Tag Archives: premier league

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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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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Of insults and injuries


After an international break that saw several England players stretchered off with injuries, it’s back to business in the Prem this weekend. And right at the top of the schedule is what could be a volatile affair at Goodison Park, if Man. United’s repentant Wayne Rooney puts in an appearance at his former stomping grounds. Verbal stomping is sure to fly from the stands as the onetime Donkey of South Africa, now the Big Man of Basel, makes his Merseyside return. United lost 3-1 the last time they paid a visit to David Moyes’ men, who have just one point from three games.

Former United coach Carlos Queiroz may be feeling a bit insulted today, having been sacked as manager of Portugal, one week after he was hit with a six-month ban for disrupting a drug test. His lawyer is already on the case, looking for compensation.

And Serie A footballers are so insulted by new transfer limitations that they’re threatening to strike. AC Milan defender Massimo Oddo, spokesman for the player’s association, said the shut down is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26.

But back to those unfortunate souls being stretchered off as England beat Bulgaria and Switzerland. First to go was the unfortunate Michael Dawson, expected to miss six weeks. The old Wheeler Dealer Arry Redknapp had barely finished writing ‘Gallas’ in his next team sheet when Jermain Defoe, fresh off his hat trick last Friday, was carried off in Switzerland with an injured ankle. He’s now expected to miss the entire Champions League group stage, which begins Tuesday at Bremen. The only comfort for Spurs is that Bremen defender Per Metersacker has picked up a knock on international duty and won’t be fit.

In between Dawson and Defoe’s stretcher-assisted departures, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott was carried off with an injured ankle while the aforementioned Rooney was still celebrating his Swiss strike. It’s turning into a bit of a rough go for the Gunners, with Robin Van Persie set to miss six weeks and Nicklas Bendtner still sidelined.

There was international injury pain for Liverpool, too, with Dirk Kuyt shelved with a sore shoulder.

And finally, there’s Becks, who still harbours hopes of future England glory, despite mixed messages from the gaffer, and who is close to shaking off his own injury woes and returning to the pitch for the LA Galaxy, who host Columbus on Saturday night. LA, Salt Lake and the Crew are all tied atop the league with 44 points, although RSL has played one more game. TFC, who have seven matches to go, are currently in ninth place, out of the playoffs, with six Western teams competing to qualify. Toronto is home to DC United on Saturday.

Ian Harrison

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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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