Tag Archives: epl

Great Dane or great waste?

I don’t care what anyone says about Nicklas Bendtner, I like him.

Not since Ian Ure and Gus Caesar donned the red of Arsenal and forgot to tie their laces have we had a player who has proven that it’s possible to make it to the top without being properly scouted and just scraping through. That, my friends, is sheer audacity.

Let’s face it, he’s pretty awful. With quality that doesn’t quite match his ego, he frequently turns the wrong way, looks as if he is wearing iron boots and uses the entire Clock End as target practice. As Carlton Palmer once said of him, “he plays all over the pitch, but that’s only because his first touch is so crap”.

In interviews he comes across as a world beater, assured that his hidden talent that one day will wreck havoc on the defences of the Premier League. It’s always a case of what he could do, not what he has done. No one sings the praises of the Dane more than the Dane himself.

That’s why I quite like him.

Anyone who can convince senior scouts at Arsenal that he’s world class by word alone earns the upmost respect for me. It almost gives me hope that one day I can follow in his iron footsteps.

He’s the footballing equivalent of Liam Gallagher. Doesn’t have the looks, doesn’t have the talent but has all the mouth.

So a tip of the hat to you sir, for keeping my dream alive.

Sam Saunders

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Honours even on Derby Day

Ask any fan what date they eye up first when the new fixture list comes out, and they’ll almost certainly mention the local derby. Them down the road, the enemy, the old firm, and references perhaps too colourful for this article. Whatever you call them, it’s the meeting fans dread the most, yet also relish with such anticipation.

It’s a surreal experience to feel so nervous about something you also look forward to. More than anything, one thought passes through your mind: “I’ll take losing to anyone all season, even not winning a single trophy; just don’t let us lose to them.”

Sunday’s three Premier League derbies did not disappoint. Though none of the six teams took maximum points, you can’t help but feel all concerned are mightily relieved. Despite Liverpool’s woeful second half performance, they can exhale with the knowledge they didn’t drop more points. Torres, masterful in the first period, went absent with Everton’s brute force in the second. It really was a game of two halves, lacking in style but full of substance.

Given the recent troubles at the Second City derby, the police demanded an unusually low crowd at St. Andrew’s. It didn’t contain problems though; flares and charging fans bought much drama to the occasion. As if it needed any more. Villa’s dominance paid off when they equalised with 15 minutes to go, hardly a score that will be considered for goal of the season. It was one, however, that balanced the books from an earlier scrappy goal from the Blues.

Even in the Northeast they couldn’t go home without some bad behaviour. The first half didn’t need a ball, both teams seemed just as happy to kick each other instead. A bruised Newcastle will feel hard done by to be robbed so late on by a lucky Sunderland.

So no one won the most important game of them all, but perhaps all concerned will feel better off than before hand. At least they didn’t lose.

Sam Saunders

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Even Don Draper couldn’t sell this team

Draper gets a red card… for looking so damn good!

Well, so much for the MLS SuperDraft reviving the hopes of the Toronto FC faithful. On a day when clubs are expected to get better, the Reds appear to have gone in the opposite direction – trading away a potential double-digit scorer in Chad Barrett while bringing in a prospect with an interesting bill of health and Ecuadorian soccer Smurf Joao Plata.

The diminutive playmaker promises goals, but until he can prove it the mantle of secondary scoring falls to Maicon and his 2010 tally of three.

So, if the ad men who operate out of 170 Princes Boulevard are able to come up with a plan to sell its wares to the growing group of south end malcontents, I suggest AtTheRails acknowledge the impossible with a first-annual Don Draper Award.

With that in mind, ATR is here to help with a few suggestions on how to sell the Reds in Season No. 5.

(Disclaimer: If any of the ideas listed below are adopted in any shape or form, ATR is entitled to one set of tickets to a Toronto FC playoff game of its choice. Said playoff tickets can also be written into any will.)

Winter year-round

Has anyone mentioned to coach No. 5 that his surname is a Canadian marketer’s dream? That said, for Reds’ marketing purposes the idea of Winter all year is a positive, for it means there will be just one coach instead of the token two fans have come to expect.

Season F-I’ve seen better

In Season Four the Reds cleverly (no, not Tom Cleverley) took the ‘our’ from ‘four’ and made it theirs. Fail. So in Season Five why not take the ‘I’ve’ from ‘Five’ and market better days, like when the team won 10 games and missed the playoffs on the last day. Nostalgia is a powerful drug.

At Least Our Guys Are Eligible

Sometimes the best way to build yourself up is to tear down those around you. With that in mind, remember that with the first overall selection, the expansion Whitecaps FC chose 17-year-old striker Omar Salgado. Due to his age and FIFA transfer rules, Salgado likely won’t be able to play a game for Vancouver until he turns 18 in September.

Of course, this marketing campaign would only be good for one season. By summer 2012, I fully expect Salgado will single-handedly win the undercontested Nutrilite Canadian Championship.

Now for a bit of Prem chatter, with a side of pub-bashing.

This is where Rafael goes, "Lalalala, I can't hear you..."

The best part about Sunday’s goalless draw at White Hart Lane was that it confirmed my local is no longer a reliable place to watch a match. While the breakfast fare is fine and the Caesars are spicy, the suggestion that volume is not necessary and may bother the other patrons sealed the deal.

Anyhow, my audio-free observations of the stalemate are that as long as the Premier League continues to be hotly contested this season, goals will remain at a premium. There is far too much at stake for the big clubs to play the football fans want to see.

Biased Man of the Match: Nemanja Vidic. The captain’s partnership with Rio is arguably the only reason United remain unbeaten.

Ryan Johnston

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In Wenger We Trust?

It’s difficult to question a man who transformed your team in to one of the leading clubs in world football. Thirteen years ago, Arsenal Football Club languished in mediocrity, grinding out dull and dreary results against the likes of Coventry City and Swindon. These were my early years of going to games and it sometimes seemed like a chore. But then Arsene Wenger arrived out of nowhere and rapidly transformed my team in to a worldwide brand, a footballing success and an aesthetic pleasure.

He brought in the likes of Thierry Henry, Nicholas Anelka and Patrick Vieira, and revolutionized the way players trained, ate and generally conducted themselves. It was, for want of a better cliché, salvation.

Suddenly, however, the almost blind faith Gooners had in their gaffer led to the ‘Professor’ having total control over every aspect of the club, with no one questioning his decisions. To be honest, why would they? After all, everything he’d done until now would have Midas looking on with envy.

There is one area though, that Wnger has never mastered. One simple part of the chain that at times has the biggest impact on the biggest of games. Bill Shankly once said “you can score all the goals you want, it’s the keeper who wins games”, and he certainly is a man whose judgement we trust.

Inheriting David Seaman in the early French Revolution at the club, Wenger had struck it rich with arguably the finest English goalkeeper of the mid 1990’s. Once good ol’ Seamo took his gloves off for the last time, it immediately became apparent that Wenger didn’t really know how to choose a solid, reliable goalkeeper. Stuart Taylor liked the sauce too much, Richard Wright couldn’t catch a cold and Jens Lehmann was, well, just plain mad really.

And now the current number one. At a recent home match, Lukasz Fabianski’s own fans cheered sarcastically when a replay of him catching a corner was shown on the big screens. He really is hopeless. So hopeless, in fact, that constructive and articulate criticism doesn’t seem justifiable.

On my Christmas visit to the Emirates, I was astonished at the way the mood towards God, or Arsene as he is formally known, is rapidly turning. It all centres on one key issue, and until he digs just a little deeper and spends more than a million quid on a keeper, Arsenal won’t win a thing. And that, five years after the last trophy, just isn’t good enough.

Go on Arsene, sign Shay Given and shut us all up.

Sam Saunders

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Bound for Bhoys? Don’t ask TFC

Sign this or I'll sign for Celtic!

Besides the fact that Tottenham can apparently defend as well with 10 men as they can with 11, the strangest story in football this week has to be Dwayne De Rosario’s dalliance with Celtic, and how little Toronto FC claim to know about it. As surprise announcements go, it’s a saga with far more grips, twists and turns than Newcastle’s Jose Enrique’s taking to the Twitterverse to spread news of an injury.

DeRo, who you might remember from his “show me the money” cheque-signing celebration after a superb goal this season, also caught his team off guard, or so they’d have us think, when news broke that he was to have a one-week trial with the Glaswegians. TFC first denied the story, but having their player get off a plane in Scotland made that look foolish, so they claimed it was news to them, too.

De Rosario is under contract for two more years, but his brother insists TFC was aware of the move, and happily made it sound as though the Scarborough-born Canadian international could make a long-term move to the SPL.  “If it’s long-term for a loan or he comes back has yet to be determined,” Mark De Rosario told the Toronto Star. “If it works out, fine, we’ll work on the particulars (between TFC and Celtic) later.”

Someone is full of shit here, maybe both sides, and it stinks pretty bad. Expect this one to get weirder before it makes sense. It’s hard to blame De Rosario for wanting to bail on the rudderless ship that is Toronto FC, still listing along without a coach or full-time GM. But while fans may wish the somewhat mercurial DeRo the best, they should be sharpening their knives for the stuffed-shirt stooges who run the team.

Ian Harrison

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It’s grim up north

sam allardyce

Sam Allardyce recently claimed he could coach the likes of Inter Milan and Real Madrid successfully, and that in essence the jobs there are much easier than his present one at Blackburn Rovers. He even went as far to declare himself the perfect candidate as the next England boss. Well Sam, you’ve got one thing right, you’re perfect for England. That’s because they’re woeful.

Week in, week out, we football fans are subjected to the brute force and “get up ‘em” attitude that certain clubs in the North of England hand out to free-flowing teams. You know what I mean here; think Arsenal’s troubles almost every time they play Bolton and Blackburn.

And herein lies the problem. The Northwest is typical of what the game once was. Brash, unashamed, fiercely proud, and accepting only of the highest commitment. Teams such as Leeds in the 70’s would kick if it moved, or kick until it did. The strategy worked for decades.

But then came the 1990’s and the influx of foreigners and their attractive new style of play. They were quicker, smarter and an awful lot more talented.

The likes of Allardyce are perfect for England. Let’s face it, England were awful at the World Cup because they clung to the belief that if you try hard enough, you will always succeed. Sorry kids, but here’s a sobering lesson. Talent always prevails. No matter how hard you try, if you’re not good enough you’ll lore far more often than you win.

Teams such as Bolton and Blackburn (them again) have supporters who fall in line with the English mentality of football. I’ve been to games at Ewood Park and heard them chant “Get into them!” In short they mean, “Yes, we might not win, but at least we can give them a damn good hiding.” Well I’m sorry, but that really only applies to war.

So while Chelsea prevail with foreigners in the Premier League, and the Spanish win the World Cup by not retaliating to Dutch brutality, the likes of Rovers and England will never grasp what it means to win with satisfaction.

Aaron Ramsey injury

It’s no coincidence that all of Arsenal’s major injuries in recent years have occurred north of the Watford Gap: Eduardo (Birmingham), Diaby (Sunderland) and Ramsey (Stoke). It happens because of the continued aggression faced and, dare I say it, the violence dished out. Every one one of those injuries was avoidable. Sadly, each guilty culprit was an Englishman.

So while Allardyce may think he’s a great candidate for any top-flight job, the footballing elite will just smirk and overlook him. He’s stuck in a time warp. Go back to the 1970’s Sam, and take your boxing gloves with you.

Sam Saunders

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Growing middle class on deadline day

Let’s be honest. Who really thought Sunderland, Stoke and Birmingham would be the clubs making the biggest splashes on the final day of the summer transfer window? Sure, England’s biggest teams had taken care of most of their business already. But it was still a surprise, as the final hours ticked away, to see a club-record 13 million pounds splashed out to bring Ghanian World Cup star Asamoah Gyan to Wearside from French club Rennes. Who knew the Black Cats even had that kind of cash? You’ve sure got to turn over a lot of couch cushions to come up with that kind of loose change.

Only slightly less surprising was the triple swoop made by Birmingham, who landed former Arsenal midfielder Alexander Hleb on a season-long loan from Barcelona, defender Martin Jiranek on a one-year deal from Spartak Moscow and Chilean winger Jean Beausejour from Club America in the Mexican League.

The Potters, meanwhile, added four players to a team yet to record its first league points of the season, with Icelandic striker Eidur Gudjohnsen joining on a season-long loan from Monaco and former Arsenal, Birmingham and Liverpool man Jermaine Pennant coming over on loan from Spain’s Real Zaragoza until January.

The combined effect is a serious thickening of quality for some of the Prem’s mid-table teams. There aren’t many easy weeks in the EPL, even for those at the top, and those teams should all be strengthened by their deadline day dealings. The moves also make life harder for the unlucky few clubs left scraping to stay in the top flight.

Tottenham, as usual, left it late, leaving fans to play the ‘vaiting game’ over the status of Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, whose cut-price, 8-million pound move from Real Madrid reportedly requires Premier League approval, given that Arry and co. didn’t even start  on things until two hours remained in the transfer window. Yids will be hoping the deal gets done, if only so that Sylvie van der Vaart, his lovely missus, can brighten up the scene down the Lane.

As they prepare for a debut season of Champions League football, with Inter Milan looming large in Group A, Spurs decided not to parcel anyone out of North London, holding on to Robbie Keane and Jermaine Jenas, and bolstered their goalkeeping corps by finalizing the long-awaited arrival of Croatian Stipe Pletikosa on a season-long loan from Spartak Moscow. Things didn’t pan out yet for Tottenham’s other trialist, South African defender Bongani Khumalo, but he may still join in January.

Elsewhere, Man. City said so long to Brazilian bust Robinho, who set sail for AC Milan, Everton’s Joseph Yobo was loaned out to Turkey’s Fenerbahce, Liverpool finalized the signing of Paul Konchesky from Fulham (so much for Uncle Woy’s pledge not to plunder the Londoners) while letting Emiliano Insua leave for Galatasaray.

So, no more moves until the New Year, and we now await the naming of 25-man rosters for the next four months on Wednesday. Could be some difficult decisions to make at some clubs. Stay tuned.

Ian Harrison

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Man. City in need of Sheikh-up

Yet another away game, yet another below performance for the Citizens. If Sunday’s defeat at Sunderland proved one thing, it’s that Manchester City still have a long way to go before they can pose a serious threat.

Though the argument that money doesn’t buy you success seems a fragile one, it does seem to be ringing true for the club that spent over $200 million this summer.  The more you watch City, the more you realize that it’s not the money that’s the problem; its the way it’s spent.

Yes, James Milner is very good. A pacey winger who’s delivery credentials was evident when he found Gareth Barry out of nowhere last week against Liverpool. But is he really worth just under $50 million? For half that money Arsenal invested in Samir Nasri, a proven playmaker who is about quantity, not quality. And what about Mario Ballotelli? Sorry, but this is a man who managed to alienate the people of Milan with his lacklustre performances and still ask for a pay increase. He could start a fight in an empty room.

It’s easy to criticize any team that has just lost, but it was the manner in which defeat came that showed the issues at hand. Even with Carlos Tevez’s shocking twelve yard miss, City never really looked like scoring, nor did they even look like mustering an attempt on goal.

Yaya Toure is another example of how poorly the money’s been spent. There is little doubt that teams add 50% to the price when City ask for an evaluation. Instead of the amount they spend each week on keeping him on the payroll, a cool $350,000, Man. City could surely have dangled the same sum in front of the best striker in the world and employed the services of Fernando Torres, especially given that cash-strapped Liverpool are hardly in a position to haggle.

Imagine it, Torres alongside Tevez. The proverbial lambs to the slaughter comes to mind.

But look at this from another angle as well. Every player linked with City this summer was also courted by someone else. If you can afford to buy a player so a rival can’t have them, why wouldn’t you?

Of course, from a player’s perspective, you’d like to think no amount of money would be enough when it comes from a club that, at least right now, can’t even offer the promise of Champions League football. Sadly, it seems that’s not true for everyone.

It could be another slow year for Manchester City, and when owner Sheikh Mansour gets bored and wants to buy an island instead, they’re going to be left with a hefty wage bill of players who are good, but not good enough.

Sam Saunders

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Only two miles separate them now

You might not know it from their lacklustre loss to Wigan today, but the recent form of Champions League debutants Tottenham Hotspur has got the attention of rival Gunners fans. Today, new blogger and Arsenal supporter Sam Saunders offers some praise for the local Lillywhites, who’ve just been drawn against their neighbourhood rivals in the Carling Cup.


Whisper it quietly around Holloway, but the boys from Tottenham are narrowing the gulf that has separated them and the old enemy down the road for so many years. Though Arsenal has qualified for the Champions League every year for 13 under the tenure of Arsene Wenger, Spurs will now rub shoulders with the very best along with their North London neighbours. And boy, does it hurt.

Tottenham’s meteoric rise under Harry Redknapp is one of storybook proportions. Lying perilously close to the trap door to the Championship when he arrived, ’Appy ’Arry transformed the club within a matter of weeks, starting with the now infamous 4-4 draw away at Arsenal in October, 2008. Casual defending and a refusal to run the ball to the corner cost the Reds dearly that night, and they threw away two goals in the dying moments to a Spurs team that could smell blood.

For any member of the Yid Army, those three minutes were the highlight of the year, though it was only the start. Surprisingly, given his track record at previous clubs, Redknapp adopted a free-flowing game evocative of the Hoddle years and now not only did Tottenham win, they won with style. Rejuvenated, the team carried its form on for the remainder of the season and avoided a near catastrophic plunge to the lower echelons. A year later they pipped big-spending ManchesterCity for fourth place after an industrious and hardy campaign, and the heads down Seven Sisters Road started turning.

Let no Arsenal fan bang on about the fact that its 60 years since White Hart Lane saw a victory parade. It’s been five long years since Arsenal claimed any one of the four trophies they compete for annually. That may seem a small time frame, but this is a team that went 49 games unbeaten only six years ago, and is the third richest club in world football. Five years at that level might as well be five decades.

Where heavy purchases have bolstered Spurs’ already talented squad, Arsene Wenger continues to hold faith in his youngsters, who show promise yet little energy after fifty games in a season. All very well and good in storybook land, but it’s becoming glaringly obvious that kids don’t win prizes. Signings such as Wilson Palacios, Luka Modric and even (gulp) Peter Crouch have added experience, quality and decisiveness to Tottenham. Ironically, it was a header by Crouch, butt of many a Gooner’s joke, that confirmed Tottenham’s entry to the Champions League with this week’s victory over Young Boys.

If Wenger continues to play the role of Scrooge, and Tottenham keep scoring at will on the counter attack, this could be the first year in many that Spurs are crowned Kings of North London.

Sam Saunders is from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England. He now lives in Toronto, working as a bartender at Steam Whistle Brewery and has interned at TheFAN590. The Gunners may be in his blood, but he also has room for Southend United.

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It could happen…

Kevin Hoggard

10 Things that I hope will happen in the Premiership this year:

1.       Roy Hodgson’s new cuddly approach will involve having a sleepover for his squad.  All the players will get dropped off by their mothers and they’ll all share one big bed.  Gerrard will suck his thumb and fight with Torres over his teddy bear while Woy reads them a bed time story about one night in Istanbul.  Dirk Kuyt will run around the room for 90 minutes without actually achieving anything.

Granddad Woy shows the lads what the CL trophy looks like…

2.       That all players have to grow facial hair, of their own choosing, until they score a goal.  Note to Fat Frank: “Deflected goals do not count.”

3.       Rory Delap has an operation to make his shoulders double-jointed.  He will now be able to launch a throw into the area from any position on the pitch.  A sign in the Stoke tunnel will read you must be 6’4” to go on the pitch.

4.       Penalty kicks will no longer decide cup matches.  The match will now be decided by a cage match involving four players from each team.  Players will have suitable monikers and be required to wear skin tight lycra.  John Terry, or ‘The Terry-nator’, will be a figure of hate as numerous WAGs grab the microphone and tell of how they’ve cheated on their man with the Chelsea captain.

5.       A two-week winter break is introduced and the top 10 managers in the Premier League will go into the Big Brother house and battle it out for the public’s vote.  Big Sam will spend every waking minute in the diary room complaining about everything.  Harry Redknapp will constantly tell people that the food in the cupboard is down to the bare bones.  Alex Ferguson will be found in his bedroom with every bottle of alcohol stacked in the corner, whispering the words “My Precious” and clawing at anybody coming within range.

6.       Rio will roofie Wayne Rooney two hours before the game.  Whilst asleep Rio will paint Rooney’s face green and wake him up 5 minutes before kick-off and he will run onto the pitch in complete ignorance to the sniggers of his team mates.  Donkey will be in the technical area shouting out instructions.

7.       Shaun Wright-Phillips will run out of the tunnel at the Eastlands only to have a sharp steel girder drop down and take his head off.  He will continue to run around for 90 minutes and nobody will notice the difference.

8.       Arsene Wenger is affected by the same truth wish that Jim Carrey had in Liar Liar.  When asked after the game if he saw an incident, Arsene will reply “Yes of course I saw it.  Why wouldn’t I?  I was watching the game.”  “So do you think Bendtner took a dive?”  “Definitely!  I’ve seen it on the monitor and nobody touched him.”  Arsene will look bemused as if he can’t believe he just said that out loud and, on parting, he will turn to the camera and say “And before you ask, Walcott really isn’t very good.”  Arsene will leave shaking his head.

9.       The British Government will kidnap Lionel Messi and put him into a village, like in The Prisoner.  He will be kept there by a big bouncing Jabulani ball.  The only other residents of the village will be 300 fertile young women.  2028 will be the start of 16 years of dominance by a pint sized England team and David James will still be in goal.  England shirts will be sold for $10 as they all have the same name on the back and are purchased in a massive job lot from China.

10) Shakira is given an honorary season ticket for Blackburn.  Her love affair with football finishes by the end of August 2010. 

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