Why Arsenal Need to Win a Trophy in the 2013/14 Season

ArsenalWhenever I used to hear the name Arsenal Football Club, I used to think titles, trophies, and competitors. But that has all changed. They are without a trophy in the last 8 seasons, and with the players manager Arsene Wenger has had at his disposal, you just wonder, how? It is difficult to give a definitive reason as to why this has happened. The expectation levels at this club are very high, and some fans have, in recent years, grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of silverware at the Emirates.

They have also lost some of their star players because of this, most notably, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Robin van Persie. They have all since gone on to win league titles with their respective clubs. They have also had to face not being able to play Jack Wilshere due to his injuries. They had their “Golden Age” when they had the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira etc, but these are players haven’t really been replaced by Wenger and it is one of the reasons they have struggled in each competition in terms of their own competitiveness and flair.

They have always been near the top of the Premier League table, or thereabouts in terms of a title challenge, but in recent years, they have fallen at the final few hurdles and have had to settle for either a 3rd or 4th place finish. This, in my eyes, is not good enough for a team that has won the Premier League title 3 times. They may have been competing with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea, but there are really no excuses for a title challenge only lasting for 3/4 of a season.

In terms of a good Champions League run, this is something which may need extra investment in to be real contenders for this trophy. Let’s be truthful, the draw may not have been too kind to them at times, but it is the “luck of the draw.” Depending on whether you finish 1st or 2nd in your group can have a huge impact on who you face in the last 16.

Some of their players haven’t got the extra bit of Champions League experience under their belts, which has hindered their progress at times, but it is also something I feel Wenger needs to look at and have a re-think about his transfer targets. Meanwhile, the League and FA Cups have fizzled out too early for Arsenal. They haven’t had any real chance to lay down a marker to their rivals by putting in brilliant and consistent performances.

ArsenalPicture yourself as an Arsenal fan, knowing that your club hasn’t won a single piece of silverware in the last 8 years, consider Arsene Wenger’s options as well in that time, would you be happy? I certainly wouldn’t be. Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in Europe, and a club that size should always be competing for the top trophies on offer to them.

But in fairness, they have declined as a club. It is a totally new-look Arsenal to what it was 2-3 years ago. They have the likes of Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere etc. all making an impact of some sort. These players are very experienced, whether that be in Europe or in England, they are experienced. They need to stand up and be counted now though, since they need a consistent run in a cup and a very good season in the league in which they are genuine title contenders. Even if they don’t win a trophy, it will certainly ease some of the mounting pressure on the players to be successful. It will be a sign that the club is going in the right direction and is progressing instead of declining.

When you look at who Arsenal are interested in - Suarez, Rooney and Higuain - it is certainly a sign of intent from Arsenal, but you have to think, would those players really join a club like Arsenal? But what necessary signings do they really need? Well, when you look in the current transfer market, who is out there for Arsenal? They do definitely need another striker to bolster their attack. Higuain is very much affordable, and he does actually seem interested in a move to the Emirates. He is a player that would improve the Arsenal squad and possibly make them a more threatening side once again.

They don’t really need that much tweaking, but whatever tweaking does happen, it will be for the better. It should improve the squad. With that, I see no reason why Arsenal cannot challenge for the title this season, and if all goes well, the Gunners may be in for exciting times ahead for their future.

Written by OneFutbol

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Should Wayne Rooney Remain at Manchester United or Leave to Join a Different Club?

Wayne RooneyWayne Rooney has been Manchester United’s main man for more than 5 years, but should he stay with the Premier League Champions this summer or should he go? It all went wrong for him when Robin Van Persie came to Old Trafford. Van Persie was at the top of his game, scoring 30 goals in 38 Barclays Premier League games for the Gunners in 2011-12. But still there were no trophies.

The FA Cup in 2005, when he replaced Cesc Fabregas four minutes from the end of normal time against United at the Millennium Stadium, is the only major honor he won at Arsenal. His move to Old Trafford was long and drawn out, but it reached a conclusion when Sir Alex Ferguson made a personal phone call to Arsenal’s manager. This proved two giants of the English game could agree on the transfer of a major asset for the benefit of the player.

Wayne Rooney is in a similar position at Manchester United. After nine years at Old Trafford, his career has reached a crossroad. He wants a fresh start, a new challenge with another team competing with United for the biggest honors in the game. That club is Chelsea, where the attraction of working with Ashley Cole, one of his best friends in the game, and the lure of Jose Mourinho is proving irresistible.

Rooney has done a lot for United, winning five Premier League titles and the Champions League during his time at Old Trafford. In the modern era it’s decent, loyal service. Last week, United’s new manager David Moyes claimed there was a glint in his eye when Rooney return for pre-season training.

Given the history between the pair and Rooney’s determination to leave United, it’s almost impossible to think that could be the case. Moyes continues to insist the striker is not for sale, but things change quickly in football. They have spoken several times but Rooney has shown little sign of backing down.

Rooney has won almost every club trophy there is to win at Old Trafford and even though there is a new manager in town, the team spirit and the way they play won’t make a difference to the amount of trophies they win. The boy from Everton may hate the new manager David Moyes after a row at the club when he was younger, but they have grown up and need to get on with it.

Wayne Rooney & Robin van PersieLast season, Rooney may have been behind new talisman Robin Van Persie, but he still popped up with a few goals. Two of the best team goals in the derby were scored against City, where he showed true class and quality to get on the end of some great passing movement.

Van Persie arrived last summer at United and has since made an instant impact, scoring over 30 goals in his first season. Unfortunately for Rooney, the Flying Dutchman has since moved the former first-choice striker back into a midfield role, which the Englishman is not very keen on and is now pushing for a move out the door of United. With the arrival of Cesc Fabregas gathering more pace at United, this could be a sign that Rooney is leaving the club.

Rooney, who is known to be an admirer of Jose Mourinho, wants a new experience and is reportedly pushing for a move to Stamford Bridge, where he will be playing with his friends and countrymen such as Frank Lampard, John Terry, Ashely Cole and will work along well with the new manager.

Chelsea are struggling for a decent striker right now, and Rooney certainly wants to be in a striker role now that he has been pushed out by Robin Van Persie; another reason why should leave and take up a new challenge in England.

The Blues have had more European success in the last couple of years than Manchester United, making it into later stages of the competition, yetalways being let down by a striker like the Didier Drogba that led the “boys in blue” to European glory in 2012.

Chelsea is most definitely the more suitable option for Rooney with them struggling to find a striker, and with his connections at Chelsea, they could persuade him to join. PSG could be a suitable option for Rooney, but they now have Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ahead of him, and Rooney would probably not become their first-choice striker. Rooney seemed to be a Barcelona summer target, but essentially they do not need Rooney, and a move to the Catalan Giants is not likely occur.

Written by Max Tenwick

How Could Manchester United Win the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League?

Manchester UnitedSince they were formed in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR, Manchester United have won 3 European Cups, or as it is called in the modern-day game, Champions League titles. 2 such titles were won under the reign of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson: the treble winning season of 1999 and the double winning season of 2008 (see highlights below). And with Ferguson looking to win another in order to beat Bill Paisley’s record of 3 Champions League at one club, I look into the stats, the facts, and the opinions of others to see what the Reds need to do to win the trophy of dreams.

Goalkeepers

As the start of the season was approaching, United did not have a first choice keeper. Now though, David De Gea has firmly cemented his place as Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper. He has been putting in some commanding display’s recently and looks to be the real deal. With second choice Anders Lindegaard a great backup option, United have no work to do in the goalkeeping department. Ben Amos is also another backup option for the future; he is developing well at the club and should be a top quality keeper in years to come.

Defense

Manchester United don’t lack strength in-depth in their current side. Defense is an area where they have plenty of promising young stars for the future, such as players that will one day have a chance of captaining their country, like Phil Jones. However, are those players good enough and experienced enough to challenge for Europe’s biggest trophy, the UEFA Champions League? And can the experienced Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, or Patrice Evra play every game in the League and in Europe? No, but how to solve it?

Manchester UnitedJonny Evans has had an excellent season and has progressed well since the start of 2012. Now Ferguson’s first choice center back and nearing his prime, he can play in almost every match and produce top quality performances. To win next years European Cup, United and Ferguson will need someone else in the center back position though. This brings me to the point of rotation; with Vidic and Ferdinand ever aging and not able to play game in, game out, the two will have to take turns with each other, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to partner Jonny Evans. Of course the Irishman cannot play every game and will need some rest, therefore, occasionally, Vidic and Ferdinand could play, or Jones and Smalling.

In left back position, the Reds have the experienced Patrice Evra. He still tears up defenses and makes important tackles, but he is getting older and will need more rest next season. Leighton Baines has been a target of the Reds for a few years now, and in my opinion, is the best full back in the league. Second choice left back Alexander Buttner is a good prospect but defensively has not shown enough quality to play regularly. Fabio Da Silva is returning from loan at QPR and is a great full left back, much like his twin, Rafael. What to do? It’s Ferguson’s choice, he can either buy Leighton Baines and have left back covered and extremely strong and challenge for the Champions league. Or the champions-elect could not purchase a solid new left-back and challenge for the Premier League and fail in Europe.

Midfield

Manchester United aren’t short of quality in midfield. With Michael Carrick recently being nominated for PFA Player of the Year, they have one of the best and most consistent midfielders in the world. Tom Cleverley has been ever improving recently and has been putting in some impressive displays. They have young players coming through the ranks such as Ryan Tunnicliffe, Nick Powell, Davide Petrucci, and Jesse Lingard.

Manchester UnitedAgain, the problem is whether the current midfield can they challenge the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, or Real Madrid? And again, the answer is no. This time, what to do? There is no possible way of getting around the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side need a dominating midfielder. Someone like Danielle De Rossi, Yohan Cabaye, or Kevin Strootman. Those were the responses on Twitter when I asked “If you could have one new midfielder at United, who would it be? (Realistically).”

Out of those three options, 1 name stands out. Kevin Strootman. He is extremely young and powerful, much like treble-winning Manchester United legend Roy Keane. United fans drool over the prospect of signing such a player. He is also the most realistic signing for the Reds. Ferguson is a known admirer of him and Strootman will be looking to get some higher quality football than he gets at his current club (PSV Eindhoven).

Danielle De Rossi has always been a target for United but he is a loyal player who looks set to stay at Roma until he retires. Yohan Cabaye is a classy footballer but is not the quality of a more physical player like Strootman. All of this leads to Strootman being the perfect player for the Reds, the player to lead them to European glory once again. It’s only a question of whether there is enough money at Old Trafford.

Attack

Manchester UnitedWith the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, wihout a doubt, Manchester United have the strongest attack in the league, and possibly the world. With players like Will Keane, Joshua King, and more ready to join up with them, Ferguson doesn’t need to worry about his strikers, despite rumors he was in for Radamel Falcao. There are still rumors linking United with Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski; although it would mean one of United’s strikers leaving the Theater Of Dreams, it would be an excellent buy for the Reds. He scores repeatedly, with an average rate of almost 1 a game. Should he come to Manchester, he would link up with old teammate Shinji Kagawa to form a formidable partnership.

Assisting Manchester United’s forwards will be the wingers. The new addition of Wilfried Zaha (bought in January, now on loan at Crystal Palace) will be a big bonus. The Premier League leaders’ wingers have struggled this season. Antonio Valencia has had a torrid season, Ashley Young has had plenty of injuries keeping him on the side-lines, and Luis Nani’s morale has been low after his controversial sending off in their Champions League Round of 16 match-up against Real Madrid. Danny Welbeck has adapted to a new role on the left flank, and we could see Zaha and Welbeck on the wings in future. Even though it looks as if United have many a winger, they may need to purchase another to strengthen their squad and show their quality, someone like James Rodriguez.

If all these things happen, it looks good for Manchester United. They could reach the promise land again, and win the UEFA Champions League.

Written by Harry Robinson

The Highs and Lows of Arsenal’s Season So Far

There is no denying that Arsenal are not at the level they used to be. The Golden Age of Henry, Bergkamp, Dixon, Wright, and Adams are behind us, and the new generation of Arsenal players are with us. Despite the addition of these new, young talents to the club, this new team hasn’t performed as well as fans were expecting.

Premier League

ArsenalArsenal are currently 5th in the Premier league with a game in hand against 4th placed Tottenham. They are currently 4 points behind the Spurs, yet their current run of form means that it will very challenging just to reach 4th place before the season’s end.

Arsenal currently has the best defensive record away from home in the league, yet at home, their defense is ranked in the bottom 8 of the league. You can now see why Arsenal’s defense gets such a torrid time.

Champions League

Arsenal were knocked out of the Champions league by Bayern Munich in the last 16. Admittedly, they were knocked before the second leg had even started after a poor performance in the first leg, losing 3-1 at home. However a valiant display in the second leg is surely one of the highlights of the season for Arsenal fans.

Domestic Cups

Arsenal were famously knocked out of the League Cup by League 2 minnows Bradford City. Bradford did eventually go on to reach the final, but lost 5-0 to Swansea. However, the worst thing about their performance was that Arsene Wenger fielded a very strong side. The likes of Cazorla, Podolski, Wilshere, and Vermaelen all started that game.

Arsenal also lost in the FA Cup to Blackburn. A quarter-final match, which Arsenal were expected to ease through, didn’t go to plan; yet another game that Arsenal should have won.

What Needs to Change?

Cesc Fabregas and Robin van PersieArsenal lack star power, having lost the likes of van Persie, Fabregas, and Song in recent years. A star needs to be brought in, someone who can change a game with a touch of class.

Arsenal also need a pacy center back to keep up with counter attacks. With Mertesacker, there is no pace, and often players can run in behind the defense.

Who Should be Signed?

Mario Götze has been outstanding for Borussia Dortmund and has showed his class and flair all season. His dribbling and creativity is exactly what Arsenal are missing.

Another option for Arsene Wenger is Edison Cavani, who like Götze, has been attracting attention by big clubs across Europe. Cavini is currently the top scorer in the Italian Serie A with 22 goals. His best traits are his impressive work rate and outstanding heading and finishing.

Plenty of rumors have been linking both these players to the club, and both Cavini and Götze have what Arsenal is missing. They would create and score lots of goals as well as having the star power they lacking at the moment.

Best and Worst Players

For me Santi Cazorla has been Arsenal’s best player this season by far. He has scored 12 goals in the Premier League as well as creating 7 assists. He commands games with his skill on the ball and his vision. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, and Lukas Podolski came close but couldn’t quite beat Cazorla. Jack Wilshere could have beaten Cazorla if he hadn’t been injured for much of season.

Andrei Arshavin has been very poor for Arsenal this season. He looks bored when he is playing and lacks a desire to create anything remotely decent. When he joined Arsenal in 2009, he was brilliant. He showed pace, skill, and a lethal shot, but now he just looks lazy. Gervinho ran Arshavin close, but his recent performance against Reading showed he still has what is needed to perform well.

Young Talent

Jack WilshereArsenal’s academy is still one of the best in England, and new talent is constantly arriving. The likes of Wilshere and Gibbs came through the ranks at Arsenal, and many new players have the potential to do the same. Recently watching a U21 game, the one player that stood out was captain Ignasi Miquel. He towers over the other players at 6 feet 4 inches, yet is so agile and good with the ball at his feet.

Another name for you to remember is 20 year old Thomas Eisfiled. The young German is said to be the new Götze because of his excellent play-making abilities.

Summary

This season has been disappointing for Arsenal fans and well below Arsenal’s usual standards. At times, the football has been great to watch, but the results have not been good enough. Players must be brought in to change the team for the better. On the plus side, there are plenty of new stars in the academy ready to come up and create a new generation of Arsenal players.

Written by Eleanor Martin

Premier League vs La Liga: Which League is the Best in the World?

Premier League vs La LigaLa Liga and the Premier League are, in most quarters, rightly recognised as the two strongest leagues in the world. Perhaps this is tough on Serie A, but it is no secret that most of the world’s stars occupy the two leagues in question.

It would be fair to say that, at this moment, the two best players in the world are Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of Barcelona. Spain may have the best national squad in the world and the best players, but that doesn’t assure them a top spot in their domestic league. Most, if not all football fanatics, have similar comparisons, La Liga or the Premier League?

Now, for the most part, the majority of EPL lovers would argue that the Liga lacks any sense of competitiveness, and also accuse it of being a “2 team league,” regarding the fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid have quite often won the league and rarely ever given room for any other Spanish teams to even compete.

This topic being a never-ending discussion point between all football fans, and it should be an interesting and somewhat obligation issue for me to try to distinguish between the two. The two leagues are both a big 20-team story in their own rights. Like any other good story though, football always throws up fascinating sub-plots, and it is within these that I believe the true competitive nature of round-robin football can be found. ‘The Race for 4th’ and ‘The Race for 40 Points’ can be equally as enthralling, but both have the potential to be just as equally predictable.

Given that the two leagues are almost identical in format and structure, sharing similar European qualification standards and the same rules regarding relegation (albeit the Premier League uses goal-difference to separate sides on level points whereas La Liga uses the head-to-head results). I have decided that the best measure of this is to look at how close teams finish to one another on points throughout the league. A smaller gap between teams suggests a higher level of competitiveness. I guess the logical place to start is at the top.

EPL vs La Liga: Head-to-Head

Having examined the final top-four from the two respective leagues since 2005, I have constructed the table below to show the points difference between each position. This includes the gaps between 1st through to 4th and an overall gap covering the section, as well as an average points difference over the last seven seasons.

As expected, the gap between 1st and 2nd is a lot smaller than the gap between 2nd and 3rd in both leagues. As a season goes on, more and more teams tend to fall away from the title-chase and there are often only two teams left who go into the final few games with a chance of winning the title. The average gap between 2nd and 3rd in Spain, however, is staggering. Whilst between 2005 and 2009, the two leagues were both relatively competitive in terms of the number of teams challenging for top-spot, since 2010, La Liga’s top-two have broken away to such an extent, that the average points difference between 2nd and 3rd is more than double the gap between the champions and the runners-up themselves. There is, however, a smaller gap between 3rd and 4th in Spain. But in terms of overall competitiveness at the summit, the Premier League wins hands down thanks also to a much smaller gap between the top and bottom of the section overall.

Robin van PersieFor all the Liga fans just inches away from closing the link, recommend you wait and continue reading. At the time being, La Liga is a zoo of talent with both the world’s best Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi taking their place in this promiscuous jungle. I have also recognized  that by a landslide, the Premier League delivers more goals on a weekly and seasonal basis than La Liga. Could this be because the Premier League posses the best strikers? Is it that the likes of Falcao, Ronaldo, Benzema, or even the great Lionel Messi are just not good enough for teams like Levante and Osasuna?

The answer to this question has to be seen through a different eye. The tactical one. Now I’m no Jose Mourinho, but its been shown and quoted by many players who have transferred from the Premeir League to La Liga and visa-versa, that in the Premier League, you simply do not have to wait for the second half for an open game. Unlike La Liga, which in majority, always kicks off games with a nervy and tight back-line and forwards that are as shy as a pre-pubicent girl. Contrary to popular belief, La Liga has shown itself to be tactically superior to the Premier League in the sense that even teams that counter attack, always have a time and place, in addition to adding a lot of pressure and closing their spaces to make it harder for the opposition, and unfortunately, that tends to be a rarity in England.

Recent games like the 8-0 hammering that Chelsea handed Aston Villa a couple of weeks back, or the 7-3 gunner goal-marathon. These scorelines, in the eye of an average football fan, would be enjoyable and entertaining, but as many other conceded goals, they happen because of a fault, and oh are those faults many.

Teams in the Premier League continually show us that they fail at shifting positions. Center backs frequently caught off-guard and there’s no sense of connection between the back-line and the midfield  Not to mention the seas of space between each player, that usually makes it easy for both teams to get space without even trying. Modern day football is all about space-making, and without that, there’s no tactical brilliance to any goal, even if it was shot in a beautiful way, it still would be looked at as a fault.

That pretty much sums up the whole La Liga-EPL dilemma and gives my perspective of the issue. It’s hard to say which is better, and honestly, it’s better not to. Both leagues are considered the best in the world, and it wouldn’t be right ruling one off as boring or the other as tactically insuperior. Both enjoyed in their own way, and cherished by many.

Written by Hasan Al

How Can Manchester United Win the Treble in the 2013/14 Season?

Manchester UnitedAn ‘average’ side according to some, but to others, it was Fergie’s 2012/13 treble winning side. The beginning of last week and Manchester United fans’ dreams were full of a possible treble glory after many a pundit had commented on what could’ve been a glorious year for the Reds.

Tuesday night came around, built up to be the match made in heaven, the legendary match, but it was not to be. Ronaldo returning, Ferguson versus Mourinho; it was all there, all the beauty, the romance of the game. However, the romance was not played out by a certain referee, sending Nani off after 56 minutes and as a result turning a genius tactical plan from Ferguson into an easy opportunity for ‘the Special One’ to come and take the win and progress into the Quarter-Finals.

Quarter-Finals? That’s where we head now, Manchester United vs. Chelsea, the FA Cup Quarter Final. A win expected for United, and it looked like happening too. 5 minutes gone; Carrrrrrick, Chicaritooooooooooo! BOOM! 1-0! Hernandez heads past Cech. 6 minutes on from then: “Rooney lines the free kick up, players jostling in the area, Rooney! It’s curling through, GOALL! No one could get there, Luiz is nowhere! BOOM! 2-0!”

All is looking plush for the Reds, a two goal advantage; they have the momentum, every player full of happiness and confidence. Nothing could go wrong. And then it did.

Manchester United 2-2 ChelseaA shambles of a second half; usually the period in the game where United excel and players are falling over their feet watching Hazard strut his stuff. To cut a long story short, Chelsea score two and earn themselves a replay. This is something United definitely don’t need as they look to secure the Premier League without any embarrassing results. So, United’s treble dream cut short and their double chances hanging by a thread. The only good thing about that week for the Reds? They’re still 12 points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier league table. A brilliant feat.

What I’ve been thinking is that although it was not likely this year and it was quite possible, what about next year, the 2013/14 season? So, here I have compiled my guide to winning the treble:

Don’t Rotate Goalkeepers

Now, I’m not saying we’re never allowed to give David De Gea a rest, but come on, what good is putting Lindegaard of Amos on instead of him in an important game like in the FA Cup? Play him and only him, and when the lad asks for a rest give him it in the smaller games.

Do Rotate Defenders

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja VidicWe have one of the best selection headaches in the world at United. We have the solid highly defensive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, the always available Jonny Evans can go with anyone at any time, Phil Jones is undoubtedly one of the best CDM’s in the league who must not be sold, and then there’s good old Chris Smalling who has been plagued with injury but is England’s number 2 center back. This season, we have not had the gracious chance to see Jones and Smalling keep the goals out, but Fergie knows they are there and I’m sure that if he brings them into the rotation system of Ferdinand, Vidic, and Evans, United will have the best defense in the league.

Get Antonio Valencia Back

This is not one I can give advice on. He used to be brilliant and one day he changed, and this season he has been dreadful, nothing like ‘Antonio Valenica, Number 25, dreaded by every fan in the league.’ Ferguson is a master and it will be one of his greatest challenges, and if he completes it, the Manchester club have a good chance of treble glory next season.

Keep Wayne Rooney and Everyone Else

This is one of the most important points of my plan. Keeping every single player is key to winning the treble, considering this side will have been together for a whole year, probably winning the Premier League and becoming a tight unit. The players from the year before will be even closer because of the tragic loss of the Premier League on the final day, and together, they will be unstoppable. All this along with the fact that every single player is brilliant enough to be in a Manchester United shirt. Should someone come in, it could be an amazing impact buy like a certain Robin Van Persie, or it could be a horrible flop and disrupt the team from a treble like Diego Forlan. In my view, we don’t need to buy anyone apart from my next point.

Buy a Backup Central Midfielder

Tom CleverleyThe key word here is backup. What I am trying to say is not ‘Carrick and Cleverley aren’t good enough blah blah blah.’ I’m saying, ‘Carrick and Cleverley are brilliant, but they need some rest.’ You saw a perfect example of it on Sunday against Chelsea; Carrick and Cleverley had a great first half, making nice play, and then in the second, all their work went down the drain. They got tired, made some sloppy errors and conceding 2 goals. So, my thinking was buy another good midfielder for not too much cash so that (especially Cleverley as he is young) Cleverley and Carrick don’t get fatigue after too many games in a row, especially at the end of the season or in winter when the games start to build up. The only other player we should buy if they’re available is of course none other than Portuguese International Cristiano Ronaldo.

Make a List for the Following Season

A list, you may ask? By ‘list,’ I mean who we will sign when the season has drawn to a close. This season, we do not need to do that as we have no one player we specifically need to buy. Next season, we definitely will need to purchase new players. We will need a new left-back, as Patrice Evra will be slower, older, and all in all less good. We will need a new midfielder, as Scholes and Giggs will have left, and Carrick will be growing older by the second while slowing and losing his ability. We will also need a striker to give Rooney and Van Persie some rest while giving Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck their deserved weekly run out. I think you get the point, we’ll need players and what I’m saying is we need to plan for these players to get the best out of the side in the future.

Keep Playing the United Way

Yes, I am talking about the way to play. But not just the way of playing, attacking, nice football. Oh no, I’m talking about the way of coming back in every game no matter what he circumstances are. They fight till the very end and that is what has helped them this year in their bid for the Premier League.

Written by Harry Robinson

Manchester United vs Real Madrid: Who Will Emerge Victorious in Epic Clash?

Arguably the most mouth-watering of ties in the Champions League Round of 16 will be contested this Tuesday, where Premier League side Manchester United will take on Spanish Giants Real Madrid at Old Trafford. It’s Ferguson vs. Mourinho, Rooney vs. Ronaldo, Los Galatictico’s vs. The Red Devils. A true clash of the titans.

First Leg Review

Cristiano RonaldoThe first leg of this largely anticipated Champions League tie ended in a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on 13 February. The result was deserving of both teams, as they were nearly inseparable for the duration of the match. It could have easily gone in either side’s favor, but the draw makes this Second Leg even more exciting and heart-wrenching for fans of either squad to watch!

The match-up saw Cristiano Ronaldo make his first appearance against former club Manchester United since his departure from the club, and he marked this important event with a goal. Unfortunately for Madrid, though, Danny Welbeck also managed to etch his name onto the scoresheet, ending it in a draw and leading up to their Champions League rematch this Tuesday.

Fabio Coentrao was inches away from putting Madrid up on the 5th minute thanks to a fingertip save, but Welbeck ended up being the one who opened the scoring on the 20th minute. United’s first real opportunity of the match turned out to be successful, as Welbeck caught Rooney’s corner with a powerful header that found the back of the net.

United used Real’s weaknesses in set-pieces to their advantage, as Welbeck’s simple goal sent United fans into total chaos and jubilation. Considering the importance of the away goal in the UEFA Champions League, it will be crucial to United’s efforts in qualifying for the Quarter Finals if it ends in a draw on aggregate following the Second Leg.

But Madrid managed to respond quickly, as Ronaldo scored a similar header into the corner following a cross from Di Maria at the half hour mark. It was 1-1, and the game was far from over.

Yet neither team managed to net another in the final 60 minutes of the match, although both sides had their chances. De Gea made an unorthodox yet vital save for United, as he kicked Coentrao’s shot away from the goal as the Portuguese midfielder exploited a gaping hole in the United defense. Meanwhile, Van Persie had two great chances within the span of only a minute, but was unsuccessful, ending the game in a heated 1-1 draw and placing United as favorites to advance with an away goal advantage.

Preview

Injuries

Neither squad have picked up many major injuries, although some important players will be missing this match.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side will be playing without Fletcher, Scholes, and arguably most importantly, defender Phil Jones due to recent injuries. Meanwhile, Madrid will most likely be without legendary goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas at this Champions League clash, due to a hand injury.

Form
Manchester United: WDWWW, Real Madrid: DWWWW

Manchester United 1-1 Real MadridBoth squads have had similar records in their last 5 matches, picking up 4 wins and a draw apiece. They will certainly be in the best of form as the enter Tuesday’s match.

Manchester United have gone their last 18 matches in all competitions unbeaten, all of which were crammed in a very short amount of time. Most recently, United recorded comfortable victories over Norwich City (4-0) and QPR (2-0).

Meanwhile, despite an upset to Granada at the start of February, Madrid have certainly bounced back. They beat Sevilla with a 3-goal margin (4-1), as well as Barcelona two times in the past week, the first of which ended in a 3-1 win (Copa del Rey) and the second with the score of 2-1 (La Liga).

Facts
Real Madrid:
  • Angel Di Maria has managed 4 assists against Manchester opposition this season: 3 against City and 1 versus United.
  • This season, Real Madrid have racked up a total of 103 goals in 43 matches.
  • The last time Los Blancos played at Old Trafford ended in a 4-3 loss, but the Spanish Giants moved on due to a 6-5 win on aggregate.
Manchester United:
  • Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson does not have a great record playing against Jose Mourinho, winning only 2 times in a total of 15 matches.
  • Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho has never recorded a win at Old Trafford.
  • The Red Devils are on track to managing a treble this season, with their FA Cup, Premier League, and Champions League chances still very much alive.
Key Players

Manchester United 1-1 Real Madrid£24 million pounds? Injury prone? Past his day at 29? All these questions where thrown about the day Manchester United got their man Robin Van Persie. It was a gamble but my God did it pay off! Having already scored 19 goals in 28 games in his debut season, RVP  has been seen as the man to guide United to their 20th title. He will certainly have a say in both legs.

But the man everyone will be watching, a man who gained international recognition at his time with United, is none other than Portuguese International Cristiano Ronaldo. Sure, Real Madrid have a whole host of threats that could hurt Manchester United, but their main attacking asset will be Ronaldo. He has scored an amazing 39 goals in his 40 games this season, many times even single-handedly winning matches for Madrid. He is one of the best players in the world at the moment, having tallied up an impressive 24 goals in 25 starting appearances for Madrid this season. He may have Sir Alex Ferguson ruing the day he once let him go.

This is the first time Ronaldo will be returning home to Old Trafford after leaving the Red Devils for Los Blancos, and it will certainly be an emotional match for him as well as all supporters of Manchester United. But whether you love him or hate him, all football fans will definitely be excited to see Ronaldo make his epic return to United ground this Tuesday.

Prediction

I’m definitely finding it hard to predict this match-up. My heart says United, but my head says Real. Now that United have the away-goal advantage, Madrid will need to do everything possible to eliminate this advantage and advance forward. Like the First Leg, this game can easily go in either squad’s favor, but what I will say is that whichever team that advances will likely reach the Champions League Final, and maybe even go through to the end and win the ultimate prize!

Prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Real Madrid (AET) (Agg: 3-2)

Written by FutbolPulse

QPR 0-2 Manchester United: Red Devils Cruise Past QPR with Comfortable Away Win

QPR vs. Manchester UnitedThe full-back slammed a stunning half-volley into the top corner from 25 yards to put United ahead in the 23rd minute on a cagey afternoon in west London. Ryan Giggs sealed the points for the league leaders 10 minutes from time as he beat QPR’s offside trap to sweep the ball home.

The only concern for United will be the apparent back injury that forced top scorer Robin van Persie off five minutes before half-time after a collision on the touchline.

QPR manager Harry Redknapp recalled much-criticised defender Jose Bosingwa for the first time since December 9, with Fabio ineligible against his parent club, while Bobby Zamora led the attack for the hosts.

United started with a strong line-up as Van Persie returned to partner Chicharito in attack while Wayne Rooney was well enough to take a place on the bench after suffering a virus. Redknapp called for a cup-tie atmosphere before kick-off as he targeted 20 points to guide QPR to safety, and the crowd responded as they backed their side and jeered the league leaders, particularly Ashley Young after the winger’s dive to win a penalty against them last term.

After a tepid start to the game, United took the lead in the 23rd minute with a goal that came from absolutely nowhere. Julio Cesar parried away Van Persie’s initial cross-cum-shot and the ball fell for Rafael to crack an outstanding half-volley into the top corner from 25 yards. The Brazilian will likely never score a better goal in his life.

At the other end, Rafael was on hand in the 35th minute to deny QPR an equalizer as he cleared Christopher Samba’s header off the line from Esteban Granero’s corner. United immediately counterattacked and a swift move, which ended with Cesar producing a fingertip save to keep out Van Persie’s cushioned volley after the Dutchman latched on to a cross from Rafael.

It was the Dutchman’s last real involvement of the afternoon as he was substituted five minutes before the break with a back injury he appeared to pick up in an innocuous collision with a photographer in the build-up to United’s opener.

QPR vs. Manchester UnitedThe action barely picked up in the early stages of the second half and Redknapp responded on the hour mark by bringing on January signing Loic Remy for the injured Zamora. The Frenchman almost made an immediate impact when he cut in from the left and saw his powerful near-post shot saved by David de Gea in the United goal.

Yet as QPR attacked, the game opened up for United on the counter-attack and Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took the advantage 10 minutes from time. Nani played in Giggs and the 39-year-old used all of his experience to beat the offside trap and slot his finish past Cesar.

Moments later, the Welshman nearly scored a second of the afternoon as his mis-hit shot skied into the air and inadvertently hit the crossbar. But by then the result was beyond doubt as United stroll towards the title.

With yet another win, Manchester United sit atop the Premier League table with 68 points from their 22-2-3 record. They are a comfortable 15 points ahead of Blue counterpart Manchester City, while, Chelsea sit far below in 3rd with 49 points. Meanwhile, QPR sit in a devastating 20th (last) place on the table from their 2 wins, 11 draws, and 14 losses this season. They are clearly in a relegation battle, and will likely be relegated to the Championship the following season.

Written by Pierre Sanz

2012-13 Barclays Premier League Season So Far: Part 2

Liverpool

Steven GerrardThe second Merseyside team is none other than Liverpool FC. After a disappointing season last year and finishing in 8th place, Brendan Rodgers started the season badly. However, in their last 5 games, they have won 3, drawn 1, and lost 1. Since the signing of Daniel Sturridge, the partnership between him and the controversial Luis Suarez (22 goals) has been a revolution for Liverpool. With these two strikers, Liverpool have a good chance of getting back up to their old expectations. Liverpool aren’t a team without their skipper Steven Gerrard (6 goals), who has been in exceptional form this season and is really bossing the midfield with along with Lucas. I think Liverpool will end up in 7th place behind neighbors Everton due to their poor defensive efforts.

Manchester City

The blue side of Manchester is taken up by reigning champions Manchester City, who, after winning the Premier League last season following a dramatic ending, are stuck 7 points behind United at the end of January. City’s top goal scorer is Edin Dzeko with 11 goals, followed by Sergio Aguero with 10, and Tevez with 9. Dzeko was in superb form at the end of December through to the end of January, scoring 4 goals in 3 games. However, after Balotelli’s departure to join AC Milan, all 3 strikers can expect to play much more game time and will need to perform much better if they want to catch up with United. City have been in exquisite form 7 of their last 9 games, only losing to rivals Manchester United. A key matter in Man City picking up points at the moment is their defense after keeping a clean sheet for 4 games. Overall, I think its going to be tight, however with a 7 point gap, I think United will succeed and win the title.

Manchester United

Robin van PersieMeanwhile, United, who dominate the red half of Manchester, are still recovering from their disappointment last season after losing the title on the last game. United have had the best start to a season in their history, and it is all as a result of many different things. One thing is the signing of Robin Van Persie; the ex-Gooner has scored 22 goals and is the top scorer in the Premier league, and even when the team is playing not as well, he always seems to get them out of trouble and hit the net to gain crucial points. Another factor of their success is their superb home form this season; they are unbeaten at home since the September 29 and are on an 11 game winning streak. However, if United do want to win the title, Wayne Rooney is going to have to continue his great form (as illustrated in the last 7 games and scoring 8 goals), however with only 12 goals this season, he is going to have to score much more frequently to take pressure off of Van Persie. Man United’s weak point this season has certainly been their defense, including their goalkeeper, David de Gea. Fortunately for United, they have managed to outscore most teams they have played, however their defense is going to have to perform much better if they are planning on taking back the title. Overall, I think United will just nab the title a couple points ahead of City.

Newcastle United

The Toons would have expected a successful season following their 6th place finish the previous year, however things haven’t been so simple for Alan Pardew and his men as they finished 15th at the end of January. As things stand now, Newcastle are in a relegation battle due to their lack of goals, especially now that Demba Ba has completed the move to Chelsea. A key player in the final months of the 2012-13 season will certainly be Yohan Cabaye. The French midfielder is a key play-maker for the Toons, and he has certianly been missed during his time recovering from injuries. A crucial win last week against Aston Villa was imperative for Newcastle’s efforts in edging relegation, and to no one’s surprise, Cabaye had a great game and proved he has what it takes to keep them up.

Norwich City

After finishing 12th last season (joint 10th on goal difference), a mid table season was in order for Norwich. However, so far, they are below expectations and are sitting in 14th at the end of January. Just looking at Norwich’s top goal-scorer (Snodgrass 5 goals) shows that they do not have very successful attacking efforts. Their top striker is Grant Holt, who is the captain this year with 4 goals. He has a great stature however he is not an out and out goal scorern and this is where Norwich are under-performing. One player Norwich fans will be looking forward to see back is John Ruddy, who had a great start of the season with some outstanding performances but has been recovering from injuries for 3 months.

Written by PAFCBake

Champions League Round of 16 Preview: Part 4

Porto vs. Malaga

James RodriguezLikewise to the Valencia-PSG tie, this fixture seems to be outshone by the other dazzling fixtures ahead, but with an array of talent on display, it would be rude not to watch.

Porto have been going neck and neck with Benfica for many years now, and yet again we see the two Portuguese toe to toe. Only the goal difference separates the two. With this in mind, will Porto give a high importance towards Europe?

Malaga on the other hand have been the surprise package in Spain, others tipped them to fail what with their financial trouble, but I’m going to tip them as the team to watch in this tournament. Most definitely the dark horse this year.

Key Players

Throughout the years, Porto have lost and found world class strikers, such as Falcao and Hulk, but they have also managed to replace these quality attackers with players such as Martinez and Rodriguez. A Columbian theme certainly runs through this club. That’s why I believe the key players for Porto will be none other than Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez.

Malaga’s threat will be well known throughout the football world. That threat is 2012 Tuttosport’s Golden Boy Isco. The Spanish playmaker has been the catalyst of Malaga’s threat so far this season, having scored two goals in the Champions League  already. I feel that if Isco steps up to the occasion, Malaga will advance.

Prediction

Malaga are the team to watch in this competition. Yes, they may be cash strapped at the moment but I believe they have enough quality to advance to next round. I’m going for a Porto win in the first leg and a Malaga win in the second which will see them advance on goal difference.

1st Leg: Porto 1-0 Malaga
2nd Leg: Malaga 2-0 Porto

Real Madrid vs. Manchester United

Robin van PersieI have saved the best for last. Arguably the most mouth-watering of ties in the round of 16. It’s Ferguson vs. Mourinho, Rooney vs. Ronaldo, Los Galatictico’s vs. The Red Devils. A true clash of the titans.

I can see Mourinho putting his all into this game. His side sit 3rd in La Liga with no hope of catching the rampant Barcelona. The Champions League is perhaps Mourinho’s only chance of keeping his job in the Bernabeu hot seat.

Madrid and United have some history against each other, the most recent being the thriller of a Champions League quarter final 2003 in which Real Madrid advanced 6-5 on aggregate. This game is must watch, no doubt about it.

Key Players

Real Madrid have a whole host of threats that could hurt Manchester United, their main one coming from a player who is well known to United: none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world at the moment, having tallied up an impressive 24 goals in 22 starting appearances. He may have Sir Alex Ferguson ruing the day he once let him go.

£24 million pounds? Injury prone? Past his day at 29? All these questions where thrown about the day Manchester United got their man Robin Van Persie. It was a gamble but my God did it pay off! Having already scored 18 goals in 22 games in his debut season, RVP  has been seen as the man to guide United to their 20th title. He will certainly have a say in both legs.

Prediction

Being a Manchester United fan, I’m finding it hard to predict this one. My heart says United, but my head says Real. If the Reds can manage a score draw or even a 2-1 loss in the first leg, they will have a big chance of advancement. I really couldn’t call this game, but what I will say is that if Real Madrid advance to the next round, they will go on to win the Champions League. You heard it here first.

1st Leg: Real Madrid ?-? Manchester United
2nd Leg: Manchester United ?-? Real Madrid

Written by TheFootballSupplement