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Friday, 28 October 2011

Has the tide turned in Manchester?

Sunday 23rd October 2011. This is the date that Manchester City fans will remember for the rest of their lives. The day they mauled their arch rivals Manchester United 6-1, at Old Trafford - United's heaviest defeat since 1955.

Safe trip back to London
As much as the result was impressive, many people were instead asking the question Have the sky blues taken over from their city rivals?

One look at the squads of both sides and you feel that the answer is yes. Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney  Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are United's four main men in the striking department whereas City have numerous top class strikers to choose from in Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and until January at least, Carlos Tevez.  The City midfield has an array of talent too - Samir Nasri, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Adam Johnson, Nigel De Jong, James Milner and Gareth Barry are the regulars that Italian gaffer Roberto Mancini tinkers with whereas United, under Sir Alex Ferguson seem to have much less of an influence in the middle of the park since the retirement of Paul Scholes.

Scholes was key to the United midfield
The central midfield options of Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Darron Gibson shows you that United certainly lack quality in that department and teams could, similarly like City and David Silva did on Sunday simply play their way through the middle of United's midfield.  There is no ball winner or Roy Keane like hardman in the middle. Anderson always flatters to deceive, Cleverley is an up and coming youngster, Carrick is not worls class, Fletcher... how has he won everything he's won? Should be playing for an average Premier League team such as QPR, Everton or everbody's second favourite team; Fulham.

At the back United, without Nemanja Vidic look extremely vulnerable.  In my view, Rio Ferdinand's best days are behind him. Its alright being rated 86 overall on Fifa 12 but in real life, sadly for Rio he is not up to the standard.  Speaking of not being up to standard I move on to Jonny Evans who seems to have been around for years but a quick look tells me the Northern Irishman is still only 23 years old. Evans always seemed dodgy to me and had another poor game for the Red Devils on Sunday with "Super Mario" Balotelli tormenting him, turning him and then getting Evans to bring him down which ultimately saw the former Sunderland loanee sent off.  As well as Evans you have two youngsters in there in Chris "Did you know he used to play for Maidstone" Smalling and Phil Jones - I do wish the commentators would stop going on about Smalling's past   I must have been told he played for a local Kent side about 2,028 times now. Jones is decent though and I feel he will be a regular England player in a year or two. Patrice Evra has also been a consistent performer over the years.

Smalling played for Maidstone dontchaknow!
Finally, the goalkeeper. David De Gea arrived with most United fans going on about just how great this bearded Spaniard is.  As far as I have seen De Gea flaps at crosses, doesn't save the easier shots and gets nutmegged a lot.  Yes, he maybe decent in the future but at this moment in time isn't that good in my opinion.  Maybe Sir Alex should give Kuszczak a go?

United can't believe their luck... Karma...
City on the other hand have a real leader in the Belgian stopper Vincent Kompany and ex-Everton player Jolean Lescott who I have to admit I have never been a massive fan of but he has had a terrific start to the season it has to be said.  At right back, Micah Richards is the man bombing forward to help City attack.  Richards should be in the England team in my view. Always seems to give his all but for some reason Capello overlooks him... having said that this is Capello we are talking about here... City also have two good left backs to choose from in Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy - Both are very very attacking.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart is a reliable man to have inbetween the posts. 24 years old and still has a lot of time on his side. Excellent keeper who pulls of some top class saves but you do feel he has a mistake in him.

David Silva wheels away in delight after netting
So, on the pitch City have the advantage.

Off the pitch, money helps of course but you also need to buy the correct players. For the first time since the Sheikh factor was introduced, City seemed to play as a real "Team" on Sunday and looked brilliant.  If things aren't going well then I'm sure Mancini can sign a few decent players.  With Tevez probably on his way to the Manchester Airport Departures Lounge in January, City are likely to go out and get another forward when the transfer window re-opend. I know just the player, a young Argentine who plays in La Liga, decent prospect, quick, good brain, scores a few goals and seems to have a good attitude... thats it, Gonzalo Higuain!

United. Well, for starters they do need a central midfield hardman in there, being the Football Manager scout that I am, they could probably get someone like Roma's Danielle De Rossi fairly cheap. Another centre back and maybe another keeper should be top of Fergie's wishlist.

Has the pendulum swung in City's favour?  Yes! 6-1 is a rout no matter what team you are.  Add to the fact its against a team that are top of the league and away to your arch rivals show City mean business!

Monday, 10 October 2011

"Fat Frank" Biting Back on Critics

Despite the new Barclays Premier League season being just two months old and seven months in, this campaign has already been a topsy-turvy one for Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard.

Lampard had started the first five of the Blues league campaign since new boss Andre Villas-Boas arrived from Porto before being dropped for the home match against Swansea City.  Villas-Boas' side dominating despite being reduced to ten men after Fernando Torres' lunge on Swans' winger Mark Gower and ending up 4-1 winners.  New signings Juan Mata from Valencia and Portuguese Raul Meireles from Liverpool had greatly impressed and the pressure was now on for the number 8. to nail down his starting place in the team after ten years as a mainstay in the team under numerous managers; Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.

Won't Mata? : Juan's arrival put pressure on Lamps

Questions were being asked of the 33 year old as to whether the time had come for a younger, fresher alternative and whether he was past his sell by date.

Villas-Boas was quick to quash talk of Lampard's time being up at Chelsea saying ‘Frank is an established, top-quality player, one of the most important at the club. He has nothing to prove to the football world. He will continue to succeed in this club and be a big player for Chelsea for as long as I am here.’
Time up? : AVB won't blow the full time whistle on Frank
On the Tuesday it was Champions League night for the west-Londoners where they travelled to the Mestalla, home of La Liga side Valencia and it was Lampard, starting the game, who put the away side in front in the second half.  Despite Chelsea having chances to kill the game off, substitute Salomon Kalou handled in the area allowing Roberto Soldado to equalise from the penalty spot late on. Lampard though announced that he felt he did enough to warrant a start at Bolton Wanderers the following Saturday.  "I've missed out on a few games recently but you have to keep on top of yourself, work hard and when you get your chance you have to show. That's what I tried to do tonight.  It's a big squad and the manager has to do what he sees fit. If he wants to bring young players through at times you have to go along with that."

Lampard opened the scoring in Spain
Lampard was in the starting XI at The Reebok Stadium and had a fine game; netting a hat-trick, his fifth in Chelsea colours and his 119th goal in Blue to take him into the top five of Chelsea's all time top scorers list. The game finished Bolton 1-5 Chelsea.  

Heavens above!: Lampard celebrates after scoring vs. Bolton

Frank Lampard; the finished article? I don't think so and I feel he will be a key member of the Chelsea AND England team for a few more years yet.  I find it sad that someone who I feel has been an excellent player and a good role model for many, many years has come in for some unjustified stick.  

Write Lamps off at your peril!!!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Forest's Forgettable Week

Its been a little bit of a mad week at the City Ground this week. Actually its been a few mad weeks at the Midlands club to be honest.

Pressure had been on the now ex-Reds manager Steve McLaren from the start of the former Wolfsburg gaffer's tenure at Nottingham Forest and the high profile gamble just had not worked out.  Notable defeats has occurred, in particular the 2-1 home defeat to bitter rivals Derby County where the Rams had 'keeper Frank Fielding sent off after just 2 minutes of the game starting.

On paper, Forest have a very decent squad at Championship level - the likes of goalkeeper Lee Camp, midfielder Lewis McGugan and right back Chris Gunter are all top players who could possibly play at a higher level yet it just hasn't worked out. Perhaps you will look at the forward line and feel that the likes of Matt Derbyshire and Ismael Miller will not fire you to a league title. For me, Robert Earnshaw, who left on a free transfer to Championship rivals Cardiff City will always get plenty of goals at this level. Another player who departed for pastures new was Nathan Tyson, who, despite being a battering ram, excuse the pun (Tyson is now playing for Derby County) will get his fair share of goals.

Earnshaw = Goals

The final straw was the home defeat to Birmingham City last Sunday where the team lost 3-1 despite going 1-0 up, booed off the pitch at full time and soon later ex-England boss McLaren resigned from his position after just 112 days at the helm, leaving the former two times European Cup winners sitting in 21st place in the nPower Championship and without a home league win all season.

Good times ahead?: Things soon turned sour for McLaren
The next person to announce they were leaving their position was Forest chairman Nigel Doughty.  Doughty, a  lifelong fan of the club accepted that he was to blame for McLaren's poor Forest career.  "It was a very poor decision on my behalf to appoint him"  Doughty admitted. The chairman who had been top dog at Forest for 10 years had seen 7 permanent managers enter and then exit the City ground doors in his tenure told BBC that he would "I felt it was appropriate I take some responsibility and am stepping down as well as we find a replacement".

So... just who will take the top job at Nottingham Forest Football Club?  The rumour mill has already started; Peterborough's Darren Ferguson has ruled himself out of the running and names such as Martin O'Neil, Roy Keane, Dave Jones, MK Dons manager Karl Robinson, Sean O'Driscoll, Alan Shearer and even a possible shock return to the east Midlands for Billy Davies, the Scotsman took Forest to two consecutive play-off semi-finals before Doughty swung the axe on Davies two-year Forest managerial career. 

Whoever takes the plunge to become the boss at a club, based alongside the River Trent, expectations to get in the play-offs at the very least will be high but, first and foremost the new man may very well face a relegation battle on their hands.

Davies knows what it takes
Ferguson: Out of the running