Friday, 28 February 2014

Why Rooney's new contract deal makes United look bad:

Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have a brief review of Wayne Rooney's new £300,000-a-week contract deal which has been recently signed by Manchester United in an effort by manager David Moyes to keep hold of the English striker until 2019. 

Bumper deal: Rooney has signed a new lucrative contract deal worth 300k-a-week
Based on money? Questions over Rooney's loyalty to the club, despite signing a new contract

Big money: Rooney is now the highest-paid player in the EPL at the moment

I will be talking about why his new contract makes United look bad, weak, vulnerable and will mean that the team overall could lose respect from fellow teams for giving into a players' demands regardless of his talent and quality. 

Now I am not for one minute disputing the fact that Rooney is a world-class player, one of the best in the EPL and is reaching his peak where he can adapt to play in 5 or 6 different positions on the pitch (ST, CF, CAM, RAM, CM, CDM,) - yet having said that this is the second time that Rooney has threatened to leave United unless he received higher wages.

  • Rooney previously said that the club lacked ambition in 2010-11 season, admitting he could go to rivals City
  • There are constant rumours surrounding the future of United's first-team players as the team continues to decline this season
  • If United had not offered Rooney more wages, he would have left the club and probably have left to a rival who would have given him higher wages
  • The fact that they gave him £300,000-a-week shows their reluctance to sell one of their best players and most prized possession since his move from youth club Everton in 2004.
Talented but over-rated: There was a lot of hype over Rooney, people were surprised at how good he looked

Familiar sight: Rooney was signed in 2004 from Everton, with Moyes in charge
  • It sends a message to fellow teams that United can be easily exploited in the future with transfer fees higher than actual cost amounts for players (if United are desperate to sign someone, they will do their best to, regardless of the fee)
  • This is the second time that the club has allowed Rooney to badmouth the side and get away with it, no fine or reprimand - gets a pay rise!
We know that he is a good player and all, but I seriously don't think that his recent performances warrant a pay rise of this latitude. He is virtually the carrier of the England national team, simply because he is so vital to attacks and knows how to track back when needed, but if he played for a team like Spain or Germany he would have to work hard for his place in the team - whereas England need him to be their talisman and he is one of the first players on the starting line-up (because he is vital to the team, even off-form)

One of the highest-paid players in the world, he isn't exactly going to reject the contract - but it just shows the influence of player power in the world of football now. He works hard for the team, can adapt to different positions but is not at the same level as Iniesta, Messi and Ronaldo for example (players who get the same if not lower wages as he does!) so why is he getting a new contract? Interesting... 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Chelsea vs Everton - Analysis + Review:

Early kick-off: Chelsea hosted Everton in the first EPL match of the weekend

This match was played at a sunny Stamford Bridge, with top of the table Chelsea hosting 6th placed Everton at home in an interesting game between the title contenders and European qualification contenders in the first match of the weekend. 

Chelsea had the chance to go 4 points ahead of rivals Arsenal in 2nd and 5 ahead of City in 3rd place with a win against Everton, who have been in good form so far this season.

The team news going into the match was that the hosts made a few alterations to the line-up that lost to City in the FA Cup last weekend with Lampard, Oscar and Terry all returning to the squad for Chelsea.

Meanwhile their visitors Everton were desperate to get a decent result against Chelsea because of their lacklustre form in the last 5 EPL matches, scoring less and conceding late on.
A late change after loanee striker Lacina Traore was injured (hamstring strain) in the warm-up before the match, with Scottish striker Steven Naismith coming in as his replacement. 

Late change: Traore was set to start for Everton, but was injured in the warm-up
Barkley, Deulofeu and McGeady were among the substitutes on a strong Everton bench - just in-case things were not going their way. 

Team Line-ups going into the match (players shaded in yellow/red have been carded):

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Tery, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Matic, Willian, Oscar, Hazard and Eto'o.

Subs: Schwarzer, Cole, Ramires, Schurrle, Salah, Ba and Torres. 

Everton: Howard, Baines, Distin, Jagielka, Coleman, Barry, McCarthy, Pienaar, Osman, Mirallas and Naismith. 

Subs: J Robles, Hibbert, McGeady, Deulofeu, Barkley, Stones and Garbutt. 
Master tacticians: Martinez and Mourinho (left and right) are pictured watching their respective sides in the first-half

And it was the hosts who were brightest from the kick-off, with Hazard and Willian combining well to test the Everton defence regularly in the first 5 minutes of play. However, The Toffees stayed strong at the back with solid defending from Jagielka and Coleman, as well as fast and efficient tracking back from Barry and McCarthy whenever Chelsea were on the counter attack to break up play. 

Both sides had half-chances to score early on in the first-half, with Osman having a power strike parried over the bar by the safe hands of Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech while Lampard and Eto'o came closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts but were denied by good defending and composed saves from Tim Howard. 

FACT: Only Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny has more clean sheets than Howard this season.

The score was still goal-less at half-time, with the visitors being the happier of the two sides despite having a few chances to score - being denied by good saves from Cech. They defended very well and looked dangerous going forward, but couldn't break down the Chelsea defence effectively unless they were on the counter.

There was one substitution at half-time, with Oscar being replaced by Ramires (already on a yellow card, precaution) in a bid to add more pacy and attacking intent to get the opener soon after the restart.

And they were close to that, pressing constantly with balls whipped into the box but a brilliant double save from Howard to deny Hazard and then Ivanovic soon afterwards in the 60th minute forced the managers to show their hand with their substitutions.

Chest and out: Howard does well to save Ivanovic's powerful hit. 
Torres replaced Willian to help Eto'o upront, while young startlet Barkley replaced Osman in attacking changes for both teams. 

Schurrle replaced a lethargic and quiet Eto'o in Chelsea's last substitution of the match - and unsurprisingly an attacking sub, switching wings with Hazard to make Torres the lone striker with just over 20 minutes to play. You could tell that Mourinho was desperate not to settle for just a point at home, because whenever Chelsea had the ball they looked to push everyone forward. 

The home crowd started to get slightly frustrated after a good through ball from Ivanovic found Ramires in the box with a half-chance to test Howard once more, but the Brazillian lost his footing after some good tracking back by Coleman and Everton cleared the danger away.

Mirallas was replaced by Deulofeu with 15 minutes to play in a signal of intent from Martinez that he also wanted to win the match, Deulofeu and Barkley two attacking-minded players who are under-rated match-winners..

Hazard did well to drive forward into the Everton box, before Torres got ahead of the Belgian, took the ball off his team-mate and had a spinning strike towards goal deflected by Hazard in the 76th minute, which summed up the game for Chelsea.

Beyond belief: Torres grimaces in frustration after coming off the bench, not playing well.
Everton's new signing Aiden McGeady came off the bench to replace Pienaar in the 80th minute - with around 10 minutes or so plus stoppage time to make an impact in the match.

Midfield tussle: Chelsea midfielder Matic and Everton winger Pienaar battle for possession

Barry was booked after "taking one for the team", tracking the run of Ivanovic who burst into midfield on the counter attack looking for Hazard and Torres to feed the ball to, before the English defensive-midfielder clattered into the Serbian's leg and the referee Lee Probert gave him a yellow card in the 81st minute. 

FACT: That was Barry's 8th yellow card of the season.

Schurrle came close for Chelsea with a swerving low strike towards goal in the 83rd minute, but his hit flew into the side netting, not troubling Howard.

The Blues kept up the pressure, with Ivanovic crossing the ball into the back post for Schurrle whose resulting shot flew over the bar.

Terry made a good tackle to deny Barkley from cutting inside the box, before the referee stopped play after Naismith fell on the floor in agony after an aerial clash, where he tweaked his foot. The physio came on, and treated Naismith swiftly so he was able to continue in the final stages of the match.

When the match restarted after the small break in play, Chelsea continued to put pressure on their visitors, with the supporters singing loud in voice to try and encourage their side to score a late winner. 

Ramires came close with a thumping effort from 20 yards out towards Howard in the 89th minute, but his shot was just wide after he weaved his way past an Everton defender to strike.

The fourth official signalled for 5 minutes of stoppage time to be played, as Chelsea drove forward trying to break the deadlock late on. Good defensive clearing from Jagielka and Coleman to deny Schurrle and Ramires' advances before Jagielka was booked for a late trip on Ramires, who was galloping forward on the counter in the 2nd minute of stoppage time.

The resulting free-kick was whipped deep into the box by Lampard, whose delivery fell to the feet of defender John Terry who poked the ball out of the reach of Howard into the bottom corner of the net to score a late opener in the 90+3rd minute of time. The Chelsea supporters went wild as their team broke the deadlock with just a minute or so to play.

Close range: Terry pokes the ball past Howard into the net to send Stamford Bridge wild

Vital goal: Terry celebrates his 3rd goal of the season, an important one against Everton
The hosts stayed firm at the back to defend against Everton's late advances, to give them a vital 3 points in the title race. 

Everton were unlucky to lose because they defended well throughout the match and played well overall, being denied by Cech's solid saves on a number of occasions - but in the end they were punished late on from a goal which was inevitably going to come sooner or later for either side, and they were the team to concede the goal. 

Chelsea move 4 points ahead of Arsenal who host Sunderland in the afternoon kick-off's, while Everton fail to close the gap on 5th place Tottenham Hotspur who will be the favourites to beat Norwich on Sunday afternoon. 

Manchester United could go level on points with The Toffees if they beat Crystal Palace in the evening match - and the top 4 finish is looking less and less likely now.
Hard work and no reward is the story for Everton, who will feel hard done by but have to look up to the next match and hope they can at least qualify for the Europa League next season, which could either help them or hinder their progress in the EPL in 2015. 

Thank you for reading my blog post today, I will have more football content for you all to read later on in the next couple of days! 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Wednesday's UEFA Champions League Last 16 Match-Reviews:

Back: Wednesday saw Arsenal host Bayern again, after their thrilling tie last season.

Hello again everyone and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have analysis and a review of the two matches being played in the first leg ties of their respective UEFA Champions League matches on Wednesday night. 

Two English sides were in action on the first week back in the UCL, with Manchester City losing 2-0 to Spanish giants Barcelona on Tuesday while Arsenal went head-to-head with German champions and defending UCL holders Bayern Munich at The Emirates on Wednesday night.

Wednesday's Action: 

Arsenal 0 Bayern Munich 2 
This match was played at The Emirates Stadium, as The Gunners looked to beat Bayern at home in their first-leg Last 16 tie.

It would not be easy for Wenger's side, up against the Champions League holders and defending champions who have become stronger since their last meeting twelve months ago, which saw the German giants progress as a result of the away goal rule after an interesting two-legged tie. Bayern have since won the Bundesliga yet again, in which they are currently dominating this season domestically - 16 points separate them and 2nd placed Bayer Leverkusen who were completely taken apart by PSG on Tuesday night.

Superior: Bayern have toppled rivals Dortmund, 17 points ahead of them in the Bundesliga.

Dominant: Bayern have only conceded 9 goals in the league this season, losing once in the CL 
To be fair to Arsenal, they have also strengthened their side with the club-record signing of Real Madrid midfielder Mesut Ozil back in the summer of last year on deadline day, Giroud has been on-form and the return of French defensive-midfielder Mathieu Flamini has helped to bolster the midfield.  

Impact signing: Ozil has scored 5 goals and made 10 assists this season. 

Influence: Ozil has linked-up well with the rest of his new Arsenal team-mates
On-form: Giroud has scored 12 goals this season for Arsenal, making him reliable
Leadership: Flamini has made a significant impact on his Arsenal return, becoming the natural leader in midfield.
Flamini helps to solidify the Arsenal midfield, something they were lacking previously.
However, the signings of midfield talent in Thiago and Gotze were not exactly easy to deal with for the best defensive partnership in the EPL with Koscielny and Mertesacker having a tough test on their hands throughout the match having to track their movement and snuff out attempted passes.

Top talent: Gotze plays an integral part in the Bayern side, making an impact after his summer move from Dortmund.

Gotze was one to watch as Bayern looked to beat Arsenal at The Emirates yesterday

Guardiola made sure he signed Thiago at Bayern ahead of a proposed move to United
The team news going into the match was that Sanogo started his first Champions League match, with Giroud probably being rested (substitute), while Bayern had no Ribery available (surgery) but Robben, Gotze, Thiago and Kroos all started in an otherwise impressive team line-up for the defending champions...

Both sides started the match relatively quickly, with Kroos having a strike from 20 yards out towards the top corner well parried away by Szczesny to deny an early opener. 
Oxlade-Chamberlain links-up well with Sanogo and Cazorla on the counter attack before Sanogo has a shot saved well by Neuer and Ozil is tripped purposely inside the box onto the ground after a late tackle from German defender Jerome Boateng to avoid a goal-scoring opportunity. 

Chopped: Ozil is clearly fouled by Boateng as he darts inside the box, giving away a penalty
Boateng is lucky to get away with a booking as Ozil has his penalty saved by the outstretched hand of Manuel Neuer in the 9th minute. 

Poorly executed: Ozil's run-up is all wrong as he sees his penalty saved (below)
Outstretched hand: Neuer does well to deny Ozil's penalty off balance on the ground.
FACT: Manuel Neuer made 3 important stops for Bayern within the space of the first 9 minutes of play at The Emirates.
FACT: Mesut Ozil has missed his last three penalties. 

Arjen Robben had a 20-yard effort well wide in the 10th minute as the visitors looked to try and compose themselves steadily into the game and test Szczesny more often.. 

Arsenal's English full-back Kieran Gibbs did well to defend on the flank against the advances of Gotze and Lahm until he limped off the pitch and had to be replaced by Monreal as a precaution for a suspected hamstring strain after 30 minutes. 

Bad news: Gibbs limped off the pitch after a suspected hamstring strain.
Arsenal were forced to stay compact in defence after constant Bayern pressure, with Oxlade-Chamberlain proving difficult to handle for the visitors as he almost scored a goal out of literally nothing when Sanogo's attempted through ball out to the flank was chased down by the English forward who beat Alaba for pace (Alaba isn't exactly slow!) before a sliding sweeper tackle from Neuer made sure Bayern narrowly avoided conceding before half-time. 

Koscielny did well to obstruct Mandzukic's view of goal inside the box with a well-timed challenge, before Szczesny was sent off after an accidental collision with Robben inside the box with his trailing leg in the 39th minute. 
Arsenal go down to ten men, with creative midfielder Cazorla being replaced by Fabianski as the whole complexity of the match changes completely (just like in the City match on Tuesday). 

FACT: Szczesny's red card was Arsenal's 100th since Wenger was appointed manager over 15 years ago.

Accidental: Szczesny was sent off for this challenge on Robben inside the box.

Contact but not deliberate: Szczesny clipped Robben's ankle as he tried to win the ball

Robben rolls on the floor after the tackle which looks worse on first viewing than when shown on the replay

Controversial: Szczesny was sent off by the referee, changing the match completely afterwards
Cazorla is replaced by Fabianski as The Gunners go down to ten, despite playing well.
Brief respite for Arsenal soon followed as young left-back David Alaba hit the post with the resulting penalty - but the hosts knew there would be a long 45 minutes ahead of them if they were to get something decent out of the first-legged tie. 

Alaba has his penalty hit the post as both sides fail to take their chances in a dramatic first-half
Bayern were clearly bound to have the majority of the possession with a man advantage, they look slick with the ball at their feet when it is 11v11 so 11v10 would give them even more domination. 

The German giants did just that, keeping up the pressure on their English counterparts and holding the ball up well looking for team-mates in space. 

The famous quote says: "If your opponent doesn't have the ball, they can't score." and this is exactly what Bayern did in the second-half, fully in control and able to dictate the tempo of the match from slow to fast counter attacking movement in an instant - if it was not for the dogged performance of a clearly tired Arsenal side it could have easily been 5 or 6-0 at full-time.

Koscielny and Robben both had chances which narrowly missed the mark for either side within the first 10 minutes of play in the second-half, before a good passing move was clinically finished off by rumoured Manchester United target and German midfielder Toni Kroos who broke the deadlock with a drilled power strike in the 53rd minute, leaving Fabianski scrambling towards the top corner.

Kroos hits his second longshot goal against Arsenal to make it 1-0 in the 53rd minute.

2 powerful: Kroos celebrates his power finish with his team-mates as Bayern took the lead
FACT: Kroos' goal was Bayern's 100th goal in all competitions this season.

Muller replaced Mandzukic in the 63rd minute as Guardiola and his men looked to close out the match in which they had been dominating since Szczesny's dismissal which was very harsh on Arsenal - who were playing very well up until the red card incident. Constant pressure from Bayern with rarely any mistakes on the ball passing-wise as Robben had another curling strike towards goal just wide, making Fabianski worried. 

Wenger had to take a risk with his last substitution of the match (after being forced to make two early on) as he knew his players were getting very tired - so Oxlade-Chamberlain (who was one of the only bright sparks throughout the match for Arsenal) was replaced by midfielder Tomas Rosicky in an attempt to see out the match and hopefully equalise with just under 20 minutes to play. 

Handful: The Ox was creating chances out of nothing for Arsenal, a bright player throughout
Koscielny was slightly lucky not to concede a penalty in the 75th minute after he clipped the back of Muller's leg in the box, but the referee felt Muller went down too easily and waved play on. 

Thiago was replaced by Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro in another attacking-minded switch for Bayern towards the end with just over 10 minutes to play as Arsenal make sure all their men are behind the ball defending - desperate not to concede again. 

Bayern's captain, Full-back (and converted) defensive-midfielder Phillip Lahm split the Arsenal defence with an exquisite long ball past two defenders through towards Muller who was unmarked, heading past Fabianski who could only flap at the effort as it dropped past him into the net to double Bayern's lead with just minutes to play in the 88th minute. 

2-goal cushion: Muller heads past Fabianski, taking advantage of a good ball from Lahm.

Screaming with relief: Muller celebrates his headed finish past Fabianski to make it 2-0.

The holders were more than comofrtable as Arsenal were unlucky to concede late on, seeing the match through with a few passes across the midfield to run down the clock and go back to Germany for the return leg with a comfortable 2-goal cushion.

Loyal support: Bayern applaud the travelling fans after a 2-0 display at The Emirates,
The Gunners were ultimately unlucky after an arguably poor decision from the referee to dismiss Szczesny but now have a mountain to climb of their own, just like EPL rivals Manchester City for the return leg if they want to progress through to the quarter-finals.  

AC Milan 0 Atletico Madrid 1
A late headed goal from Brazillian striker Diego Costa in the 83rd minute gave Atletico Madrid a vital away goal in their Last 16 tie against Italian side Milan, who have lost their way in Europe in the last few years. 

Clinical: Costa broke the deadlock with minutes to spare as Atletico took a crucial away goal
Finisher: Costa celebrates his 5th goal in the CL this season, at a crucial time for his side.
QPR's playmaker Adel Taarabt was in action for the hosts after he sealed a move to Italy on a season-long loan deal in January from Fulham, but he was unable to do enough to help his new club score a goal - with talisman striker Mario Balotelli limping off injured with a shoulder problem.

Deadline day signing: Taarabt joined Milan on a loan deal at the end of the window

Straight into action: Taarabt played his first Champions League match against Atletico.

Quick dribbler: Taarabt was unable to help his side get back into the match and score 

Defensive work: Taarabt (in red) does well to track back and tackle Insua on the counter
Rough ride: Balotelli had to be taken off after a painful collision. 

Ouch: Balotelli clutches his shoulder after injuring it against Atletico

Key: Milan fans will be hoping he is fit for the second leg as they look to overturn a 1-0 deficit
Thank you for reading my blog post today, I will have more posts out tomorrow hopefully as the UEFA Europa League returns tonight!

Tottenham Hotspur travel to Ukraine to play against Dnipro, whilst Swansea host a tough test in Serie A side Napoli. 

Wonderkid #5 - Isco

Hello and welcome to my latest blog post, where I have the fifth installment of my Wonderkid series - looking at young starlets with potential to be special in the future.

Today, I am looking at Real Madrid creative midfielder Isco, who burst onto the scene after some impressive performances for Liga BBVA side Malaga in the Champions League in 2012 and 2013. 

Spanish starlet: Isco is highly-regarded as one of the world's most talented young players.
Midfield gem: Isco has impressed the world with his abilities both on the ball and without it.
As a result of his consistent performances in both the Champions League and Liga BBVA, Real Madrid activated his buyout clause of around £32million pounds in the summer of 2013 to bolster their midfield and add to their attacking options as they looked to secure more trophies in the upcoming season. 

World at his feet: Isco impressed many at Malaga, especially in the Champions League.

Influence: Isco scored 17 goals for Malaga between 2011 and 2013, many teams were interested
Expectation: Isco eventually joined Real Madrid, for around £30million pounds in the summer

The talented 21-year-old Spanish attacking midfielder began his Real Madrid career with 4 goals in 5 appearances, with most EPL supporters disappointed that he did not join the Premier League in the hope that they would be able to witness his close-control dribbling, good passing (which converts into lots of assists), great vision to seek out team-mates under pressure and superb passing and movement every week for a top club. 

Golden Boy: Isco won the Golden Boy award in 2012 while at Malaga.
There were fears at the beginning when he originally arrived at Real that he would be on the bench for the majority of the time in big games, which would mean supporters would be unable to see his skills and good performances when it really matters - especially because people felt Malaga would help him develop into a confident world-class player if he had stayed slightly longer. 

He has impressed so much so that he has also made 66 appearances at International level for Spain, including 2 at senior level. 

Isco was in the team of the tournament and ended as third top scorer for the U21's in 2013.

Isco was in a pivotal role as he helped the Spain-U21 win the Championships last year

Dribbler: Isco is silky and skillful with the ball at his feet, one of his many abilities.
His stats this season:

2013-14 - He has scored 8 goals and made 6 assists in 31 appearances for Real Madrid, with Ozil's departure to Arsenal in the summer making way for him to have the opportunity to impress and break into the first-team effectively.

Even though his stats do not make him look like a world-class player, he has been unlucky with the current playing time that he has been given - making substitute appearances and cameo performances whenever possible in a strong Real Madrid side with lots of competition for first-team positions. If he gets his chance though, he will take it.