Archive for the ‘West Ham United’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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The biggest (un)surprise in football happened on the 15th May when West Ham United announced they had parted company with Avram Grant after only eleven months in charge. Naturally the media circus started instantly with regards to who was going to take up the Upton Park hot seat and it is rumoured that former Blackburn and Bolton manager Sam Allardyce has emerged as favourite. Is ‘Big Sam’ really the man to bring back Premier League football to Upton Park?

Allardyce has a reputation for managing sides that play ‘ugly’ football, his Bolton side continually rubbed Arsene Wenger up the wrong way, with their robust and strong nature, and the same can be said for his Blackburn Rovers side. There was a big thing throughout last season amongst the board, players and fans for West Ham to play the ‘sexy’ football, and well we all know how that worked out for them. Big Sam would most definitely not alter his style of management, and the Hammers would become a more robust outfit. However surely with the financial gain and the pride playing in the Premier League brings, everyone related to West Ham wouldn’t mind what way they got back to the top tier of English football.

Allardyce has a rather substantial CV, not in regards to trophies and individual awards but success in comparison with the clubs he has managed. Bolton became an established Premier League side under Allardyce and occasionally flirted with the European places, and Blackburn finished in the top ten in 2009/10 season and Steve Kean who took over Big Sam had Blackburn locked in a relegation battle all season. West Ham are now looking to become an established Premier League side again, like during the Harry Redknapp days and Allardyce’s record speaks for itself in achieving such feats, and is definitely the right man for the Hammers on that side of things.

West Ham need someone to steady the ship, someone who can persuade the likes of Robert Green and Matthew Upson that it is in their best interests to ply their trade in the Championship. I’m not even sure Sir Alex Ferguson could convince them of that, but the point is that West Ham need a determined, strong and powerful leader, everything Avram Grant wasn’t. The former Bolton manager wouldn’t have allowed a 2-0 lead against relegation rivals on the penultimate league fixture end in a 3-2 defeat.

For now and the considerable future appointing Sam Allardyce will be the first thing Karen Brady and co. would have done right.

It is believed that Arsene Wenger will finally break all his beliefs and philosophies this summer and loosen the purse strings, after Arsenal finished yet another season empty handed. There is talk of a major squad overhaul with the likes of Andrey Arshavin, Tomas Rosicky and Nicklas Bendtner being linked with a move away from the Emirates. If this were to happen, who would be the ideal and realistic replacements for the Frenchman to try and sign?

Scott Parker is available for a reported £6 million following West Ham’s relegation and has all the attributes this current Arsenal squad has been criticised for not having: experience, passion and strength in the middle of the park. The England international would be the man to help Arsenal grind out results and no doubt, fellow Englishman Jack Wilshere would benefit greatly from playing alongside Parker. If the former Charlton man was to be signed by Le Professeur, it would mean Wenger having to break his widely criticised policy of only offering players over thirty one-year contracts, as Parker will want at least three years, to match his Hammers contract.

Andrea Pirlo announced this week that he will leave Italian giants AC Milan when his contract expires at the end of this current season. Although the Italian has been plagued by injuries this year and appears to lack his usual ‘sparkle’, the veteran’s experience could prove a real asset for Wenger’s side. The midfielder has won Serie A titles, Champions Leagues and a World Cup, this experience could have been key for Arsenal in February of this year when they were still in the hunt for four trophies. Pirlo will no doubt be touted by all the major clubs across the globe, but should Wenger pull off such a signing, then next season Arsenal’s young side will be in a much better position to maintain their challenge on all fronts.

Per Mertesacker has been linked with the Gunners since last summer and has recently signalled his intention to leave his current club Werder Bremen. The 6ft 6 in centre back has a wealth of experience and would inevitably form a resolute partnership with Thomas Vermaelen. Furthermore, should Wenger sign the big defender, this will help Laurent Koscielny and Johan Djourou improve and develop their game. An added bonus would be the German’s penchant for scoring goals from set pieces, something Arsenal haven’t really had since Tony Adams and Sol Campbell.

All the newspaper speculation constantly surrounds Ajax shot stopper Martin Stekelenberg, however, I feel Wenger should make a move instead for Diego Benaglio. The Wolfsburg goalkeeper has performed impressively for the German side this season and with question marks over Wojciech Szezesny and Łukasz Fabiański, the Swiss international would be a welcome addition to the Arsenal squad and a snip of the cost of Stekelenberg.

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The Premier League is arguably the greatest the league in the world of football, attracting the world’s biggest footballing names, usually producing four teams in the latter stages of the Champions League and showcasing some of the best free flowing attacking football. Like all beautiful things, there is usually a flip side, and this Premier League season, in amongst unbeaten runs and unbelievable ‘tekkers’ there has been sending off’s, dodgy decisions and the odd unnoticed elbow.

Weak FA– This season more than most, has been surrounded in off the ball incidents, goals that should have been and goals that shouldn’t have been, but the main disappointment for me, a lover of the beautiful game, has been the FA’s inconsistency and lack of punishment in dealing with incidents. Wayne Rooney’s WWE style elbow on James McCarthy, whether or not Mark Clattenberg saw the incident or reported the incident, is all irrelevant; an obvious and callous attack on a fellow professional should’ve been punished. Also this season has seen the emergence of Twitter being used by footballers, it is a fantastic way for fans to feel closer to their ‘heroes’. However this season has seen a footballers, regularly being reprimanded for things they have said on Twitter. Ryan Babel, Danny Gabbidon and Carlton Cole are just some of the players who have been fined and warned by the FA this season but there have also been cases this season where the FA haven’t punished footballers for outspoken comments on the website. Jack Wilshere avoided being reprimanded for these comments “Inconsistent refereeing needs to stop, its killing the game.” How will the FA’s respect for referees campaign ever be a success if such things go unpunished?

The standard has dropped– The Premier League is always classed as the greatest league on earth and don;t get me wrong, that is still the case after this season. However many are praising the improvement of the teams outside the top four for taking more points off the ‘big boys’. Being the cynic I am, I just can’t help but think this is because the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea have just dropped in standard. After making a blistering start to the season, Chelsea struggled to eventually claim second, Arsenal failed to hold on to a 4-0 lead at Newcastle, Manchester United drew 11 games and Liverpool still didn’t reclaim their Champions League status. Not exactly attributes of football’s elite.

The Title race didn’t go to the last day– It seemed at one point that neither Arsenal, Manchester United or Chelsea wanted to the win the Premiership. All the teams dropped points in the title run in and it looked all set up for a final day rollercoaster. Sadly for us fans of the beautiful game, Arsenal collapsed, Chelsea left it too late and Manchester United did what they do best and claimed their nineteenth league title in the penultimate fixture.

Premiership fixtures on day of FA Cup– This season has well and truly killed off the FA Cup, the cup that represents the spirit of football, where everyone loves the underdog. Last Saturday the Premier League held their fixtures at 12:30pm with the FA Cup kicking off later that afternoon. The FA Cup used to be a special occasion, a sole fixture, that rolled every footballing emotion into one 90 minutes. With fans travelling back from their lunch time kick off’s, the FA Cup was lost in delayed trains and post match pints.

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In true Premier League style, the winners were only decided on the penultimate fixture and we enter the final group of fixtures with only one team relegated. It is safe to say this has been an amazing Premier League this season, with all of the ‘big teams’ dropping points week in week out, other teams finding themselves close to relegation and then a week later on the verge of a top eight finish and, naturally, the odd controversial decision. This year’s campaign has given us many reasons to laugh, smile and sometimes cry, but this has only made our love for the beautiful game grow stronger. Here are my positives from yet another Premiership campaign.

Top Four Party Crashed yet again- Last season it was Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham who broke the top four ‘cartel’ at the expense of Liverpool and this season it is Manchester City’s turn to steal the limelight. Roberto Mancini said his main aim was a top four finish and his City side duly obliged in giving their manager just that. However, it wasn’t plan sailing; at one point it looked like neither Tottenham or Manchester City wanted to qualify for the Champions League, with both teams slipping up, Spurs especially struggling against the ‘lesser’ teams, so much so that it looked like Liverpool could be in with a shout for fourth spot, an achievement that seemed impossible after their start to the season. The constant ‘swings and roundabouts’ for the prestigious final Champions League berth has been a credit to the league and the improvement of the chasing pack.

Classic Games- Us football fans have been treated to some fantastic footballing spectacles this season. Who can forget Newcastle’s heroic comeback against Arsenal to earn a point after being 4-0 down at half time? Or Manchester United’s 7-1 demolition of Blackburn Rovers, in which Berbatov claimed five and even the recent game between Blackpool and Bolton, yet more fantastic entertainment.

Emergence of genuine English talent- Every season there is always a fresh batch of talent that is dubbed as the next set of stars to lead England to international glory. Year after year us loyal fans are let down with the likes of Francis Jeffers, Seth Johnson and Michael Ricketts, but this year the Three Lions appear to be on to some real gems with Andy Carroll, Jack Rodwell and Jack Wilshere; no doubt all three will go on to be stars for club and country.

Blackpool- Regardless of what league the Tangerines will be plying their trade in next season, this one belongs to them. Ian Holloway has well and truly found a place in the hearts of all football fans this term with his honest, down-to-earth and, at times, downright hilarious attitude. Blackpool’s ‘attack at all costs because that’s the only way we know how to play’ style of football may very well be the cause of their downfall come next Saturday, but what entertainment they have served up doing it; Holloway’s team has scored 53 goals so far this season, more than most of the sides in the bottom half.

Roll on next season.

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