January Transfer Window Update….Where are the Big Deals?

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…

Advertisements

Friday Focus: European Draws and key Weekend Games…

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 Weekend…

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?

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.

Football Future: Ground Sharing

A new feature for the Verbal Football blog is called ‘Football Future’ where we will be discussing topics to do with the beautiful game beyond the present day.

In this first edition the topic in question is one that has started to make headlines in the media lately, especially in West London with the new Queens Park Rangers owner Tony Fernandes and Co vocalising the fact that the club need to seriously consider moving out of Loftus Road into a new bigger size stadium if the club is to reach their ambitions.

Of course this has raised rumours and speculating that a new West London stadium would in fact be shared by QPR’s rivals, Chelsea who despite owning a Stadium almost twice the size as Loftus Road, in Stamford Bridge, are faced with the Continue reading

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.

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

The best and worst case scenarios for Arsene Wenger & Arsenal FC

A hyperbole is surrounding Arsenal Football Club and in particular their long serving manager Arsene Wenger this week so it would be pretentious for Verbal Football to not give it’s two pennies on the matter.

The hype which has been fuelled by another trophyless season for the North London side has only had more petrol poured on the bonfire with the sale of Cesc Fabregas and doubts over whether Samir Nasri is sold to Manchester City, plus with the lack of signings that many Arsenal fans and football fans, ex-players and journalists all feel is needed.

To make it worse, a 0-0 draw at Newcastle was marred by the sending off of Gervinho and retrospective ban for Alex Song after his stamp on Joey Barton. In the week, a unconvincing 1-0 home win over Udinese in the UEFA Champions League qualifier did little to help preperations going into the Liverpool game at the weekend.

An under strength Gunners side suffered a 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool on Saturday which has put Arsene Wenger in an edgy position for the next week with two important fixtures in place. The defeat which I feel was caused by the sending off of holding midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong and Arsene Wenger not making changes to cover the huge hole in front of the back four for Liverpool and Charlie Adam in particular to exploit.

Added to all of this, UEFA have decided to ban Arsene Wenger from the touchline for a further two games after a communication break down over what contact the Arsenal manager could make from the stands to his bench during the home game in the Champions League last week.

So what are the best and worst case scenarios for Arsenal over the next week and furthermore? Continue reading

Friday Focus: The EPL kicks off with new boys QPR and Norwich plus interesting fixtures in the Football League

Another new feature on Verbal Football is Friday Focus, much like the regular feature ‘Monday Muse’ is a round-up of the weekends football action, Friday Focus is an opinionated preview on what the weekend could offer us with fixtures up and down the country.

This weekend sees the opening fixtures of the 2011/2012 season for the English Premier League with 6 games scheduled tomorrow (Saturday) after Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton was called off due to the UK Riots. We are lucky that it was the only cancellation, but only makes the decision more bizarre that only one fixture in jeopardy.

It’s also the opening weekend of Non-League football with England with the Conference, Conference North & South and further down the pyramid kicking off the season. The Football League take on their 2nd weekend of league games as well as competing mid-week in the League Cup.

Focus is obviously mainly on the EPL this weekend, with a bundle of players making their Continue reading

How Arsenal could have benefited from their former Captain

Today came the announcement that Premier League legend, Patrick Vieira has officially retired as a professional footballer. The lanky midfielder spent the last two seasons at Manchester City, where he will continue to stay on as the clubs ‘Football Development Executive’. The 35-year old who wasn’t a regular starter for City made 47 appearances in total with six goals to his name, 3 of which came in the clubs successful FA Cup campaign.

His new role is believed to be working with the youth set-up whilst being an ambassador for the club and with the amount of ‘winner medals’ to his name which include a World Cup and European Championship as well as a number of Premier League and Serie A trophies. City couldn’t have appointed a better candidate for this role which may have been created to keep the former French international at the club.

Whilst the English Premier League lose another familiar face to retirement, could Vieira’s former club Arsenal be rueing a missed opportunity on and off the pitch? Continue reading

Done Deals: Sunderland looking good,Leicester on the march…

  Another new feature for the Verbal Football blog is Done Deals, a general round-up and opinion on the latest transfers from the football world. Whilst we’ve been bombarded with transfer rumours over the summer break, this section will only focus on Done Deals in the transfer market.

The Premier League champions, Manchester United have been very assertive in the transfer market but it was to be expected. Despite manager, Sir Alex Ferguson commenting on how over priced the current market is last summer, this close season he’s had no choice but make some signings with the loss of Edwin Van der Saar, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes to retirement.

Whilst I covered United’s signings in a previous article on Fergie and his Continue reading