Archive for the ‘Sunderland’ Category

You know those pages on Facebook that clog up your news feeds? Annoying aren’t they. Usually pointless advertising and spamming of my own personal social media space (an oxymoron if ever there was one), however in amongst the adverts making me feel inadequate about my manhood (why these are on a Fifa banter page, god only knows) but one fan asked a question that got me thinking, ‘Who is the best left back in the Premier League?’

Firstly let me say, Ashley Cole is not going to be considered because my twenty year plan to make Cheryl Cole/Tweedy my wife will be ruined if she reads this article about what a wonderful left back he is/was.

Jose Enrique appears to be one of the bargains of the season so far at £6 million, with the Spaniard being key in Liverpool only conceding 18 Premier League goals this season, which is only bettered by Manchester City (16). The former Newcastle United player has defended with maturity and attacked with force, encompassing everything the modern day full back is about, however Enrique is yet to make his international debut which is surprising given his form and Spain’s supposed shortage at left back.

Leighton Baines, arguably the most consistent left back over the last two years or so which has started to earn the defender recognition at international level. The former Wigan Athletic man has an attribute that hasn’t been seen in a left back since Roberto Carlos and that is his ability from dead ball situations, which has proved invaluable to Everton with the likes of Louis Saha making Emile Heskey look prolific.

Neil Taylor has been one of several positives from the Premier League new boys Swansea this year, the Welsh outfit have been a great addition to the world’s best league. The Wales international has it all, the pace, the calmness when under pressure and the attacking tendencies; admittedly at 22 the former Wrexham defender isn’t the complete package but given a season or two at the top level and rumours such as the ones linking him with Arsenal will, no doubt be a common occurrence.

Admittedly I started this article thinking there were going to be five or six decent left backs but clearly I’m mistaken.

Overall, you can’t overlook consistency and Baines has been a solid performer for two seasons now. Although the Englishman may not have the Spanish flair or the ability to reach the levels Neil Taylor can, at the moment you can’t look past the Everton man.

Let me know who you think is the best or just give me advice on how to make Cheryl Cole mine on Twitter @DanielTBlazer

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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.

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.

One goal in 400 appearances, or whatever stupid stats are getting thrown around about the Tottenham Hotspur strike force this season. Whatever the correct figures are, we all know how poor they have been and without question Harry Redknapp needs to address this problem in the current transfer window. The likes of Forlan, Gervinho and Adebayor have been linked with White Hart Lane, but in more recent days it is Sunderland’s Asamoah Gyan who is reportedly top of ‘Arry’s wish list this summer; is the Ghanaian really the man to spearhead the Lilywhites attack?

The former Udinese striker enjoyed a successful World Cup and joined Sunderland as the club’s record signing after the tournament. The forward has been a breathe of fresh air this season with his obvious love for the game and flair when it comes to goal celebrations, which we saw quite frequently as Gyan scored ten league goals, but is ten goals enough for a team hoping to regain their Champions League status?

Spurs are looking for a player to take over the mantle as main goalscorer, but during Gyan’s time with The Black Cats he was very much the monkey to Darren Bent’s organ grinder. Ok, that may be a bit of a harsh assessment, but if you look at the statistics, Gyan only scored three goals after Bent’s departure to Aston Villa; when partnered with the Englishman he scored seven. Spurs don’t need another supporting striker, they have them in abundance and from Gyan’s goalscoring record that’s exactly what he is.

So Gyan isn’t going to set goalscoring charts alight, but the Ghanaian does have something to offer the white half of North London. At the moment Tottenham’s strike force consists of a Jermain Defoe who has lost his edge and sharpness, Robbie Keane who is on the move and Peter Crouch, a man who plays like he is 4 ft 4 rather than 6 ft 4; they haven’t got anything in the final third, let alone goals. Gyan would bring to the Lilywhites front line what all fans want to see, some passion and the excitement that when on the ball he can make something happen.

If Spurs can bring in an Adebayor or Forlan as well as Gyan for next season, there will be a few more restless nights for the Premier League defenders out there.

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

It is that horrible time of year again, when us football fans try to find something to entertain ourselves with for a couple of months while the players have a ‘well deserved’ rest. The transfer window has now kindly reopened in order to give the fans something to talk about down the pub and no doubt there will be ridiculous rumours, surprising signings and barbaric amounts of money spent. However in amongst the forever changing stories, there will be a few things that will no doubt remain, but what are they?

Robbie Keane joins dream team

The Republic of Ireland left Spurs because “Joining Liverpool is a lifelong dream of mine and one I couldn’t let pass me by.” and after rejoining Spurs left again, stating “It’s a dream come true” and This is the reason why I’ve always wanted to come to Celtic.”

So where will the former Inter Milan striker be living the dream after this transfer window?

Harry Redknapp linked with everyone

The Spurs man has a bit of a reputation as a successful ‘wheeler-dealer’ in the transfer market, but also has a reputation that he can’t refuse a ‘bargain’. It is such opinions on ‘Arry that will no doubt, like every transfer window that has gone before, see the Englishman linked with every player including a surprising double swoop for Dion Dublin and Dean Windass.

Arsenal won’t sign anyone…worthwhile

“We have to strengthen the squad where it needs and make the right decision on that front. It is always on my mind, every day. Don’t think it’s not on my mind.” This was Wenger talking on the 26th April of this year, sound familiar? It should do because for the last couple of years the Frenchman has been saying this and as of yet the Arsenal fans have seen several Sebastien Squillaci’s come and go for minimal transfer fees, hardly a signing that will allow a team to win a Quadruple.

 

English talent will move for inflated prices

The rumours have already started surrounding the Three Lions talent, Gary Cahill valued at £15-20 million, Ashley Young £20 million and no doubt the same sort of prices for Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Phil Jones. Are these prices really representative of what these players have achieved or can offer a side? Especially when you consider Connor Wickham of Ipswich is valued at £15 million just because ‘he may become a star in the future’, it is ridiculous but with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea willing to spend, no doubt these players will move for inflated rates.

Fabregas saga

With each transfer window that passes the ‘Fabregas to Barcelona transfer’ becomes more and more like an Eastenders storyline. Tiresome to say the least, but this episode will no doubt carry on this summer but will it finally end or will it end with ‘continued next time’?

Promoted teams linked with experience

The promoted teams always look to sign much needed experience, usually players who have plied their trade in the Premier League for years and are now looking for a couple of ‘easier’ years. This transfer window could see Joe Cole move to QPR epitomising such a deal.

Absurd transfer rumours

It is dubbed the silly season so you can’t blame the newspapers linking Barcelona’s ‘holy trinity’ with a move to Portman Road. It is just annoying because us naïve and excited fans believe the stories and already plan what our team’s shirt will look like with ‘Messi’ on the back.

Manchester City will buy everyone

Roberto Mancini has come out this week and said he feels he will need to make five big name signings…FIVE! Absolutely crazy claims when you consider the wealth of talent at Eastlands already, but no doubt it will happen, especially when you consider they paid over £20 million for Joleon Lescott.

Always that one surprising deal

Despite all the media coverage there is always one deal that escapes the rumour mill and then BAM, at two minutes to deadline it is announced and the world of football is rocked. I remember it happening with Ashley Cole’s move to Arsenal and last year it was Rafael Van Der Vaart’s move to Spurs for a mere £8 million, I wonder who will surprise us this window?

Liverpool will sign an expensive flop

It is usually around the £20 million region, first Robbie Keane and then there was Alberto Aquilani…whose next?

This season, like every Premier League campaign, saw the emergence of world class players, that the season before were just up and coming hot prospects; Jack Wilshere is this season’s stand out example. The Arsenal’s ace rise to prominence, has already got me thinking what talent will be uncovered next season, Manchester United’s ‘kids’ emphatically won the FA Youth Cup in recent days so it is only a matter of time before they begin making a push for the first team and Liverpool have reaped the rewards of their youth set up this season, and no doubt will again next campaign. But who will be the ones to watch next season?

Manchester United

Ryan Tunnicliffe is a central midfielder, who has already earned comparisons to United legend Roy Keane, for his powerful midfield performances. In January 2010 the Englishman signed a three year contract with the Red Devils, a huge show of faith from Sir Alex Ferguson and his staff, that they think the midfielder has what it takes.

Chelsea

Gael Kakuta is an attacking winger, signed illegally by Chelsea, however with such reviews as “Perhaps one criticism was that he didn’t try very hard sometimes in training – because he didn’t need to! He could already do everything.” (Lens Scout) who can blame them? Very much of the Florent Malouda mould and with Malouda rumoured to be part of the reported squad overhaul at Stamford Bridge this summer, the Frenchman could add considerably to his appearance tally of six.

Manchester City

Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely, commentators everywhere will be hoping I am wrong about this City striker as his name is impossible to pronounce. However the twenty year old is rated highly by the staff at Eastlands. Having progressed well in the reserves, with ten goals in all competitions Tchuimeni-Nimely was awarded a four year contract in April of 2010, and went on to make his first team debut the same season. Sadly this season the bright star was lost in and amongst all the pound signs, however with Manchester City having bigger aspirations than the League Cup now, next season may see the forward make a name for himself.

Arsenal

Ryo Miyaichi signed for Arsenal in January of this year and was instantly loaned out to Feyenoord, twelve games and three goals later, the Japanese forward has earnt the nickname ‘Ryodinho’. Enough said.

Tottenham Hotspur

Danny Rose exploded onto the footballing scene with that wonder goal against bitter rivals Arsenal, and after a few loan spells, Rose has returned to the Lilywhites first team squad towards the end of this season, and has put in some assured and comfortable performances. With vital experience under his belt, the midfielder could become an integral part of Redknapp’s side with Niko Kranjcar, Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios, among others rumoured to be on their way out.

Liverpool

Conor Coady will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of John Flanagan and Jack Robinson this season. The Liverpool youngster who has represented England at various levels and can play either centre back or centre midfield, is regarded by the Liverpool staff as an ideal future captain, high praise indeed.

Everton

Jose Baxter can play any attacking position and has been at The Toffees since he was just six years old. The Englishman has made several appearances in an Everton shirt and has broken records along the way, becoming Everton’s youngest ever first team player at just 16 years and 191 days old. Baxter is a player of immense natural talent, this talent saw him named as this season’s reserve player of the season; maybe next season he will be first team player of the season.

Fulham

Matthew Briggs made his Fulham debut at the age of 16 years and 65 days, making him the youngest player ever to play in the Premier League. The defender has captained the England Under 19 side and has made a couple of appearances this season. With Fulham not having the biggest squad, the Englishman could very well become a permanent fixture in Mark Hughes’ back four next season.

Aston Villa

Jonathan Hogg, was widely tipped to join the likes of Ciaran Clark and Marc Albrighton in making the breakthrough into the first team, however the midfielder didn’t. However after an impressive loan spell at Portsmouth, the Englishman no doubt next season will stake a claim for first team football.

Sunderland

Billy Knott was signed by Sunderland after his release from Chelsea and made an instant impact in the reserves with five goals in his first eight games. The creative wingers good form caught the eye of Steve Bruce and was drafted into the first team squad in February, with Sunderland losing Bolo Zenden and Sulley Muntari there is definitely room in the midfield next season for the former Chelsea trainee.

West Brom

James Hurst progressed through the Baggies academy set up and then joined Portsmouth at 16, however two years later he was back at The Hawthorns. The defender has made his debuts’ in the league, Carling Cup and FA Cup this season, and impressed greatly, so much so that in January West Brom offered the Englishman an improved two and a half year contract.

Newcastle United

Sam Ameobi, third Ameobi to play at Newcastle United, made his Premier League debut in the recent 2-2 draw with Chelsea this season. Much like his brother, the striker poses an aerial threat and with Newcastle needing a target man after the sale of Andy Carroll, could the Nigerian be that man next season?

Stoke City

Ben Marshall is a nineteen year old striker who has spent the season at Northampton Town, earning valuable experience at a competitive level. The Englishman impressed Stoke City’s staff is the pre season before this current campaign and will no doubt be used in the up and coming pre season, and if Marshall continues to impress, next season could be a big one for the striker.

Bolton Wanderers

Temitope Obadeyi is (according to Bolton’s official website) “an exciting young striker with a bright future in the game”. Having gained vital first team experience on loan at Swindon and Rochdale, the big forward has started to break through into the first team squad as has come off the subs bench on a couple of occasions, but with Daniel Sturridge returning to Chelsea and Johan Elmander’s leaving the club, the English striker could get his chance next season as a regular.

Blackburn Rovers

Grant Hanley made his PL debut on the final day of the 09/10 season and this season the defender has made seven appearances in all competitions. With Chris Samba constantly linked with a move away, the Scottish Under 21 player could very well become a prominent fixture in Steve Kean’s side next season.

Wigan Athletic

Victor Moses has spent most of his fledgling Latics career coming off the bench, but despite this the former Crystal Palace man has showcased his talents enough for me to be excited about him next season. Lightening speed, quick feet and excellent finishing, all traits we love to witness and see in a player. The Englishman can play on the wings or up front, and after finishing 16th in the league this season, what has Roberto Martinez got to lose in using Moses more frequently?

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing has earnt a reputation as an accomplished midfielder who has an eye for goal. The Englishman has made a handful of pre season appearances for Wolves but in his first competitive match in the Carling Cup against Swindon for Wolves, he secured the Man of the Match award. Mendez-Laing has been on loan at Peterborough this season making nearly forty appearances and notching five goals.

With regards to the promoted teams, I have decided to choose three players that will excel beyond expectation, such as Charlie Adam of Blackpool this season.

QPR

Throughout this season, I have continually said that Adel Taarabt has just found his level at the Championship, but after watching a Youtube compilation of the Moroccan’s best bits, I now understand that it is a bit more than media hyperbole. The former Spurs man is a joy to behold on the ball and the Premier League is in for a real treat.

Norwich

This season the Canaries forward Grant Holt has been stealing all the headlines at Carrow Road, however for me it will be Wesley Hoolahan who makes a name for himself in England’s highest tier of football. Used predominantly at the tip of a diamond formation, just behind the strikers, the Republic of Ireland international has an eye for goal and is very much the ‘heartbeat’ of Norwich City’s attacking play.

Swansea

I wanted to avoid going for the obvious answer of Scott Sinclair but having just watched the former Chelsea man score a hat trick at Wembley in the play-off final, I cannot wait to see him in the Premier League. Skilful, pacey and prolific in front of goal, a neutrals dream player when watching Match of the Day.