My own fault for betting on England - I broke my own golden rule
Still made a profit, thankyous go to Spain, the Netherlands, France and Armenia....(yes Armenia, Capello!), and offset with a quick in-play on 0-0 at half time, but alas, not the most productive of international breaks...
Anyway, besides my own personal misfortunes, it wasn't very good was it?
It's true the ref had a mare - blatant handball in the box, highly physical opponents and what was the yellow card for Ashley Young about? We're playing a side who are chopping us down left right and centre and he penalises him because he's in the box...could've just played on - he had a better view of the sodding handball!
But excuses aside, we were lacking ideas - to their credit Montenegro kept us quiet well, but I think we were lacking ambition - players weren't getting forward enough, Rooney looked off (again) and in general we were frustrated, fair play to the Montenegrans(/groes?) for making the match as about as exciting to Bolton v Huddersfield - not really in the spirit of the game, but we see it every week so I can't complain
And having the ever-miserable Gareth Southgate on to cheer us up on ITV after was not a good move - he said we will now have to go to Montenegro (our final game) and win to qualify
Right...this is based on the minnows of the group doing as well as they already have, granted they've done exceedingly well, but are we really expecting them to win every game?
It's a blow, yes, but we are level-pegging with them, and are massive favourites for the group (and I'll be checking those odds now btw), if this were Russia or Croatia again, Southgate would have a point, but to blindly expect the minnows to head to Switzerland and Cardiff and claim a total six points is a bit of a leap
and as I said before, Montenegro probably need a handful of points to be assured a top two spot, and we are virtually assured a top two because if Montenegro do screw up, they've split the table for us, and if they do well, assuming we don't have a shocker, the other sides are again, kept down
Even if we are basing this on the facts we currently have, Southgate said we need to win in Montenegro - no we don't - they have scored three and conceded none, we have scored seven and conceded one - draw, and we win on GD
He also said second isn't a guaranteed spot - true it isn't, but in reverse to the previous campaign for the world cup rather than the worst of nine being cruelly dumped before the play-offs, the best of the nine will gain an automatic spot - so we don't need to cry just yet
This loss of two points essentially means we have no wiggle room - we need to beat Switzerland and Wales
But do we need to win in Montenegro? I doubt it, and if we do go in needing a win I'll give you my measly winnings from tonight (and that is my last bet on England)
Who would've thought this group would be between Montenegro and England...
12 Oct 2010
...It's only a draw
In the Faroes
Bad, yes, but will it condemn NI? Probably not, they still have seven games left and an away draw is not the worst thing that can happen to you, both Serbia and Slovenia have lost at home and are faring worse than the Irish/British
Fact is, NI are rubbish on the road, always are - they should have won this, it's a three-point gift for most teams, but we are basing their fate on what we expect to happen
Do you hear many expecting Italy to slip because they drew in Belfast? No because the pundits expect other results, Northern Ireland do not have the luxury of arrogance, but the result is the same - four home games, all perfectly winnable, win them and they qualify
It's in their hands
Odds will lengthen - this group's wide open
9 Oct 2010
Well, that was interesting...and profitable
I knew someone would draw out of the home nations - and it was NI, not a bad little earner (this was a bonus, as I decided to use all those free bets I get from Beat Victor)
But in more realistic betting chances my multiples came through, Spain scared me witless until I realised they kicked off at 9, not 8, and they scored 2 minutes after the break - I took an enhanced multiplier and gambled on Portugal, despite my previous concerns, but I rightly stayed away from Italy - got 12/5 on them, the Dutch and Germans
The only loss was Serbia in my 10-way multiplier, a shame, but that's accounted for to start with anyway
A shame that I missed the boat on Montenegro, but I stick with the contention that they weren't worth the price of 17/10 - this has however, lengthened the English odds slightly - shall look at that tomorrow
Group G is rather interesting now, 9 points for the minnows out of three games is impressive by any standards, and formidable when you think 24 is the max, outside of the obvious favourites, only Bulgaria have even got any points from the opening three matches - Wales and/or Switzerland will remedy that in their game on Tuesday
Looking at permutations, one has to expect English success - and Switzerland would still seem to be the obvious choice for second, having three home games left and England done with, so Montenegro will need at least another 3 or 4 points to stand a chance, stand out games for them will be Switzerland away, which may be a crucial final game, Bulgaria at home and a trip to Cardiff - one win and a draw should do it I think, unless of course they beat us and...
Wales are dead and buried as far as I'm concerned - still to play England, they lose in Basel then that's it frankly
The draw for Northern Ireland is an excellent point they were expected, on paper, to not have - and the group remains ridiculously open, I was wrong about Serbia - so I'm glad I mostly opted against betting on them, a home loss to Estonia is excellent news for NI, one hopes - a win in the Faroe Islands is needed to keep ahead of the pack, that will leave them with seven points from nine, and four home games out of seven, with the group favourites already held - looks good, as always...
Ireland's 3-2 loss to Russia was not helpful, but not catastrophic, particularly as Slovakia fell to Armenia - this leaves Ireland in the predictable position of needing to battle Slovakia...and guess where they're going next week? That's right, the much maligned Bratislava, avoid defeat, then do well at home, overcoming the tricky Macedonians on the way, and they can get a play-off
Scotland's loss in the Czech Rep is arguably not too bad, the draw with Lithuania was worse - but fortunately they also won in Prague (so maybe it should be Lithuania we're fearing), leaving it open - both sides have to face the champions twice, and I think once again this will be a very low scoring group behind Spain, but Scotland have the home advantage now - they need home form against Lithuania and the Czechs, and a banker in the micro-state - three games, that's it, if Spain hold up and they beat the Czechs and Lithuania then they cannot be overtaken
Meanwhile, away from the Isles, Norway motored on with another crucial away win to keep a five point lead over Portugal who did ultimately defeat the Danes, for Norway to win the group they probably need to win all three home games, if they can hold off the Danes they should at least secure a play-off this time (they were eliminated rather cruelly for being the worst qualifier last year) - conversely, Denmark will need to beat Norway both times and hope Portugal can also beat Norway at home, and it may all boil down to their final game at home to Portugal - who have created their own deficit and may need every single match to be a win now, it's pretty much wide open! From our perspective, on Tuesday Denmark need to ensure victory against Cyprus, while a Portugal slip up in Iceland would help everyone
In group D, all major rivals drawing paves the way for a French comeback, for whatever reason they play tomorrow - there's little I can say, on paper they should top the group, but it's totally unpredictable
Groups E and F remain as expected, as does the Germans' (A) - that looks wrapped already, with Turkey a likely second
Now I need my investment bets to come through next week
7 Oct 2010
Well, I'm all tired out from the stupid child benefit cut story, so I'm having a look at the upcoming European qualifiers, see if we can't find some good bets while I'm at it
Group A is set for a top of the table clash between the Germans and the Turks - Germany are the natural favourites for the match, and the group, and you can't really question that - can't really see much from Austria, and Belgium have already lost to Turkey, whom they did beat at home in the world cup qualifying - but came five points behind - not seeing a lot of value in the markets, I could see Belgium top 2 finish at 11/2, as Turkey are 1/4 - so you could offset (i.e. put four on Turkey you'll get a pound, put that pound on Belgium you'll win £5.50) longer odds than the weaker Austrians (who've won 100%!), but I doubt it's worth it
Matches are fairly run of the mill
Group B is interesting - Ireland's always are, fancy a punt on Ireland at home to Russia at 13/8? No didn't think so, I'd want at least double, Armenia could draw against Slovakia, which would be nice for the Emerald Isle - Ireland's trip to Slovakia afterwards is vital, they need to avoid a loss in both games really - Andorra are predictably boring, the bookies are offering shite odds on all three favourites...how dull - could back Russia or Ireland as winner I guess
Group C is Northern Ireland's and is predictably open - with Italy, Serbia and Slovenia making up the main opposition, an away with in Ljubljana bodes well for them - their good home form will give them a shot, an important, but let's face it not must-win game against Italy is first, but surely the trip to the Faroe Islands must be won, Italy V Serbia is also important, NI fans will want a home win, I presume
Betting wise - 9/2 for a home win looks reasonable considering Italy are fairly weak, but maybe a draw at 11/4 would be a more appropriate punt, do you think they'll make the top 2 over Serbia? At 39/11 I think they're undervalued considering they've already got a decent away win - maybe Serbia as group winners as an outsider?
Now group D is rather interesting - a flailing France team and no discernible big teams make it highly unpredictable - how is it they always get second teams like Romania and Bosnia? Yet currently the weaker two sides - Albania and Belarus, head the group! France play Romania and have a banker against Luxembourg - six points should be expected...but then teams like France can throw away points and still qualify
The bookies are undecided on Albania and Bosnia, both offering similar prices - 2/1 on an undefeated home side looks good to me - Luxembourg over France at 20/1?? Group winner is pretty open - the bookies have France as big favourites, as they always do - but the punters triumphed substantially on their ignorance pre-2010 so we can again - Romania at 4/1, but surely Bosnia are a decent bet at 11/2 as well - play-offs last time in a group with Spain, they are underrated IMO - top 2 at 2/1 looks pretty good to me as well
In group E Sweden sit pretty after two easy home ties, but will go to Amsterdam and the Dutch are naturally big favourites, Sweden a likely second, in my view - and no good odds. In the matches only Finland v Hungary is open, just above evens - personally I quite like the Netherlands at 6/11 over Sweden - over 50% of your stake is pretty good for that surety
Group F is somewhat of a consolation for Croatia after 2010 (where's ours for 08...), Israel and Greece make up the main threat, although not losing their trip to the Middle East is fairly vital, Greece against Israel will also be important...if you actually care. Fancy aforementioned Croatia at 6/4?
Croatia to win the group at 8/11 is again a fairly dull price, but a sound investment, I think - Israel in a top 2 for 28/17 is about the best I can see otherwise
Group G time...
Seriously...1/5 is the best we can get on England topping the group? This is why you never get good value on England - seriously far too much attention on it - Germany are 3/10, the Netherlands are 2/5 - only Spain give worse odds, admittedly Montenegro have really helped sure it up for us, but one in five? That said - you interested in the Swiss at 19? However second is quite open, Switzerland may be alright at 13/10 and are Wales really as bad as 7/1? Probably - personally I would avoid Montenegro at an inflated 6/4 - unless a serious shock occurs that will get longer by next week
Oh well, despite the outright odds being daft the England match is rather reasonable at 1/4 - 25% back on a game England will win, you can thank the Welsh for that - it probably would've been 1/15 before the group started - Wales against Bulgaria is hard to call, so you can opt for either at just shy of 2/1 - Switzerland at 1/2 against the Welsh again looks a good value banker considering Wales' away form - although they do like to block the goal - fancy Montenegro at home in their first tie? 17/10 is a bit shorter than I'd like
Moving on to Group H, Norway sit five points clear of favourites Portugal, while Denmark are once again ahead of the greasy ones (after one game..) - the bookies still haven't cottoned on and once again they offer a bargain at 2/1, slightly worse than last year, but christ, you'd think they'd get it by now
However, maybe put the chequebook away for now - Denmark visit Portugal first and a fairly predictable loss, or even draw will push those odds in your favour - of course should they lose at home this won't happen, so it's a judgement call - I don't expect Denmark to win, even if Cyprus did put four past them...However it's unsurprising that I have disdain for odds of 8/13 for a home win - a draw at 3/1 or Denmark at nearly 6/1 if you feel like a punt
Denmark's game against Cyprus is of little interest, although the time to get the good odds is probably between the two games, but Cyprus Norway may offer something if you fancy the Norges...or indeed the Cypriots, the best opportunity may be the Iceland Portugal game however - the weakest side in the group maybe, but 7/1 for a home win is tasty, or just over 3/1 on the draw - but I'd watch Portugal's form under new manager Bento in the first game before making that choice
Group I - or should that be group 'aye' (sorry), the Scots are doing well with only two points dropped from two games, despite the win being that rather scary game against Liechtenstein - however they stand zero chance against Spain and must look to second along with the Czechs and Lithuania, they play in Prague first - avoiding a loss is pretty important in such a small group which also happens to have the champions in it, but an it wouldn't necessarily be the end - Spanish victory over Lithuania, and Liechtenstein holding the Czechs would be preferable, they don't play again til September - I doubt they want to be in third or fourth for 11 months
A draw in Prague could be on the cards (45/17), and indeed a draw in the micro-state at 13/2 may be good value (I say good 'value'...not 'likely') - the outright odds for this group are rather shocking, clearly too mediocre for the bookies - Spain offer a 50% return in Glasgow, might be worth it
3 Oct 2010
Watching Gary Lineker's 'Can England win the world cup?' where a bunch of talking heads give their opinion on why we bombed in South Africa so spectacularly, I have to point out - it's seven games every four years, and only one team out of 32 can win!
This makes it a rather difficult affair to predict -we can talk about how good Spain are right now, but that does not make it a foregone conclusion that they were always going to win, the best teams don't always win
I don't claim we went out on luck, we were shocking, or indeed that Spain won on luck - but this tournament was a rarity in that nearly everyone's tip actually won - they were overwhelming favourites and the best team, and they actually won
Imagine if they had lost to a decent Dutch or German side? Perfectly possible, and another miserable defeat in Spain's long, long record of failure, one goal in any of those four knock-out games could have swung it against them and now they would be picking over the bones of why their own 'golden generation' missed their chance, just as we did in 86, 90...and 06
Instead, we focus on how great Spain are, and forget entirely that most World Cup results hang on a couple of incidents and a bit of luck - who seriously tipped Italy in 2006? And who (of non-Italian descent) thinks they were the best side?
It's perfectly fine to look at Spain's focus on Spanish players and their investment in local talent, all good points, as is a winter break - but they won't guarantee you a cup, they won't even guarantee you one from five, and this whole tactical issue surrounding Spanish 'technique' and English 'power' is nonsense
Holding the ball and stroking it around the pitch may have worked in this world cup, but Spain could have just as easily fallen flat on their faces with a bad draw or a dodgy penalty, they were technically very good at the past two cups - but they fell to some very odd results in both tournaments, Italy went on to win 2006 against a more favoured German side
The irony is, Lineker then went on to pour praise on an admittedly very good German side - who play with pace and youth, not Spanish technique, tipping them for 2014
Great potential from a young side, but that's all it is, just potential - they will certainly be in the mix in 2014, they always are, but if they don't win, what then? How are they any different to us in 2002-6?
If he had been talking about England's prospects there would be a word for that: 'cockiness'
The fact is, the Germans haven't won in twenty years despite five top 8 finishes and 3 consecutive semi finals (one being at home) - in this event coming second is the same as coming thirty-second, you may get respect, but not a winner's medal, failure in 2014 would be 24 'years of hurt' for a side who are much better at winning these things than us
So in truth, I'd rather crash out of the cup in the second round with a run of abysmal performances than come a heroic second or third, if we actually want to win rather than enjoy the experience of ultimately losing then a bit of pain is worth it to make the national side pull their collective finger out
So can we win - yes, of course we bloody can, if you're good enough to beat anyone on the day then you can win a world cup
7 Sep 2010
You won't read this very often
Montenegro top group G, much as Blackpool once topped the league
Hopefully they won't by about 9.30 BST, but still, England might throw it away...
This could be a lifeline for Wales, depending on how you look at it - supposedly Montnegro are the weakest side, taking three points in Bulgaria could be vital for Wales' hopes, who also need to beat them in their next home game
That is, of course, assuming Wales can actually get to six points - and that Montenegro are the weakest side, from what I've seen, they're better than Switzerland too, but maybe, just maybe we'll beat them at Wembley in a month (and I'm struggling to understand that, why is that a solitary game?)
In other news, Portugal are behind in Norway - not a death sentence but once again they may take this to the wire, 2010 qualifying saw useless bookies offer long odds on realistic favourites Denmark and I made a tidy profit, and guess who is in their group (H) yet again??
In group B, Ireland are looking good after an away win last week and Slovakia won in Russia tonight, they'll be in contention, again
France, already with a home loss to Belarus in tow, are currently struggling against Bosnia, two home games against Luxembourg and Romania up next will surely decide their fate, 3/10 to qualify? Lay, people, lay!
And...Scotland are now behind to Liechtenstein, at home, seriously - and they're already in Spain's group (I), unlucky my arse...Liechtenstein!
1 Sep 2010
Apparently the idea that Arteta could play for England has been sunk by an obscure FIFA law
Now, forgive me if I'm wrong - wasn't this just a load of media speculation anyway? There's occasionally a few names bandied around when we see Brazilians playing for Germany and Croatia, but isn't the truth that England (and all British teams) cannot field foreigners like most sides can under the FIFA residency rules
There is no such thing as an English, Scottish or Welsh passport, so under FIFA regs any 'Brit' can play for any side, as these teams have no legal identities to distinguish between, the home nations are instead regulated by an old gentleman's agreement that requires a blood tie to the nation
Had you never wondered why Scotland hadn't been gathering up foreigners for years? Apparently Craig Levein tried to cap Shola Ameobi who, as far as I'm aware, has never actually played or lived in Scotland...a neat rule - and ultimately, any talk about Arteta or any other foreigner with no roots here is complete nonsense
13 Aug 2010
New season starts in two days!
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Posted by Tarquin at 00:05:00
12 Aug 2010
OK, as promised, it's time for a preview of the coming season
My league prediction:
16. West Brom
19. West Ham
Full team reviews
Well, the good news is they've kept Fabregas, surely the most essential player to their title hopes - and they've replaced Eduardo with the promising Moroccan, Chamakh, while van Persie is hopefully fit and Wenger has a lot of options with Walcott, Arshavin, Rosicky, Ramsey et all - but that's not Arsenal's problem is it? It's always the defence with Arsenal, not goalscoring - Gallas has gone, as have Senderos, Silvestre and Campbell, for what it's worth, but the only purchase is Koscielny, who is promising, and along with Vermaelen the Arsenal defence is possibly getting a bit better, but there's little cover if anyone gets injured, and inevitably Wenger will have a strop because Arsenal will be the only team in the world with injuries. The goalkeeper is perhaps the most pressing problem - rumours about Mark Schwarzer came to nothing, and frankly unless there's a little more strength at the back I can't see Arsenal making up those 11 points they fell short of last year. Not enough improvement for me, very similar to last year's result - Second, maybe third
Fabregas is the obvious name, in recent years he has been matching Gerrard and Lampard while being considerably cheaper - alas no more , he's only got a million on last year's top-scorer Lampard and is now more than Gerrard, who underperformed last year - so his value has gone down substantially. However, take a look at his points to games ratio and he's actually considerably better than Lamps, who barely missed a minute, Fabregas averaged nearly nine points every game, compared to Lump's eight - so if you watch his injuries you may well benefit and save yourself a million. Arshavin looks good value for a mere 9.5, with 10 goals from 25 games and therefore excellent value, but remember he was playing up front in the absence of a striker last year, so he may not score as much, and could be a bit pricey. There's little else of huge note in Arsenal's vast midfield line-up, Song's score was reliant on bonuses, always variable from season to season, and you could punt on a fit Walcott or Rosicky.
The other main area to look at is defence, not the most solid in the world - but Vermaelen's seven goals are definitely worth thinking about, he is the joint most expensive defender in the game, but if Arsenal keep aiming for the centrebacks, which they always do, then he should come good. Koscielny is a cheaper option but a bit of a gamble. Sagna took an injury last year and is reasonable value for assists, particularly if Arsenal keep a few more clean sheets (keep note of goalkeeper situation).
Up front there's only one consideration - a fit van Persie could well be a snip at 10 mill, his points to game ratio was as good as Rooney and Drog last season.
The recent loss of O'Neill is bound to have ramifications, particularly if someone like Southgate comes in, Villa have only sold players and therefore they're only getting worse, particularly if Milner heads off to City - there's still a lot going for them with a strong defence and decent attacking options in Young, Downing and Agbonlahor, but let's face it, they won't be challenging for Europe this season without some quick investment. My prediction - 8th
In midfield, Ashley Young will once again be a worthwhile investment, he's been very consistent at scoring points with assists and goals, hard to tell if he'll pick up without Milner taking the points or dip if Villa aren't scoring as much.
Up front, Agbonlahor and Carew offer decent returns, but history suggests they aren't the best value - Gabby in particular keeps getting more expensive and yet gets consistent points, so he's losing value - not the best option up front, but a safe choice who tends to go through scoring patches.
Ninth spot last year was the surprise of the season - doesn't mean it'll be the same this year, a few pieces of bad luck may make the difference, but to be honest I think they'll be fine, if not top half. The main problem is goalscoring, Zigic is coming in and may provide some, but they remain a bit thin up front, they need some more investment if Yeung wants to improve on last year. That said, a good defence is what keeps you alive in the Premier League, and Roger Johnson was the signing of the season last year, however if there are many injuries there's very little cover available. The other signing is Foster coming in for Hart, personally I feel he's slightly poorer than Joe, but a good signing for a club this size. All in all, should do well, but don't expect much more than last year, I'm going for 12th.
Pretty much zero changes from last season, they've just got (another) Diouf on loan as this year's new striker, I'm predicting lots of long ball football, a physical home style and a mid table finish - 11th
I don't know much about Blackpool, but I know they have a small and inexperienced-at-top-level squad and will have an almighty task to stay up, much like Burnley last year - they start with four away games out of their first five matches, which is not the best prospect, prediction - last
I see they only have 16 members in their squad...not good, Charlie Adam is undoubtedly their best player and that's reflected in him being the only player worth five million, I've never had much luck with top-scoring promoted players, although as he's a midfielder he may be good value. The trick with Blackpool is to find a player who plays every match and costs four mill - stick him on the bench and guarantee yourself two points when required.
Finishing 14th last season under Owen Coyle, Bolton haven't exactly been busy this summer and the usual gang of Cahill, Taylor, Davies et all are all there, while they have also made a promising purchase in Martin Petrov. Coyle brings a better quality of football to the Reebok, whether or not it gets results is another matter - but with a good, stable team and a few decent players I can see Bolton getting their usual mid-table finish.
There's a few options at the back - Cahill scored five goals last year and will start, but the clean sheets may be a problem now that he's 5.5, Ricketts may be a better option at 4.5 as a sub, I used to have Andy O'Brien but to be honest I'm not 100% on their first XI anymore. Jaaskelainen has always been a reliable choice - he's a good keeper and usually gets a few penalty saves, but last year's goals against tally is slightly worrying, he's good value for a second choice, but there may be a few better options.
In the middle, Matty Taylor is always a fun pick, now a snip at 6 million for a player who usually gets around ten goals a season, and they're usually from 30 yards, the drop in price this year makes him pretty attractive. Bolton's player of the year, Lee Chung-Yong may be worth a look, but at nearly the same price as Taylor I would argue that Taylor will be more value.
Up front Kevin Davies is one of the best strikers around, he's easily one of the top five best value players and is an excellent third or possibly second striker, Klasnic however may be an even better bargain, having scored eight goals despite playing less than half the season, if he starts regularly, and his full move to Bolton suggests he will, then he's a gem at 6 mill.
Last year's winners undoubtedly remain the team to beat, even if they aren't the best side in Europe, the ageing spine of Terry, Lampard, Drogba remains and there's no reason to think it won't last another year, personally I think they're weakening at the back, still reliant on Mourinho's squad, but I don't see much better from the other top clubs. So far Chelsea's biggest buy has been Benayoun, not a bad purchase but hardly season defining, while Ballack, Cole (J) and Deco have all gone, and Carvalho is set to leave - while there's no big parts leaving, there's definitely need of a few replacements. I have to back them as returning champions
Chelsea are expensive, so pick wisely - generally the lesser players are too pricey so we'll aim for big names. Cech wasn't brilliant last year, and has a niggle, maybe avoid such an expensive option. At the back Terry is a competitive top pick, but Ivanovic costs the same and considering games played last year he's far better value, just check he's always starting. Likewise Ashley Cole is a good choice, again better value than Terry, even if he's the most expensive in the game, his goals and assists are vital.
In the middle, you have one of the trinity to pick (the new trinity is Lampard, Fabregas, Gerrard), and Lampard's phenomenal score of 22 midfield goals last year must be worth considering, however as the most expensive player in the game you have to ask if the 32 year-old will be as prolific. Malouda had a great season last year and at 9.5 is competitive value, the power of Lampard means there's little room for anyone else from Chelsea.
Up front, the obvious choice is the Drog himself, the decision is totally up to you, he's now 12.5 and so has lost considerable value since the start of last year (10.5), and he may not start the season due to a groin injury, Anelka is a reasonable choice, but you could get cheaper, depends on form with him. I will point out Chelsea have a favourable early fixture list, not playing any big names til week 6.
The tightest ship going, Everton continue to make the best out of peanuts and have secured the services of Jermaine Beckford on a free, while selling a few peripheral players. Not much has changed then, and as ever, they will be dependent on injuries, I'm hopeful they'll be a little luckier this season. I'm going for sixth
Howard at 5.5 is an average keeper, Baines is a solid selection, but has lost the bargain value he once had, Jagielka is probably the best bet at 5.5, having missed most of the season through injury he may be a bargain if he stays fit. The fixture list is medium from a defensive perspective, they face United in their second home game, sandwiched between Wolves and Newcastle and have an early trip to Villa.
In midfield, Arteta is an old favourite of mine and is, based on past scores, better value than Cahill, who now costs the same, Fellaini could be a reasonable bet, but the others would probably trump him.
Up front, Saha would be a reasonable choice, with 13 goals in 25-odd games, but is no bargain at 8, there are better value options.
With a new manager it's difficult to see how Fulham will fare, Mark Hughes has a good track record and I hope he shows the pettiness of City's hierarchy by doing well this year. Fulham's main issues were goals and fatigue, as they don't have Europe to worry about this year they should be alright on the defensive front, but still need a goalscorer. It depends who Hughes can coax away from other clubs, Kevin Greening will not cut it, so I expect a dependable result from the Cottagers, Ninth.
Hangeland was the pick of the 08/09 season, but last year Fulham were definitely weakened by their Europa cup involvement, despite this Hangeland remained one of the better value, if not spectacular, defenders, he's definitely an appropriate price at 5.5. Aaron Hughes is slightly cheaper and scored nearly the same as Brede last year, but he played more games so hasn't got quite the same worth, but a solid choice. Konchesky may be the better option as he is more essential to the team and scores occasionally.
Duff and Dempsey are the real choices in the middle, both offer a good return for a reasonable price, Dempsey has often been a good midfield back up but has now reached a high of 7.0, so Duff may be the better option.
Personally I wouldn't go near Zamora, although his stats are decent, the fact that he scores goals off his back should say something, last season was his best in years and he's now a bit pricey at 6.5, you can do better.
Finally, a new manager, and Joe Cole on a free, things may be looking up at Liverpool, but although I think Cole is a move in the right direction, he's not going to challenge on his own. A fit Torres though, just might, as his goals to game record is superb, although it seems unlikely he'll stay fit with his record (he's already on a groin injury) and Liverpool definitely need a bit more up front. They also probably need a bit more cover at the back and creativity in the middle to win the title, but that said, I think we'll see them do considerably better than last year's seventh - fourth
Gerrard massively underperformed last year, and on that evidence Lampard or Fabregas would be a better choice, but we all know what he is capable of and it could be a shrewd move to back a better performance this year as he's dropped to 11.5. Cole will have to do well to live up to his 9 million price tag, but could be worth it if he starts well. Mascherano remains good value at a mere 5 million. The only striker worth thinking about is Torres, he's doubtful starting the season though, if N'Gog is used more regularly by Hodgson then he could be a bargain at 5.5.
In defence, 'Mr. Reliable' Carragher is a solid choice at 6.5, but Johnson will probably give you more points for an extra million. A good combination of a weak enough defence to make saves, and a healthy number of clean sheets made Reina the top scoring keeper in the league last year, so he's definitely worth a look. Liverpool do not have it easy however, facing Arsenal, City and United in the first five weeks.
By far the biggest spending club this summer, in fact pretty much the only spending club this summer (age of austerity and all that), City will be looking to break the top four finally (that'd be 'get higher than Spurs' then...) with their nigh on £80million spending blitz, and yes, that's net. There's some nice purchases, with Boateng coming in at centreback, and Kolarov on the left, Silva's basically a better replacement for Robinho, and Yaya Toure coming in to strengthen the midfield. There's a lot of talent there, alongside existing players like Tevez and Adebayor, and on paper they look formidable - but it's all about performance and it's hard to spot the first eleven in this squad, the bench will be the best in the world, but on the pitch it remains to be seen how the team will gel, no doubt Mancini has made his own mark now, but the defence needs to be proven and it's still hard to see how the midfield will operate aside from having a blinding winger. Fifth again...
Christ this is a mess of a team - in goal you have two excellent keepers who may well alternate, Hart was the star of last season and is now 6 million, so I wouldn't risk either of them. In defence there are eight players five million or above, so I have no idea who will be playing, but surely the £27 million pair will be first team, Kolarov is pretty prolific and may be worth it at six, and Boateng could be good value if City keep clean sheets this year.
The midfield is further mess - due to rotation City provided no high scoring players last year, SWP doesn't have bad value, but he needs to start a lot to warrant 7.5 of my cash, the up and coming Adam Johnson may be better at 6.5, Silva will presumably play a lot so might be a steal at nine million, and then Milner might come in! In short, there's so many here it's prohibitive for a fantasy manager, we need players to play every week, and while some might hit the points when on the pitch, half the time your money is going nowhere, and that's shown by the low scores across the board last year.
Up front it's a different story, Tevez had a great season last year and could be great value if he keeps up with Rooney and Drogba again, but you'd be reliant on him performing due to his new price of 10.5, Adebayor is a million less and if he finds the net like he used to then he could be a steal. City in general are very much a gamble
Rooney had a phenomenal season last year, from an overpriced and poor value striker (fantasy league perspective, ok!) who'd never scored more than 14 in a season, he scored 26! Now at 12 million he's a more realistic price and will have to get around 20 to prove his worth, but there's little reason to think he won't, unless Hernadez steals them all. Berbatov has gone down to a more appropriate price of 8.5, but there's still better value out there, and Hernadez looks good for 7.5, twelve goals or more would be an excellent return for him.
At the back, United defenders usually provide the goods, Vidic was a god a few years ago, but his and Ferdinand's injuries scuppered them both last year, with no reliable starters the only United defender worth anything was Evra, who remains a good choice thanks to his attacking prowess down the left, although he's top price and Wes Brown at 5.5 wouldn't be a bad investment if he stays fit. Maybe Smalling is worth a punt as Rio will miss a fair few games, and Fergie isn't going to leave his biggest signing on the bench, at 5 mill he's a snip. I wouldn't touch Van Der Sar, he's top end price but with his age and injuries he's unlikely to be worth it.
In the middle Giggs broke into the top echelons despite playing roughly half the season and at 7 is pretty good value...when he plays, you'll need a good sub to offset when he's not there though, and he's also an intensive option - he must play well when he plays. At the same price Darren Fletcher will certainly play more, but he's clearly not as effective when it comes to points, his price increase puts me off him this season. Valencia can certainly get points, but he's got lots of competition with a fairly hefty price tag of 8.5, while Nani had some excellent play last year and his points ratio is very good, if he were to keep it up I'd recommend him at 8, but risky though. Avoid Carrick as, well as he might play, he doesn't get the assists and isn't recognised in the scoring, nor is Scholes. United start with a decent set of fixtures, Newcastle, Fulham and West Ham - and they don't even play Arsenal and Chelsea til Christmas.
They're back - and frankly far better for it, they've had to become leaner and are now a fast, attacking side, from a side that used to...well, do nothing, trouble is Ashley is still there and the league money/parachute payments are not going into new players by the look of it. They've retained a few talents from their old Premier League days - Taylor, Gutierrez, Coloccini, Joey Barton...but that just goes to show what little they had two years ago, formerly solid players like Nicky Butt are gone and the team that steamrollered the Championship may struggle against Premier League defences. In midfield they may have some decent options, but up front they lack any experience and rarely have strikers like Andy Carroll come up and done well. The defence is the main worry - commanded by new signing Sol Campbell and lacking experience and depth this could be a disaster waiting to happen, and we all know it's defence that keeps you up in this league. Newcastle should be aiming solely for survival, and I'd like to think the bosses will be as realistic as the fans, but things could start to go mad again if they start off too badly, they will be reliant on teams like Blackpool, West Brom, Wigan and Wolves to do worse. I think they'll
One for the brave I think - no player is more than 5.5 and there could well be a gem in there somewhere - probably in midfield, Kevin Nolan or Gutierrez perhaps could be a decent sub, or you could gamble on Barton finally being sane. You could back a striker like Carroll as a third striker, but not Ameobi, let's be sensible (see: Special 1 TV). Frankly, I think you're insane to go for anything from that defence, even if it's a rock bottom sub (ie Perch, if you must have one). Certainly a more fun team to choose from...
Who is Florent Cuvelier? He's a promising Belgian youngster, and he's Stoke's only signing - so as you can tell, we're getting much of the same from Pulis' men, with pretty much everyone coming back for more throw ins! What else can I say, the defence remains sound, they still have no goal threat outside of throw ins, and they still tackle hard - the only thing is to watch for Pulis' purchases - he wants a striker or two...he needs some midfield creativity. They've been 12th, 11th, so I'm saying 13th this time
Stoke had the most clean sheets outside of United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Villa, so naturally we are looking for value defenders here. Shawcross at a mere five is excellent value and the most promising prospect, while Sorenson is a rock and came fourth in the keeper table last year - a wise investment for again, five mill.
For all my talk, Delap only managed one assist last season, quite a decline, and while a decent prospect for a lowly five, which is about as cheap as a starter gets, you could probably do better, in this team for one - Matthew Etherington, as Stoke's sole creative player was the best value midfielder last season - at six million he's a potential bargain.
Unsurprisingly, they offer little up front, what with being the lowest scoring side bar Wolves, Fuller is alright at five, but there are better choices, watch out for any purchases though. Early games against Spurs, Chelsea and Villa may be discouraging for your initial line up.
There's been some interesting, if not exciting, developments up on the Wear - Steve Bruce has brought in names such as Angeleri (RB), Mignolet (GK), Riveros (M), Al-Muhammadi (RM) and...Titus Bramble, who was a Sunderland favourite at Newcastle - so there could be some improvement, and they retain the services of top-scorer Darren Bent, who ironically, got a knock with England...They may need a new striker if Kenwyne gets his way, but I would think if that defence has improved a bit they could push on from last season's 'averageness' to about tenth.
Bent looks good value for 8.5 considering he got 24 goals last season - he may not be starting the season though. Jones not so much, and he may be off to pastures new.
Sunderland's defence let them down last year, so Bramble coming in with a better previous score than any of the rest of them is a good sign - he's always a fun choice at a mere 4.5, however own goals now cost you (note: 50p says he scores against Newcastle...possibly for them as well...). You could bet on the promising Al-Muhammadi at 4.5 also, he likes to get forward and should play. Mignolet is a good prospect, but will probably take a back seat to Gordon when he returns, and I don't trust the Black Cats defence that much.
Midfield is pretty barren, unless you want to take a punt on Riveros, he'll be missing the opener however. Sunderland open with Birmingham at home and West Brom away, but then have City, Arsenal, Liverpool and United within the space of five games...
Europe for 'Arry, but it doesn't look promising to me - great man-manager he may be, but he's strapped for cash, the defence needs more than a plaster, and the midfield, while promising, needs bolstering to keep up with the likes of City and Liverpool, and to play the extra European games. Up front, Keane may go, leaving the main strikers a bit thin on the ground - but of course we'll have to wait and see who Redknapp can secure, rumours surround Ashley Young (because they need another winger...), Loic Remy would be a better option for me. I think they'll struggle - seventh
Tottenham kept one of the tightest defences last year, which they can mostly thank for their final position, that's reflected in the once-mocked Gomes' high score, however at the back the injury merry-go-round meant that no one did too well, if they continue to utilise injury-prone King and Woodgate then players like Dawson underperform.
In the middle, Bale and Lennon look your best bets, they've come into their own now, Bale remains significantly cheaper despite less match time and a higher score last season, check he starts regularly but he could be a bargain.
Defoe is a solid choice up front, but has never merited his 9 million price tag by breaking into the 20s, he's not bad, but you can get cheaper. Crouchy actually has great value, this is somewhat offset by his propensity to be benched, but as his price has dropped to seven he's actually worth it for assists and goals.
Boing, boing indeed - feels like only yesterday since the Baggies came up and went down again, could this be their season? Personally I think they might do it, they're a bit tougher than the Mowbray era and with Scott Carson shepherding the defence they might just have the capability - there's not a lot here, but good solid teamwork at the back means they're possibly in better shape than champions Newcastle - 16th
(at this point Blogger deleted the last few entries so now we're keeping it short - and yes, I checked it saved) Carson, Olsson, Shorey are value, Mulumbu good sub
Think they're going down, frankly - a couple of purchases doesn't cover their frailty at the back - reliant on Parker, Green and Cole and very vulnerable - 19th
Parker is good value, the two new purchases in midfield are worth looking at, Cole is still cheap and Upson isn't a bad investment
I've tipped them to go down, some exciting new attacking options in Boselli, but at the back they are without cover - Martinez has created a true South American side...Argentina, defence keeps you up - so they will be in the dogfight, 18th
Avoid the defence, stick to N'Zogbia, Rodallega or Boselli
Decent investment from Mick this summer, looking to beat 40 points and achieve relative safety, I'm going for 14th
Craddock should remain great value if he keeps getting on the crosses, Matt Jarvis offered good value last season, he may again, Doyle and Fletcher may be useful at a mere 5.5, if they work well...
6 Aug 2010
Sorry the blog has been left idle for so long...I had hoped to be about during the World Cup but alas real life is more pressing, I'm hoping that the structure of the league will improve the situation
Anyway, I thought I'd get back into the swing of it by looking at last year's predictions
1. Chelsea (1)
2. United (2)
3. Liverpool (7)
4. Arsenal (3)
5. City (5)
6. Everton (8)
7. Villa (6)
8. Spurs (4)
9. Fulham (12)
10. Wigan (16)
11. Bolton (14)
12. Blackburn (10)
13. Stoke (11)
14. Birmingham (9)
15. West Ham (17)
16. Sunderland (13)
17. Wolves (15)
18. Burnley (18)
19. Hull (19)
20. Pompey (20)
Well, it started off alright - I picked the top two (a good sign for my straight forecast this year), and I got City right, and relegation was bang on - but only six perfect overall
I don't know if that's a good figure or not, it goes to show the middle is always the trickiest, and in fairness it's quite random, I'm really only unhappy with Birmingham and Wigan
FA cup - wrong! I said Spurs (Semi)
League Cup - I said United
Champions League - I said Barca (Semi)
First Sacking - I said Brown, who was fifth, first was Paul Hart
Top scorer was Drogba, I said Torres...who came sixth, however had he actually played I would've been right, best goals to game ratio going!
I said West Brom would come up champions - they were runners up
I shall try to get this year's up tomorrow!
5 May 2010
With apologies; it seems there was a bug in the wikio system. Please disregard yesterdays post and here are the updated and correct positions for the Sports Blogs:
Ranking by Wikio
4 May 2010
Here is the sneak preview of the top 25 Sports blogs as ranked by Wikio
Ranking by Wikio
23 Apr 2010
It's suddenly dawned on me, there's only one real issue in this election - getting us the bloody world cup
I don't care about hair-dos, MPs' expenses, or even NI - the first politician who makes it a major election campaign to woo the corrupt FIFA board has got my vote, the economy is screwed whatever happens, but the tournament needs securing
(Let's face it, we'd probably take Beckham over all three of them)
2 Apr 2010
Here is this months cheeky look at the sports rankings:
Ranking by Wikio
27 Mar 2010
Birmingham 1 - 2 Arsenal
Chelsea 2 - 1 Aston Villa
Hull 2 - 1 Fulham
Tottenham 4 - 0 Portsmouth
West Ham 1 - 1 Stoke
Wolves 0 - 2 Everton
15 Mar 2010
As everyone who isn't living in a cave is aware, David Beckham has been on loan to AC Milan in a bid to improve his chances of making the World Cup this summer. That dream has now ended after Beckham tore his Achilles tendon during yesterdays match with Chievo.
I do feel sorry for Beckham but the thing is, if I were Capello I probably would not have taken David Beckham to the World Cup anyway, and thus Fabio Capello and more importantly the England Team can be spared a media backlash from Beckhams absence in South Africa.
There is a good argument that Beckham would be an impact player, who could come from the bench and deliver a vital free kick or corner in the dying minutes of a game that could further our progress. But I would say that any player who is not in consideration of 90 minutes of action per game probably should not be going and I would also say that with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in the team we should not need additional set-piece takers, they are certainly good enough to build our set piece tactics around. Yes, Beckham may still be the best in the world at set piece delivery, but that is not enough on it's own in my book for special consideration.
Beckhams form has not been great for AC Milan, and he has not nailed down a first team slot. So, if he is not good enough to break into the team demolished by Man Utd recently, is he good enough for England?
I wish Beckham well and a speedy recovery and I will look forward to seeing him in his blazer giving his opinion from the BBC match box.
13 Mar 2010
The scores now officially cursed are...
Birmingham 2 - 2 Everton
Bolton 2 - 0 Wigan
Burnely 2 - 1 Wolves
Chelsea 3 - 0 West Ham
Stoke 2 - 2 Aston Villa
Middlesbrough 1 - 2 Newcastle
10 Mar 2010
So, with three-quarters of the season gone how are my pre-season predictions going?
League finish Actual (today)
1. Chelsea Man Utd Close
2. Man Utd Chelsea Still close
3. Liverpool Arsenal Must have confused Liverpool and Arsenal
4. Man City Tottenham Sorry, but it won’t last.
5. Arsenal Man City Nearly
6. Everton Liverpool erm…
7. Tottenham Aston Villa not too bad.
8. Aston Villa Birmingham I was way off! Well done Brum
9. West Ham Everton Injurys, blah, blah, blah!
10. Sunderland Fulham Close again
11. Fulham Stoke Sorry Potters! I am a convert though (now!)
12. Blackburn Blackburn Zing!
13. Bolton Sunderland Come on Brucie!
14. Wigan Bolton Not bad
15. Portsmouth Wigan Another one that is one spot away
16. Birmingham West Ham oops! I’ll blame the Icelanders for that
17. Hull Wolves Still time for the drop zone
18. Stoke Hull This could be the Hull Story, battling to stay above the line
19. Burnley Burnley Bang on again!
20. Wolves Portsmouth I clearly picked the wrong whipping boys.
League Cup – Arsenal (oops, though Wenger and Asenal would be up for a cup run this year)
FA Cup – Liverpool (Blame Rafa, not me!)
Bottom Christmas Day – Stoke (no excuse, they can play football I just hadn’t really noticed)
First Premier Manager to be Sacked – Paul Hart (How come I knew that, but not that they would be bottom?)
Scottish Champions – Rangers (As good as in the bag!)
So my pre-season prediction have been a little off, and there were a few more made on Europe and top scorer to be decided. But arguably these much better than my Super 6 predictions which have been dreadful all year.
Welcome to the Blogroll to Back of the Net which is a thoroughly good read.
3 Mar 2010
Here is the sneak peek at this months Top 20 Sports Blogs as per the unique Wikio ranking's.
Ranking by Wikio
27 Feb 2010
Remember, more likely than not, these are now jinxed!
Birmingham 2 - 1 Wigan
Bolton 2 - 1 Wolves
Burnley 2 - 1 Portsmouth
Leicester 1 - 1 Nottingham Forest
Watford 1 - 2 Newcastle
West Brom 3 - 1 Derby
25 Feb 2010
Wayne Bridge today declared that he is ruling himself out of contention for the World Cup. In a short statement this morning the Manchester City defender claimed that his presence within the England squad was potentially divisive and as such, he did not wish to be selected.
It would seem that Bridge has done some soul-searching and decided that it is an impossible situation for him to play alongside his former friend and ex-captain. Fabio Capello was questioned earlier today on his return to England from South Africa and refused to make a comment.
The decision also means that Capello is without his first and second choice left-backs for the Egypt friendly and attention will turn to Stephen Warnock and Leighton Baines, both of whom should get some minutes on the pitch now.
Bridge's decision vindicates Capello's decision to strip Terry of his Captaincy over the affair. The situation of Bridge potentially being available for selection but ruling himself out because of his captains actions warrant that Terry cannot be captain if his own actions damage the strength of selection available to the manager.
Here is the statement:
"I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks,
"It has always been an honour to play for England. However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive.
"Sadly therefore I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection.
"I have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the very best in South Africa."
24 Feb 2010
Ashley Cole just got caught doing 104mph in a 50mph zone. When questioned by police to why he was speeding he said I've just heard John Terry is parked outside my house!
20 Feb 2010
Here's my Super 6 Prediction...
Arsenal 3 - 0 Sunderland
West Ham 2 - 1 Hull City
Wolves 0 - 2 Chelsea
Newcastle 3 - 0 Preston
Nottingham Forest 2 - 1 Middlesbrough
Sheffield Wednesday 2 - 1 Ipswich
No Grab5Grand today.
19 Feb 2010
Ok, this has got to be the most subjective application of a rule I've seen - Wolves have been fined £25,000 for:
'Not fielding a full-strength team' - how on earth do you decide that? I know this one got done to death a few months back, but it really does defy common sense when all teams rest players
the team fielded in their league fixture against Manchester United on 15 December 2009 was not full strength and therefore in breach of Rule E20.
"The board also deemed that the club had failed to fulfil its obligations to the league and other clubs in the utmost good faith and was therefore in breach of Rule B13.
I did this myself, and as I pointed out then, while the media may report 'ten changes' - at least four of those ten were perfectly acceptable first-team players, so he was almost swapping first and second stringers across two games
If you take that view into account then how can you not question when Liverpool play a defensive midfield and go on to lose to Portsmouth? I had this argument with Robbo - his point was that when Arsenal/United etc rest players in the cup, or before a big European game, they are still aiming to win...right
Even though they don't..., as we've seen three of the big four knocked out of the FA cup, Liverpool crash in the league and Champions' League and so forth - why is this any different? These are managerial decisions that result in defeat being more likely, unless we are saying that McCarthy actually set out to lose, which would be match-fixing, then all we are doing is passing judgement on his team
Only one member of that team was a débutante, about half were regular players (such as Mancienne, Zubar, Foley, and David Jones, who have all played the last five matches) the rest were usually subs - take an example: before Robinho went, City had five major strikers in their squad - if they don't play the ones we decide are the best, then surely they should be fined too?
What we're saying is that Wolves' bench-warmers aren't good enough to play, but teams like Chelsea have a good enough team in reserve...even if they subsequently lose
I'm making no comment of the quality of the Wolves side that went out, simply that it stinks of a subjective, opinionated decision to fine a small team for something that big teams get away with all the time because some people have decided that these players aren't worthy, personally I don't think it's a fair application of the 'law', it's arbitrary and the rule is probably not even workable short of sending out a team of 12-year olds (the Carling Cup presumably doesn't have these rules...)
I presume from now on the Premier League will be informing all managers, especially teams like Hull, West Ham, Burnley etc who they must field each week
14 Feb 2010
I was at the Oxford United v Histon game yesterday and it was quite an experience. The game managed to bring (from memory) 5,360 into attendance, though Histons contribution seemed from where I was sat to number only 33. There may have been a few more in the directors box, and I am told Teddy Sheringham was also there to watch his son who came on in the second half for Histon.
Despite the cold stadium, the fans gave a fantastically warm welcome and are vocal and passionate. Despite not living locally (any longer) I shall be going back because it was a great day.
The reason for writing this was the shockingly poor linesman at the game. I mean shocking. He probably came up with the away fans, because he was either on the take or of exceptionally poor eye sight. In the first half, he gave Oxford offside when the there were two Histon players a full 10 yards ahead of the play… this was not one of those slow motion jobbies we see on Sky Sports where there is a cigarette paper in it; you could have parked a couple of cars in that space. A few minutes later, gave the very worst offside decision ever given in a game of football anywhere in the world in the history of time. Oxford were given offside, when not only not being in an advance position of a number of defenders, but also whilst not having a single player past the halfway line in the opponents half. There were at least three more offside’s given when there were one or more Histon players keeping Oxford’s advances onside, again not by a small margin.
Histons gameplan was clearly to kick and scrap their way through the tie, and were not afraid to get a little over physical. There was the cross-throat-drag-down in the box, that went unnoticed only by the ref and his comically unaware linesman as well as a number of other challenges that would not look out of place in a MMA arena. Histon did get one red card, and several yellow cards – but should count themselves fortunate not to have been reduced to 7 men and under police investigation for assault.
The officials got the brunt of the fan’s fury, and rightly so. But if the officiating is typical of the Conference level and below the FA really need to get these guys to start watching a video of their mistakes and their decisions. They should start with this game, which could provide a big contribution to any refereeing bloopers Christmas DVD.
12 Feb 2010
I have a few issues, and, as always at the moment, am short on time
Firstly, the most pressing issue is the Ashley Cole injury - I know it's a fairytale (or some sort of fictional account) that Wayne Bridge could be called up to play alongside Terry (his arch-nemesis!!!) but can we be serious for a minute here? A week ago most commentators didn't even expect Bridge to make the squad...now he's first choice? This is a man who's played about 2 hours in over 2 months, and has struggled with form all season - Fabio picks on form, not potential, and the fact that Bridge is now a contender shows how weak we are at left-back currently
Bridge is a shoe-in if Cole isn't fit because our only other proper left-backs are Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock, personally I'd want Baines with Cole, but it shows an incredible frailty within the squad, although Cole is easily one of the best left-backs in the world, so maybe we have too-high standards
Next I have some issues with the media - number 1 - 'innocent-party' Bridge has not said a word - does he even care?? I bloody don't...
2) Terry was not dropped on 'moral' grounds, and it's not about English sensibilities - it's about our media and the fact that Capello is a wise man and didn't want his figurehead plagued by a media scrum during the tournament, the English press, unlike their European cousins, are bloodthirsty and love a good sex scandal, nobody is offended that he cheated (except his missus of course)
Ok, that's off my chest, moving on to this weekend...
Chelsea are considered red-hot favourites (BBC) now that the other big four teams are gone and it's only the fifth round, but the way I see it, there are still 16 teams and that gives quite good odds of Chelsea going out to a 'cupset' - normally we'd have another 2 or 3 of the big boys left, one upset is to be expected, so I just see Chelsea as the last pin standing - so I don't expect a waltz to the trophy from here, and although they only face a weakened Cardiff without Terry and Cole, they've been pretty patchy lately, a tricky away tie in the next two stages could give us an interesting result
So the big question is...who will win? Surely Villa, Spurs and City are the only serious contenders, and if not them it'd be an amazing result...Bolton for the cup?
Personally I think it's Villa's time
edit: and also - in response to the Euro 2012 qualifiers - is it just me or is it somewhat easier than the world cup draw, despite using the same system? There's only one extra spot to be won, but I don't really see any bad groups, England's hardest ask is mighty Switzerland, while Portugal only have to deal with Denmark...oh wait
Seriously though, I just can't see any really tasty groups, aside from the odd local derby few decent teams face a threat - although looking at it I think it's solely down to there not being three good sides in our group and Croatia effectively moving to the ridiculous group 2, maybe it's just a bit more even this time, but I'm sure France can cock up Bosnia and Romania...again
So in conclusion - 24 teams is going to be a joke...but Scotland will at least get a play-off
7 Feb 2010
Republic of Ireland
Bye to finals (hosts)
6 Feb 2010
Ladbrokes Grab5Grand is on again this week, here's my predictions:
Man Utd 3 - 0 Portsmouth
Burnley 2 - 1 West Ham
Bolton 1 - 2 Fulham
Ipswich 2 - 1 Middlesbro
Notts Forrest 3 - 1 Sheff Wed
Here is my regular Super 6 entry.
Bolton 2 - 1 Fulham
Burnley 2 - 1 West Ham
Hull City 0 - 2 Man City
Man Utd 3 - 0 Portsmouth
Stoke 2 - 1 Blackburn
Sunderland 2 - 0 Wigan
Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I have reversed the Bolton v Fulham score, basically this is just because I think it could go either way and my general rule when predicting Fulham scores is to bet 2-1 as most of their games in the Premier League have, over a period of time, tended to end up that way.
Good luck everyone!
5 Feb 2010
It seems that Fabio had already made his mind up and todays meeting lasted just 12 minutes. I think it probably is the right decision, mostly because of his actions having an effect on an England team mate in Wayne Bridge.
Congratulations to Rio, who I suspected would be an England and Man Utd captain one day, and I also suspect he will want to quickly make people forget how he became Captain by putting in some strong performances.
Hopefully we can all focus on the World Cup now!
3 Feb 2010
Me again, and I have more from Dan at Wikio.
There is a new function that is a fantastic enhancement to the existing Wikio Ranking System. Those in the know will be aware of the broad categories upon which the various Wikio rankings are compiled, such as Sports, Politics, Technology etc…
However, Wikio have now about to take the ranking system a step further, and have developed a new sub-ranking system. So, in future, the categories that you are familiar with will also be available split into sub-rankings.
For example. .. Here, as a sneak peek is the sub-rankings for the football blogs, as a sub-ranking to the UK Sports blog list I published a few minutes ago…
Ranking by Wikio
It’s a brave new world people.