Old Trafford in the FA cup game? Oh, he is our very own Kenneth D. Dalglish. Game is lost yet the away fans are out screaming the home fans. LFC finally has good owners, great loyal club servant as coach, the best striker in the world and our very own Kop for diehard support. Happy Thanksgiving John W. Henry. Life begins to come a full circle. We win more away games in a month than the entire number of wins in the season thus far.

A month later, some spoilt kid is not happy at Anfield, he is sold and then the money invested to buy a no. 9 and no. 10 for the club. A genuine no. 9 and no. 10. These gifts cost an enormous price but then ‘Dad’ Henry made a lot of money banishing the spoilt kid. But somehow, everyone is happy a week later when Liverpool demolish Chelsea and another month later make Manchester United look like a championship side.

We are on a roll – seem close to 4th place sometimes, then drop points to get far away, toy around with a multi-million dollar Manchester City team at Anfield and eventually miss out on Europe. Somehow, Christmas seemed to last forever from 9th January, 2011.

During this holiday period of Christmas, people talk Moneyball, statistics and other non-footballing parameters to be associated with LFC transfers over the summer. For once, they are correct and we bring in players with the ability of Adam, Henderson, Downing and Doni into the team. (as I write this, Enrique deal is almost done barring medical). With the optimism carried over from the good feel factor, everyone is excited and tipping Liverpool to finish top four. However, I remain skeptical about it as I was last year when the media was saying Joe Cole was a transfer coup for us and the best buy of that summer.

Gerrard's participation might be restricted following his groin surgery.

Firstly, everyone is projecting the Liverpool team to be stronger with the new signings. In my humble opinion, only Downing makes us stronger. He is the only new signing who will be automatically placed on the starting XI as there is no contest for his position. However, he fills up a huge gap on our left side which was never filled once Riise left. (I know he was a left back, but his runs covered the entire length and were good enough to monitor the entire touchline).

The biggest puzzle remains with the buying of Adam. Where does he play? Or does he play only for his set-pieces? It is a tough one to answer. Many are already jumping up with the idea of a center midfield position for him but let’s take a quick look into all this one at a time.

1. Adam plays attacking midfielder. This would mean Meireles, Aquilani (he could be gone) or Gerrard either play deep in their own half, thus containing their own natural game in a 4 – 4 – 2 or play ahead of him with a lone striker in Carroll in a 4 – 1 – 4 – 1. The latter would not be effective by pushing Suarez to the wings and Gerrard or Meireles as a defensive midfielder in the former one is not effective either.

2. Starting Adam alongside Lucas as defensive midfielder could work as they would complement each other’s style of play. Lucas is a steady wall and good at making tackles whereas Adam is excellent at spraying the ball around the park. It could be similar to Alonso Mascherano partnership. However, the system of play would have to change to a 3 – 4 – 3 system or a 4 – 2 – 3 – 1. This is a wingback system and Dalglish used it effectively last season. We have some excellent full backs for the right side of the field and for the left side now we could have Enrique, Downing and the best of them all when fit – Aurelio.

Regarding Henderson, I don’t see him starting unless injuries hit the team. He will most likely be an understudy to Gerrard and our very own workhorse Kuyt. The guy has the ability but it depends on his willingness to learn to be able to establish himself in the playing XI. Dalglish would prefer a person willing to work his socks off on the pitch over anyone else.

Everyone has asked the abundance of midfielders in the team but with the injury woes of Gerrard beginning to start, Aquilani and Meireles being soft for the EPL, one can understand now why such an overbuying of midfielders was done by Kenneth Dalglish.

Another answer to this question could be how well Liverpool played last season without Steven Gerrard in the XI. Meireles could play his natural games with those advancing runs and others played at their pace thus removing the slowed pace of Gerrard on which the game would run when he played. Though he is the epitome of modern day Liverpool, I expect him to play restricted games this season as KD Dalglish is a higher authority at Anfield than Steven Gerrard. This could also be attributed to his injury concerns after his groin surgery.

However, the biggest difference from last year’s post January run and the new season is the expectation to achieve something. Here statistics fail, transfer coups are proved ridiculous and points are dropped in the last minutes to eliminate you from everything. Without pressure to achieve last season Liverpool team proved they are still one of the toughest teams to beat in the world. However, their ability to do so under pressure remains an unanswered question.

Scholes will be missed by Manchester United. But they still start favourites.

Their ranking and influence has plummeted in Europe in the last 2 seasons with the departure of Riise (2008), Alonso (2009) and Mascherano (2010). Riise was the one player we never managed to replace adequately. Major error in my opinion. A good defence gets you one point from a game however, a potent attack with a weak defence does not assure you of this. Alonso’s departure in 2009, everyone knows and everyone has analysed his loss to the team in detail. Mascherano was adequately replaced by our very own Lucas.

The core of the team has remained same from 2009 – 2011 with two factors coming into play – 1. The aging pair of Gerrard and Carragher and 2. Loss of Torres. (however, Suarez could fill his boots and do even better).

I have never had any doubts about the team, it is their ability to perform under pressure which remains a key factor for them. Dropping points against teams like Stoke, Birmingham and Bolton does not help your cause even if you beat the top four regularly. Champions finish their opponents ruthlessly. If Dalglish can help the team overcome this mental block, I see no other hindrance to us finishing second (yes 2nd) in the league.

However, so far this has been an analysis only for my team. Let’s take a look at others fighting for the top 4.

1. Manchester United

They are tipped to win the league. However, they have a huge hole to fill in the center of their midfield. Without the stature of Paul Scholes in that position, teams will have a little more freedom and chance to express themselves. They will have more linking between the forwards and the midfield, which given the pressure David de Gea must be feeling from filling in Van der Sar’s role, could spell doom for Manchester United. However, if Sneijder comes to United, it is doom for everyone else. (core of the team is same except for the midfield. 2nd in the league if LFC finish 1st or 1st and LFC second)

2. Chelsea

A new young coach, same old spending power but the new problem of an aging squad. Villas-Boas seems to be like the newly wed Indian bride being given all the attention in the English media. However, unlike his mentor, he does not like hogging the limelight and is not outspoken. This seems to be his biggest strength. Not promising but delivering results will be his attitude. It remains to be seen who he turns towards for all the goals – the old warhorse or the £50m donkey. As Chelsea look to build a new squad, implications are for the latter but does he have a midfield who can put the ball over the opposition final four as Torres likes to use his pace (which is diminishing) to beat defenders and hardly wins a one on one with them unless the one he is facing is Vidic. With Drogba, this does not seem to be a problem as his physical strength takes him past those defenders. (Governing factors – fighting mentality, leadership of Terry and how quickly Villas-Boas finds the perfect system. Finish 3rd)

3. Manchester City

They really are the noisy neighbours. They had a nice run last season, finished 3rd and will play in the Champions League this season. However, there is a question – are they a team of footballers or a team of millionaires? Never have I watched a team criticize each other extensively in public or for that matter, in such a short managerial stint of one-and-a-half year, Mancini has annoyed more players than anyone. Mancini and Balotelli seem to be fighting to become the more annoying and hated persons in the squad. With the added task and matches of UCL, their billion dollar squad will be pushed to the limit and with the strength of the squad it is not expected of them to wither like Tottenham last season. However, how the Milners and Johnsons cope with the pressure of UCL remains to be seen. Another episode would be which player wants to retire from football at Christmas in the period of December? Without their talismanic captain, their team could be more individualistic than before. Aguero could be a good replacement but EPL tests even the hardest of performers. (Good individual footballers but weak as a unit. Finishing 5th)

4. Arsenal 

The problem of wailing Wenger. Is it really a problem?? Every summer, Arsenal is tipped to finish out of the top four, every subsequent May they finish in top four. Have the pundits ever been wrong more constantly on any other subject in the game? The world is thinking Arsenal without Fabregas and Nasri are crap. However, Wenger will buy some wonder-kid for petty change from somewhere in the world. Have people already forgotten the Henrys, the Vieiras and the Petits he churned out year after year? It is the style of football Arsenal play which makes it easy for a natural footballer to slot into the team and be an integral part of it. Let’s take a look at their first XI. RVP is as lethal as anyone in the world when fit. He has an apt replacement in Chamakh and Gervinho can play no. 10. Then on the right wing there is Theo Walcott. Just recently in 2008, Arshavin was wreaking havoc on the left touchline for Russia which prompted Wenger to buy the Russian. So he can play there. For the defensive midfielders, the world was crazy 2 months ago for a player called Jack Wilshere. Then in the defense Vermaelen is fit and raring to go after one complete season of injury. Sagna can patrol the right touchline. This leaves the need for another CB which could be Cahill or Dann (both are Premier League proven and can be extremely good at set pieces). Left back and a creative midfielder are two areas of concern. However, I have watched Rosicky since 2006 and he is also extremely talented to play in that role or at the left wing. Now, we all agree, this XI is not for winning the league and Wenger also knows the same but he talks bullishly in the media because he is paid to do so. However, he also knows he can easily finish in the top 4 without investing millions, so why do it?? That’s why they never make a hue and cry in the transfer market and still finish in the top 4. However, I hope his keeper is good this season. (Strength is the wailing Wenger. Will finish 4th)

5. Tottenham Hotspur

I won’t waste my time on them. They had their one night stand with the UCL and exposed their assets to the vultures of the footballing world to prey on them . They are like Google+ compared to Facebook, a lot of exciting players but will never overtake the big guns on a constant basis. Might make them worry once in a while but they will never hurt them in the long run. (finishing 6th)