Archive for the ‘nPower Championship’ Category

Loan signings are cheating.  I mean how can Emmanuel Adebayor transform Tottenham Hotspur’s season and perhaps in the long run cost his parent club Manchester City the Premier League title?

For all of the praise the Premier League receives for being the best league in the world, it is fundamentally flawed in that it allows loan deals internally within the same league.

Jamie O’Hara last season joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Spurs and was a major influence in keeping Wolves in the Premier League. When the tenacious centre midfielder joined Mick McCarthy’s side were languishing in 19th position and eventually avoided relegation by one place and one point. Although you can’t say single handedly that the Englishman pulled Wolves from the brink but you could definitely argue that would have David Edwards and Karl Henry impacted as much in the middle of the park as O’Hara did?

Birmingham City were the team to take the unwanted final place back in the Championship but not because Wolves squad was better than theirs it was because Tottenham Hotspur’s reserves were. How can Spurs influence both ends of the table?

If you can’t loan out players between one Premiership team and another, then league’s such as the Championship are the next best option. The benefits of sending the likes of Adebayor, Jamie O’Hara and Yossi Benayoun out on loan to the lower leagues of English football are huge. Players of clubs such as Cardiff, Bristol City and Watford would learn and gain so much from having players who have Champions League, Premier League and World Cup experience within their team.

At a time where the gulf between Premier League and the Championship is currently criticised as being too big of a step up, surely an influx of experienced international footballer’s within the lesser ranks of English football will help bridge that ever increasing gap?

If we ban in the Premier League surely you’d have to prevent loan deals to teams with the same tournaments too? Adebayor couldn’t join Real Madrid, Quaresma couldn’t join Chelsea and Tevez couldn’t join AC Milan on loan (If the rumours are true). However we would expect Andy Carroll to score for Liverpool before we see a swift decision made by the footballing bodies.

The conflict of interests between loan deals is massive and yet in an era that has seen Serie A basically closed down due to match fixing, the most obvious form of ‘influencing’ games is a legitimate rule within football.

Overall if the rules were to change and internal loans were banned, the team that would benefit the most is Sunderland…as they’d get to send Nicklas Bendtner back.

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Aston Villa’s attempts to find a new manager after Gerard Houiller’s resignation have been about as successful as Titus Bramble attempts’ to be a consistent defender. The media circus has speculated the likes of Mark Hughes and Rafael Benitez were in the running for the Villa Park hot seat, however in recent days Alex McLeish has become favourite with the bookies after his surprising resignation from Birmingham. Is McLeish the right man to get Villa dreaming of European nights again though?

I will start with the ‘elephant in the room’. McLeish has managed arch rivals Birmingham City for four years, and as a football fan, I would be livid if my team hired a former manager of a local rival no matter how successful. It was reported Steve McClaren wasn’t interviewed for the current post due to a fan backlash so the Villa board cancelled their meeting with the former Wolfsburg boss, this was all due to McClaren’s unsuccessful spell with England but since then he has proven himself to be a successful manager, well more successful than McLeish so surely a fan backlash will be even greater if the former Birmingham man is appointed?

McLeish did lead Birmingham to Carling Cup success this season, which in turn brings European football to St Andrew’s next season, but his side appeared to suffer from a Cup Final hangover and went on a terrible run of results which culminated in their relegation. McLeish has taken Birmingham down twice now (admittedly the first time he was only in charge for six months) but the point is Villa had an out of character relegation threatened season under Houiller this season, and will be looking to finish in the top six again next year, so appointing a man whose only taste of Premier League football is relegation is hardly the correct move.

Martin O’Neill’s time at Villa Park had the Villa faithful dreaming of Champions League football. O’Neill was a manager who always pushed the boundaries, wanted Villa to achieve more and more and it is no coincedence since the former Leicester City boss has left Aston Villa they’re in a decline. Randy Lerner should look to appoint a young visionary of a manager, who can reshape the club from top to bottom and McLeish is most certainly not that man. Despite all his success in Scotland, McLeish has earnt a reputation as a stern and strict manager, and as the saying goes ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.

Reports have suggested that this week Liverpool will open up negotiations with Blackpool over their midfield talisman Charlie Adam, who enjoyed a remarkable season in the Premier League, attracting many potential suitors. Liverpool are widely expected to continue their January transfer market approach by spending big, but is the former Rangers man actually needed on Merseyside?

Well, why wouldn’t a big side want Adam’s 12 goals and 9 assists? Imagine the statistics the Blackpool man could achieve next season with the likes of Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard around him. But perhaps the reason the Scot has done so well is because he was one of, if not the, main attacking outlet at Blackpool; on Merseyside he would be in amongst several world class players in the final third. Would Adam thrive or get lost in amongst some of football’s biggest names?

Tactically Adam is an ideal signing for any manager to have, centre midfield, attacking midfielder or even a deep lying striker, but who would he replace? Kenny Dalglish appears to already be onto a winning formation, so too much transfer activity could hinder his rebuilding process. If Adam were to join though, I simply cannot see who he would replace. Lucas’ performances have improved greatly this season, and he is the only defensive minded midfielder in the starting line up, so sacrificing the Brazilian would be foolish. Steven Gerrard is obviously the first name on the team sheet (even if his influence has dropped in the last couple of seasons) and then you have Raul Meireles and the returning Alberto Aquilani to consider. The main issue I would have in signing Adam is the impact it would have on Jonjo Shelvey and Jay Spearing, both youngsters who have enjoyed breakthrough seasons and are key in what ‘King Kenny’ is trying to achieve at Liverpool, but signing another centre midfielder would no doubt force the two Englishman out on loan or reduce them to merely a few league cup appearances. Oh, and there is of course a certain Jordan Henderson to consider.

The one thing Adam would add to Liverpool’s play is his ability from set pieces. Liverpool have always relied on Steven Gerrard for his free kicks, but when the Englishman isn’t available Liverpool lack that threat from free kicks and corners. Fabio Aurelio clearly demonstrates superb technique from short free kicks too, but since Liverpool are pursuing a new left back and with the Brazilian, now in the twilight of his career, already fighting for a place at full back with the ever-improving Martin Kelly and England international Glen Johnson, he will presumably have to settle for a place on the bench for much of next season. The Scotland international has a delightful left foot, that delivered some of the best corners last season as well as scoring a couple of contenders for Goal of the Season from set pieces.

Adam’s sweet left foot surely isn’t worth £10 million though? Because in this writer’s humble opinion, that’s the only attribute Liverpool will be gaining in signing the guy who didn’t even get Blackpool’s player of the season award for the 2010/11 campaign.

This season will be remembered for the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Gareth Bale and Javier Hernandez and quite rightly so, all three players were in inspired form the whole season and became pivotal to their respective teams achievements. However you can be forgiven for thinking these three players were the only three to play well last season, such was the media frenzy surrounding them. There were several players who finally proved their worth after a couple of poor seasons or finally lived up to their price tag or billing.

Here are my Top TEN most improved players

Rafael (Manchester United)

When Gary Neville announced his retirement there wasn’t a worrying look on United fans’ faces like there is now after Paul Scholes announced his retirement, and that is all due to the improved performances of Rafael. The Brazilian was always renowned for his energetic runs up and down the right hand side flank but his defending left a lot to be desired, but this season saw Rafael become a stronger tackler of the ball and just an all round more composed defender.

Joey Barton (Newcastle United)

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that the former Manchester City player has been instrumental in Newcastle’s successful first season back in the Premier League. The Englishman’s range of passing has been his one stand out improvement, with Barton displaying the ability to find that defence splitting pass either from the centre of midfield or on the right flank.

Ben Foster (Birmingham City)

We all (quite rightly) wrote Foster off after Paul Robinson’s goal kick goal against him in 2007, but the former Manchester United keeper has come back fighting. Foster has been named man of the match on several occasions this season, most notably the Carling Cup final, where he made several world class saves to help Birmingham win the trophy. With the burden of being Edwin Van Der Sar’s under study off his back, the Englishman looks to finally be the goalkeeper we were all promised back in 2005.

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Leighton Baines (Everton)

How Fabio Capello must be regretting the decision to take Stephen Warnock instead of Baines to South Africa last summer, after the Englishman’s inspired season for Everton. The former Wigan defended strongly and looked composed on the ball, however it is his attacking exploits that have caught the eye of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City with the Englishman helping his team’s cause with 11 assists this season.

Samir Nasri (Arsenal)

Major transfer activity is expected at the Emirates this summer but maintaining Nasri’s services should be Wenger’s priority after the season the Frenchman has just had. Outshining captain Cesc Fabregas and making Arsenal fans realise there is life after the Spaniard, Nasri’s goals’, trickery and all round work ethic have made him a joy to behold this season, a different player from the previous two rather mundane and uneventful campaigns.

Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Two years of criticism, abuse and ridcule from the Red Devils faithful, the former Spurs front man has come up with the ‘goods’ without really altering his playing style. Leading the Premier League goal scoring charts for the majority of the season is no easy feat, especially when you rarely start games, but the Bulgarian managed it and despite this is still rumoured to be on the move (how’s that for gratitude).

Johan Elmander (Bolton Wanderers)

The £8.2 million spent by Bolton to acquire the Swede’s services looked better served being spent on Michael Ricketts after a rather bleak start to Elmander’s career. However the beginning of this season saw the former Toulouse striker in free scoring form, including a contender for goal of the season. The goals dried up in the second half of the season but Elmander’s influence continued with his fantastic work rate, as well as forming a successful understanding with striking partners Kevin Davies and Daniel Sturridge.

Matthew Etherington (Stoke City)

The former West Ham United player looked a broken man after admitting to a gambling addiction but Tony Pulis showed faith in the winger and is reaping the rewards this season. Etherington’s crosses were almost as valuable as Rory Delap’s throw ins, with his continual supply of pin point crosses to Stoke’s several aerial threats.

Lucas Leiva (Liverpool)

Funny old game football, the Brazilian was deemed useless and a laughing stock at the end of the 2010 season but 38 Premier League games later Lucas is now the midfield lynchpin. With Steven Gerrard out for a fair bit of the season, someone needed to step into the middle and fill the hole the Englishman left and Lucas duly obliged. With consistent and hard working performances throughout this campaign the former Gremio player has shown former manager Rafael Benitez why he was wrong to play him out of position for a large portion of his tenure.

Stewart Downing (Aston Villa)

The former Middlesbrough player looked to be drowning under the expectations that fans’ and pundits’ alike had for him after a poor debut season. However this season the England international has turned his game around, contributing the level of assists’ and goals’ an attacking winger should, as well as forming a fantastic partnership with fellow Englishmen Ashley Young and Darren Bent in the process.

The majority of plaudits from White Hart Lane this season have gone to Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart and there is no denying both players deserve all the praise they get. However for me, it is Spurs’ Luka Modric that has been the ‘heartbeat’ of everything positive the Lilywhites have done this season, with his determination, range of passing and the odd goal scored, the diminutive Croatian has been a star performer this Premier League season. It is such attributes that have caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson, who is looking to replace the now retired Paul Scholes and the Manchester United boss is reportedly readying a £25 million bid for the former Dinamo Zagreb player. If Modric were to leave North London, are there any natural replacements for the influential midfielder?

Charlie Adam

The Blackpool man was subject to a failed deadline day bid by Tottenham in January and Harry Redknapp is supposedly still keen to bring the former Rangers man to White Hart Lane, especially if Modric does seek pastures new. Adam has a more attacking presence to his play than Modric, with Adam’s twelve Premier League goals for Blackpool last season being one of the main things preventing them from being relegated sooner. The Blackpool man was the driving force behind the Tangerine’s play, much like Modric is for Tottenham, and cold easily slot into the Spurs team (with a slight formation adjustment). Tottenham play a 4-4-2 but Adam’s style of play is more suited to a diamond formation, with the Scot playing just behind the forwards, which would mean Sandro playing as an out and out defensive midfielder (much like he does already).

Scott Parker

It seems weird to say but this has been Scott Parker’s ‘coming of age’ season, despite being 30 years old; he has received the international recognition he deserves as well as being named FWA Footballer of the year. The former Charlton midfielder has been praised throughout this season, not just from West Ham fans, for his tenacious style of play and unbelievable work ethic. The midfielder would add a much needed bite to the Tottenham midfielder, something that Jenas, Sandro and Huddlestone don’t bring in abundance, or if any at all. The former Chelsea man is a leader, a fighter and could influence games in the same manner that Modric does.

Lassana Diarra

The Real Madrid midfielder is reportedly available for transfer as Jose Mourinho looks to raise funds for his own transfer spree this summer. I know with the Arsenal and Chelsea connection, many will slate me in the comments below but for me Diarra would be a huge assest to the Spurs side, with his strong play and ability to break up the play. Many believe selling the Frenchman was one of Wenger’s biggest mistakes in recent years, after impressive seasons and performances for Portsmouth and Real Madrid. Diarra is hardly a ‘like for like’ replacement with his more defensive mentality but the former Pompey player can play higher up the field, however my argument for signing Diarra is the balance it would bring to Spurs formation. Last season ‘Arry played a ridiculously attacking formation, at a huge cost to defensive duties, with Diarra in the middle alongside Sandro and Jenas (still think he is useless), would allow Gareth Bale and Rafael Van Der Vaart more attacking freedom (not sure Bale needs anymore) but VDV carely demonstrated last year his unwillingness to track back, such a formation wouldn’t require him to as much.

Let me know how stupid you think I am for including Diarra at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Daniel-T-Blazer/185495024836102

It is always argued that the gulf in talent between the Championship and the Premier League is the biggest in the world of football, with regards to the top two tiers in each country. Scoring consistently in the Championship, although impressive, doesn’t necessarily mean a player can maintain his scoring ability in the Premier League, and over the years’ numerous players have single handedly got their teams promoted to the top tier of English football, only to disappoint when there. Steve Morrision, Danny Graham and Shane Long all have had impressive seasons with their respective clubs and are all expected to be subject to bids from several Premier League clubs, but will they join such lists as these ones as success stories or failures? Only time will tell, but until then here are my top five players who either failed to make the grade or excelled in the Premier League.

Shefki Kuqi

The big Finnish striker formed a formidable partnership with Darren Bent in the 2004-2005 season for Ipswich Town, netting an impressive twenty league goals. The striker’s excellent season earnt him a move to Blackburn Rovers, were he failed to continue his goal scoring form netting a measly seven goals in thirty four appearances. Kuqi also went on to have an uninspiring spell at Newcastle United this season, with six substitute appearances bringing no goals.

Michael Chopra

Spent six years with Newcastle United, managing only one goal in less than 25 appearances, however after making the drop down to the Championship with Cardiff City Chopra scored a goal every two games for Welsh side, earning him a move back up to the top flight with Sunderland. In 38 games the former Newcastle player managed only eight goals, which resulted in several loan moves back to Cardiff before he returned permanently after a less than successful stint in the Premier League.

Robert Earnshaw

Made a name for himself playing for Cardiff City scoring nearly eighty goals in 178 competitive appearances, and earnt a reputation as a ‘fox in the box’ type player. In his two Premier League stints, the Welsh forward was anything but a ‘fox in the box’, for West Brom he managed only twelve Premier League goals in two seasons and Earnshaw managed only one goal in 22 appearances for Derby County.

David Nugent

Over two Championship season’s the, then Preston North End striker scored 25 goals in 75 appearances earning him England recognition as well as a move to Premier League side Portsmouth, and that’s about as good as it got for the Bury striker. It took the Englishman eighteen months to score his first Premier League goal, and much like buses his second one came along just two matches later, however these would be his only top flight goals for the club. Nugent joined Burnley on a season long loan for 2009-10 season and tripled his goal tally from the season before, scoring a poor six goals in thirty games.

But there is always one exception

Tim Cahill

The Australian international earnt a reputation as Millwall’s ‘workhorse’ during his time at the club, arguably the main driving force by The Lions run to the 2004 FA Cup final. The former Sydney United player managed an impressive 56 goals in 249 appearances for the club before sealing a move to Everton for £1.5 million, which is now viewed as one of the bargains of the last decade. Cahill has gone on to become The Toffee’s main attacking outlet and all round ‘star’ player since his move from Millwall, winning Everton’s player of the season and player’s player in the process.

Yeah you’re right, I probably should have included Darren Bent, have a go at me for not doing so at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Daniel-T-Blazer/185495024836102

Everyone is predicting the usual Arsene Wenger transfer activity, making promises that there will be changes but come the final minute of deadline day, Le Professeur will either sign an unknown and lets face it pointless squad player or no-one at all. Like so many transfer windows before, there are potential signings that are ideal for Arsenal and staring Wenger in the face, with fans, ex-players and pundits all calling for the Frenchman to open up the cheque book, but in his usual stubborn way Wenger refuses and Premier League rivals snap up the perfect signing for the Gunners instead. Here are the five players I think the Frenchman should sign, to which he will reply “I did not see them”.

Scott Parker

The West Ham midfielder has stated his desire to return to the Premier League following the Hammers relegation and will face no shortage of admirers, including Tottenham Hotspur. Surely the pleasure of getting one over your fiercest rivals in the transfer market is incentive enough, before you even consider the positives Parker would bring. The former Chelsea midfielder would add all the attributes this current Arsenal squad has been criticised for not having: experience, passion and strength in the middle of the park.

Gonzalo Higuain

Reportedly available for £15 million as Mourinho looks to fund his own transfer spree, Higuain is the perfect striking partner for Robin Van Persie. The Argentinian has an impressive goal scoring record for Real Madrid and has all the attributes of a world class finisher, something Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh seriously lack. The forward would happily share the goal scoring burden that has rested solely on Van Persie in the second half of the season.

Maarten Stekelenberg

Many believe Wojciech Szczesny is the man for Arsenal between the sticks for many years to come, but for me I’m undecided. Making a move for current Ajax goalkeeper Martin Stekelenberg would give Arsenal that world class keeper that have tried to find since Seaman. All the keepers since the Englishman have hardly been household names, Arsenal fans are crying out for a Iker Casillas or Gigi Buffon, someone who has pedigree behind their name, and the Dutchman can offer them that.

Yoann Gourcuff

With Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri widely expected to leave this summer, the Lyon midfielder could step in to become that playmaker Arsenal will need. The Frenchman has earnt comparisions to Zinedine Zidane for his passing style and all round ability, with David Ginola claiming that Gourcuff is the best French player of his generation. The former AC Milan player can play in the attacking midfielder role but also as a withdrawn striker, something Arsenal could find very useful with regards to finding the ideal striking partner for Robin Van Persie.

Miguel Veloso

Although Arsenal have Alex Song as their strong defensive midfielder, more than one occasion this season the Cameroonian has gone missing. Veloso would bring consistency with regards to crucial interceptions and forceful tackles, as well as that leadership quality Arsenal have lacked for several seasons. Another bonus of signing the Portugese international is, rather surprisingly, he is a very accomplished left back, so should Gael Clichy leave this summer, the former Benfica player could be a candidate to replace the Frenchman.

Who do you think Wenger should sign http://www.facebook.com/pages/Daniel-T-Blazer/185495024836102