#1 - Moancini, Posts

AwayDraw #1 – Moancini

Roberto Mancini – money will not by you happiness…

Despite being top of the league; with a superstar squad filled with players; having spent millions of pounds assembling said squad; approaching a transfer window with plenty more to spend; Roberto still felt he had the toughest job in the league…


Transfer Summary Part 4


And so, we have reached the end of the line, and the final five are up for inspection. They are Swansea, Spurs WBA, Wigan and Wolves. And don’t forget to get in touch if you have any views on any of the transfer activity of the summer.

Swansea City

It’s always interesting to see what the new boys get up to, especially those that have not been in the Premiership, and as discussed yesterday, you can either spend sensibly and gamble a bit, or invest heavily at bigger risk, but bring in experienced talent. I think Swansea were forced to think of the safer option and take the gamble that their free-flowing football would find enough purpose to see off enough teams for enough points to stay up. The summer didn’t start too well as they lost Dorus de Vries on a free to Wolves. The Dutchman has been with Swansea through their rise through the divisions, and has been responsible for some match winning displays. This immediately weakened the team in my eyes, but having replacement Michel Vorm arrive from Utrecht, I wouldn’t be too disheartened as he has put in some excellent displays, and earnt what could be a valuable point for the Swans against Wigan. Darren Pratley was another key player Swansea wouldn’t have wanted to lose, although the player has a better chance of progression at Bolton; but the Jacks will miss the industrious midfielder’s presence in the team. Ma-Kalambay, van der Gun and Pintado were amongst the others that left the club, but none that would be of great loss. So, following Vorm, who were the other players brought in to strengthen? Well strengthen’s a strong word, but Brendan Rodgers has made some acquisitions. It looks like fourth or fifth time’s a charm for Wayne Routledge in the Premiership, as the Swans became the latest club to take a gamble on the winger who has always shown promise but never really delivered outside the Championship. I don’t think he’s good enough to dislodge Nathan Dyer, but he could always go on the other flank. Rodgers looked outside the Premiership when recruiting Jose Moreira from Benfica and Gerhard Tremmel from Red Bull Salzburg, so it remains to be seen how they adapt to life on these shores, although in Moreira’s case in particular, I don’t see him replacing the current player in his position. Leroy Lita was next in, hardly the player who will score you loads of goals to keep you up, which is a shame given his early promise shown in the England youth setup. He may compliment Scott Sinclair, so we’ll wait and see. No one was really brought in that gives me great confidence in Swansea to be honest, which it pains me to say, as I saw a lot of them in the Championship and they really do play good football. My only fear is they go at team’s too much and get opened up. They did run rings around Man City in the first half of their first game, but lost it at the end. I remember Nigel Worthington’s Norwich side a few years ago were applauded for having a go at teams, but inevitably got ripped apart and crashed out of the league on the last day thanks to a 6-0 thrashing by Fulham. And last year we had Blackpool, who became everyone’s second favourite team because of how they attacked sides, but even they couldn’t stay up. I fear for Swansea, but hope they don’t suffer the same fate.

Tottenham Hotspur

Right let me get it out of the way. Luka Modric. There I said it. We all know the saga, and Spurs have done well to keep the little magician, although only time will tell if it is detrimental to keep a player who is not happy. So let’s move on. All in all, Harry Redknapp loaned out 10 players during the summer, the most notable being massive underachievers Jermaine Jenas and David Bentley booted out on a quest to try find some form to match the hype. In Bentley’s case I think this is doable at West Ham, but the jury’s still out on Jenas at Villa. As for players out, Jamie O’Hara was first having spent the season at Wolves, the deal was made permanent. Great move for the player and his new club, as O’Hara has always played his best football away from White Hart Lane. Johnathan Woodgate also left on a free, which was a sad sight, but Harry has given the aging defender a lot of patience and it wasn’t worth a new deal. One wonders what will happen with Ledley ‘I can’t train and can barely play’ King when his time comes. Alan Hutton and Robbie Keane fell foul to the famous Harry Redknapp disease of “once you fall out of favour, you’re dead to me” which struck Darren Bent quite badly in recent years, and almost forced Gareth Bale out, an egg on face moment if ever there was one for ‘Arry. I think Hutton will do well at his new club, and I believe Keane will too although I imagine he’s just playing for his retirement now in LA. The last two out the door were Crouch and Palacios to Stoke. No surprise a midfielder left, due to Spurs’ over abundance of players in the centre, although I am surprised it wasn’t Niko Kranjcar; maybe he likes the Tottenham bench after all. Crouch was a surprise, as with Keane leaving also it only left newboy Adebayor, injury-prone Defoe, and great but out-of-favour Pavlyuchenko. Maybe the Russian will get the chance he deserves?!The lack of strike options is made even more obvious now that van der Vaart has been ruled out for 6 weeks with injury. Not good times for Tottenham who were also shown lacking in the transfer market as they failed to sign Gary Cahill; a player they are crying out for as a decent partner for Michael Dawson at the back, especially if something happens to Gallas. I never realised until writing this, just how little money Tottenham spent in the summer: almost none. Brad Friedel was brought in on a free at the start, which is good cover for calamity Gomes but hardly building for the future, then came Adebayor and Iago Falque on loan. I’m dubious as to the effect Falque can have, but I think Adebayor is a great signing on loan. Yes he can be a bit of a diva, but the man has bags of talent and knows where the goal is in this league. He’s big, quick and skilful and I predict he will be a great success for Spurs this year. And one great signing was followed by another, and it was hardly a surprise, as Scott Parker was welcomed for 5m. A good buy, and a player that will add experience and quality to a Tottenham midfield that can sometimes be wanting. I have no doubt players like Tom Huddlestone can learn a lot from the England man. I think Spurs will push for CL as they did last year, and if Adebayor gets firing and the little Croat finds his head, then that is definitely possible. If not, I can see Arsenal and Liverpool having too much for them. Oh, and pause for thought, but could this be Harry Redknapp’s last hurrah for Spurs given that Fabio Capello will be replaced after Euro 2012? Hmm…

West Bromwich Albion

I never really understood why Di Matteo wasn’t given a little bit longer last season, but then Roy Hodgson came in and did a great job. Plus, a side famous for yo-yoing managed to stay up and I think this season could be a season of cementing their place in the league. They shipped out a lot of players, although no one of great impact, so one would think they have enough to do just that. They managed to keep Peter Odemwingie too, which will be a great boost for the Hawthorns faithful. Scott Carson left for pastures new in Turkey, but in fairness has never recovered from that Wembley nightmare against Croatia. And his replacement is a good one in Ben Foster. I remember a few years ago hearing Man Utd fans bang on about how good this lad was, and he was England’s and their number one, yet when he went to Birmingham and was relegated with them last year he automatically became crap. Oh how fickle fans can be, but I think Foster will get a chance to rebuild his reputation at WBA and its a good buy for all. This summer also saw the return of old hero Zoltan Gera after he was released by Fulham. I don’t think he will have the same impact he had the first time round, but Woy did work with him at Craven Cottage, and he must have seen something there to bring him back. No doubting the best signing for West Brom this summer was Shane Long. Courted by many, WBA finally managed to wrap up the deal at the start of the season and he had instant impact against Man Utd, although he may wish to thank David De Gea for that one. I think Long will get goals for WBA though, and along with Peter Odemwingie I think they will score enough to stay in the top flight. Fans may feel slightly disappointed that the club didn’t manage to sign Owen Hargreaves when it looked like a deal was going to be done before Hargreaves went awol. But then the lure of Man City may have proved too much and for a player that can’t handle playing week in week out, warming the bench at Man City for a tidy pay packet would be my choice too. All in all, I think West Brom will stay up, top half may be beyond them, but cementing Premiership football for a third successive season is the main aim.

Wigan Athletic

Not a lot happened at Wigan in the summer really. Their manager was tipped for the Aston Villa job and whilst some may commend his loyalty to stay with Wigan and Dave Whelan, the man who gave him his chance, I think he may rue the missed opportunity given that there is only so far you can take Wigan as it is a dorment club and staying up is the only objective every year. Things were made even worse when they lost their best player. Again, well played to Dave Whelan who stayed strong on his valuation of the player and received a good fee for Charles N’Zogbia, but the money wasn’t quite invested in a suitable replacement and this has no doubt weakened a side that were struggling to stay up anyway. The most optimistic Wigan fan will point to young talent Victor Moses and the fact he had such a good preseason, but I don’t think he’s quite a match winner yet and is too inconsistent to rely on. I think he may turn out to be one of Wigan’s better players, along with the likes of Ben Watson, and Wigan have done well to keep the talents of Hugo Rodallega at the club. I also think Ali Al Habsi was a good buy having impressed on loan last season, and Shaun Maloney may be a good acquisition but I worry for any player making the move down south, as seen with the likes of Barry Ferguson who never quite found the same form he showed in the SPL. I don’t think Wigan are any stronger this year and they only just stayed up last time out. I think those at the DW Stadium will be bracing themselves for another long hard season which will end in a relegation dog fight, which they may not win…

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolves are on of those clubs that don’t spend outside their limits and have ensured a bit of stability. In Mick McCarthy they have a manager that’s seen it all before and in Jed Moxey they have a chairman who offers a lot of support. And despite shipping out a few players on loan and releasing some others, there are a few bits of business they have done which has been quietly impressive. The signing of Dorus De Vries gives good back up following the release of Marcus Hahnemann, but I don’t see the Dutchman getting many games if Wayne Hennessey’s form can be maintained; although that’s not a bad thing for Wolves. Jamie O’Hara is great business given his influence on the side, and whilst it may not seem like a new signing given that he was at Molineux last season on loan, its a good signing either way. The signing that impressed me most though is that of Roger Johnson from Birmingham. Having risen from his days at Cardiff, Johnson had a good year last year along with Scott Dann, and was tipped to be on Liverpool’s radar. To McCarthy’s credit too, he wrapped up the business very quickly and without too much hoo-hah, and he will be a great addition to the Wolves backline. As predicted, not a lot of business at Wolves this summer, but like other teams they have done well to hold onto their prized assets such as Kevin Doyle who was on a few clubs’ radar this summer. I think they have strengthened compared to last year but may possibly be dragged into a relegation battle, but there appears to be enough squads in the league weaker than them, so I think they might stay up. And given the way the club is run, this would be a good thing.

So there’s the round up of the 20 Premier League teams and their business, and I know as well as anyone that it can all change, and predictions now can mean nothing, but hey, it’s fun, and all for the love of the game.


Transfer Summary Part 3

So, part 3. Today’s installment picks up 2 of the three promoted teams in Norwich and QPR, as well as the controversy at Newcastle, the busy-ness at Sunderland, and some solid signings at Stoke. Enjoy…

Newcastle United

Well, well, well. What do you say? Where do you start? Some good signings were made. Some good players were sold. And, well some positions were just missed out on. Pardew started the summer well, trimming the squad of ageing flops Sol Campbell and Shefki Kuqi, and bringing in a host of French speaking talent. Yohan Cabaye was first from Lille, although his pre-season was stunted by his inability to enter the US. In fact, while we re on that topic, it seems stupid that Newcastle should plan a trip to the states (where they are not exactly as well known as the Manchesters, Liverpools, and Chelseas of the world) when 3 of their players are banned from entering; Barton and Ranger being the other two forced to tour with the reserves. Then, in true Mike ‘businessman’ Ashley style, two free transfers were brought in. Demba Ba was first having impressed at West Ham, although he is hardly the goalscorer the club need, and Pardew seems reluctant to play him. There was also Sylvain Marveaux from Rennes, and although he is a young talent, one still remains dubious to how he can cope at the top level. At the same time, the club lost Wayne Routledge to Swansea; not a major loss as he has always been a player more suited to the Championship. But they also ‘cashed’ in on skipper Kevin Nolan. The lynch pin of the team, and surely the man to find them goals since the sale of Andy Carroll, but off he went to East London for 4m, a good buy for Big Sam. Equally surprising was the low figure accepted for left back Jose Enrique, given that he was in demand, and was one of the better players at St James’. There was also the famous Joey Barton saga, in which the midfielder mouthed off on Twitter and slagged off the way the club was run, to then find himself being offered on a free transfer. Despite being a quality footballer, it was rather embarrassing for Our Joe that no one came in for him, even though he was being given away. Eventually, a cash rich QPR trumped up the money to get Barton to Loftus Road in what is a great signing for the R’s, although maybe not a forward step for Joey; he was probably hoping, in vain, that a top 6 team would come after him, but when you come with that much baggage it can be difficult. So Newcastle’s three best players left for a combined total of 10m, with no real replacements brought in. But then some good business from Pardew seemed to turn the tide. Gabriel Obertan was brought in from United for only 3m and he looked every bit worth it in the first game of the season, injecting some excitement into an otherwise dull Newcastle side. I think he could prove to be a very good signing, and Pardew will give him more games which should see him grow in confidence. Another good signing was Davide Santon, touted the ‘next Maldini’, although one would wonder why Inter let the next Maldini leave for only 6m. However I think this has the potential to be a great signing for Pardew as, like Obertan, he is young and will feed off the confidence of playing week in week out; just look what it did for Enrique. And then, the moment we had all been waiting for: not much had been spent this summer, Andy Carroll was to be replaced, and the 35m from that sale was still readily untouched. But whilst Arsenal, Chelsea, QPR etc all brought in the business on Deadline Day, St James’ Park seemed eerily quiet, well except from young goalkeeper Rob Elliot from Charlton. Even their local rivals managed to bring in a new striker, one which I think, would have done alright for the Toon Army, and was surprised they didn’t move for, especially given that Bendtner would be top dog at Newcastle, a position his ego cries out for. To sum up, a weird summer for the Magpies. I think Pardew invested well in youth, but didn’t back it up with proven quality, letting a lot of that leave in the summer. His credentials should keep the club up, but I feel this was the season for Newcastle to push on, especially given the Andy Carroll money which was promised back into the club. In a word, disappointing.

Norwich City

So the Canaries are the first promoted side to be scrutinised. I have to admit I was impressed and surprised at Paul Lambert’s side last year, securing their second successive promotion, and it would be nice to see them top it off by staying up. Looking at the transfers, it’s a bit of a gamble. There were no major departures this summer for Norwich, which is a good thing, and they adequately made way for the inevitable signings. The first through the door was Steve Morison from Millwall, a good signing, and one hopes he can make the step up to the top level. Ritchie De Laet has been round the houses on many loans, despite rarely playing for his parent club, Man United, and I think he has enough games in him to be a consistent player for Norwich. Likewise, James Vaughan has benefited from playing on a weekly basis, so his signature from Everton could be a good move, and I’m eager to see how he performs, given the hype around him a few years ago. Bradley Johnson is another good player who performed well in the Championship for Leeds, but I fear Lambert has brought in too many players without experience at the top level, and Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington from Brighton and Huddersfield don’t exactly correct that. I understand Norwich are working on a budget and they would do well to follow the footsteps of clubs like WBA and Wolves who have never spent outside their limits, and although have yo-yoed, they do have a strong foothold in the Premiership, with the ability to bounce back straight away. The loan signing of Kyle Naughton will do good for all parties involved, as a promising youngster gets a chance, Norwich can benefit from his potential, and Spurs benefit from having their player play Premiership football on a regular basis. Daniel Ayala was the only other player through the door at Carrow Road, and if I was pushed into saying whether I felt Nrwich had done enough to stay up, I would say no. A look at what the other promoted teams have done in the transfer market suggests they are in the worst position, and I think it will be one or two of those three to go down. However, had you asked me at the start of last season if Norwich would be in the Premiership I would also have said no, so best of luck to Paul Lambert…

Queens Park Rangers

And so to the next promoted club, and the one which held the most intrigue, given the financial backing. After a difficult end to the season, in which the club were almost punished for the signing of midfielder Faurlin over to years ago, QPR were finally crowned Championship winners. But despite their billionaire owners they did show a reluctance at the start of the transfer window. They started with a host of free transfers. Jay Bothroyd was a good signing given his form last year that earnt him an England call up, and he will be eager to prove himself in the Premiership to keep Fabio Capello interested. Kieron Dyer was the second through the door, and maybe 8 years ago this would have been exciting. But for a player who has played only a handful of games in the last three years, one can’t help but think it is a waste of money, even if the transfer was free and he is on a pay to play. And in true Kieron Dyer fashion, he broke his foot 5 minutes into his debut. Good business! Welshman Danny Gabbidon was also picked up on a free, and could provide a good back up for Neil Warnock’s men and also pass on his experience to youngsters like Matthew Connolly. DJ Campbell was the first player in to warrant a transfer fee, and I this was good business by Warnock. Although he’s not going to bag 20 goals a season, and he got relegated with Blackpool last term, Campbell was one of the bright stars of the Tangerines line up last year along with Charlie Adam and David Vaughan, and did manage to find the net on a number of occasions. After this, it looked like business had finished for QPR. Neil Warnock, who hardly had the board’s support at the start of the summer, if speculation is believed, was also not given any money to spend, and it looked like QPR were done. Enter Tony Fernandes. The billionaire tycoon took control and immediate did everything in his power to get fan appreciation. He dropped ticket prices, which had rocketed to a staggering 60 pounds a ticket, and dropped season ticket prices, also giving fans a rebate. Then he set about giving Warnock money to play with, allowing the side to pick up Joey Barton’s wages, Luke Young from Villa, Armand Traore from Arsenal and Shaun Wright-Phillips from City. Jason Puncheon was added on loan from Southampton, and Fernandes ended his spree on Deadline Day with the capture of West Ham and Sunderland reject Anton Ferdinand. Seeing this little flurry of action has done a lot more to instil confidence in a side that leaked 4 goals on the opening day against Bolton, with Young, Traore and Ferdinand strengthening at the back, Barton and SWP bolstering in the middle, coupled with Bothroyd and Campbell’s presence up top. I had worried for QPR’s safety, but given their investment in the squad, I feel they should have enough to stay up, and have signed good players with good experience at the top level.

Stoke City

Not a lot of business done at the Brittannia this summer, but some very good business. All the right things to see from club very much in ascendancy. Following an impressive season last year, in which Stoke made the FA Cup final and qualified for the Europa League, all eyes turned to Tony Pulis to see what the Welshman could do in the transfer market. Stoke has transformed the careers of players like Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington, and given a new life to talents such as Rob Huth, and have fully deserved everything that has come their way. Seasoned veterans Abdoulaye Faye and Eidur Gudjohnson were allowed to leave the club on frees this summer, and were followed out by only 6 others, of which, none will lessen the strength of the squad. In all Pulis only pulled in 5 players in the window, but 5 which greatly improve an already resilient squad. Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate were brought in and add a great deal of strength and experience to an already strong back line. Granted Upson had a bad season last year, but all at West Ham bar Scott Parker come under that headline, and on a free it isn’t much of a risk. Woodgate likewise is low risk as he was also free, having been released by Spurs. Although massively injury prone, there is no doubting his quality, and like the Hargreaves deal for Man City, it could turn out to be great business, or just an unfortunate fail. Either way, the two definitely strengthen Pulis’ squad. The other three came in right at the end of transfer window, which may have been Pulis’ doing, as he is a self-confessed fan of the drama. Cameron Jerome is a good back up option to get in, and Stoke fans will hope his inconsistency times itself well with Kenwyn Jones’ so that at least one of them is firing at different times. Wilson Palacios is a cracking signing to bolster the midfield. He was great at Wigan, which prompted the move to Spurs, a side which seems full of top quality players yet still seems to underachieve. I think the move will rejuvenate Palacios having spent a long time on the sidelines. Finally, 10m seems a lot for Peter Crouch, but I do think this is a good move for Stoke, and shows they are serious about progressing as a club and have shown the most ambition out of most the clubs that have been promoted in the last few years. Say what you want abut the lanky giant, but Crouch gets goals wherever he is, just look at his England record. I think Stoke will benefit from the Europa League this year too, whilst not getting to the late stages I think they may surprise a few people. They certainly surprised me in the qualifier with how comfortably they performed at that level. As for the PL, I think Stoke will look at the top half as realistic, and potentially look at getting close to the Europa League contenders, but it would be a big shock if they get higher than 8th.


First of all, congratulations to Sunderland for keeping Steve Bruce, the management equivalent of a traveller, although Niall Quinn and co seem to have tied down their man, for a little while anyway. Jokes aside, it has been a very busy time at the Stadium of Light this summer. A total of 12 players left the club this summer, notably David Hely, Steed Malbranque, the afore-mentioned Ferdinnd and Jordan Henderson. Despite Henderson being a great talent for the future, 20m for a player who is far from the finished article, still won’t be massively impactful this year given his inconsistency last year, and will end up leaving for a top club anyway if he is that good, is great business by Bruce. As for acquisitions, the big Geordie made 11 of them. Connor Wickham was first, slightly expensive at over 8m for a player with no top level experience. He is tipped to be a big talent though so I’m very keen to see him, and given the resources at Sunderland, it could turn out to be a very good buy, but I doubt that he will impact this much this year. Craig Gardner was a solid buy from relegated Birmingham and Ahmed Elmohamady arrived too for a modest 2m. Both are good buys as they replace players who had potential but never quite delivered for the Mackems. Sebastian Larsson was a good signing, as a free agent, and arguably recovers the initial loss of losing Henderson to Liverpool, given his distribution, although in the long run doesn’t have as much potential as Henders. Youn keeper Westwood from Coventry was also a good signing, and may see more chance than you think given Craig Gordon’s loss of form at the club. Then came the raidning of the bins at Old Trafford as John O’Shea and Wes Brown were brought in. In fairness, although lacking in talent to dislodge any of the current United team, I think the pair could do well. Brown will be looking to rediscover his form of a few yeqrs ago when he was getting games; something he will get at Sunderland, and let’s be honest he won’t be worse than Anton Ferdinand! As for O’Shea, the lad is the ultimate Jack of all trades, master of none, but can still put in a solid cover shift. David Vaughan was a good signing from Blackpool, who seemed to lose all their best players this summer, and Nicky Bendtner was the only other significant addition, signing on loan from Arsenal. I doubt the Gunners will miss Bendtner, having grown tired of his heavy touch and negative attitude, but may be hurt that he has insisted he will not return to the club. I think Wenger would have wanted him to get regular PL games with a boss he worked very well with at Birmingham and then come back in form with Arsenal. But, as Arsenal fans know so well, this is not something you can bank on with Bendtner, and I don’t think he will be the man to rifle in the goals for Sunderland; but a very useful addition nonetheless. I think Bruce has added well and hasn’t really lost too much. Midtable beckons for Sunderland, and dare I say it, they might just get higher than the Toon Army. Cue debate.

Tune in for the next and last addition of the PL transfer summary with the remaining clubs.


Transfer Summary part 2

So, here’s the rundown of the next five clubs and what business they conducted in the transfer window. That’s Everton, Fulham, Liverpool and the two Manchesters. Enjoy…


Um, I don’t know if the Toffees ever get the invite to the transfer market, as admitted by Bill Kenwright in the summer. I feel for David Moyes. I think he’s a great manager and what he’s achieved at Everton is fantastic, and that is also thanks to the fact the Board have given him so much time. They do deserve a break. Only two players came through the doors at Goodison this summer, and predictably they were loans. Royston Drenthe from Real Madrid will provide cover for Leighton Baines, and also gives an option on the wing too. He had a promising start to his career which prompted the move to the Spanish capital but has yet to make the desired impact on the big stage. At Everton he will no doubt get the games and the support of the manager, but he will have to work hard as his lack of match practice could be a potential stumbling block. Denis Stracqualursi (just copied and pasted) was the next through the door. I’m afraid I don’t know much about the Argentine so if anyone does please feel free to comment, but according to his Wikipedia page, he scored freely in Argentina and even a hatrick against Boca Juniors in April. Could potentially provide the goals Everton need, just depends whether he’s a Tevez or a Veron. The biggest story surrounding Everton in the transfer window is Mikel Arteta’s departure. I can understand Everton fans’ anger at the timing of the deal, and I’m sure if the shoe was on the other foot and Arsenal had lost Fabregas or Nasri at the last minute they would be just as upset. I thought Moyes was very thoughtful on his assessment of the situation and the lure of CL football being too much. Bit of a kick in the teeth though that the player took a big pay cut to leave, especially given Everton’s finances. Other departures included promising striker James Vaughan to Norwich, and Yakubu, the forgotten man of football (and to my surprise is only 28!), who went to Blackburn, which I know I failed to mention before. The Vaughan one I was surprised about as he had a good spell at Crystal Palace last year, and I don’t think Yakubu is a major loss as he hasn’t quite cut the mustard recently. Jermaine Beckford also left for Leicester, a step down which suits all parties. He was a great goalscorer in the Football League, and despite netting a few in the PL, never looked as dangerous as when he was at Leeds. He can revive his career, and Everton get a profit. As for Everton, their lack of strikers is their biggest flaw and a lot of their season may depend on how fit Saha can stay. They have a good spine in Jagielka, Neville and Fellaini, but I think they may be struggling. I would love to be proved wrong, but I think the lower half will do them this year.


After Mark Hughes’ bizarre resignation at the end of the year, Fulham fans were probably quite happy to see lovable vampire Martin Jol take the reins, given his successful spell at Spurs; followed by a bizarre replacement. For the Whites it was a summer of slimming as they rid the squad of a lot of players, most notably Zoltan Gera, Diomansy Kamara and Jonathan Greening. No major sales though which will please the folk down at Craven Cottage. And first in was Premiership favourite John Arne Riise from Roma. Not a bad signing if he can recapture his Liverpool form, and Jol has done well to bring in someone with Premiership experience. Marcel Gecov has been brought in to bolster the midfield and was followed by Macedonian Pajtim Kasami from Palermo. Jol kept with his Italian theme bringing in Grygera from Juventus, who I think will add experience to the Fulham backline. On a free transfer as well it’s no risk and a good move. The attack was the last thing to be strengthened. Bobby Zamora is coming back to form, Andy Johnson benefitted from a good pre-season and Europa League campaign early on, and Moussa Dembele looks like an exciting prospect. However, Jol swooped to bring in Orlando Sa from Porto, but more notably Bryan Ruiz was the big money buy costing 10.6m from FC Twente. Fulham managed to hold off a last minute bid from Newcastle to land their man and they will be hoping to get a good return on their investment. The Costa Rican is an exciting prospect and can play up top, on the wing and behind the strikers. I think he could easily be a player who could play in the Champions League, so I think this is a great signing for Fulham. I believe Jol has strengthened sufficiently and has everything in place to ensure Premiership safety and maybe have a little Cup run this year.


Right now it gets serious. The Reds were big spenders in January, thanks to a large sum received for Fernando Torres, although one might feel they perhaps overspent on Andy Carroll, especially when you consider Luis Suarez cost 10m less. And they came under criticism once more for overspending again at the start of the summer, spending 20m on Jordan Henderson. I feel for Henderson, it’s not his fault that fee was paid. Yes, it’s excessive but he never asked for it. It was what Liverpool were willing to pay, he just has to get on with playing. I was never overly impressed with his performances for Sunderland, he seemed a bit inconsistent, but he is one for the future, and Kenny is obviously investing in this, and we all know Kenny loves to invest money… a lot… ask Blackburn and Newcastle… and just look at his Liverpool track record. But his next move was shrewd business, nabbing Charlie Adam from Blackpool for 7m.There’s no doubting Adam’s ability and he will get goals and create chances, albeit after lashing wasteful 70 yard Hollywood passes all over the place.But great business nonetheless, and possibly one of the best buys of the summer. Adam was followed to Anfield by solid back up keeper Alexander Doni, and Aston Villa’s player of the year Stewart Downing. Whilst I think Ashley Young is a better investment, I think Downing will suit Liverpool well and his supply from the flanks is perfect for Carroll and Suarez to latch onto. Maybe not worth the large transfer fee but again, we live in an over-inflated market, and I have been very impressed with the start of his Reds career, as has Fabio Capello. At this stage I was wondering what Kenny was doing, as I felt the place Liverpool needed to strengthen the most was at the back where Liverpool are sometimes prone to leaking the odd goal or two. But Kenny came through, and I think 6m for Jose Enrique is fantastic business once again. He’s straight out of the EPL and a quality player to boot and fitted straight in. That being said I think Kenny could have strengthened in central defence. Although exciting Uruguayan prospect Seb Coates has come in I can’t help but feel he missed out on a Scott Dann type of player; someone they were linked with. Craig Bellamy is a good back up for the money, but I don’t see him getting many games ahead of Carroll and Suarez if Liverpool only play one up top, unless he gets put on the wing which is an option, although the boyo had a problem with Mancini for doing that. There were a few notable leavers/failures at Anfield this summer, notably Poulsen, Aquilani, Kyrgiakos, Insua, Jovanovic and even Joe Cole in his surprise move to Lille, although I think he might actually do quite well there; the French league is incredibly slow and dull and he will relish the space and poor opposition. Raul Meireles was the shock departure at the end, especially considering he was one of Liverpool’s better players at the end of last season during Kenny’s revitalisation. And he started this season well, changing the game completely at the Emirates to unlock Arsenal single-handedly. And the fee of 12m is very low considering the price of other players, but I suppose if a player wants to leave you take what you can. I see Liverpool in a very healthy position and whilst I don’t think they will get near the top of the table like some do, I think they are a good bet for CL qualification and will be battling hard with both North London outfits for the privilege.

Manchester City

I’m aware this post is quite long already and I have just seen whose next, so I’ll try keep it short. 23 players left City in the summer, and no, wantaway Carlos Tevez was not one of them. Notable departures were Given, Vieira through retirement, Adebayor – a strange one as I think he will genuinely strengthen one of City’s rivals, German flop Jerome Boateng, Santa Cruz and SWP. I was surprised Adam Johnson didn’t get loaned out, but maybe City will use him more this term. Players in: Savic and Clichy add depth to the squad although I don’t think strengthen it at all. Mancini also brought in back up goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, which will make Stuart Taylor rest a bit easier knowing he’s still not going to get a game. Then the three big signings. Sergio Aguero was a great buy, yes expensive, but I am very happy to see him on these shores. His debut against Swansea was a blistering thirty minutes introduction, and I think he will only get better and better. Combine that with on form Edin Dzeko and City are a dangerous prospect who can get goals from anywhere. It doesn’t look good for ‘I hate Manchester’ campaigners Tevez and Balotelli as they may find appearances hard to come by. But for great strikers you need great service, and as if David Silva, Yaya Toure, James Milner etc weren’t enough, Samir Nasri was poached from North London for good measure. A great signing by Mancini bringing in proven Premiership class, even if he did drag out the negotiations in a Barcelona-esque fashion, and well overpaid for a player in the last year of contract, but it’s City – what about money? Funny as well to see a player who stated last summer that players ‘only join City for money’ only to arrive and say it was nothing to do with his triple salary. Granted, if a competitor of my work offered me 3 times my salary I would jump at the chance, but these are footballers, they are paid too much as it is. Three times my salary is life changing, not so much for a footballer. Then came a potentially good bit of business in Owen Hargreaves. If he’s fit he’s great cover and experience. Plus he’s used to dealing with prima donna’s and divas so Balotelli etc will be a doddle for him. He won’t play every week but is a good player to get on a free, although you do wonder why United didn’t offer him anything but did to Michael Owen. But he was free, although I’m surprised City didn’t try and offer someone, anyone, a few million… just because they could. It surprised me to find that since the PL started, City are the second biggest spenders, only a measly 60m off Chelsea, and bare in mind they spent a good few years out of the top division. Compare that to other, more successful teams, and City fans will find it hard to say they are not wasteful and haven’t been a main contributor to the business that is ruining football. Also, averaged out, City pay over 800k per point in the EPL, more than double any other team in history. And they say money can’t buy success… well I suppose it hasn’t… yet. I think that will change soon, maybe not this year but I see City challenging for the title and going strong in the CL and cup comps to boot. The Blue Moon is rising at present.

Manchester United

Ah boring Manchester United. Strolled to an uninspiring Premiership crown last term, made it to the CL final, the best club in the country, still marching on…blah, blah, blah. Then when it comes to the transfer window, Sir Alex gets all his business done and dusted early doors. Where’s your sense of adventure?! In all seriousness, it wasn’t quite that dull, and it was a reshaping at Old Trafford this summer. They lost Van Der Sar and Scholes to retirement; possibly two of the best players of our generation. SAF also trimmed a lot of deadwood this summer, namely O’Shea, Brown, Obertan and Bebe, who unfortunately broke his leg on moving to Besiktas. Despite being heavily linked all summer with Dutch sensation Wesley Sneijder it never quite materialised, and to be honest, the other 19 teams in the Premier League, probably breathed a massive sigh of relief. That would have been unfair. They did welcome Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck back from loan spells and both have started the season very well, which is a great prospect for the national side. I personally look forward to seeing Cleverley team up with Jack WIlshere in midfield, once the latter gets fit. As for the actual signings, SAF spent big, but well in my opinion. Phil Jones was a good buy, one for the future and seems to have settled well, and I think both he and Smalling will push Vidic and Rio this season. Ashley Young was a great buy too. Again maybe a lot for a player in the last year of his contract, but he has more than proved his worth already. Was a hot prospect at Watford, a promising player at Villa, and I think SAF may be the key to unlocking the full potential of the winger. David De Gea was the other signing of the summer with huge gloves to fill. I think he will come good in the future, even if he has done his best to cock it up at the start of his United career (seriously Shane Long’s goal? The Titanic went down quicker). A solid recruitment phase by SAF and as ever United will be strong, just ask Arsenal, and challenging for the title. Potentially my tip to win it, and will do well in CL as well, as they predictably got an easy group. Improved enough to match Barca? Hah! Nowhere near! Messi, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Fabregas, Sanchez….. have you seen who they’ve got?!

So that’s the latest round up. Tune in soon for Newcastle, Norwich, QPR, Stoke and Sunderland…


Goals that history forgot…

As the football league season got underway at the KC Stadium on Friday night, it brought an end to pre-season, and has given purpose back to our lives. A great weekend in the football league was topped off with the Community shield and a chance for the big boys to warm us up for the Premier League campaign which begins next week. Normally this is quite a dull affair in which two teams poke around for a bit before the odd goal is scored, or we wait out for penalties.

However this year, the match took on a different twist with a Manchester derby and a chance for City to prove they’re not just the ‘noisy neighbours’ anymore and in fact the real deal.Mancini put out a relatively strong squad, bar the exclusion of Carlos Tevez and not-quite-match-fit Sergio Aguero, it is the strongest side he could have put out. Fergie on the other hand, gave youth a chance with Danny Welbeck given the chance to prove his England call up, and Chris Smalling given the chance to shine at full back. It was also a chance for David De Gea to show why he is the answer to Van Der Sar’s retirement, something he failed to do. In fact he was at fault for both City goals which saw them lead 2-0 at half time. But City were way too defensive, raising the same questions as last season about their ambition, and United ran out very deserved 3-2 winners. The relevance of all this to pre-seasom and goals? Well, although technically an official game, one can be forgiven for suggesting the Community Shield is still a season warm up. And we saw one of the great goals, which inspired me to put together a list of some of the best pre-season goals I have seen.

First up, the delightful team goal which gave this blog post inspiration, as Nani rounds off a clever move to pull United level on Sunday. Oh, and why not have it in Arabic…

So to my top 5 goals that history forgot, as usual its just my opinion based on what I’ve seen, any other entries are more than welcome, just let me know…

5) Questions may remain over Luka Modric’s future at White Hart Lane, but a bit more of this from Niko Kranjcar and Spurs fans may not miss the little magician…

4) Seems to be the norm for teams to fly across the pond and partake in a US tour, and the LA Galaxy fans were treated to this gem from the Portuguese winger as he danced around defenders and fired in from an acute angle…

3) A new Belgian striker through the doors at Chelsea, and Fernando Torres seems to have found some of his form during pre-season. However let’s not forget Didier Drogba and the beast he could be, with this stonker against AC a few years back…

2) The forgotten playmaker of Israel. Step forward Yossi Benayoun and this fine bit of ball juggling. A back heel finish as well, may have to amend my highlight reel from last week. Quality.

1) I’m not sure if it’s the fact Phillippe Senderos completed a pass that wasn’t over 10 yards that makes this goal great?! But then what follows is sublime, complete control a precision volley from 20 yards, the ball doesn’t even touch the floor. Enjoy…