Tottenham Hotspur’s Title Tilt

If you whisper it… a certain club known as Tottenham Hotspur have been mooted as title challengers for this season’s Premier League. Here at Verbal Football I’ll analyse Tottenham’s unexpected title tilt so far.

Without a doubt, last Sunday’s defeat (and the manner of it) against Stoke City at The Britannia was a body blow to Harry Redknapp’s side. Spurs were unbeaten since there opening two defeats to both Manchester clubs, United and City respectively. In the Stoke defeat, Spurs showed a lot of heart especially in the second half and fought their way to an almost impossible win never mind draw. Adebayor’s wrongly disallowed goal and Kaboul’s harsh sending off seemed to galvanise the side. However, Spurs’ slow start in the first half cannot be forgotten. This is at least the second game this season where Spurs started slow and left themselves with too much to do in the second half. Redknapp must remedy any future sloppy starts if his side are to be considered bonafide title challengers for the 2011/2012 Premier League title.

Players such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale are genuine top class players already coveted by the likes of FC Barcelona and Chelsea. If Modric and Bale genuinely buy into the Tottenham project then only good things will happen at White Hart Lane. In addition, Scott Parker’s contribution shouldn’t be overlooked. Parker has been an upgrade on Wilson Palacios and has lessened the blow of ‘losing’ Jermaine Jenas. The Parker and Modric midfield duo has been solid and creative at the same time. It’s imperative that those aforementioned midfielders stay fit if Spurs want to remain title contenders.

Tottenham Hotspur will encounter a relatively ‘easy’ run of games until another London clash with Chelsea at the end of December. Redknapp has to rally his troops and get the side going on another unbeaten run. Fans and critics alike await with baited breath Tottenham’s next move in the Premier League.

By Paul Batambuze.

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David Beckham’s Career Crossroads

Here at Verbal Football, I’ll analyse David Beckham’s latest career crossroads. Despite hitting 37 years of age, David Beckham is still a professional footballer in demand. Whether it’s for his ‘brand’ or the fact that he can still dig deep and produce at the required level, Beckham is a man who most high-tier clubs still covet. As it stands Beckham has two ‘confirmed’ options. One is to join PSG on an 18 month deal, the other is two remain with LA Galaxy for the rest of his career.

PSG

The Parisian project is enticing for many reasons. In an ideal world, he’d win another league in a different country and he could test himself in a decent European League. Having Beckham around would also aide the likes of Pastore and Menez in terms of dealing with off field pressures that comes with a club rivalling Manchester City in terms of re-growth on the pitch and buzz amongst football fans. Joining PSG would also give Beckham the chance to perform in the UEFA Champions League and display his unique crossing talents to a global audience (which can sometimes be slightly cynical) once more.

Los Angeles Galaxy:

On the other hand, Beckham can opt to remain with in sunny California with LA Galaxy. We all know that Beckham’s family is settled in Los Angeles and Beckham has, in the main, enjoyed his MLS experience both on and off the pitch. I think Beckham would also relish defending the MLS Cup and thus, picking up another MLS Cup medal. Beckham would also have an even bigger target on his back from his ever vocal critics in the States and who better to silence them once and for all?.

Conclusion:

David Beckham has always been one who surprised most but not many. His move to LA was beyond unexpected as well as his successful loan stint at AC Milan. Beckham has stated that he wants to represent Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games, wouldn’t a base in Paris represent him with the best preparation to do so? Or would a more relaxed Los Angeles environment be best?. Watch this space.

Paul Batambuze.

LA Galaxy’s 2011 MLS Cup Play-Off Adventure

Here at Verbal Football, I’ll give a run-down on LA Galaxy’s 2011 MLS Cup adventure. With the 2011 MLS Cup Final taking place at The Home Depot Centre, it’s only fitting that I focus a piece on the team from Los Angeles.
As top seeds in the Western Conference, LA received a bye in the first round of MLS Cup playoffs. Up first was the team from New York also known as the New York Red Bulls. Don’t ask me how a team from LA and NY are facing each other in a Western Conference play-off, direct your questions to the MLS HQ.

LA Galaxy v NY Red Bulls

LA Galaxy won the first leg with an imperious display in New York. Mike Magee’s well taken half-volley in the 15th minute ensured LA had the advantage going into the second leg.
New York Red Bulls began the second leg, with the highly rated Ream in defence. Former Tottenham Hotspur and Ajax midfielder Teemu Tainio and a certain Thierry Henry upfront. The home side, LA Galaxy opted to replace the suspended Juninho with former Port Vale player, Chris Birchall in central midfield alongside David Beckham. Opting for Birchall made complete sense as Bruce Arena opted to be gung-ho in the first leg and found themselves slightly open whenever New York launched a counter-attack.
David Beckham put in a herculean effort on behalf of the Galaxy at The Home Depot Centre. Robbie Keane was both wasteful and greedy but at least showed himself for the ball compared to the anonymous Barrett. I wonder why Bruce Arena doesn’t put Mike Magee upfront where I feel he’d be more of a potent weapon for the LA Galaxy offence.

LA Galaxy v Real Salt Lake

LA Galaxy competed with Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final at Home Depot Centre for a place in the MLS Cup Final. To those who are unfamiliar with the MLS Play-Offs structure, this game was practically a semi-final, with the winner heading off to the MLS Cup final.
In this particular match, Mike Magee continued his impressive form with another goal. This time his winning effort was a header effort with the assist from you know who (David Beckham in case you were wondering). The Beckham – Magee tandem has been a valuable source of goals for LA Galaxy. Again, I was baffled as to why Magee isn’t allowed to have a free rein upfront. Either way, Beckham is still able to find him and that is exactly what happened in this match.

LA Galaxy v Houston Dynamo

LA Galaxy reached the MLS Cup Final for the second time in as many years. The game was a chess match, with LA dominating the early proceedings. Adam Cristman was wasteful in front of goal and should’ve given LA a first half lead. Cristman will not be missed if he’s acquired in the upcoming MLS Supplemental Draft.
In the second half, Houston Dynamo came more out of their shells and forced the likes of Omar Gonzalez and De La Garza to defend on the back foot. However, in the 80th minute, David Beckham combined with Robbie Keane who in turn fed Landon Donovan with a sublime through ball which Donovan duly put in the net. Cue bedlam within the Home Depot Centre and utter joy when the referee signalled time at the end of the game. It was fitting that LA won the MLS Cup in their own backyard as well as in David Beckham’s last game for the Californian side.

The LA Galaxy Round-Up

LA Galaxy’s head coach Bruce Arena also received the 2011 MLS Coach of the Year … Unsurprisingly, David Beckham also received the 2011 MLS Comeback Player of the Year award. Beckham’s contribution to LA in the play-offs alone have demanded recognition for his work ethic and unsurpassed leadership qualities. LA Galaxy captain, Landon Donovan also won the MLS MVP for 2011. Roll on next season.

England’s Double Header (Reaction)

 

Here at Verbal Football, I’ll discuss England’s double header encounters against Spain and Sweden respectively. For both international friendlies, Fabio Capello effectively chose a squad of B International players (Feel free to read about VF’s opinion on B Internationals on this site).

England defeated the reigning European and World Champions Spain last Saturday with a gritty hard fought one – nil win. Both Phil Jagielka and Joleon Lescott were steady if not spectacular on Saturday evening. The assured defensive play of both Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson in the full back positions gave another layer of defensive solidity to England. Granted, goalkeeper Joe Hart and the entire back four were in ‘defensive mode’ for the duration of the international friendly against Spain, but they still kept a clean sheet.
You can only beat the opposition in front of you and England defeated the reigning and defending European and World Champions at Wembley. However, there is still a long way to go until Fabio Capello can deem his side ready to conquer the likes of Spain et al in competitive competition at EURO 2012. The likes of Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck impressed whilst Aston Villa striker Darren Bent pressed his case for inclusion in Fabio Capello’s final 23 for EURO 2012.

Against Sweden, Fabio Capello opted to give England greater freedom to express themselves on the pitch. Obviously, when faced with ‘weaker’ opposition, the onus is on the stronger team to take advantage.

The likes of Kyle Walker and Jack Rodwell enhanced their own cases for inclusion in Fabio Capello’s final 23. Bobby Zamora and Leighton Baines also impressed with their assured displays.

On another issue, hopefully the racism case against John Terry will be solved when England’s next encounter comes around. It’s just not a good look for an England captain to have a racism storm surrounding him. Fabio Capello has a lot to think about, both on and off the pitch.

Paul Batambuze.

Is Rio Ferdinand on the decline?

After witnessing Manchester City tear Manchester United to shreds not so long ago on a bright Sunday afternoon, I thought to myself ’Has Rio Ferdinand lost it?’. For one of City’s goals, Ferdinand made the attempt of running back to Edin Dzeko, only for Ferdinand to refrain from tackling or making a block. I found such defensive play bizarre.

Has Ferdinand fallen out of love with the game? We can only speculate. What we do know is that Sir Alex Ferguson is reported to have spoken to Ferdinand about changing his game due to Ferdinand losing some of his pace. Let’s say that report was true, then it’ll be somewhat difficult for Ferdinand to change his game especially at this stage of his career. I also think it’s unwise of Ferguson to publicly state the decline in Ferdinand’s game. Such a public declaration can’t aid manager / player relations. Keep an eye out on teams testing Manchester United’s defence down the Continue reading

Match Preview: Tottenham Hotspur v QPR

Tottenham Hotspur are to welcome visitors Queens Park Rangers to White Hart Lane on Sunday Afternoon. Both sides haven’t met competitively for almost 15 years.

Queens Park Rangers will be buoyed with the three points they picked up in their fractious encounter with Chelsea last week at Loftus Road. Expect a certain Adel Taraabt to have an absolute stormer at White Hart Lane.

Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp will also welcome the likes of Vedran Corluka, Steven Pienaar and Niko Kranjcar to the first-team set-up. Nevertheless Redknapp is expected to stick with the same side that defeated Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park last week. Surprise inclusion Aaron Lennon should also feature on Tottenham’s right hand side. Lennon’s pace out wide has missed and it is hoped his return to the first team picture will provide Tottenham with more balance.

Queens Park Rangers manager Neil Warnock, will still be without long-term absentee DJ Campbell upfront, as well as Wales centre-half Danny Gabbidon. The longer Campbell is out for QPR, the greater his absence will be felt.

Anton Ferdinand is also expected to feature this weekend, despite the fall-out with John Terry still continuing into the next round of Premier League games. Neil Warnock confirmed that Ferdinand is focused on the game and that he’ll play barring injury.

Expect fireworks in another one of the Premier League London derbies and most probably goals galore, failing that, expect incident aplenty. It should be good.

Who remembers the FA Cup Final in 1982 between both sides?

The Friday Focus: Midlands Derby, Fergie Dilemma & More…

Friday Focus

The Midlands Derby

If Alex McLeish can steer his Aston Villa side to victory over their midland rivals Wolves, then it’d go even further to endearing himself to the Holte End faithful. Wolves on the other hand, are still buoyant over their home win over Fulham last week. Expect a keenly fought local derby on Saturday afternoon.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Selection Dilemma

With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling performing with distinction on Monday evening against Spurs, what thoughts are occupying Ferguson in terms of Manchester United’s clash with Arsenal?. I was curious to see Jones being deployed as a right centre-back with Jonny Evans deployed on the left of him. Is Chris Smalling seen as a long term option at right back? Will Tom Cleverley continue to flourish or flounder as a central midfielder? All these questions and more will be answered when Arsenal visit the Theatre of Dreams.

Nottingham Forest v West Ham

Another clash of the big name managers in The Championship. With Steve Mc Claren and Sam Allardyce in the dugout, there’s bound to be more focus on their touchline antics rather than the game itself. West Ham’s form under Allardyce has been far from sparkling and they’ll be keen to find some form at the City Ground.

AVB aka Andre Villas-Boas

The man of the managerial moment, Mr Villas-Boas hasn’t had things go all his own way since he touched down in England. Judging by Villas-Boas’ firm rebuttal to the audible boos from the Chelsea crowd during their win over West Brom, it seems that Villas-Boas was starting to believe his own hype. It looks like Villas-Boas is becoming a prickly character even at this early stage of his debut season in the Premier League. He’ll definitely be one to watch.

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger is being criticised from all corners (Arsenal fans included). Despite the recent sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasir, Wenger has remained defiant to all the naysayers. Arsenal’s clash with Manchester United won’t provide the death knell that many people predicted. Arsenal’s win over Udinese has given the players and Wenger a fillip. Arsene Wenger will leave Old Trafford after the match with his head held high, win, lose or draw.

Robbie Keane’s L.A. Adventure

Robbie Keane’s surprise transfer to LA Galaxy is very intriguing on many levels. Does Keane feel as if he’s finished at the highest level of club football? How would Keane fit in once he arrives in LA? Where will Keane feature in the current set-up?.

From the outside looking in, it seems Keane would play upfront alongside Mike Magee or Chad Barrett. Both Magee and Barrett would provide a foil for Keane as well as being a physical option on the frontline with Keane providing the craft and relative pace. I think Keane and Barrett would be the best fit for now, although it would be a strike partnership lacking in mobility. Keane would also face competition for a starting berth from Adam Cristman, a player who has shoehorned his way into Bruce Arena’s thoughts as of late. As of yesterday, Keane lined up alongside Cristman and Continue reading

Monday Muse: La Liga strike,EPL,Spurs,Championship & Tevez…

The La Liga ‘holdout’

La Liga is arguably the most decorated league in world football and yet, it didn’t kick off over the weekend. It’s refreshing to hear that La Liga’s stellar stars such as Xavi and Iker Casillas were standing on the front of the picket line with their less celebrated counterparts across all the major divisions within Spanish Football. As always with a lockout, it’s down to money and how it’s distributed fairly amongst the professional footballers. A large percentage of players have also been playing without pay hence this lockout. Let’s hope the LFP and Spanish Players association resolve their issues soon. Spanish football is the loser.

Arsenal v Liverpool Continue reading

Manchester United’s Wing Wizards

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Manchester United signing England International Ashley Young from Aston Villa, I feel it’s pertinent to analyse the state of play with regards to the rest of the wide players currently at Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson has always been a fan of wide players, the recent purchase of Young proves this to be the case. Read on…

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