Saturday, 13 August 2011

EPL prediction machine

Even Mark Lawrenson agrees with me...for the most part.

Watch the below video to see his predictions.(Copy and paste link into your address bar)

Friday, 12 August 2011

The Premier League season 2011/12 is upon us!

Ok, first off, I am going to be operating this blog under a new system. I won't be updating as much because life and work gets in the way, but I will be sharing my thoughts on all the major events in the EPL and NHL several times in a month.

First up is a discussion on the new Premier League season.

Manchester United are the defending champions but their closest rivals; Manchester City, will be pushing the Red Devils all the way. I wouldn't be surprised to them both finish in the top two spots. Nothing short of a title win will please the Citizen's owners after all the cash they have spent on the squad but I don't know if they have the consistency that Manchester United enjoy to win a Premier League title yet.

So what are my predictions for this upcoming season?

1. Manchester United - I think you would be crazy not to bet on the Red Devils retaining the title this year. They were the most consistent team last year and they got stronger over the summer with quality additions in Ashley Young and Phil Jones. You can't imagine that Wayne Rooney will have as bad a year as he did last season so he should be upping his goal tally this year. 'Chicharito' Hernandez had a breakout year and looked very impressive and when you have the Premier League's 2010/11 top goalscorer warming the bench (Berbatov), you know you have plenty of goals in the team.

2. Manchester City - The Citizens will be fighting with their Manchester rivals all season for the title. They do have a real shot at winning it too. However, with players such as Balotelli in the team (what a bitch he is), consistency will be hard to find. Their best player, Carlos Tevez, also wants to leave which doesn't help the situation up front. To remedy the situation, Mancini brought in Sergio Aguero who looks like a fantastic talent but he will need to hit the ground running if City are to get the better of Fergie's men.

3. Chelsea - Chelsea are getting old and I think that will show this season. They have a talented squad but I don't think they have the legs to win consistently over a full season that involves two domestic cups and the Champions' League as well. If Torres could put the ball in the net, they might have a shot at upsetting the Manchester clubs, but I don't see that happening.

4. Liverpool - Liverpool improved so much over the last two transfer windows and when they attack I don't think there is a better team in the Premier League. However at the back Liverpool are still quite weak. Carragher is 34 and will not be able to match the pace of the Premier League all season and Glen Johnson is a liability when defending. I can see 'goals condeded' being the achilles heel of this Liverpool squad although I do see them finding their way back into the top four at Arsenal's expense.

5. Arsenal - It is the same old issue for Arsenal. They need to spend money improving the squad but Wenger won't. He is an admirable man, sticking to principles that served him well in the past but with his EPL rivals spending upwards of 30 million on the odd player, Wenger needs to realise that the game has changed and, if he wants to win any titles again, he must flash the cash too. Gervinho looks a decent signing but has every chance of going the way of Chamakh and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is far too young to carry this Arsenal team to a trophy. They need a brand new defence and a goalkeeper ideally. I can see Arsenal finishing outside the top four for the first time in many years and a possible sacking for Wenger.

6. Tottenham Hotspur - Spurs did not strengthen enough over the summer and still lack a world class striker. Rafael Van Der Vaart will need to produce a special season and steer clear of injury if Tottenham are to find their way back into the Champions' League spots this year. This is the best chance Spurs have had in a long time to finish ahead of Arsenal but a lack of goals could cost them.

7. Everton - David Moyes is the best manager in the League after Ferguson and Wenger. He has kept Everton competitive on a budget that matches most of the teams that get promoted from the Championship. His side is well drilled and disciplined. If he had a bit of cash and a larger squad, we would see Everton fight for a Champions' League spot every year. If they could get off to a better start than usual then Everton could do better than 7th.

8. Aston Villa - Villa lost two of their best players in Young and Downing. However, they have a great player in Marc Albrighton coming through the youth system and they just signed talented winger Charles N'Zogbia from Wigan. With goalscoring machine Darren Bent up front and Shay Given in net, I think Villa will do fine this year.

9. Sunderland - Sunderland have made some fine purchases over the summer but Steve Bruce changes his squad too much by bringing in so many new players all the time. I think they have the potential to get a European spot but they lack the necessary consistency.

10. Bolton Wanderers - Bolton did well to get to the semi-final of the FA Cup last year and many thought they would outclass Stoke. While they did not manage a Cup Final appearance, Owen Coyle has managed to transform his side from a route one team to a much better footballing side. Although the team does still revolve around the physical play of Kevin Davies, they are a much more attractive side to watch these days.

11. West Bromwich Albion - Hodgson came into West Brom mid-way through last season and turned the Baggies' fortunes around. He shored up the leaky defence and kept West Brom playing the attractive football that makes them such a fun team to watch. If Odemwingie can repeat his goalscoring heroics of last year and Hodgson can keep his defence disciplined then I think we will be surprised at how well West Brom will do.

12. Fulham - Martin Jol has plenty of Premier League experience and Fulham have a decent team. They don't have enough going forward to challenge for a European spot but they are solid enough at the back to keep most Premier League teams quiet. Their home form has always been great and, if they could sort out their abysmal away form, Fulham could find themselves much higher than 12th.

13. Stoke City - I have never made it any secret that I do not like this team. They are an ugly team to watch and they look better suited to the Rugby pitch than a football one. However, Tony Pulis has managed to create a physical team that can beat anyone on their day, they just lack the quality to do it all the time. I would love to see them in the relegation spots this year but they will most likely bully their way to a mid-table finish once again.

14. Newcastle United - Last season was such a positive one for the Newcastle. They had a good team and a huge prospect in Andy Carroll. However, once again the internal issues at Newcastle have cost the team and angered the fans. In short Newcastle have sold off all their best players and been left with an average and largley unproven squad. If they stay up it will be a successful season for Pardew and the Toon Army.

15. Queens Park Rangers - QPR have finally made their return to the Premier League and I think they will do fairly well. They have a good squad and plenty of financial backing. If they manage to stay up this year, we could see QPR become a regular team in the EPL for many years. Taarabt is their main man and they will be looking to him to continue the excellent form that got QPR promoted.

16. Wolverhampton Wanderers - Wolves, like Wigan, pulled of a 'great escape' last year. However, in contrast to Wigna, Wolves went out and improved their squad. They should have enough to stay up but that doesn't mean it won't be a long and hard season for Mick McCarthy's men.

17. Norwich City - Norwich were going to be my choice ahead of Wigan to get relegated this season but then I realised that the newly promoted sides often run on a 'nothing to lose' kind of adrenaline that established EPL teams do not. I think that will be the only reason that Norwich stay up. In fact, I will predict right now that if they survive this year, they will be relegated next year.

18. Wigan Athletic - Wigan survived the drop last year, pulling off a 'great escape' but they didn't get any better over the summer. With the loss of N'Zogbia to Aston Villa, that could be the final nail in the Latics' coffin.
19. Swansea City - I like Swansea because they play football the right way. However, to survive in the Premier League you need more than just pretty football, you need a competitive and large squad and the Swans simply do not have that. The first Welsh team in the top flight of English football shouldn't be up their too long.

20. Blackburn Rovers - Blackburn have not strengthened enough over the summer to avoid a relegation battle this year. They nearly fell from the top flight last season and, after losing Phil Jones to Man Utd and possibly losing Chris Samba in the coming weeks, I think Blackburn will be relegated this year.

One more day then it all kicks off, I cannot wait!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Are the wheels coming off for Wenger?

A fancy new crest, but no new players...
Mr Wenger could potentially lose Fabregas and Nasri this summer. That is not good news for Arsenal fans at all. Nasri and Fabregas are two of the top players in the Premier League nevermind on the Gunners' team. Barcelona are courting Fabregas and a number of sides are looking at Nasri, although Manchester United recently dropped out of the race for his signature. Arsenal have already lost Gael Clichy to Manchester City and they still have not sorted out their goalkeeping issues.

Should Wenger lose his two best players, who then will he recruit to fill in the massive gaps they will leave? He has signed nobody at this stage and there are few reports coming in that he will do so at any point in the near future.

With only a month until the new Premier League season, it seems to me that Arsenal are going to have to move fast to improve their squad and I don't see them bringing in enough talent in the short amount of time they have available. However, as per usual, I do see Wenger buying another couple of Chamakh-esque players to chew up money in wages and warm the bench.

It seems to me that Wenger is losing his ability to find gems for cheap (are there any more Thierry Henry's around?) and he has to realise that he has to spend some money on good players now if he wants to compete with United, City and Liverpool who are all spending plenty of cash this summer. Arsenal in fourth next year? Maybe lower? With no big new signings and the potential loss of Nasri and Fabregas? I wouldn't be surprised.

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Monday, 11 July 2011

Even sports fanatics need holidays...

Just a quick update to tell you all that I am back from a vacation and ready to provide more opinions and updates on the latest EPL and NHL news, transfers and anything else.

Hope you didn`t miss me too much!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

To Spend Or Not To Spend? EPL 17th to 20th

The final part of my series looking at EPL summer spending is here with Wolves and the three newly promoted sides. Enjoy.

After completing the 5 million pound signing of Jaime O'Hara from Spurs, Wolves have shown their intent to strengthen over the summer. Wolves got a pretty bad reputation for violent conduct on the pitch last season so I am sure Mick McCarthy is aware that they need to fix that issue as soon as possible. They need more creativity in the squad for sure and any help defensively would be excellent for this hard-working team. Perhaps Kieron Dyer could help this squad out, or maybe he is too much of a risk as he is always injured. Joe Cole could be a good choice or even Boudewijn Zenden. The capture of O'Hara is a great bit of business by McCarthy but he needs more new faces if Wolves are to stay away from the bottom of the EPL next season.

As one of the newly promoted clubs, QPR will be looking to strengthen their squad with EPL veterans. They need players who know the league and how QPR will have to play against certain players and certain teams. Out of the three promoted sides, QPR are best placed to stay in the EPL next season because of the wealth the club can boast. Paying for players and paying wages should not be a problem for The Hoops, however, they need to find decent players first. A few names crop up that could benefit QPR this season. Matthew Upson is hardly the best defender in the world and prone to mistakes, but he has vital EPL experience and that cannot be ignored. He is an ex-England international after all and has played at the highest levels possible. Michael Owen might be tempted away from Manchester United with a decent wage packet and the promise of regular first team football. Joe Cole could also be a calculated risk for The Hoops too. It will be interesting to see how Warnock spends his cash this summer.

Norwich City were something of a surprise package in the Championship last season. Having just been promoted from League 1 the year before, it was not expected that the Canaries would gain back-to-back promotions but here they are. I worry that this promotion has come too soon for Norwich and I cannot see them competing as well as the other two promoted sides. However, if they managed a couple of shrewd signings such as Matthew Upson and possibly Boudewijn Zenden, Norwich could give a decent account of themselves. They will need around five new players at the club down the spine of the team which may be difficult for them to get as they have to compete with QPR in the transfer window.

Much like the other two newly promoted clubs, Swansea will be looking to keep a hold of their best players from last season and reinforce the rest of the squad with wily EPL veterans. I have already mentioned them for the other two sides but Matthew Upson, Boudewijn Zenden and Kieron Dyer would be decent signings for Swansea and they would not cost a bomb in transfer fees or wages. Swansea play some fantastic football so it is important that they buy the right players who will fit into their technical system. If they managed to find some extra cash, they could even try to tempt players like Michael Owen away from the big clubs with the promise of regular first team football. Things will be tough for the Swans but I hope they can stay up.

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Monday, 20 June 2011

Congratulations to the Boston Bruins: 2011 Stanley Cup Champions!

In a seven game series that changed momentum from game to game, the Boston Bruins proved that they had more nerve and more determination by overcoming the Canucks 4-0 in the deciding game in Vancouver. No easy feat.

They also proved that they had made the right choices during the trade deadline, being one of the more active teams during that time and picking up talents such as Rich Peverley and Tomas Kaberle.

Vancouver will be kicking themselves for not taking their chances early on in the game but more than that, they will be worried at the disappearing act of their biggest stars; the Sedin twins. Henrik and Daniel barely showed up throughout the playoffs, with only the former contributing in a big way at any time. Ryan Kesler faded as the final series went on and Vancouver's best man in the faceoff circle (Manny Malhotra) posted some fairly terrible percentages.

Canuck fans and the media will no doubt be pointing the finger of blame at Roberto Luongo but you cannot lay all the blame at his feet. Yes he had a couple of bad games in Boston, but when the League's best offensive side can't score one goal at home in game seven of the Stanley Cup final, you have more problems that just bad goaltending.

Tim Thomas proved to us all that the regular season had been no fluke as he posted some amazing figures in the final series against Vancouver and throughout the playoffs, winning himself the Con Smythe trophy. Brad Marchand was fantastic for Boston too in his rookie year. He was a pest to Vancouver's better players and he got goals and assists too. Even Tyler Seguin played his part when he was called upon. Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley...the list goes on. I can't say the same for the Canucks and that was the difference.

Well done to Boston! Commiserations to Vancouver.

Who will lift Lord Stanley's Cup next year? 

Chara lifts the cup for Boston

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

To Spend Or Not To Spend? EPL 13th to 16th

We continue with our look at potential summer spending with the teams that finished 13th to16th.

Stoke, Stoke, Stoke. Where do you start? Please play some proper football? Nah I shouldn't go on too much. Stoke had a relatively decent season which was capped by an appearance in the FA Cup final. However, their style of play will only ever get them as far as they got. It won't win cups or championships and it won't get them higher in the table. As far as transfers go, your guess is as good as mine. Anyone over six feet tall usually does the trick, regardless of actual skill or technique. Personally, a couple of Charlie Adam-esque players would be good for this team. They would lose none of their physicality but they would gain some creativity.

Maybe I am a bit hard on Stoke but we'll see what happens over the summer.

Bolton were a lot like Stoke but they have begun to evolve over the last season and a half. They are starting to play with the ball a little more and some of their stuff really impressed me last season. I still think they turn to the long ball more than they should but they are improving that is for sure. Because of the change, it is difficult to see who Bolton will go for, however, Charlie Adam would be a great signing (but they won't get him) and holding on to Daniel Sturridge will be key for their future too. Whether or not they can buy him from Chelsea is another thing though, especially with bigger and better teams interested in the young striker.

Blackburn are one of those anonymous teams in the League. They have been floating around mid-to-bottom table for a number of years and I don't know how they are going to get out of it. They don't have the capital and they don't have the squad. There are rumours of Joe Cole being sought after which might improve things slightly, but more than likely it will be a waste of money in wages. Blackburn need to take a long, hard look at their entire squad because it needs some serious repair work if they are going to ever repeat that 94/95 season.

Wigan play good football and I like them a lot. I was pleased that they stayed up but if their season showed anything, it is how defensively fragile they are. Their midfield, minus that whingey little bitch Charles N'Zogbia, is not up to the task either. Hopefully they will get rid of the annoying, but talented, Frenchman and put the money from his sale to good use. They need two centrebacks and a couple of midfielders. Yes, I have said his name a lot so far but Scott Parker would be great for this club. Wigan also need a good, 15 goals-a-year striker. Where they get these people from is a mystery to me. Wigan may be struggling next year too. 

Keep checking back for the next set of teams!

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