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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Game Seven Awaits Us - NHL Stanley Cup Final

Well, here we are, game seven of franchise Hockey's greatest prize. I have been correct up to this point with the Stanley Cup Final going seven games. I also still (sort of) hope that Vancouver will win their first Cup but I'm not really too concerned about the winner, I just want to see amazing Hockey.

So far we have been treated to a fairly schizophrenic series with every game in Vancouver being a closely fought, one-goal-in-it contest in favour of the Canucks and every game in Boston being a complete blowout in favour of the Bruins. It looks like neither team can get the job done away from home but I think game seven will be very different. We will see the Bruins offense turn up but I think Vancouver will match it.

Whoever wins it, this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs will produce a winner not seen in my generation. With that in mind, I look forward to what should be a scintillating final game.

Vancouver or Boston? What do you think?

Thursday, 9 June 2011

To Spend Or Not To Spend? EPL 9th to 12th

Aston Villa have parted ways with Gerard Houllier because of failing health, which is probably a good idea anyways considering he is definitely not the manager to take this club onwards and upwards. After spending a huge 24 million pounds on Darren Bent, it is unlikely that Villa will be making another massive signing over the summer. However, they do need strengthening down the middle of the park in both midfield and defence. Scott Parker would be a decent acquisition for impending Villa boss, Mark Hughes. They will also need someone to replace Ashley Young who is potentially off to a host of other clubs. If they could get a great defender and central midfielder along with a partner for Darren Bent, we could be seeing Villa in the top six again.

After the sale of Henderson to Liverpool for around 13 million and David N'gog, along with the 24 million they received from the sale of Darren Bent, Sunderland are flush with cash and will be looking to bolster numbers to give their small squad a healthier feel. Sebastian Larsson and Charlie Adam have been rumoured to be potential targets for Steve Bruce but I highly doubt he will capture Adam at least. The Black Cats have supposedly tabled a combined 12 million bid for three of Manchester United's fringe players; John O'Shea, Darren Gibson and Wes Brown. If Bruce could get those three, for that price, I would consider it a great deal.

They now have a manager who can take them to the next level in Roy Hodgson and the style of play that everyone wants to see, however, they don't quite have the squad. Defensively, West Brom are very frail so that is where Hodgson needs to focus on. They could also do with another striker and another central midfielder too. Scott Parker would be the perfect choice for Hodgson in the middle of the park but with a host of other clubs no doubt interested in the West Ham captain, it might be hard for Hodgson to persuade Parker to come to the Hawthorns. Daniel Sturridge would bring strength and size to the West Brom attack, perfectly complimenting Peter Odemwingie.

I think it is fairly obvious that Newcastle need a striker. Two strikers probably. Dimitar Berbatov and Daniel Sturridge would both be excellent signings for Newcastle. With the return of Hatem Ben Arfa to the side, Newcastle have an offensive threat in the midfield. With Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton, they also have grit and a hard-working ethic. They could perhaps go for another central midfielder to replace Barton (who may be leaving next year) and Nolan (who is getting old). Sebastian Larsson and Charlie Adam are potential targets for Pardew. The Toon also need to strengthen at the back. With at least 35 million to spend, Newcastle should be busy over the summer. 

Keep checking back for the next set of teams!

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

To Spend Or Not To Spend? EPL 5th to 8th

Now that the football season is over and we have our full line-up for the 2011/12 Premier League season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look at all the teams who will be fighting for EPL glory come August and see where, if anywhere, they need to improve. 

We continue with the teams that finished fifth to eighth.

Spurs have been linked with Joe Cole which I don't understand because Tottenham need to improve their team not add an over-the-hill player who will no doubt demand high wages and get virtually no playing time. They would be better off going for the likes of Charlie Adam who will not stay at Blackpool now they have been relegated. Much like Liverpool, Tottenham need to get rid of some of their anonymous players like Pavlyuchenko and spend some money fixing their defence (literally because they are always injured).

It should be a fairly busy Summer for King Kenny and his Reds. Defence and midfield are the two areas of the field where they need to improve the most. Long term target Charlie Adam is still on the radar and the Merseyside club are best placed to take him away from Blackpool. Ashley Young is also on Kenny's wishlist because of his crossing ability and threat going forward down the wing. For the back, Liverpool should be looking at Gary Cahill who has impressed at Bolton. If they could get Brede Hangeland from Fulham too I would consider that a successful Summer.

Everton always perform consistently well every year and David Moyes is easily one of the top five managers in the Premier League but they never seem to be able to break into the top four. If they are going to do this they need to address their offensive frailties. Dimitar Berbatov would be a great signing to help out there, as would Daniel Sturridge. Scott Parker would be a clever signing too. Everton don`t need to do a lot, but a few tweaks here and there would help them out as they have a very small squad that looks frail when injuries strike.

Fulham won't be doing a whole lot this Summer except look for a new manager now that Mark Hughes is off to Aston Villa. They will want to keep a hold of Brede Hangeland who has stated many times that he is happy at Fulham. However, should a big offer come in for him, I can see him leaving. I like Fulham but I think they will be hovering around the mid-table area of the Premier League for a few years to come. If they were to buy then Scott Parker might be a good option to add some strength and grit to the middle of the park. Fulham is a long-term project for sure. 

Keep checking back for the next set of teams!

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

To Spend Or Not To Spend? EPL's Top Four Teams

Now that the football season is over and we have our full line-up for the 2011/12 Premier League season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look at all the teams who will be fighting for EPL glory come August and see where, if anywhere, they need to improve.

Manchester United are interested in several EPL players such as Gary Cahill and Ashley Young, but I doubt they will make significant moves for them. Man U need a goalkeeper first and foremost now that Van Der Sar has retired. They are perfectly capable in midfield and up front but they could do with some defensive help though as Rio Ferdinand is looking increasingly frail at the back and is fairly injury prone. Perhaps they could tempt Brede Hangeland away from Fulham?

Chelsea desperately need to bring in some youth. If you look at their top players; Lampard, Drogba, Terry and Cech, they are all over 30 now. They need to bring through a new team. I'd love it if they tried to do it from within or through buying English players, but they will probably look for foreign talent instead. They have been rumoured to be interested in Gary Cahill but it isn't likely the Bolton star will head to Stamford Bridge. Brazilian left-back Neymar is also a prime target for the Blues.

Where do you start with Man City? They have all the money in the world and they can buy any player they want. They have spent a lot of money over the last couple of years and I think the best thing for them to do is shed the driftwood at the club and try to keep the best players together to try and get past the inconsistency that plagues them because they rotate their squad so much.

I admire Wenger for trying to build a squad without spending money and concentrating on bringing youth players through the Arsenal system. However, the football world has changed and if Arsenal want to compete for trophies again then they have to spend money. There are several players that could better Arsenal's fortunes next year including, Gary Cahill, Dimitar Berbatov, Ashley Young, Scott Parker. More than anything Arsenal need a great goalkeeper and two great centrebacks so look for the Gunners to be busy over the summer. 

Keep checking back for the next set of teams!

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Premier League New-Boys

With every new Premier League season comes three new teams eager to try and slug it out with the best clubs England has to offer. This year the Premier League welcomes Queens Park Rangers (QPR), who won the Championship title, Norwich City, who got second place and Swansea City, who won the playoffs.

Both QPR and Norwich have been in the Premier League before but this will be a brand new experience for Swansea who have yet to get to the Premiership since its inception in 1992. In fact, Swansea become the first Welsh team into the Premier League after a dramatic victory over Reading. 

How will these teams fare?

Most of the time the promoted teams start off well. They have nothing to lose and they tend to surprise some of the bigger teams with determined performances that run on adrenaline. However, as the season goes on, at least two of the teams often struggle with Blackpool's recent season being a great example of that. 

A lot of it depends on how the teams act in the transfer window over the summer. Rarely does a promoted team perform well in the Premiership without spending some money improving their squads. With that in mind, QPR should be best placed out of all the new teams to retain their newly acquired Premier League status because they are the richest of the three clubs.

Personally, I would like to see Swansea stay up because I like the football they play. They keep the ball on the ground and they like to pass and move. However, they will struggle to stay up if they don't improve all over the pitch and add some Premiership experience in the vital areas at the back and in the centre of midfield.

Whatever happens, I'm looking forward to seeing these new teams take on the EPL ever-presents and hopefully give them a run for their money.

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Monday, 30 May 2011

Vancouver Canucks vs Boston Bruins: The Stanley Cup Final

The Conference Finals are over and we have finally reached the Stanley Cup Final. What a series this promises to be as well with the Boston Bruins taking on the Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver defeated the San Jose Sharks in five games and looked very comfortable all over the ice. San Jose, especially Joe Thornton, put in a lot of effort, but they could not compete with Vancouver's determination to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since '94.

The Bruins overcame the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games in one of the best series' of the Playoffs so far. Tampa Bay exploded offensively, like we know they can, several times throughout the series and scored plenty of goals. Their special teams were excellent as always and they were more than a match for the Bruins who probably went into the series as favourites. However, I think the fact that the Bruins are a better 5-on-5 team than the Bolts was the big decider in the end. The size advantage started to tell as the series went on too.

It was almost a fairytale story for 41 year-old Bolts' goalie Dwayne Roloson who put in some fantastic performances throughout these playoffs, perhaps none better than in the last game. Unfortunately for Roloson, another wily veteran in Tim Thomas sat between the pipes for Boston and played just as well.

How do the two teams stack up going into the final?

Well, I would say that Boston are the bigger team, but Vancouver have some heavy hitters too in Raffi Torres and Kevin Bieksa. Vancouver probably have the better (and deeper) defence and have more of a scoring threat from their defence too with Ehrhoff and Edler. Going forward you would also give Vancouver the edge now that the Sedin twins have decided to show up. Horton and Krejci have been fantastic for Boston and I would be surprised not to see them step up again. Kaberle, Seidenberg and Chara have also been as solid as ever and Patrice Bergeron has shown his quality in the faceoff circle too.

I think the one area that Boston are ahead on for sure is goaltending but that isn't to say that Luongo isn't an outstanding goalie on his day. Thomas just has added experience and comes off the back of a particularly amazing season.

It should be a great series and I can see it being a very close one. Both teams have been solid at home and I would not be surprised to see both teams win all of their home games, with the Canucks taking home their first ever Stanley Cup in seven.

My Prediction: Canucks 4 – 3 Bruins

Will it be Vancouver's time?

Monday, 23 May 2011

Stay with Your Armchair Pundit over the summer!

Yes the EPL season is over and yes the NHL season will be over very soon.

However, don't despair! Your Armchair Pundit will be with you throughout the summer to keep you fully updated with all the trade and transfer rumours and dealings.

So remember to keep checking back regularly to see how your teams are faring over the summer.

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Sunday, 22 May 2011

The 2010/11 Premier League season is over!

Another season has finished and it's time for a quick round-up of how things finished at the top and bottom of the table. 

As we already knew, Manchester United are Premier League champions once again with Chelsea finishing in second place and Manchester City coming in third. Arsenal, who only a few weeks ago were challenging for the title, fell into fourth place winning only one of their last six Premier League games. Things need to change at the Emirates for Arsenal to recapture the glory of the late 90s and early 00s. Tottenham Hotspur edged out Liverpool to finish fifth and qualify for another year of European football, albeit the Europa League and not the Champion`s League.

The other big story at the end of the season concerns the teams that have been relegated. Falling at the last hurdle this year were Birmingham and Blackpool who join West Ham in preparation for the Championship.

Blackpool had started the season so well and were high flyers in December, looking at possible European qualification. However, as I predicted, those good times did not last long and Blackpool started to plummet down the table. Their gung-ho style of football was never going to work in the long run with the squad they have.

Birmingham fans will be looking back on a bittersweet season that saw them capture the Carling Cup (defeating Arsenal in the process) and get relegated. I think if you ask most Birmingham fans, they would trade the Cup for Premier League status but at least they have something to smile about. I had predicted that Birmingham would struggle to stay up despite their Cup success because the squad was playing like a team who believed it had done its job after winning a major trophy. They simply failed to find the same form in the Premier League as they had in the Carling Cup.

Scott Parker will be on the move
West Ham were relegated a week or so ago and it has been a long time coming for the Hammers. They have been on the verge of relegation since they came back to the Premier League a few years ago. Hammers' captain, Scott Parker, will be highly sought after over the summer so it should be interesting to see who bags him. Arsenal could really do with a player like Parker who can keep running hard for 90 minutes and put in a strong tackle. 
Come back in a couple of weeks to find out who has been promoted to the Premiership along with QPR and Norwich and how the new teams stack up. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The NHL Conference Finals: Predictions

We are getting to the business end of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs and the four teams left are Vancouver, San Jose, Boston and Tampa Bay. I guess the only surprising team there is Tampa Bay because they had to go through both Pittsburgh and Washington to get to the Eastern Conference final. However, they have shown, particularly through their special teams, that they are more than a match for any side.

Let's take a look at the match-ups. 

Eastern Conference:

Boston Bruins (3) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (5)

Right now the series stands at 1-1. Tampa exploded offensively in the first period of the first game, scoring three goals in around 85 seconds. That was too much for the Bruins to contend with and they could not get themselves back into the game, losing it 5-2. However, in the second game, it was the Bruins, led by rookie Tyler Seguin, who exploded offensively, putting 6 past the Lightning who pulled Roloson. The game ended 6-5 to Boston after a late rally from the Bolts.

It is hard to see how the rest of the series will pan out but I can't help but think that Boston's size and defensive ability will swing the series in their favour. Yes the Lightning have huge scoring potential but I am not sure if they can score as freely as they did in the first game for four games. I think the team that wins this series will have to thank their goalie in a massive way.

My Prediction: Bruins 4 – 2 Bolts

Western Conference:

Vancouver Canucks (1) vs San Jose Sharks (3)

The two perennial underachieving franchises in the NHL are clashing in the Western Conference final. Out of the two teams I think Vancouver are the more complete side but you can't count out a team that includes Joe Thornton, Danny Heatley, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and the red hot Ryan Clowe.

However, it is defensively where Vancouver are considerably better than their Sun Belt counterparts and I think that will win them the series. Ryan Kesler will also play a huge part, and you have to think that the Sedins will, at some point, heat up and play to their potential. This should be a close series but I think the Canucks will triumph in the end.

My Prediction: Canucks 4 – 2 Sharks

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Congrats to Manchester City and Manchester United!

Both sets of Manchester fans will be celebrating hard tonight as The Citizens have won the FA Cup Trophy (their first success in 35 years) and Manchester United have won the Premier League title once again (making them the most successful club in English history).

Well done!

There is one game left in this 2010/11 Premier League season but remember to stick with Your Armchair Pundit throughout the summer to hear all the latest news and views on transfer dealings. It promises to be a big summer as clubs such as Liverpool, Arsenal, Man City and Newcastle all look to spend money improving their squads. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Reds get their man

It is official, Kenny Dalglish is going to continue on as Liverpool manager for at least the next three seasons. I think this is great news for the club and the fans. Dalglish was at the helm at the time of Liverpool's dominance in the 80s before they relinquished their top dog status to Manchester United. Since then Liverpool have been a shadow of their former selves, hiring average coaches and buying average players. While they have won memorable trophies such as the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and the Champion's League in the last 20 years, they have not captured the Premier League title once since it's introduction back in 1992/93.

As of today, Liverpool have also lost their place as the most successful English club of all time to their great rivals, Manchester United. With the return of Dalglish, Liverpool's fans and board will hope that the rebuild of their massive club is well and truly underway. It will take time for sure but I guarantee that both the players at the club and the fans who flock to Anfield for every home game believe that they now have the right man in charge to try and bring back League successes.

Along with Dalglish, Steve Clarke also signed a three year contract which is more positive news for Liverpool. Clarke is one of the best coaches in the game right now and was one of the biggest reasons for Chelsea's successes during his time there between 2004 and 2008. Along with Dalglish, Clarke is also credited for turning Liverpool's season around.

Club captain and Liverpool native Steven Gerrard is very pleased with the latest news, “"Before he [Dalglish] came in everyone knew it was a difficult time as results were not going well, but sometimes all you need is a change. The last six months has been a lot more positive.”

Will 'King Kenny' make Liverpool a force once more?
The big question is, can Dalglish take the Merseyside club back to the top of English football? In his last tenure, Dalglish led the club to three league crowns - and fans will be desperate for him to add to that tally. I can see positive things in Liverpool's future but I can't see them winning the title in the next three years, not with Manchester City improving so rapidly and Manchester United still as dominant as ever. Even Chelsea and Arsenal are a little way ahead of The Reds right now.

They do have some fantastic talent at the club with Suarez, Carroll, Miereles, Reina and Gerrard, however Dalglish still has some catching up to do!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Where did Chelsea come from??

Just a few weeks ago we were condemning Chelsea to a battle for a Champion's League spot. The race for the Title was between Arsenal and Manchester United only. However, in true Arsenal style, they choked at the wrong moment and have seen their season implode on itself. When that happened we practically gave the Title to Man Utd. However, Chelsea have come out of nowhere to challenge the Red Devils and tomorrow the two teams will go head to head in a game that will decide who takes top spot in the League with only two games to go.

It was only two months ago that Chelsea were 15 points behind Manchester United and seemingly out of the Title picture. In fact, Chelsea have not been in first place since Nov. 22nd. However a run of great results have allowed Chelsea to creep back up towards United who have faltered several times recently including a massive loss last week to Arsenal. Typical of Arsenal to leave it til it is too late for themselves to actually win an important game.

Anyway, Arsenal's win has made tomorrow's fixture a make or break game for Chelsea. Ancelotti has stated that, “For us (Chelsea), it's like a final.” Ancelotti looked to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge at the end of the season because of how disappointing Chelsea's season has been up to this point. However, if he were to win the EPL then you would think his job would be secure.

Ancelotti: Can he save Chelsea's season?
Ancelotti's opposite number, Fergie, believes Manchester United will win the Title should they beat Chelsea tomorrow afternoon. Fergie is banking on the Red Devils' home form to be the deciding factor between the two sides, "Our home form is a big advantage. That's the reason we're there [on top].”

As well as Chelsea have done to get themselves back into this position I think getting a win at Old Trafford against a United side that always finish the season very strong is just a bridge too far. I think United's midfield are stronger and have a better work ethic and, if they can stay strong at the back I don't see Chelsea getting many chances.

This will be a closely fought game and emotions will run high. Because of that, I wouldn't be surprised to see a red card.

My Prediction: Manchester United 2 – 0 Chelsea.

Friday, 29 April 2011

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2

Prediction time! The second round of the playoffs starts tonight, so I hope you're all looking forward to it as much as I am.

Western Conference

Vancouver Canucks vs Nashville Predators

I think the Canucks are going to go forward and get better and better after putting out their biggest rivals. However, the Preds have already shown they can deal with the flair teams. This one could be close but I think the Canucks will take it.

My Prediction: 4-2 Canucks

Detroit Red Wings vs San Jose Sharks

This one should be a fantastic series. The Red Wings dominated the Coyotes in the opening round and San Jose made fairly simple work of Los Angeles. Two sides with plenty of size, strength and skill are going to collide here and I can see this one going on longer than it did last year when San Jose beat Detroit in five. I believe the Red Wings will take this one in seven games.

My Prediction: 4-3 Red Wings

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning

The Capitals look very strong this year and should take this series. They out-played and out-fought the New York Rangers in the last round and I think they will do it again against a Tampa side that are just beginning to find their feet in these playoffs.

My Prediction: 4-2 Caps 

Boston Bruins vs Philadelphia Flyers

The Bruins are going to want to forget what happened last year against the Flyers at this same stage. Leading the series 3-0 they failed in each of the next three games to go forward. In Game 7 the Bruins were leading 3-0 only to see their lead vanish along with their Stanley Cup hopes as Philly went on to win the game and the series. This year I think the Bruins are better suited to going through and have the excellent Tim Thomas in net. In contrast, the Flyers are currently having major goalie issues. 

My Prediction: 4-2 Bruins

What do you think? Let's hear your predictions!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

NHL Stanley Cup 1st Round

The first round threw up only a couple of surprises as most of the teams I expected to progress went on to the second round. Below you can see all the final scores and how they matched up to my earlier predictions.

Western Conference:

My Prediction: 3 - 4 (Phoenix win)

Well I was miles off with this one. I thought that Phoenix would be able to push Detroit just as far this year as they did last but, when their best player (Bryzgalov) doesn't play well, the Coyotes don't win, despite the brilliance of Shane Doan throughout the series and the emergence of Kyle Turris from his season-long slumber. Detroit were by far the better side and deserved to go through.

My Prediction: 4 – 1

I wasn't too far off with this one. San Jose proved to be too much for LA, as we all thought they would. The Kings played some great hockey and, had they defended their 4-0 lead in Game 3 of the series, things might have turned out differently. Thornton, Marleau and Heatley were fairly non-existent to begin with but they are building up a head of steam right now and march on.

My Prediction: 1 – 4 (Ducks win)

Again, my predictive powers failed me. Despite a great series for Ryan, Getzlaf, Perry and Selanne, the hardworking Nashville Predators had too much grit and determination for the highly skilled Anaheim Ducks. Despite being knocked out, Bobby Ryan can find some solace in having scored one of the best goals in Stanley Cup history.

My Prediction: 4 – 3

Spot on for this one. Probably the best series out of them all. Vancouver went 3-0 up and the Blackhawks came right back to tie it. Vancouver had goalie issues and even let in a short-handed goal at the end of Game 7 to take the game into overtime before they finally overcame the team that has put them out of the last two Stanley Cup playoffs. Vancouver have shown they have more about them this year and I fancy them to go far.

Eastern Conference:

My Prediction: 4 – 2

Washington proved to be too much for the Rangers who simply could not match the speed and power of the Capital's forwards. The Rangers did push Washington hard and, had a couple of bounces gone their way in overtime, we could have been looking at a much closer series. However, the better team did go through. Washington look dangerous.

My Prediction: 4 – 2

At one point I thought that the Bolts were on their way out. They were 3 – 1 down to the Pittsburgh Penguins after four games and that usually means only one thing. However, Steven Stamkos finally found his game in his first NHL playoffs and sparked a remarkable turnaround that ended with Tampa going through after a 1 – 0 win in Game 7. Pittsburgh will be wondering how this series got away from them.

My Prediction: 4 – 3

Nailed this one. With the history between these two sides, how could this series not have gone seven games? It would have been a travesty. It was another memorable seven games in the Bruins/Canadiens saga and, in the end, the better team went through for sure. The Bruins, now they have put out their biggest rivals, look very well placed to reach the Conference Final and even the Stanley Cup Final.

My Prediction: 4 – 0

I was way off with the series score, but not with the eventual winner. Philadelphia were without Chris Pronger for the early part of this series and it showed. However, on his return, the Flyers found their game and ground out some hugely important wins including a pivotal overtime win in Game 6 that allows them to move on. They will have to resolve their goaltending issues if they are to go as far as they did last year. Buffalo will be kicking themselves for letting this opportunity to progress to round 2 slip away.

I'll be back later to preview the next round!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Manchester United Favourites For Title

This title will not come as a huge surprise to many of you that follow the EPL but I think, even after today's 0-0 result with Newcastle United, that the Red Devils are pretty much guaranteed the Premier League title. Man Utd have always been a team that finishes the season very strongly and they find themselves ahead of Arsenal by seven points. Yes, Arsenal have a game in hand but that will only take them to within four points of United if they win (which, at the moment, is not exactly a guarantee). They also have to play United once more before the season ends and I can't see anything but a win for Fergie's men in that game.

How have United forced their way into the advantageous position they find themselves in? Well, I'm not entirely sure. United fans would be the first to tell you that they have not played fantastically well this season. They have been solid without being spectacular and they owe their league position in a big way to how bad Chelsea have been for parts of the season and how inconsistent Arsenal have been for the entire season. Liverpool were never anywhere near the top four and Manchester City still look a fair way from being a team that can challenge for the title over a full season.

Berbatov: Inconsistently brilliant.
You just have to look at the stats that the Manchester United squad have put up this season to see that it wasn't their best season. Wayne Rooney has only managed 10 goals and Javier Hernandez has only managed 11. To be fair to Hernandez, he has been a bit part player for Sir Alex in his first season and has looked very dangerous when he has played. Dimitar Berbatov leads the United scorers, and the Premier League's scorers with 21. While that sounds impressive, it is still five goals short of the total Rooney got for United last year and it is eight goals short of the tally Didier Drogba reached to take the Golden Boot last season.

United have also conceded more goals this season than they have in the previous five. Perhaps that is because they had to deal with injuries to key players at various times during the season.. Ferdinand and Vidic were both out for a while and they are two of United's best players.

Despite their struggles (OK they aren't really struggles...) they have still gotten the job done and you have to say that Sir Alex always gets exactly what he needs from his players. United have just about proven that they are the best in England once again.

However, what will United do when Van Der Sar is gone? What about when Giggs and Scholes eventually retire? Interesting questions that Sir Alex will need to answer...

Hit me with your comments and why not 'Like' the blog? Help me promote it!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Can Carroll Power On?

Andy Carroll's brace against Manchester City could be the catalyst that takes him to the next level. Two very well taken goals that displayed Carroll's ability on the ground and in the air led Liverpool to a 3-0 win over The Citizens and he looked impressive throughout the game. He was a constant menace to City's back four and looks every bit the star striker we all know he can become. Built in the mould of a power forward, Carroll is helping to bring such players back into fashion like they were in the mid-to-late nineties.

Carroll can shoot, pass, head the ball, hold up the ball and has decent pace. We haven't seen a striker like that since Alan Shearer and the ultimately disappointing James Beattie.

Carroll's two goals on Monday night were his first two in a Liverpool shirt and were both very impressive. After a fantastic year in the Championship, where he scored 19 League goals to help Newcastle gain promotion back to the Premier League, Toon fans were hoping he would stick around and become their new talismanic number 9.

However, halfway into this Premier League season, after he had scored 11 goals, Liverpool came along and offered 35 million pounds for him. That is an offer that would be too difficult to turn down and off Carroll went. At the time I thought it was a bad move on Newcastle's part, but now I have had more time to think, I believe the move benefited all three parties.

Carroll with Suarez
Newcastle got the money they need to rebuild a squad that can challenge in the Premier League next season, Liverpool get a young striker full of potential and goalscoring talent and Andy Carroll gets to play in a fantastic squad alongside one of the best strikers in the world in Luis Suarez. It is the best place for him to be for his development into a world class player. 

Carroll already has his first senior goal for England and, for the first time since his return from injury, he looks set to power on and become a great player. It is important that Carroll stays in control of his emotions on and off the field and acts like a professional in the early part of his career so he can realise his potential. Too many young players are attracted to clubbing, drinking and pursuits off the field that can ruin their careers.

What do you think? Can he become the next Alan Shearer? England expects.

Monday, 11 April 2011

NHL Playoff Match-ups.

It took all 82 games, but we finally have the 16 teams that have qualified for this season's Stanley Cup playoffs. As per usual, the first round has thrown up some juicy ties so read on, find out who plays who and then give me your opinion on who will beat who.

Eastern Conference:

Washington Capitals (1) vs (8) New York Rangers

It is hard to look beyond the Washington Capitals in this series, especially considering the quality of players they have on their roster coupled with the fact that the Rangers recently lost Ryan Callahan to injury. However, The Caps threw away a 3-0 series lead against the 8th placed Montreal Canadiens last year proving that anything can happen.

Prediction: Caps 4 – 2 Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers (2) vs (7) Buffalo Sabres

Philly have been very strong this year and the Sabres have not. Philly are bigger and more skilled than Buffalo so I can see this being a very one-sided series. Ryan Miller is going to have to be as good as he ever has been to get the Sabres through this one.

Prediction: Flyers 4 – 0 Sabres

Boston Bruins (3) vs (6) Montreal Canadiens

One of the most heated rivalries in Hockey comes to the fore here with probably the best first round match-up. Boston will be the favourites going into this one but that rarely matters when it comes to rivalries. Both teams will be pumped up for this one and I can't wait.

Prediction: Bruins 4 – 3 Habs

Pittsburgh Penguins (4) vs (5) Tampa Bay Lightning

There still is no set date for Crosby's return so it looks like Pittsburgh might have to play one or two more games without their star player. However, they have been doing just fine without both Crosby and Malkin in recent weeks so they should be ok. Tampa will be looking to secure as many wins as they can before Crosby returns and, with Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos in the team, there is no reason why they can't knock the Penguins out in the first round.

Prediction: Penguins 2 – 4 Bolts

Western Conference:

Vancouver Canucks (1) vs (8) Chicago Blackhawks

Vancouver have simply dominated this year, even with all the injuries to their blue-line. Led by Kesler and the Sedins, Vancouver stormed their way to the President's Trophy and look set to finally destroy their reputation as perennial under-achievers in the playoffs. Luongo looks solid in net and the Canucks have a great back-up in Cory Schneider. Despite all that, the Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup champs and they have dumped the Canucks out of the playoffs in the last two years so this will not be easy.

Prediction: Canucks 4 -3 Hawks

San Jose Sharks (2) vs (7) LA Kings

The San Jose Sharks will want to go one step further than they did last year and reach the Stanley Cup final. They are up against a tough first round opponent but they definitely have the edge. The Sharks' top line will be key in this series and I can't see how LA can match them offensively without Kopitar.

Prediction: Sharks 4 – 1 Kings

Detroit Red Wings (3) vs (6) Phoenix Coyotes

A rematch from last year's first round sees the Red Wings go up against the Coyotes again. Last year the series went seven games (with Detroit prevailing) and I see no reason why this year won't be the same. The Red Wings and the Coyotes shared two wins each against each other this year during the regular season and every game they play is a close one. The Coyotes will be out for revenge for sure and, as a fan, I have to believe they can do it.

Prediction: Red Wings 3 – 4 Coyotes

Anaheim Ducks (4) vs (5) Nashville Predators

The class and skill of the Ducks' top line will go up against the hard working Nashville Predators and I can't see past a series win for Anaheim. With Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan in such great form, the Ducks should progress to the second round despite the fact that Nashville took three of the four games between the two this year.

Prediction: Ducks 4 – 1 Preds


Give me your opinions.

Comment below!