Tuesday, 15 May 2012

WDF Post Game Analysis — Game 38, The Finale

Three thousand, four hundred and twenty. That’s how many regular game minutes there are in a Barclays Premier League season, almost thirty five hundred minutes of soccer to feast our eyes on. “Football crack” as I call it (I’m a serious addict, ask my girlfriend). In all my years, I have never seen a season as dramatic as this one. It had it all: the goals, the glory, the violence (see Joey Barton, wank), the heartbreak. The Luis Suarez affair, the Cisse supremacy, the Torres revival — you name it, this season had it. We look at how this finale played out and how three minutes of extra time decided this season. Manchester City’s incredible fight back will become legend. Stuff that will have Hollywood producers licking their chops, imagining Daniel Day-Lewis playing the coy and smooth talking Roberto Mancini and Christian Bale portraying United great Ryan Giggs (alright, I’m fishing here but you get my point). Probably the most dramatic football story ever, and we all saw it first hand. Where to begin? Let’s start with the title decider. United took on Sunderland as City were home to QPR. The United game was tepid for the most part, the men in red fully in the drivers seat. Though only a one-nil affair, it was one-way traffic. Rooney’s superbly taken header had United on course for their 20th league title. Having only three minutes of injury time, United had to wait 120 seconds, which probably felt like hours, to see if their efforts were in vain. Even with the score leveled at the Etihad Stadum, the United players would never had foreseen an outcome like this one. Sergio Aguero had ideas: ideas of grandiose of glory for the billion-dollar squad City had assembled. The last kick of the game decided the season and it was the Argentine, the son-in-law of Diego Maradona, which penned his name into City history. Elsewhere, Arsenal secured third and Tottenham pulled off fourth. Newcastle couldn’t put the finishing touches on an already incredible season, losing to Everton, finishing fifth with Chelsea right behind them. Liverpool’s game against Swansea summed up their season: abysmal. If Kenny has his job in September, I will be very surprised. Finishing below Everton is unacceptable, nothing against The Toffees. Another surprise was the promotion/relegation battle: all three teams that were promoted stayed up. Great to see the level of the First Division and all it’s quality trickling down the echelons.
We will return with BPL coverage in August but until then, stay thirsty my friends. Live football, love football, play football.

Monday, 30 April 2012

WDF Pre-Game: Manchester City FC vs Manchester United FC - Game 36

For what do we call this pandemonium of an epic derby collision between these two juggernauts we call Manchester United and Manchester City...We shall call it the "SIEGE OF MANCHESTER". In the town of Manchester, United has always been the neighbour o show of his fancy red Jaguar. He washes it, wax it and speeds up and down town while his neighbour, City looks over next door in envy. Nut now it seems as if the tables have turned. City's recent hard work in the office has earned him a promotion and a new company car; an Aston Martin. And it seems as if United isn't the only kid on the block with a fast car. For so long United has been the dominant team in Manchester, title after title. Just a couple weeks ago there was an impression among all of us that even with a United that is missing a lot of tools in the box, were still able still some how going to pull off another Premier League title. United's tie against Everton last week with a combination of a City win over Wolvehampton last week has reduced that five point table lead to THREE!! I don't think there has been a derby to this scale between to strong teams. Already between these two teams there has been three lead changes on the table. This ia a straight up inner city battle for the title. United have won three of the past five meetings between them and CIty. United have the history but les not forget about the last meeting between these two teams ended in City blowing up United 6 - 1and City have been in very good form for most of this season. SInce that big loss in October, United have filled in there defensive holes...or somewhat have. It is more like filling in a pipe leak with some gum, it will work for a short while but it is not practical and will not last for very long. And on that note I honestly think that is what this game will come down too; will Manchester United's defence be strong and hold their ground or will they be cut up by the Manchester City front line with their diagonal runs.

Man City Key Player - Carlos Tevez: If there was any man that could bring down the axe on United's title dreams it would be Carlos Tevez. Tevez has scored against his former team with two different teams. Tevez has also been looking in good form scoring four goals in has last three games. This includes his hat-trick against Norwich. Look for him to test Rio Ferdinand with his pace.

Man United Key Player - Wayne Rooney: Easy and simple when Rooney plays well United plays well. Especially with United's lack of creativity in the centre of the park they will need Rooney to play his regular role of midfielder and attacker. He has also been in good form. Rooney has five goals in his pas four games. Even if he doesn't score expect him to create space for Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, because of his movement on and off the ball.


Tuesday, 24 April 2012

WDF Post Game Analysis: Game 35

Well good people, this is the new Barclays Premier League. A league where no one is safe. Where they three teams that are promoted are mid-table and regulars like Bolton and Blackburn are relegation threatened. Where seven teams fight for four spots. This is the prologue to our analysis of the hardest league to call, worldwide.

Arsenal FC vs. Chelsea FC, April 21st

A game that was supposed to be a thriller, turned out to be quite a bore. Chelsea looked content to maintain possession and look for a point as neither team looked like breaking the deadlock before the half-hour mark. Torres, in for Drogba, made a few clever moves, but nothing came of his industry and guile. The one notable chance came to the home side, as Walcott wiped in a dangerous free kick from the right side that miraculously fell to the prolific Arsenal number 10. van Persie’s effort drove straight into Cech hands and the 27-goal man denied his 28th of the season. The tepid affair became duller and the second half posed no interesting points apart from the Walcott injury (what looked like a hamstring tweak). van Persie created little in the way of chance, the talismanic striker's attempts impotent at best. The visitors almost broke free but not for a brilliantly dangerous tackle on Daniel Sturridge inside the six-yard box. Both teams will need to step up their attempts if they look to dismantle Newcastle in the race for fourth.

Newcastle United FC vs. Stoke City FC, April 21

From the moment the whistle blew, this game was one-way traffic. Yes, Stoke City had a few notable chances but this game was written as a win before it had even began. Newcastle’s two-man show did it again as Cisse and Cabaye flexed their creative muscles all over the pitch. The game started with a bang, with Johan Cabaye opening the scoring. A quick counter attack orchestrated by Hatem Ben Arfa down the left proved perilous for the Stoke defense. Ben Arfa skipped my Marc Wilson to tee up Cisse, only for his brilliantly taken header to rattle off the woodwork. Cabaye was on hand to nod in the opener from four yards out. The game could have started differently with John Walters wasting an excellent opportunity to put Stoke ahead. But it was all Newcastle and four minutes after the introductory goal, Cabaye was at it again. A quick counter-attack broke Cabaye and Cisse free and the Frenchman found his Senegalese partner with an exquisite pass from left to centre. Cisse slotted home the nutmeged pass and the game was all but over. A few chances went Stokes way but nothing of distinguished worth to put on paper. The second half came and just before the hour mark, Cabaye hit home a fastidious 20-yard curler. The game fizzled out and Newcastle marched, yet again, towards the elusive Champions League spot.

Manchester United FC vs. Everton FC, April 22nd

This game epitomized why we watch the English Premier League. It also gives anyone who is trying to predict these matches a near impossible task. Where to begin! The game erupted into life with Jelavic opening the scoring — a sublime header off a brilliant cross from Hibbert — just after the half hour mark. Jelavic had to place his header perfectly, going back across goal, finding the side mesh. United responded eight minutes later with his own idea of a well-taken header and turned home a wonderful cross from Nani. The winger from Portugal was looking dangerous down the left flank and would do more damage later on. The second half began and it went all United's way in the opening minutes. Ten minutes into the last 45, Welback made a goal out of nothing. The ball fell to him at the top of the box and some crafty footwork opened the space. The young English striker opened his hips and fired in a glorious shot into the top right corner. Nani was on hand three minutes later and a well worked one touch play around the Everton box — something of a United staple — put the left winger through. A lovely chip beat Tim Howard and the game seemed all but over. Everton were not about to roll over and it was Hibbert again that was the provider. The right back found an unmarked Fellaini with a low cross, the Belgium international hitting a sweat volley to put the game within one goal. United were at it again, and Rooney and Welback combined to put the home side two goals to the good. The Toffees kept asking the question of a very precarious Untied defense and their probing paid off. Phil Neville sent in a dangerous ball into the six-yard box, looking for Fellaini. Johnny Evans and Rio Ferdinand made an absolute mess of the clearance and Jelavic was first to jump on the sloppy defense. A well taken, close range volley form the Croatian striker put the game with reach and two minutes later, the drama continued. A lovely worked play down the left flank, combined with shoddy marking from a certain United right back (Rafael) put Steven Pienaar in on goal and the South African made no mistake. The left-winger banged in the close range shot to tie the game up, four a-piece. The game ended with a few more attempts going Manchester’s way, none of which coming to fruition. United will feel robbed of three points but the only assailant of their worries is their self. Attack wins games, but defense wins titles.

Liverpool FC vs. West Bromwich Albion FC, April 22nd

Poor Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish hit the nail on the head (or whatever that saying is) in his post game: “Same old story.” Sadly it is. The Reds have hit the woodwork a stunning 30 times this season. If they had tucked a third of those chances away, the men in red would be fighting for a Champions League spot at this point. But the gods had different ideas. The ever-improving Andy Carroll and consistent threat that is Luis Suarez could not find their scoring boot on this day. The Reds laid siege to the WBA defense and the all action display almost led to the opener ten minutes into the first half. Suarez twisted and turned, in his customary fashion, and slipped a perfect ball into the right flank for Dirk Kuyt. The Dutch hit-man-turned-winger smashed his shot wide of the mark to sum up a torrid season. My spidey-senses tell me the Netherlands international is on his way out of the Anfield door come the end of the season. The onslaught continued and this time it was Glen Johnson who played provider. A cute run from the right flank and a sweet pass found Suarez just inside the box. The Uruguayan striker ripped a shot into Ben Foster’s hands and the resulting loose ball was fired over the top by Maxi Rodriguez. WBA had a few things to say about the game and almost caught Liverpool sleeping. Just before the half hour mark, Shane Long headed Jonas Olsson’s long ball into the path of Chris Brunt, only for the right-wingers volley to be palmed away in convincing fashion by Pepe Reina. The Spanish keeper reestablished his worth after his three game suspension at Newcastle. WBA had started to find a rhythm and a Liam Ridgewell almost opened the scoring from a West Brom corner. The centre back hit his shot straight into the hands of Reina. The first half ended, and the home side must have gone into the dressing rooms perplexed at how they weren’t in front by at least two goals. Jordan Henderson hit a sweet strike after another brilliant build-up by the Reds after the restart. The young Englishman was on the end of another play down the right flank and hit the woodwork from 17 yards out. A scramble in front of the net almost fell perfectly for Jay Spearing who’s resulting shot was cleared off the line by a relieved West Brom defense. But it was WBA who struck with impunity 15 minutes before the final whistle. Glen Johnson’s perfect game in attack was quickly turned into a nightmare in defense. The right back’s dangerous lateral pass was intercepted my Mulumbu and found it’s way to Peter Odemwingie who wrong footed the Liverpool goalie, firing the Baggies into the lead. It was the sucker punch, the fatal blow, and Liverpool had no counter. The Merseyside outfit continued to probe but could produce nothing of meaning. Kenny Dalglish’s side have now taken 12 points from 14 games this calendar year and are 16 points adrift of the top four place they so desperately strive for. Can Kenny turn it around? I think so.

We wrap up this week with our scores: Justin takes home the points for this week having guessed a draw at the Emirate over my Arsenal victory. Thanks for tuning in and we’ll talk and be boggled by the EPL next weekend.

Friday, 20 April 2012

WDF Pre-Game Big 4 Line Up: Game 35

Arsenal FC vs. Chelsea FC, April 21st

Arsenal FC: The Robin van Persie’s are looking pretty much unstoppable at the moment, if not for, well, Robin van Persie. Others have helped out with the resurrection: Walcott now has something to play for (Oxlade-Chamberlaine), Alex Song looks as efficient as ever, transforming defense into attack almost effortlessly, and with natural full backs in their ranks (Sagna and Gibbs) Arsene Wenger has cause to wriggle out a very French smile. This match is a true test of their resolve as they are facing an incredibly in-form team in Chelsea. Both teams are fancying a counter-attack style of play, as they vie for entry into the Champions League, which with every Premier League season seems harder to qualify for.
Key Player — Robin van Persie: I have always been a big fan of the multi talented striker, but I believe if he had picked up the slightest of injuries this season, Arsenal would be in seventh right now. He is their goal machine — scoring, assisting and generally being the main reason behind anything offensive at that club. John Terry and whoever he is partnered with will have a tough job holding him down.

Chelsea FC: The Blues come into this game full of renewed confidence with the arrival of Roberto Di Matteo and a hard fought victory over mighty Barcelona. This is both a blessing and a curse for the south London club. Arsenal have the luxury of competing for one competition (a Champions League spot) and Chelsea are involved in three (FA Cup, Champions League and a top four finish). One of Chelsea’s many strengths is their depth and they will have to call upon this if they expect to win at the Emirates Saturday. Having played Wednesday against the world’s best team, they now have to go to a very strong opposition, with only two days of “rest.” Expect to see Lampard on the bench and Torres starting up front.
Key Player — Didier Drogba: The man in form for Chelsea currently, though the whole team has looked strong as a unit. Drogba seems to think that he’s 25 again, and is playing like it. He ran circles around Gallas in the FA Cup game against Tottenham and popped up with the winner mid-week against Barcelona, no small feat may I add. His power and close control combined with an absolutely ruthless finishing ability make him one of the Premier Leagues most feared strikers.

Justin’s Pick: Arsenal 2 – 2 Chelsea                         Austin’s Pick: Arsenal 2 – 1 Chelsea

Newcastle United FC vs. Stoke City FC, April 21st

Newcastle United FC: The surprise package this season. Many thought their fine form would fizzle out by this time but some brilliant purchases by manager Alan Pardew helped the Magpies in their continued hunt for Champions League football. Now, that being said, I do not think they have what it takes to play Champions League ball but a few more acquisitions in the summer could make them a real force come next season. Back to the present, if Cisse can continue his ridiculous run of form, I foresee a rout at the Sport Direct Arena.
Key Player — Papiss Cisse: The Senegalese sensation. The supplier of goals. The stupefier (not a word) of defenses. Yep, he’s been magnificent since his bargain move from FC Frieburg. Scoring goals seems so casual for the big man, and I expect him to continue his fine run of form. Ten goals in nine appearances… need I say more?

Stoke City FC: The club still playing what most call “The English Way.” A brand of incredibly boring football but gets the job done. That being said, Tony Pulis has done a magnificent job of forming a team that no one wants to play against. He is up against a much stronger squad in the form of Newcastle, who can also play that traditional style of long ball football mentioned earlier. I suspect Stoke to put 11 men behind the ball and fight hard for a draw or maybe a 1-0 win. Expect an extremely defensive display from The Potters.
Key Player — Peter Crouch: The much traveled striker scored probably his best goal to date a few weeks back and is looking very much a veteran goal scorer. His aerial prowess and brilliant touch (which came out of nowhere, see World Cup 2006) make him a pain for any defense. If Stoke can unleash the 6”7’ striker, Newcastle may have far more problems than expected.

Justin’s Pick: Newcastle 2-0 Stoke                             Austin’s Pick: Newcastle 2-0 Stoke

Manchester United FC vs. Everton FC, April 22st

Manchester United FC: The big man has done it again. Sir Alex the King has made something out of nothing, yet again. He boggles my mind! How do you make Johnny Evens look good?! Whatever, stupid Scotsman…:) United are looking like champions once more and I expect a routine win over Wayne Rooney’s former employers. As much as United are looking like Champions of England, they will come against a stern test against the blue half of Liverpool. Everton are not to be trifled with, and are on a fine run of form, downing Swansea, West Brom and Sunderland with considerable ease. That being said, United are a superlative team and moreover, the better team. Expect a battle for the first 60 minutes but United to unleash the beast Rooney against his boyhood club.
Key Player — Sir Alex Ferguson: The Mastermind. The maestro. The grey-haired handler. Call him what you want, he’s brilliant. I honestly want to see him strap on his old boots and make an on-field appearance. I know it sounds ridiculous but look at Scholes and Giggs. Why can’t he do it??? Next thing you know he’ll convince Cantona to come out of retirement. Christ! Leave them alone! No one’s judging you if you call it a day, man!

Everton FC: Everton are coming into this game full of confidence, having disposed of Sunderland 4-0. They are also sitting in seventh place in the league, which is no small feat considering the dogfight at the top of the table. The do have a tremendous task on their hands heading to Old Trafford. Nullifying the threat of Rooney will help slow United down, but the real problem will come in the final 15 minutes. United are notorious for scoring late goals, a true testament to their character, and have done so on 18 occasions already this season. If Everton can play 95 minutes of solid defense and try and counter the counter, they could come up with a surprise win.
Key Player — Leighton Baines: The Dynamic left back is looking like usurping Ashley Coles place in the England line up, and for good reason. He has been astounding for The Toffees this season, coming up with five goals and two assists. On the other end of the spectrum, he’s helped keep nine clean sheets and been the team’s most consistent player. His task Sunday will be to nullify the wide right player (Nani, Young or Valencia, all of whom are incredibly dangerous). A daunting task, but an attainable one for the England international.

Justin’s Pick: Manchester 2-0 Everton                      Austin’s Pick: Manchester 3-0 Everton

Liverpool FC vs. West Bromwich Albion FC, April 22st

Liverpool FC: There is a mini revival on the Merseyside and that comes in the form of Andy Carroll. Yes, the much-maligned striker has found the goings tough and after 16 months of mediocrity, he’s now hitting excellent form. It’s becoming infectious, and Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool player of the season for me) are feeling its affects. Liverpool are at home to a mediocre West Brom side who will probably sit back and defend, trying to catch Liverpool on the counter-attack. If Liverpool can restore the defensive stability of earlier this season (Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique) West Brom will be the first of many casualties to the Reds. Expect a forward game from Liverpool, playing Suarez and Carroll up top as a front two, If Kenny has any sense about him. It was Fernando Torres that came up with the winner the last time these two sides met — can the new number 9 do the same?
Key Player — Andy Carroll: A few weeks ago, I had written a first draft on the failures of the big striker and man, I’m glad I didn’t post that! He has done very well for himself in the last couple of weeks but he still has a lot to learn. His ability in the air is second to none and he’s getting better at bringing the ball down but there are some glaring weaknesses in his play that still need to be worked out. As a conditioner, I would drill the young man on his lower abdominal area, as he suffers from tall mans abs disease — all upper abs — hence his weakness in dribbling and acceleration. If he can get those down, he will be absolutely unstoppable. To the present, he will almost assuredly lead the line against West Brom, and if he can continue his run of form, they will have a lot to think about in defense.

West Bromwich Albion FC: The former boss comes home. Kenny recently said Roy will be welcomed back with a warm reception, but I don’t see this in the cards. He left Liverpool in shambles and I don’t think the Kop will be as forgiving as Dalglish is insinuating. West Bromwich Albion are coming off a 1-0 victory over QPR heading to Anfield. Roy’s ability to muster wins against top teams is well noted (Man U, Juventus, Liverpool) and the men in Red will have to be aware of this. He’s the king of the underdog story and he’ll be hoping for a retelling against his former club.
Key PlayerYoussouf Mulumbu: The Congolese international has been the engine room for West Brom this season. He does it all: defend, attack and everything in between. He has been the most consistent player for West Brom and they will look to him to break up Liverpool’s attack and transition defense into attack with pace. He strength and vision will be required in full force as he faces one of the best midfielders in the world in the form of Steven Gerrard. If he can stop the prolific Liverpool skipper, West Brom have an outside chance of leaving Anfield with all three points.

Justin’s Pick: Liverpool 2-0 WBA                    Austin’s Pick: Liverpool 2-0 West WBA