Monday, 24 June 2013

Confederations Cup Analysis + Review #2

The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup is officially now in swing, with all 8 teams having played all of their group stage matches and 4 teams have all qualified for the quarter-finals which will be played on Wednesday and Thursday... 

The hosts of the competition Brazil and Euro 2012 runners-up Italy qualified from Group A, with European champions Spain and South American champions Uruguay also qualifying from Group B.

Barca left-back Jordi Alba is the unlikely hero for Spain, as Tahiti continue to devalue the Confederations Cup competition.... #ConfederationsCup #SPAvsNIG #URUvsTAH

Spain just won their 3rd match in their group against Nigeria 3-0, with Alba scoring twice and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres coming off the bench to score for the European champions with a diving header inside the box as they showed their class and style before their semi-final match-up against Italy on Thursday.

Nigeria struggled to take any of their chances that they created, with tame shots and weak defending at best, nothing to trouble Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes in the goal as the African Cup of Nations winners failed to take their opportunities on the counter attack and scare the champions...

Tahiti on the other hand just got thrashed 8-0 by South American champions Uruguay with strikers Luis Suarez and Abel Hernandez getting 6 goals between them in another rout for Tahiti to suffer.

The burning question remains; Why are Tahiti in the competition, and why couldn't the groups have been slightly fairer to accommodate for them?!

This should have been the groups in my opinion:
Group A:
Mexico, Japan, Uruguay, Nigeria
Group B:
Spain, Italy, Brazil, Uruguay

To make the competition fairer, and more interesting...

Either way the best four teams are all through to the semi-finals which will be played next week, my money is on Spain to win....


Saturday, 22 June 2013

EPL Team of The Year Analysis + Review:

The announced EPL TOTY, featuring red-hot Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie. 

This blog post goes into detail about the players that were picked for the EPL TOTY this season, whether they were good or not and the players that deserve to be on the bench or who were notably absent from the team line-up. 

So firstly, we start off with the heavily criticized Manchester United goalkeeper in the form of Spanish David De Gea.  

As soon as he arrived in Manchester for around £20million pounds in July 2011, he knew that he had big boots to fill in the name of Edwin Van De Sar who had not only played for the club consistently well over a number of years, but had become a fans favourite to millions over that period of time. 

Last season would not have been his best as he was still getting used to the pressures and physical side of England, where he made many mistakes but you could quite clearly see that he was improving gradually especially towards the end of the season.

This season however, he has been playing much better and making much less mistakes as a result. 
Yes, if you look in more detail he has not had that much pressure to deal with in terms of teams that have top-class strikers apart from the two matches against Real Madrid in the Champions League, where he played phenomenally to deny Ronaldo and co on many occasions during both legs. United lost, but he was definitely their MOTM.  

He has proved his doubters wrong, and shown that this could just be the start of his illustrious career at Old Trafford where he has the potential to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world later on in his career. 

Potential: David De Gea has the potential to become one of the world's best goalkeepers.

For club and country: De Gea has impressed at U-21 level for Spain, and is first choice. 

Next, we have the defence.

The two full-backs in Manchester City's right-back Pablo Zabaleta and Everton left-back Leighton Baines.  

Zabaleta has had to almost lead the back line for Manchester City during Belgian centre-back Vincent Kompany's injury-plagued season. 

He has impressed for City throughout this campaign with solid performances and consistent runs and defensive work-rates, and this is why he is in the TOTS (team of the season). 

Leader: Pablo Zabaleta is the only City player in the TOTS but has played well this season. 

Meanwhile, Leighton Baines has been influential for Everton, helping them at the back and being dangerous on the wings. He has contributed massively scoring a couple of crucial goals and motivating The Toffees to challenge for a European spot.  

Influential figure: Baines has been crucial to Everton's season in both attack and defence.

Consistent performances for Everton have pushed him forward as a contender for the England left-back slot.

Manchester United veteran Rio Ferdinand has been included in this year's team of the season due to consistent and solid performances at the back in a rather shaky United back four.
He has been one of the standout performers for United this season, especially at the back with captain and fellow defender Nemanja Vidic out injured for the most part, Ferdinand has had to lead the back line at times in a rather young squad. 

Natural born leader: Rio has been solid and consistent at the back for United this season, deserving of his place.

Meanwhile, Tottenham centre-back Jan Vertonghen has been an absolute revelation since his move from Ajax last summer.

He has been one of the standout signings for Spurs over the past decade, and that is an under-statement... This season he has been solid as a rock at the back, while bombing forward also to help counter attacks and lurking in the box for set pieces including corners.. he has scored 7 goals in 48 appearances this season, which is significant for a centre-back...

Standout performer: Jan Vertonghen has been solid consistently this season in his first season in England.

Not a surprise: Jan Vertonghen became only the second Belgian player to win the Player of the Month in March.

Well deserved for a solid defender in his first season in one of the most competitive leagues in the world, huh?

Now onto the midfielders...

Michael Carrick has been one of the most under-rated midfielders in the EPL over the past decade, and this season he has shown more than ever why United spent £18million pounds on him in 2008.

This season, United have had a weaker midfield presence than usual in recent years, with Carrick being a standout performer both in defensive and attack for the reigning champions. His consistent performances have made him a regular starter in both the United squad, and the England squad also, whereas he was overlooked to people such as Frank Lampard, Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard in the past but has impressed the world with his great attributes.

English defensive midfielder Michael Carrick has been consistently performing well this season for United

Key role: Carrick helped United secure their record 20th title by stabilizing the midfield throughout the season

Impressive: His performances have earned him a regular role in the England squad

Passing, vision and the ability to read the game properly are all reasons why Carrick has been included in the 2012-13 TOTS, and it is well deserved for a 31-year-old who has not had much recognition over his footballing career. 

Meanwhile, Chelsea's Spanish playmaker Juan Mata has been part of the reason why they have qualified for the Champions League in many ways... his goals, attacking flair, consistent showings and being able to pick out a pass everywhere around the pitch shows one of The Blues best signings of the Abramovich era.

Superb: Mata has been excellent for The Blues in helping them securing 3rd place and win the Europa League

Him and Lampard are the playmakers of the team; without them, the team is weak.

On the right wing, we have much hyped Belgian winger Eden Hazard who has had an interesting first season in the Premier League after his £32million move from Lille last summer. He was wanted by over 5 clubs including Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona but he chose to sign for the European champions at the time - Chelsea.

His move was heavily critisced from the start, as he could have moved to much stronger teams but chose a team that won the Champions League purely by luck yet struggled to get into the top 4 in their own league...

In his first few months, his performances were shaky and he was inconsistent frequently throughout the season.

However, having said that Hazard has shown attacking genius at times also, notably his solo effort against West Ham earlier on in the year, and his sublime strike against Manchester United in the FA Cup. 

Flashes of brilliance: Belgian winger Eden Hazard has shown flashes of attacking genius in his first season.

His place in the TOTS is slightly controversial as players such as Fellaini, Cazorla and Michu would have been preferred, but he has shown flashes of brilliance in his first season nonetheless and you can see why he has been chosen...
Hopefully he can start next season with a bang and play consistently well from the start without too much pressure.

The next player on the TOTS squad is definitely not inconsistent by any stretch of the imagination... Tottenham winger Gareth Bale has been voted Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year thanks to his amazing displays week in week out for Spurs, helping them to challenge for a Champions League spot up until the final day of the season when Arsenal snatched it right at the death... 

Talisman: Gareth Bale has been influential in a Spurs side that has been lacklustre this season, apart from a couple of players.

He has scored 21 goals in the EPL alone this season, while making a couple of assists and helping his side in general on many occasions.
The Welsh winger has sparked a lot of interest from Real Madrid, Manchester United and PSG among other clubs after his amazing performances shocked the world and England throughout the season. 

Now the strikers... 

Luis Suarez scored 23 goals this season for Liverpool, as he undoubtedly performed his best in a Liverpool shirt, stunning the world with his skills, consistency in-front of goal, trickery and pace over the short distance to scare defenders..

Constant threat: Liverpool will have to do everything to keep Suarez, who reportedly wants a transfer.

He has unsurprisingly attracted attention from many of Europe's biggest clubs including Bayern, Real Madrid and PSG and despite his controversy over the Ivanovic biting incident, Liverpool will have to do a lot to keep their prized gem next season.. 

Manchester United's summer signing Robin van Persie was the difference between winning their record 20th title, and conceding a second title loss to local rivals Manchester City.

Signing of the season: Robin van Persie has been the difference between glory and failure for United...

Age is just a number: van Persie is one of the best strikers in the world, at age 29..

He scored 26 goals in the EPL, totalling 30 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions as well as winning the Golden Boot for the 2nd year running, with a second team from the one last season - Arsenal.

Here is my TOTS team:
GK - De Gea/Begovic
LB - Baines
CB - Vertonghen and Ferdinand
RB - Zabaleta

CDM - Carrick and Fellaini
CAM - Cazorla
CF - Bale
ST - Suarez and van Persie

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

2013 Confederations Cup - the tournament so far:

Just under a year until the 2014 World Cup begins, football fans all around the world have a special treat with a warm-up International tournament that only happens once every four years involved 8 International teams from all around the world. 

Here are the 8 teams involved in the tournament, along with the groups and results from matches that have taken place already.

Group A: 

Brazil - hosts
Japan - 2011 AFC Asian Cup winners
Mexico - 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup winners
Italy - Runners-up at Euro 2012

Group B:

Spain - FIFA World Cup and Euro 2012 winners
Uruguay - 2011 Copa America winners
Nigeria - 2013 African Cup of Nations winners
Tahiti - 2012 OFC Nations winners

June 15:
Brazil 3 Japan 0
This was the opening match in the tournament in Brazil, with the hosts playing against one of the underdogs in the tournament on Saturday afternoon. 
Things started brightly for Brazil, thanks to a wonder strike by new Barcelona forward Neymar who struck a powerful volley from 20 yards out which flew past the goalkeeper into the net in the 3rd minute. 

Barca boy: New Barcelona forward Neymar celebrates his wonder-strike against Japan (below)

Unstoppable: The camera angle behind the goal where Neymar broke the deadlock with a stinging volley.

Midfielder Paulinho doubled the lead just after half-time in the 48th minute after some patient build-up play outside the box found him in space to shoot, with his strike bouncing off the goalkeeper's hands and falling straight into the net.  

Perfect placement: Midfielder Paulinho uses placement over power to double Brazil's lead over Japan.

Samba stars: Paulinho celebrates making it 2-0 to Brazil in the first group game of the tournament.

The icing was put on the Brazil cake in the 3rd minute of stoppage time, with a dangerous counter attack finding Chelsea's playmaker Oscar running into space in the middle of the pitch. He used vision and awareness to pick out a pass to former Manchester City striker Jo, who cooly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper into the net for his first ever goal in a Brazil shirt.  

Turning on the style: Jo slots the ball past the goalkeeper to put the icing on the Brazil cake and make it 3-0.

Familiar face? Former Manchester City striker Jo celebrates his first goal for Brazil to complete a comfortable evening for the hosts

June 16:
Mexico 1 Italy 2
This was the evening kick-off on Day 2 of the Confederations Cup, with runners-up from Euro 2012 Italy playing against underdogs Mexico.

Midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo broke the deadlock in the 27th minute from a superbly-struck free-kick 25-yards out to give Italy the lead, but Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez equalised from the penalty spot 7 minutes later, sending Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way to level the scoring.  

Fantastic free-kick: Pirlo swerves the ball over the wall and into the net in an instant to give Italy the lead.
Midfield maestro: Pirlo celebrates his strike on his 100th cap for Italy.
Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez equalises for Mexico in the 34th minute to make it 1-1 at half-time

Italy did not deserve to be level at half-time, despite having dominated the possession, goal-scoring chances and passing but just could not take their opportunities in-front of goal.

In the second half, they continued to press for the winner, until 12 minutes from time AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli put Italy in-front with a powerful finish from inside the box after showing strength and agility to get past two defenders and move quickly to adjust his position to turn and finish. 

Winning goal: AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli gives Italy a 2-1 lead with minutes to play.

Important: Italy celebrate Balotelli's goal to give them their first three points of the tournament in Group A.

Italy became the second team to have three points in the tournament, with their next opponent being Japan tomorrrow.
Spain 2 Uruguay 1
The late kick-off was between World Cup and European champions Spain, and Copa America winners Uruguay.

Goals from Liga BBVA striking duo Pedro (Barca) and Soldado (Valencia) gave the reigning world champions a comfortable 2-0 lead despite possession and balance of play suggesting they should have been up by more goals to be perfectly honest.

Ahead: Barcelona winger Pedro celebrates his opener against Uruguay..

Doubling the lead: Before Valencia clinical finisher Soldado's strike made it 2-0 to Spain..

Simply the best: Spain celebrate Soldado's goal to make it 2-0 on the night and give them a comfortable lead.

Liverpool's transfer request talisman Luis Suarez scored a swerving free-kick from 25 yards out to give Uruguay hope of getting back into the match, but it ended up only being a consolation goal and Spain won 2-1 in their first match of the tournament. 

De ja vu: Luis Suarez has scored a couple of free-kicks this season, again adding to his collection

You can see why: Suarez's quality on the pitch has sparked interest from Real and PSG among other clubs as his stay in England looks to be coming to an end.

June 17:
Tahiti 1 Nigeria 6
The scoreline is surprisingly nice to Tahiti, believe it or not. 

The OFC Nations winners suffered a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of this year's African Cup of Nations winners Nigeria who clinically finished most of their goal-scoring chances in a one-sided opening group B game. 

Nnamdi Oduamadi scored a hat-trick for Nigeria, 2 goals in his first half before getting his third in the 77th minute. 

Super Eagles: Striker Nnamdi Oduamadi celebrates his first of three goals...

Number two: Oduamadi curled the ball past the goalkeeper for his second of his day against Tahiti

Finishing touch: Oduamadi slots the ball past a beaten keeper for his hat-trick.

Tahiti scored two own goals in the match, while Uwa Echiejile killed the game off in the 80th minute to make it 6-1. 

Shock: Bookmakers had bets that Tahiti would not even score during the whole tournament, but they already have.

Jubilation: Tahiti celebrate their first goal of the tournament like they won it - even though they were losing.

Support: Underdogs Tahiti show their appreciation to their fans after their 6-1 loss to Nigeria.

Today's matches (Wednesday):

From Group A:
Brazil vs Mexico (4pm local time, 7pm UK)
Italy vs Japan (7pm local time, 10pm UK) 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

EPL Transfer Done Deals + Rumours #1

The summer transfer window has not officially opened yet for clubs to do their business, but that does not mean that clubs cannot reach agreements with and confirm signings..

Here are the done deals so far:

Fernandinho - £34million to Manchester City from Shakthar Donetsk

Not messing around: Manchester City have unveiled £34million Fernandinho as their first signing of the summer.

This defensive midfielder is highly-rated in Europe, and he could be the creative hub of the team next season, helping City regain their EPL crown. Just imagine him and Yaya Toure in midfield, two scary powerhouses.

It just shows that Manchester City are not messing around... 

Maarten Stekelenburg - free transfer to Fulham from Roma

Great value for a free: Roma goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg has signed for Fulham on a four-year deal.

Aleksandar Tonev - £2.75million to Aston Villa 

Aston Villa have completed their first signing of the summer transfer window, signing Bulgarian winger Aleksandar Tonev from Lech Poznan to add to their attacking flair. 

Jose Canas - free transfer to Swansea (deal agreed, will sign on the 1st of July)

Ricky van Wolfswinkel - undisclosed fee to Norwich (estimated around £10million pounds, will officially sign on the 1st of July)

Fernando Amorebieta and Derek Boateng - free transfers to Fulham (officially sign for the club on the 1st of July) 

Guillermo Varela - undisclosed fee (thought to be around £1million pounds) to Manchester United from Penarol

Potential to be special: Uruguayan defender Guillermo Varela has signed for Manchester United.

Now for the rampant rumours... 

Barcelona have confirmed that midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who is wanted by Arsenal and Manchester United is not for sale. 

Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain virtually confirmed a move to Arsenal, saying that Real Madrid has been good to him but it is time for a new challenge - in London.

Chelsea have opened talks with Napoli over Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani, reportedly thinking about offering £50million pounds for the player.

Sunderland have reportedly agreed a deal to sign Argentine left-back Lucas Orban.

French club Marseille are interested in signing Arsenal forward Gervinho, but only on loan for the time being. 

However, Galatasaray are interested in making a £12million pound bid for him.

Tottenham full-back Benoit Assou-Ekotto is wanted by Turkish side Fenerbahce. 

Wanted: Benoit Assou-Ekotto has sparked interest from Turkish side Fenerbache. 

£7million-rated FC Twente winger Nacer Chadli has revealed that he wants to play in the EPL - much to the interest of both Tottenham and Liverpool.

Liverpool are interested in signing Ivorian striker Arouna Kone after his impressive debut season in the EPL, hoping to sign him for a cut-price because Wigan have been relegated. 

Newly-promoted side Cardiff are interested in former Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou, who has admitted that he would like to return to the EPL.. 

Crystal Palace are interested in signing Sunderland midfiedler Ahmed Elmohamady. 

Chelsea are reportedly thinking of making a £20million offer for Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala to bolster their defence. 

Sunderland midfielder Stephane Sessegnon reportedly wants to leave the club after poor results from the team over the past few seasons. 

Chelsea's fringe Nigerian winger Victor Moses is being targeted by new Everton manager Roberto Martinez.

New French moneybags Monaco are looking at Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra and Manchester City's full-back Gael Clichy as potential targets to sign over the summer transfer window. 

Manchester City's new manager Manuel Pellegrini takes charge of his new side this week and will ask club chiefs to allow a £30million move for Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria.

This comes after rumours that City have already signed right-winger Jesus Navas for £23million earlier this week. 

The Fellaini transfer saga has taken another twist:

Roberto Martinez insists his talismanic Belgian powerhouse is going nowhere, yet Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea are all reportedly interested in signing him. He admitted he would like to play in the Champions League, with Arsenal being able to give him that. 

Powerhouse: Marouane Fellaini is wanted by many big clubs, will Everton be able to hold onto him?

The Gunners are front-runners to sign the Belgian, reportedly activating his £24million pound release clause.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea + Everton - Season Reviews and Analysis #1

Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post where I have part 1 of 5 in my new "Season Reviews" series.
I will be reviewing all the 20 EPL teams that played this season in detail, including why they played so well/badly along with potential transfer targets and player of the season in each team.

First in the series, I have four teams in alphabetically order starting with Arsenal...

Another interesting year for Arsenal, concluding with 4th place and a consistent end to the season...

The Gunners had an interesting season, finishing 4th after an eventful campaign where they fought local north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur for the final Champions League qualification spot.

They were unlucky losing on away goal rule against Bayern Munich in the Last 16 of the Champions League, while they lost against underdogs Bradford on penalties in the Capital One Cup as well as losing to Blackburn in the 5th Round of the FA Cup.

In a way, this motivated Arsenal to do well in the league and fight for 4th place - especially because they were not involved in Europe or any other competitions unlike Chelsea and Tottenham..

Despite their lacklustre performances at the start of the season, The Gunners showed that they are a decent team who proved that they do not need Robin van Persie to give them Champions League football. 

Obviously next season they will want to be challenging for titles and trophies more fiercely instead of 4th place (which is considered poor for City and United), but added to the fact they have a big transfer budget to spend on quality players they have a chance of winning something next season even if it is not the EPL title or Champions League just yet. 

Scrappy Villa: Aston Villa were lucky to escape relegation this season, finishing in 15th place..
Aston Villa:

Aston Villa had a scrappy season this year - luckily surviving the relegation dog fight and finishing in 15th place (5 points off the drop zone).
This is partly because of their young squad who have hardly any experience in one of the most competitive leagues in the world. 

They struggled against most of the teams in the top half of the table, and if it wasn't for players like Brad Guzan or Christian Benteke they would have been relegated a long time ago.

Wanted: Benteke is in red-hot form, with Arsenal, Spurs and Atletico Madrid all interested in him... Will Villa sell?

Rumours have been circulating that clinical striker (with 19 goals in the EPL this season) Benteke will leave Villa this summer, for around £30million pounds as interest is piling on from teams such as Arsenal, Tottenham and Atletico Madrid. It will be intrigiung to see who they will invest their transfer funds in to ensure they stay in the EPL next season.

Average season? Chelsea won the Europa League and secured 3rd place in a season with an interim manager.


You could argue that Chelsea had a very average season at best this campaign, without really challenging for the EPL title at all with no real stability and controversy surrounding the club at times.

First, four months after Roberto Di Matteo won the Champions League with Chelsea (back in May of last year), he was controversially sacked after two straight losses and a poor run of form. This was controversial because of the fact Abramovich had sacked him less than 2 months after giving him a two-year contract deal (as he was only meant to be the interim manager) plus the way the club handled the matter - being brutal and very harsh with the way they sacked him despite being the only manager to ever win the Champions League with Chelsea.

Then, to make matters worse for the supporters Abramovich appointed former rival Rafael Benitez as interim manager until the rest of the season which crushed any stability the club had until this point.

Despite a good run of form and decent results, the Chelsea supporters were being hateful towards Benitez continously up until he had won them the Europa League against Benfica and secured them a Champions League place next season. 

He became Napoli manager a couple of days after the EPL season finished, leaving England with a bad taste in his mouth after his harsh treatment.

Midfield duo Juan Mata and Frank Lampard were part of the reason Chelsea performed well throughout the season and if it wasn't for them, Chelsea would have struggled even more than they did. 

Star man: Juan Mata has been one of the best and most consistent midfielders in the world this season.

Legend: He broke the all-time goal-scoring record of 203 goals in a Chelsea shirt this season against Aston Villa.

FACT: Mata and Lampard scored a combined total of 37 goals in all competitions this season - from midfield. 

FACT: They also have a combined total of 42 assists...

Solid season for Everton, finishing in 6th place above their local rivals Liverpool for the 2nd season in a row.


This season has been a very positive season for The Toffees, finishing in 6th place with a decent squad and current crop of players including Mirallas, Baines, Fellaini and Pienaar.

It will be interesting to see how they perform next season under the reigns of new boss Roberto Martinez, who resigned from his post as Wigan manager a few days ago to join Everton who were without a manager for only a week after long-time serving boss of 11 years David Moyes left his post to take over from the retiring legend Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

They were surprising unlucky to be in the position they were at the end of the season, as they could have easily qualified for a Champions League place if they had won a few more of their drawn matches... 

They will be happy knowing that they were only 12 points off 3rd placed Chelsea, having drawn 15 out of their 38 matches in total (highest in the EPL) but Martinez will be eager to sign a proven, decent striker during the summer transfer window to ensure they will not draw as many games next season and be clinical in-front of goal.