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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Why Daniel Sturridge Should Go To EURO 2012

As it stands at present England star striker Wayne Rooney is set to fulfil his 3-match International suspension at Euro 2012. Whilst the English FA desperately try and get it reduced or overturned it is looking likely that England will have to do without Rooney for the Group games against France, Sweden and Ukraine.

It’s going to make it tougher to be without Rooney’s class but we are not left with terrible strikers as his replacement by any means. In fact, England has more quality up front now than in recent years with plenty of young talent breaking through that could and should, in my opinion be given their chance.

Michael Owen was given his chance at France ’98 and the same with Rooney at Euro ’04. Which young striker could make his name at next year’s tournament?

Daniel Sturridge.

The Chelsea striker has been one of the Blues’ better players so far this season in a squad of forwards that boast Didier Drogba, Saloman Kalou, Nicholas Anelka and of course Fernando Torres.

However, Sturridge who was signed on a free transfer from Manchester City has got 7 goals in 10 games and could be the impact player that England need in the wake of Rooney’s absence.

Of course, Sturridge at 22 is still inexperienced but he’s starting to prove the potential that has been with him since his days as a teenager in City’s youth academy. There’s no chance of the player being overwhelmed with recent form either, with both his Uncle’s Simon and Dean Sturridge both having played in the Premier League/Old Division One in the past.

Danny Wellbeck has impressed since returning to Manchester United but I believe Sturridge is more developed. Sturridge could play well with most other striking options, as part of a 3 up top or in a traditional 4-4-2, with the likes of Zamora or Carroll alongside him.

Whilst Sturridge may be criticised for being too lightweight, his dribbling and pace is to be admired but most importantly is his finishing, which is one attribute I’ve always admired in him and believe it is comparable to that of Robbie Fowler.

Of course Sturridge as a lot of living up to with that comparison but I believe he can succeed, for Chelsea and for England if given the opportunity. If England play well as a team and feed Sturridge the ball, he’ll be the one to put it in the back of the net and get us through the Group stage.

The Large Pool of Ex-Managers (Part Two)

Long overdue, I’ve returned to this article for the 2nd part which focuses on Football Managers who have been out of management for a long time, for one reason or another despite being great players themselves and in some cases very good managers.

With only 92 clubs in the top four divisions I suppose there is bound to be a long list of those left out of the game without the right luck or motivation to get back into management. Here are a number of candidates that haven’t managed in awhile.

Alan Curbishley: Despite not managing a football club since 2008, his name is still linked to a host of clubs looking for a new manager but for one reason or another he’s never been appointed. Maybe his last spell in management at West Ham United had severely damaged a reputation that’d been impeccable in his 15 years with Charlton Athletic. However I am still surprised he’s not taken/given an opportunity at another club in recent seasons.

His long spell in charge of Charlton saw the club achieve two promotions and consolidation in the Premier League for many seasons. Since his departure from the club in 2006, the Addicks suffered two relegations in 3 seasons and found themselves back where they started.

He saved West Ham from relegation in the 2006/2007 season and finished in the top ten of the EPL the following season, signing players like Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy. However, he left the club after the sale of two players which he wasn’t consulted about and said that it had breached a clause in his contract.

By 2009 he won a court case and the Hammers paid him £2.2 million in compensation. I imagine many Hammers fans were Continue reading

Monday Muse: FA Cup Frolics & Draw

 The weekends football action served up a treat, not only did we have the Premier League and Championship in action but also the FA Cup 2nd Round where teams from League 1, League 2 and those from the Non-League pyramid compete in order for a place in the 3rd Round come the new year, all hoping to be drawn against the big boys.

FA Cup Shocks

Maybe their could’ve been more shocks in the FA Cup 2nd Round this weekend than it really produced, but some teams caused upsets. Most impressively were that of Wrexham, the former members of the Football League have had a rocky road on and off the pitch in recent seasons but they’ll be delighted with the 1-0 victory at League One side Brentford.

Wrexham, who lost manager Dean Saunders to Championship side Doncaster Rovers, are currently top of the Blue Square Bet Premier Division (Football Conference Premier in old money) and managed by former player and Wrexham legend Andy Morrell. The Jamie Tolley strike that settled the tie was fitting of an upset in a game that made Wrexham appear like the Football League side in terms of style and commitment.

Tamworth came out victors in their away tie with fellow Non-Leaguers Gateshead, in which Tamworth won 2-1 with a last minute winner. Whilst Chelmsford and Fleetwood both held Football League sides to draws at home and will be desperate to get a better result in the replays.

Unfortunately, the lowest place sides AFC Totton and Redbridge could not get past strong League Two opposition and were on the back of 5-0 and 6-1 defeats to Bristol Rovers and Crawley Town respectively.

FA Cup 3rd Round Draw Provides Great Fixtures

The tie of the round belongs to the dominant clubs from Manchester as holders City were drawn at home to neighbours Manchester United thus adding an extra derby to the already enthralling rivalry this season.

Other interesting draws elsewhere belong to Cheltenham Town from League Two earning the chance to play Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Whilst Arsenal play hosts to Championship big boys Leeds United.

More one sided has to belong to Everton who will host Non-League outfit Tamworth at Goodison Park. It’d be remarkable if an upset would be on the cards but many would be hoping that Tamworth can give a good account.

Elsewhere, Fleetwood could host locals Blackpool if they’re able to perform a shock result in their replay at Yeovil Town. And Chelmsford could host Premier League Bolton if they’re to do the same in the replay at Macclesfield.

There’s another derby on the cards as Nottingham Forest are home to rivals Leicester City, whilst Sheffield Wednesday could perform an upset as they will take on West Ham United at Hillsborough.

There are Premier League teams travelling to lower league opposition that could prove tricky with Aston Villa going to Bristol Rovers and Queens Park Rangers away to Milton Keynes Dons.

Liverpool will welcome either Southend or Oldham to Anfield whilst Chelsea do battle against Portsmouth. All in all it shall be a great weekend come January for the FA Cup 3rd Round, one of the best times of the season in our historic football calendar.

Just what is Phil Jones’ best position? #ManUtd

One of Manchester United’s most interesting signings in the summer was the capture of Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers for a transfer fee around £16.5 Million. The money is not in question as Jones has made an emphatic start at his new club and has made the most appearances for the Red Devils so far this season.

At the weekend, Jones scored his first goal for United with an excellent side footed volley in the area from Nani’s cross. It was a finish that any attacking player would be proud of and in particular United legends like Bryan Robson and Brian McClair.

It begs the question that has been on my mind throughout the season so far and that is just what is Phil Jones’ best position?

Naturally, he is a centre half and no doubt Sir Alex Ferguson signed him to be the successor of Rio Ferdinand and/or Nemanja Vidic. In particular, Fergie signed Jones not only for his football talent but also his leadership and many in the game have tipped him to be a future United captain, as well as England.

However, after seeing how well he has adapted to life at Old Trafford, it’s remarkable to think that he is only 19 years old. He plays with a sense of confidence that usually players his senior command on the pitch, he is bound to be one of the best Defenders in the future but what about now?

Jones has played at the back for United this season on a number of occasions but he has also filled in at right-back where he looked competent but not his natural game. However, the times he has been pushed up the pitch in United’s midfield has seen him come alive.

When breaking though to the Blackburn Rovers team, he was preferred in midfield mainly because of Rovers’ competent centre-backs Ryan Nelsen and Christopher Samba. Still he impressed as a defensive midfielder however, for United you often see him bursting forward with the ball and creating opportunities.

The beautiful finish at Villa Park, which won United the game 1-0, makes me wonder if he should be considered as a midfielder for the next several years.

Whilst the centre-back position may be his natural trait, it’s a position that is often thrived with plenty of experience and like I already mentioned in this article, Jones is bound to be one of the best when he’s older.

However, at only 19, I feel that he could solidify that United midfield that appears to be lacking this season bringing to mind the classic square pegs in round holes cliché.

And maybe the holding midfielder role isn’t even right for him, as he’s a player who likes to move forward. Perhaps a more box-to-box central midfield position would suit him and United throughout this season and through the next.

The only downside to his versatility is that he could become just that, a versatile player who fits in various positions on the pitch without making one his own. It’s a similar story to John O’Shea and his demise from the United team.

Just what is O’Shea’s best position? I couldn’t really tell you but perhaps it is unfair to compare the two, whilst O’Shea is a better footballer than often given credit for, Jones has the potential to be much, much better.

I for one can’t wait to see what is to come from the youngster, for England’s sake more over.

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.

UEFA European Championships 2012 Draw & Reaction

GROUP A
1. Poland (Hosts)
2.Greece
3.Russia
4.Czech Republic

GROUP B
1. Holland
2. Denmark
3. Germany
4. Portugal

GROUP C
1. Spain
2. Italy
3. Republic of Ireland
4. Croatia

GROUP D
1. Ukraine (Hosts)
2. Sweden
3. France
4. England

Group B has been given the ‘Group of Death’ tag with the likes of Holland, Germany and Portugal all competing to qualify, whilst Group A is one of the weakest and hosts Poland, along with Russia will both be extremely happy to have avoided any of the Big Boys.

It was 50/50 at the end of the draw between Italy and England as to which Nation was to go into Group C or Group D.

I was hoping that England, from an England fans perspective to be in Group C with Spain, Ireland and Croatia because I feel we’ve got a score to settle with each Nation. It’s important that England face tough opposition to make sure the players raise their game.

However that said England will be expected to qualify from Group D with France although I’m sure Sweden and hosts Ukraine will have something to say about that.

A cause for concern is that England will be playing in the Ukraine, a reportedly 500 miles between stadiums for the group games and to make it worse the English FA have already booked training facilities and camp in Poland, which also adds to travel. Will this affect the England team?

All eyes will certainly be on Fabio Capello’s preparations ahead of this tournament over the debacle that occurred in South Africa for the last World Cup finals.

If England do qualify from their group, they could meet the winners/runners-up of Group C unless UEFA plan to organise it differently. In which case Italy or Spain could be our opponents and if England were to get to the Final, it’s going to have to be done the hard way.

Taking the England tinted glasses off, I’m interested to see the Republic of Ireland go head to head against Italy, especially with Giovanni Trapattoni managing the Irish against his home Nation. Also, Ireland could be the ones to upset the likes of Spain. It’ll certainly be a battle of “Total Football” versus “Catenaccio”.

Whilst many fans still regard Portugal in the same light as their side from several years ago, I can’t see them beating the likes of Germany or Holland who I believe will both easily qualify from Group B if they play to their best.

All in all, the draw makes for great anticipation and build-up to the Summer and let’s hope it’s the Football that does all the talking in this tournament and not the Hooliganism, Racism and other cultural matters that seem to be causing a storm over this tournament.

Friday Focus: FA Cup Weekend

Its FA Cup weekend once again as the 2nd Round proper kicks off tonight with Blue Square Bet Premier side Fleetwood Town hosting League One Yeovil. With plenty of Non-League sides still competing in the prestigious competition many will be hoping to be in the pot for the 3rd Round draw comes Sunday afternoon. A home tie to Liverpool or an away trip to Old Trafford could financially fund a Non-League team for a whole season which is why this is a big, big deal.

Some interested fixtures in tomorrow’s games sees Stourbridge who previously knocked out Plymouth Argyle in a replay host Stevenage which could see another upset. One of the lowest ranked teams left in the Cup, Redbridge have a tough task travelling to Crawley Town.

There are some guaranteed Non-Leaguers entering the 3rd Round in January with a few all-non-league fixtures like Salisbury versus Grimsby and Gateshead versus Tamworth. Both Sheffield clubs host League Two opposition with Torquay going to United and Aldershot playing at Wednesday.

On Sunday, the televised games see AFC Totton, another one of the lowest ranked teams in the Cup this year host League Two Bristol Rovers. Could the part timers cause an upset? Sutton United also host Martin Allen’s Notts County side.

Meanwhile there’s Premier League and Championship action to also enjoy that is set to be a weekend Football feast.

Can Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas change things around with a win at Newcastle United? And will Martin O’Neill be in the dugout for Sunderland’s trip to Wolves on Sunday?

Who Will Be The New England Manager After Capello?

Tomorrow sees the draw of the 2012 European Championship group stages but regardless of what happens next summer, England manager Fabio Capello’s contract will expire and the English F.A. have the task of appointing his successor in preparation for the World Cup qualification campaign for Brazil 2014. But is the next England manager as nailed on as we may think?

There are a shortlist of names on various betting sites giving odds on the next man to take on the toughest job in Football, and whilst the list of credentials vary I realised there are more names that could be added. So bare with me whilst I go through the various could be, would be, should be manager of England come August 2012.

The Real Deal’s Continue reading

Bruce Out, O’Neill In At Sunderland?

The 2-1 home defeat Sunderland suffered to Wigan Athletic on Saturday was a bitter pill to swallow for lowly Black Cats manager Steve Bruce, who is already under pressure from supporters following their dreadful start to the Premier League season.

Although Sunderland are not currently in the bottom 3, they sit uncomfortably above it for a season that supporters were hoping for a relatively decent season considering the vast amounts of signings they made in the Summer transfer window. The fact local rivals Newcastle United are doing so well, also adds salt to the wound.

However, does Steve Bruce deserve to be sacked? The supporters voiced their opinions come the final whistle chanting for his dismissal but the former Manchester United defender says that he won’t quit despite abuse from his own supporters. Does the Sunderland board need to act for him and give him the boot?

There last win in the league came 5 games ago with a 2-0 win at Bolton, another team who are having a pretty dreadful season. The last home win for Sunderland was all the way back in September with a surprising 4-0 victory over Stoke City, but again another side who’ve also underperformed so far.

Is Bruce a bad manager? This time last season, Sunderland were actually within the top 6 of the Premier League and many were predicting that they could try and claim a European place come the end of the season.

Then cue star striker Darren Bent saying he wants to leave the club coming out of the blue and by January he was gone to Aston Villa. He was a large part of their success however last season’s summer signing Asamoah Gyan, who impressed at the World Cup with Ghana was going to step in.

Until this summer, he also wants away from the club and decided to go on loan to somewhere in the Middle East (I don’t even know where). God knows why, probably for money but it is alarming that Gyan, like Bent also wanted away from Sunderland so desperately. What’s going on?

Let’s remember that Sunderland also had Darren Wellbeck up front for them last season, the player who’s broke his way into the Manchester United team this season as well as England recognition.

Who have replaced these 3 key players? Nikolas Bendtner, a talented player but tends to reek of inconsistency. Connor Wickham, still only 18 years old and again talented but not a natural goal scorer at Premier League level immediately. With Fraizer Campbell injured until 2012 and young Korean striker Ji Dong-Won still adapting to the Premier League, is it not surprise Sunderland are not scoring goals and winning games?

Another key point is that Jordan Henderson, sold to Liverpool in the summer was a key part of their creativity in the midfield last season. A role that could quite easily be filled by the likes of new arrival David Vaughan should be fulfilling. He was an unsung hero for Blackpool last year compared to the praise of fellow team mate Charlie Adam.

It won’t help Bruce that Wes Brown was at fault for conceding the last minute goal on Saturday. The defender signed from Manchester United in the summer looked to be a great addition to the defence along with John O’Shea but it appears that all these new signings have failed to gel.

So what manager does Sunderland go for if they DO give Steve Bruce the Sack?

Mark Hughes has been heavily touted by the bookies and fans as an ideal replacement but there only has to be one choice and that is Martin O’Neill.

It is a known fact that Martin O’Neill was a Sunderland supporter as a child and is still said to be very fond of them still. Plus one thing that O’Neill excels in football management is his attention to detail, especially his motivating and man management skills.

It was only a few seasons ago that he’d built an Aston Villa side worthy of challenging in the top 6 of the Premier League and I believe it would be a great move for him to join Sunderland and give this team a new lease of life.

Unfortunately for Steve Bruce, he appears to have lost the confidence of the fans and if results continue it will only be amount of time before his players do too.

It was around this time last year that West Ham United were said to have approached Martin O’Neill to replace Avram Grant but it never materialised. The Hammers stuck with Grant and they faced relegation from the Premier League.

If Sunderland stick with Bruce, could we see history repeat itself?