Michel Vorm (Swansea City), Joe Hart (Manchester City), Tim Krul (Newcastle United)
When Swansea City won promotion to the Premier League, I thought it was a steal by Wolverhampton Wanderers when Mick McCarthy signed their keeper Dorius de Vries, but half a season gone, it appears they’ve not missed him at all.
City boss Brendan Rodgers signed another Dutch keeper in Michel Vorm, who’s been one of the best performers in the EPL so far, with 9 Clean Sheets already, a superb stat for a newly promoted club to the ‘best league in the world’.
City’s Joe Hart continues to keep his high level of performance with a number of outstanding saves, including one-on-ones which is only good news for England fans. And Tim Krul’s efforts in goal for Newcastle have not gone unnoticed.
Micah Richards (Manchester City), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Tottenham Hotspur), Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United), Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Full-Backs have stolen the limelight so far this season with Micah Richards of City and Assou-Ekotto of Spurs putting in consistent performances which go ignored more than centre backs. How Fabio Capello can exclude Richards from the England squads still amazes me.
Newcastle’s impressive half to the season was down to their back Four being unchanged until injuries interrupted form. Steven Taylor certainly looks to have improved on his game, whilst his fellow defensive partner in the middle, Coloccini has got a whole lot better since he first arrived on Tyneside.
Is he a defender or a midfielder? Maybe he’s both, it’s Phil Jones, who’s had a good spell in midfield for United but I’ll include him in the Defenders section. Despite his own goal at Newcastle, Jones has still had a good season and has taken to United like a duck to water. Good things to come, for many years.
David Silva (Manchester City), Nani (Manchester United), Tottenham’s Quartet, Swansea City, Mikel Arteta (Arsenal), Anthony Pilkington (Norwich City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The arrival of David Silva to the Premier League has been a joy to behold, his class has been entertaining on many occasions this season but he’s also joined by other good performers in the middle for City in the likes of Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry.
United’s Nani has been fairly consistent this season, perhaps considered more of an attacker than a midfielder, the dazzling winger has provided a fair share of goals and assists. Does he have enough in his engine to keep going?
I have been wholly impressed with Spurs quartet or quintet. The signing of Scott Parker has been important as well keeping Luka Modric, whilst Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Van der Vaart are always dangerous going forward.
Swansea City’s flair can be founded in their midfield, various stats have appeared this season which show Mark Gower, Joe Allen and Leon Britton to have better passing rates than Barcelona’s, although stats can be misconstrued, Brendan Rodgers has Swansea playing attractive possession football with an attacking threat. Also, Scott Sinclair has taken the Premier League by storm on the wing having been let go by Chelsea many seasons ago.
The other impressive promoted club Norwich City have Anthony Pilkington, signed from League One Huddersfield Town, in the summer. The versatile midfielder has chipped in with a few goals already and does not look out of place like his team-mates and manager in the EPL.
As for Chelsea, Juan Mata has added the creativity they needed in an ageing team and whilst they may have missed Michael Essien, Frank Lampard has had a better season than most people would lead you to believe. He’s got 9 goals from the middle, despite missing a number of games and although he’s now the wrong side of 30, he’s still got quality.
Demba Ba (Newcastle United), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Steve Morison (Norwich City), Danny Graham (Swansea City)
Of course, plaudits go to Magpies forward Demba Ba, who’s certainly made the Toon Army forget about Andy Carroll a year since their prodigal son departed for pastures new. Ba has been sensational and he’ll be sorely missed whilst he plays in the African Nations Cup.
What I like most about Ba, is his eye for goal. He has composure at times, but also stays positive and even chases down lost cause, a player certainly playing with confidence and class.
Sergio Aguero has been an ideal replacement for Carlos Tevez for Manchester City and they’ll hope he continues his scoring form in the business end of the season. Whilst they loaned out of favour Adebayor to Spurs, they probably did not expect he’d have helped them challenge for the Title.
Jonathan Walters was one of my favourite Championship players for many years and I was delighted to see him have a bright start to the Premier League and Stoke City. The same can be said for Steve Morison at Norwich and Danny Graham at Swansea, their summer transfers from the Football League were criticised but both have popped up with 8 goals each already this season.
David De Gea (Manchester United), Petr Cech (Chelsea)
The criticism may be harsh for the young United keeper, especially having just moved over from Spain it is fair to say he has not hit the ground running. The reigning Champions could’ve done with a more experienced keeper between the sticks, with the injuries and changes in defence, De Gea has had a disruptive time. However, when a United keeper makes a mistake, it’s more highlighted than any other and he’s made a few already this season.
The Chelsea keeper is a victim of his own success, with 5 clean sheets already, he’s not done too bad between the sticks for the Blues but by his own standards he has been poor, perhaps hampered by the confusion in tactics with the Defensive line and new boss Andre Villas-Boas but it’s clear to say Cech isn’t the world class keeper we saw a few seasons ago.
David Luiz (Chelsea), Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Arsenal & QPR…
At times, David Luiz looked like an excited kid picked for the big team in the Chelsea defence, his rocky performances in defence has made John Terry look poor, when he’s actually had a pretty good season (in football terms only). Ashley Cole too, hasn’t had a terrible season but his standards have certainly dropped.
Rio Ferdinand has had his fitness problems but I believe his overall game has dropped massively and will not be surprised if he leaves Old Trafford in the summer to find first-team football.
Arsenal’s defence is all-inclusive in this list, and you can throw in Queens Park Rangers too. Some of the defending that both clubs have shown this season have been dismal, so much so, you wonder if they bother with Defensive training drills in between games.
Per Mertesacker of Arsenal has looked suspect since his arrival. Surprising, considering that the Gunners needed a big presence in defence but still look twice as vulnerable with him there.
Tim Cahill (Everton), Stuart Downing (Liverpool), Man United, Adel Taarabt (QPR)
Everton’s Tim Cahill usually pops up with several goals a season but so far he’s failed to hit the back of the net during 2011/2012. Has he lost his touch or is it because Everton’s quality in the final third has declined?
Stuart Downing joins the list due to the amount of criticism I’ve heard from Liverpool fans who watch him week in and week out. Personally, I’ve seen glimpses of him playing some decent crosses and pot shots, but with no goals and no assists so far this season is an extremely poor record considering his price tag.
Last season’s Championship player of the year was QPR’s Adel Taarabt but for one reason or another the Moroccan attacking midfielder has not been able to continue his form in the Premier League. It’s disappointing, considering how well he’d done last year, whether or not he can come back under the guidance of new manager Mark Hughes remains to be seen.
Hugo Rodallega (Wigan Athletic), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Andy Carroll (Liverpool), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Maroune Chamakh (Arsenal), Peter Odemwingie (West Brom)
Wigan Athletic are spending another season battling relegation and their star striker Hugo Rodallega only has 1 goal to his name. He once quoted as saying he can be as good as Lionel Messi, I still haven’t seen this come true.
Obvious choices are Fernando Torress and Andy Carroll, with a year since their big money transfers occurred neither of them have had the success on the pitch their price tags suggested. The common Twitter and Facebook status has been “Yakubu & Demba Ba, £1.5 Million = 27 goals – Torres & Carroll , £85 Million = 4 goals”.
At least both strikers are willing to play football, Carlos Tevez, despite the skill and talent he possesses as a Footballer has had a terrible season when he refused to come on as a substitute for Manchester City in the Champions League. He’s never played a game since. What a waste of talent (& wages).
West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie scored 15 in 32 games last season, so far this season he’s only got 5 in 19. The Baggies expected big things from him but it appears he’s having a bit of “second season syndrome”.
Another shout is Arsenal striker Maroune Chamakh, who may not get many starts with in-form Van Persie, but the forward appears to be getting worse. He was signed as someone who could take the pressure off his Dutch team mate, but he’s looking like another Wenger failure. The same can be said about Nikolas Bendtner who’s failed to shine at Sunderland, instead he’s been more keen on trying to blag free pizza’s back in Denmark and smashing up Newcastle City Centre with new team mate Lee Cattermole.
The Conference side were only members of the Football League a few years ago following relegation from League Two in the 2009-2010 Season.
To begin to describe the troubles ‘The Quakers’ have had over the last 10 years would be a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. From a personal point of view, as a QPR fan, I often mention to people that we originated with the name St.Jude (the patron of Lost Causes). However a look at Darlington’s history and I start to begin to feel quite fortunate about my own team.
Having entered Administration for a third time in 10 years recently under a third chairman (Raj Singh) meant that there is clearly something wrong at the club. News at the start of the week broke that they have terminated the contracts of the playing staff as well as Manager Craig Liddle.
The 10-point penalty for entering admin means the club are now close to the relegation zone in the Blue Square Premier but that’s the least of the worries with Saturday’s game against Fleetwood potentially being called off if the Club close.
It was expected that today (Tuesday) the Administrators would fold the club by midday however news reports have suggested that former chairman George Houghton in talks with a life line takeover. He was the chairman who preceded Singh, and had also placed the club in administration for the second period in the last 10 years.
Manager, Liddle, is a Darlo hero, having been a player at the club since the late 1990’s, he remembers the days of playing at the Feethams ground and before controversial owner George Reynolds took over.
Liddle has laid blame on the new stadium, infamously named the Reynolds Arena for the clubs problems and stated that if the club had stayed at Feethams, then they would be financially healthy.
The Darlington Arena is a white elephant with not enough fans to fill it at this level of football means the running costs run in the “tens of thousands” per week according to Raj Singh.
Although various miss-management off the pitch has cost the Club dearly, they were unlucky to lose out on promotion twice via the play-offs in the last 10 years and playing in League One, could’ve seen the club make the most out of their big stadium.
George Reynolds had the right ambition but who in their right mind builds the stadium before you’ve got the team? It always seemed like a flawed plan and a gamble from the start.
Darlington player Aaron Brown, Tweeted that he drove 227 miles to train and then to be told they’ve all been made redundant but still asked to play against Fleetwood on Saturday.
Let’s remember these are players who are not on Premier League wages and have families to support, mortgages to pay. Craig Liddle himself has been very loyal to the club over the last decade but is even worried about his and his family’s future.
To think only last season the club had just finished outside of the play-offs in their first season out of the football league since the late 1980’s and also won the FA Trophy at Wembley stadium.
Now the 128 years of Darlington FC could be over unless Houghton who’s currently in talks as I type this at 3 PM with the administrators to try and negotiate a deal that would save the club.
In the 1980’s the club were close to going out of business but with fans making great fundraising schemes saved the club. In the last 10 years there have been plenty of the same, fundraising upon fundraising to save the club, which makes you wonder if it’s always going to be the inevitable.
More worryingly overall is the fact that if Darlo DO go out of business, it would be a 25% FAILIURE rate for clubs Relegated from the Football League since Scarborough in the 1990’s.
Scarborough, Chester City, Halifax Town, Rushden & Diamonds and Boston United all went out of business in the last 10 years and the FA need to work out a better procedure to help teams in these situations.
Looking for positives is hard, but if Darlington did fold, then a phoenix club in their name would start at step 5, five levels below the Conference or a new club entirely would start in Step 7.
Recently, Chester and Halifax have had success with their phoenix clubs gaining promotions at the first time of asking. Plus, stories of FC United and of course AFC Wimbledon can do wonders to fill fans with a sense of hope.
Hope is something Darlington fans are surely running out of.
The talk of Manchester United’s midfield has started to become insipid, unfair criticism of Michael Carrick, whether Phil Jones is a midfielder or defender to the fact Anderson is turning into the new Djemba-Djemba.
The re-signing of Paul Scholes has boosted the squad who had been missing the young Tom Cleverly as a creative spark. As I watched the highlights of United’s 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderer in which Scholes scored, I wondered just how they’d benefit from another veteran and former United player.
David Beckham had been extremely close to signing with Paris Saint-Germain following his contract with LA Galaxy ending on 31st December. However, talks broke down and new PSG boss Carlo Ancelotti revealed that Beckham rejected the deal because his family wanted to stay in Los Angeles.
I suppose it makes sense, Beckham who turns 37 in May would only be joining PSG on a short term basis, not the logical move for a young family to make. Reports suggest that he’ll sign a new contract with the Galaxy very soon; if he does it is likely a loan move whilst the MLS season is off looks likely.
Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers have been the two named clubs rumoured in signing Beckham but the player himself has said he’d find it extremely hard to play against United for any other Premier League team.
That’s why I can see a loan deal for Beckham a viable option for Sir Alex Ferguson as his United side that hope to retain the Premier League title from the advances of City and Spurs.
Scholes coming out of retirement shocked a few, especially with the sale of Darron Gibson to Everton and the fact Anderson seems to be out of favour, could the team benefit from another veteran?
Whilst Becks may not have the fitness for full on Premier League games, he could play a vital part. Scholes came off for fellow veteran Ryan Giggs against Bolton and similar rotation could be done with Beckham.
No one can argue against the statement that Beckham is one of the best crossers of the football in the World and his delivery and passing could booster United’s midfield for the rest of the season.
The hype and fame that comes with Beckham may be off putting for SAF but as Becks is close to retiring, perhaps a return and bow out to English football would make it all the more worthwhile.
He’s expected to be included in the Great Britain team come the 2012 Olympic Games, he’ll want to be fit for it and the MLS season does not start until March.
We saw fellow ex-Premier League/MLS stars Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane return with Loan deals to Arsenal and Aston Villa. If Becks does re-sign for LA Galaxy again, Fergie should give him a call and see if he can add that extra option to the United midfield with silverware in mind that would end a golden era of players.
I don’t think that’s one move David Beckham could ever turn down.
We’re almost half way through January the month that sees the transfer window open for European clubs to buy, sell or loan players during the 31 days of the month. However, there appears to be heavy negotiations behind the scenes with managers, players and more correctly agents and chairmen. Where are the big deals?
The likes of Gary Cahill and Carlos Tevez were rumoured to make moves come January but neither deals have taken place with the latest of Tevez’s switch to Milan appears to have been stalled. Rumours are linking the want away Argentinean striker to Queens Park Rangers, who appointed his former boss at City, Mark Hughes as their manager.
It may just be because they share the same agent but could Tevez play his football in London again? Crazier things have happened.
Whatever happens, QPR is one club that’s expected to be very busy this month but have only acquired Federico Macheda on loan from Manchester United.
Whilst across west London, Chelsea were expected to make some signings for manager Andres Villas Boas to boost his squad. Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge although the likes of Tottenham Hotspur could be after him too.
The most interesting deals of the 12 days we’ve had so far have been Nicolas Anelka’s move to China, whilst he may be well past his prime you didn’t expect the Frenchman to end his playing days in the Chinese Premier Division. ‘The Sulk’ has been one the best finisher’s the Premier League has ever seen.
Some interesting loan deals have taken place with Emmanuel Frimpong joining Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Arsenal, a midfield with him and Jamie O’Hara sounds very combative.
Whilst away from the top flight, League Two side AFC Wimbledon have made a double scoop with the return of Jason Euell to the South London club from Charlton Athletic on loan and young midfield George Moncur (son of John) from West Ham.
The biggest signing of this transfer window so far has to be Thierry Henry returning to Arsenal on loan. Whilst players look to end their careers in the MLS, the fact they’re able to come back on loan is a very attractive prospect for players and clubs alike.
Robbie Keane also joins Henry in a short term loan by signing for Aston Villa. The player who never lived up to expectations in his loan move at West Ham United last season has caused a flurry of ‘boyhood club’ jokes on Twitter, as standard.
What’s to come in the remaining days of January? It’s hard to say.
Will Manchester United buy a midfielder? Where will Christopher Samba ditch Blackburn for? And just how many players will Mark Hughes sign at QPR?
I’ll be back in a week to see what’s taken place…
Thank God for Mario Balotelli. Despite the negativity I hear and read about the Manchester City and Italian forward, I can’t help but love the guy and I’m not even a City fan. Ok, he may have made a number of mistakes, caused controversy and been a bad boy but let’s remember that he’s only 21 years old, extremely rich for his age and living in a new City and Country.
In a recent interview, he’s stated how he is often misunderstood:
“If I buy a Fiat Uno, I read that a guy like me would be more suited to a Ferrari. If I buy the Ferrari, I read that I should have been more down to earth and bought the Uno.
“If I laugh, I’m not serious; if I don’t laugh, I’m a sulky rich guy who doesn’t enjoy doing the best job in the world.”
He also states that he’s made no friends since his move from Milan, and that he’s found it very hard to adjust to the English lifestyle. Given his track record in Italy, it’s actually a surprise how well Mario has done for City during his time, despite the negative reports, there are just as many positive ones to counter act it.
I’ve seen fans compare him to Gazza, who also enjoyed a prank or two. Whilst I don’t condone setting fireworks off in your bathroom or throwing darts at people, no harm was done and with age, he’ll learn from his mistakes.
However, since when do you hear of well paid footballers donating money to the homeless or solving a child’s bullying problems? There’s certainly two sides to the mercurial talent.
Personally, I think it’s great for football. He’s a talented player and as he gets older, he’ll start to mature on and off the pitch but for now, let’s focus on the positive and help him settle into life in England. It’ll be a shame if he was to leave.
Here’s a list of reported incidents involving Mario Balotelli in a Saint and Sinner list. The Purgatory list at the end is for those I couldn’t work out were good or bad…
I. Gives £1,000 to a homeless man after leaving a Casino
II. Very recently, he was reported to have paid for everyone’s gas/petrol when topping up his own car at a petrol station in Manchester.
III. Donated £200 to local church and paid for £1000 round of drinks in local Pub.
IV. Turned his garden into a racetrack for Quadbikes.
V. After meeting a young City fan who had been bullied, Mario drove the victim and his Mother to the school to meet the Headmaster in order to deal with the matter.
VI. Reportedly dressed as Santa driving around Manchester handing out £20 notes to members of the public.
VII. Also reportedly paid for Homeless people to have a five course meal on Christmas Day, paid for a hotel for homeless people on New Year’s eve and left £10,000 in a toilet on a Manchester to London train.
I. Throwing darts at a youth team player because he was bored.
II. Setting off fireworks in his home.
III. Squaring up to five bouncers after being evicted from a Strip Club. He does not even drink alcohol.
IV. When being interviewed right after a game, he swears on live TV. “My season was s***…”
V. Interviewed by Italian Police after being photographed socialising with Italian Mafia.
VI. Bust up in training with Micah Richards who accused Mario of not trying hard enough.
VII. Tries an outrageous backheel shot in a pre-season friendly in the USA which fails miserably and he’s substituted immediately.
- After City beat United in the FA Cup last season, Mario says something to Rio Ferdinand and Anderson who get angry and a scuffle ensues.
I. Chanting “Rooney” at escort Jenny Thompson who cashed in on the Wayne Rooney story.
II. Apparently sent out by his Mother to buy cleaning products but returned with a giant trampoline, Scalextric, two Vespa scooters and a table tennis set.
III. Was stopped in his car by Police in Manchester who wanted to know why he was carrying £5,000 cash in his glove box, to which he answered “because I am rich”. Fair point.
IV. Competed against a Manchester United fan at an arcade on a Punchball machine. He was supposed to be resting an ankle injury.
V. Scores goal against Norwich City with his shoulder. Some fans loved it, others thought it was disrespectful.
VI. Was accused of entering a Prison in Italy without invitation. I don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing but it’s certainly bizarre.
DUE TO THE HOLIDAY SEASON VERBAL FOOTBALL WILL NOT BE POSTING AS USUAL. THIS IS DUE TO THE WRITERS SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY, EATING FAR TOO MANY MINCE PIES AND DESPERATELY TRYING TO WATCH THE FOOTBALL OVER WHATEVER FAMILY MOVIE EVERYONE ELSE WANTS TO STICK ON.
WE WISH YOU A GREAT CHRISTMAS AND A WONDERFUL 2012…SEE YOU SOON!
Wigan Athletic have been in the Premier League since 2005, a record that the likes of Leeds United, Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday fans are all envious of at present and it’s a status they will be hoping to keep for another season. But can they really stay in the Premier League for ANOTHER season?
The last few campaigns have seen the club fighting for their lives on the last day of the season and despite the majority of fans and pundits predicting their downfall they just keep coming back with a bounce. The last minute equaliser against Chelsea was testament to Roberto Martinez’s squads determination levels.
Watching that game with fellow Verbal Football contributor, Paul B, we failed to name many players from the Wigan squad, or for those that we did, we knew little about them. Does this mean Wigan are no good or does their reputation sometimes count against when people judge their plight?
If Wigan filled out the DW Stadium every weekend would it be different? Instead it’s this syndrome of “little Wigan” not helped by the fact manager Roberto Martinez has a tendency for signing little known foreign players such as Antolin Alcaraz, Albert Cruzat and Ronnie Stam. However, the club has made profit by giving players from overseas and chance and a stepping stone in the Premier League.
Wilson Palacios, Pascal Chimbonda and Paul Scharner, to name a few, all moved on to bigger clubs. Can Martinez continue to keep Wigan in the Premier League again?
Considering how low the club was for the majority of last season, they still managed to rise out of the drop come the last game and that’s all what counts. Surely this makes Wigan more likely to stay up than go down, compared to newly promoted teams, or teams that lacks this kind of survival experience?
It’s clear that the relegation battle is going to go down to the wire again this season, with several clubs involved but I for one will certainly not be calling Wigan as relegation fodder as they proved me wrong last season, there’s no reason to suggest they can’t do it again.
A rare edition of Friday Focus sees me look forward to 2012 and the European ties involving English clubs. Today saw the draw of the next round in the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, and all draws involving 5 English clubs were very interesting fixtures indeed.
Arsenal and Chelsea were the unlikely lads to be left in the Champions League by this stage compared to the Premier League dominant Manchester clubs. However, both London teams have tough games to get through if they want to get further in this year’s competition.
Arsenal take on AC Milan, a side they defeated 3 years ago in the quarter-finals. But this Milan side has gone through a transitional period since then and will be tougher competition that some Gooners may be expecting come February.
Chelsea meanwhile have a tricky task of facing Napoli, the side that advanced in the group stages at the expense of Manchester City. The Italian side showed their counter attacking prowess and with Chelsea looking rocky under AVB this season, it could be a very tough fixture for the Blues to get through.
The Europa League may have taken a beating from fans, pundits and managers alike it has served up three extremely interesting fixtures which should prove to put the spark back into this once famous European competition.
Manchester United take on Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam, whilst Manchester City take on FC Porto from Portugal. Whilst European newboys Stoke City play Valencia, I wonder if these fixtures will even make it to air on Channel 5 and ITV 4, the usual home of Europa League fixtures. I expect ITV 1 including either Manchester clubs on their channel this time around.
The games I am looking forward to this weekend are in the Premier League with Blackburn hosting West Brom which is already being touted as a relegation decider/six pointer this early into the season. Fulham host Bolton in a similar fixture between sides in the bottom 8 of the table. No one wants to be bottom by Christmas and all clubs will be desperate to beat each other.
Sunday provides four Premier League games, with QPR hosting Manchester United, Liverpool travelling to Aston Villa and Spurs welcoming a rejuvenated Sunderland under Martin O’Neill.
The game of the weekend however has to be Manchester City versus Arsenal which will surely be one of the games of the season, with Arsenal in good form and City under some scrutiny, could it open the title race more?