Sunday, 21 October 2012

NEW BLOG!

This blog has moved to the following URL address.

www.rapsandrabonas.wordpress.com


Please visit us there, and leave your feedback as usual.

DMF.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Predictions Review + Update 11/12


Back in August 2011, I wrote an article predicting the Top 6 and bottom 3 for the forthcoming season. With just 11 games to go now in the season, I thought it would be the perfect time to review those predictions and update them with how I believe the season will finish up.

To view the original article/predictions, click HERE.

MANCHESTER CITY
Predicted - 2nd
Currently - 1st

Back in August, I predicted that the title would be between the two Manchester clubs and I haven't been wrong. However, it has been the blue side of Manchester that has led the way all season and they currently sit 2 points clear at the top of the table. Their defining moment this season has undoubtedly been the thumping of rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford in a 6-1 win back in October. Sergio Aguero has proved to be the signing everyone expected him to be, while Mario Balotelli and David Silva have started to become key players in the City attack. Yaya Toure has been his same old inspirational being while Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany have cemented themselves as some of the best in their positions in world football with their performances this season.

Although they are currently 2 points clear with 11 games to go, I do still feel they'll fall slightly short of reigning champions Manchester United. They've got some difficult fixtures coming up in the next few weeks before the game being billed as the "title decider" at the end of April at home to Manchester United. However, if they do hold on to their lead and are crowned champions of England for the year, they'll fully deserve it having topped the league all year so far.

FAN VIEW - Andy Morris
Views On Season So Far?
"A couple of months ago I made what some thought was a bold prediction. At a time when Kolo and Yaya's departure for the ACON was compounded by the loss of the awesome Kompany for four games it seemed to many that City would leave January a few points behind United, and perhaps struggle to get back on track. The continuing Tevez debacle added fuel to those same theories. So my prediction that City would win the league by 5 points was something not too many agreed with.
But January and February have now come and gone, the Toure brothers are back, fit and well. Kompany is through his ban and most remarkably Tevez is back in the frame and training with the first team squad. Oh, and City are still two points clear of United. 
So, with the Etihad derby game only just over the horizon the idea that City will build a five point lead and keep it seems more credible than back in December when I first suggested it and so I stick to the prediction that City will win the league by 5 points."

Key Player?
"Yaya Toure. Adds steel to our defense but is capable of great power when bombing on in our attacks. A complete player."


MANCHESTER UNITED
Predicted - 1st
Currently - 2nd

I said in August that we would be looking to be in the top two of the league as a bare minimum and that we had the second strongest squad in the league. We are very likely to be finishing in the top 2 now, and with 11 games to go sit behind leaders City by just two points. After a strong start, we had a string of horrible injuries which in turn led to some shock defeats that have cost us so far in this race. However, to still be in touching distance with a game against City to come, there is still everything to play for. Wayne Rooney has been superb all season, while Michael Carrick, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez have also been very good when they've played. Jonny Evan
s has stepped in for the injured captain Nemanja Vidic very capably, while Phil Jones, Rafael and Chris Smalling have all looked very good at right-back.

FAN VIEW - Nicholas Kituno
Views On Season So Far?
"I don’t think the determination and integrity that Manchester United has shown this season can be faulted. Even in the lowlights of the season, the loss at home to City and then being eliminated from the UEFA Champions League, seemingly the club has still risen up against the challenges it has faced. Second in the table is a place not many expected, especially after looking at the squad and seeing maybe two, three players that are absolutely key. So far, I believe that this season has been good, good enough that we still have the chance of winning two competitions, but also affirming ourselves as a strong side – despite being submerged in a transitional period.
The run-in compared to Manchester City’s seems to be a little more lenient and it will test the capabilities of the table-toppers as to how strong they are mentally to maintain their position. We can certainly relax about the fact that we have faced almost every team inside the top six and are still in Europe regardless of the fact that it isn’t as prestigious as the Champions League. I think we'll nick top spot though."

Key Player?
"If I were to pick one player to be key for the run-in, it’d have to be Wayne Rooney. To some it’s obvious but he has been on good form this season. If he can continue a strong goal scoring run for at least half the games then City will certainly have to wake up. Rooney is looking confident, fresh and someone that United really do need up front if they are going to stop Mancini’s men from claiming the title."


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Predicted - 6th
Currently - 3rd

At the time of writing the original article in August, Spurs hadn't signed Emmanuel Adebayor or Scott Parker yet. As it turns out, they did sign both players and both have been key to their successes this year and are big reasons for them being in third place. Up until this weekend's defeat at home to Manchester United, they were firmly in the title race according to many fans/pundits alike, but now look like they will have to settle for third. Another big piece of business for them was keeping influential midfielder Luka Modric. His passing and playmaking abilities have showed why they fought tooth and nail to keep him and it was an inspired decision. I think they'll hold strong until the end of the season now and finish 3rd, qualifying automatically for next season's Champions League.

FAN VIEW - Stephen Walker
Views On Season So Far?
"Quite simply, the best season for many years. There is clearly a good team spirit throughout the club and the team tactics on the pitch are well suited to team starts the game. They are playing an exciting brand of football that is pleasing to watch and at the same time is getting the results; an ideal combination for any team. There is a greater consistency of performance this season, which has never been Spurs’ trademark. We are still in the FA Cup and the eleven league games will also seem like cup ties as the lads strive to hold on to 3rd place. The Chelsea game on 24th March at Stamford Bridge will be the proverbial ‘six-pointer’. The other games are all ‘winnable’ although difficult away games loom at Everton & Sunderland. That said, the prize will motivate everyone and I expect them to keep the 3rd spot."

Key Player?
"Extremely difficult to pick out one man in what has been a team success. The ‘spine’ of the team is strong with Friedel, King, Modric and Adebayor. The holding and link-up play of Scott Parker in midfield has restricted opposing teams attacking options and has been the springboard for many of Spurs' best attacking moves. The choice of key man, after a lot of careful thought, comes down to either Scott Modric or Luca Parker!"

Scott Parker and Luka Modric - Tottenham Hotspur v Wigan Athletic - Premier League

ARSENAL
Red shield with large gold cannon below the word "Arsenal" in white letters. Thin white and blue stripes line the shield's left and right edges.
Predicted - 4th
Currently - 4th

One of the most up and down seasons in the club's history, at one stage the Londoners sat in lowly 17th position. Now they sit in 4th in a 5 way battle for the final Champions League spot. The 8-2 hammering at Old Trafford in August meant Wenger had no option but to splash out on replacements for the departed Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri - so he brought in Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Park Chu-Young, Andre Santos and Per Mertesacker. Mertesacker and Arteta have been starters for the majority, while Santos has been injured a lot. Benayoun and Park have struggled to break into the team much this year while breakthrough teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has become a fan favourite. They've got back into the race really well considering some results this seaosn, their 5-2 thrashing of rivals Spurs last month the highlight of their season. 4 points behind Tottenham with 11 games to go, I think they'll fall short of automatic qualification, but will hold on to 4th thank to the form of the superb Robin Van Persie.

FAN VIEW - Frankie Hobbs
Views On Season So Far?
"Back in August, I suggested Arsenal will regain top-four status for next season – and we are well on the way to do so. This season has been full of ups and downs, from the infamous 8-2 at Old Trafford, to the 5-2 humiliation of local rivals Tottenham Hostpur, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. But as we enter the business end of the season, the Gunners are emerging as favourites in the race for 4th place, and have made up 9 points in a week on third place. Since being captain, Robin Van Persie has installed a great team spirit that is really beginning to show through, and we seem to have a crop of young players that really want to play for the shirt. I hope we end up in fourth at least. The summer is a big one for Arsenal, and we need to go into that with Champions League status."

Key Player?
"Robin Van Persie has taken the season by storm, scoring 32 goals in all competitions so far – a simply remarkable feat. Sure, Arsenal may rely on him too much, but when the player keeps delivering, why should they stop supplying him. His fitness without doubt is key to whether we push for 3rd or fall out of the top 4."


CHELSEA
Predicted - 3rd
Currently - 5th

After a new manager was appointed in the summer, I predicted that Chelsea would push the two Manchester clubs most of the way in the race for the title, but would ultimately fall short. However, they've struggled for consistency throughout the entire campaign and currently sit in 5th place, a position that doesn't deceive how drab they've been all year. Juan Mata's moments of brilliance along with Frank Lampard's statement making have been a few of the bright moments all year, but after Andre Villas-Boas' sacking last week, Roberto Di Matteo has been left with the task of taking Chelsea into the Champions League for next year. Fernando Torres has continued to struggle, bagging just 4 goals this season while Daniel Sturridge has shone since returning from his loan at Bolton last year. With the foundations set in AVB's ways, I predict that Chelsea will miss out on Champions League football this year by the odd point, but will come back next year with a fury.

FAN VIEW - Chris Aleppo
Views On Season So Far?
"I am a Chelsea season ticket hold and I remember after the first home game with West Brom there seemed to be a lot of hope and belief from many Chelsea fans and that we all knew that the club was going through a transition period. We were just about to tie up the deal for Mata and at that time the Modric deal was still very much on the cards. 
AVB’s inability to get the best out of Torres added to his strained relationship with senior players Lampard, Drogba and Ashley Cole meant some fans began to lose faith. Losing 7 games and 3 of them being at home in the Premier League just isn't good enough for Chelsea but I do feel sorry for AVB and feel the players have forced Roman's hand on this. Chelsea fans are used to the Bridge being a fortress and teams being scared to come and attack us and there just isn't that fear anymore. I'm very happy with Di Matteo getting the chance and him bringing in Newton is brilliant both are Chelsea through and through and hopefully will inject some much needed passion back into the team. Top 4 is the aim and it is definitely between Chelsea and Arsenal but I think it comes down to who makes the most mistakes rather than who actually deserves it. Both have been completely out of sorts this season and seem to be doing everything they can not to finish in the top 4."

Key Player?
"I think there are 3 key players during this run-in for Chelsea. Getting Terry back to full fitness is a must. We can all see how important he is to our defence and also as the leader for the team. I honestly think if he had been playing in the Man United game we wouldn’t have let them get back into it. Lampard and Drogba are the other two main men. If these two can rediscover their form, belief and passion I think we will just see a carbon copy of what happened after Scolari left."


LIVERPOOL
Predicted - 5th
Currently - 7th

Liverpool have been a fairly solid side this season, with one of the best defensive records in the league. However, up the other end of the pitch it's been a totally different story. They've scored just 30 goals this season, 8 less than 17th places Blackburn Rovers. That's been their main problem this year as they have the lowest chance conversion rate in the league. Luis Suarez has been scintilating in the build up to chances this year, but his lowly tally of just 6 league goals shows their problem. Andy Carroll hasn't got firing either so it's been left to free transfer Craig Bellamy to come up with the bulk of the goals this season. Their lack of goals is a huge issue that will have to be addressed in the summer, but for now I think their squad is stronger than that of 6th placed Newcastle's, so I think they'll pip the Geordies to the post once we reach the end of the season.

FAN VIEW - Danny Carter
Views On Season So Far?
"Overall I'd say our season has been poor by our standards and what is expected of us. Far too many draws have cost us. We've been lucky our defence has been one of the best in the league; otherwise we could be sitting much lower than we already are. The only real high-point of the season so far has to be the Carling Cup win, but if that’s all we win I won’t be happy. 4th is gone for us I think, unless the likes of Newcastle, Chelsea, Arsenal & Spurs all start messing up, so I'm hoping we can finish 5th. But in all honesty I think it'll probably be 6th."

Key Player?
"Normally I'd say Gerrard, and I wouldn't need to think but I'm leaning towards Suarez. If he can work on his finishing which will get us the goals, then I can see him being our main-man during this part of the season. Although, I can see the likes of Agger, Skrtel & Enrique being just as important, so overall it's pretty tough to call, but I'd go with Suarez."

Luis Suarez Liverpool Posters

RELEGATION SPOTS

Back in August, I predicted that Wigan, Norwich and Swansea would make the heart-breaking drop from the Premier League into the Championship. However, I've been pleasantly surprised by two of those 3 sides as they sit rather comfortably above the relegation zone. Norwich City and Swansea City have both proved that you don't need great funds to ensure Premier League survival after superb seasons for both of them so far. With 11 games to go, both look comfortably away from the relegation zone, but the danger is still there if they lose focus.


Norwich City are currently cruising in 11th position, 15 points clear of Wolves in 18th place. I predicted that if they were to have a chance of survival, that captain and talisman Grant Holt would have to do the business in the top flight. Despite not being a guaranteed starter this season the big striker has bagged 12 goals in all competitions including 10 in the league. His tally of twelve goals is the joint second most by an Englishman in the division along with Frank Lampard and Danny Graham. Only Wayne Rooney has scored more as an Englishman.

Swansea City currently sit in 14th place, 11 points clear of the drop zone. Their possession football has proved to be rather successful in the league as they hold a win over Arsenal at the Liberty City stadium along with draws against Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool throughout the season. I predicted Scott Sinclair would be their key man this year and his 7 goals have been a big help for the Welsh side. However he's been outshone by big centre forward Danny Graham who has 10 league goals this season from his lone striker role.

PREDICTION




I predicted Wigan to go down back in August and I stick by that prediction. They play nice football, but their players simply aren't good enough for this division and I can see them going down rock bottom. Victor Moses has been their best player by a mile this season and he'll no doubt be attracting attention from bigger clubs in the close season.

Wolves recently sacked Mick McCarthy after a 5-1 loss to West Bromwich Albion. They hired assistant Terry Connor as manager until the end of the season, and since then they've drawn 2-2 with Newcastle and lost 5-0 to Fulham. I can't see them getting many results at a time like this with an inexperienced manager, and despite the quality of their squad compared to their rivals, I think that will ultimately see them fall down into the Championship.

Blackburn Rovers have endured an absolutely crazy season this year. Somehow, despite all the terror and protests Steve Kean remains at the helm of the club and they currently sit in 17th place level on points with Wolves. Yakubu has kept them alive this year with 13 league goals, but his influence has declined somewhat in recent times. I can't see them staying up despite the squad they have. I sense big problems in their future.



Friday, 27 January 2012

Pick Your Poison - West Ham United


The Challenge
Pick 3 players you believe left your club and have gone on to bigger/better things and that you want back at the club. Then make a choice between the 3 players as to which one you'd take back in the current squad. Judge all players on their time of sale, not currently. 

The Challenger
Jim Munro, 49, London

Player 1
Glen Johnson - Right Back
Jan 2003 - May 2003
"The 18-year-old right-back broke into a struggling first XI after Xmas in the 2002-03 season. His arrival along with that of experienced left-back Rufus Brevett (a January signing) helped the relegation threatened club put together an amazing run of just one defeat in the final 11 games. Johnson signed a new four-year deal in March and despite the Irons slipping out of the division, Johnson was regarded as one of the new young breed who would help the club make a quick return. As it was, he was the first to leave in a £6million summer move, becoming the first signing of the Roman Abramovich era at Chelsea."
Glen Johnson broke into West Ham's team as they were fighting a losing battle with relegation from the Premier League. Although everyone knew he had the potential to be a star, the decision to throw him into the side in that sort of environment seemed strange, but it certainly paid off. Despite him not being able to help keep West Ham in the divison, he boosted his own reputation and earned himself a £6M deal to London rivals Chelsea and was the first signing of Chelsea's 'Russian Revolution'. He struggled to break into their side on a regular basis and has since represented Portsmouth and Liverpool and is regarded as England's first choice right-back. 

Player 2
Carlos Tevez - Striker
July 2006 - July 2007
"His part in West Ham's Great Escape is the stuff of legend, but the passage of time has papered over the fact that the Argentina assassin failed to score a single goal in his first 19 appearances for the Hammers in all competitions. That all changed with a first goal in a home defeat by Spurs in March 2007, sparking a run of seven goals in West Ham's final 10 Premier League games. His departure after just one season was sad but not unexpected with Man United stepping in. What we didn't realise at the time of course is that one season is about all you get from the single minded hotshot, no matter who you are."
Carlitos Tevez is currently known as the spoilt brat at Manchester City who refused to come on as a substitute in a Champions League tie vs Bayern Munich earlier this season. He's since gone AWOL and is on the lookout for a new club, however amidst all the controversy, it's often forgotten how good a footballer he is. He came to West Ham from Corinthians and struggled to adapt to English lifestyle and football, not scoring in 19 games after joining. However, when he got going it was hard to stop him. He scored numerous vital goals, most notably against Manchester United at Old Trafford on the final day of the season to keep the Hammers up. That was enough to spring Sir Alex Ferguson into action and the legendary manager signed the striker on an initial 2-year-loan deal with an option to buy. He helped United to 2 Champions League Finals in his 2 years there, winning one. That pace and desire is sorely missed up front for West Ham at the moment and would without doubt push them back into the Premier League.

Player 3
Demba Ba - Striker
January 2011 - July 2011
"West Ham took a big gamble on the Senegalese striker who had been plagued with injury at German club 1899 Hoffenheim. A proposed £5.9million move to Stoke collapsed in January 2011 after Ba failed a medical. The Irons stepped in and offered the prolific hitman a three-year deal, crucially with a release clause should the club be relegated. Ba hammered in seven goals in just 12 appearances to end the season as the club's leading scorer, but his efforts weren't enough to save the Irons from the drop."
Demba Ba, signing of the season. He signed for West Ham last January in a bid to keep the Hammers in the Premier League, and despite his best efforts was unable to do so. However, he moved on a free transfer back into the Premier League with Newcastle where he's been an absolute revelation, banging in a superb 15 goals from just 19 starts for the club. A superb acquisition, Ba could have single handedly brought West Ham back into the Premier League having been so unlucky in his efforts to keep them in the division to begin with.

CONCLUSION

JIM MUNRO
"Without a doubt it has to be Demba Ba. He's carried on at Newcastle where he left off with West Ham. At the time of writing he's smashed 11 goals in just 14 appearances for the Toon - making his total in his first year in English football 18 goals from 26 Premier League games. We can only imagine what damage he could have been inflicting upon our promotion rivals in the Championship, or indeed how West Ham would have fared this season had they stayed up with Ba leading the line."
DMF

West Ham are currently top of the Championship with 53 points from 21 games. But it seems they're lacking an out and out goalscorer. Both Tevez and Ba would bring that to the side and if we're judging the players on the time of their sale rather than currently, then I'd have to say Carlos Tevez (minus all his issues) is one of the best strikers in world football.  So based on that, I can't look past "young" Carlitos returning to Upton Park to help fire the Hammers back into the Premier League.


Do you agree with the choices @JimMunro made? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter!

DMF (@dmf180593)

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Pick Your Poison - Stoke City


The Challenge
Pick 3 players you believe left your club and gone onto bigger/better things and you want back at the club. Then make a choice between the 3 players as to which one you'd take back in the current squad. Judge all players on their time of sale, not currently.

The Challenger
Hannah Burrows, 18, Stoke-On-Trent

Player 1
Peter Hoekstra - Winger/Striker
August 2001 - June 2004
 
"The Dutchman was a magician; he did things on the pitch that I didn’t even know were possible! He was the type of player that would make the opposition scared and although he wouldn’t fit into the current team (big, physical etc) I’d love him to return to the club in some capacity. It’s great to think that such a skilful player finished his career at the club after he retired in 2004. He will always be remembered for his hatrick against Reading and particularly the second goal, a goal that I don’t think will ever be matched by a player in a Stoke shirt at the Brit. He was voted as the best Stoke player in the first 10 years at the Britannia which proves what a player he was."
I don't know much about Peter Hoekstra, but having looked him up for the purposes of the article it seems he was a fairly magical player for the Potters. He scored 11 goals in the 3 years at the club and will be poignantly remembered for his hat-trick heroics against Reading. At 6ft 3 he wasn't a typical winger but his skill often led to him being on the receiving end of strong challenges which may have led to his retirement at a fairly young age. He'd have the height to pose a traditional Stoke threat but he was never the strongest so would probably find himself on the fringes of the first team these days.

Player 2
Martin Paterson - Striker
2004 - July 2007

"Having grown up in Stoke-On-Trent, ‘Patto’ wore his heart on his sleeve. He never fully got going at Stoke (only scored 1 goal) but on the rare occasion that he actually played, he’d give 100% effort in similar fashion to Andy Wilkinson, who he came through the academy at Stoke with. Looking at where Stoke are now, it’s difficult to judge whether he’d actually be involved on a regular basis but he’s still only 24, although injuries seem to have curbed his development in recent seasons. Had he not left in 2007, when he signed for Scunthorpe, there’s no doubt that he would have played a key role in our promotion to the Premier League, just a couple of seasons after he left. Having only played 15 games for the club it shows what sort of character he was when you see that he’s still remembered by Stoke fans."

Martin Paterson came through the academy at Stoke City but never managed to break through into the first team on a regular basis. He played just 15 times for the Potters before moving to Scunthorpe where he had a successful season scoring 13 goals in 40 games for the Championship side. That record earned him a £1.3M move to Burnley where he then helped them to promotion into the Premier League. His time there has been blighted by injuries, but he has still been fairly successful scoring 20 goals for the club so far since he's been there.  He'd add some pace to the Stoke front line, but with Jonathan Walters and Cameron Jerome already there along with Ricardo Fuller, Kenwyne Jones and Peter Crouch he would find opportunities very few and far between.

Player 3
Peter Thorne - Striker
1997 - September 2001
"I’ve been looking forward to writing about this man, if you asked me who my all time favourite Stoke player was; it would definitely be Peter Thorne. He scored 65 goals, including the winner that sealed our victory at Wembley in the ‘Football League Trophy’, then called the ‘Auto Windscreen Shield’. In his final season for Stoke, the season that saw him controversially leave for Cardiff City, he scored 4 goals in 5 games before bidding farewell for a lucrative contract in South Wales, who knows what may have happened that season had he stayed with us. Despite the circumstances with which he left, he’ll always be a hero and he proved his love for Stoke when after scoring a hatrick for Cardiff against us he decided not to celebrate. I’d welcome him back with welcome arms; there is only one Peter Thorne!"
Peter Thorne is a cult-hero when it comes to Stoke City. His four years at the club produced 80 goals in 187 games before a £1.8M move to Cardiff took place. He scored the goal that won Stoke the Auto Windscreen Cup at Wembley and is the club's "Famous Number 9". He was an excellent all round striker and became known for his goalscoring instincts in the penalty area, a "fox in the box" if you will. He'd add some clinical finishing to Stoke's game, but he'd find it hard to displace Peter Crouch or Jonathan Walters from the starting line-up.

CONCLUSION

HANNAH BURROWS
"Choosing between the three I'd say Peter Hoesktra, simply because we desperately need competition for wingers right now. We have a good basis of strikers with Crouch and Jerome signing along with the imminent return of Ricardo Fuller. He'd add flare to our team and like I said previously, defenders would fear him. Although he's now in a coaching role, I'm sure he'd pull on the famous red & white again!"
DMF

I think between the three, the obvious choice if Peter Hoekstra. The big Dutchman possessed lots of skill down the wing and add to that his physique, he'd be an excellent fit into the current Stoke setup. I don't think he'd be first choice for Tony Pulis, but he could definitely be someone to bring on when things need to change and I don't think Stoke would mind having a bit more competition for the wide places in their squad.


Do you agree with the choices @HBscfc made? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Pick Your Poison - Manhester United


The Challenge
Pick 3 players you believe have left your club and gone onto bigger/better things and you want back at the club. Then make a choice between the 3 players as to which one you'd take back in the current squad. Judge all players on their time of sale, not currently.

The Challenger
Richard Laverty, 20, Leeds.

Player 1
Gerard Pique - Central Defender
July 2004 - May 2008
"First name out of the hat, Gerard Pique. It seems obvious doesn't it, Pique perhaps wasn't suited to the English game as he was the La Liga, maybe he would have been, but he didn't show it during his spell at Old Trafford. Caught out many times, namely at Bolton, when Nicolas Anelka finished off a free-kick which Gerard Pique didn't have a clue about. But he showed glimpses of why he has been such a success in bringing the ball out of defence, a cutting edge through ball in 2007 against Wigan set-up United’s second goal. 
He got his name amongst the goals too, against Kiev and Roma, and was picked for the game title decider against Arsenal in 2008. It was a surprise to everyone when Pique was let go, and went on to become a regular Barcelona defender, and beat United in the Champions League final just 12 months after his departure. 
Maybe we’ll never know how suited to the English game Pique would have become, but I do wish we’d have found out."
Gerard Pique looked a very promising defender during his four-year stint at Old Trafford and it came as a bit of a surprise to most fans when he was let go for a measly £5M. He showed great potential while at the club and generally looked like a superb talent. While on loan at Real Zaragoza he made 22 appearances for the Spanish club and we all thought that the next season would be his breakthrough year. However, he made just 9 league appearances and with the stable partnership of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at the heart of the defence with an emerging Jonny Evans and a Wes Brown in his prime, it looked like he didn't have much room for   game time and was moved on. He's gone on to become one of the best defenders in world football, and it's no coincidence that he has become that after constant game time. We can only imagine what he would have become had he stayed at Old Trafford.

Player 2
Diego Forlan - Striker
January 2002 - August 2004
"Number two on my list is like marmite, you either loved him or hated him. Diego Forlan. To say he took a while to get going at United would be an understatement, but we let him go just as he was becoming the striker he still is today, and showed in South Africa 18 months ago almost.
Once he got that first goal, against the mighty Maccabi Haifa, the goals flowed. There were some scruffy ones, Northampton springs to mind, as does Southampton, when he was running around half naked. But there were the crackers, Southampton again, Chelsea in the last minute and against Rangers in the Champions League. And there were the downright memorable ones…Mr Jerzy Dudek.
Forlan had all the qualities of a top striker, he went on to score plenty with Atletico, he dominated teams in the World Cup with Uruguay and I have no doubt he would have done the same had he stayed at Old Trafford."
Diego Forlan went from one of the flops of the 21st century, to one of the most lethal and feared strikers in world football within 2 seasons. He signed for £7.5M from Independiente with a tonne of potential. He never really hit the heights he was claimed to have stored away while at United, as it took him 27 games before he finally opened his account for Manchester United. His most memorable goal for the club was without doubt the double against arch-rivals Liverpool and that famous blunder from Jerzy Dudek. He signed for Villarreal in the summer of 2004 for just £2M and went on to become one of the most feared strikers in world football, scoring numerous goals for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, although he's struggled since his summer move to Inter. When he left, he was on the brink of a breakthrough and the season after his departure, United struggled.

Player 3
Zoran Tosic - Winger
January 2009 - June 2010
"Finally, a controversial choice maybe, the little Serbian, Zoran Tosic. There was much excitement when it appeared United clich├ęd a double deal to bring Tosic and then Partizan team-mate Adem Ljajic to Old Trafford, but when the Ljajic deal fell through, rumours surfaced that Tosic had only been brought here as a buddy for Ljajic, and suddenly the Serbian was out of the door.
He had his moments, a fleeting debut against Tottenham was followed by the odd appearance. He shone in the 2009 pre-season, setting goals up, and scoring a nice goal against Greentown over in Asia, but he was soon on his way to CSKA Moscow, where he has flourished and become a key member of the Serbian national team squad.
Tosic didn’t win the hearts of many United fans but I feel with a few more chances, Tosic would have developed well here and given us good back-up options on the wing, where we sometimes struggle to find back-up for these days."
A strange choice from Richard, I can't see many reasons why any United fans would want Zoran back at the club. He was an exciting young winger, but never looked like he had anywhere near the quality to make an impact at Old Trafford. He had a good pre-season in 2009, but other than that he didn't do much to stand out to the fans or management. He went on loan to Koln in January 2010, and upon his return was sold to CSKA Moscow for around £6M in June. He's done well in Russia, his direct running and skill earning him a starting berth and a regular place in the national squad. With options such as Giuseppe Rossi, Tim Howard and even Cristiano Ronaldo, I myself am struggling to see a reason why he's been included in this list and I don't think we would have offered much more to the current squad than any of the players we already have in the team.

CONCLUSION

RICHARD LAVERTY 
"Who would I take back out of the three at the time they were sold? Under circumstance, it’s too easy to say Pique, but at the time, Rio and Vida were in their pomp, Jonny Evans was a developing young talent, and Wes Brown had just endured his best United season. For me, Diego Forlan left at a time when he could have been a star.
The 04/05 season wasn't a success, in any way. United lacked creativity, sure, Ruud was scoring the goals, we didn’t know if Wayne would sign for us or head up north to Newcastle, Saha had only been with us six months, Solskjaer was crippled, Smith was a new entity, Ronaldo was just a one-trick pony and nobody knew how poor David Bellion would be. There were youngsters, as ever, when nowadays we look to Welbeck and Macheda for youthful inspiration, back then it was Rossi, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, and erm.. Kenny Cooper. Forlan had a chance to shine that season, would we have signed Rooney if he hadn't gone, who knows? But Diego had much more to give, it’s just a shame he didn't want it."
DMF

Personally, I think from the selection given to me by Richard, this is a fairly easy choice to make with the current squad. Forlan would be a good addition to the side, but we currently have plenty of striking options with Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Owen, Welbeck and Macheda so I don't think he'd be necessary or add much to the side that we don't already have. 
Zoran Tosic would still struggle to get into the side with the options we have on the wings in Nani, Young, Valencia, Park and even Giggs to an extent. I also firmly believe if he were still in the side, youngsters like Macheda and Ravel Morrison probably wouldn't be getting a look in right now.
So that leaves world-class defender Gerard Pique. When he left he was ready to break into the starting eleven, but with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in the pecking order ahead of him he couldn't find a way through. With Rio aged 33 now and struggling to play constantly at a top level, Pique would be the perfect player right now. Young, on the brink of stardom and able to partner Vidic (when fit), Jones, Smalling, Evans and Rio would be a masterful defensive display to watch.


 Do you agree with the choices @JournoRich made? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Pick Your Poison - Tottenham Hotspur


The Challenege
Pick 3 players you believe have left your club and gone on to bigger/better things and you want back at the club. Then make a choice between the 3 players as to which one you'd take back in the current squad. Judge all players on their time of sale, not currently.

The Challenger
Stephen Walker, 62, London (residing in Belfast)

Player 1
Paul Robinson - Goalkeeper
May 2004 - July 2008

"Paul Robinson joined Spurs from Leeds in May 2004, for a fee of £1.5M. He was an instant hit with the fans and in the next two seasons he put in some top quality performances in a team that generally was considered to have a poor defence. It was easy to see why many considered him to be England's best goalkeeper. In his third season, he was very inconsistent, due to the lack of confidence after his mistake at the beginning of the season for England against Croatia. He never fully recovered and in that season Spurs had a poor record of keeping clean sheets. The team however, still managed a fifth place finish in the league. 
His form again suffered for club and country and he lost his No1 status for both club and country. However he showed his professionalism & regained his place and collected the first major trophy of his career in Tottenham's 2–1 victory over Chelsea in the 2008 League Cup Final. His form suffered again after this and he eventually left the club on transfer to Blackburn in July 2008 for a fee of £3.5M. His performances since for Blackburn showed what a good goalkeeper he still is and it is no coincidence that Spurs have struggled to find a replacement of the same standard. Brad Friedel is showing he is close. I believe he is still a genuine contender for an England place, if he chooses to make himself available for selection. Worth noting that on his Blackburn appearances at WHL, since he left, the fans have given him a special and warm welcome."
Paul Robinson is a good goalkeeper and not much more in my opinion. A committed player to the cause, he is capable of pulling off some top saves for his side but is just as prone to making errors to throw that same side in at the deep end. He always tries hard and gives his all for the team but for me Spurs already have better options in that position in Gomes and Brad Friedel. Their record breaking start to the season is proof to that.

Player 2
Dimitar Berbatov - Striker
July 2006 - August 2008
"This decision is a hard call. I don’t think he has played as well for Manchester United as he did in his spell for Spurs, but he was sold for a club record £30m. He joined Spurs in July 2006 and took time to settle, but formed a good partnership with Robbie Keane and from about April 2007 put in some great performances. However, he is very moody and needs careful management (a genius often does). His languid approach on the pitch can be deceiving; he has a great eye for goal, much like Greaves and Klinsmann before him. We have not really replaced him. Pavlyuchenko is a mood player, Crouch was clumsy, Keane fell out with Redknapp and Jermain Defoe is only now getting some form back. Emmanuel Adebayor is proving to be another shrewd acquisition that has good potential."
Dimitar Berbatov proved he was a genius at Spurs and although he's struggled since his move to Manchester United, we have seen glimpses of it at Old Trafford. In his first two seasons with United he struggled to reach the heights he did with Spurs, but last year he bagged 21 goals in all competitions making him joint top goalscorer in the league with Carlos Tevez. This season he's struggled to break into the team ahead of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, but when he's played he's looked good, scoring 3 goals so far this season. Spurs' depth is something of a huge strength to them, but their striker department looks fairly bleak. Emmanuel Adebayor looks the perfect man up front for them, but he's only on loan and it's looking unlikely the North London club can match his wage demands to make it permanent. Jermain Defoe is a poacher and struggles in the lone role. Although he's bagged goals this season, he still doesn't look as good as he has done and there are lots of reports linking him with a move away while Roman Pavlyuchenko has been invisible this year. Dimi would add a new dimension to an already impressive Spurs squad.

Player 3
Sol Campbell - Central Defender
December 1992 - July 2001
"Sol made his debut in 1992 and proved his class almost immediately. Initially he played up front and also covered all across the back line, but eventually settled into the central defensive position circa 1995. He moved to Arsenal under the ‘Bosman ruling’ amidst a lot of hostility from Spurs fans in 2001 and that is still prevalent today. He played a key role in Arsenal’s success in the early part of that decade and also key games for England, although injury restricted his appearances. The natural successor was Ledley King, but injuries have severely restricted his appearances over the years. We have not had a strong defensive player since, Dawson and King are the closest when fit."
Sol Campbell was a defensive stalwart for Tottenham Hotspur during his time at White Hart Lane and caused mass controversy when he moved to arch-rivals Arsenal on a free transfer. His massive physique along with his deceptive quickness made him a force in defence and he was a key member of Arsenal's invincibles squad. He was excellent for England too alongside Rio Ferdinand before his injuries took their toll on him.  He'd add some real leadership to the side as well as a pure defensive mindset. He and Ledley King would make a formidable centre half pairing and it would be very difficult for anyone to break them down.

CONCLUSION

STEPHEN WALKER 
"If I had to choose one of those 3 above the others, it would be Campbell. Central defence has been Spurs’ achilles heel ever since he left. I am certain we would have been a better team had he stayed."
DMF

I personally think Spurs have got a perfect blend of guile up front and power/speed/creativity in midfield. The defence is solid but could do with some shoring up and for that reason, a Sol Campbell set to enter his prime would be my choice to take back into the squad today.


Do you agree with the choices @spursmentor made? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter.

DMF. (@dmf180593)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Pick Your Poison - Sunderland


The Challenge
Pick 3 players you believe have left your club and gone onto bigger/better things and you want back at the club. Then make a choice between the 3 players as to which one you'd take back in the current squad. Judge all players on the time of their sale, not currently.

The Challenger
Michael Graham, 31, Sunderland

Player 1
Danny Welbeck - Striker
2010/11 (LOAN)
"Whilst many may have raised an eyebrow when seeing how involved with the Manchester United first team Danny Welbeck has been this season, there was no such surprise amongst Sunderland fans. Last season we had the privilege of having the youngster on loan and he had Manchester United pedigree oozing out of every facet. Welbeck appears to be the archetypal modern day striker, possessing the touch and vision to go with formidable physical attributes. Many believed that the club had enough prospects of their own that should be getting the playing time that would be devoted to that of another club. But the player started contributing to the first team immediately and it was clear from the start that he was far more than a 'prospect' - he was a Premier League player. 

It is fair to say that Sunderland have been haemorrhaging strikers at a frantic rate this year, with Welbeck, Bent, and Gyan all wearing the colours of another club at this moment in time. The latter two will not make this short-list, as the only thing 'bigger and better' about what they have done since leaving is their pay-packets, but Welbeck is making a big contribution to the champions and being fast-tracked into the England side. Whilst the other strikers we have lost have made the headlines, Welbeck has been a huge miss."
 Danny Welbeck has been superb for Manchester United this season, but that is with a huge thanks to Sunderland for the way they developed the youngster last season during his loan. He struggled to make an impact at first, but once he found a home cutting in from the left flank he found great form scoring in a run of games including the 3-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. His general play improved greatly but he also developed physically during his loan spell on Wearside. He pushed for an England call-up but injury pulled the plug on that before he returned to Manchester United this season to earn that illustrious cap. 

Welbeck offers great pace, guile and vision beyond his years as a footballer. Sometimes he can be a bit rash though but his general approach to the game is something to be admired for a man of such tender age.

Player 2
Shay Given - Goalkeeper
1996 (LOAN)

"It may surprise people to see such a Newcastle United stalwart in a Sunderland list. In fact, a lot of people may not even be aware Given is a former Sunderland player. But before he was a Premier League mainstay, before anyone had even heard of him actually, Given was a very important part of the Sunderland team that laid the foundations of the relative successes the club is enjoying today. At the turn of the year, Peter Reid signed the then Blackburn youngster on loan and stunned everyone by instantly throwing him into his promotion chasing team. We needed not worry, though, as Given's immense quality was evident from day one. During Given's brief 17-game spell at Roker Park, he amassed a massive 12 clean sheets as the championship was claimed. For the record, that means that in 17 games with Sunderland he won more medals than in the 400 he played for Newcastle. 

The club seems to have been searching for a reliable goalkeeper for years at this point. Craig Gordon is a richly talented shot-stopper, but suspect in other areas of his game and has an atrocious injury record. Mignolet we have high hopes for but injury has just befallen him as well. Given was good enough from the day he walked into the club as a 19 year-old and I wish we could have kept him."
Shay Given has become one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the Premier League after his fantastic spell at Newcastle, struggle at Manchester City and now Aston Villa but he began to make his name at Sunderland while on loan from Blackburn Rovers. He kept 12 clean sheets in his 17 games at Roker Park and helped them to a championship medal. His superb reflexes and handling make him one of the greatest British goalkeepers ever and at the age of 19 he would have had his entire career ahead of him.

Player 3
Stewart Downing - Winger
2003 (LOAN)
"Another high-profile player that many may not be aware ever played for Sunderland. Downing enjoyed a loan-spell at Sunderland back in 2003 as Mick McCarthy was trying to steady the ship following the total implosion of the club during Peter Reid's final months here. The more eagle-eyed of you will notice that this makes it a hat-trick of loanees, but for whatever reason Sunderland has always been a club for overachievers who struggle to replicate it elsewhere. The elegance and quality on the ball that has defined Downing's career was evident immediately at Sunderland despite his tender 19 years. In fact his form was so good that he was recalled after a mere 7 games and thrust immediately into the Premier League limelight by Middlesborough. 

It is no exaggeration to say that I genuinely struggle to remember the last natural left-sided wide-player we have had at Sunderland of any actual quality. You probably have to go all the way back to Julio Arca. It is a failing that has plagued the club for years and how different it could have been had the club been in able to secure his services on a permanent basis. The fact that he was in the England squad within 18 months of having his loan spell ended shows that even the 19-year-old version of Downing could have impacted Sunderland at Premier League level."
 I personally don't remember Stewart Downing ever being at Sunderland and now I remember why. He played a mere 7 games at the club before he was recalled by parent-club Middlesbrough and put straight into their first team. A traditional left winger he has pace and likes to run at his man before whipping in a cross with his favoured left foot and he's gone on to big things since his loan spell. He didn't do anything special while on loan at the Stadium of Light, but it was enough for Middlesbrough to notice his talent which has subsequently seen him get his "big-money move" to Liverpool this summer for £20M. A natural, creative winger is something that Sunderland have lacked for a while now and he would be a perfect fit for that role in the squad.

CONCLUSION

MICHAEL GRAHAM
"The great Brian Clough always said that he couldn't understand why top goalkeepers didn't cost as much as top strikers, and I completely agree with that. A save can be as valuable as a goal and Shay Given has made a career out of pulling off saves that he had absolutely no right to make. For that reason, coupled with the fact that he was young enough, and good enough even at the time, to provide the kind of goalkeeping stability Sunderland and so many other clubs rarely enjoy, it has to be Shay Given. He would immediately improve the current team considerably."
DMF

This season, Sunderland have struggled a fair deal throughout the pitch. Their defence has been leaking goals, their strikers haven't been scoring and their midfield has struggled to create. It's difficult to choose to who take back, but with Steve Bruce sacked yesterday it shows that some fresh blood in the squad could be exactly what the club needs to kick-start their season. Simon Mignolet and Craig Gordon have great potential, but Mignolet seems a bit hot and cold this season while Craig Gordon seems to have terrible luck with injuries and it's been said numerous times that a reliable and sturdy goalkeeper is the key to success so for that reason, Shay Given is the player that I believe would be best to return to the Stadium of Light in the current day.

City slipper: Shay Given spent last season warming the bench at Manchester City

Do you agree with the choices that @Capt_Fishpaste made? Let us know in the comments section or on Twitter.

Also, take a look at @RokerReport - 'Sunderland AFC's finest blog and podcast'.

DMF. (@dmf180593)