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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