Thursday, 31 July 2008

Bound for the bound bound for the reloooooooad

Howaya folks,

Well yes indeed myself and Mark have been a pair of pretty lazy gits these past few weeks. Well in podcast and blog sense anyway, though I can assure you we have been contributing to society no end in other ways. I can't think of these ways right now but I'm sure we did somehow.

In the past few weeks we've seen… oh fuck that you know what we've seen. We've seen uninspiring transfers in the main; sagas rumble on and okay, the odd smattering of decent transfer news.

The latter is obviously in reference to the last three days, as Robbie Keane and David Bentley made big money moves. I think the more interesting thing here is to look at Spurs and how they're going to shape up for next year. Whizzing through the Liverpool angle, I think Keane will do very well for them and we'll discuss it more on the pod, which we’re recording tonight. Before you ask, yes I will refrain from any 'this could be our year' statements, or at least try to anyway.

The Spurs thing then… the pick of their present squad list looks like this:

Gomes (GK), Defenders: Lee, Bale, Dawson, King, Hutton, Woodgate. Midfielders: Zokora, Jenas, Ghaly, Modric, Giovanni, Boateng, Taarabt, O'Hara, Lennon, Huddlestone (defence in emergencies). Strikers: Berbatov, Bent

There’s rumours of the Russian duo of Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko heading their way and with Smokey Berbatov looking like he’s heading elsewhere they bloody need them the way that squad looks. From what’s there already, I don’t see them as a team that can break into the top four instantly. Lots of fresh faces could see a ‘Citeh 07/08’ effect where they get a great start but fade off midway through the season perhaps.

Spurs, it seems have spent the last four seasons threatening to break the dominance of the top four only to be foiled by bad patches, stupid managerial shenanigans or, most unfortunate of all, dodgy lasagnes. Ramos’ Sevilla were an excellent attacking side from what most of us saw every week in Spain, but they looked pretty timid at times during the Champions League both before and after his departure for North London.

Considering his defence centres around two injury prone England stars (Woodgate and King) and generally falls apart when he brings in the lumbering Michael Dawson, they do look fairly threadbare when it comes to stopping other quality teams knocking a few past them.

My guess is that, like many other years, they’ll entertain for large periods against Arsenal, United and Chelsea only to lose or draw. They have a jammy, jammy record against the Pool so those games I won’t predict. With Everton struggling to get new people in and Moyes a bad start away from a fan backlash (a lot of Everton fans think he’s taken them as far as he can), maybe it’ll only be Man City with a realistic chance of breaking the top four’s hegemony.

Bloody hell, two weeks before the season even begins and I’m being pessimistic, talking about the big four monotonously stamping over the league again. Maybe it’s the fact that like many other idiots I predicted Arsenal would drop out of the Champions League spots last year only to look like prize fool as they spent the majority of the season at the apex of the league.

Spurs for fifth then eh… viva la revolution indeed.

Right, time to grab some cans and the mic, podding afoot

Later, JJ

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The transfer merry-go-round finally picks up

Having seen Euro 2008 off two weeks ago people had expected the transfer market to explode into life when in fact things have been very slow moving so far. Today though seems to be the first day when moves have been completed or are all but done. It will be interesting to gauge how supporters feel about the moves of some players. For example I predict that many Arsenal fans will be a bit sad to see Alexandr Hleb leave, although they have had plenty of time to get used to it. Whereas Chelsea fans won’t be shedding a tear for the departure of Steve Sidwell, many will probably offer to hold the door open for him when he leaves. So let’s take a quick run down some of the major transfers that the ink is still wet on or are likely to be down in the coming week.

Well having mentioned him earlier Chelsea have finally agreed to sell Sidwell to Aston Villa for £5million. Not a bad piece of business when you consider that he joined the Blues on a free transfer from Reading. I always predicted that Sidwell would probably spend the majority of his time in the reserves and I haven’t been too far wrong. The step up from Reading to Chelsea was too big for a player that doesn’t have the calibre to compete at the top level. That is not to say he is a bad player because Reading really missed him this season and his departure is probably partly to blame for their relegation. I have to question Aston Villa paying so much for the 25-year-old, if Villa want to compete with the big boys then Sidwell isn’t the way to go. If Martin O’Neill believes the flamed headed midfielder will be a replacement for Gareth Barry then he is sorely mistaken. Sidewell will not get the goals Barry does and won’t have the set piece skills that the departing Villa captain has. Having said that, Sidwell will be a decent squad player, who will be effective against clubs outside of the top five. If you believe I will be wrong check out the latest football odds here.

Lets move on to Hleb’s impending move with Sky Sports reporting that the winger is off to Spain for a medical after Arsenal and Barcelona finally came to some kind of figure, no idea what yet. The Belarusian international will be missed at Arsenal with Hleb having been one of the Gunners better players this season. When Hleb first arrived from Stuttgart in 2005 I was sceptical and didn’t think he had the best first season with the Gunners. Since them however Hleb has proven himself to be world class, especially playing in the hole between the forwards and the midfield where his link up play and dribbling skills have really shone. He will have some serious competition now though going up against Lionel Messi with both players showing similar strengths and weaknesses it might be a challenge for Hleb to get into the starting line-up. Hleb’s departure will be another blow to Arsenal fans, especially if you believe that part of the reason he is leaving is because the Gunners can’t match his wage demands. That was the reason they lost Mathieu Flamini and also why they look likely to lose Emmanuel Adebayor. Arsenal’s wage budget could cost the Gunners success next season with Hleb just another casualty.

From one long running saga to another and it looks as though Peter Crouch will finally join Portsmouth for around £10million. I wonder if anybody else was applauding this news when it popped up on Sky Sports news. Frankly I was getting pretty fed up with the back-and-forth between Pompey and Liverpool with their quibbling over the fee. Crouch’s move to Fratton Park is a good one for both sides because it frees up some extra cash for Rafael Benitez to bring in another Spaniard. Meanwhile Crouch might enjoy more than one game on the bounce in the Portsmouth starting eleven. It will be interesting to see how Crouch and Jermaine Defoe work together; it could be the makings of a classic big man little man strike force the likes of which we haven’t seen since Niall Quinn and Kevin Philips for Sunderland.

Quickly looking through the rest of the rumours that are more likely to be true than the usual tabloid rubbish and we see that Hull are on the verge of signing George Boateng from Middlesbrough. I have been thinking about this transfer for a while now and I still can’t decide whether it is a good move for the Tigers. Boateng is starting to look a little past it and what he will add to Hull’s inevitable fight against relegation is beyond me. One player though that looked as though he could defy his 34-year-old body was Kevin Philips who WBA have let go today because they didn’t want to offer him a two year contract. The Baggies are playing with fire because someone like Philips could have contributed those ten extra goals that help West Brom stay in the Premier League.

Well that is about it on a the first decent day of transfers we have had so far this summer, now if only tomorrow brought the end to the Adebayor, Barry, Frank Lampard and Cristiano Ronaldo sagas I think we would all be happy. To read about the rest of transfers that have been completed this summer head this way.

Cheers, Chris Rivers

Friday, 4 July 2008

Lights, camera, fuhbal…

Alright folks

First off and very quickly, yup
Spain deserved to win on Sunday, we all know that, fair play to them and hopefully most of you have seen these images of a young, talented and frankly bad tackling Fernando Torres since then.

But that was last Sunday and already we’re in the home straight for the new year of club football – pre-season training starting as well as transfer rumours getting into full swing with decent players now actually available for talks after being on national duty (except Xabi Alonso apparently). This breather is no doubt needed but for those who say they really need a few weeks off, can you really resist the back pages or those football sites that you doss off from work by visiting?

On the subject of which – and thanks to String for the fantastic documentary on Brazilian football he sent on – I was looking for a distraction on YouTube but got horribly stopped in my tracks. Does anyone remember the BBC2 series ‘Natural Born Footballers’? Try as I might I haven’t been able to track down any episodes. Fifteen minute mini-documentaries concentrating on one player each week with decent interviews with people like Denis Law, Kenny Dalglish, Gerd Muller or Jurgen Klinsmann to name but a few.

In the six channel world I lived in back then it was a great blast of footballing history, though the BBC have had quite a few decent football documentaries in their time, concentrating on the history of nations such as Brazil, Holland, Germany and of course England in the run ups to various World Cups and European Championships.

It’s disgusting to think that they’ve probably consigned this practice of decent TV programming to the scrapyard in order to pay for exclusive rights to Alan Shearer’s blank expressions. Anyway, if any of you have some decent links to such documentaries please send ‘em on. To get started, here’s a few things to keep everyone distracted for a while yet.

Simplified but enjoyable dissection of Roy Keane’s psyche… including a contribution from the wonderfully named Phil Starbuck!

The daddy of them all – The Impossible Job (watch out for Harold of Harris looking like Vera Duckworth at one of the press conferences and so many, many ODF sound clips)

A documentary on England 1966 that isn’t cringe inducing. Huzzah!

The odd, intertwining history of Bobby Moore and Jimmy Greaves. The bit about climbing the wall in the Mexican Embassy (if hazy memory is serving me correct) is class.

Pretty decent documentary on Alex Ferguson, in fairness you gotta respect any man nicknamed ‘Razor Elbows’

Later, JJ