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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Filed under English Football, Premier League

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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Filed under Major League Soccer, MLS, Premier League

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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Filed under Champions League, English Football, Premier League